In and Out the Garden Gate - A Cottage Garden Transformation


The New Cottage Garden

Mary Lynn Fruit, Western Reserve Herb Society

September 2020

New Garden Flag

            As I recall now, it all started with a suggestion that the boxwood hedge which surrounded my Cottage Garden, was finally getting the best of me.  It would take me days to prune in the early summer months only to need pruning once again before the fall season.  So, in the fall of 2019, after serving faithfully for twenty years, the boxwoods were dug out - and a beautiful fence with towering arbors was installed in early 2020. 



What greeted me in the spring of this year brought tears and determination - a sweet garden in desperate need of rebirth - new soil, dreams of perennials for the pollinators, and  - of course -  delightful herbs.


            And so my journey began - in the midst of the pandemic and the uncertainty of what was happening to all of us - terribly missing my fellow gardeners of WRHS - I immersed myself in designing and planning the new cottage garden.  Clematis plants that had been dug out and wintered over in pots were once again planted around the arbors (and they took off!); peony shrubs that were moved to the back of the property (we have an "orphanage" for our plant residents that we just can't give up) are now situated around the fence; the sweet climbing rose that survived the installation of the fence is once again coming back to life; new teuteurs installed…and so on.




 Ah - the delight in buying new plants - the thrill never fades!  Pollinating plants and herbs - oh my! - Zinnias (which the birds and bees absolutely love!) as tall as me!  Hollyhocks and borage - foxglove and stachys, scented geraniums - sweet Dagmar Fraus; catmint and cosmos - how wild and carefree and beautiful! Wonderful thyme, basil, lovage, lavender, tarragon, rosemary…and the smiling faces of pot marigolds splashing color all around!   

Fairy Roses

            Believe me - a lot of trial and error this season (sometimes a lot more error I think), but most important are the small moments and memories that remain with me now.  The garter snake coming out the potting shed door that I almost stepped on; the kitties that come in the early morning to hunt; a sweet garden flag from my sister; the resident mouse; and the traveling Mr. Toady who returned at last - the birdies who nest and visit the birdbath - bees and butterflies and spiders, oh my! …

Fairy in the Garden

      If I could just for a time become a garden fairy with a small house of my own in the midst of the cottage garden…

Garden Visitor

  Cottage Elf

So as most of you gardeners know - gardens protect us; welcome us with open arms. They nourish our spirits and souls; heal us physically and emotionally.  I am so grateful for the many blessings that I have experienced this summer season.  I believe that gardening has the power to make this world a better place for all.  Time is so very fast and fleeting - don't let go of the moments that touch our spirits - those moments that are rare and beautiful and true.

Copyright: Mary Lynn Fruit 2020.
May not be reproduced or photocopied without written consent from the author.


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Your support is vital in continuing this important mission. Your gifts support education through our public gardens, our education outreach programs, and our scholarships.
Through your donations, The Western Reserve Herb Society is preserving our legacy of expanding and sharing knowledge of these wonderful plants and their impact on our lives, our culture, and our environment.
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Having Fun with Pesto!

 By Lynne Griffin- Vice Chairman, Western Reserve Herb Society

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Today, while I was working in our Western Reserve Herb Society garden,  someone asked me about basil pesto. I think that is a great topic for review this time of the year, when there is a huge amount of Basil around for us to find something to do with.  You just start with a good basil pesto recipe and if you don’t have one you can use mine.


Lynnes Fresh Basil Pesto

2 Cups of fresh Basil

2 cloves of Garlic

½ Cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

¼ Cup of Pine Nuts

½ Cup of Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the basil into a Chopper/Blender/ Processor and chop away. Then add the garlic, cheese and nuts.  Last add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Let it sit a few minutes for the flavors to blend.  Use on your favorite pasta or place into a freezer safe container.  This keeps in the freezer about 6 months.

