Posts Tagged ‘herbs’

support the homestead at seven arrows

June 14, 2012

Last summer, my life was filled with these tiny miracle retreats up in the Catskills. Spending most of my days here in the city, any excursion to expanses of green countryside is welcome and restorative. But what made these trips special was a combination of the company, the work, and the play time. The company: Meg Paska & co. The work: weeding, sowing seeds, harvesting, squishing bugs (okay, maybe that part wasn’t so great). The play: creek wading, strawberry picking, mountain springs seeking, wildcrafting (to me this is play, even though it also benefits my work).

So when Meg told me she’d be setting up a homestead with her man Neil in New Jersey, I started fantasizing about all of the adventures I could have there, too. Of course, this project is so much more than just a good excuse for me to get out of the city. Meg will be creating an educational farm complete with livestock (rabbits, laying hens, goats), beehives, vegetable growing, and mushroom propagation. There will be opportunities for wildcrafting and harvesting from the surrounding woods and waters, too. Nearby swimming beaches, hiking and biking trails are the icing on top. The homestead will be located at Seven Arrows, a yoga retreat center in Locust, NJ. So there’s also yoga and healing retreats, too. This sounds like a place I may visit and never want to leave.

Thing is, in order to realize all of this amazingness, they need our help. The Homestead at Seven Arrows launched a Kickstarter campaign, and it’s an all or nothing affair. The last day to pledge is July 5. They’re just about a quarter of the way to their goal of $20,000. There are some sweet rewards associated with the campaign, aside from knowing your dough will be funding this awesome project.

You can pledge as little as $1 to get your name & web link on their donor page. You can pledge $25 for some lovely pressed wild plants from the area. For $30, you’ll get a Claudia Pearson-designed Buy Local Calendar Towel 24 x 27″ 100% cotton, vibrant illustrations of local vegetables. If you’re rolling in it and really want to splurge, $1,000 will get you a weekend stay at Seven Arrows complete with farm grown meals, morning guided yoga sessions and local libations each night! Plus, you’ll get a care package of veggies, eggs and goat milk! (or a basket of assorted value added goods made from farm produce. And then the top-of-the-line prize is for those with $5K to chip in: a weekend retreat for you and up to 8 friends.

Help make this dreaminess a reality! 

sensual movement & herbs, oh my!

May 22, 2012

Several months ago I began to dance. Of course, I had danced before, but never like this. I started taking bellydance, African dance, and Journey Dance. And then came Qoya. Oh, sweet release! Qoya combines the mindfulness of yoga with the abandon of free form dance. It’s emotionally and spiritually freeing. It shakes out the cobwebs and leaves room for good vibrations to enter your life. So I’m thrilled to be collaborating with the woman who introduced me to Qoya, Mishel Herrera. We’re putting on a special workshop where we’ll shower you with a delightful sensory experience – taste, feel, smell, hear, and witness the transformative power of Qoya and herbal concoctions.

Register for Qoya & Herbs

Sunday, June 3
3 to 4:30 pm
Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center
367 Saint Marks Avenue (corner of Grand)
at the border of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Pre-registration is recommended, ’cause this baby’s filling up fast!

Summer is a time for free movement, sensual pleasures, and plant abundance.

Let’s prepare our bodies, minds & souls for the hotter months with juicy, cooling herbal concoctions. We’ll open up our Qoya session with a lubricating, energizing & expanding herbal infusion to drink, plus some hydrating herbal creams to nourish our skin & senses.

Mishel Herrera, founder of La Dea Vita, and Liz Neves, founder of Raganella’s Botanical Solutions, invite you to a special Qoya class.

Qoya combines the traditional benefits of fitness — strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, and agility training — with a unique empowering approach that is feminine, expressive, and, most importantly, fun.

During the session, we’ll make personalized herbal bundles to enhance release & flow. We’ll wind down with a protective blend of herbs to bring us back out into the world as the radiant beings we are.

Come dance your heart’s desires & receive nourishment from healing plants.

Register for Qoya & Herbs

About your hostesses:

Mishel Herrera is founder of La Dea Vita [the Goddess Life]. LDV is a silk-road of Goddess inter-exchange of love, support, sisterhood, ideas, products, art, lifework & passion. It’s also a movement-couture line for women. Mishel desires to revolutionize the athletic-wear industry (and its ideal image of a healthy female body) by designing clothes that fit the diverse bodies of strong & healthy women. Mishel is a graduate of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. She teaches Qoya & yoga, and regularly participates in healing ceremonies around the country. She is excited to create a space for the incredible women of this community, and support them in their pursuit of their Dea Vita.

