Author Archive

Photo Thursday!

Posted by Friends|06 February 2014

Mountain Rose Herbs Chocolate Mate

 

Another unexpected beautiful snowy day, time to go home and drink some Mint Chocolate Maté from this beautiful gourd and bombilla. Stay warm, folks! ~Alieta

 

Kiva’s Gila Harvest Cider

Posted by Friends|22 October 2013

kiva rose

 

Our autumn post from Kiva Rose Hardin is here! Her beautifully written articles marry the personal with the scientific, lore with experience, offering untamed and fresh insight. Herbalist, wildcrafter, artist, and storyteller, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the HerbFolk Gathering, held each September in the mountain Southwest, coeditor of Plant Healer Magazine, and publisher of the just released historical novel, The Medicine Bear  as well as The Plant Healer’s Path by Jesse Wolf Hardin, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots

 

Every autumn when the weather starts to shift, folks in the village inevitably start to come down with fevers and various respiratory issues. The sudden demand for every sort of immune tea and tincture reminds me to make sure I have enough cold weather tonics on hand for the whole winter! There are many possibilities, from Elderberry Elixir to Astragalus decoctions to garlicky chicken soup, depending on the person, climate, and particular bug going around. One of my perennial favorites though, is an easily made apple cider vinegar based preparation that tastes wonderful on its own, or can be added to any number of savory dishes year round.

 

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My Gila Harvest Cider is yet another variation on the infamous Fire Cider and Super Cider created by various herbalists like Rosemary Gladstar. Many of these creations are based on being super hot and spicy, and seeing as my belly just can’t handle that kind of thing I decided to make something a bit different. The cider still feels warming and a tiny bit stimulating but lacks the GI bang & burn of some other preparations that may not be appropriate for those with sensitive bellies.

 

Gila-Cider

Kiva’s Gila Harvest Cider

Ingredients

- 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh Turmeric (roughly chopped)
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh Ginger (grated or finely chopped)
- 1 head fresh Garlic (minced)
- 2-3 Tbsp fresh Rosemary (roughly chopped)
- 1 small handful Sundried Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
- 2 Tbsp Coriander (crushed in a mortar and pestle or powdered)
- 1 small handful dried Hawthorn Berries (whole)
- 2 Tbsp fresh grated Orange Peel
- 3/4 Cup fresh Basil (I used the stems that were leftover from pesto making, roughly chopped, Tulsi could also be used)
- 1 whole Red Chile
- approximately 3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- raw honey to taste
- 1 quart canning jar

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Directions

I make mine in layers, starting with the Turmeric and working my way up to the Chile, but you could just as well mix it together beforehand, but then you’d miss the amazing display of colors that happens with the herbs all stacked on top of each other. You can adjust amounts to suit your taste and to properly fill your jar. After you add all the solid ingredients, pour the ACV over the top until the jar is full. Let sit for about six weeks.

Strain the Cider, preserving both liquid and herbs. Add honey to taste to the Cider. You can then refill the jar of preserved herbs with ACV again if you like for a slightly weaker Cider (you can freshen it up a bit with more Rosemary and other spices). Or you can put the herbs through the blender with a new batch of ACV and have a super concentrated version.

This stuff is amazing on nearly anything, with soups, salad dressings, spooned on steamed veggies, you can even marinate meat in it. I’ve even been known to drink it occasionally, cuz it’s that good. The warming, tonic herbs help build and maintain the immune system, increase circulation and generally enhance your sense of well-being. The Basil and Hawthorn add a lovely relaxing aspect, and the whole potion is a potent digestive helper.

To order The Plant Healer’s Path by Jesse Wolf, Kiva Rose, Paul Bergner, David Hoffman and more, go to the Bookstore & Gallery page at:  www.PlantHealer.org

 

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Cardamom Chia Pudding Recipe!

Posted by Friends|09 October 2013

Rosalee-de-la-Foret-Aspen

This post (and tasty recipe!) comes to us from herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt! She is the creator of Taste of Herbs, an exciting new course teaching practical herbalism by LearningHerbs and Mountain Rose Herbs. Rosalee is a clinical herbalist, herbal educator, and founder of Herbal Remedies Advice who lives on the edge of the wilderness in the northeastern Cascadian mountains of Washington state. Many thanks to Rosalee for sharing!

 

How often do you use your sense of taste to understand how herbs work?

chia-seeds

There are many ways to learn about herbs. Oftentimes when people first begin to study herbalism they attempt to memorize long lists of what an herb can do. Or they might memorize a list of herbs that are good for a particular reason. Of course, there is no wrong way to learn about herbs! But learning herbs by memorizing lists can be a bit overwhelming (not to mention a bit boring!).

There is another wonderful way to dive into the world of herbalism. This method gives you a strong connection to plants and how they are used and it doesn’t require memorizing lists of information. This is your sense of taste!

The taste of an herb can reveal how we can use that herb for medicine. When you develop your sense of taste and fine-tune it to understand how herbs work, you unleash a powerful tool. The best part is that this is a tool you can easily carry with you wherever you go!

 

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There are five categories or tastes in herbal medicine:
pungent, salty, sour, bitter, and sweet.

 

In this recipe, we are exploring an herb that is classified as having a pungent taste: cardamom!

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. I use it in chai blends as well as sweet and savory dishes.

It has a pungent and spicy taste that is warming in nature. Cardamom helps to increase circulation, which can warm up the body or break through stagnant digestion. (Ever eat a meal that just felt like it was stuck in your middle, making you feel bloated and heavy? That’s food stagnation.)

Cardamom is also a famous aphrodisiac herb that has long been touted as an herb that can spice up your love life. But what does that mean exactly? Do you eat cardamom and instantly feel like an evening in front of the fire with Marvin Gaye in the background? Probably not…

One way of understanding how cardamom works as an aphrodisiac is by its taste and qualities. Remember, cardamom is spicy and warming. It increases circulation and invigorates the senses. You might begin to imagine what the effects of increasing warmth, circulation, and sensations might have on your love life. It also tastes alluring and sweetens the breath. I think that makes for a win, win, win, win in the love department.

