Natural Woman, Herbal Remedies for Radiant Health at Every Age and Stage of Life

Natural Woman
Herbal Remedies for Radiant Health at Every Age and Stage of Life

December 2019 by Dr. Leslie Korn
Shambhala  Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Indiebound 

It’s time for women to reclaim their bodies, minds, and entitlement to joy, vitality, and emotional depth. Natural Woman is a practical and comprehensive roadmap to working with plants, indigenous feminine wisdom, and our sacred kitchens in order to free us from the constraints of a medical system that would otherwise hold us captive. This beautiful book will be featured prominently on my shelf for years to come!

-- Kelly Brogan MD, NY Times Bestselling author of A Mind of Your Own

A herbal guide to support physical, mental, and spiritual health for women and their children at all stages of life–by a healer with over 40 years of experience.

Plant medicines are a woman’s ally to achieve optimal health; they bring balance and nourishment to daily life and can reduce or eliminate symptoms of physical and emotional distress. They can also provide alternatives to many pharmaceuticals. This go-to herbal sourcebook helps women thrive at every age and stage of their lives, with remedies using common herbs and plants to support a healthy body, mind, and spirit.

Organized by disease or discomfort, this book is an essential guide to help women find the herbal support they need. Treatments for sleep disorders, menstrual issues, autoimmune conditions, anxiety, fertility, post-partum recovery, skin ailments, and more, can be found and prepared with ease. Herbal guidance for rites of passage or moments of community are provided, and the inclusion of psychoactive herbs, protocol for end-of life care, and extensive resources round out the coverage–including common discomforts that affect children. Dr. Leslie Korn brings over 40 years of experience in numerous herbal traditions and healing modalities to Natural Woman, offering timeless wisdom that can be shared with friends and passed down in the family for generations.


It’s time for women to reclaim their bodies, minds, and entitlement to joy, vitality, and emotional depth. Natural Woman is a practical and comprehensive roadmap to working with plants, indigenous feminine wisdom, and our sacred kitchens in order to free us from the constraints of a medical system that would otherwise hold us captive. This beautiful book will be featured prominently on my shelf for years to come!

-- Kelly Brogan MD, NY Times Bestselling author of A Mind of Your Own

Natural Woman weaves together story, tradition, and timeless wisdom into a modern approach that helps us thrive in our lives as women. Leslie Korn inspires us to nurture our health and well-being in all stages of life.

-- Bevin Clare, President, American Herbalists Guild

Natural Woman sets a new standard of excellence for books on women’s health. Dr. Korn skillfully balances her encyclopedic knowledge of healing and health with deep reverence for the sacred in all beings. Women will find in these pages a wealth of practical information on natural healing with herbs throughout the lifecycle, and will learn how to prepare and use herbal recipes for everyday physical and emotional ailments, and their role in end of life care. A must read for all women seeking a more natural path to mind-body-spirit health.

-- James Lake MD, founding member and former Chair, American Psychiatric Association Caucus on Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Leslie Korn has created a delicious, delightful, user-friendly reference book. Natural Woman belongs in both the health practitioner’s and the client’s tool kit to support holistic health interventions that restore and maintain balance and vitality for women.

-- Judith Pentz, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico

Natural Woman by Dr. Korn is a fun and highly informative read that addresses many aspects of women’s health. Throughly researched and highly detailed, Dr. Korn’s book integrates decades of wisdom and clinical experience with plants and natural remedies. Full of creative recipes and practical advice, this book prepares the beginner in the skills of natural health yet also offers advanced clinicians new and riveting perspectives on relevant topics in the field. There‘s something for everyone in this comprehensive book.

-- Renee Davis, MA, Clinical Herbalist

Just as herbs are gifts of nature, Dr. Korn has given a gift to all women.  This book is a gift I will be giving for many years to come.

-- Mary Ann Osborne, DNP, FNP, Institute for Integral Health

Natural Woman combines Leslie Korn’s lifelong experience-based knowledge as an herbalist with her extensive training in trauma therapy to create a one-of-a-kind, easily accessible, and holistic approach to self-care. Consistent with her immense body of work, Natural Woman combines western science with indigenous-based knowledge to understand women’s wellness as the integration of mind, body, and spirit, but with caveats: we must not use plants without considering potential impacts to environments and indigenous peoples. For this and so many more reasons, this is a delightful and immensely useful book.

-- Dina Gilio Whitaker, Author, As Long as the Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock

Dr. Korn combines science and spirit in this lovely, well organized plant medicine compendium, which is eminently practical for everyday use. She empowers readers with knowledge of herbal medicine by sharing graceful stories about women’s ancient wisdom and ancestral knowledge.  This is one of the most useful guides I have ever read. Enjoy the exquisite journey.

