Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dahoon Holly



     Welcome to December in Central Florida! We are finally starting to see some cooler weather and a few leaves changing colors. We are also seeing more and more red berries throughout all of our woodlands and wetlands. These red berries, more often than not, belong to any one of our 10-11 species of Holly. 

     The Holly Family, Aquifoliaceae, has a great reputation for being beneficial medicinally, though most species have toxic berries, so they aren’t the most edible of plants. The Ilex genus is the only genus in the family that contains around 400 species. The family name translates to “trees with needles on their leaves” which is pretty darn accurate for most species. However, the genus name is an old word for Oak. The Holly species I wanted to introduce you to today is the Dahoon Holly or Ilex cassine

     Like every species of Ilex, Dahoon Holly is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on different trees. These flowers are usually really small and develop in clusters at the leaf axils. Only female plants produce the small berry-like fruits that are actually drupes. These drupes are often mistaken for berries because they contain multiple seeds where traditional drupes only contain one seed, referred to as a stone. I. cassine berries are yellow, orange, or red, the ones I find most often around here are red. This species is native and reaches about 12 meters (about 39 feet) in height. Leaves are alternate and simple, around 3-14 centimeters (1.18-5.51 inches) long and mostly oval. Some leaves have a few small teeth on their otherwise smooth margins. These plants love to have their feet damp so you can often find them in wet hammocks and flatwoods, though they can survive in dryer areas. They are often mistaken for another species of native Holly, the Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, though Yaupon Holly’s leaves are much smaller and have a much more interesting margin. There is also an invasive species that has become quite common around the area that is a major look-a-like for I. cassine, that is the Brazilian Peppertree, Schinus terebinthifolia. The most notable difference between these two is that S. terebinthifolia has pinnately compound leaves. 


Here's a video going over some info about this Holly as well as a close relative in the same genus.


Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Dahoon Holly, Christmas Berry, Cassine


Scientific Name- Ilex cassine 


Edibility- The leaves can be used as a tea.


Summary of Actions- Diuretic, emetic, hypnotic, laxative, purgative, stimulant, vermifuge


Parts Used- Leaves


Traditional Native American Ceremonial Use- Ilex cassine is sacred to the peoples of Florida and the East Coast of North America and is used similarly to Ilex vomitoria to produce a ceremonial cleansing tea referred to as the black drink. This drink is high in caffeine (or theobromine) and causes vomiting, which is considered to be a desirable and cleansing event prior to certain ceremonies. The Apalachicola tribe of Florida prepare large quantities of I. cassine and place it in huge snail shells that are then used as offerings in rituals, where the beverage is also consumed. The shells may be beautifully engraved with mystical images and divine figures. During celebratory rituals, a great deal of tobacco is smoked alongside the drink, producing an intensely euphoric, stimulating effect. Many scholars believe that I. vomitoria was the preferred leaf for making the black drink, however I. cassine was still used. The leaves of I. cassine and I. vomitoria have also been smoked as tobacco substitutes by native tribes and settlers and were also used as tea substitutes by southern rebel troops during the American Civil War.

Tea- Dahoon Holly makes tea but it is the least recommended of all Holly teas. It can cause severe headaches, vomiting, and can be laxative when taken at larger concentrations. However, if the beverage is not brewed too long, one can enjoy the flavor, stimulating effects, and health benefits without going through a ritual purging like with the ceremonial black drink.

Caffeine vs. Theobromine- Many sources say that Dahoon Holly contains a large amount of caffeine. However, recent studies have determined that the alkaloid previously thought of as being caffeine is actually Theobromine. This is a very closely related alkaloid that has most of the same effects as caffeine and is found in cocoa.

Stimulant- Dahoon Holly tea works as a stimulant helping to improve cognitive function for a time.

Blood Pressure- Though stimulating, the leaves can have a calming effect, and they have been known to improve arterial function and blood circulation in some individuals. Theobromine has also shown cardioprotective tendencies in several studies.


Fevers and Malaria- Some compounds found in the leaves of Dahoon Holly have been known to be anti-inflammatories. This helps to support the traditional use, in some cultures, for reducing fevers and treating malaria.


Joints- Ilex cassine has also been used to help reduce joint pain and inflammation. 


Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, the fruits of at least some members of this genus contain saponins and are slightly toxic. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stupor if eaten in quantity. There is also much caution surrounding the tea as large concentrations can induce vomiting, cause dizziness, and cause headaches. Do not use this herb if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.






I only included a basic introduction to this amazing native holly. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Cassine: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/i/ilex-cassine=cassine.php

Dahoon Holly: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/tag/dahoon-holly/

Dahoon Holly, Ilex Cassine: Wild South Florida: http://www.wildsouthflorida.com/dahoon.holly.html

Dahoon Holly (Ilex Cassine): Treasure Trees: https://treescharlotte.org/041-dahoon-holly/

Dahoon Holly…The Dollar Tree of Fruits: Treasure Coast Natives: https://treasurecoastnatives.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/dahoon-holly-starts-young/

Holly Ilex: Herb Wisdom: https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-holly.html

Ilex Cassine: Florida Native Plant Society: https://www.fnps.org/plant/ilex-cassine

Ilex Cassine: Plants For A Future: https://pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ilex+cassine

Ilex Cassine: Practical Plants: https://practicalplants.org/wiki/Ilex_cassine

Ilex Cassine: Useful Temperate Plants: http://temperate.theferns.info/plant/Ilex+cassine

Ilex Cassine – Cassina Tree: Entheology.com: http://entheology.com/plants/ilex-cassine-cassina-tree/

Ilex Cassine Dahoon Holly: Environmental Horticulture: https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/ilecasa.pdf

Paraguay Tea: A Modern Herbal: https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/partea05.html

Monday, November 9, 2020

American Sweetgum


     There are some plants out there that people either seem to love or hate. Today I want to introduce you to one of these. Sweetgum is one of my favorite trees. Yes, I am well acquainted with the seed balls that are like the forest equivalent of sand spurs, but I have fond memories of pelting my friends with them when I was very young. I also remember being very fond of a series of movies titled “The Land Before Time.” In these movies, a group of young dinosaurs travel together to find the Great Valley. Along the way, you discover that the favorite food of the herbivores of the group is the Tree Star. I’ve always thought that the leaves of the Sweetgum looked an awful lot like those leaves. Even to the point that my husband and I often refer to the Sweetgum as the Tree Star Tree.      


     Sweetgum, or Liquidambar styraciflua, is a species of tree native to the Southeastern portion of the United States. Its native range extends from Texas eastward to the coast and from as far north as Tennessee down to Central Florida. It’s also found in some of the forests of Mexico and Central America. This beautiful member of the Altingiaceae family is known for its striking fall foliage. It can reach heights of up to 100 ft (about 30.5 meters) and provides shelter and food for quite a wide variety of wildlife. The leaves are alternate, maple-like, and star-shaped. Typically they will have about 5 to 7 lobes and are 4 to 8 inches (10 - 20cm) long and wide with serrated margins. The dark to medium glossy green leaves change to a kaleidoscope of yellow, red, purple tones in the fall and have a camphor-like smell when they are crushed.


     One other reason for the hatred this lovely tree gets is that they’re impossible to get rid of. If you cut one down a bunch of suckers will pop up from the roots. If you cut those off, they’ll just re-grow. It’s like the hydra of the tree world. The wood is also terrible for pretty much anything. It’s not particularly strong, but somehow at the same time, it’s next to impossible to split. If you’re using an axe, you can pretty much forget about it. Even if you do succeed, it’s not great firewood. It burns up fast, but not very hot. It also smokes a lot and tends to pop. It’s a marginal timber tree since it tends to warp badly when dried, though somehow it’s one of the most used timber trees in the South. It’s mostly used for applications where looks and workability don’t matter, like railroad ties. And for bushcraft applications, its uses are limited. It’s fine for things like shelter poles where it doesn’t bear much weight or take any impact, but other than that, you’re better off looking elsewhere. Sweetgum is springy to a point but tends to shatter when put under much stress. And when left in the elements, it will quickly split and rot.



Check out this amazing grove of Sweetgum trees we found and hear some details about this beautiful tree!

Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Sweetgum, Sweet-Gum, American Sweetgum, American Sweet-Gum, White Gum, Styrax, Star-leaved Gum, Red Gum, Opossum Tree, Liquid Storax, Liquidamber, Gum Tree, Copalm, American Storax, Alligator Wood, Satin Walnut

Scientific Name- Liquidambar styraciflua 

Edibility- The leaves are edible, but not tasty. The dried sap can be chewed as a bitter gum. Don’t let the common name fool you, it’s not sweet, it’s only considered sweet in comparison to the Tupelo or Sour Gum which it shares a habitat with.

Summary of Actions- Anticoagulant, Anticonvulsant, Antifungal, Antihepatotoxic, Antihypertensive, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Anti-ulcerogenic, Antiviral, Astringent, Carminative, Diuretic, Expectorant, Parasiticide, Stimulant, Sedative, and Vulnerary

Energetics and Flavors- Bitter and Pungent

Parts Used- Balsam (the sap), Bark, Balls, Leaves

Traditional Native American- Traditionally used by several Native American tribes, Sweetgum was used as a decoction made from the inner bark. This decoction is a powerful remedy for coughs, colds, flu, and fevers. It works as a gentle expectorant to help expel mucus, and as an antispasmodic to calm your lungs. Externally, the leaves have been used as a poultice for arthritis and sore joints, and work well as an anti-inflammatory. A salve can even be made by burning the Sweetgum balls down to ash and mixing it with bear grease or lard.

Cough, Cold, & Flu- Sweetgum contains a chemical known as oseltamivir phosphate or shikimic acid. This is the primary active ingredient in Tamiflu which is well-known over the counter medication for cold and flu. Traditionally a decoction made from either the inner bark of the tree or the seeds was sweetened and used as a syrup to help control cough, cold, and flu. 

Skin and Wound Care- Herbal baths that include Sweetgum may help to soothe inflamed joints and muscles. It can also help to improve the health of your skin. Sweetgum sap can also be used to help speed the healing of minor wounds and burns, as well as to prevent any infections.

Ringworm & Scabies- A salve made with Sweetgum sap will help to get rid of parasites such as ringworm and scabies. As a bonus, Sweetgum is also antimicrobial so it will help prevent any secondary infections that may result. 

Diarrhea & Dysentery- One of the traditional uses for this tree was to help treat diarrhea and dysentery. Simply drink ½ cup of a decoction made from the bark twice a day.

 Mucous Membranes- Sweetgum’s anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe mucus membranes. Especially in the case of catarrh, an inflammation of the mucous membranes in one of the airways or cavities of the body, usually with reference to the throat and paranasal sinuses.

Natural Toothbrush- Ever been camping and forgot your toothbrush? Or have you ever been hiking and get something stuck in your teeth? Sweetgum is a great tree for fixing this issue. Take your knife and cut a sweetgum twig no larger than a #2 pencil and 4”-6” long. Sharpen one end of it. That’s your toothpick. Take the other end and carefully score the face of it with your knife. This helps it fuzz out more quickly. Then simply chew on it for a while until the wood fibers start to fuzz out into a brush. Once you’re satisfied with the bristle texture, you can brush your teeth. The technique is a bit different than what you’re used to, you’ve got to go one tooth at a time. But let me tell you, this really works. The sap also has mild antiseptic qualities, which helps eliminate bad breath and leaves your mouth feeling clean and fresh.

 Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- None known


     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing native tree. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Devil's Claw

      All Hallows Eve is approaching, and this year is a bit different from the last. However, we are still enjoying our scary stories, pumpkin patches, and the time-honored tradition of decorating our homes with skeletons and other creepy décor. In keeping with the theme of this wonderfully spooky season, I decided to share with you a devilishly wondrous herb.


     Native to Southern Africa, Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is named after the tiny hook-like structures that cover its fruit. It has a long tradition of use as a medicine. Some of its traditional uses include as a pain reliever, to improve the function of the liver and kidneys, to reduce fever, and treat malaria, as well as to help improve the healing of skin problems such as boils and minor wounds. This plant is one where you should be acquainted with the botanical name as opposed to the, much more interesting, common name. Several plants in North America also are known as Devil’s Claw, including species in the genus Proboscidea and certain species of Pisonia.


     Harpagophytum procumbens is a member of the Bignoniaceae, or Sesame, family and is mainly found in the eastern and southeastern parts of Namibia, Southern Botswana, and the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape, South Africa. This plant prefers deep, sandy soils, and areas with low annual rainfall. It is a perennial, tuberous plant with annually produced creeping stems. The stems emerge after the first rains and die back during droughts or after frosts. They grow from a primary tuber and several secondary tubers grow from the same primary tuber at the end of fleshy roots. The fruit, once it’s mature, opens slowly so that, in a given year, only 20-25% of its seeds may come into contact with soil. The seeds have a high degree of dormancy and may remain viable in a seed bank for more than 20 years.


     Today, Devil’s Claw is known and used worldwide to fight inflammation and arthritis pain. It is used most widely in Germany and France, however, it has made its way into most medical modalities. This has caused a few concerns about sustainability. The countries in its native range have developed regulations about ethical harvesting and have, thus far, prevented it from being protected by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 


Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Devil’s Claw, Grapple Plant, Wood Spider


Scientific Name- Harpagophytum procumbens


Summary of Actions- Alterative, Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-osteoporotic, Antioxidant, Bitter, Cardiac Tonic


Parts Used- Root, Fruit, and Tuber


Ayurveda- Known as Baghnakh in Ayurveda, this herb is often used in the treatment of migraines and headaches. 


Arthritis, Gout, & Joint Pain- The majority of research on this herb seems to revolve around its uses to help reduce inflammation in joints, relieve pain caused by arthritis, and even its ability to increase mobility in joints affected by arthritis and gout. Devil's claw seems to work about as well as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Several studies have also concluded that people afflicted with these issues may even reduce their dependence on NSAIDs by adding Devil’s Claw to their daily routine.


Digestion- Devil’s Claw is a bitter herb traditionally used to ease several digestive complaints. Like other bitter herbs, taking a tincture of Devil’s Claw 15 – 20 minutes prior to eating may help stimulate digestion and improve nutrient absorption, particularly with heavy meals. 


Blood Pressure & Atherosclerosis- While some inflammation is necessary to defend your body against harm, chronic inflammation has been to heart disease, diabetes, and brain disorders. Devil’s claw has been proposed as a potential remedy for inflammatory conditions because it contains plant compounds called iridoid glycosides, particularly harpagoside. In test-tube and animal studies, harpagoside has curbed inflammatory responses.  Reducing chronic inflammation helps to reduce blood pressure and improve atherosclerosis. Devil’s Claw is also traditionally used in treating Arrhythmia.


Migraine and Headache- The combination of Devil’s Claw’s analgesic (pain-relieving) properties with its anti-inflammatory ones makes this herb a great help in many headaches. It can even be fairly effective for migraines.


Skin & Wound Care- This herb’s anti-inflammatory nature lends itself well to a wide variety of treatments including boils and sores. It also works just as well for minor wounds, scratches, and bruises.


Fever and Malaria- Devil’s Claw is traditionally used to lower body temperature, which helps to reduce fever. 


Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- High doses can cause mild stomach problems in some people. People with ulcers or gallstones should not take Devil's Claw. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take Devil's Claw since studies in these populations are lacking. People with heart disease, high blood pressure, or low blood pressure should ask their doctors before taking Devil's Claw. If you are on medication, check with your doctor before adding this plant to your routine.







     I only included a basic introduction to this devilishly useful herb. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!







Devil’s Claw: Flora Health: https://www.florahealth.com/us/herb-encyclopedia/devils-claw/


Devil’s Claw: Gaia Herbs: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/devils-claw


Devil’s Claw: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/devil-claw


Devil’s Claw: Mount Sinai: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/devils-claw


Devil’s Claw: PennState Hershey: http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000237


Devil’s Claw: RxList: https://www.rxlist.com/devils_claw/supplements.htm


Devil’s Claw: Versus Arthritis: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/devils-claw/


Devil’s Claw: WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-984/devils-claw


Devil’s Claw - Benefits, Side Effects, and Dosage: Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/devils-claw


Devil’s Claw: Kaiser Permanente: https://wa.kaiserpermanente.org/kbase/topic.jhtml?docId=hn-2079001


Devil's Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Acupuncture Today: https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/devils_claw.php#:~:text=Other%20studies%20have%20found%20the,acid%2C%20which%20helps%20improve%20digestion.


Devil’s Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Annie’s Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/harpagophytum-procumbens-devil-claw.php?gc=64&gclid=Cj0KCQjw8fr7BRDSARIsAK0Qqr6tnj9t2kLlOH7-3KToivjXQbNSbZusnsdQGO7yZ3NU9HYo-GPVLtUaAo_MEALw_wcB


Devil’s Claw (harpagophytum procumbens): Ayur Times: https://www.ayurtimes.com/devils-claw-harpagophytum-procumbens/


Devil’s Claw, Herb Uses, Benefits, Cures, Side Effects, Nutrients: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Devil's-Claw-Cid1607


Health Benefits of Devil’s Claw: Facty Health: https://facty.com/lifestyle/wellness/health-benefits-of-devils-claw/?style=quick&utm_source=adwords&adid=269624907797&utm_medium=c-search&utm_term=%2Bdevil%27s%20%2Bclaw&utm_campaign=FH-USA---Search---Health-Benefits-of-Devils-Claw&gclid=Cj0KCQjw8rT8BRCbARIsALWiOvTwM1URgKpOKcGQLe6N6AwVMp8dwXQU1dJaibvLlFzoLfIzFt2BktAaAnTzEALw_wcB


Joint Pain - Devil’s Claw: Network Nutrition: http://www.networknutrition.com/content.cfm?Encrypt=1&Pass=163D22310B0D062D09042E583A3A3C38200017543A1F1A3F0017211B08785850




Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Stuffed Grape Leaves


     If you have been following me for any length of time, you might have come to the conclusion that I love food. Well, you wouldn’t be wrong about that. I don’t just love food, I love experiencing food from any and every culture I encounter. I even have an entire bookshelf devoted to cookbooks that include recipes from around the world and from ancient history. Some of my favorite recipes come from the Middle East, and this is one of my favorites. 

     In Greece, they are called Dolmades, in Turkey, they are called Dolmas, and in Lebanon, they are called Warak Enab. But here, we simply refer to this amazing appetizer as Stuffed Grape Leaves. Traditionally, these are served either hot or cold and for just about any occasion. I like to keep them in my fridge for a healthy and savory snack. But they do take a lot of time and effort. Though if you recruit your friends and/or family to help roll them, it goes by much faster. 

     Basic Recipe for Stuffing Grape Leaves

1 jar Grape Leaves about 60-70 in brine

Stuffing of your choice (recipes below)

½ cup Olive Oil

5-6 cups Water

¾ cup Lemon Juice

Prep Grape Leaves & Stuffing

    1. Remove the grape leaves from the jar, and soak them in a large bowl of boiling hot water for a few minutes. Drain the grape leaves in a colander and stack them on a plate.

    2. Prepare your stuffing (recipes below).

    3. Don’t forget to soak your rice in water for 15 minutes before preparing your stuffing.

Stuff & Wrap Grape Leaves

    1. To stuff and roll the grape leaves, lay a grape leaf flat on a cutting board, scoop out a little less than 1 teaspoon of the rice mixture into the center of the grape leaf.

    2. Carefully fold in the sides and loosely roll it like you would when making a wrap. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used and place the wrapped grape leaves on a tray while wrapping. It will make about 60 rolls.

Cook the Stuffed Grape Leaves

    1. Line the bottom of a large pot with sliced tomatoes (sliced potatoes are also a good option) and season with salt/pepper.

    2. Neatly arrange the stuffed and rolled grape leaves in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the pot. Make sure to tightly pack them in the pot to prevent them from floating up and unwrapping during cooking.

    3. Drizzle each layer with olive oil (you’ll need about ½ cup for the whole opt) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    4. Place a plate upside down on top of the grape leaves in the pot. Next use something to weigh it down (a second plate works well or a bowl full of water). This will hold down the grape leaves in place, and prevent floating while they are cooking.

    5. Add enough water (about 5-6 cups) to completely cover the grape leaves and the plate. Then cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.

    6. Add ¾ cup lemon juice on top of the grape leaves, then cook on low heat for an additional 45 minutes.

    7. Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Transfer to a dish and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

My Tips  

Rice- Most people use white rice for their grape leaves because it doesn’t take as long to cook. Using brown rice risks overcooking the leaves. If you want to give brown rice a go, try Thai or Basmati Brown Rice, both of which have shorter cooking times.

Fresh Grape Leaves- If you’re lucky enough to know someone that grows grapes, or are able to harvest your own. Blanch fresh leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. This will make them much easier to roll.

Stuffing the Leaves- Don’t roll your leaves too tight or add too much stuffing. You’re rolling uncooked rice which will expand as it cooks. While we all love the stuffing, we don’t want it to expand too much and cause a huge mess.

Lining the Bottom of the Pot- Don’t forget to line the bottom of your cooking pot before putting the grape leaves in to cook. If you don’t then you risk burning the bottom layer of grape leaves. Some traditional things used to do this include sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, sliced potatoes, more grape leaves, and the occasional rack of lamb (obviously not a vegetarian option).

Aren’t These Usually Made With Meat?- Yes and no. Each Mediterranean country has it’s own variety of traditional recipes for this dish. Some countries have multiple recipes. I prefer the Lebanese styles, both the traditional vegetarian stuffing and the traditional lamb/beef stuffing, so that’s what I based these recipes on.

And now, on to the stuffing recipes!


1. Traditional Vegetarian Stuffing

     Made with short-grain rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper, with lemon juice and olive oil. There are quite a few variations of this recipe from different countries, but this traditional Lebanese recipe is my favorite.

Traditional Vegetarian Stuffing

2 cups Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 large Tomato, finely chopped

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch Green Onions, finely chopped

¼ Green Pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

2. Some Like It Hot!

     Spicy food can be such a treat! This recipe is such a great alternative to the traditional one without losing any of the traditional flavors. This one is especially great served with plain Yogurt.

Hot and Spicy Stuffing

2 cups Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 large Tomato, finely chopped

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 medium Red Onion, finely chopped

1 Jalapeno (or try a hotter pepper for more heat), finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

½ teaspoon Cayenne, ground

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, tomato, parsley, red onion, peppers, garlic, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

3. Lovely Lentils

     This version uses Lentils to give a nice protein boost. 

Lentil Stuffing

1 cup Short Grain Rice, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 cup Green Lentils, pre-soaked for 15 minutes

1 bunch Parsley, finely chopped

1 medium Yellow Onion, finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon Cumin, ground

¼ teaspoon Cayenne, ground

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup Olive Oil, divided


     Combine the rice, lentils, parsley, yellow onion, peppers, garlic, cumin, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine. 

     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Frog Fruit


     Growing up as a tomboy in Florida, I often played outside. I was always in trees, playing in the dirt, or even making flower chains with our native wildflowers. One of the flowers I used for these chains was Frog Fruit or Phyla nodiflora.

     Frog Fruit is a creeping herb often used as a ground cover. It’s stems extend from 15 to 30 centimeters and it tends to root at the nodes. The leaves are numerous, nearly without stalks, obovate, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, with a blunt or rounded tip, with sharply toothed margins on the upper half, and a wedge-shaped base. The flowers are very small, pink or white, crowded in ovoid or cylindric spikes, 1 to 2.5 centimeters long, and about 6 millimeters in diameter. The corolla consists of a slender and cylindric tube, about 3 millimeters long, with a limb that is 2.5 millimeters wide, opening at the apex as it lengthens. Spikes appear at the ends of stalks, growing singly from the axils of the leaves. 

     We have four species here in Florida. Phyla stoechadifolia is a small, woody shrub that grows up to 2 feet tall. P. lanceolata is fairly rare and only found in a few counties (Calhoun, Escambia, Gadsden, Jackson, and Liberty), all of which are in North Florida. It also only really blooms during Spring and early Summer. P. fruticosa is even rarer and has only been found in a single county in Florida, Miami-Dade. The most commonly found species in Florida is Phyla nodiflora. This plant used to be in the Lippia genus, so you will occasionally find information about Lippia nodiflora, just know that it’s the same plant. The Phyla genus is found within the Verbenaceae or Verbena family, which is in the Lamiales order. The same order where the Lamiaceae or Mint family is found. So these herbs are cousins to mint, lavender, and all the Lamiaceae family herbs.

     Frog Fruit is an important plant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is an important larval host for a number of our native pollinators. The most common butterflies that depend on Frog Fruit are the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon), White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), Barred Sulphur (Eurema daira), and Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia). It’s also an important food source for an even larger number of native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators here in Florida. 

     If you follow me on social media, you might know that I recently shot a video all about this little flower. Check it out here.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Frog Fruit, Turkey Tangle Fogfruit, Match Head, Match Flower, Creeping Lip, Purple Lippa, Sawtooth Frogfruit, Turkey Tangle, Cape Weed

Scientific Name- Phyla fruticosa, P. lanceolata, P. nodiflora, and P. stoechadifolia. 

Edibility- The leaves are often used as a tea substitute, though it does have a “grassy” taste. The leaves are edible cooked. It’s often recommended to boil them.

Summary of Actions- Alexeteric, Analgesic, Anodyne, Anthelmintic, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antipyretic, Antiseptic, Antitumor, Antitussive, Anti-urolithiatic, Aphrodisiac, Astringent, Carminative, Demulcent, Deobstruent, Diuretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Nociceptive, Parasiticide, Refrigerant, Spasmolytic

Parts Used- The whole plant is used.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Guo Jiang Teng, this herb Clears Wind-Heat. Helping to treat a variety of blood diseases, fevers, malaria, vertigo, fainting, and thirst. It is also used for diarrhea, dysentery, gonorrhea, boils, abscesses, herpes, and burning sensations during urination.

Ayurveda- Known as Jalpapli, an infusion of this herb is given to women after childbirth to help stimulate healing. It also Clears Heat and Resists Poison. It’s often used in similar ways to it’s used in TCM.

Digestion- Phyla nodiflora is a great bitter herb, helping to improve digestion and ease stomach troubles. The juice of the root is often used as a bitter tonic and to ease gastric irritation. An infusion of the leaves and/or stalks is often given to children for “tummy upsets.” A decoction or infusion of the whole plant can also be helpful for gastric ulcers.

Kidney Stones- Frog Fruit has amazing anti-urolithiatic properties, which helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones. However, it not only prevents kidney stone formation but it also effectively treats existing stones. 

Fever, Cold, & Cough- The juice of this herb is used to help cool down those with fevers, especially in the case of malaria. The whole plant can also be steamed and inhaled to help treat cough and the common cold.

Wound Care, Burns, & Boils- Phyla nodiflora has wonderful antibacterial properties. Combined with its tendency to speed up healing, this makes it an ideal plant for wounds. It’s traditionally applied as a poultice and can also be used to soothe burns as it also has cooling, or demulcent, properties. A paste from the fresh plant can also be applied to boils as a suppurant, helping them come to a head and heal faster.

Skin Care- A ground paste of the leaves is a traditional treatment for acne and pimples. It is also used to treat chickenpox, dermatosis, eczema, leprosy, scabies, and minor wounds.

Dandruff- There are two traditional treatments for dandruff that use Frog Fruit. 

    • Hair Oil - boil coconut oil with fresh Frog Fruit leaves until it loses its water content. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. Use it as a hair oil to get rid of dandruff, also doubles as a moisturizing oil treatment. Massage it onto the scalp and leave it on for 2 hours before rinsing/washing.

    • Hair Pack - take Frog Fruit powder (enough to make a paste to cover the whole head) in a bowl, add in enough rice water and 1/4 tsp of coconut oil to it and apply as a hair pack. Wait for 30 minutes before washing. 

Joint Pain- Frog Fruit has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. A poultice can be used for treating joint pain and stiffness. Simply apply the poultice to the afflicted joint and elevate it for 30 minutes.

Hemorrhoids- This herb is a traditional remedy for hemorrhoids. Crush the fresh plant, mix it with water, and drain. This is typically taken on an empty stomach daily for about one week.

Diabetes- Phyla nodiflora has anti-diabetic properties. Helping to lower blood sugar. This makes it a very effective natural remedy for reducing blood sugar levels. It’s also a diuretic, helping to reduce water retention which can also help with diabetes.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Since this herb does have an effect on insulin levels, consult with your doctor prior to adding it into your daily routine if you are already taking diabetic medications or are a diabetic. Avoid this herb if you are pregnant.

     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Now Offering Backyard Tours! 

     Curious as to what your very own yard might contain? Contact herbalist Leann Hill at BatLadyHerbals@gmail.com for more information!


7 Top Medicinal Uses of Phyla Nodiflora: Wild Turmeric: https://www.wildturmeric.net/phyla-nodiflora-poduthalai-medicinal-uses-health-benefits/ 

A Review on Phyla nodiflora Linn. A Wild Wetland Medicinal Herb: Global Research Online: http://globalresearchonline.net/journalcontents/v20-1/11.pdf 

Busbusi: Philippine Medicinal Plants: http://www.stuartxchange.com/Busbusi.html

Frog Fruit: Natural medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/p/phyla-nodiflora=frogfruit.php 

Frog Fruit or Match Head?: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/frog-fruit-or-match-head/ 

Phyla Nodiflora: Folk Medicine Sindh: http://folkmedsindh.com.pk/phyla-nodiflora-l/

Phyla Nodiflora: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Phyla-Nodiflora-Cid1173 

Phyla Nodiflora: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Phyla+nodiflora 

Phyla Nodiflora: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Phyla+nodiflora 

Phyla Nodiflora, Jalapippali: Medicine Traditions: https://www.medicinetraditions.com/phyla-nodiflora-jalapippali.html 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Stuffed Mushrooms


This year has been tough, so I’ve been allowing myself small luxuries to help make things a little better. These luxuries have included taking long and luxurious baths, having a nice glass of wine while watching the sunset, and making gourmet dinners. One dish that my husband and I love, but don’t get to indulge in often, is stuffed mushrooms. I thought that I could share some of my favorite recipes here with you today.

Now there are some things to be aware of when you’re stuffing shrooms. There are a few different types of mushrooms you can choose from. The most commonly stuffed ones tend to be button, crimini, or portabella. These mushrooms are actually all the same species, just grown in different conditions and sold at different ages. But they are tasty and the perfect shape for stuffing. Mushrooms absorb water, so when you’re cleaning them, don’t wash them off if you can help it. You can get specialty mushroom brushes, or you can do what I do and use a paper towel (or spare toothbrush for really dirty shrooms) to get all the dirt off those mushrooms.

As usual, all of the following recipes are vegetarian and gluten-free, though I have included some dairy alternatives where I can. You can also add meat products if you want, some of these recipes would taste amazing with sausage, chicken, or shrimp added.

And now, on to the recipes!

1. Bring On The Greens!

Mushrooms and leafy greens tend to go together so well, I couldn’t resist combining them here. This recipe makes a great appetizer for decadent or romantic dinners and goes great with red wine.

Spinach and Kale Stuffed Mushrooms

1 pound Mushrooms (around 18-24)

4 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil

4 Green Onions, diced

2 small cloves Garlic, minced

2 cups Baby Spinach, roughly chopped

2 cups Kale, roughly chopped

1 cup Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup shredded Mozarella Cheese, or Plant-Based Mozzarella


Wash and trim the end of stems from mushrooms. Pop the remaining stem out. Chop stems and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or use 2 tablespoons olive oil) and brush over mushrooms. Spray a shallow baking dish (about 8-inch square, or one which will fit mushrooms in one layer) with non-stick spray or grease with butter/olive oil. 

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet. Chop green onions and combine with reserved chopped mushroom stems and garlic. Add to skillet along with the spinach and kale. Sauté until tender. Add bread crumbs, salt, and pepper to vegetable mixture and stir well. 

 Fill each mushroom cap with a little of the stuffing, mounding the filling. Top each filled mushroom cap with some of the shredded Mozzarella cheese. 

 Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and mushroom caps are tender.  

2. Some Like It Hot!

Mushrooms aren’t typically the type of food you think of when you think of hot spices. But you’d be amazed just how well they work, especially when you use homemade polenta to tie the flavors together. This recipe makes for a great snack or an appetizer for a Southwest meal. It also pairs well with a refreshing margarita or an ice-cold beer.

Southwest Serrano-Stuffed Shrooms

1 ½ cup Boiling Water

½ cup Yellow Cornmeal

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Pepper

½ cup shredded Cheddar Cheese, or Plant-Based Cheddar

1 pound Mushrooms (around 18-24)

4 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil

½ cup Red Onion, minced

1 small clove Garlic, minced

1-2 Serrano Peppers, seeded and finely chopped (or more if you really want some heat)

1 small handful of fresh Cilantro, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste


 In a large heavy saucepan, bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and slowly whisk in cornmeal. Stir in salt and pepper. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon for 12-17 minutes or until polenta is thickened and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Stir in ¼ cup of cheese (save the rest for later). 

 Spread into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Cool slightly, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

 Cut polenta into eight pieces. Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, lightly coat the grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

 Wash and trim the end of stems from mushrooms. Pop the remaining stem out. Chop stems and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or use 2 tablespoons olive oil) and brush over mushrooms. Spray a shallow baking dish (about 8-inch square, or one which will fit mushrooms in one layer) with non-stick spray or grease with butter/olive oil. 

 Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet. Saute the mushroom stems, onion, peppers, and garlic until tender. Crumble up the grilled polenta and combine with the sauteed vegetables and cilantro.

 Fill each mushroom cap with a little of the stuffing, mounding the filling. Top each filled mushroom cap with some of the shredded cheddar cheese. 

 Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and mushroom caps are tender.  

3. Nutty For Mushrooms!

Another odd combination that works really well is nuts and mushrooms. This recipe combines pecans and mushrooms into a delicious treat. It’s a taste of gourmet comfort food in your very own home. Try it as an appetizer for any occasion.

Pecan Stuffed Mushrooms

1 pound Mushrooms (around 18-24)

4 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil

½ cup Yellow Onion, minced

2 small cloves Garlic, minced

¼ cup Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs

¼ cup Pecans, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh Parsley, chopped

½ teaspoon dried Sage

Salt and Pepper to taste

¼ cup shredded Parmesean Cheese, or Plant-Based Parmesean


Wash and trim the end of stems from mushrooms. Pop the remaining stem out. Chop stems and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or use 2 tablespoons olive oil) and brush over mushrooms. Spray a shallow baking dish (about 8-inch square, or one which will fit mushrooms in one layer) with non-stick spray or grease with butter/olive oil. 

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet. Sauté mushroom stems, onion, and garlic until tender. Add bread crumbs, pecans, parsley, sage, salt, and pepper to vegetable mixture. Stir well.

 Fill each mushroom cap with a little of the stuffing, mounding the filling. Top each filled mushroom cap with some of the shredded Parmesan cheese. 

 Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and mushroom caps are tender.  

 If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Monday, August 3, 2020


     Florida is known as a land of flowers, and certainly this time of year you can see the evidence of it. Starting in the spring and going through fall, when you drive up and down the state, you’ll see large patches of color on the side of the roads and in the medians. Right now, the predominant color, at least in Central and North Florida, tends to be yellow. Mostly this can be attributed to the Florida state wildflower, Coreopsis.

     There are 16 species of Coreopsis that occur in the state, and all are recognized as the state flower. There are a few species on this list that are not native to Florida but are considered to be naturalized. Coreopsis tinctoria, C. aurculata, and C. basalis. This list also includes at least one endangered species, C. integrifolia. Ironically, the species of Coreopsis usually used in the promotional material of the state is one that is not native, C. tinctoria. This is also the species I’m focusing on for this post as it has the most documentation of medicinal and edible uses.

     Coreopsis tinctoria is a member of the Aster (Asteraceae) Family. Originally native to the eastern half of the North American continent, it has been naturalized from coast to coast and all across Canada and Alaska. It is equally at home in cottage gardens and along roadsides, where it is often seen in Florida. One of its common names, 'tickseed' is a nod to its Latin designation. The word 'koris' means insect or bug and the suffix 'opsis' is a general designation meaning that the plant resembles the prefix. So core (koris) - opsis means that part of this plant (the seeds) resembles an insect. The Latin word, tinctoria means useful for dye.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Coreopsis, Tickseed, Plains Coreopsis, Golden Tickseed, Goldenwave, Calliopsis, Atkinson's tickseed, Dyer's Coreopsis, Plains Coreopsis, Annual Coreops

Scientific Name- Coreopsis tinctoria, C. cardaminifolia

Edibility- Flowers boiled in water makes a red liquid used as a beverage. Also, a tea made from the dried plant can be used as a coffee substitute.

Summary of Actions- Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, emetic

Parts Used- The whole plant is used in slightly different ways

Traditional Native American Uses- A number of Southern Tribes, including Cherokee, used a tea made from the root for diarrhea and as an emetic. The dried tops of the plant were used in a tea to strengthen the blood. The whole plant was also boiled to make a drink for internal pains and bleeding.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Snow Chrysanthemum, or Kun Lun Xue Ju, this North American native has made its way into TCM where it is used in several formulas to help with high blood pressure, insomnia, and inflammation.

Insomnia- The tea can be used to improve one’s ability to sleep and their quality of sleep.

Emetic- This roots of this herb can be used to induce vomiting. Some traditional cultures used emetics to cleanse their bodies before undergoing certain rituals. Coreopsis can also be used in the case of accidental toxin ingestion.

Digestive and Elimination Problems- The roots may be used to brew a tea that is useful in the treatment of diarrhea. The tea may also help in reducing the symptoms of inflamed bowels, especially in the case of chronic enteritis.

Diabetes- In Portugal, the flowering tops of this herb have been used to make a tea that helps to control hypoglycemia.

Circulatory System- The tea made from this plant has been used to help improve the general health of the circulatory system. Specifically, it also helps to reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and prevent coronary heart disease.

Folk Use- An infusion of the whole plant, minus the root, is traditionally thought to help women who are trying to conceive a female baby.

Attracts Pollinators- Pollinators, especially our native bees, just LOVE this plant. It’s also a host plant for a number of butterflies.

Other/Household Uses- Was used for a source of yellow and red dyes, which was its primary traditional use. The flowers were simply steeped in heated water. Early dyers would add their yarn or fabric to the pot until it absorbed the color. This produced a product that was attractive but wasn't very colorfast. The dye tended to fade over time. Later experiments with different mordants resulted in more vibrant and colorfast items. Today's natural dyers might use any number of products to obtain various colors and shades from the same plant. For those just starting to explore natural dye, alum and vinegar are both easy to obtain and produce interesting results.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- There are no known hazards associated with this plant.

     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Florida native. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Coreopsis: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/c/coreopsis-tinctoria=coreopsis.php 

Coreopsis tinctoria: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=coti3#:~:text=Use%20Medicinal%3A%20Amerindians%20used%20root,of%20yellow%20and%20red%20dyes. 

Coreopsis tinctoria: Practical Plants: https://practicalplants.org/wiki/Coreopsis_tinctoria 

Coreopsis tinctoria: Useful Tropical Plants: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Coreopsis+tinctoria 

Coreopsis: Wiki Medicinal Plants: http://wiki.medicinalplants-uses.com/index.php?title=Coreopsis 

Coreopsis tinctoria- Dyer’s Coreopsis: Alchemy Works: https://www.alchemy-works.com/coreopsis_tinctoria.html 

Coreopsis tinctoria- History, Folklore, and Uses: Dave’s Garden: https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/coreopsis-tinctoria-history-folklore-and-uses 

Coreopsis tinctoria Nutt.: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Coreopsis+tinctoria 

Everything You Need To Know About The Coreopsis Plant: NIMVO: https://nimvo.com/coreopsis-plant/ 
The Flower Tea Coreopsis tinctoria Increases Insulin Sensitivity and Regulates Hepatic Metabolism in Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet: Oxford Academic: https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/156/6/2006/2422826 

What Is Snow Chrysanthemum: Transcendent Teas: https://transcendentteas.weebly.com/what-is-snow-chrysanthemum.html 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Mason Jar Salads

     Eating healthy can often be a chore, especially when we work away from home. I have always been a fan of “eating the rainbow” (each color corresponds to different nutrients and the more nutrients you eat the healthier you’ll be) but that is hard to do when you’re eating fast food, or whatever your office may have near. Bringing your lunch to work can sometimes be challenging as well. So one solution I have come up with is Mason Jar Salad. You can make a variety of healthy meals, store them in mason jars in the fridge, and grab one a day on your way out the door. As long as you know how to layer your lunch, it doesn’t get soggy or gross and can keep in the fridge for a week. For all of these salads, I prefer to use pint-sized, wide mouth mason jars, they make it easier to assemble and eat your food.

     Mason jar salads are a great lunch option that provides you with a wide range of fruit, veggie, and protein options. You can also choose a wide variety of greens so you’re not stuck with iceberg all the time (boring!). Just make it ahead of time and shake it when you’re ready to eat! 

Just remember these layering rules when you’re assembling your salad:

  • Wet Stuff (Dressing, hummus, sauce, etc. always goes on the bottom!)
  • Protein
  • Crunch (nuts, cabbage, vegetables, other crunchy textures)
  • Fruit
  • Greenery (Lettuce always goes in last!)

Wet Stuff:

     Salad dressing, hummus, and other sauces (such as guacamole) add flavor to bring the salad together, but it also provides important healthy fats which are necessary to get the most nutrients out of the vegetables. If you’re in a hurry you can make a quick salad dressing just by sprinkling some oil and vinegar (1 part vinegar and 2 parts oil and a pinch of salt and/or pepper) over the salad. If you want (and have time) to make your own dressing check out some of my favorite dressing recipes here!


     Adding some protein makes a salad go from a side dish to the main course. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it’s also very important to make sure you have enough protein in your diet. Adding some into your lunch salad is a great way to do just that. Try tossing in some cheese (or cheese alternatives), cooked lentils and/or beans, seasoned and/or seared tofu/tempeh, nuts and/or seeds (these can go into the next layer as well), or toss in more traditional protein sources such as boiled eggs, chicken, tuna, steak, shrimp, crab, or whatever leftover proteins you have from dinner the night before.

Crunch and Fruit:

     This is where the creativity really gets going. Try adding in some shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, berries (dried and/or fresh), apples, banana chips, shredded cabbage, nuts/seeds, roasted chickpeas, tortilla chips, etc. There really is no limit to what you can throw into your salad. I Really Like Food has a post with 20 options that would go great in this layer. Check it out here!


     This is the base of most salads and usually make up the bulk of this meal. Lettuce, spinach, fresh herbs. All of these options go well here on this layer. It’s also the layer that can be the most boring (iceberg...blech) or the most interesting (try a mix of arugula, fresh basil, watercress, and parsley for a fun mix). Some popular greens to throw into a salad include romaine, spring mix, watercress, arugula, baby spinach, fresh herbs (mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, etc), and sprouts. 

Recipes and Ideas-

     Here are some “recipes” to get you started. In reality, they’re just a list of ingredients and you choose how much of each you want to toss in. My recommendation is to go easy on the herbs in the green mixes, they can easily become overpowering. I have made sure that the ingredients are in the order I would layer my salads. 

1. Summoning The Southwest

I love Southwestern flavors, and if I had my choice I would probably eat them way more often than I already do. So it comes as no surprise that this salad is heavily on my rotation for lunch. Feel free to add in guacamole or substitute your favorite Southwest-flavored salad dressing.

Southwest Salad

Salsa (Fermented salsa adds probiotics into your lunch)
Sour Cream (or vegan alternative)
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, steak, or a mixture of chickpeas and black beans)
Red Onion, diced
Avocado, sliced (tossed in lime juice to retain the green color)
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Romaine, shredded
Fresh Cilantro, chopped

2. Everything Eastern

     My husband has a crazy love affair with Asian cultures, including the cuisine. This salad is a great way to bring some of those flavors to the office with you. Feel free to throw in some of your favorite Asian food items like noodles or rice. Just layer them right after your dressing/sauce and before your protein. This will keep everything nice and crispy for when you’re ready to eat.

Asian Salad

Asian Sesame Vinaigrette or any Asian/Sesame Salad dressing
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, shrimp, tofu, or edamame)
Carrot, shredded
Red Cabbage, shredded
Celery, thinly sliced
Radish, thinly sliced (or Diakon/Watermelon radish, shredded)
Roasted Peanuts or Soy Nuts
Fresh Cilantro, diced

3. Simply Southern

     This salad brings quite a few Southern flavors to the table. From the pecans to the peaches, if you like Southern comfort food, this is the salad for you.

Georgia Peach Salad

Sweet Onion & Poppy Seed Dressing or your favorite Sweet Onion dressing
Protein of choice (you may be tempted to add fried chicken here, but I recommend grilled chicken, bacon, shrimp, boiled egg, or shredded cheese)
Apple, diced (tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning)
Tomato, diced
Cucumber, sliced
Celery, sliced
Grapes, halved
Peaches, diced
Spring Mix/Mixed Baby Greens

4. Keep It Simple

     One of the easiest salads out there is the Caesar salad. It was made to be simple, and it’s popularity proves that it’s a big hit. Try changing up the proteins and switching out the croutons for other “crunchy” textures, such as roasted chickpeas or pine nuts.

Simply Caesar

Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Protein of choice (I recommend chicken, steak, shrimp, or tempeh)
Romaine Lettuce, diced

5. Ditch The Greens

     I am not a fan of lettuce. If I must have lettuce I prefer things like Spring Mix or Romaine. So any salad I find that doesn’t involve lettuce is awesome. For this salad, simply use cooked quinoa in place of the greens. However, if you aren’t a fan of quinoa try rice, couscous, pasta, or riced cauliflower. You can also use any herbs you like in place of the parsley and/or mint. 

Quinoa Salad

Green Goddess Salad Dressing or any salad dressing of your choice
Protein of your choice (I recommend chicken, steak, or shrimp though this is optional in this salad)
Chickpeas or Black Beans
Feta Cheese (or crumbled Tofu)
Bell Peppers, diced (red, green, yellow, or orange...or a mixture of all)
Zucchini, diced
Green Onions, diced
Cooked Quinoa
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Fresh Mint, chopped (optional, but tasty)

 If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. If you try any of these recipes, I'd love to hear about it! 

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more (maybe some food videos even), Become a Patron!

Monday, July 6, 2020


     Having been raised in North Florida, by a family who has been in the South for many a generation (most of us are in Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas), I was raised with a few Appalachian traditions. One of these traditions was “Poke Salat.” Now, my parents didn’t prepare this traditional dish, but I did hear about it quite often and some other family members did prepare it occasionally. Though it sounds like a springtime salad, it’s actually a pot of cooked greens. I promise you that if anyone ever serves you a salad and calls it Poke Salat, you should run away as fast as you can. This is because Pokeweed is highly toxic and it has to be cooked several times over in order to be edible.

     Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a poisonous, herbaceous plant that has long been used for food and folk medicine in parts of eastern North America, the Midwest and the Gulf Coast where it is native. Poke is a member of the Phytolaccaceae (Pokeweed) family and is a perennial herb. It grows up to 11ft tall, though the variety commonly found in the South tends to stop at 8ft. Single alternate leaves are pointed at the end with crinkled edges and an unpleasant smell. The stems are green, pink, or red. Flowers greenish-white in long clusters at ends of stems that will develop into dark purple berries resembling blueberries or elderberries. Pokeroot is best dug up in the fall after the plant has died back for the winter. This is when the plant is the most medicinal and the least toxic. The next best time to dig the roots is in the early spring when the leaves are just coming out (as long as you're sure what you're picking!). The leaves and berries are harvested from Autumn to the following Spring and can be found in North & South America, East Asia & New Zealand. Though it has become naturalized all over Europe. It’s often found on edges of fields or cleared lands and roadsides. Pokeweed poisonings were common in eastern North America during the 19th century. The roots were often mistaken for parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, or horseradish. The berries are often mistaken for elderberries. Use caution! And remember, if you’re not 100% sure of your identification, DON’T consume/use the plant!

     Poke is predominately toxic to mammals, though some small mammals have a resistance to the toxin. The berries are an important food source for birds and can be eaten by them because the small seeds hard outer shell simply passes through the birds' digestive system. It’s also a valuable host plant for a number of butterfly species found here in Florida.

I recently filmed a video about this beautiful plant.

Medicinal Uses:

Common Names- Poke, Pokeweed, Poke Salet, American Pokeweed, Cancer-root, Cancer Jalap, Inkberry, Pigeon Berry, Pocan, Poke, Poke Root, Pokeberry, Reujin D Ours, Sekerciboyaci, Skoke, Virginian Poke, Yoshu-Yama-Gobo, Yyamilin 

Scientific NamePhytolacca americana and P. acinosa 

Edibility- Pokeweed is edible when cooked properly. The young shoots and leaves are boiled in two changes of water. The leaves taste similar to spinach and the shoots taste similar to asparagus. Properly cooked Poke is known as "Poke Salet," not Poke Salad as it is commonly called. Poke berries are cooked and the resulting liquid used to color canned fruits and vegetables. Caution is advised as the whole plant is poisonous raw, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

Summary of Actions- Alterative, anodyne, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antitumor, antitussive, antiviral, cathartic, detoxifying, diuretic, emetic, expectorant, hypnotic, lymphagogue, narcotic, purgative, and resolvent. 

Energetics- Acrid, slightly sweet, root slightly bitter. The root is slightly cooling and drying. The berries are slightly warming.

Parts Used- Leaves, Berry, and Root 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Shang Lu, Poke affects the liver, spleen, bladder, and small intestine meridians. It clears toxins, reducing the swelling associated with goiters, arthritis, neuralgias, breast lumps and tumors, eczema, skin dermatitis, ulcers, and similar wounds. Shang Lu removes statis, especially when associated with abdominal distension, nausea, heavy feelings, moodiness, and constipation. It also clears up Liver Qi stagnation, which is commonly associated with breast lumps, tumors, acute mastitis, as well as chronic benign and malignant lumps. Like in Western Herbalism, Shang Lu is considered to be drastically purgative. 

Traditional Native American Uses- Some Native American tribes used Pokeweed as a purgative (to stimulate bowel clearance) and an emetic (to promote vomiting). Many traditional cultures believe that doing so "cleanses" the body, expels bad spirits. The fruit was made into a red dye used in painting horses and various articles of adornment. The Delaware Indians were likely the first to prescribe pokeweed in medicine, using it as a cardiac stimulant. Indians of the Rocky Mountain region used pokeweed to treat epilepsy, anxiety, and neurological disorders. The Pah-Utes fermented berries in water to make a narcotic tea. The Cherokee used poke in a number of different ways. The leaves were often combined with Lemon Balm and made into a tea to reduce phlegm and calm the chest when there was a cold our cough. The root was used as a blood purifier and antibiotic. It was considered especially potent in treating kidney infections. It was also used to increase metabolism.

Antibiotic- Most herbalists turn to Goldenseal for its use as an antibiotic. However, it’s an endangered species. Pokeweed is also a great antibiotic with many of the same properties, but as a bonus, it’s not endangered. It’s often considered a problematic weed in the South. 

Lyme Disease- I know of several herbalists who have successfully used a tincture made from the root to treat Lyme disease.

Rheumatism & Fibromyalgia- Some modern experts believe that rheumatism was used as a blanket term for several issues in older medical texts. One of these issues is believed to be fibromyalgia. Most older medical texts that include the use of Poke have described it as being fairly effective in the treatment of rheumatism. The berries were consumed whole or a tea made from the leaves was drunk for this purpose. Sometimes Prickly Ash was added to the tea for rheumatism.

Endocrine Regulator- Poke helps to regulate your hormones. It has the most profound effect on the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, and sex glands. This makes it a prime herb to use in cases of sterility, impotence, low sperm count, and prostate issues.

Skin Conditions- Pokeweed has frequently been used in folk medicine to treat skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, and scrofula (tuberculosis of the neck). However, caution should be used with this plant as the sap can cause irritation, swelling, and an itchy rash in people with sensitive skin. Despite that, it is believed to have amazing anti-inflammatory effects that may help relieve localized pain and swelling.

Detoxifying- It is one of the strongest herbs known to promote cleansing and clear toxemia that also acts on the glands. Because of this, it has a long history of use for detoxifying the blood and body.

Thyroid- Poke is an old-time Appalachian remedy for hypothyroidism, especially goiter.

Auto-immune Disease- The root is taken internally in the treatment of auto-immune diseases (especially rheumatoid arthritis), tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, bronchitis etc. 

Dye, Ink, & Food Coloring- A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabric in fermenting berries in hollowed out pumpkin. Using the fermented berries, without the pumpkin, yields a pink-ish red dye. It was often used as red ink or dye in the civil war era. Many letters written home during the civil war were written in pokeberry ink, which now appears as brown ink. Pokeberry has also been used as a red food coloring and as a wine coloring agent. 

Toxicity and Dosage- It is a strong herb so dosages must be monitored and respected. (Even just one to two drops of tincture is enough and not more than ten drops is recommended.) Because it is so strong it is usually used in combination with other herbs that can help soften its approach without lessening its properties. In Appalachian folk medicine, the berries are swallowed as a treatment for arthritis and for immune stimulation. Only swallow one berry (either fresh or dried) at a time. One berry is the equivalent of one drop of root tincture. At doses of 1 g, dried poke root is emetic and purgative. At lower doses of 60 to 100 mg/day, the root and berries have been used to treat rheumatism and for immune stimulation; however, there are no clinical trials that support these uses or doses. 

Side Effects- Individuals show widely varying tolerance for poke. Some people can't handle more than three or five drops per day, while others can take 25 or 50 drops with no adverse effects. The side effects of poke include mental unclarity, spaciness, and out-of-body feelings. If you notice such feelings, it means you've found your tolerance level, so back off to a lower dosage. If you take way too much (such as mistaking dropperful for drops, which some people have done!), you may encounter more severe side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- All parts of the plant are toxic with roots being the most toxic, stems and leaves are less so and the least toxic is the fruit. The raw berry is toxic. If cooked improperly the juice from the leaves can cause severe stomach cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, death. The plant sap can cause dermatitis in sensitive people. The plant contains substances that cause cell division and can damage chromosomes. These substances can be absorbed through any abrasions in the skin, potentially causing serious blood aberrations, and so it is strongly recommended that the people wear gloves when handling the plant. Do not use this plat during pregnancy! Ingestion of poisonous parts of the plant may cause severe stomach cramping, nausea with persistent diarrhea and vomiting, slow and difficult breathing, weakness, spasms, hypotension, severe convulsions, and death. 

     I only included a basic introduction to this wonderful Appalachian herb. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!




Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere: American Indian Health and Diet Project: http://www.aihd.ku.edu/foods/pokeweed.html#:~:text=Uses,to%20humans%20and%20some%20animals. 

The Health Benefits of Pokeweed: Very Well Health: https://www.verywellhealth.com/can-pokeweed-provide-health-benefits-4587368 

Poke: Southeast Wise Women: https://www.sewisewomen.com/poke 

Poke (Shang Lu): White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/poke/ 

Pokeweed: Drugs.com: https://www.drugs.com/npp/pokeweed.html 

Pokeweed: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/p/phytolacca-americana=pokeweed.php 

Pokeweed, An Herb For All Things Pokey: The Herbwife’s Kitchen: http://crabappleherbs.com/blog/2007/07/31/pokeweed-an-herb-for-all-things-pokey/comment-page-2/ 

Pokeweed Herb: Alternative Nature Online Herbal: https://altnature.com/gallery/pokeweed.htm 


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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...