Here’s a delicious recipe for Cardamom Chia Pudding to bring this pungent taste to life!

 

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If you’ve never had chia seed pudding you are in for a treat! Chia seeds are nutritious seeds that soak up the liquid around them to form a tapioca-like pudding. Yum!

This recipe takes only minutes to put together, but then needs several hours or overnight for it to turn into a pudding. And yes, feel free to enjoy it in front of the fire with Marvin working his magic in the stereo.

Cardamom Chia Pudding

1/3 cup organic chia seeds
one 13.5 oz can of organic coconut milk
13.5 oz of water
1 to 2 Tbsp organic cardamom powder (start with one, add more if desired)
raw honey to taste
fruit (optional)

Directions:
In a medium sized bowl, stir together the water and coconut milk until it has an even consistency. Add the chia seeds and mix well. Let stand for one hour in the fridge, then stir again, breaking up any clusters of chia seeds if necessary. Store for a couple more hours, or overnight, in the fridge before serving. Add the cardamom powder and honey to taste. Mix well. This goes great with any kind of seasonal fruit. I prefer this recipe served chilled, but some people may enjoy it warmed up. It will keep in the fridge for several days.

Want to learn more?

You can download the free Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel here!

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Photo Thursday!

Posted by Friends|08 August 2013

Customer Service Team 8.8.2013
 

Our heroes and heroines!

Nobody can make a stressful time playful and creative like Mountain Rose Herbs employees! Our resilient and unflappable customer service team didn’t blink an eye this week as we needed to conduct maintenance to our online shopping cart and website.  Coming in a bit earlier and leaving a bit later, the representatives have pitched in to help customers place their orders via phone, email and fax.

We couldn’t be prouder of these helpful and cheerful folks, as well as our patient customers who opened their catalogs and called for a chat. We hope to have everything back up and fully operational shortly, but for now, you can access our catalog and browse our products on our website and then call our customer service line to place an order at (800) 879-3337.

 

Herbal Living by the Seasons: Summer Sun

Posted by Friends|08 July 2013

summersun

 

A few weeks ago, we celebrated the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun was in the sky for about 15 hours, shining its beautiful light down on what proved to be a truly gorgeous day here in New York City.

While I sat with my son on a picnic blanket and shared dinner with him in the evening light, I began to think more about what Summer really means from a Chinese medicine perspective. We didn’t have much of a Spring here in New York, so I think I was still stuck in Winter’s inward gaze. It took a picnic in the park with a loved one to jog my memory.

Summer is ruled by the Fire element, the Heart and Joy. These are symbols of expansion, outward movement and connection. Summer is the season of going beyond the four walls, if you will, of our body to connect to the world beyond. Expand beyond your boundaries and find yourself out there.

Make connections with people: one of the jobs of the Heart. Look into a person’s eyes when you greet them or say, “Nice to meet you,” to someone for the first time. Let your Heart-Spirit connect with theirs through the gateway of the eyes. You can also connect with places by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with the land. Walk barefoot, rest beneath a shady tree, meditate in nature. Be who you are, where you are. You will naturally feel a connection to that place.

 

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Since Summer is the season of Joy, I always tell my patients to find every opportunity to laugh. Even if you’re not feeling happy, smiling and laughing has been shown in research to improve your mood. Go to a mirror, put your hands on your hips in a powerful, strong pose, and smile at yourself for 2 minutes. You’ll see the effects immediately.

I find that just like in the kitchen, basil and rosemary can also help lift your mood during the Summer. Rosemary is especially powerful when you’re feeling introverted or your self-esteem is low, so it pairs nicely with that power pose I mentioned above. Neroli essential oil has an affinity for the Water element of Winter, which is why it treats anxiety and fear so well, but it also opens the Heart to let joy come in and flow out. Try some diluted essential oils of neroli or rosemary on the inside of your wrist or in a diffuser.

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There are some great Summer foods to keep in mind, too. Cold bean salads can ward off those hot and humid days that leave you feeling heavy and exhausted. Watermelon is another great choice, and good for cooling off on any hot day. When you head outside for that picnic under a shady oak, take a pitcher of iced tea infused with lemon balm, rose hips and hibiscus to help you tune into the summertime vibe.

I hope you will take time this Summer to enjoy some of the Chinese medicine health tips I’ve mentioned. At the very least, be sure to close your eyes and feel some sunshine on your face now and again.

 

About Dylan Stein

dylan_steinnew

We’re excited to share a bit of the Chinese herbal medicine perspective from acupuncturist Dylan Stein. Dylan specializes in dermatology, men’s health, and pain management. In addition to acupuncture, he also passionately practices Chinese herbal medicine and will be joining us over the next few months to introduce us to this ancient healing practice!

 

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by 
the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, 
treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Photo Thursday!

Posted by Friends|27 June 2013

herballaundry

There is nothing like pulling freshly-dried laundry off the clothesline! The days are sunny and the winds are warm and we have a super-easy recipe for natural herbal laundry liquid to share.  Break out the clothespins and take advantage of one of Summer’s many gifts. Why not sip a nice glass of ice tea while you watch the brightly colored cottons waving in the breeze?

Carol’s Herbal Laundry Liquid

Not only is Carol our Human Resources Director, she is also a highly talented crafter and gardener.  Aside from making delightful handmade soaps and natural body care products, she also bakes delectable pies and treats and has an incredible garden. Carol has generously shared this wonderful recipe for natural liquid laundry detergent with us.

Pour hot water over the Soap Nuts and steep for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  Cover the Soap Nuts and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl and reserve the water. You’ll have a generous quart of liquid remaining.  Once the solution has cooled, add essential oils (optional).  Carol uses 4 Tablespoon Soap Nut liquid plus 2 tablespoons of Borax powder per load (with hard city water).  This laundry potion works wonders, as even old towels and sweaty clothing come out smelling line-dried.