-- Tabatha Parker, ND, Executive Director Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM)

Since moving to the jungle of western Mexico as a young woman, Dr. Leslie Korn has spent over four decades studying the use of herbs by indigenous healers. Her new book, Natural Woman, is an accessible and comprehensive resource that shows how herbs support health, heal physical, emotional, and spiritual illness, and add delight and nourishment to our food. The reader-friendly organization of the book allows easy access to specific health conditions and specific herbs. Particularly moving is a chapter on the use of herbs in rituals that mark important life passages. While this book is encyclopedic, Korn peppers her impressive knowledge with stories about her own meaningful encounters with herbs. Sitting in an honored place on many women’s bookshelves, Natural Woman will provide assistance to women in all phases of life and will create a much-needed link to the healing wisdom found in indigenous cultures.

-- Kathryn Ridall, PhD. Psychotherapist and Author, Dreaming at the Gates

Ch. 1: How Herbs Heal

Herbs are our first medicines. They are gifts from nature that grow out of the earth, nourished by the sun and the moon, and the rain and the snow to feed and heal us, nurturing our body, mind, and spirit. They remind us of our nature and enable us to live as women, naturally. So how do nature’s herbs become medicines that heal us?

The word “medicine” is derived from the Sanskrit root word mā, meaning “measure” or “balance.” Herbal medicines restore balance. They have specific, powerful compounds that function on many levels, causing physical or emotional responses in our body, mind, and spirit. So while their compounds or “active substances” can alter our physical bodies, they can also effect change energetically by bringing their spiritual vitalities to our electromagnetic energy fields. Some plants, like those I discuss in chapter 6, have psychoactive effects that cause changes in brain function that result in altered perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. These plants are our allies as we discover new personal insights, enhance our connection to ourselves, others, and the cosmos, and possibly affirm our purpose and place in the world. They may also help to ease our fears as we prepare to leave our bodies to this earth.

While we may be tempted to apply only the science of biomedicine and say herbs work in support of our health because of a chemical or substance, we must do so with caution since these plant gifts come as a whole package. They work to combine all the elements necessary to provide balance, yes, but also buffers to the potent active substances, which on their own can cause side effects.

Many of our well-known commercial pharmaceuticals are derived from herbal medicines. Researchers usually identify an active substance—what they consider the most important and useful part of the plant—and then extract it, concentrate it, and increase its potency to obtain a result. While this often works, it also can lead to other unexpected effects. When the compound is removed from the active parts of the whole plant that nature provided, it is also separated from all the other constituents that contribute to balance. For example, aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is derived from plants that belong to the genus Spiraea, which are rich in the analgesic (painkiller) salicylic acid. Indigenous peoples have used many such plants both internally and externally for millennia. White willow bark (Salix alba), is one example. While aspirin is a powerful medicine, used to lessen pain, reduce fever, and thin the blood, it can have dangerous side effects, such as uncontrolled bleeding. It is also important to note that some people have what is called a “salicylate intolerance,” and exposure to salicylates can cause asthma and hives.

Sugarcane (Saccharum) is another example of how extracting the powerful substance from the whole plant can lead to illness. When chewed as a food or herbal remedy or taken as freshly extracted juice, the sweet liquor is rich in micronutrients (iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, and boron), minerals, trace amounts of B vitamins and anti-inflammatory phenols. It is also used in India to treat jaundice and kidney diseases. For thousands of years, sugar was extracted from the grass and used like a spice—in small amounts—and it was very expensive. However, when sugar became commercially processed in large quantities as a granular sweetener and easily affordable, it brought new diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Ch. 2: Preparing your Herbal Medicines

The ways to incorporate herbs into your life are limitless. Among these delivery methods are teas, tinctures, extracts, glycerites, steams, soaks, rubs, salves, steams, smoke and vape baths and soaks, water infusions and decoctions, oils, syrups, elixirs, cordials, honeys, vinegars, oxymels, herbal infused oils, pills, capsules, lozenges, and suppositories. In the next section I will walk with you in a garden of delights where you begin to sip, drink, soak, pucker, and insert a variety of herbs that will serve your health and well-being.


A soak is an herbal-infused bath relieves distress, soothes painful musculoskeletal conditions, and alleviates skin issues. Foot soaks are helpful in cases where a bathtub is not available. Adding herbs to a basin of hot water makes a relaxing remedy for painful, tired feet. A simple way to prepare an herbal bath is to stuff a muslin bag with herbs and place it in the hot water.