Liz Neves is a crafter, herbalist, permaculturist, and compost-turner living as close to earth’s natural rhythms as possible in the heart of the urban environment. She’s the creator of Raganella’s Botanical Solutions, a line of body care goods and herbal remedies – all handcrafted with love in her home. When she’s not creating, you can find Liz exploring the nooks and crannies of Prospect Park. (And sometimes on twitter & facebook, @raganella7.)

Learn more about Qoya…

and the winner is…

July 27, 2011

Congratulations to Barbara McGouran for correctly guessing July’s green ally: Burdock (Arctium lappa)!

Burdock is a biennial plant and in the second year of growth, he/she grows very tall (sometimes up to 8 feet!) and develops flowers. These flowers or “burrs” of burdock are hermaphroditic and self-pollinating. Burdock is also an attractor of pollinating insects like bees. The burrs are nature’s velcro, sticking to anything or anyone who brushes by (another strategy to ensure the next generation of burdock).

Like its friend Mugwort, Burdock shows up in disturbed ground and poor soil. Burdock’s presence helps to improve the soil, breaking up the earth with his/her long taproot and drawing up minerals from deep in the soil. When the plant dies back after the second year, the organic material and nutrients he/she provides enriches the soil so that other plants demanding richer soil can grow. In this way, burdock is a pioneer species promoting ecological succession.

Burdock’s roots are well known as a nourishing food. The Japanese name for burdock is “gobo,” a key ingredient in kinpira, a delicious salad dressed with mirin, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Burdock root is rich in inulin, a dietary fiber. Burdock is known as a “blood purifier” that supports the liver, bile production, and digestion. It also helps to clear chronic skin conditions such as eczema.




Medicinally, the root is taken as a decoction: simmer 1 teaspoon of dried root per cup of water for about 20 to 25 minutes. Strain out the root. Drink 1 cup, 3 times per day. {source: David Hoffman} The decoction can also be added to soups, as can the fresh root.

Today I made a syrup of burcock root by cooking the decoction down even more, reducing the liquid by about one-third, and then adding honey and maple syrup to sweeten and preserve.

I like to infuse the leaves of burdock in oil and use the oil in a skin soothing salve. Last month’s green ally winner, Roxanne, likes to add the dried leaves of burdock with lavender buds to apple cider vinegar to use as a hair rinse. I’m going to have to try that!

I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of burdock’s great attributes. It’s a good thing I’ve chosen to “walk with” this green ally for the herbalism course I’m currently taking at Third Root. I hope to provide you with more insights into this deeply rooted lovely in the near future.

july’s green ally contest

July 24, 2011

Last month I introduced a new feature – the Green Ally Contest. For June, the green ally was Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), and the prize was a set of To-Go Ware. This month…

Prize: Sunflower, Comfrey & Lavender Facial Scrub (value $18)


  • In her second year of growth, he/she likes to reach out & grab you!
  • He/she is nourishing and most notably supportive of the liver
  • He/she has hermaphroditic flowers (hence the use of “he/she”!)

I think this is another easy one!

If you think you know who this green ally is, email me at liz (at) raganella (dot) com by 11:59PM on Tuesday, July 26. Out of the correct guesses, the winner will be selected at random (using and announced by noon on Wednesday, July 27.

Happy Guessing!

and the winner is…

June 29, 2011

Congratulations to Roxanne Reese Brown for correctly guessing the green ally! Your To-Go Ware utensil set is on its way to your door.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), also sometimes known as Cronewort, St. John’s Girdle, Wild Wormwood, is the green ally of June.

Like I mentioned in my clues, mugwort commonly grows in disturbed soils and cracks in the sidewalk. One of the ways you know you’ve ID’ed her correctly is the white underside of her pinnate leaves. Young, spring leaves tend to be more tender and a brighter green. As she ages and grows taller, her leaves darken and her stem becomes drier and woodier. Mugwort flowers emerge in late summer and are tiny little buggers growing in racemes. Her scent is unique, some say sage-like or camphor-like. I say it’s a spicy-sweet scent all its own. Crush a leaf and give it a sniff.

Some benefits of mugwort:

• bitter tonic (once used in beer making in lieu of hops)

• brings on a delayed period (not recommended for use during pregnancy, unless under the guidance of an experienced herbalist)

• eases sore muscles – especially effective if you make a strong infusion by steeping mugwort leaves in boiled water for an hour or more, strain, then add the infusion liquid to the bath (then go straight to bed!)

• used as moxibustion in acupuncture to increase the flow of qi

• helps one remember dreams; put a sprig under your pillow or what I’ve done is make a dream pillow including mugwort, lavender, hops, and damiana

• slightly changes one’s perception, allowing one to “vision” (though not in a hallucinogenic way); master herbalist Robin Rose Bennett likes to take a piece of fresh mugwort leaf and use it as a bindi (the dot at the third eye point)

• protects against insects – makes a good moth repellent

This is just a sampling of the known benefits of mugwort. Another great thing about Artemisia vulgaris is that she grows abundantly, especially in the Northeast. I like to think that her presence is a message to us busy city folk to slow down and take the time to see what’s growing around us. At least that’s what she does to me.

You can find Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) in the Vivid Visions Smoke Blend, available in my Etsy shop.


Disclaimer: The information given is for educational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your intuition and, preferably, with an experienced herbal practitioner before endeavoring down a path of self treatment with herbs.

a weed is a plant out of place

June 15, 2011

Jewelweed, ally against poison ivy.

I love city life. I can step out of my apartment building door and arrive at just about any place I please in as little as 5 minutes, without getting in a car and even without mass transit. For example, there’s a good bodega on my corner with some decent organic products. There’s a delicious ice cream shop about 5o paces away that sells ice cream made from dairy that comes from pasture-raised cows. Up the hill is a museum, and the botanic gardens. And just 2 blocks away is my urban refuge – Prospect Park. I spend much of my time there foraging, wildcrafting tenacious “exotic invasives” (aka, weeds), or just staring at the open sky. But despite all of these spoils, I still long for more. More green, more wilds, more open space.

There’s nothing as restorative as a visit to the country. Just a few miles north of the city there’s this place most city folk call “Upstate” (there’s also the westward land, like rural New Jersey where I’m from). Though real upstate probably doesn’t start technically until you reach the Catskills. And that’s where I found myself last week, and just south of there the weekend before.

wild weed plant ID field trip with Peeka Trenkle

At the end of winter I completed an herbal medicine course with Peeka Trenkle. At that time, very little was growing to ID, so we had to wait for the plants to emerge to have a worthwhile field trip. So Saturday before last, we went traipsing through the woods and fields of Stone Mountain Farm in New Paltz. I’ve been on several plant ID walks, all inspiring and fruitful, and this was no exception. Of the plants I could readily identify there was: plantain (Plantago major & Plantago lanceolata), sassafras, wild geranium/cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), Jack-in-the-pulpit, cleavers (Gallium aparine), jewelweed (Impatiens), burdock (Arctium lappa), violet, Japanese knotweed, mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris – one of my favorites), curly/yellow dock, wild cherry, wild raspberry (Rubus idaeus), viburnum, goldenrod (Solidago sp), red clover (Trifolium pratense), juniper, oak, white pine, wild rose, buttercup, boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), and willow. I was grateful to meet some other plant allies which I hadn’t seen growing in person: wild angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), potentilla, greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), monarda, chicory, yellow sweet clover, milkweed, motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) elder (Sambucus nigra), horsetail (Equisetum arvense), and lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).

Some of the allies we encountered, plus some of their benefits…

Lesser stitchwort, so named for its ability to relieve a “stitch” or cramp in one’s side.

Elder, before blossoming. Elder protects us from viruses like cold and flu. I’ve heard her berries also make a good wine.

Motherwort, ally during times of anxiety.

Horsetail, the great re-mineralizer, ally for strengthening bones and teeth.


farm stay at Newton Farm Cooperative

In the tiny hamlet of West Kill lies a beautifully diverse place called Newton Farm Cooperative. I’m lucky enough to have a friend who’s part of this cooperative, farming the land part time. During the short time we spent there, we created long days full of small adventures. Weeding, sowing, watering, weeding. (What is a weed but a plant out of place?) I arose earlier than usual with the sun shining in the large window next to my bed, the dewy meadow calling me to explore. Barefoot, I wandered, inspecting weeds that I’d later craft into medicines, transfixed by tiny insects, distracted by red wing blackbird calls and the whooshing wing beats of barn swallows. The two resident roosters and mess of hens completed the symphony of bucolic sounds.