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About Kori:

This Photo Thursday comes to us from Kori, our Public and Media Relations Coordinator! A West Coast native, Kori is a seasoned nonprofit activist and community organizer. Having launched six adult kids, she spends her free time in her burgeoning organic and very urban “farm”—taming Heritage chickens, building top-bar beehives from reclaimed materials, baking, brewing, and preserving.

Photo Thursday!

Posted by Friends|20 June 2013

New-bee-combs

Today’s image comes to us from inside the hive! While the honeybees are busy making comb to store an abundance of fresh pollen and honey, visions of herbal infused creations have us thinking about all the possible flavor combinations — lavender, rosemary, and even basil,  just for starters.  Note the fresh, unripe honey being collected at the top as the bees are building perfectly-shaped new comb.

The video over on our YouTube channel How to Make Herbal Honey with Lavender can easily be adapted to include other herbs of your choice, but since the lavender is in bloom, what could be a more delicious treat?

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About Kori:

This Photo Thursday comes to us from Kori, our Public and Media Relations Coordinator! A West Coast native, Kori is a seasoned nonprofit activist and community organizer. Having launched six adult kids, she spends her free time in her burgeoning organic and very urban “farm”—taming Heritage chickens, building top-bar beehives from reclaimed materials, baking, brewing, and preserving.

Wild Rose Conserve & Saving the Sweetness of Spring

Posted by Friends|17 June 2013

KivaRose

 

Our farewell to spring post celebrating roses from Kiva Rose Hardin is here! Her beautifully written articles marry the personal with the scientific, lore with experience, offering untamed and fresh insight. Herbalist, wildcrafter, artist, and storyteller, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, held each September in the mountain Southwest, coeditor of Plant Healer Magazine, and publisher of the just released historical novel, The Medicine Bear by Jesse Wolf Hardin, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

 

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Spring in the botanical sanctuary where I live is heralded each year by the return of dozens of species of birds returning to the mountains of New Mexico from more southerly climes in Texas and Mexico. The liquid song of the thrushes, the rising crescendo of canyon wrens, and the sweet chirps of the phoebes nesting in the cabin eaves all echo the message of lengthening days and warming soil. Down by the river, Alders are among the first trees to leaf out, the sweet smell of their resinous new growth filling the air, a fragrance so familiar and beloved that it makes my heart ache with love for my canyon home.

Beneath the shade of the silver skinned Alders grow tangled thickets of our native Wild Rose, Rosa woodsii, with its red bark, curved thorns, and delicately toothed leaves. A ubiquitous and abundant genus throughout much of the world, the rose has been known as an important medicine for thousands of years. Perhaps because of its beauty or due to in part to its wide availability, the rose has lost a great deal of its popularity as an effective herbal medicine in common times in much of the Western world. Nevertheless, it remains an incredibly effective herb that can be easily procured, is safe enough for elders and small children, and is remarkably multifaceted in its application. When rose is recognized in herbal medicine, the emphasis tends to be placed very firmly on the seedy red fruits known as hips, but in fact, all parts of the plant can be worked with medicinally, from flower to leaf to bark to root.

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Each May when the Wild Roses begin to flower, I walk barefoot along the river bank with my woven basket on my arm, searching for the perfect hedge to harvest from. As the morning warms, the sweet heady scent of the blossoms fills the air and pollinators flock to the roses in a drunken frenzy. More often than not, I’ll find myself so enchanted by the languid flight of fat bumblebees as they travel from flower to flower that I forget that I’m supposed to be gathering petals rather than gazing at intoxicated insects.

Part of what I love about the roses this time of year is that when our species flowers, it’s not only the blossoms that are aromatic, but the leaves as well. The small, and oftentimes overlooked, leaves can possess an enticing musky scent during this season, a fragrance that perfectly balances the delicate sweetness of the flowers. In my years spent working with the Wild Rose, I’ve found that the leaves have their own notable relaxant nervine effect that can greatly compliment the calming action of the flowers. This relaxant effect is most pronounced when the leaves have a strong scent. When these aromatic compounds are not present, the leaf tends to be more simply astringent, and as so often in herbalism, it’s important to employ one’s senses to know exactly when to harvest. There’s no replacement for organoleptic assessment when working with the plants, and each experience presents us with an opportunity to become more knowledgeable of and intimate with the healing herbs. With Wild Roses, I strongly recommend smelling and tasting your rose leaves at different times of the year, and of all the different aromatic species, (domestic, wild, or feral) that are available to you. Some species don’t seem to have such aromatic leaves, so it’s a good idea to compare and contrast.

I usually harvest leaves at the same time I do the petals, and also include the leaves in most of my rose flower preparations such as elixirs, honeys, teas, and tinctures. This helps the flowers go further, but also seems to make for a more complex and complete medicine overall. In food like preparations, I tend to use a somewhat smaller proportion of leaves, since the texture may not be as desirable in some cases. However, small amounts of leaves do taste lovely in infused honeys and similar preparations.

Roses may be best known for the Vitamin C content, which they certainly do possess, along with numerous other bioflavonoids that make their leaves, flowers, and fruits a wonderful source of antioxidants. And yet, this is hardly the extent of their medicine! In Ayurveda, the rose is considered a rasayana, a powerful rejuvenative tonic that is applicable to all constitutions in all seasons, which is a wonderful example of the multifaceted nature of rose as understood by traditional medicine for countless generations.

 

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I find Rose to be an especially valuable ally during our hot Summers in the Southwest, when Pitta disorders abound. Some indications that rose might be particularly appropriate include:

•  Feelings of overheatedness

•  Bloodshot eyes and/or nosebleeds with subjective feelings of heat, possibly accompanied by headaches

•  Heat rash and similar red rashes associated with heat or being overheated

•  Restlessness, irritation, and insomnia during warmer seasons or accompanied by feelings of being overheated

•  Strong or fetid body odor or breath not associated with organic disease, medication, or a particular food.

•  Hyperacidity, a sour taste in the mouth, and the inability to eat sour or acidic foods/drinks

•  Heavy menstrual periods with heat signs

Healing can sometimes be long term and difficult, but there’s no reason that it can’t also sometimes be delicious and pleasurable. The below recipes are two tasty ways to work with rose, the first being a traditional Ayurvedic rose conserve called gulkand, and the second being a tasty Indian drink that utilizes the gulkand in its preparation. Rose tastes so good that almost all of us can benefit from the joyful calm that the plant tends to trigger in people, so don’t save it only for when someone’s ill. Instead, stock up during the blooming season and utilize as desired!

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~ Two Rose Recipes ~

 

Gulkand: Ayurvedic Rose Conserve

Gulkand is one of the simplest rose preparations to make, and infinitely useful as a medicine, condiment, and straight up treat. This sweet Rose preserve can be used year round, but is especially useful for those hot Summers where excess heat results in short tempers, exhaustion, irritability, and insomnia. This is a great treat for people of all constitutions, but particularly appropriate for Pitta dominated folks or those dealing with Pitta excess disorders.

Ingredients:

•   1 part fresh rose petals (any aromatic species will work, wild or cultivated, just make sure they’re pesticide free)

•   1 part sugar

•   Spices to taste (optional) – I especially like Cardamom, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon in my gulkand. Cardamom is particularly beneficial when there are clear heat signs and the gulkand is being used therapeutically.

Directions

•   In a jar or similar glass container, place a layer of Rose petals down first, then cover completely with sugar. If including spices, add spices to the layers of sugar, or just blend the spiced directly into sugar before beginning the layering process.

•   Repeat until jar is filled, with sugar on top.

•   Cover, and sit on a sunny counter and shake daily. I don’t usually recommend keeping any herbal preparation in the sun, but in this case the sunlight seems to help release the rose flavor and create the proper consistency.

•   In 4-6 weeks, your gulkand should be ready!

•   Store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.

Eat by the spoonful, add to milk, use to top ice cream, or any other number of yummy treats.

 

Summerflower Lassi: Cooling Rose and Yogurt Drink

This is one of my favorite recipes from Indian cuisine, and something I enjoy each Summer during the hot months here in New Mexico. You don’t have to use rosewater, and it’s very good just using 3 parts water, 1 part yogurt, and the gulkand. However, for the ultimate rose experience, the rosewater adds another layer of delicate rose complexity to the finished drink. You can also float fresh or candied rose petals on the top of the lassi for a beautiful presentation and even more rose presence.

Ingredients

•  1 part (preferably homemade, but full fat yogurt if store-bought) yogurt

•  1/2 part organic rose hydrosol (rosewater)

•  2 1/2 parts water

•  gulkand to taste (see previous recipe)

Directions

Add each ingredient to a glass or mason jar and stir or shake well before enjoying chilled.

 

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Roots in Common ~ A Look at Four Qi Tonics

Posted by Friends|19 March 2013

 ginseng-in-scoopblog

Here’s the second installment in my series about Chinese herbal medicine and the herbs that Chinese and Western herbal medicine have in common. I hope that lots of fruitful conversations will grow from seeing these two traditions work side by side.

Qi, sometimes explained as vital energy or life force, is the energetic current of the body, and we acupuncturists spend a lot of time talking about it. It’s our version of electricity, so to speak. From a biological perspective, I like to compare it to ATP, the force driving our cellular machinery. Qi is moving, immaterial, and heavenly.

Many of the Qi tonics in Chinese medicine are seen as adaptogens and immunostimulants in the Western herbal tradition.

Regardless of what you call it or how you classify it, these herbs are seen as tonics addressing deficiencies of various degrees. Because we’re discussing Qi tonics, these herbs will go to the Lungs, the Spleen-Stomach, or both. These organs are the source of Qi production in the body. This means, they have a particular affinity for the Chinese medicine concept of these organs, not the organs themselves.

 

Ginseng / Ren Shen

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Asian Ginseng, known in Chinese as Ren Shen, is one of the most famous herbs. Even people who know nothing about herbs have heard of ginseng. In my opinion, this is well deserved. Ginseng has some miraculous properties.

In Chinese medicine, we say it tonifies the Source Qi, the basis of all metabolic functions in the body. It also benefits the organs responsible for making Qi, the Lung and Spleen-Stomach, ensuring future creation of Qi. It can calm the Spirit-Mind and nourish fluids, too. It is usually used in cases of collapse (cold limbs and the desire to curl into a ball, spontaneous sweating, shortness of breath and the like), digestive insufficiency, and palpitations with insomnia or anxiety.

In addition to the traditional contraindication of avoiding eating turnips or drinking tea (all caffeinated beverages nowadays) while taking ginseng, it is best avoided in patients with signs of excess Heat (red face, fever, bleeding, headaches or dizziness accompanied by a feeling of the top of the head being about to pop off, etc.) or excess phlegm (copious phlegm with a hacking cough). Signs that you’re taking too much ginseng are headaches, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, hypertension, nausea and vomiting.

A more modern contraindication is in the case of parasitic infection. There is a concern that the ginseng would tonify the parasite while it also tonifies (or instead of, perhaps) the patient. In its place, we favor Eleuthero / Ci Wu Jia Shen, which I discuss below.

Ginseng is one of the few herbs in the Chinese materia medica that is considered appropriate for use without other herbs. This is a stark contrast to other herbs in a system based on poly-pharmacy. It is used singly as a rescue measure when someone is on the verge of collapse or grave illness. This, plus its other properties and unique growing needs, has made ginseng very expensive. Accordingly, since ginseng is so precious, we recommend double decoction to make sure all of its medicinal constituents are extracted.

You can also break off the ginseng “tails” or rootlets to make a good cup of tea rather than a medicinal decoction. Used this way with cinnamon bark, you have a great way to fend off the cold chill from air conditioners during the summer. You can also make medicinal wines (or  alcohol tincture) from the tails, and drink a shot-glassful daily. Another use for the tails is an addition to your favorite soup stock to “kick it up a notch”.

One final note, American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen, Panax quinquefolius), of Wisconsin fame, is totally different in the Chinese materia medica from Ren Shen. They are both tonics, but American ginseng is seen to nourish Fluids to moisten Dryness more than Ren Shen, which tonifies the Qi strongly. That aside, it’s also a great addition to soup stocks during the summer when a cooling, moistening effect is desired.

 

Eleuthero Root/ Ci Wu Jia Shen

Eleuthero-Rootblog1

Eleuthero is one of my favorite herbs. I believe it is deeply underappreciated by Chinese medicine herbalists. That said, proper combining of this herb is required for maximum benefit. I wouldn’t use it as the only Qi tonic in a formula for this reason; instead it should be combined with other herbs to accentuate certain properties.

Also known as “Siberian ginseng”, from a Chinese medicine perspective eleuthero tonifies the Spleen and Kidneys, which is very different from the other herbs mentioned here. This means that there’s a tonification happening at the root of the body’s physiology in addition to the splenic level of day-to-day Qi production. The kind of fatigue that eleuthero would be good for according to these functions is a fatigue that comes with sore, weak, aching low back and knees, and a sense of heaviness in the body.

Eleuthero also calms the Spirit-Mind and invigorates the Blood, so it is good for insomnia, profuse dreaming and mild depression accompanied by fatigue.

As I mentioned above, eleuthero has the unique property of tonifying the host without the risk of tonifying parasites at the same time. This makes it a good herb to use in cases of deficiency during treatment of parasitic infections.

 

Rhodiola / Hong Jing Tian

Rhodiola-blog

Traditionally, rhodiola is a medicinal in the Tibetan materia medica. In Tibet, it is widely used for altitude sickness. Rhodiola has only recently gained popularity in Chinese medicine for its incredible adaptogenic effect. There has been much research on the topic, as a quick Google search will reveal. Personally, I found it useful when I was running daily and needed to improve my recovery time.

Like Ren Shen, rhodiola tonifies the Spleen-Stomach and Lung. It has the additional actions of engendering and activating the Blood, making it a good addition to formulas for physical traumas or burns. These two actions point to why it is such a good herb for athletes and people living very stressful lifestyles.

Sources disagree about rhodiola’s ability to have an effect on the Heart. In this instance, the “Heart” is actually referring to the Spirit-Mind. Some believe that the herb is calming and others that it has no effect on the Spirit-Mind at all.

Since it is a cooling medicinal (like white Ren Shen, but unlike red Ren Shen), it can be used more readily in cases where there are signs of Heat.

Common pairings are rhodiola with goji berries, schizandra and gynostemma for calming effects and with Dong Quai (Tang Kui, Angelica sinensis) for activating and building the blood.

 

Astragalus / Huang Qi

Astragalus-Root-blog

Astragalus has three particularly important functions as a Qi tonic. First off, it’s lifting, which means it’s great when there are cases of prolapse due to deficiency and low energy (we say, “when the Clear Yang Qi is not rising to the head.” I think the phrase is a good metaphor.

Secondly, with other herbs to tonify the Blood, it has the ability to build Qi to make Blood. This may be anemia, or it could be a sallow complexion, brittle nails and hair and dry skin. One of my teachers used to say that Dong Quai was the blueprint for the blood and Huang Qi (astragalus) was the energy to build the building. This is a classic pair for treating blood deficiency in Chinese medicine.

Thirdly, it strengthens the Defensive Qi, our version of the immune system. Because astragalus has an up-bearing nature, it is able to reach the most superficial Qi in the body. This is called Defensive Qi because it is the first Qi to encounter pathogens invading from the Exterior through the skin (see my first post’s section about 6 Stages Diagnosis).  Being active in the exterior, astragalus is also useful for cases of spontaneous sweating.

Since astragalus has an affinity for the Lungs and Spleen, it is also able to affect water metabolism in the body for edema due to deficiency. This kind of edema will be relatively superficial in the skin layer rather than deeper edema in the flesh.

Astragalus is another common addition to soup stock. It is commonly used with Dong Quai, but adding Goji berries would be appropriate, too.

LyciiBerriesBlog

In my next post, I will write about blood tonics that Chinese and Western herbal medicine share…

 

About Dylan Stein

dylan_steinnew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re excited to share a bit of the Chinese herbal medicine perspective from acupuncturist Dylan Stein. Dylan specializes in dermatology, men’s health, and pain management. In addition to acupuncture, he also passionately practices Chinese herbal medicine and will be joining us over the next few months to introduce us to this ancient healing practice!

 

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by 
the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, 
treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

 

Herbal Living by the Seasons

Posted by Friends|11 February 2013

dylan_steinnew

We’re excited to share a bit of the Chinese herbal medicine perspective from acupuncturist Dylan Stein. Dylan specializes in dermatology, men’s health, and pain management. In addition to acupuncture, he also passionately practices Chinese herbal medicine and will be joining us over the next few months to introduce us to this ancient healing practice!

 

The Awakening ~ Winter into Spring

WinterIce

 

In my kitchen window hangs a prism twirled by a solar-powered motor. It hasn’t budged an inch since about mid-Autumn. At least, that is, until a few days ago. We now find ourselves on the cusp between the seasons; Winter is turning into Spring. The sun is being reborn from the darkness of Winter, lighting the sky for more hours each day. Nature begins to awaken from its slumber.

In Chinese medicine philosophy, Winter is the season of quiet, of storage, and of stillness. The ground water has sunken down to the deepest soil, and frozen there. It’s as if Nature has been put on pause. The days are short, and the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic tells us to wake late and retire early to match the season.

We lead busy lives. Luckily, Nature has built a period of the year when the days are short, gently suggesting we go to bed early and rest indoors to avoid the cold. If we do not honor this season of storage, we cannot experience rebirth in Spring. We need to find stillness to recharge in order to have the fuel for bursting forth like the buds and shoots of the currently slumbering plants all around us.

cinnamon

Winter is obviously the season of Cold. It is also the season of the Kidneys. We should eat with three things in mind to benefit the Kidneys and fend off the cold: emphasize gently warming spices (ginger and cinnamon, not cayenne and chili peppers), eat foods that nourish the Kidneys (beans, root vegetables, seaweeds, dark leafy greens, and walnuts), and eat foods that are very dark in color (black is the color of Winter in Chinese medicine), like black sesame seeds, blueberries, beets, and black beans. It is also the time to avoid cold or frozen foods in general. Check out my blog post about a mineral-rich, vegetarian alternative to bone broth to boost the Kidney energy and nourish the digestion.

Since Winter is a season of stillness, we should moderate our exercise habits for the time being. Instead of heavy sweating and intense exercise, try Tai Chi (Taiji) and Qi Gong, gentle yoga and walking meditation. In fact, all kinds of calm and centering meditation will be additionally beneficial in Winter. If you need to do heavier exercise than this, try Pilates or swimming as they focus on fluid movements that are less hard on the joints.

Winter’s Qi persists, but my kitchen prism has begun to spin. Spring is steadily approaching here in New York City. February 10th marked the first day of Spring on the Chinese calendar. This is the Lunar New Year, Chun Jie. The Yang, or motive force animating the entire Universe, continues to grow stronger. Life is waking up. There are already buds on the witch hazel tree near my home. Spring is imminent; the season of new beginnings is upon us.

 

witchhazel

 

After February 10th, start to make some lifestyle changes with Spring in mind. The resonances of Spring are the Wood element, Wind, the Liver, the green color of fresh shoots and grass, the tendons, the flavor sour and an upwards, bursting movement.

It is easy to notice the warmer weather and throw off our winter coats. According to Chinese medicine, we must continue to guard against the cold and the wind. Keep your scarf on! Continue your warming, nourishing, winter-chasing, immune boosting regimens even now.

Start to introduce pungent foods to benefit the Liver, but don’t abandon warming flavors. A touch of sour foods is good now, too. Enjoy a squirt of fresh lemon. Fresh ginger is also a good choice because it is warm and also pungent, or acrid as we sometimes call it in Chinese medicine materia medica-speak. This acridity helps to get the Qi moving in the body.

You can begin to do more active stretching to benefit the tendons. Like plants in spring, reach up to the heavens and see the Yang energy of your body rising from its deep winter slumber. Harness that rising energy to do your spring cleaning. Nothing bothers the Liver more than roadblocks, so make sure you clean out all the junk you can so when the Liver - the plan-maker in Chinese medicine - kicks into high gear, you’ll have nothing but open road ahead of you. It’s also a good time to do some big picture visioning and list making for this reason.

Here is one of my favorite traditional restorative winter tea recipes:

Spring Qi Tea Recipe

teasm

Ingredients

1 teaspoon for organic Dandelion (aerial parts and roots)

1/2 teaspoon organic Sweet Annie

1/4 teaspoon organic Licorice

1/4 teaspoon organic Barberry (roots and/or fruits)

3 buds of organic Red Clover

3 thin slices of fresh organic ginger

Directions

Bring herbs to a full boil in 1.5 cups water and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes. Divide into 2 equal portions for morning and evening. This formula benefits Qi, generates fluids, and protects the Liver. A few days of this tea is all that is required to reap its benefits.

 

wintersun

 

As stillness turns to action, let’s take these last few weeks of winter as an opportunity to rest, to meditate quietly and to prepare our bodies for the bursting energy of spring. Recharging our batteries in winter will bear fruit all year long.

Yours in health,

Dylan Stein

 

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by 
the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to 
diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The Forest in Winter: Conifer Resins for Healing and Pleasure

Posted by Friends|04 February 2013

kiva1

Our winter post from Kiva Rose Hardin is here and it’ll make you swoon. Her beautifully written articles marry the personal with the scientific, lore with experience, offering untamed and fresh insight. Herbalist, wildcrafter, artist, and storyteller, Kiva Rose lives in a canyon botanical sanctuary within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. She is also the co-director of the Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous, held each September in the mountain Southwest, coeditor of Plant Healer Magazine, and publisher of the just released historical novel, The Medicine Bear by Jesse Wolf Hardin, and maintains an herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

 

kivawinter

Living in the coniferous forests of the mountain Southwest, Winter here is evergreen even at twenty below and when covered in snow. The towering Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs are a constant reminder to me of the particular kind of intimacy one can foster with the plants during the cold moons. Standing up to my knees in snow with my face pressed against the soft gray bark of a Southwestern White Pine, I can smell the wild flare of spice and earth that lingers beneath the damp chill of the air. These moments spent immersed in the hush of ice-tipped twigs and frozen earth teach me about another layer of the forest, one that can only be learned in this season and place.

While Spring is generally the optimal time to gather the new green tips of conifers, even during the darkest days of Winter the needles and bark impart a lovely flavor to food, beverages, and medicines. Winter also an excellent time to gather resin, especially after storms that can often knock large chunks of this aromatic substance to the ground. This makes it much easier to gather, although I have certainly been known to shimmy up many a Pine to reach a choice chunk of resin. It also lessens the chance of us accidentally harming the tree by ripping resin directly off a tree wound.

Recognizing Resin

kivaresin1

First, let’s explore what conifer resin even is. In my years teaching about plants and their parts, I have noticed a common tendency to mislabel resins as sap, pitch, gums, latex, and various other terms. Many people call the amber colored resin exuded on the trunks of Pine trees “sap,” but this is incorrect. In fact, sap is a fluid held that transports nutrients through the body of a tree. Sap can be cooked down to create syrups, as with Birch, Maple, and Fir, and these are considered healing medicines of their own in many regions of the world. However, the substance we refer to here is specifically resin, a viscous fluid that can become solid as it ages. It’s much more frequently found in some conifer species than others, but it’s not uncommon to see golf ball sized pieces of resin at the base of Piñon Pines here in the mountains of New Mexico. In some cases, the resin will still be liquid and very sticky, dripping in thick caramel colored streams down a branch or the body of a tree, sometimes near an obvious wound or missing pieces of bark. This resin can certainly still be collected, but is messier than the solid or semi-solid chunks.