My Favorite Herbal Bath Soak

After a long day I fill the tub with hot water and add a cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), which relaxes the muscles and the mind. I then add 5 to 10 drops of attar of rose oil and soak for 20 minutes. As the rose oil dissipates, I add 5 drops of lavender oil and I am ready for a deep sleep.


Cordials are made with fresh plants, and elixirs are made with dried herbs. The word cordial refers to the heart. (Think of being cordial to someone). Cordials are yummy medicinal beverages about 30 to 50 percent alcohol by volume that combine medicinal plants with liquor and honey to warm the heart and relax the mind, and they are best imbibed in the afternoon through late evening (though having a rough day might call for one in early afternoon). Using small amounts of cordials and elixirs is a good way to deliver herbal medicine to elders, and cordials are ideal for rituals celebrating love.

To make a cordial, you’ll need an amber glass quart jar. Fill half the jar with a mixture of plants and ground seeds, and then fill the rest of the jar with your choice of alcohol. I use brandy, sherry, or a fine tequila. Make sure the herbs are completely covered and leave a little space at the top of the jar for the expansion of the plants. Tightly screw on the lid and label the the jar with the contents and date. Store in a cool, dark closet and steep the herbs for at least a month.

After a month, strain the liquid into a clean jar and add 1/4 cup of raw honey, grade B maple syrup, or a touch of blackstrap molasses. Or get creative and add dried fruits for extra added sweetness. If you used brandy or sherry, the cordial will be naturally sweet, so you won’t need to add as much sweetener. This cordial/elixir can be kept at room temperature for many years.

My Favorite Fennel Cordial

A digestive cordial is the perfect way to start or end a meal. Digestion begins with relaxation. If we are not relaxed when we eat, the fiery digestive enzymes will not be released, and digestion will be difficult. This is why we can get heartburn when we are stressed. Sitting down for an herbal cordial before dinner sets the stage for relaxation and having one after dinner provides the digestive system with soothing and carminative herbs. The following combination of herbs is an Ayurveda remedy, and it works beautifully as a cordial.


  • 3 ounces fennel seed
  • 2 ounces fenugreek seed
  • 1 ounce licorice root
  • 4 thumbs fresh ginger, cut into slices
  • 16 ounces brandy
  • ¼ cup raw local honey

Grind the fennel seed, fenugreek seed, and licorice root in an electric herb or coffee grinder and add the mixture to an amber glass quart jar. Then add the ginger slices. Pour over the brandy, screw the lid on the jar tightly, and let sit for one month in a dark corner, shaking gently a few times a week. Strain the liquid into a new jar and add the honey. Sip before or after a meal to aid digestion and prevent or reduce gas and discomfort.

Ch. 3: Herbs for Day to Day and Season Rhythms

One August Sunday in Mexico when the air was thick with moisture, and steam was rising from the heat of the ground, Señora Gorgonia rang the bell on my gate and invited me on a walk along with her mother Dona Flavia. She said that they were going to swim out to la punta, the point of land that juts out into the sea, to pick herbs, and they would point out remedies along the way, if I wanted to join them. Before we left her house, Flavia pointed to a common plant called sin vergüenza (Tradescantia zebrina) meaning “shameless.” She explained further that when mashed together with vinegar it relieves the swelling and pain of varicose veins, a serious problem for many women in the village. As we walked, Flavia picked and pulled at branches of llanten (plantain) whose leaves are commonly applied to a scorpion sting, only after you catch the scorpion and lay it on top of the sting, dead, of course. She drew my attention to delicate white flowers called arnica that when macerated in alcohol and applied to a bruise or sprain alleviated pain and swelling. As we continued, she pointed down at the path at one remedy that she didn’t touch, but said, “Take two handfuls and rub it in your scalp daily. It will make your hair thick and cure those without any.” She was pointing at cow dung—we all laughed.

We arrived at our swimming spot, and Flavia climbed a small hill to shake a papaya out of a tree. Because the ripened fruit is easy to digest, it is eaten when one is ill and nothing else can be eaten. But Flavia also said that the unripe fruit holds the strongest medicine. The milky substance between the skin and the fruit is an enzyme called papain. The villagers applied a slice of the skin to meat to soften it, to an infection to draw out the pus, or to a bee sting to soothe the pain. The papaya seeds can be dried and used as a medicinal tea to rid the bowls of parasites and worms. As we sat on the rocks soaking our feet in the cool water, clouds began to form overhead, and the guacos (laughing falcons) flew by laughing their unusual song. Flavia suggested that we start back, warning that I better get ready to pay off all my debts, because it looked as though it might begin to rain while the sun was still shining.

My walks with Flavia and Gorgonia continued over the years as they introduced me to a variety of herbs for everyday prevention and those reserved for specific illnesses. They shared with me both the art and science of indigenous ways of knowing: of how plants and animals reveal their medicines and the trial and error of preparation. They also introduced me to other herbalists and healers who had their own specialties and awakened in me a passion for listening deeply to the specific plants I needed as I traversed diverse geographies.


I always carry with me a basic herbal first aid kit, whether I am trekking in the forest or jungle or hopping on a plane to another country. Then, upon arrival in a new locale, I scout green and wild areas to learn more about where to plant my feet for health. In this section I provide you with some instructions on how to create your own herbal first aid kit filled with herbs and medicines that you want to have available for emergencies and day-to-day healing needs. I also introduce you to many, many herbs along with recipes for their uses. You will learn about the specific ways that herbs keep us healthy, speed our healing when we are ill, or restore our balance after we recover……

Herbs for Everyday Use

Herbs tell us a lot about how they will help us by their color and their tastes, so smelling, chewing, and salivating over bark and berries, leaves and roots invites your sensory knowledge. This is called organoleptic research and is often used in reference to herbal medicine. Organoleptic means “involving the use of one’s sense organs.” In herbalism this refers to employing the senses—taste, touch, sight, and smell—to more deeply understand a plant’s medicine. Of these senses, taste can often provide the most insight into the action of an herbal medicine as well as the constituents within a plant. For example, a puckering feeling in the mouth when tasting an herb, akin to the one that comes from drinking a glass of red wine, indicates a plant’s astringent contracting qualities. Herbs that are highly flavorful and aromatic in quality, such as lavender, mint, or basil, signal that they are high in volatile oils.

Organoleptic analysis can also give us insight into the quality of the herbs we are using. For example, when we bite into a high quality echinacea root or chew on some kava root, our mouth should have a numb, tingling feeling. If this doesn’t occur you may be tasting an herb that is old or of inferior quality, and thus not as medicinally active or beneficial.

In the following list, you will see that in most instances I describe the plant and provide its characteristic active compounds along with occasional cultural references to the herb’s ancient uses. I concentrate on herbs that are important to our health as women. You will note that some herbs have been used historically as abortifacients, to induce abortion. I provide this information for general knowledge as well as to promote awareness of what not to use during pregnancy. It is well established that a medical abortion in a clinic is much safer than an herbal abortion, and I would never recommend using herbs for abortion.

Ch. 4: Herbal Medicines for Everyday Use and Special Purposes

This is not an exhaustive list of herbs, but I have chosen what I believe to be the most important, wide-ranging, and accessible ones. I also introduce you to some unusual ones that may be new to your home pharmacy. Please feel free to further investigate any herbs that interest you. I provide suggestions on dosing herbs based on a range of traditional herbal practices (indigenous sciences) and standardized biomedical science. This is meant only as a guide since dosing will depend on the individual, their health and weight, whether it’s fresh or dry, and the proposed use of the herb.

(Agrimonia eupatoria; Agrimonia gryposepala)

Agrimony is an herbaceous flowering perennial that is a part of the Rosaceae family. Common agrimony is native to Europe, and tall hairy agrimony is native to North America. All parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes, including the burrs, which contain the seeds. Agrimony has been regarded as a powerful magic herb, used to ward off hexes, cure illness, and bring about a deep sleep when put under the pillow. It is an astringent herb, rich in tannins, which can make it useful as a tonic for the digestive system and for the kidneys and liver, as well as a muscle relaxant and a diuretic. The gallotannins and gallic acid contribute to the astringent properties of the plant that make it useful as a styptic, which is a common use by the Potawatomi people. The Cherokee use an infusion of the burrs as a febrifuge, antidiarrheal, and emmenagogue, and the Iroquois use the plant to stop diarrhea and vomiting in children. It is renowned as a vulnerary and a hypoglycemic treatment for type 2 diabetes. Pour 1 cup of boiled water over

2 teaspoons of fresh or dried mix of leaves and flowers, Let sit for 15 minutes and strain. Drink 1 to 2 cups daily. If using topically as a vulnerary, let cool and rinse your wound or apply a compress of the tea.

ALFALFA (Medicago sativa)

Alfalfa is a leguminous, perennial flowering herb native to West Asia. It has a very deep taproot that often reaches six feet into the soil. Alfalfa is highly effective as a nitrogen fixer, which means it draws nitrogen from the atmosphere to serve as a natural land fertilizer. The saponins in the alfalfa help to prevent heart disease by inhibiting cholesterol from attaching to arterial walls, and the isoflavones are especially useful for women’s hormone balance and are used to prevent osteoporosis and the vasomotor effects (hot flashes) associated with menopause. Rich in vitamin K, alfalfa helps to prevent blood clots and plays a central role in bone formation, making it essential for menopausal women. Alfalfa is rich in minerals, such as calcium, vitamins C and B, and antioxidants and is often combined with chlorophyll extract to provide a restorative tonic to aid digestion and the recovery from malnutrition. It is also rich in iron and thus improves hemoglobin function and is a natural approach to addressing anemia. The sprouted seeds of the alfalfa plant are easy to grow and a fun way to teach young children about plant growth. Take 1 teaspoon of dried alfalfa leaf and pour over 11/2 cups of boiling water. Let steep for 15 minutes, strain, and drink. Make a cup daily for 1 week, then rotate in other herbs before returning to alfalfa 3 weeks later.

Menopausal Tea Recipe

A delicious enriching tea for perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can be made from 1 ounce each of alfalfa, nettle leaf, red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense), and horsetail.

Mix the dried ingredients together and store in an amber glass jar. Make a tea by taking 1 tablespoon of the dry herb mix and pouring over 1½ cups of boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes, strain, and drink.

This brew can alkalinize the body pH, so drink it for one week out of the month only.

Ch. 5: Spice Medicine

Spices are medicine! They are sensory nourishment. They contain volatile oils that transform our consciousness and bring us joy and contentment as they elevate our mood and help us to relax. An easy and effective way to integrate herbal medicine into your daily routine is to use spices in your cooking. Spices can be incorporated into your meals as an illness preventative, and they are a powerful support when using food as medicine for whole-health healing when you are ill.

I love to make my own spice mixtures from whole seeds, leaves, and roots on the spot for meals or in advance to use as medicine when I am feeling ill. I also bottle spices and mixtures, along with favorite recipes, as gifts for my friends and family on special occasions. Preparing spice mixtures as a group activity with friends and family provides “kitchen lessons” (I also call these lessons “culinary pedagogy”—for the highfalutin or for those who want to incorporate this knowledge into schools and universities) as we share the history, geography, health, medicine, indigenous knowledge, and women’s stories surrounding a particular spice or plant.

After all, the history of global exploration (and colonization and resource extraction) can be told by following the routes of the spice trade and the exchanges of foods across borders and seas. Did you know that there would be no Szechuan spicy eggplant without the peppers from Mexico, or that the Italians did not have a red sauce before 1492 when the tomatoes brought from Mexico?

All the world’s different peoples with their many different cultures use spices. In this chapter we will explore some familiar and hopefully some novel spices and mixtures that will enhance your healing and culinary adventures.

ALLSPICE (Pimenta dioica)

The dried, unripe berries of this tropical tree are referred to as allspice, pimenta, Jamaican pepper, or myrtle pepper. It was given the name “allspice” by the English in the seventeenth century because it had notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, juniper berries, peppers, and cloves. Allspice is the foundation of Caribbean cuisine. It is used to flavor Jamaican jerk seasoning, moles, curry powders, pickling mixes, sauces, sausages, cold cuts, and relishes. Allspice contains eugenol, which is a potent antibacterial and antiseptic, which may be why it is also used to cure and preserve meats.

In Costa Rica, allspice is used to treat indigestion and diabetes. In Guatemala, the berries are crushed to treat bruises, sore joints, and muscles. In Ayurveda, allspice is used in the treatment of toothaches and respiratory congestion. Allspice is also a central ingredient in most Mexican mole sauces and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

Note that the volatile oils of allspice evaporate very easily so buy small quantities and store the berries in an amber glass jar with a tight lid. The lessons and recipes provided here will help you explore this healing culinary spice.

Spice Lesson

During the American colonial era, Caribbean pirates popularized a dish called boucan or buccan, which was meat marinated with allspice berries. Among the Taíno people in the Caribbean, the pirates were referred to as the boucaniers, or buccaneers. Buccan is also related to what the Spanish called barbacoa, which later became “barbecue.”

Jerk Spice Marinade

This recipe celebrates allspice cuddled by other spices that enhance its flavor and action. Use this rub on chicken, shrimp, pork, or vegetables. The term jerk refers to spice-rub culinary practice that evolved from cross-cultural contact. It was developed when Africans taken as slaves to the Caribbean came into contact with indigenous Arawak and Tíano peoples. Make this rub in advance for the best flavor.

Makes 1-2 meals


  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • ¼ stick cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Grind the dry ingredients in a spice grinder and blend the wet ingredients in a blender. Combine the wet mixture with the dry and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Rub it on your meat or vegetables and let them marinate for a few hours in the fridge. Then roast them in the oven.

You can also prepare extra of the dried ingredients and store them separately in a cool, dry place, adding in the wet ingredients when needed for a future meal. If you have leftover wet ingredients, store them in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Ch. 6: Spirit Plants

Women the world over have been exploring inner realms for millennia and altering their states of consciousness since our four-footed animal friends first snuffled their way into a mound of fungi and shared their bright-eyed discoveries with us. We have ingested these “spirit plants” to enhance our consciousness, settle our nerves, increase our energy for the fight, and, as a route to communion with divine. Some even suggest that in the Garden of Eden, Eve ate not the apple, but instead the sacred hallucinogen mushroom fly amanita (Amanita muscaria), which led her (and Adam) to experience the goddess within, giving rise to what we now call religion.

Spirit plants enter our lives for many reasons and serve many purposes, either planned or discovered. Historically, we have used them with other plants—usually in the context of formalized ritual traditions. These traditions are rooted in women’s healing and spiritual practices: the peyote ceremonies among the Wixárikas of central Mexico, the ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) ceremonies from western Brazil, and even the enemas performed using pulque, the fermented substance of the agave plant associated with Mayahuel, the goddess of fertility. We have learned much about spirit-plant use from indigenous women across many cultures, and today these plant guides are available to all of us for learning, growth, and celebrating community.

In our ever-changing contemporary lives, we engage in cultural and spiritual practices with plant allies by microdosing mushrooms to aid productivity and mood states, traveling to Amazonian lands for ayahuasca ceremonies, or attending ibogaine clinics offshore to treat opiate addiction—all in order to find meaning and improve our well-being.

These spirit plants, also called “entheogens” (goddess within), enable our inner vision, help us sleep, heal our wounds, and help us transform our deep anxiety about the unknown of impending death by showing us something greater than ourselves.

Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava kava, or simply kava as it is more often called, is effective as an anti-anxiety herb and can be used instead of benzodiazepines. A South Pacific island plant and member of the pepper family, kava is both medicinal and sacred. The name kava, or awa, means “bitter.” Kava contains chemicals called kavalactones, or kavapyrones, which are responsible for most of kava’s pharmacological effects, including increased gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) transmission, central nervous system depression, and norepinephrine pooling. Kava also reduces fear and anxiety making it useful for PTSD. It is also a muscle relaxant, and it enhances cognitive performance and reduces menopausal anxiety.

Kava is available in an alcohol-based extract or in capsules. Doses range from 100 to 400 milligrams (60 percent kavalactone per capsule), 3 times daily. Most people can start with one 200 milligrams capsule (60 percent kavalactone) and increase it to 2 if necessary, up to 3 times a day. People who are sensitive may prefer using an extract in order to measure by drops and achieve more specifically the minimum dose required for effect.

While some individuals use kava for sleep, the stimulating effects of kava suggest that it is best used for anxiety during the day. When experiencing anxiety and insomnia, use kava during the day, and the “three sisters of sleep”—hops, valerian, and passionflower—at night.

Kava has been used in rituals for millennia with no apparent adverse reactions. The aqueous extract of kava was found to be safe, with no serious adverse effects and no clinical hepatotoxicity.

Ch. 7: Herbal Medicines for Life’s Cycles, Health, and Dis-ease

In this chapter I explain herbal medicine use for the many of the biological processes we experience during our life cycle and for specific physical and mental dis-eases we may experience. Notice that I have hyphenated the word dis-ease in this chapter to call attention to its root meaning: being “out of ease.” Herbal medicines help bring us back into ease and contribute a broad range of remedies as they help us maintain balance and heal illness. Where indicated I also include complementary interventions such as nutrition, movement, massage, and hydrotherapies that enhance treatment efficacy and improve our quality of life.

It is not possible to talk about our health as women without considering trauma and adverse childhood experiences. Traumatic experiences occur commonly in the lives of women and children. Such experiences change our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, often for life. As a traumatologist, I treat the effects of trauma on women’s physical and mental health. I have spent my career working with women suffering from chronic health problems that most often had their beginnings in the experience of childhood trauma. While not every illness is a result of trauma (for example a head cold or stubbed toe) the effects of trauma and stress on all aspects of personal functioning cannot be denied. Every body organ dysfunction and many illnesses can be traced to the disruption of psychological, endocrine, immunological, digestive, and musculoskeletal systems caused by trauma. Exposure to traumatic events during childhood can be recognized in adults as a very high risk factor associated with eating disorders, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, digestive upset, pain, depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and disruptions along the reproductive life cycle. Herbal medicine, as I explain, has much to offer us in our recovery from trauma.


A healthy gut is essential to overall physical and mental well-being and herbal medicines are ideal to restore the gut. Your intestinal tract is called the “second brain.” This is due in part because your intestines direct so many actions of the body and work in cooperation with the first brain in your head. Intestines actually make even more chemicals for the brain than the brain makes for itself. Think about your gut as your inner garden. When it is out of balance, not much will grow, but when it is healthy and you give it plenty of plant fibers (soil) and fermented foods (nutrients), its teeming, healthy bacteria digest food efficiently and nutrients are absorbed through intestinal walls into the blood stream, which generates an abundant supply of neurotransmitters (bright flowers) to support our mood and relaxation.


Stress, NSAID use, alcohol, and unrecognized gluten and casein sensitivity can all inflame the sensitive mucosa of the small and large intestines, which is often the Herbal Medicines for Life’s Cycles, Health, and Dis-ease = 147 start of dis-ease contributing to obesity, liver issues, allergic reactions, pain, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. Healing the second brain supports all your efforts toward good health. Think of the difference between a new sponge and one that has been used to clean dishes for six months. It’s a rough idea of the difference between a healthy mucosal barrier and one that is frayed and can’t do its job.

Music to My Mucosa Smoothie

Your intestinal mucosa will love this smoothie as it soothes inflammation and provides healing nutrients. Each of these ingredients supports the healing process. The green tea and curcumin in the turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatories, which are potentiated by the black pepper. Gingko has been shown to heal intestinal mucosal cells, and the glutamine is an important fuel for intestinal lining.

CAUTION: Ginkgo biloba extract can increase the efficacy of Warfarin so consistent use of gingko should be done with professional advice and monitoring warfarin levels. However, gingko does not appear to effect any other medication interactions. This recipe contains a low dose of turmeric, which should not interfere with warfarin or other blood thinners. The maximum dose of turmeric a day is considered 2,000 milligrams. However, it is always wise to seek medical advice when mixing herbal medicines with pharmaceuticals.


  • ½ cup hemp or almond milk
  • ½ cup strong green tea
  • 1 cup raspberries or blackberries
  • (fresh or frozen)
  • 40 milligrams gingko biloba extract (with 24 percent gingko flavonoid glycosides)
  • 5 grams glutamine powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh turmeric juice or
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • Dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon black current seed oil or evening primrose oil

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Drink daily for 1 month.

Ch. 8: Herbal Rituals

Creating a Ritual for Each Life Stage

When I create rituals, I often call upon the energies of Freya, the pre-Christian Norse volva, or shaman. She is the one who sees the future and creates reality through her ritual magic based on the strength of her intention and attention. Freya also enjoys her pleasures, so rituals that call upon Freya might include some sweets, such as wine, honey, and cake. I have organized these rituals in groups according to a progression that provides us with an opportunity and structure to recognize, honor, and celebrate our many stages of life. The following rituals are jumping off points for your own creativity and meaning making.

Creating Your Herbal Love Aid Kit and Altar

When I was thirty-five, I had a painful breakup of a long-term relationship. I knew in my heart that I would one day in the future meet someone new but that I needed time to heal and grow. The time came five years later when I told my friends that I felt that I was ready to meet a new life companion. My friend Brooke gave me a dime-store diamond ring that had been passed on to her and that she had used in her own love ritual. She suggested that I make an altar and put this on it. I also chose myrrh incense to burn, and then I wrote a list of the twenty attributes I was seeking in my partner-to-be.

It was fun and meaningful to create my altar, but the part about it that was most powerful was to sit down and actually define who it was that I wanted to have join me on my life path. What did I have to offer someone? What did I want someone to offer me? So I made a list with three columns: (1) requirements, (2) nice attributes to have but not essential, and (3) deal breakers. I thus created my altar, adding the ring, three bowls of water, peony flowers, and myrrh, and I made a commitment to sit at it every day for a few minutes, breathing and contemplating on the nature of love. The bowls of water represented the flow of life and also my lack of attachment to the outcome. On the one hand I was placing my intention and focus on the outcome, and on the other I was allowing for no outcome. This is an ideal frame of mind. I burned myrrh incense because engaging self-love is an important requisite for finding the love of another. Once I had finished my “list of twenty,” I added it to the altar, placing it under a small beeswax votive candle that I burned each time I sat. I left the altar in place, and I put it all aside in my mind.

During this time, I had also been thinking for a while of going back for my doctorate, and a few months after making my altar I signed up for graduate school. The first entry conference was in New York in August, but at the last moment I had to cancel that start date because of work. I then signed up to begin three months later in November, in Washington D.C., but the night before I was to begin I had to cancel because of a wave of uncharacteristic and overwhelming panic. I couldn’t figure it out, so I decided to honor it and cancel my start date again. I then decided to sign up to begin, now, two months later in January, in San Diego, and this time I kept the date.

Upon arrival I entered the conference room to start my class, and a man walked up to me and was very engaging. As a somewhat reserved Bostonian, I thought, “Whoa, he is much too friendly,” and I ignored him. He came up to me again at the break and again I thought, “What does this buster want anyway?” The next day he approached me again, and again and again over the ensuing days, and each time I gave him a gentle brush off. Then one day he came up to me and this time I paid attention to him, and truly for the first time looked into his eyes and realized that this man was someone with whom I should talk. We began by talking about our studies and our writing and work lives, and it was clear we had a lot to share and we were simpatico. Near the end of the ten-day conference, he shared with me about how he had decided to go to graduate school at this middle-aged time in his life. He told me that he had first planned to start in New York in August, but then had to cancel due to work. And then he had rescheduled for Washington D.C. in November, but again at the last minute, work caused a delay. So then he settled on starting at this moment in San Diego—all just exactly as I had done. This is how I met my future husband, who by the way, turned out to have all the attributes (and none of the deal breakers) on my “list of twenty,” which was still sitting on my altar.

You can create a love altar that means something to you using dime-store rings, herbs, flowers, candles, rocks, and incense, along with your all-important “list of 20.” But remember, when your loved one appears before you, you must open your eyes and recognize that what you have been asking for has indeed arrived!

Explore a few recipes from the book

Spices tickle our tongue, grab our breath, sting our fingers, and make our food come alive as they bring us pleasure and reveal hidden stories from the world’s cultures. As you explore these recipes, throw yourself into the unknown, pick a sensory response that you seek or a medicine you need, and take a long afternoon to immerse your hands in a mixing bowl of powdered gems and crooked roots that promise to delight, as they bring you health and well-being.


This is quick and easy recipe to make for any meal of the day, and yet it provides complex flavors worthy of brunch festivities. Building on the foundation of smoked paprika, Shakshouka originated in Tunisia and is now enjoyed the world over. I have adapted it a bit to add additional medicinal spices. It’s similar to the Mexican dish chilaquiles though instead of an oregano red sauce, we emphasize a paprika and cumin flavored profile.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 tablespoons virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • Two 14.5-ounce cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 teaspoons ground smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 to 6 free-range eggs
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

In a deep sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. When the onions are translucent, add all the tomatoes, stir, and then add all the spices and let simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Make small indentations in the sauce for each egg and then gently pour an egg into each one. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if using, cover, and cook for 5 minutes on low or until the eggs are fully cooked. When you are ready to serve, add 1 or 2 eggs to a plate with plenty of sauce and top with fresh cilantro or parsley.

Bhang Lassi with CBD Oil

Bhang lassi is a traditional beverage that is made by grinding cannabis flowers into a paste and mixing the paste with milk, honey, and spices. This lassi uses CBD oil (not THC) to ease the pain of menstrual cramps, manage chronic pain, or induce sleep. Test out the effects of the lassi before you need it and when you are not required at work or an event. Consider a dose range of 2.5 to 20 milligrams for chronic pain and a range of 40 to 160 milligrams for sleep disorders. I always suggest starting out at 5 milligrams CBD oil and slowly increasing it until an effect is felt. Digesting cannabis with food takes longer than other forms of consumption, but its effects last longer as well.

Serves 1

  • ½ cup whole milk yogurt
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • ¼ cup raw local honey
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 pinch garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon rose water
  • 5 milligrams edible CBD oil

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Add ice if desired.

Caregiver Resilience Smoothie

Make enough café de capomo in advance and keep it in the fridge so you can use it daily. A substitute for capomo is a shot of coffee but remember too much coffee will exhaust where a small amount provides a boost.

Makes 1 serving

  • ½ cup hemp milk
  • ½ cup Café de Capomo
  • ½ teaspoon ashwagandha
  • ½ teaspoon maca
  • 1 teaspoon bee pollen
  • 1 to 2 capsules powdered free amino acids
  • 1 tablespoon tahini or almond butter
  • 5 drops liquid stevia

Add the ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. You can also add 2 to 3 ice cubes if you like. Drink daily.

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