Monthly Archives: April 2013

I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who has already contributed so much to getting the Herb Bus rolling.  This herbalista feels grateful to belong to such a generous community.  There have been some inquiries about how one might make herbal donations to stock our apothecary.  This is something we are grateful for, but also need to be quite specific about.  The simple fact is that the Herb Bus is quite small.  We fit an entire clinic into that little bus and so are particular about what items we stock.  We have now created an “Apothecary Wish List” and plan to keep it regularly updated with both herbs we are low on and herbs that we seem to dispense at a high rate.

The wish list is posted as both a main tab on this blog and a pdf version on the HERBALISTA website.  We care deeply about our clients, so please– read the list carefully and follow all labeling instruction.  And thank you for caring about this sweet little bus on a mission!  Viva la Herb Bus!

Mulberry Madness

Monday, April 1, 2013

The plant I highlight this month harkens back to the early history and founding of Georgia as a solution to overflowing British prisons. The idea was to ship prisoners who were in jail due to debt, and have them work the land here, cultivating silk from the Georgian mulberry tree. However, the plan was a failure, as the mulberry tree, which grows in Georgia is not the type that fosters the silkworm. Silkworms prefer the white, Asian mulberry (Morus alba), while ours is the purple, American species (Morus rubra). And though our mulberry does not create wealth from silk, it does provide the wealth of health.

I have a strong love for mulberries. This was one of the first plants I wildcrafted. At the time I didn’t consider it wildcrafting, as I didn’t even know the term, all I knew was that when spring hit and the berries ripened my father would take me out to gather and enjoy this delicious, purple fruit.

The mulberry is one of the most neglected and misunderstood plants in our area. Yes, it stains the streets and anything in the path of the falling berry, causing folks to complain about that “weedy mulberry tree” but the berry is full of antioxidant power, which helps mitigate damage from free radicals. The deep blue, purple, and red pigment of the berries is due to the presence of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, which has been shown to protect against cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

Now any time we harvest plants outside of our own garden, there are a few important issues to consider. First, is the area we gather from clean. Second, we should be aware of the scarcity or abundance of this particular species we seek. We must only gather what is plentiful, to not overharvest a plant population already under pressure. Lucky for us mulberry lovers, this tree grows quite prolifically so this is not a concern. And finally, proper identification of the plant we are looking for. To find mulberries in your neighborhood, simply search for a purple squishy mess on the ground, look up and chances are you have found your tree. There are of course other unique characteristics of the mulberry we use for identification, and for more information on that, you can click here for additional photos and tips.


There are endless ways to enjoy the flavor and health benefits of mulberries. If you wish to preserve them for consumption outside of when they are in season you can dehydrate or freeze them. My favorite mulberry preparation is to make a syrup. It’s really quite simple to prepare. Syrups are liquids (such as tea or juice) preserved with honey or sugar. The instructions I give here are for a sugar syrup, as using honey will darken the gorgeous color. But please note that you may certainly replace the sugar with honey for a slightly less brilliantly colored but admittedly healthier syrup.

First, wash the berries well, separating out any bugs, stems, or other unwanted tagalongs and put in a stainless steel pot over a low flame. Add a touch of water to avoid sticking and burning. Gently warm and simmer until berries soften. Strain through a colander or squeeze through a press cloth to remove the pulp and seeds. Measure and then place the strained juice back on the stove. You will add two cups of sugar to each cup of juice. Stir over a low flame until all the sugar dissolves. Allow it to cool and then bottle. Enjoy drizzled over foods or blended with some sparkling water for a lovely spritzer. I like to add just a touch of cinnamon for a real treat.

April Herbal Happenings
Monday, April 1, 2013

Can you feel the energy? Spring is erupting in a riot of colors and aromas, as the familiar faces of our beloved plant companions reemerge onto the scene. It’s time to hit the field! This herbalista was thrilled to pack up the bus, head to the hills, and enjoy the spring ephemerals (our early spring flowers) this past weekend. While flower gazing, I discovered a new trick to get the macro shots I’ve always struggled with. By holding my loop (a jeweler’s magnifying glass) up to the camera lens on my iPhone, I was finally able to focus on even the tiny sprays of yellow root blossoms. Click here to see more from my ephemeral meanderings.

In between plant rendezvous, I spent Saturday afternoon teaching at Warren Wilson College. After a mini-lecture on herbal first aid, we launched into a discussion about community herbalism and the realities of free clinic work. I spoke about my experience at both the Harriet Tubman Foot Clinic and with the Herb Bus. I was moved and heartened to see their enthusiasm for this type of work– bringing plant medicine to the people. While the field of herbal medicine has certainly grown exponentially in the last decade, it is not what you would consider a lucrative career path. Add to that a “free clinic” component, and you have a recipe for “never getting out of your school debt.” This was obviously NOT the talk I gave. Instead I simply shared my motivation for this type of work and the true rewards that pour into your life when you follow your passion and walk a healing path. I think they bought it 🙂
apr2013_2This photo was taken at an Herb Bus clinic in February. At this particular clinic we served 6 people. We provided them with delicious tea, health recommendations, and herbs that would last them a month, until the Bus’ return. And return we do. Every month! One of the core tenants of our clinic is that we provide continuous care to our patients, giving them both the time and the amount of herbs needed to support chronic conditions. And with each visit, we are seeing that this dedication and follow-up pays off. If you would like to see more workings of the Herbalista Free Clinic (aka the Herb Bus), through the magical lens of photographer Jessica Horwitz, just click here. If you are moved by what you see and would like to help us continue in our mission to bring earth-based care to underserved populations, please consider donating to the Herb Bus. Just to give you an idea of what your donation can provide, we are averaging around $200/per clinic in material costs (herbs, bottles, etc.) Thank you for helping us to better serve our community.

For the full newsletter, click here.