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Let’s think of this recipe as a template and go outside of the box. Say you don’t have quite 2 cups of basil or even the same variety of basil. Let’s look for something to fill up that 2 cup of basil requirement.  1.  If you are growing more than one variety of basil.  Ask yourself, will it work here?  Just give it the smell and taste test.  If you enjoyed the smell and taste then it will probably do the job you need it to do.  If you didn’t, pass on it this time and leave it in your garden. 2.   There are lots of basils available and most of them can be combined to enhance the flavor of pesto. Consider combining ‘Genovese” with ‘Dolce Fresca’ (Sweet/Fresh), or Lemon Basil with ‘Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil “, or Basil ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ with any basil that you are growing.  By now you get where I’m going with combining different basils to make your pesto a culinary specialty all your own.

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Time to look at the other ingredients and this is important, know that you can always leave out the garlic.  Its flavor is really an important component in pesto but if it causes you or yours a problem, of course, leave it out.  The nuts are the next ingredient in the recipe.  Allergic to nuts?  No problem leave them out as well.  You can still make a delicious pesto.  I f you can eat nuts safely but can’t find pine nuts or you just don’t like them, several different kinds of nuts will work just fine.  I have successfully used walnuts with the lemon basil combination, pecans with purple basils.  Regular sweet basil will work with any nuts you have or choose to use.

The Parmesan cheese is also very important especially if you plan to freeze your pesto.  When you take it out of the freezer you want good flavor to be there.  What can I add to the necessity of using a top quality olive oil that you don’t already know? 

Now that concludes this segment of HAVING FUN WITH PESTO but that’s not all there is regarding making pesto. Pesto with other herbs and interesting combinations of herbs is possible.  Plus there is the fun application of pesto with an almost limitless variety of Pastas. Thats a whole other topic that I will be addressing here very soon! In the meantime, we'd love to know what you add to your pesto! Please feel free to let us know in the comments! 

The new book "Wild Remedies" is easy to use and enjoy!

Todays post was written by our guest author and good friend Paris Wolfe!

Former Blogmaster for The Herb Society of America, Paris Wolfe planted her first herb garden in 1990. She’s been growing, cooking and crafting with herbs ever since.


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I can’t decide whether “Wild Remedies” by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han, released in March 2020, is a foraging book or a healing foods book.  The authors go both ways with health benefits of “weeds” like dandelion, chickweed, violet as well as fruits like apples, blackberries, elderberries. It doesn’t really matter because the book, with its lush photographs, appeals to the garden goddess in me.

This isn’t an encyclopedic tome. And that’s a good thing. The authors limit the book to 25 plants -- most foraged – for a more comprehensive examination. Keeping it under control makes information accessible to the casual reader. Most, if not all, of this list can be wildcrafted in Northeast Ohio.

An experienced herbie and forager, I was impatient as the authors covered ecology basics and foraging “rules of the road” in the book’s first few chapters. These chapters include journal prompts and exercises that felt elementary to me. Or maybe I was just impatient to get to the action.


As the authors explored individual botanicals, I was smitten. These were plants I knew –and I was learning new ways to use them. Each chapter includes growth habits and summary information. Medicinal properties are discussed followed by information on ecology, harvesting and use. Chapters close with easy-enough recipes. Please consult your physician before using any herbal remedies for medicinal purposes.

I received my copy in April and started with what was in season … dandelions and violets.  The first thing I made was the Dandelion Maple Syrup Cake. The cream cheese-based frosting, walnuts and raisins made it seem a bit like carrot cake. Even the skeptical eaters at the table enjoyed it.

For my next production I made violet oxymel – a mixture of violet-infused white wine vinegar and honey. That was the essential ingredient in a Simple Violet Cocktail. The first cocktail was gin-based. I’m going to repeat the recipe with vodka. I might like that better.

I cannot wait to try recipes with plantain, wild mustard, nettles, purslane, burdock and so much more. I just need a prolific, untreated “weed” patch to supply the ingredients for healing teas, tasty side dishes, delicious desserts and enticing bath products.

