First day at the Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine

While I do often offer classes myself, I am always thrilled to continue learning more – and Portland is rich with experienced herbalists and educators I am eager to study with.  Yesterday was my first day as a student in the Advanced Clinical Program with Erico Schleicher of The Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine. I love it already! Erico generously weaves knowledge, experience, and intuition with such ease, and truly invites his students to journey together and collaborate in a way that honors where we are coming from and where we wish to go.

I’m lucky to be studying with two of my former coworkers from Fettle, as well as other talented herbalists! I’m a little nervous – this is the first school program I’ve attended since 2011 – I’ll have to brush up on my study skills!

Explorations along the Central Coast

The Northwest School for Botanical Studies presents the Professional Herbalist Training Program of 2015!

The Northwest School for Botanical Studies


The Professional Herbalist Training Program of 2015.

Program runs March 3rd – June 11, 2015. Classes held on Tuesdays and Thursdays 11am-5pm, Wednesdays 11am-1:30pm.
A 250 hour program. Enrollment limited. Apply now!

The Professional Herbalist Training Program provides a fundamental training in herbalism and the skills necessary to treat common and acute health conditions. Students will learn to address many of the health concerns presented by friends and family, as well as customers in a retail environment.

The Professional Herbalist Training Program is the first phase and the prerequisite for the Clinical Herbalist Training (CHT) Program, the second phase. The Clinical Herbalist Training (CHT) Program expands on the information and concepts covered in the first phase, PHT program. CHT is designed for students and health care practitioners who plan to practice herbalism and work with clients in a private setting. The skills learned in the CHT program lay a solid foundation for practicing herbalism.

Enrollment is limited, so register early to ensure your participation. Interviews will be arranged following the receipt of your application and deposit. Tuition for the program is $2,800, and includes course instruction, materials, samples, and a United Plant Savers membership. Students are responsible for the cost of their books, gardening tools, and additional materials.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Professional Herbalist Training Program. Should you have difficulty completing the application on the website, please write us at to request an application attachment.


Comparing Pedicularis species

Another look at the genus Pedicularis

Pedicularis canadensis (wood betony) – Blue Ridge Mountains – Asheville, North Carolina
Pedicularis densiflorus
Pedicularis densiflorus (Indian warrior) – Trinity Mountains – Willow Creek, CA
Pedicularis groenlandica
Pedicularis groenlandica  (elephant’s head) – Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains – Lake George
Pedicularis attolens
Pedicularis attolens (little elephant’s head) – Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains – Rock Creek

Orchid Foods

Blame it on my northern bias, but I cannot think of a single food in the orchid family beyond vanilla (Vanilla spp.). For the largest plant family (or second largest; depending on who you ask, Asteraceae may be the largest plant family), there is a real dearth  of edible species in the Orchidaceae family.

We had the pleasure to visit a sustainable, diverse, organic farm down in Belize last year – our friends there grew cacao, mahogany, teak, oranges, and other tropical goodies. One thing they were experimenting with was growing vanilla. It was trained up a tree, and sometimes “planted” midway up the tree in a little pocket of mulch.

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During our visit with these folks, we got stuck for two hours in a mud pit in the orange grove, where I saw this beauty, a yet to be identified (by me) orchid, growing off the trunk of an orange tree.

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Elephant’s Head

How could it be that this flower so closely resembles an elephant? What sort of cosmic genetic shuffling must of taken place? There is a precedent where orchids will mimic their highly specialized pollinator, recreating an image of their mate with petals, stamens, pistils… but there is motive there, and direct relationship. What does this Sierra Nevada native have to do with a mammal from another continent? Were there wooly mammoths in the Sierras? Did they pollinate this flower? Big questions.

Pedicularis groenlandica, aptly named Elephant’s Head. I have never seen this plant in any abundance, and thus have never harvested it. I do use its more prolific and more neighborly cousin, Pedicularis densiflora (Indian Warrior), as an incredible skeletal muscle relaxant and general nervine. All the plants in this genus are semi-parasitic, meaning that they will partially rely on another plant for sustenance.

Garrya elliptica

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210I saw these blooming today – a lovely, very abundant parasympathomimetic and smooth muscle relaxant – Garrya elliptica, aka Coast Silk Tassel. This plant is dioecious – meaning that some plants have only male flowers (pollen producing), and the others have only female flowers (seed producing).  The flowers are borne on an inflorescence named a catkin, meaning it hangs down like tassels. This one is a male – you can tell by the yellow anthers.