Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring e zine: Cleansing and gardening!

           Spring is just around the corner and the days are already getting warmer. Soon it will be time for the bears wake up and cleanse themselves with very purging plants, such as Skunk Cabbage (too strong for this purpose in humans!) It's also time for us to come out of hibernation and rid our body of the heaviness of the bulky foods that nourished us throughout the winter. Try eating lighter meals and cutting out refined foods, such as sugar, white breads and pastas. 
           Start your cleansing process with gentle lymphatic herbs, like Cleavers (Galium aparine) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) before using liver cleansers such as Burdock (Arctium lappa) and Dandelion (Taraxacum off.). Cleansing herbs can be too cold and clearing for some people so use caution. Everybody has a different physique, energy level, constitutional strength, etc, so consult a herbalist for custom dietary advice and to find out which cleansing herbs are right for you.

With spring comes plans for gardening!! Include some herbs in your garden this year to add beauty, colour, and medicinal value to your garden!

Calendula officinalis (Marigold) is a somewhat hardy annual that likes rich, well-drained soil. Calendula grow well even if left unattended. Water during dry periods, once or twice per week. Pick dead blooms to encourage new blooms. Calendula is a useful medicinal for skin and intestinal health and it offers a lovely orange flower!

Inula helenium (Elecampane) is commonly used for unproductive coughs, bronchitis, and asthma. The plant prefers moderately fertile, moist soil and full sun to light shade. Roots are collected after the second growing season. Elecampane grows over a metre tall and has bright yellow flowers.

Lavendula officinalis (Lavender) is an evergreen shrub that requires dry to moist soil, direct sun, and is drought tolerant. Well known as a culinary and cosmetic herb, it is also used medicinally to alleviate stress, headaches, and encourage natural sleep. Its purple flowers add to the beauty of the garden and its aroma puts the gardener and companions at ease!

Book suggestion:  Barbara Grigg's Green Pharmacy - about the history of herbal medicine. Not to be confused with The Green Pharmacy - another great home herbal book by James Duke. 

A great online booklet explaining gluten allergy, gluten sensitivity, and related food reactions.

Contributors to this ezine: Lauren Truscott, Rory Knapp Fisher, Candice May, Lindsay Hounslow, and Laura Mroz – students at Pacific Rim College studying Phytotherapy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Attention Gardeners! Plant sale.......

WHEN: Tuesday 05 April 2011 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
WHERE: GARTH HOMER CENTRE 813 Darwin Ave. (South of Saanich Municipal Hall)
Choose from an intriguing variety of hardy shrubs & perennials, exotic alpine plants, rare native ferns, fresh vegetable & herb plants, seeds, used garden tools & pots...and so much more! All from local specialty nurseries & home growers.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Medicinal Herb Gardening Workshop! Featured plant: Echinacea

We are partnering with Lifecycles ( ) to offer a Workshop on Cultivating Medicinal Plants! Please attend on Mon Apr 4th 7-9pm at Pacific Rim College for info on more plants and how to plan your medicine garden!

Purple Cone Flower   Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia
Care for this perennial is relatively easy. Likes well drained, rich, loamy soils, in sunny areas but will tolerate dappled shade. Deep soils are preferred to promote a root crop, which is harvested at the end of the third summer. Aerial parts can also be harvested during full bloom, from July through to the end of September. Grows to 4 feet tall and offers a beautiful sunflower shaped, purple flower.

An effective immune stimulant that is commonly used in many households for colds and stress resistance. While it requires more time to grow and prepare, the benefit of effectiveness and financial savings makes it a worthwhile addition to the home herbal garden. Many people spend hard eared money on Echinacea tinctures, which could be home made with basic knowledge. The benefit of using home grown medicine may also enhance self-empowerment and thus the effectiveness of this powerful medicine.   

To attend the workshop: Please RSVP to: and (250) 383-5800.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chocolate - your choice has cultural and economic implications!

Many people love chocolate and it has a long history of influencing human environment, health, love and colonization. Have you considered how your choice in buying certain types of chocolate affects the people who grow the plant??

Theobroma cacao is the source of chocolate.