Here is the recipe for the wonderful Dandelion Cake!




1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup raisins, chopped (optional)

1⁄4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)



8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup butter, softened

1⁄4 cup maple syrup

1⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)



For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 2-inch glass pie plate.
  2. Mix the butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the dandelion flowers and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. If using, mix in the raisins and/or walnuts.
  5. Press the batter into the greased pie plate. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.


For the frosting: Use a handheld mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired.


Assemble the cake:  When cooled, invert the cake onto a sheet pan or large, flat plate. Frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the dandelion flowers on top.


Interestingly enough, this earthy book has much interactive, digital support. Right away I joined its Facebook page and book club. On the Facebook page, members share their recipe successes, photos and questions You can get more information on these by visiting Wild Remedies Book. Or following the following links …







Photos were given to us with permission from the lovely authors who are shown in the 2nd photograph....

Anise Hyssop-An Unsung Herbal Workhorse


By Kathy Shriver - WRHS Website Chairman


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When I joined the Western Reserve Herb Society in 2016, I was excited to work in its historic Herb Garden. We were able to choose a section that peaked our interest and since I am obsessed with flowers, so jumped at the opportunity to work in the Edible Flower Section.  There we grow several dozen varieties of flowering plants and herbs and the blossoms of all of these are edible.  I was drawn to almost all of them because the flowers were bright and beautiful and lent themselves to being a show stopping part of a salad, baked goods, drinks or could be beautiful and edible garnishes.  And then there was this one lonely anise hyssop plant in the corner that I never paid much attention to.  You see, I don’t much care for the taste of anise and I had no idea what a hyssop was.  But what I did notice week after week was what an amazing bee magnet this plant was. 

Fast forward to 2018.  I made a late-in-the-gardening- season trip to a local organic nursery to buy some herbs for my home garden.  The selection wasn’t as grand as it would be at the beginning of planting season so I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, but I saw some anise hyssop there and thought to myself since this is the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, let me add a few of these….at least the bees love them.  I hadn’t done any research about them and planted the four plants entirely too close together, not realizing how tall and wide each one would grow.  By the end of summer, these 4 plants had grown into quite an impressive “hedge” of tall, purple blooms surrounded by pollinators of all kinds:  Bumblebees, honey bees, and butterflies buzzed constantly from flower spike to spike.  Brushing up against the foliage to harvest other herbs released a sweet smell of anise into the air.  I decided one day to taste some of the leaves and flowers.  I was amazed at how sweet the flowers were and that the anise flavor was not as strong as I thought it might be. 

In the very early spring of 2019, I noticed some purple foliage poking through the soil.  I couldn’t figure out what it could be.  It seemed to be in the very spots I planted the anise hyssop the previous year, but purple?  Lo and behold, as the spring progressed and the weather turned warmer, the purple foliage started becoming more lush and more green.  I recognized the telltale shape of the semi heart shaped/triangular leaves and realized this was in fact the anise hyssop coming back.  It is a hardly perennial to Zone 4 although it is considered “short lived” perennial i.e. dies after about 2-4 seasons.  However, it is a self-seeder and as I discovered, I had several volunteer plants sprouting up around my raised garden bed.  Unlike other mints, anise hyssop doesn’t spread like wildfire so it is easy to relocate unwanted volunteers and keep the wanted plants from crowding out others.  Just keep in mind, it can get up to 3 feet in width and up to 6 feet in height so it will do best in the back of a flower bed (too bad mine is planted front and center and hides my calendula) and should be given plenty of its own space.  Once again, as the growing season went on, my anise hyssop “hedge” took shape.  This year, it grew so tall, it actually fell over on itself.  But even then, the pollinators came, and came, and came some more.


