2020 – What a Year for East West!

Finally, we’re reaching the end of 2020! I can’t tell you how many people have yearned to see this year pass since it’s been so difficult for most. Indeed, 2020 brought big changes to our lives and the East West Herb Course, too. I have always loved to travel and have done so since a…


amatierra retreat center

Amatierra: A Rejuvenating Retreat in Costa Rica

  When recently exploring the incredible plants of Costa Rica, we stayed at the magical retreat center Amatierra. It’s a hidden secret that is not only beautiful but also very nourishing as well. When we first arrived and climbed down the stairs to the main building and dining terrace, I was immediately struck by the…


Amla: Super Antioxidant Fruit of India

Oxidation in the body is a natural process caused when wandering electrons called free radicals react with other molecules. Oxidation has both positive and negative consequences. A positive aspect of oxidation is that the process disrupts the cell wall of bacteria, which stops them from functioning. Humans have special immune cells (macrophages) that use oxidation…


home herbalist course

Announcing: The East West Home Herbalist Course

We are very excited to announce that the East West School of Planetary Herbology now offers a Home Herbalist Course! While we have provided Family and Professional Herbalist Courses, we have not presented a basic course in learning herbs – until now! The Home Herbalist Course is a great way to get involved with immediately…


Ashwagandha, Milk, Energy, and Sleep

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is described as a rasayana in Ayurvedic medicine. In Ayurveda, rasayanas are used as Traditional Chinese medicine uses tonic herbs, and they correspond to the herbal category of adaptogens, a term first used to describe a limited number of immune tonics by Russians used in Western herbal medicine. Tonics, adaptogens, and rasayanas…


Ashwagandha: Horsepower for Your Body

The Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha has become quite well known in recent years and it is no wonder, for it has many important uses. Overall, it’s a wonderful anti-aging and rejuvenative tonic for most all folks and so deserves its growing reputation. Specifically, it is a yang tonic (meaning it warms and strengthens the body’s energy…


Balthazar’s Gift: Frankincense

Have you ever wondered what the Holy Family did with the three gifts brought to them from the far-off lands in the East by, according to tradition, the Magi? The Bible doesn’t say. The Armenian Christian tradition describes three Magi: Balthazar from Arabia, Gaspar from India, and Melchior from Persia (what is now known as…


Boost Your Immunity This Flu Season

So far, 14,000 people have died and 250,000 people have been hospitalized during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to preliminary estimates from the CDC, which estimates that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season. Corona virus worldwide: 104,025 Deaths: 3,524 Recovered: 58,527 China: 80,652; 3070 deaths, 55,521…


Can homeopathy stave off harmful effects of vaccinations?

Many mothers are afraid to give their babies and young children vaccinations. Pro and con arguments on both sides make for heated debates. To help with the decision to vaccinate or not, I recommend the book Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide, by my former student, herbal colleague and now highly successful medical doctor integrating herbal…


Cat’s Claw, Dragon’s Blood and Quassia in Costa Rica

On our recent second visit to Costa Rica, we re-experienced the wondrous biodiversity of its plants, exotic wildlife, volcanoes, and hot springs but also a rare insight into its traditional healing customs. With the assistance of an interpreter, this information was provided by our guide, the distinguished native ethnobotanist, Rafael (Raffi) Angel Ocampo Sanchez.  Raffi, is…


Celery Stalk: A Powerful Anti-Inflammatory

Celery often sits in our refrigerators for many different uses – making stocks, preparing soups, or filling with peanut butter for the kids. But celery has many more uses than that and is actually quite medicinal in concentrated form. Celery Seed Most herbalists are familiar with celery seed and teach about its many wonderful uses.…


Chamomile: Gentle Yet Powerful

Since we are in the “season” of the Heart, we’ve been covering bitter herbs. The bitter flavor cleanses the blood among other things and thus, it is connected to the Heart in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Five Phases system. So far, we have discussed dandelion and California poppy in this bitter flavor series. Our…



Chyawanprash: A Delicious, Nutritious Herbal Tonic

Once when comparing relative merits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine with an Ayurvedic doctor in India, the good doctor acknowledged both systems as having merit but said: “Ayurvedic tonics taste better!” Flavor is considered part of the therapeutic properties of an herb in both herbal systems, but it is much more emphasized…



Citrus: Fruit or Peel?

Most of us love some form of citrus – oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and more – yet did you know that some parts of these delicious fruits are actually quite medicinal? Interestingly, …


Coix: An Underutilized Medicinal Food

“Let your medicine be your food and your food, your medicine.” The sovereign dictum of Hippocrates is aptly epitomized by the use of Coix (Coix lacrymi-jobi, also known as Job’s tears and yi yi ren) as the most common treatment for cancer in China. Coix is a member of the Graminaceae family of which all…


Colds and Flu: Common-Sense Prevention Tactics

Anyone who’s heard tales from grandparents or great-grandparents who lived during the 1918 flu pandemic will understand the world’s great concern about the new coronavirus. The 1918 flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide, while 500 million (roughly one third of the world’s population then) became infected with that H1N1 virus.[1] Because the new…


Green Leaves

Comfrey Comfort

Recently I was sitting in my garden one late afternoon trying to pull myself together after a very scattering day. (You know those days, the ones when you plan to do certain things, but instead, every …


misconceptions about herbal medicine

Common Misconceptions about Herbal Medicine

Recently, someone wrote me in response to an article I wrote on the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principle of dui yao, a principle of formulation where one might use two or more herbs as one brought up not one. His letter brought up a couple of common misconceptions about herbal medicine which I thought were…


Michael and Anne at the Herbal Seminar


I have to admit I’ve been a bit irregular with my blogs lately. But there’s a good reason.  I’ve been working with East West student and editor Anne de Courtenay for two years to revise the East West …


Costa Rica: Plant Paradise

Simply put, Costa Rica is a plant paradise. Michael and I were lucky enough to travel there a couple of weeks ago, and we were astonished by the botanical diversity there. So many regularly used herbs can be found in this forest wonderland. For starters, many of our kitchen spices come from Costa Rica. Ginger,…


Draksha: Ayurvedic Grape Wine Medicine

Asava and arishta, meaning “distillate” in Sanskrit, are two naturally fermented alcoholic extracts used for making Ayurvedic wine medicines. Draksha in Sanskrit means “grape” and draksharista therefore means grape wine. This is not your regular merlot or pinot, but a very low alcohol herbally medicated wine. Draksha is one of the most effective botanical remedies…