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What Do I Need to Know about Photosensitizing Herbs and Foods?

What Do I Need to Know about Photosensitizing Herbs and Foods?

Do you find photosensitizing herbs to be a mystery?

In a recent “Ask the Herbalist” Q & A time in our Facebook group, I shared more about what you need to know if you think you might be experiencing a reaction due to photosensitizing herbs.



Today I want to address these questions:

What are photosensitizing herbs?
What are the most common plants that cause photosensitivity?
What causes photosensitivity?

Photosensitivity is an unusual skin related response to ingesting or topically applying an herbal remedy or a combination of herbs. It usually occurs only on sun-exposed areas of skin, such as the face, neck and hands.

When someone thinks they may be having such a reaction from an herb or plant, I always ask if the person may be taking any medication. I suggest they check with their dr if they are not sure. The reason I ask this right away is that herbs often get blamed for problems that end up being related to medications, or foods. It could also be related to their lifestyle and especially emotional issues that may have come up. I see this often with hives, which can happen in a situation of increased stress.

If you are fairly certain about the connection between the herbs you are taking and your skin response, discontinue use immediately. Most of these kinds of problems clear up within 24 hours, usually much sooner than that

Photosensitizing herbs that can create reactions in humans are usually the ones that contain a phytochemical called coumarin. Scientists think coumarin exists in plants because they provide a microbial or protective response for the plant. So, viruses and bacteria stay away from these plants. They do this for us as well, providing antimicrobial protection with medical therapy. For example, St Johns Wort is used in medical therapy to heal skin conditions like Psoriasis and Vitiligo.

Here’s a link to a great article on photosensitive herbs: Go to Article

What are some photosensitizing plants?

Plants in the Apiaceae family for starters:

  • Carrots,
  • Parsnips
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Monarda
  • Bergamot
  • Bee Balm
  • Anise seed
  • Celery seed
  • Angelica

Another note to remember is that often it’s over time that these sensitivities can arise.

If you feel like you may be having a photosensitivity reaction, rather than immediately seeing your dermatologist, reach out to an herbalist you trust. Ask them if something you are taking or eating could be a plant that causes this type of response.

If you like to watch the question and answer session where I talk about this and also answer other questions, head over to our Facebook group and join us!

Mo Horner, Registered Herbalist

Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders.  She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.

Email Mo at or call 402-933-6444.

You can read more about Ramona’s story HERE. 

How to find an herbal remedy

Click HERE to get your free guide “How to Find an Herbal Remedy- That WORKS!”

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The Hot, Dry Constitution – Lifestyle and Diet Changes to Increase Moisture

The Hot, Dry Constitution –  Lifestyle and Diet Changes to Increase Moisture

I’ve shared with you how a Hot, Dry constitution makes you vulnerable to sickness.  Now, I’ll share some tips on what you can do about it.  Make sure to read last week’s post if you missed it. 

hot dry constitution

Alright, here are some these easy steps to DIAL BACK the HEAT and INCREASE MOISTURE.

Food, herbs, and environment are the simplest tools to restore your immune defense and stay healthy all year! Click To Tweet

Start by getting humidity into your home.

  • Put your humidifier by the bed
  • Don’t put the humidifier directly on YOU
  • If you don’t have a humidifier, keep a pot of water simmering on the stove on cold, dry days.

Increase your fluid intake!

  • Drink water at room temperature (remember, cold brings injuries to the digestion.)
  • Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, they deplete fluid (diuretic) and don’t forget the sugar is not the most healthy way to improve moisture.

Eliminate drying foods and drinks, such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Spicy Food
  • Dry Crackers
  • Dehydrated Food
  • Hot Natured Spices (like pepper, cayenne and paprika)
  • Sour Fruit (like green apples, grapes, some berries, grapefruit, and lemon)

(Think about it: sour things make you pucker and ‘astringe’ tissue they are not necessarily drying, but not immediately moistening.)

What foods and herbs are beneficial for a Hot, Dry Constitution?

Rather than immediately looking for cold food and drinks to ‘put out the fire’, search for foods, spices, and herbs that do the job more effectively, without creating an opposite problem.

You want to balance your body, not swing the problem the other way and turn HOT to COLD. Look for substances that lubricate, moisten, tonify the YIN and restore Hot, Dry tissues to normal fluid and temperature levels.

Foods Beneficial for a Hot, Dry Constitution:

Focus on sweet-flavored fruits and veggies. The foods on this list are moistening, and because they add moisture, they’re the same ones that Damp, mucusy people have to avoid.

hot dry constitution
  • Bananas, avocado, dates, figs, and raisins (sticky foods)
  • Sweet apples
  • Peaches, melons and other sweet fruits
  • Cucumbers, green beans and beets
  • Mushrooms – ok, NOT sweet, but definitely moist
  • Winter squash (butternut) and sweet potatoes
  • Oily foods and oils, sesame oil, ghee, and olive oil [oils counteract dryness – use them topically too!]

Helpful herbs for the Hot, Dry Constitution:

  • Aloe (just think about how cool and gooey aloe is)
  • Marshmallow root and Slippery elm bark
  • Mullein leaf
  • Licorice root
  • Asparagus root/Shatavari
  • Violet and Red clover
  • Elder flower and Linden flower (pictured above)
  • Elecampagne

Many of these are available in teas that contain the word ‘throat’ or ‘cough’ in the description.

The take-away: If you have a Hot, Dry constitution, implement these four practices: Increase cooling, moistening foods and herbs. Decrease hot, drying foods. Use Humidity!! Increase your fluid intake.

Are you looking for a more personal approach specific to YOU?

Reach out to me for a face-to-face, in-person herbal consultation!

I’d love to hear some of the changes you’ve implemented to avoid colds and flu this season. Feel free to SHARE!

Mo Horner, Registered Herbalist

Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders.  She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.

Email Mo at or call 402-933-6444. You can read more about her story HERE. 

How to find an herbal remedy

Have you gotten your free 7-page guide yet?  Click HERE to get “How to Find an Herbal Remedy- That WORKS!”

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Why a HOT, DRY Body Makes You Vulnerable to Colds and Flu

Why a HOT, DRY Body Makes You Vulnerable to Colds and Flu

Ready? Today I’m going to address a question. So you don’t have a Damp problem, so why does a hot, dry body also make you vulnerable to colds and flu?

Vulnerable to Colds and Flu
Why a HOT, DRY Body Makes You Vulnerable to Colds and Flu

Last week we talked about those that have a damp constitution and how they can be vulnerable to colds and flu. But, Maybe YOUR constitution runs a little HOT or DRY…. or Both. Or maybe you have an imbalance that has created HOT and DRY conditions in your body?

How do you know if you’re a HOT, DRY person?

(BTW, most of us are a combination of qualities, not strictly one or the other.)

You might identify more with HOT and DRY than COLD and DAMP or maybe you’re a combination of both, but your conditions are mild. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, let’s get together face-to-face or on Facetime. Contact me about it.

Today I am going to share with you how to identify if you have the characteristics of HOT or DRY to help you be less vulnerable to colds and flu.

[Remember, you don’t have to have ALL of these qualities – just a majority – to be HOT]


Characteristics of a hot, dry constitution:

Warm all the time, maybe sweaty, warmest one in the room

Tend to have red complexion, red hair, flushed, redness in the eyes, skin, more than just one place

Your tongue is red, has cracks and may even be peeled (dentists call this geographic)

You get canker sores and cold sores a lot

Fast heart rate, palpitations, anxiety

Prefer cool or cold food/drink – ice cream, cold coffee, iced tea, smoothies (this is not always a sign of HEAT and can be a different imbalance but if this is a problem combined with some of the other HOT qualities, then it’s probably HEAT.)

Tend to have reflux, GERD, hot, burpy type of indigestion


Spicy foods bother you, even if you love them!

People who are hot sometimes also hate Summer  and avoid hot weather

If you have more than 5 of these signs, you’re probably HOT and if the HEAT is there long enough, you can begin to develop signs of DRYNESS:

  • Thirst, you can’t drink enough.
  • You have dry skin, eyes, mucous membranes, nasal passages.
  • Instead of too much mucus you DON’T HAVE ENOUGH mucus, or it’s solid and compacted and not running out your nose.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, moisture is referred to as YIN.

When YIN depletes because of the influence of too much HEAT, you end up vulnerable to colds and flu becuase you are dry in lots of places. Places that you wouldn’t think of such as:

  • LUNGS – A dry cough, pressure in the sinuses, chronic sinus infections, lack of mucus drainage:  smokers and people in low humidity homes can be especially vulnerable to this.
  • COLON – You have dry, hard stools that may cause bleeding or hemorrhoids from straining.
  • VAGINAL area – a lack of fluids makes intimacy painful,
  • BLADDER – you have very concentrated urine.

Today’s question: Why do DRYNESS and HEAT make us vulnerable to colds and flu?

Back to herbal basics with tough cases

Here’s why:

When pathogens like the cold and flu virus enter your body, they do it thru the NOSE, EYES, MOUTH mostly.

Remember from the last post ‘the job of the mucous membranes in these places is to hold onto those nasty bugs while they get flushed OUT! Like a water slide!

Down the Tracheal Toilet it goes to be discharged through your waste removal system – poop, pee, and sweat.

When you’re dry and lack mucus, you’ve got nothing but raw, dry tissue that doesn’t encourage movement and fluidity. Your mucus defense system is down. So you’re vulnerable to attack. When your DRY, unprotected membranes have to deal with a virus, your body has to use other defense mechanisms to disable or weaken it before it weakens YOU.

So, as you can see you’re already at a disadvantage being HOT and DRY.

This leaves the question, what can we do for it? Stay tuned for the next post where I will share with you lifestyle and diet changes to implement to help increase moisture, and that will make you less vulnerable to colds on flu.


Have you joined our facebook group yet?  If not, head over and do so now to have free, private access to loads of helpful information!

Mo Horner, Registered Herbalist

Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders.  She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.

Email Mo at or call 402-933-6444.

You can read more about Ramona’s story HERE. 

How to find an herbal remedy

Click HERE to get your free guide “How to Find an Herbal Remedy- That WORKS!”



How to Avoid Colds and Flu This Season|Two Important Lifestyle Changes to Implement Today

How to Avoid Colds and Flu This Season|Two Important Lifestyle Changes to Implement Today

Ready? Today I want to share with you how you can avoid colds and flu this season. Both are at their usual peak levels, and with a couple lifestyle changes, you can increase your chances of staying healthy.

How to Avoid Colds and Flu This Season

Avoid Colds and Flus

Let’s face it – it’s everywhere. Is it really possible to avoid colds and flu?

Across the country, we’ve been having excessively cold weather and epic low temperatures.  This is giving many of us snow days with our kids, which can be a lot of fun. The flip side of that is, many times with the kids home, viral contagions come home with them. Why is it that kids catch and carry disease so well?

Partly it’s because they’re full of mucus. Mucus holds on to pathogens like cold and flu viruses. To some degree, kids and mucus go together, and that’s because of the link between their immature digestive systems and mucus itself. Kids also catch and carry disease because their immune systems are immature. Coming into contact with their environment is a part of the process of building their immune system, and sometimes the result is catching a cold.

So why is it that we adults with our grown-up immune systems catch their stuff so easily, as well as our co-workers’ and our spouse’s viral stuff? Here are a few of the major reasons we’re vulnerable to colds and flu as adults:

Lack of sleep

Overwork or excessively busy schedules

Chronic worry

Lack of exercise

Diet (this is a really big one)

Your body constitution

You have a large degree of control over some of these factors, but especially the one I want to address in this blog – diet. Let’s talk about the factors in your diet that produce too much mucus and dampness.

Why? Because dampness and mucus are two of the biggest problems that influence our exposure to colds and flu.

Dampness and mucous are two of the biggest problems that influence our exposure to colds and flu. Click To Tweet

How do you know if you have too much dampness in your body?

  • You’re full of snot and phlegm all the time.  You’re constantly clearing your throat, you’re coughing up clear mucus. These things might be associated with a cold for you right now, but in general, if your constitution is damp you’ll be experiencing this all the time.
  • You’re puffy or swollen and feel like you retain water.
  • You don’t pee out much urine because you’re retaining too much water.
  • Your stools are loose or watery.
  • You feel heavy and gain weight even if you just look at food. You feel bloated most of the time, especially at the end of the day.
  • You have a tendency to develop nodules or lumps on various parts of your body, like your arms, stomach, the backs of your shoulders, legs, even on the wrist.

In Chinese Medicine, we have a saying, “The Earth element creates Damp and the Metal element stores it.” What this means is that poor digestion becomes a problem for the lung and the large intestine. Dampness creates mucus in the lungs and mucus-y, loose, sticky stools.  Yuck!

So in other words, you’re already more prone to conditions with mucus if your constitution is damp.

What can you do about this? How can you reduce dampness and mucus and avoid colds and flu this season and for the rest of your life?

First, a lesson on snot.

avoid colds and flu

We don’t want to completely eliminate mucus because we need that healthy goo to catch the nasty stuff that’s going into our mouths and our noses.  Healthy mucus flushes viruses and dirt and environmental particles and other pathogens down what we call the ‘tracheal toilet’. This is basically your entire digestive system, starting with your mouth and throat. A healthy mucus lining is a really big factor in respiratory and immune health. Did I just blow your mind?

Two Important Lifestyle Changes You Can Implement Today to Avoid Colds and Flu.

1. Diet

You can reduce excess mucus by making tiny but daily changes to the way you eat. These might not seem small if you love your heavy, sweet foods.




Reducing the amount of these 3 foods in your diet will significantly impact how much phlegm and dampness your digestion produces. If you don’t believe me, take these 3 foods out of your diet for just 3 days. You’ll notice a ridiculous shift in your well-being.


Grains in and of themselves are not the bad guy. They provide certain nutrients and a degree of fiber for our diets. But for those of us with damp constitutions, they increase the tendency to produce more mucus. This means allergies, blocked sinuses, weight gain, bloated stomach, and loose stools.


What do I mean by sugar?  I’m talking about foods that are downright sweet and full of sugar. Pastries and pies, cookies and candy and some kinds of chocolate. But also some less-obvious foods. Soft drinks are one of the worst. They contain a LOT of sugar – up to 16 teaspoons in a normal-sized can! And the diet ones are full of artificial sweeteners, which create the sensation that they’re extremely sweet. This stimulates your desire for even more sweet. Did you hear what I just said? Even artificial sweeteners can stimulate your desire to eat more sweets!

Because oranges are in season in winter, I have to single out these little delicious fruits. Oranges are one of the worst offenders causing dampness in damp people.  Next time you eat an orange, notice how within a short period of time you get a wad of mucus in the back your throat. I know oranges are full of vitamin C, and that’s a really great nutrient for us this time of year. But you can get vitamin C from other fruits that don’t cause phlegm. Consider replacing oranges with green apples, pomegranate, cranberries (without the sugar added), blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or a nice firm pear.  You’ll notice all of these have just a tiny degree of sourness to them. Also avoid super sweet fruit – melons, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, honeydew. Just like any sugar, they encourage more desire for sweet flavors.

I have to make special mention of a special category of dampening foods that isn’t strictly sweet. Sticky foods, like bananas, avocados, and dates aren’t so great for your damp body, even if they are loaded with nutrients. Sorry to all you avocado lovers. 🙁


We all know that dairy is mucus-producing so I won’t spend a lot of blog time explaining this. Particularly in this season, minimize your intake of dairy. You can read more about this as you scroll down.

2. Eat for Warmth

An unusual and not commonly acknowledged piece of wisdom for damp, mucus-y people is to eat a strictly warm diet. This is especially important in cold weather climates.

Cold food injures digestion if you’re already prone to dampness. Cold can also injure digestion when these foods are eaten over a long period of time, even if you aren’t prone to dampness. Over time, coldness in food and diet causes everything from bloating to weight gain.

In Chinese Medicine, we say Dampness (which is often created by Cold) combined with Heat (an opposite but equally problematic condition) can even cause cancer in some circumstances. Avoiding cold foods is a serious thing. A warm diet allows a stressed out tummy to stop working so hard and take a break.

And speaking of tummy stress, dairy is another cold-natured, damp food that causes no end of problems for many people. Avoiding ice cream, cold milk, and cheese lightens the load on our winter bodies.

If it comes out of the fridge and you don’t warm it up, it’s too cold for you. Maybe it goes without saying, but avoid iced tea, ice water, and refrigerated fruit this time of year, too.

Even if you do warm up a cold-natured food, like milk and cheese in a recipe, for instance, they’re still mucus producing, but slightly less so. It’s certainly better than just snacking on cheese slices to go along with your favorite crackers or chugging a big glass of milk along with your sandwich.

If  you want to know more about why coldness creates dampness, you can google this information. Search ‘cold’ and ‘damp’ and the letters ‘TCM’ and that’ll help explain in the words of Traditional Chinese Medicine why cold and damp are related.

So let’s summarize:

Too much dampness makes you vulnerable to illness. To avoid excess mucus and keep your body healthy this season and all year long, follow these two simple rules:

  1. Avoid grains, sugar, and dairy – the top 3 mucus producing foods.
  2. Warm up your diet. Doesn’t a bowl of soup sound great?!

There are other body types and dietary imbalances that can lead to illness for their own unique reasons. That’s for another post.  But fitting in just these two changes can make all the difference in your health this season.

I’d love to hear some of the changes you’ve implemented to avoid colds and flu this season. Feel free to SHARE!

Mo Horner, Registered Herbalist

Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders.  She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.

Email Mo at or call 402-933-6444. You can read more about her story HERE. 

How to find an herbal remedy

Have you gotten your free 7-page guide yet?  Click HERE to get “How to Find an Herbal Remedy- That WORKS!”

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The Positive Benefits of Healthy Optimism

The Positive Benefits of Healthy Optimism

Ready? Today I want to share with you something that’s been in my thoughts lately. It’s about the positive benefits of healthy optimism and how I applied it during a dark and difficult time in my life.

The Positive Benefits of Healthy Optimism

The positive benefits of healthy optimism

I read an article in the New York Times about a study that showed that when patients were told they had a genetic predisposition to a disease, they were more likely to develop the symptoms of that disease. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me, but it’s good information for people with jobs like mine.

I understand how labeling diseases is helpful for some people. It gives them something to call their collection of problems. But it also labels us as sick, and in our healthcare system, that means you need a drug or procedure or surgery to recover from that sickness. Granted, there are a lot of legitimate health problems, and I see all kinds of them here in my clinical practice.

But, how you view your daily health affects your ability to have an optimistic outlook. I truly believe – and it’s my personal philosophy – that your thoughts become your feelings.

Optimistic healthy thoughts create optimistic healthy people. Click To Tweet

Optimistic healthy thoughts create optimistic healthy people. I try to live by that rule myself. Similarly, when I’m guiding my clients through a discussion of their health issues, I ask about what sorts of influences they have in their life on a daily basis. We troubleshoot so we can begin to find ways to implement a healthy optimism. Some questions I ask new clients:

  • Who do you live with?
  • What kind of people are you around?
  • What is your work environment like?
  • Who do you work with?
  • What kind of things are you reading?
  • What kind of social media are you taking in and how much social media?
  • What kind of tv are you watching?

Often, I hear that right before bed, people are watching news reports filled with words like rejection, victim, restrictions, explosions, terror, attack, assault. We can’t expect restful sleep if these are the things we’re filling our minds with before bed. What’s more, a steady diet of these words and images is a recipe for fear, distrust and worry – and a good starting place for depression, anxiety, fear and ultimately, dis-ease.

My Story:

Some people say I see things through rose-colored glasses, but I’ve had plenty of setbacks in my life and lots of reasons to be negative or feel that my health could end up in a bad place. A health scare is the reason why I started working in the field I’m in now.

Some of you may know that 15 years ago, I had a breast cancer diagnosis at 40 years old. At the time, I had a little pity party and scary moment for myself wondering what was ahead for me. But then I realized it was an opportunity to make some big changes that I’d been needing to make for a long time, including learning some healthy optimism. So I did.

I began to research natural health solutions for recovering from breast cancer. I talked to anyone I could about what natural and alternative methods they used to stay healthy. I talked to everyone I felt was in good health and optimistic, and I asked them “How do you maintain your optimism, and what are some of your secrets to feeling so good?” I basically interviewed people in how to be an optimistic person. And I incorporated these things into my life.

I did go to therapy as well. In therapy, I learned that my thoughts create my feelings. So I began to watch how my thinking was creating a negative attitude and a “poor me” sort of situation. Healthy optimism has been a practice of mine now for 14 or 15 years since I recovered from breast cancer.

I encourage my clients to practice healthy optimism as well. I’ll be sympathetic, listen, and write down what they say, but ultimately they’ve come to me for change. So we’re going to talk about change, talk about healthy optimism and why it’s essential, and how to practice it.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Having a healthy attitude is part of making a change.

This is why I am such a big proponent of being part of a support and encouragement group like my Natural Healing Omaha Support and Encouragement Group , which many of my readers are involved in. I created this group to allow you to come to me with some of the challenges you’re facing and for all of us to support and encourage each other into a better place. If you’re not a member then please join us now by clicking HERE.

Share with me what you’re struggling with and let’s see what we can come up with – a healthy optimistic plan to allow you to get out of that stuck place.

Studies show that staying positive even in the face of chronic disease helps improve the immune response in your body and minimized secondary disease and co-infections. If you have a good attitude, you’re less likely to get sicker than you already are, and you’re more likely to improve over time.

A healthy optimism in your life and the lives of people around you can bring positive benefits and changes and is a small thing you can begin even today. Click To Tweet

A healthy optimism in your life and the lives of people around you can bring positive benefits and changes and is a small thing you can begin even today.

Mo Horner, Registered Herbalist

Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders.  She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.

Email Mo at or call 402-933-6444. You can read more about her story HERE. 

How to find an herbal remedy

Have you gotten your free 7-page guide yet?  Click HERE to get “How to Find an Herbal Remedy- That WORKS!”

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9 Signs You Need a Spring Liver Cleanse

9 Signs You Need a Spring Liver Cleanse

You don’t have to look far to read about the 20,000 FDA-approved and unapproved chemicals and substances circulating in our global air, food, medicine and water.  (Ok, I made up that number, but try searching the FDA website – the actual numbers are really hidden).

Thanks to your Liver, a good deal of the substances you’re exposed to are neutralized, broken down and ushered out while you eat, sleep and live. Your Liver is a virtual toxin dump station where hormones, food, fat and life’s messy waste are rendered harmless. (And a nod here goes to that other heroic filter, the Kidney).

20,000 chemicals? That’s a pretty big load for any Liver. Even if the number is 10,000, that’s still a lot of potentially harmful waste that flows through you.

Below the Surface
Americans pay millions every year for cleansing products that claim to boost the body’s power to ‘de-toxify’ and purge toxic waste.

Call me a skeptic. But 3 days of juicing and pooping are a pretty inadequate attempt to fix a lifetime of bad habits and 50 years of FDA-approved chemical air, water, food, along side your own daily body waste.

What if you could dig a little deeper? Really clean house. Get into those corners that never see the light of day. Yeah, deep tissue. But even deeper than that. Clean out all that toxic emotional waste you’ve been carrying.

We’re coming into the Wood element season, according to Chinese 5-element theory. The seasonal color is green and the organs that benefit most from good health in Spring are your Liver and Gallbladder.

How do you know if your Liver or Gallbladder are out of harmony with the season?

9 Signs That You Need a Liver Cleanse:

  1. You feel stuck and mildly depressed – you feel the need for change, but can’t take the first step.
  2. You’ve lost your sense of direction or purpose in life – you’re asleep at life’s wheel.
  3. People you love and trust often feel the brunt of your anger and arrogance.
  4. You’re always making excuses for not taking steps to achieve your dream in life.
  5. You feel especially irritated and crabby at everyone around you right now, for no particular reason.
  6. It’s been years since you did something creative – write, paint, sing, act, dance.
  7. You’ve been stubborn, inflexible and unwilling to adapt to a new situation.
  8. Black, brown and gray are your main wardrobe colors.
  9. Resentment over old injustices keep coming between you and others.

Spring Cleaning Your Mind and Heart
It’s ok to lay some blame for your misery on pollution, toxic waste, sick water and manufactured food. But there’s so little you can do about that right now.

Instead of feeling powerless, start a gentle 2-week Liver cleanse designed to purge chemicals AND revive sluggish emotions. Follow seasonal dietary guidelines that align your body, mind and spirit with Spring.

Adopt new intentions for growth and change that mimic the plants springing up around us over the next few weeks.

Start thinking of yourself as a balanced man or woman, with all the qualities of a healthy Wood element – creative, forward-thinking, forgiving, flexible, vibrant.

Even if you’ve never thought about cleansing before, there’s a healthy plan that fits your lifestyle. Contact Natural Healing Omaha at for a personalized, custom cleanse appointment.

Spring to a healthy start this season.

Read more about seasonal cleansing: Wake up Your Liver This Spring!Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


The Payoff for Practicing What We Preach

The Payoff for Practicing What We Preach

Tony and I meet in a small room once a year for a couple hours, and what we do is enough to satisfy both of us for another year. I feel so good after we’ve spent time together. We don’t waste time on small talk. We get right down to business.

Tony is my health insurance agent.

We get along great, because we agree completely on one very important thing – the best way to lower health costs is to take care of yourself.

Taking His Own Advice
Tony’s an ambitious guy, and he makes it a priority to keep my health insurance cheap. He’s gotta make a living, just like me, so he makes it his job to keep me happy. I’m not his typical client, as you can imagine.

And he’s not your typical insurance agent. We had our annual insurance review recently, and I noticed that Tony, who is 70 years old, looks as good or better than he did last year. From the smile on his face to his enthusiasm for work, he’s one of those rare people you know you’re gonna like right when you meet ’em.

“Did you lose weight?” I asked him.

Feet on yoga mat is money in the bank
“About 12 pounds,” he answered in his typical no nonsense, matter-of-fact tone. Then he excitedly shared that he recently took up practicing yoga at home 4 days a week. “I want to improve my flexibility and strength so I can keep golfing 3 days a week.”

Can you believe this guy?

My 70-year old insurance agent is practicing downward dog to his “Yoga for Wimps” CD 2 hours a week, between a 15–minute recumbent bicycle warm-up and 15 more minutes of stretching and hamstring work.

The Power of Inertia
For the same reason that I want my healthcare providers to be the picture of health, I appreciate that my health insurance agent practices what he preaches. And does he ever.

What keeps a guy like that working – and working out – at his age? It’s like that law of physics – an object in motion tends to stay in motion. His philosophy is “use it or lose it”.

People fascinate me, especially the ones who live in ways contrary to popular habits. On my morning walk one day, I greeted this guy who had paused his daily jog momentarily to pick up trash from the street. During our brief conversation, I discovered he’s long past retirement but still teaches at a local university Math department.

What compels him to jog in his 70’s? “You gotta keep moving to feel young and healthy.” Today, after our usual quick exchange of hellos, he proudly announced that he’d beaten his one and only health problem (insomnia) by quitting soft drinks. This guy totally gets it – he’s exercising his power to choose health.

Uphill Battle Worth Fighting
I’m 52 next year, and staying in shape and good health takes a bigger commitment than it did 20 years ago. This is truer every year.

Up through my 40’s, I could take a 45-minute walk 5 days a week and that kept me at a consistent weight, without too many reasons to see a doctor, other than yearly checkups.

These days, I need twice as much exercise, plenty of daily herbs, and I have to be on guard about everything I put in my mouth. Weight goes on SO easily and comes off only with serious struggle. And it’s not just me. Women around my age tell me this every day.

The last time I had a check-up (full disclosure: this was in early 2014 for an insurance physical), my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol were all inside a ‘healthy’ range. Problems like these run in my family, so news like that is always a sweet affirmation.

I watched my dad exercise every day until he died jogging at age 60 – 15 years longer than his father and brothers lived. He set a good example, and I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t quit exercising, no matter how lousy I felt.

Walking, yoga, Qi Gong and hiking make me feel energetic. When I feel good, I’m likely to eat well and feel optimistic. I try not to resent the time it takes. Of course, sometimes I’d rather be spending it on my butt watching TV or eating vanilla sugar wafers. Man, I love sugar wafers. But they don’t love me.

Some days it’s a struggle and some days I look forward to the time outside or on the mat, sweating and swearing at my yoga teacher under my breath – “Oh pleeeease, not another plank”.

The Lesser of Two Evils
Staying healthy as we age takes a bigger chunk of our time and attention. And some days that kind of sucks.

But it doesn’t suck as much as being sick all the time.

If you need help getting well enough to start working out, let’s talk. Adaptogen herbs can restore the strength and energy you’ve lost to chronic illness or poor lifestyle habits. You can read more about adaptogen herbs in this earlier blog.

The next time I see Tony will be around Christmas next year. And that’s soon enough. He’s already given me the gift that keeps on giving – a cheaper monthly premium than last year and a good reminder to keep moving.

I’m planning for plenty of healthy years ahead of me.


Related Post: An Ounce of prevention and a Pinch of AttentionFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


Back to Herbal Basics with Tough Cases

Back to Herbal Basics with Tough Cases

I’ve been quiet lately.

For the past 3 months or so, no emails, no blogs, no monthly newsletters. And barely any Facebook posts or Tweets.

I haven’t given up on technology or social media. I’ve been doing other work. Actually, I’ve been studying.

And getting together with groups of other herbalists – there’s a growing community here, you know.

And I’ve spent lots of weekends with my grandbaby, who’s now almost a year old! Here she is:

Grandbaby at the pumpkin patch


For a while, I wondered if I’d run out of things to say about herbs. But there’s been plenty of inspiration lately.

In fact, my patients are responding to their herbs so well that my patient schedule is filling up. That’s great news for my practice.

Not all the news is rosy
But, to be completely honest with you, not every patient is doing as well as I hoped.

Like LouAnn, who suffers from painful arthritis and persistent fatigue.

LouAnn’s been coming to see me for a year, but around 6 months ago, her progress started to level off. When this happens, sometimes it’s because the patient has gotten tired of taking herbs and constantly having to monitor their health habits and practices.

It’s hard to blame people for slacking off. Getting healthy when you’ve been struggling with chronic illness can be a chore. A serious uphill climb. It’s like a full-time job with no vacation.

But LouAnn takes her personal health seriously. She never takes a day off from the herbal and lifestyle plan we put together.

Definitely not a quitter.

No one to blame
But something happened. She stopped improving. For a month or two, whenever she visited me, we’d try to sort out why no changes were happening.

“Did you stop taking your herbs?” No.

“Has your life been extra stressful lately?” No, not particularly.

“Are you still exercising?” Yep, still at it.

Does that ever happen to you?

Do you ever feel like just when you have a grasp on something, you have to return to the basics and re-learn what you thought you knew?

It was so tempting to take her ‘lack of progress’ personally.

Digging deep for answers
But instead of pointing fingers or just accepting that she’d stalled out for no good reason, I realized she wouldn’t magically get better with time. This would take some extra effort outside of her appointments. Time I was spending posting, emailing and writing.

I set her patient file aside and in my shrinking spare time, instead of blogging about a cool herbal remedy, I dug deep into my herbal resources –  professional books, textbooks, practitioner guides and Chinese Medicine philosophy – for answers.

And it’s starting to pay off.

Studying patients like LouAnn, with complicated health histories and unusual symptom patterns, makes me question my assumptions. And in the end, it rearranges what I understand about ALL of my patients.

Fortunately, my patients don’t mind becoming a case study. Unfortunately, other things I really like to do, those blogs and newsletters, have to be put aside for a while.

I’m glad my practice is attracting patients with more complex concerns.

Otherwise, my clinical skills might get a little stale.

I might start to think I know everything.

I might stop trying so hard.


Today, I’m back to blogging just long enough to tell you that I’m still here.

I’ve just been a little quiet lately. Questioning my assumptions.

Sharpening my herbalist skills.

Thanks for hanging in there with me…


Related post:  Are You Listening Or Just Waiting Your Turn?


7 Powerful Prairie Herbs You Might Not Know

7 Powerful Prairie Herbs You Might Not Know

I have a secret.

I used to be ashamed of my secret, so I kept it hidden.

Especially from other herbalists.

If they discovered the source of my shame, I feared rejection, loss of respect and failure.

Now I know there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

So, I’m ready to declare the one thing I’m most afraid to admit.


I always imagine a collective gasp among my colleagues when this kind of thing gets out there.

What kind of Herbalist doesn’t hear the plants talk?

Isn’t that how herbal healers acquire their knowledge?

Isn’t a deep, spiritual connection to plants a pre-requisite for this profession?

Hearing plants speak is probably a handy thing, but it’s not part of my toolkit.


When I was in herb school, our yearly gatherings in the redwoods of California were one big circle of plant people. People who cultivate herbs, people who wild craft and harvest them for medicine, and the ‘my grandmother was a wise woman who taught me how to heal with plants’ kind of people.

My path was a little different.

I grew up in a suburb of Omaha. We were one city block from a cornfield and a 10-minute skip to the nearest creek. There’s a Nebraska sensibility in my soul. I’m as common and native as a sunflower after 47 years on the Great Plains. Even with my prairie state roots, the healing power of prairie plants was lost on me until recently.

My first teachers, Mom and Dad, never knew there was a field bursting with medicine surrounding our growing subdivision. Their generation was lured by a siren song that promised wonder drugs from the corner pharmacy.

Nature’s own medicine chest faded from their minds like two-party phone lines and black and white TV.

The past decade of studying herbs helped me recognize a few of nature’s most common weedy healers like plantain, ground ivy, nettle leaf, motherwort, and dandelion – in the yard, the neighborhood park, practically every open space in our river city.

Until recently, I didn’t recognize native herbs that grow in carefully restored prairies a few miles from my urban home.

I’m still at a loss to identify lots of common, local plants and weeds that herbalists like me use in clinical practice every day.

So this Summer, I’m working my way backward. I’m getting out of the clinic and into the field, where the plants have a chance to tell me their story.

I’m wearing out my Android battery taking photos everywhere I go. These amateur pics tell a story of medicinal herbs pointed out to me or discovered on prairie walks from rural Kansas to just outside city limits.

Butterfly milkweed or Pleurisy root a prairie healer

Butterfly milkweed or Pleurisy root

Pleurisy root (butterfly milkweed) –  What a show-off. In botanical medicine, orange signifies anti-oxidant properties, especially for the eyes (think carrots). Maybe it does strengthen the eyes, but in my practice I use it when someone with a history of respiratory problems points to a rib and says “it hurts right here when I breathe”. Native Americans, including the Omaha tribe, were known to prize the root for ceremonial use, for bronchitis and lung disorders, and swift healing of wounds and sores. Can you picture a swollen snakebite covered with a mash-up of plant roots? It sounds so intriguing! [1]

Prairie phlox of Nebraska

Prairie Phlox standing tall in a field of Summer grass

Prairie phlox – (pronounced flox)
I once planted ornamental phlox in the cracks of a retaining wall, and watched it grow year-after-year until it cascaded over the rocks like a bright purple veil for just 2 weeks every summer. I can’t say for sure which phlox relative this is, but Native Americans treasured phlox as a tea for pregnant mothers to insure the birth of a female baby, as a ceremonial Love Medicine, and even as a “wash to make children grow and fatten”.  [1]

Echinacea pallida on the Kansas plain

Echinacea pallida on the Kansas plain

it’s a popular Top Ten remedy for cold and flu, and here’s a little-known-fact: Native Americans called it snakebite medicine. Eclectic physicians used the root topically to cleanse and remove the putrid smell of festering boils. Nice. [2]


Lead plant [Amorpha spp] with distinctive pea-family leaves

Lead plant [Amorpha spp] with its pea-family leaves mingles with prairie grasses

Lead plant
seeing this plant up close taught me why it’s called bird’s wood. It’s one of the tallest and sturdiest plants on the prairie, a nice perch for wayward birds. My favorite common name is buffalo plant – smearing a plaster of the roots over the skin was said to attract buffalo and ensure for the hunter a good kill. I haven’t used it as medicine yet, but the leaf is said to close wounds and cure eczema topically, and kill parasites and worms when taken as a tea internally. [3]

Wild indigo flowers on Nebraska prairie

Wild Indigo flowers in full bloom

Wild Indigo – Warning: you might want to put your lunch down before you read this. Wild indigo roots and leaves are used for conditions that have lots of ‘putrid heat’ – translation: pus-filled, decaying, infected and inflamed tissue. Gross. It must’ve been an essential herb for seriously infected wounds with the threat of gangrene. [2]

Wild violet hidden under towering early Summer greens

Wild violet hidden under towering early Summer greens

Wild violet
My Native American herb book says wild violet varieties were used for respiratory problems like cough, mucus and even asthma in children, plus hundreds of other uses. It’s in my own daily tincture because I know it keeps the lymph system functioning well, especially in the breast area or Liver meridian. Last week, a patient of mine applied a poultice of crushed violet leaves to a large, nasty-looking cyst and wouldn’t you know, it broke right open and started draining. Powerful medicine for such a delicate plant. [1]

Rattlesnake master on Nebraska prairie

Rattlesnake master stands out from the softer grasses around it

Rattlesnake master
–don’t walk too close to this one, with its sword-like leaves edged with spikes. It’s not hard to spot. It looks out of place on a prairie. The common name reflects its use as a rattlesnake bite remedy, but a curious practice by 19th century medical students and doctors points to it as an emetic (induces vomiting) to purify themselves after a patient death. I wonder if today’s physicians have anything like a purification practice, other than a good hand-wash or anti-bacterial foam. [1]

I’ve got two good Summer months of prairie walks ahead of me. Check back every now and then for more pictures – and stories – of native herbs I’ve discovered.

Have you had a healing experience with plants that you’d like to share? Can you teach me more about native prairie plants? Do plants speak to you? Share your plant experiences and pay it forward. Contact me at


1. Native American Medicinal Plants, Daniel E. Moerman, Timber Press, 2009.
2. Eclectic Materia Medica, Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., 1922.


Enjoy reading this popular recent blog post:

How to Choose an Herbal Remedy That WorksFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail


From the Ground Up: Tips for First-Time Gardeners

From the Ground Up: Tips for First-Time Gardeners

I have a confession to make. The last time I planted a vegetable garden, I was 10 years old. It was a little patch of lettuce on a bare spot in our suburban lawn.

Before that little backyard experiment, you probably have to go back 3 or 4 generations to find a farmer in my family. Maybe that explains why gardening isn’t something that comes ‘naturally’ to me.

Lately, something‘s been tugging on me to get my hands dirty and plant some herbs. So I called on my friend Chelsea Taxman for a little practical advice. Chelsea is the Education Director for Truck Farm, an urban agriculture education program in Omaha. Here’s a little peek into our conversation:

Mo: I’m thinking about planting a vegetable or herb garden. How many plants should I start in my first year?

Chelsea:   Mo, the amount of plants you grow depends on how ambitious you are in the first year. If your schedule is busy, start small. Work with something you can check in on every day. There are salad green varieties available on the market that can be planted from seed and harvested within 20-40 days. Quick crops like lettuces, arugula or radishes provide instant gratification.  Success with a few plants will help you feel more confident to try more the next year.

Mo: Are there certain plants that are especially easy for first-time gardeners to grow in our Nebraska climate?

Chelsea: Perennial plants (meaning they die back in the winter and come back up in the spring) are recommended for first-time and even old-time gardeners. Perennial plants and herbs need less attention and less water each year, but you still reap the benefits of their beauty and fragrance, and you’re creating habitat for the wild.

I recommend herbs in the Lamiaceae (mint) family if you have space. These plants smell and taste delicious, their flowers attract pollinators, but they do spread throughout the garden if not controlled. I personally like when they spread in between my other plants, but my garden isn’t the most tamed.

–       Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis); especially good as a tea to calm nervous tension, promote restful sleep and relieve mild seasonal affective depression

–       Catnip (Nepeta cataria); fussy babies and adults feel relief with catnip tea

–       Mint (Mentha species); summertime is great for this cool, digestive herb that tastes sweet and mildly spicy

–       Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium); avoid internal use without some herb knowledge, but it’s a great ground cover

First time vegetables that are “easy” include radishes, spring greens, lettuces, beans, spinach and other cooler season crops.  First-timers might want to stay away from midsummer plants that need a lot of attention, a lot of heat and even more water.  This includes melons, corn, tomatoes and peppers, to name a few.

Mo: Is it ok to start with seeds outside? And what’s the best time to plant my seeds?

Chelsea: This again depends on the crops you want to plant. Yes, you can start root crops like carrots, radishes and beets in the spring when the soil is thawed.  Also, lettuces, salad greens, arugula and spinach can all go straight in the ground as seed.  Most seeds can start outside except longer season crops that need more attention and heat like tomatoes and peppers.  Most people start these ahead of time as well as some herbs, kale and Brussels sprouts. There are just so many options, Mo!

Start SMALL.

Mo: Can you explain a simple, 3 or 4-step process for preparing the ground for planting?

Chelsea: I am still a young gardener, but this is my process the past few years. I start preparing my beds in the fall by layering fallen leaves and compost (grass clippings, coffee grounds, etc.) all over the area of my future garden site. This can be referred to as Sheet Mulching.  Then the material will sit all winter long under the snow and decompose adding more life to the soil.

In the spring when the ground is thawed enough to dig, I turn the leaves and compost under the top layer of soil. Some people call this Double Digging. I use hand tools and elbow grease instead of machinery like a tiller. This year I will be adding more cover crops to my garden in the fall and spring like Buckwheat.  A cover crop will cover the soil that I’m not currently cultivating and keep the top soil from blowing away in the wind. Cover crops can also add nutrition like nitrogen into the ground when I turn it under.

Mo: For gardeners who have limited yard space, what herbs or vegetables are easy to grow in pots?

Chelsea: There is often the option to join a neighborhood garden or community garden for more space and support your first year.  I have heard of neighbors sharing their backyard and space, too.  As far as pots go, there are many plants that can be grown in pots.  Herbs and flowers are generally easiest. I wouldn’t start these from seed, but I would support a local grower and purchase plant starts.  You can find local growers at Farmer’s Markets in Omaha and sometimes during garage sales.  Nursery plants are locally owned, but sometimes they tend to use more harmful chemicals than a local organic grower.

I know many people who have success with tomatoes and peppers in pots. The most important thing is space. Make sure your pot is large enough for the root systems.  There is even a corn variety called Blue Jade that can be grown in a pot! ( I wouldn’t recommend root vegetables, but you can always try.

Mo: Where can I look for help if I have a bug problem or general questions about how to water, fertilize, grow or harvest my plants?

Chelsea: I recommend you contact the Master Gardeners in Omaha. You can reach these experts through the Douglas Country Extension.  The Common Soil Seed Library (inside the Omaha Public Library’s Benson Branch) offers ongoing free classes about seed starting, germination, seed saving and more.  The listings are online at the OPL website.

Mo:  What if my garden grows like crazy and I have baskets of extra food or herbs?

Chelsea: There are many places that accept donations or might even purchase your extra production.  Or get to know your neighbors, let them know what you’re doing in your yard and share the abundance. You can share your surplus online through websites like Small Potatoes, NextDoor, Facebook, etc.

Table Grace Café at 16th and Farnam Streets is a donation-based restaurant that sources locally grown food. The owner and chef, Matt Weber, will happily take your donations. Call ahead or stop by.


A native of Omaha, aspiring herbalist, permaculturist and home gardener, Chelsea travels to Omaha Public Schools offering education to youth about where our food comes from today. Chelsea incorporates lessons of healthy eating, movement and sustainability into the Truck Farm curriculum. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and co-founder of Black Iris Botanicals, a wild-crafted and locally-sourced herbal beauty product line.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail