(We update this post as we develop our cleaning procedures.)

One thing’s for sure– herbalists go through a lot of bottles!  For a profession where environmental impact rates high on the list of our concerns, the last thing we want to do is add to a bunch of bottles, caps, and droppers to the mountainous landfills.   We clean and reuse bottles at Herbalista and wanted to share with you the methods we have found safe and efficient.


When a bottle is returned to us, we pour out any leftover tincture, oil, etc into the compost and then place the bottles into a very hot, soapy bath.  Leaving them to soak for a time allows the labels and any  residue to loosen.  The labels will practically fall off, and for the more stubborn parts, simply use the label bits that did come free and rub that over the remaining adhered label.  That will usually work it free.  If parts still don’t come free try a wee bit of olive oil or alcohol.  As a last resort we might use some Goof off.


We have a number of different sized bottle brushes with which we can scrub the inside of each bottle.  Once they are thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed, they are placed on the bottle wrack for drying.  When completely dry we hold them to the light to check for any obvious organic material or residue that may remain.  If we see any, we put it through the same initial soak and scrub all over again.  Once it appears clean we place the bottle into a box for Phase II.


We completely dissemble the droppers– separating the pipettes, the squeeze bulbs, and the plastic rings from one another.  We also separate the internal plastic phenolic cone from the caps with the use of a pointed set of tweezers. These bits and pieces are all then immersed in a soapy, hot bath for a soak.  We use either a mascara wand (purchased from a beauty supply store) or pipe cleaners to clean the inside of the pipettes, squeeze bulbs, and other hard to reach places.  After this prewash we pack everything into a bin for Phase II.


In order to feel like the bottles and tops have received a complete wash and sanitation for reuse, we use a dishwasher and program it for with the highest heat setting.  Since Lorna is not gifted with a dishwasher Herbalista HQ, the next step involves schlepping all the bottles and various accoutrement to her mother’s house (is there ever a time we stop needing assistance from our folks) to run them through her machine.  We used to use detergent, but now we don’t, as it sometimes left a residue and the purpose of this Phase is to sanitize through steam heat.  After they have been run through, we schlep them back to HQ for the final stages of this “ever-so-time-consuming-but-totally-worth-it” cleaning protocol.


The bottles are lined up against the west facing window bank to allow for any last bits of moisture to escape.  When the bottles appear completely dry (usually in a matter of hours) they are placed into the bottle cabinet.

The tops are laid out on a clean towel on the table.  The blue bottle in the picture here  is filled with 70% alcohol.  We spritz them all over and wipe them down with a thin cotton towel.  This is a chance to have your eyes on everything and do some good quality control.  Finally, all is reassembled to be used once more to dole out sweet, sweet herbal medicine

For any bottle or top that doesn’t pass muster (using organoleptic evaluations of sight and smell) they are put back into the bin for another round of cleaning or put into the recycling bin.  You will find that over time, the squeeze bulbs loose their integrity (notice in the photograph that some are starting to look a bit grey) and they will eventually get pulled.  This is a bit frustrating, because the pipettes and ring are still completely fine.  We have searched and have yet to find a distributer of just the bulbs.  So we’ve taken to keeping  the extra pipettes in a cup for tastings of herbal concoctions, which feels like a fine way for them to spend their retirement!

-Herbalista Lorna

updated on 04.21.17

A verdant thanks to ScoutMob for its recent coverage of the little bus that could!

This June and July, the Herb Bus drove cross country to spend time with the plants and serve the people. We assisted in free clinics at both the Firefly and Rainbow Gatherings and also spent time in the field, botanizing and wildcrafting for medicines. The next voyage is planned for September.

Click the link below to see more photos from our trip.  Viva la Herb Bus!

This June and July, the Herb Bus drove cross country to spend time with the plants and serve the people. We assisted in…

Posted by Lorna Mauney-Brodek on Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Remedy for Sevananda
Sunday, June 30, 2013

As far back as I can remember, there was always a Sevananda. Early memories revolved around my sweet tooth of course– the delicious fruit popsicles we were rewarded with on our 2nd grade field trip from Mary Lin or the bitter disappointment of biting into carob candy when I thought my dad had bought me chocolate. But as I grew older, these memories began to reflect my search for healing. And I don’t just mean physical healing, but emotional support as well. Sevananda became my resource not only for immune boosting teas but also for oils that could mend devastating heartache.

And now my heart is aching FOR Sevananda. The past year or so she has festered in finger pointing and blame shifting, and no matter who did what, the end result is the same– Sevananda is struggling to fulfill her life’s mission, her very reason for being. Sevananda has been wounded, is not able to serve her community as best she can, and we all must assume responsibility for her suffering and take steps to heal her. If we don’t, how will she be able to support us in our time of need?

My columns are written a couple of months in advance of print time, so hopefully by then, this column will sound out of date, as we will have already compounded and poured her a healthy dose of just the right healing blend. What would the formula consist of? My guess is we would begin with a base of immune boosters (1), strengthening her innate knowledge of her original purpose, reminding her of who she is (one who takes joy in serving others) so she can defend her existence from infectious egomania and self righteousness which places personalities above community; add to that lymphatics (2) and hepatics (3) to stimulate communication and eliminate the waste products and lingering residue of past wrongs; vulneraries (4) to soothe and knit the torn tissues of members, workers, board, and committees back together; nervines (5) to calm the agitation of conflict and ease the pain of betrayal; and lastly, carminatives (6) to harmonize the remedy, making it more palatable and better absorbed.

If sadly, this column is not out of date, and we are still mired in the infected abscess of obstinate leadership, disenfranchised membership, and voiceless employees, we must take a breath, and remember it’s not too late to mix and administer this healing remedy. It will take time and patience, as herbal remedies do when we treat chronic, long standing conditions, but Sevananda will respond to our care. Then we can toast her recovery with a splash of herbal exhilarants (7), reuniting joy with service as we look forward to many more wonderful (and tasty) memories.
(1) Immune Booster: Increases immune function (adaptive/innate) Examples: Echinacea, Astragulus, Reishi, Ginger, Elder, Yarrow.
(2) Lymphatic: Aids the lymphatic system, which is responsible for metabolic waste removal and immune function. Examples: Red Root, Red Clover, Cleavers, Violet Leaf.
(3) Hepatic: Tonifies the liver to assist it with detoxification, hormonal and other processes. Examples: Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Turmeric, Burdock.
(4) Vulnerary: Treats and heals wounds. Examples: Comfrey, Calendula, Arnica, Plantain.
(5)Nervine: Affects the nervous system (tonifies, relaxes, or stimulates.) Nervines to tonify and relax include Milky Oats, Skullcap, Valerian, and Damiana.
(6) Carminative: Stimulates digestion and is often used in blends to increase absorption of other herbs and palatability. Examples: Ginger, Fennel, Cinnamon, Cardamom.
(7) Exhilarant: Uplifts and enlivens the heart and mind. Examples: Cinnamon, Rose, Lemon Balm, Basil.

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.

A little glimpse into our work at the Herbalista Free Clinic. Thank you to the Open Door and the Big House for hosting us, the volunteers who crew this vessel, the plants who inspire, and the people we get to meet and work with along the way.

If you would like to see more, please check out the link below to view a photo album of our February clinics.  Viva la Herb Bus!

Serving our community, one stop at a time.

Posted by Herbalista Free Clinic on Monday, March 11, 2013

March Herbal Happenings

Friday, March 1, 2013

February was a short, but busy month. The Herbalista Free Clinic (aka the Herb Bus) made several stops and is looking forward to continuing to bring earth based care to Atlanta and beyond. Here we are, stationed at The Open Door, which is one of the communities we will be serving on a regular, monthly basis. We also ran the herbal first aid station at the Georgia Organics Conference, which proved to be an amazing opportunity to both spread the health and exchange ideas with a great group of people committed to sustainable, earth-friendly practices.

This month promises many more opportunities to connect people and plants, strengthening the bond that sustains us. Atlanta has been gifted with a new school, one that is dedicated to promoting “the wellbeing of individuals as well as the health of the community and environment through experiential self-reliance and sustainability skills education.” The Homestead Atlanta will offer a variety of classes from log splitting to fiber arts at different satellite locations around the city. And what homestead school could be complete without herbal offerings? I hope you can join me and the Homestead Atlanta for a weekend-long medicine making workshop later this month.

Herbal Happenings began one year ago, birthed in the month of March, when winter gave way to a rising spring. There is a vibrance and urgency to the energy of spring, one that we can harness and use for the greater good. How will you direct this resurgent energy? What is your vision of health and how can you nurture that within yourself and spread it throughout your community?

For the full newsletter, click here.

Clinic can be a demanding environment.  The main challenge we face as a mobile clinic, beyond typical medical stressors such as illness and pain, is how to provide a sense of calm and security when we have so many additional unknowns (the location, the weather, access to facilities, etc…)

The Herb Bus Service Manual is a work in progress, that outlines some of the nuts ‘n bolts to running the Herbalista Free Clinic– things such as station set-up, sanitation, intake considerations, forms & supplies lists.  Hope folks find this a helpful guide.

Click here to view The HERB BUS MANUAL

Viva la Herb Bus!

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