My morning view.

Weedin’ and hoein’.

Barn swallow nest.

Dewy daisy.


We ate well, harvesting a little bit of radish and lettuce from the farm beds, adding in some weeds – wild thyme and wood sorrel – as seasoning. Dinner was al fresco, by fireside (Meg is a skilled firestarter). Once it truly got dark – something that doesn’t happen in the city, unless there’s a blackout – we could see the stars. I saw a meteor fall (a shooting star) and we watched satellites blink across the sky. And then the fireflies came out, fervently flashing to find their mates.

We harvested gallons of spring water from a roadside spot in Hunter (Justin did the heavy lifting), and went strawberry picking at Greig Farm in Red Hook (Meg picked the reddest berries, and not surprisingly harvested the quickest). On the way back to the farm we dropped into the Mountain Brook Inn for a drink and chat with Lyndon, resident of the area for 28 years. He was full of useful tips for enjoying the area.

Just a few strawberries and a couple of drops of mountain fresh spring water.

Red clover. I harvested some and left much for the bees.

Lovely lettuce.

Flower of Plantago lanceolata.

Something for the bees to build on.

Before we reluctantly left for home, Ron stopped by with his delicious dark chocolate-covered frozen fruit Trop Pops for us to sample. Then Sarah and I walked down to the creek to dip our feet in. Next time, we declared, we’ll come here to sun on the rocks, maybe bring some inner tubes and float around.

In contrast to the plentiful spaciousness around us, the four of us crowded into my jam-packed Prius (which I affectionately call “Turtleboat rollerskate”) full with our bounty of fresh eggs, buckets of strawberries, gallons of Catskill mountain spring water, plus all we brought with us. It was as if we were trying to take back to the city all we could of this country retreat. Taking our time, we savored as much of the countryside as possible before returning to urban life. First, a stop at Grandmere Yvonne’s for her homemade paté, rillette, jams, mustards, and vinegars to take home. I especially enjoyed hearing how the venison paté I was buying was made with a deer that was struck by a car right in front of Yvonne’s home. The cop on the scene butchered the fallen creature, taking half for himself and giving half to Yvonne. Next we scored $1 clothing items at the Tibetan thrift shop in Kingston (the checkout lady says, “this is a dollar, is that alright?”). The last detour was to New Paltz for a picnic lunch of tasty leftovers, afterwards picking up chocolates from The Cheese Plate (where I’d been doing the same thing just the week before after the plant ID trip).

Though our stay was only two and a half days, I returned feeling restored in some deep way. Resting my eyes on the open, living & verdant world versus the cluttered, hard & constructed one in which I live cleared my mind and gave my heart a space to open into. Having just read Stephen Harrod Buhner’s The Secret Teachings of Plants gave me a newfound perspective and helped keep me present to the pulse of life around me. I plan on returning to Newton Farm soon.


reminder! diy natural beauty products

September 21, 2010

Come join me at my latest Deer Stop workshop this Thursday and learn to pamper yourself with homemade beauty supplies…


September 23 · 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Deer Stop
455 Grand Street, #3, Brooklyn, NY 11211

It’s healthier for you. It’s less expensive. It imposes fewer toxins on the environment. And it cuts out all those plastic and glass containers that you would otherwise buy every time you need more product.

Every day, the average man uses about 6 personal care products, and the average woman about 12. The majority of these products are full of synthetic, harmful chemicals. These chemicals are absorbed straight through the skin and inhaled into the lungs, entering the bloodstream and the organs. They also enter the water and soil, contaminating ecosystems on a mass scale. In this workshop, we’ll continue our process of being healthier towards ourselves and our environment, and in doing so, withdrawing from some of today’s more harmful industries. Come learn to make your own products using naturally sourced materials. It’s so easy, it’s inexpensive, and you’ll know exactly what you’re putting on your body.

We’ll make 3 luxurious personal care products that you’ll get to take home with you and use right away. We’ll also share several other beauty care product recipes that you can play with at home, and provide you with a list of the most natural, healthy product lines you can buy from if preferred.

REGISTRATION This workshop is $25 and requires registration. Please email to register.

Also, please consider re-posting this event for your friends.

Learn more about the lovely Julia Frodahl and her amazingly serene yoga studio DEER STOP: