A Day with Rosemary…
I was recently privileged to attend a daylong seminar with the legendary herbalist, author and teacher, Rosemary Gladstar. Honestly, I would have gone no matter what lessons she was sharing. Fortunately for me, her topic for the day was right up my ally… Anti-Aging! Okay, actually it was ‘The Amazing Adaptogens -Herbs for Longevity and Well Being’ (I made up the ‘anti-aging’ part). It’s the same thing though, right? We learned that there are actually many herbs that fall into the ‘adaptogen’ category. Usually it’s the Chinese herbs that we think of. But Rosemary showed us the many adaptogenic herbs that are naturally growing all around us as well. This is a subject that intrigues me even more as I proceed through life. I’m a big believer in prevention when it comes to wellness. Herbs, especially the adaptogenic ones, can play a vital role.
Rosemary, dressed in a flowing floral dress with her thick long hair pulled up on both sides was lovely, and had the whole room’s attention. She was soft and pleasant, while speaking from a place of great authority. She described the great need in these modern times for adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens help the body to ‘adapt’, thus the name. They also boost energy and ‘increase the overall strength and resiliency of our bodies’. In China, these types of herbs have traditionally been incorporated into meals (i.e. soups, tonic drinks, and spreads), making them easy to use and enjoy. Other ways would be to make them into teas, capsule and tinctures. When it comes to everything herbal, Rosemary’s mantra is basically to ‘Rotate Everything – Except Water – Air & Love’.
The event was sponsored by a charming place that I love, The Rosemary House. Open since the 60’s, this quaint herb shop is run by Susanna Reppert-Brill (daughter of the original owner). If you love herbs, this wonderful place needs to be on your list of places to visit. Not only will you find a fully stocked herb store, there’s an attached tea room. We enjoyed a beautifully prepared lunch (see details below) on the patio. To top it off, I had the pleasure of sitting with Tina Sams and Mary Ann Schwartz of The Essential Herbal Magazine (highly recommend getting a subscription!) who I’d met at a prior event (Roots & Wings), and a very nice gal that came down from NY to attend. The food and conversation was so pleasant that I forgot to take any pictures! So I beg your forgiveness and you’ll just have to live vicariously through the food description below and the Rosemary House website.
After lunch, Rosemary went back to the topic of adaptogens. She said that they’re excellent for brain and immune health, and they help to balance homeostasis. They’re especially good for chronic illness and stress. For brain health in particular she suggested Gingko, Gotu kola, Rosemary, and Rhodiola since they can actually cross the blood brain barrier. The following herbs were discussed further and I added some interesting facts that I learned:
- Ashwaganda – Especially good for adrenal exhaustion, male sexual energy. Helps to relax and feel calm.
- Astragalus – Good for immunity and fighting infections.
- Kava – ‘An herb for Our Time’. It’s relaxing; skeletal/muscle relaxant, yet awakening.
- Schizandra – It’s Magnolia vine and can be bought in a nursery.
- American Ginseng – Can grow for up to 80 years.
- Rhodiola – Good for memory and energizing; best not taken in later part of the day. No caffeine, yet gives energy.
- Holy Basil – Most medicinal Basil. Good for acute conditions, also brain and endocrine system.
- Gotu kola – Carries nutrients to the brain. Elephants eat lots of this.
- He Shou Wu – Restorative
- Reishi – Anti-cancer
Another way to take these types of herbs is in powder form. A great way to do that is by making Rosemary’s famous ‘Zoom Balls’. Instead of just talking about it, with the help of some students, she made an entire bowl full as we watched and took notes.
Zoom Ball Notes…
Mix the following together in a large mixing bowl:
- 1 Part Honey to 2 Parts Nut butter
Mix together into a candy base. Then add the following:
- Powdered Herbs (rationed according to the amount of candy base)
- Coconut (toasted adds flavor)
- Chopped Nuts (slivered Almonds, etc)
- Goji Berries (also an adaptogen) or Other type of berry
- Chocolate (bittersweet or unsweetened) or Carob
- Cacao Powder (adds thickness to the recipe)
The entire recipe can also be found in Ms. Gladstar’s book, HERBAL RECIPES for Vibrant Health, Storey Publishing (page 37, ‘Zoom Balls’).
Then the moment of truth… we got to try them! As Rosemary pointed out, this is a great way for children (or those that don’t like the taste of herbs) to enjoy them. She’s absolutely right, they were delicious! I will definitely be making these in the future.
Rosemary passed around some of her favorite books. If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and foraging, here’s a list you should take seriously.
- Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas, PhD
- Backyard Foraging by Ellen Zachos
- Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton- Seal & Mathew Seal
I’d been interested in getting to know more about the plants growing wild around me. I’m especially interested since Rosemary said that wild foods have a higher nutritional value than normal food. Here are some of the wild herbs that she discussed along with some of my notes:
- Prunella vulgaris – Good for immune health and wound healing. Makes a nice tea.
- Mullein – A potent anodyne (used for pain), Antibacterial; useful for coughs and colds. Greek Mullein has more flowers.
- Plantain – There are 2 types, broad leaf and narrow. Best used externally for any boo boo (stings, bites, etc.).
- Dandelion – High in vitamin A and readily available Calcium. A bitter green; good for detoxifying. Tasty when soaked overnight in vinaigrette dressing w/honey
- Coltsfoot – Good for coughs and colds. It used to be painted on the doors of doctors in the old days.
- Lemon Balm – Antiviral used both internally and externally. Is good for the nerves and makes a delicious tea.
- Chickweed – A gentle kidney tonic. Also relieves stressed eyes. Good in skin salves.
- Burdock – A liver tonic. Natural treatment for burns.
- Nettle – A blood tonic. Also good for allergies, and respiratory system.
- Echinacea – Gives surface immunity (wakes up the white blood cells). It’s not for deep-seated conditions. Begin using for immunity 4-6 weeks before flu season or a couple of weeks before a flight.
- Red Clover – A blood cleanser that has high amount of trace minerals. It makes a wonderful tea for respiratory issues like asthma and as cancer therapy.
- Borage – A heart tonic that’s good for mild depression. Best when the flowers and leaf are used fresh.
- Oats – Excellent for the nerves. The milky green oats are used before they turn into the actual oat.
- Rosemary – Good for the memory; high in antioxidants.
It was a fun day, learning about herbs as well as enjoying interesting tales from the life of Rosemary Gladstar. I especially enjoyed the one where she and a friend traveled by horseback for two days, taking no food with them so that they could forage from the land. She’s the real deal, friends, in both her mission and spirit. Just in case you’re not sure of what her mission is, please make sure to visit her Sage Mountain and United Plant Savers websites. I would also like to add that she graciously signed my books and allowed me to take photos of and with her. It’s often within a brief time with someone that you can sense what they’re like. My intuition tells me that she’s a genuinely sweet person. I would sum up the day like this, ‘A Day with Rosemary… was an absolute pleasure’.
My personal thanks to Rosemary, Susanna, and all those that put on such a great event!
Our lunch menu from the Rosemary House (to inspire you!):
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Assorted Veggies
- Lentil Joes in a Kaiser Roll Whole Food Plant Based No Oil Peanut Thai Slaw Roasted Asparagus, Tomatoes & Garlic
- Sweet Remembrances Carrot Cake Muffin | Coffee, Queen Catherine Black Tea, Herbal Lemon Tisane
Zoom Balls are a tasty way to take adaptogenic herbs.
Rosemary Gladstar showing how to make Zoom Balls.