All members of Pine family contain resins in their leaves, but some genera only produce resin on the body of the tree when exposed to trauma and injury. Other conifers are more mixed, and will require you getting out to your local evergreen forests to see what trees live there, and which produce enough resin to gather. I harvest much of my resin from various Pine species, but also from some Spruce and Fir species. These conifers are also a great starting place for learning tree identification. Many folks can feel intimidated by this process, but conifers tend to have fairly simple characteristics to help differentiate one genus from another. Even a quick search online can bring up websites showing the basic needle/leaf and cone differences of the primary conifer types.

Resin has long been known as medicine, perfume, incense, sealant, and much more, but perhaps the most well known resin is the fossilized form known as amber.  Often called a stone, this beautiful substance is actually the selfsame medicine we speak of here, though much older than what we will be harvesting from our forests.

Tips for Harvesting

kivaresin2

When harvesting, it’s important to realize that resin circulates through the body of conifers, and helps to seal off any injury to the tree from insect infestation or microbial invasion. Thus, in order to avoid further harm to a tree, we need to be careful to harvest resin where it has dripped down the body of the tree or fallen on the ground, rather than harvesting directly from the wound. Trees have been historically tapped for resin, and some still are. It’s only possible to keep from killing the tree while doing this, in the case of certain species, if done very carefully.

While there may be more specialized methods, I’ve always just gathered my resin with my hands, a knife, and parchment paper lined container, sometimes with the aid of a couple strong twigs. If the resin is solid or semi-solid, it’s pretty simply to just pick it up off the ground, cut it carefully from the bark, or coax softer pieces off with a twig or two used in a chopstick like manner. If the chunks are very tiny, as can be the case with some Spruce trees, fingertips and a small knife can be used to coax the dried droplets of resin from the bark into your container, always being careful to leave enough to protect the tree. If the resin is still in an entirely liquid state, harvesting can be more of a challenge. Because it’s relatively easy to find large chunks of resin here, I rarely resort to collecting the liquid resin, but it is certainly possible. With a stainless steel scraper, similar to what is sometimes use in baking, and a twig, I’ll use the twig to help push the resin onto the scraper.  Again, it’s also possible to tap a tree for resin, but it’s much more likely to hurt the tree and should not be attempted without a more complete understanding of the process, hopefully with training from someone experienced in a non-harmful technique.

This hands-on approach can leave your hands a delicious smelling but sticky mess! As noted above, resins are lipid soluble, and can thus be cleaned off using most oils including olive oil, washing with soap water afterwards. Since resin is also alcohol soluble, you can use vodka or other spirits in the same way, although you may find this drying to your skin, especially in Winter.

You may want to keep a set of harvesting and processing tools on hand just for working with resin. It’s possible to clean up most any resin mess with oil and alcohol, but it can be very time consuming. If you also work with other resins such as propolis, it can be even more challenging. Personally, I have a stainless steel bowl I keep just for collecting resin and mixing kyphi style incense in, as well as stainless steel mixing and measuring tools for working the resin.

Medicinal & Other Uses

kivaresin3

Incense

The harder grades of resin make a wonderful copal type incense all on their own, and can be burned over charcoal or on a metal plate on top of a wood stove or similar. These are strong and concentrated scents, so start with a small dusting of crumbled resin and build up to the fragrance intensity you prefer. You may want to read my previous post on incense called Plant Devotions in Smoke for more on crafting bioregional incense from your local conifer resins. http://bearmedicineherbals.com/incense.html

Tincture

Resin is also somewhat alcohol soluble and can be tinctured. However, be aware that is not water soluble and so low proof alcohol is not an especially efficient method of extraction. 95% alcohol is preferred for this use, and will extract as much of the resin as is possible. Consider resin a dried plant for the purpose of tincturing, and use an approximately 1:5 weight to volume proportion, or you can just eyeball it and throw in about one quarter to one third  of a jar full of resin, and then pour the alcohol on top.

Small amounts of a resin tincture can add a distinctive flavor to foods such as shortbread. It’s also highly anti-microbial and can be used in mouth washes similar to myrrh. Resin is distinctly expectorant and I sometimes use a small proportion of resin tincture in my cough formulae. Remember that resin is strong medicine, so start with low doses and adjust according to your experience. If you’ve worked with myrrh tincture previously, you’ll find that many conifer resins can be dosed and used similarly.

Perfume Base

Resin infused into a high quality oil, such a jojoba, can be a gorgeous base for a solid perfume. Likewise, a high proof alcohol tincture of a conifer resin is wonderful base for building perfumes. Not only do the resins add a deep, forest note to the perfume, they also seem to prolong the longevity of the perfume overall. This is especially complimentary to amber and woodsy aromatic formulae.

Evergreen Infused Oil, Creams, and Salves

As previously mentioned, resin is fat soluble, and thus, can be effectively infused into an oil. Using any basic infused oil recipe, we can first add the resin to a glass container with an air tight lid. If the resin is entirely solid, you can grind or smash it into smaller pieces, or right down to a powder. If it’s softer, you can freeze it first and break it down from there, or just transfer the sticky mess to the jar, as it will all dissolve.

From there, I prefer to place my container in a warm, dark place for several weeks. I prefer a warm method infused oil, and so often stick my jars of resin and oil into the woodstove warmer, taking out to shake periodically. I have other friends who use a crockpot (usually one dedicated to herbal preparation) on low for this purpose, but as I have very limited electricity in our wilderness sanctuary, I tend to stick with my woodstove. Sometimes all of the resin will dissolve into the oil, and other times there may be a sticky layer on the bottom of the container. If there are no bark or leaf bits floating in the oil, we can simply pour it off into a new container. If there is other plant matter in there, then it can be more desirable to strain the oil through a fine sieve or something similar.

This aromatic, healing oil can be used as is, or included as an ingredient in a salve or cream. Creams, lotions, and body butters made with conifer resins tend to be sensually forest scented and wonderfully warming, making it a perfect Winter indulgence for the skin. The oil can also be included in warming massage oil blends which can assist in healing old injuries or bringing circulation to stiff, sore muscles and joints.

Making Your Own Forest Balsam

kivaconifer

This simple salve not only provides an instant fragrant fix of the wildwood wherever you are, it’s also a wonderful warming balm for old injuries, wounds that won’t heal, and sore, aching muscles and joints. It also makes a lovely first aid salve for any number of scratches, bruises, and abrasions, and can help heal cracked feet and hands during the Winter months, especially if a moistening herb such as comfrey or a bit of lanolin is added to the blend.

Here in southwestern New Mexico, many people think of Pine resin salve primarily as a treatment for pulling out splinters, embedded glass, drawing out boils, and for general first aid. It’s so common that it’s often sold in gas stations, and most any local logger or farm worker knows about it. You can just apply straight up soft resin to the afflicted area, but that can be messy, so I tend to prefer the salve, especially for deeply embedded objects that will likely take several days or more of application before results are seen. Because the resin is a counterirritant that stimulates blood flow and local immune response, the area may look more inflamed initially, but in general, this is a good sign and shows that the salve is working.

All in all, this is a very multipurpose medicine, and I would keep it in stock just for the aromatherapeutic properties even if it didn’t have so many other uses. Many folks find the scent of Forest Balsams to be very uplifting and anxiety relieving. I have a number of clients who carry it with them all the time, just to sniff or apply to their hands when they feel anxious, disconnected from the earth, or sad. It’s also quite easy to put together, and conifers are abundant in many places around the world, making it a sustainable and local medicine that nearly everyone can try. Even if you don’t have local conifers producing harvestable resin, try making some with the leaves/needles and twigs!

 

Ingredients

8 oz conifer resin infused oil (see basic instructions in previous section)

1 oz beeswax, grated or chopped

8 ounces worth of glass jars or other salve containers

 

Directions

Place infused oil and beeswax in double boiler over low heat.

Stir occasionally and leave on heat until all wax is melted.

Remove from heat.

Pour into salve containers and allow to cool. Do not cover.

Once salve is entirely solid and cool, cover, label, and store in a cool, dry place out of the light.

A Suggestion:

You can also infuse leaves into your oil, or combine resin infused oil and leaf infused oil since they both bring a unique fragrance to the blend.

Free Gift!

planthealer

And I have a free gift for my Mountain Rose readers: a 150 page long Plant Healer Magazine Sample, complete with 250 color illustrations and 20 complete articles from recent issues on subjects such as Phyllis Light’s “Tree of Life,” an Herbal Schools Directory, finding your path in the business of herbalism, frontier herbalism, Paul Bergner’s “Critical Thinking for Herbalists,” Kristine Brown’s “Making Your Own Herbal First-Aid Kit,” “Edible Seeds” by Susun Weed, Matthew Wood’s piece on treating the Lymph/Immune system, and my lengthy “Exploring Traditional Models of the Healer’s Practice.”

Feel free to post and share this widely: http://bit.ly/14wVyLs

 

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by 
the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to 
diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

A Future for Osha

Posted by Friends|29 January 2013

osha

This post comes to us from Josh, our Administrative Assistant! Josh has worked in shipping and administration at Mountain Rose Herbs since 2010. He’s excited to report the news about Mountain Rose Herbs’ participation in an important Osha study.

How many of us have relished in Osha’s gorgeous aromatic potency, relying on this special healing power when a cough settles in or our throat feels scratchy? Well, now we have a chance to support Osha and show our thanks for the extraordinary medicine it provides.

Growing within the soil of the Rocky Mountains, Osha roots are beloved by herbalists for their medicinal effects and historical significance. Native American tribes referred to the root as “bear medicine” due to the animal’s affinity for chewing Osha and rubbing it over its fur. Osha is used today in herbal cough remedies and for promoting wellness. Unfortunately, Osha root is difficult to cultivate successfully and has a limited range within a sensitive environment.

Commercially available Osha root is wild harvested, and it is important to understand the long term viability of current harvesting techniques. To that end, the AHPA-ERB Foundation is funding a study to determine the range, availability, and recovery rate of Osha after harvesting. Mountain Rose Herbs is enthusiastic about the reaches of such a study, and we are proud to donate $1000 in order to help fund the research. The study is certain to provide vital information that will protect the long term sustainability of Osha and the surrounding ecology. These findings will allow us to make the best decisions for protecting the environment and procuring our herbs responsibly. Our goal will always be to place plants, people, and planet before profit!

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to study the effects of osha harvest on its sustainability,” says researcher Kelly Kindscher, Ph.D., who is collaborating with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Rio Grande National Forest Service on the research. “We are already collecting data on Osha populations and have started on a harvest experiment in which mature plants are harvested from plots at different rates. We will monitor these plots for three years to see what the recovery rates are from harvest. We intend to collect very thorough data in order to study the sustainability of harvest.”

The AHPA-ERB Foundation is still seeking donations to help fund the Osha Sustainability Study.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

Ligusticum_porteri

 

Photos by Patrick Alexander and Kristina Park.
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  • ErinErin (328)
    Erin is the Marketing Manager at Mountain Rose and studied herbalism, botany, and ethical wildcrafting at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days making botanical illustrations, playing in the garden, creating culinary gems, and formulating medicine in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.
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    Christine is our Product Manager here at Mountain Rose Herbs and our Certified Aromatherapist on staff. She's a longtime Mountain Roser with nearly a decade under her belt and assists with selecting new and exciting herbal and herb-related products. She also makes sure our current products are the best they can be!
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    Shawn is the Operations Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs, which means he has his hands in just about everything here, but he is most passionate about advancing the company's ecological platforms for sustainable business practices. In his spare time, he can be found deep in Oregon’s designated wilderness areas or fly fishing (strictly catch and release) with his furry friends Abigail and Maggie.
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