A video about the child slavery involved with Chocolate production:

A video about a fair trade Chocolate farmer's association in Belize:

Cocoa pods

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aloe Vera for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Aloe vera (Aloe barbedensis) in the form of gel or juice derived from the inner gelatinous portion of the leaf (not including the outer leaf portions that contain anthraquinones, an organic compound that has laxative effects (2)) is commonly indicated in many reputable sources online and in herbal texts for contributing to the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (see references). IBS or “spastic colon” is a disorder involving the small intestine and large bowel associated with variable degrees of abdominal pain and discomfort, and constipation or diarrhea, largely as a reaction to stress in a susceptible individual and/or from poor diet, but in the absence of any detectable organic cause (3).

While aloe vera may not be the sole treatment for IBS, it can aid in reducing associated symptoms. The inner portion of aloe vera is very high in many nutrients that the body needs to maintain homeostasis, or to keep all the systems of the body, such as the digestive system, in good, balanced, working order. Some of these nutrients are polysaccharides, a main source of energy for the body (4); amino acids, building blocks of the body that make up proteins and are necessary for growth, repair, and maintenance of cells (5); minerals, including calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and zinc; enzymes, proteins that speed up the rate of reactions in the body and are vital to such functions as digestion (6); and vitamins (7). Restoring the health of the intestines plays a major role in the treatment of IBS, since many of the symptoms are possibly related to the structural and functional integrity of this organ (3). The cells of the intestine are among the fastest growing cells in the body and need to be continually replenished (3). The main fuel they need is an amino acid called I-glutamine, something that is difficult to get through a regular diet (8). Aloe vera contains this substance thereby enhancing the ability for cell regeneration. One function of the polysaccharides in aloe on the body is their ability to repair the tiny “holes” in the gut associated with “leaky gut syndrome”, where unwanted substances and toxins are absorbed through the gut walls and into the blood stream, effecting not only the immune system, but being a contributing factor to many diseases including digestive problems (8). Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that calm intestinal spasms that cause much of the abdominal pain and other related symptoms, possibly including constipation and diarrhea (8). The anti-inflammatory quality may largely be attributed to its high zinc and manganese content (7). Aloe vera works gently in the intestinal tract to help break down food residues that have become impacted and to help clean out the bowel (8). When the bowel is cleaned out it reduces bloating, discomfort, and helps ease stress (8). Removing stress is an important step in the treatment of IBS because it appears that it is a major contributing factor to the development of many IBS symptoms (3). Aloe vera is cooling, moisturizing, and soothing and is therefore beneficial in the treatment of the uncomfortable and painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (9). It is also beneficial in increasing immune support, fluid and nutrient absorption, inflammatory support, as well as benefiting the digestive system as whole (10).

The recommended dose is 2 to 8 ounces per day of the juice or gel of the “inner fillet” (10); be sure to check the label before purchasing and before drinking so as not to mistake this product for the juice or gel of the “whole leaf”.

Aloe vera should not be consumed during pregnancy due to the laxative, or purgative, effect (9).

A good-quality 100% Certified Organic brand of aloe available in most health food stores is Lily of the Desert inner fillet juice and gel, available in 16, 32, and 128 ounce bottles (10).


(1) Aloe vera image (Internet):
viewed 7 March 2010.

(2) Anthraquinone. Wikipedia (Internet). (updated 2 February 2010; sited 7 March

(3) Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2003. P. 276 - 8.

(4) Carbohydrates. Faqs. org (Internet). (updated 2010; sited 8 March 2010). Available from:

(5) Amino Acids Overview. Reference Guide for Amino Acids (Internet). (updated 2009; sited 8 March 2010). Available from:

(6) Enzyme. (Internet). (updated 2010; sited 8 March 2010). Available from:

(7) Holmes, Peter. The Energetics of Western Herbs, Vol. 1. Cotati, CA: Snow Lotus Press; 2007. P. 479.

(8) Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Aloe Vera Health Benefits (Internet). (updated 2010; sited 8 March 2010). Available from:

(9) Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books; 2008. P. 65 – 7.

(10) Liquid Dietary Supplements. Lily of the Desert (Internet). (updated 2009; sited 8 March 2010). Available from:

Contributed by Laura Mroz, student of Phytotherapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine @ Pacific Rim College

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