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I realized, as many others who also grow anise hyssop find, that it is a very useful herb that is often overlooked.  For one thing, it’s not well-known.  Had it not been the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  My preferred nursery always carries it, but your average garden center won’t.  Even though anise hyssop is not considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) like more well-known herbs such as basil, rosemary or even lavender, herb gardeners have been cooking with it for decades, but you won’t find it among the fresh herbs for sale even at the most high end grocery stores.  And don’t try to look for it amongst the dried herbs and spices or extracts.  Anise hyssop is not that anise i.e. anise or anise seed-the herb that imparts a licorice taste or what you’d find as anise extract in the baking aisle.  Nor is it star anise-the lovely star shaped spice that makes frequent appearances in recipes this time of year. Despite its name, anise hyssop doesn’t contain high amounts of the principal component of anise, a compound called anethole and in fact, there are those (myself included) who think anise hyssop smells more like French tarragon or fennel than anise.  Which is why many prefer to refer to anise hyssop by its botanical name of Agastache foeniculum, rather than its common name.

Agastache takes its name from the Greek words ‘agan’ meaning very much and ‘stachys’ meaning spike.  The Latin ‘foeniculum’ refers to the fennel-like smell and taste.  Like other members of the Agastache genus, A. foeniculum is part of the mint family and can be identified as such by its square stems and its oppositional leaves.  The flower heads or inflorescence are made up of hundreds of tiny pale purple-blue or white flowers that produce nectar all day long.  As a result, pollinators find this plant a wonderful food source.  In fact, it has also been nicknamed “Wonder Honey Plant” by beekeepers who are known to plant A. foeniculum close to their hives.  The inflorescence flowers for up to 80 days. 

Although A. foeniculum thrives in dry, rich and neutral soil, it can also be found growing in the random crack near where seeds may have fallen the season before.  It does best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade.  Though the original plant may only live 2-4 seasons, because A. foeniculum self-seeds, one is sure to have additional plants year after year.  The taproot that forms helps give the plant its drought resistance.  It is also fairly heat, deer, disease, and pest resistant making it a great herb for someone who has areas in their garden where nothing else seems to grow.  Besides making for a pretty flower garden or a great way to draw all kinds of pollinators to your yard, A. foeniculum can be used to compliment fresh cut flower arrangements, create beautiful dried floral arrangements or made into potpourri.  In the kitchen, both the leaves and flowers can be used to make teas, cordials or infuse honey or liquor.  They add flavor and color to salads, custards, ice cream, and baked goods.  The flavor also compliments savory dishes like pastas, fish and beef.

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Agastache foeniculum can also be used for natural beauty or spa products because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory, cleansing and soothing properties and made into fascial masks, skin sprays and salves, or bath soaks.

So if you have some space in your garden this spring to sew some seeds or are able to find some anise hyssop plants at a specialty nursery, please don’t pass up the opportunity to add what will become an “herbal workhorse” to your yard.

"the upside of house arrest by one wishes she was really an herb gardener but is just one who tries".  Episode 1

 By Bobbi Henkel - Western Reserve Herb Society Garden Co-Chair
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Before I retired, a friend gave me a book to write down one thing every day that I was grateful for.   She suggested that if I wrote down the things about work I hated and wouldn't miss, then when I was home and bored, I would look back and read them.   It is truly hard for me to imagine I will look back at this particular  House Arrest era and reminisce.   BUT......
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     1.   I can drink my morning coffee looking out at my back yard and deciding what I'm going to do based on the weather and how well I slept and I watch the birds.   I have 3 bird feeders.   Maybe the birds have always been there in numbers, but now I see them.   I have an X rated movie going on out there.  There are horny birds chasing each other with ridiculous speed and reckless abandon.  My holly bush has turned into a Bordello.  It's just shocking.    And, the bird feeder my kids bought me that is squirrel proof?  Hah.  And, it isn't deer proof either.
    2.   When I walk the dog, I pass neighbors who smile and wave more than ever before.  My dog just doesn't understand "social distancing."   She sees the same dogs she has sniffed and greeted before in that mortifying doglike way.  But now, their owners and they have to stand farther away.
She is so BUMMED out. She gets that really pathetic look on her face and ends up with a treat. But she really rallies when we get to the baby's house.
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    3.   We are visiting our son, daughter in law, and first grandson twice a week.  Temperatures first, and we don't go if anyone even thinks they don't feel good.  Didn't start until we'd all been in and away for 2 weeks.  But, that baby is keeping us going. 10 months old, he acts out when he doesn't get his way. He has brief tantrums for not being allowed to walk  down the steps, because the yogurt puffs in his bowl are gone,  because he doesn't want to nap,  because he has to lie down to get changed and other life shattering tragedies. And, he  can be instantly distracted by a good game of peek a boo with his favorite blanket.  Or singing "Wheels on the Bus".   We are entertaining him so his working from home parents can get some work done.  We are treated to someone else buying our groceries at the store when we haven't gotten something but "need" it.   Mostly, we just love seeing them and they give us joy.  And we experience vicarious relief through those tantrums.
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   4.   Back to the dog walks.  Three doors down, there lives a six-year old red headed girl. She and her family were out Christmas morning riding her brand new bike this year.  Just a full of Joy of Living kind of kid..  Well, a week into school closures this 4x6 foot rainbow appeared on her window with the words "Keep smiling."  This week, there was an arrow in one end of the horseshoe driveway and an arrow out on the other end.   And, balloons were on the mailbox.  And, we watched the first drive thru Birthday Party I've ever observed.   Treat bags picked up from the entrance.   BD presents left on a table.   Paused cars singing "happy birthday" to the beaming child on the front porch.   Lemonade from lemons.
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    5.   So, when your husband can't sneak out to the gym or to the library, he kind of has no excuse not to help Spring Clean.   So, we actually moved the bedroom furniture and vacuumed behind the dresser and under the Queen sized bed and the bureau.   I think I probably last did that before we painted that room and the painters wanted the furniture either out or pushed into the center of the room.   I'm not revealing when that painting occurred.   I'm also not revealing the size of the dust-bunnies we found under that bed.   I thought of competing with others who have the nerve to confess.   But, it's no contest.  YOU CAN'T TOUCH MINE.
 6.    But the contest I really do want to start is this one:   Who has the worst looking hair in this no beauty shop/barbershop/dog grooming era?   I've got my husband beat so far, but the dog is gaining on us both.  (My grandson might win but his is cute and hasn't ever had a haircut yet.) He probably thinks everyone looks like him.
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7.   So my herbs.  Oh yeah. I got cuttings from our Fragrance section last fall and tried to root them.  Well, I cut those Pelargonium below the nodes and stuck them in dirt, or put them in water.  I kept them damp and I changed the water.  Well, I changed the water up through the holidays and then, well maybe not so much.   Anyway, all the dirt clipping grew.  I have about 40.  Almost none of the water ones sprouted any roots.   There must be a trick, or maybe it was too cold out on the screened in porch, or maybe they were a different species. Or those holiday pauses in changing the water?    But, anyway the only problem is I didn't label which Pelargonium I was trimming or plugging in.    So, no worries:  I'll just look them up on line and identify them.   I downloaded PlantSnap and got answers for 4 out of 5 of what I think are different plants.   But I got at least 6 different FAMILIES of plants for the last pot.    I'm bringing that one in to our garden and letting the pro's tell me what I have.
Want me to send you pictures and you guess?

Join us for a virtual tour of our Western Reserve Herb Society Gardens!



We were so fortunate last year to have had beautiful videos made of our gorgeous herb gardens that we lovingly tend down at The Cleveland Botanical Gardens. We are closed right now due to Covid -19, but this gives us the perfect opportunity to show these off! I'll be putting a new one up every couple of days! 

Be safe and be well! Spring in it's full glory is coming soon!

Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society

Garden Overview - Western Reserve Herb Society from Blue Heron Productions on Vimeo.


The Feeling of Gardens to Come....

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Chairman of Education Western Reserve Herb Society

This was written by my husband Jim one day after he came to pick me up from working in our beautiful Western Reserve Herb gardens. 

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Strolling through a large garden I found myself captivated by the smile on the Gardener's face, so I stopped for a moment to watch her at work. She looked up at me, stood up-right and in a wonderfully gentle voice she asked "can there be a more lovely day?" Finding myself in the midst of this most colorful garden with a bright blue sky and pleasant warm sunshine I not only agreed, I knew it was true.

"It is indeed just so lovely" I replied.  

I paused for a moment, but eager to keep the conversation going I asked her the first question that came to mind, "What do you do with your time when you are not in this beautiful garden?"

She looked at me and asked, "when am I not in my garden?" as a large grin spread across her cheeks revealing the most wonderful and generous wrinkles of joy.  

"Yes", I said, now feeling even more inspired.  "How about before you fall asleep or when you wake up?" I asked, sincerely wondering how she lived life outside this beautiful place that she obviously took such great pleasure in.

"That just might be the times when I do my best gardening work" she said, relaxing herself for a moment as she engaged me in conversation.  

As she continued I noticed a natural patience in her demeanor, which was easily portrayed by her soft and smooth voice. "Every night just before I fall asleep I am enveloped in the feeling of gardens to come, the one's that express such beauty and joy as I have yet to produce.  I know they are coming, because as I "see" these wonderful visions I can feel them as if they are real, I can smell them and touch them so vividly. They are to me in that moment as real as where you and I are standing right now. “

My mind was mesmerized by this picture she had so gracefully painted for me. My feelings rested contently in this garden vision, full of such beauty that was beyond the glorious place where we were both standing.

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"Of course, she laughed, my mornings are something else altogether".

 "I awake in the morning and in that moment I am present to a feeling of appreciation for all the joy and wonder that awaits me!"

She paused for a moment, smiling as she looked to the sky…

then looked at me and continued...

"The morning is when my feelings take root, backed by the images that spring forth in my mind, to bear fruit throughout the day, much like the seeds I tend here in this very garden."

"We often refer to it as gratitude, or appreciation, but for me it is like gardening, for when I open my eyes in the morning that is where my craft begins. I know in my heart that to be a good gardener it is so important to tend the soil, and to ensure the seeds have the right amount of sunlight, and always provide the right amount of water based on the unique characteristics of your plants."

She paused again, without a motion, as if to just take in the beauty that comes from an unseen place that at that very moment surrounded us.

"I feel that gardening has given me a gift for creating beauty both here" she said gesturing to the landscape around us, "and here" she said as she softly reached up resting her hand in the center of her chest. "It’s as if the sunshine, water and soil are just symbols for the thoughts, feelings and actions that, when properly tended to, ensures the same richness of experience in life as a well-tended garden, bringing to our senses the most wonderful sites, tastes and smells! "

She leaned upon her spade and smiled.

After a moments pause, she looked at me directly, eyes filled with a soft twinkle, choosing her final words with care. “For me it is such a blessing to know that one's life can be so whole and complete, no matter your career or passion.  I guess you could say that I am, simply put, a peaceful happy gardener –  both within and without, wherever I go, now in this conversation, while I eat and yes, even when I sleep. It brings me such joy that I cannot help but to wish this blessing for everyone I know.”

~James Gehring

Addressing the Fears currently surrounding the use of Elderberry Products!

By Beth Schreibman Gehring- Chairman of Education Western Reserve Herb Society

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Good afternoon everyone! Wherever this finds you , I hope that it finds you well and happy, safely surrounded by your loved ones! 

I've written this article in response to an email that has been making the rounds concerning the possibility of elderberry products exacerbating the dangerous phenomenon that is known as the Cytokine Storm, which we are hearing about constantly right now as we are learning more and more about COVID-19. This email was sent to me last night, but this wasn’t the first I’d heard of the concern about elderberry and cytokine storm. I'm a herbal educator who likes to work with the medical community, even though I’ve always been a proponent of traditional herbalism.

For me, simply getting the facts without demonizing a generally helpful herb just makes sense. What I discovered when doing the research the other day for someone else who brought this concern to me, was that much of this misunderstanding was coming from several articles posted on some of the online mothers groups. There’s even one that uses an article from the Lancet to try to back up the claims. I spent all afternoon combing the Lancet articles and they had been completely taken out of context, simply to prove the point with no mention of elderberry at all. 

What is going on with this new scare is not unlike the anti-vaccine conversation, where many hypotheses have quickly turned into statements of “fact”, blurring the real truths usually found in the center between both sides of any argument. I mean no offense at all to anyone who is anti-vaccine but only pointing out that once that happens, hysteria breaks out quickly in this information age and that is what appears to have happened here. This has many of us who are involved in herbal education really upset right now. It’s happening because people are so scared and I don’t blame them but they need to use the information they find correctly and without making simple assumptions out of fear.  

The email sent last night was sent to me by someone whose pediatrician sent it to her.  I don’t blame the Pediatrician for being upset at all and for asking their patients to discontinue using it. The liabilities  would be huge if anything were to go wrong, even if elderberry had nothing really to do with it. We live in a very litigious society. I have since I received it, seen this posted several different places in unrelated sources which leads me to believe that it's being grabbed and dispersed without any real research. 

That being said, most of the pediatricians, functional and family physicians who work directly with herbs and herbalists believe that elderberry does not contribute to the phenomenon of the cytokine storm. That being said, they/we are also very cautious about suggesting it to anyone who is known to be immune compromised. That is just common sense. We’ve known forever in the herbal community that elderberry can ramp up the immune system and  like I said last night, it should never be suggested to anyone who is known to be immune compromised or anyone for that matter who is using any medicines to help promote an immune response.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or lupus, you really need to discuss using elderberry with your Doctor. For instance, my brother is diabetic and also on anti- rejection drugs. There’s no way he should ever consider taking it. When my father was fighting an antibiotic resistant superbug, we did not use it because his immune system was already too compromised and because he was also fighting a host of autoimmune issues. He was on Proscar for his prostate and Plaquenil for his rheumatoid arthritis and we felt that elderberry could have stimulated his immune system too much.

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 Elderberry should never be used by anyone who is taking Theophylline for asthma or other respiratory conditions because it can reduce the levels of those drugs, causing them to not work as well. If you are taking a diuretic it’s a no go because elderberry is already a diuretic and elderberry also has laxative qualities. Diabetics need to be really careful because elderberry can reduce blood sugar too much and too quickly. It’s contraindicated for anyone on chemotherapy as well. These are very practical things though and this information is easily available from any pharmacist and most good herbalists already know it because we have to be so careful. In my own experience, these contraindications are often not as well known by many Doctors, which is why I always say to become your pharmacists best friend and then share what you've learned with your Doctor!

Personally, elderberry is not part of my immunity arsenal except in cases like this when I am trying to be extra cautious. For times that aren’t as urgent I personally rely on a really healthy diet, lots of sleep, meditation, movement, plenty of water and green tea, bone broth to which I’ve added lots of fresh ginger, garlic and fresh turmeric, zinc  (in low amounts), vitamins C, D and B, refrigerated Probiotics, Prebiotics, astragalus, olive leaf extract and a reishi mushroom mixture.

When a nasty bug is circulating I’ll generally begin to take elderberry right after I’ve had the direct exposure and continue it for about 7 days. If I still get sick what I’ve noticed for myself is that I generally recover faster. I discontinue its use very quickly, generally about three days into my illness and move on to zinc and Umcka, an African Geranium that is thought to help with recovery from colds and flus.  That’s  been the standard way most of us have used elderberry for years, it’s only recently that it’s become used as a daily prophylactic, as it's benefits became more widely known by the general public.  

However, these are different times. I don’t blame anyone for using it that way right now ( I do blame them for hoarding it, that’s just silly!) and for most, it’s generally very safe provided it’s made correctly, even if you take it daily which I do not ever personally recommend. Most commercial preparations are made very well and are generally safe. Several years ago I spent months teaching so many young mothers who were trying to making the syrup themselves. Their kids were taking their syrup and vomiting because they had been using unripe berries and some stems as well as the ripe berries!  Unknown to many, elderberry is totally poisonous if not produced correctly. The plant is full of cyanide so there is a proper way to harvest it and produce it and for the record, most homemade elderberry syrup if produced correctly is as safe as anything you can buy.  

 I have been waiting for Aviva Romm to weigh in on this before I wrote about this. Aviva is one of the only Doctors (Yale Medical School) that I know of who is also a highly trained herbalist and midwife. I’ve loved and followed her work for years.   She’s always "no nonsense" which is one of the things I love about her.  She has created a COVID-19 site and you can find the link here. I am grateful to be able to share it with you; it is full of valuable information that we all need right now. 

I have sent the link to an article she wrote last night, but I took this piece out of it as it directly relates to her feelings about this.  

“What about Elderberry? There’s an enormous amount of  information and misinformation circulating on the internet about elderberry, COVID-19, and a phenomenon called ‘cytokine storm.’ The bottom line is that most of the evidence for elderberry is for the treatment of flu when taken during the first 72 hours of symptoms, not for the prevention of either colds or flu, though one study showed a reduced duration and severity of colds (upper respiratory infection) in air travelers compared to those who didn’t use it.

Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS), or in its extreme, cytokine storm is an immunologic phenomenon that occurs in advanced states of infection, for example, in ARDS, as mentioned above, a potentially severe advanced COVID-19 complication, sepsis, also a possible severe COVID-19 complication, or with certain specific immunologic medications (i.e., monoclonal antibodies). It was considered a major cause of death in the Spanish Flu, SARS, and H1N1 Interleukin-6 is a term often dropped in these conversations because it is an immune mediator that acts as both a pro-inflammatory cytokine but, simultaneously it also acts as an anti-inflammatory. The association with elderberry and cytokine storm is implausible;  elderberry is not able to cause cytokine storm whether used for prevention or infection, or during infection. Were one to be experiencing cytokine storm, one would be far too sick for herbal therapies; this is an ICU/life support level crisis. Bottom line: elderberry is unlikely, based on what we know at this time, particularly relevant for COVID-19 prevention or even treatment of mild-to moderate symptoms and if you’re concerned about cytokine release syndrome or cytokine storm as a result of this herb, don’t use it. “

It’s always important to check in with your primary physicians, pediatricians and pharmacists before starting any herbal supplements, especially in a risky time like this. The problems usually come when people don’t. Because herbs are herbs they are assumed to be safer. They are for the most part EXCEPT that people forget that they are medicines... some of the oldest in the world. In this age of modern pharmaceuticals they can be dangerous because of how they can contraindicate with those medicines, something everyone needs to know and check out for themselves. For example, take the benign and delicious cranberry... healing for most, but not if you are taking blood thinners as it can possibly increase the risk of bleeding.
I always tell my clients, "You are responsible for your own health. Don't give your power away. In this day and age of Google, ignorance is definitely  a choice. Learn everything you can and ask as many questions as you need!"  
 I do love Dr. Aviva Romms site and she’s always really on top of things. If you get a chance, take a look .. I think you’ll like her too and find her to be a wealth of really good and practical information!

I hope this helps! Stay well , safe and if I can be of help in any way please let me know!

Yours in beauty and magic,


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