What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. February 26, 2020 , By James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P.

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Education Chairman Western Reserve Herb Society



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I’m posting this for anyone who  will appreciate this information. Many of you may have already seen it, as it is being posted all over the internet.  It is definitely a departure from our normal herbal articles but it is timely and necessary. I received from my sister Ellen, whose husband Dr. Peter Salk  over his lifetime has been very much involved with vaccine science, pathology and virology at the Salk Institute in San Diego, so I truly trust the source. This was written by a virologist who worked at UCSD in the 70’s doing early work on coronavirus’s.

Please do not substitute any of this advice for a good old fashioned trip to the Doctor if you begin to exhibit any symptoms at all! 

According to his research it is spread by contact, much more than air dispersion. He has lots of suggestions including the use of zinc. Jim and I truly hope that you find it valuable. --------

"As some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April. Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home's entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can't immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:

1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average - everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.

2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you - it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth - it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY "cold-like" symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available. I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this (edited: animal)-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available. I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share. Good luck to all of us!

James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P. --------- James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P., is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), and is also the Leader of the cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) Biospecimens Subgroup, Latin America Cancer Research Network (LACRN) Pathology Committee, and National Community Cancer Centers Biospecimens (NCCCP) Pillar. He also serves on the Board of Governors of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). Dr. Robb's research interests include molecular oncologic and neurotropic virology.

Playing with Dandelions!

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

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I  have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces, good wishes and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my fathers’  gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden, pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyway! We all know that the dandelion provides the first and last food for our beloved honeybees and for that reason alone they should be worshipped.

As a child, “Who put them there?”  was  always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them. They seemed so magical.   I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces.  I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower.  My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens!  I cried every time the gardeners mowed them down.  By the time I was 10  I finally convinced my father to just  let them be. That spring the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”.  I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear.  Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!

Dandelion or  as the French call it Dent de Lion or pissenlit  (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions are known to have strong diuretic qualities.  When eaten as part of a meal they are thought to be unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. In Iran, a wonderful green dip made of braised Dandelion leaves, onions and pine nuts dressed with lemon juice , olive oil and lemon zest is delicious when eaten with fresh yogurt and warmed pita bread.  Dandelion leaves eaten regularly are a marvelous tonic for the digestion and I love to make a simple wine  of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers.


Dandelion infused wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good Riesling or viognier.
Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with several cups of  freshly washed Dandelion flowers. I also add a cup of fresh Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena leaves! Add a cup of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse in a cool place for about a week.  Strain and decant the wine into a pretty decanter and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and dressed with just a touch of honey and salt for the perfect springtime aperitif!

 This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns please remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!

Have you ever heard of Buzz Blossoms? You Will!

By Kathleen Hale ~ WRHS Unit Chair


There a tender member of the aster family that is showing up on social media and in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.  Spilanthes acmella goes by the common name Buzz Blossom, which is a big clue as to why it’s found appealing. While the leaves, both cooked and raw, have been used in northern Brazilian cuisine, it’s the blossoms that are now being used in fashionable and pricey cocktails. 

Why? Take a sip and your mouth goes numb. This appeals to some people. Spilanthes acmella goes by other evocative names: Electric Daisy, Toothache Plant, Tingflower and Buzz Buttons. The blossoms are attractive red and golden globes.  Their numbing nature has proven useful in numbing mouth pain.

An extract made from all parts of the plant is sold as “jambu juice”.  It makes you drool, which I suppose could also mean you can call it “mouth watering”.   If we choose to be nerdy, and I always do, we might designate jamba juice as a “sialogogue”, meaning that it stimulates the production of saliva.

But let’s get really nerdy.  As in, let’s stand in line for an hour or two in order to shell out $15.00 to the Disney Empire, Overlord to the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. 

Ladies and Gentlemen: allow me to introduce “The Fuzzy Tauntaun”. It is a signature alcoholic libation served at Oga’s Cantina. Oga’s is a “notorious watering hole” that has recently opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Note that, because there are no actual conventional liquor bottles in Oga’s, so you have to order a signature alcohol libation if you want any adult beverage.

Now, I'm sure that I don’t need to remind you that a Tauntaun is actually a space lizard that resembles a bipedal llama, and lives on the ice planet of Hoth.

After the unexpected Rebel victory at Yavin, the heroic Luke Skywalker and his companions sought refuge in a secret base on Hoth, and found a way to harness and ride Tauntauns around its snowy waste.  They were not docile mounts, and we are advised by Han Solo that they smell bad both on the inside and the outside.

Presumably, after the Rebellion abandoned Hoth, their whereabouts having been discovered by the Empire, the Tauntauns went back to gamboling in the snow drifts.


But here we have their alcoholic avatar.  The Fuzzy Tauntaun is made of Cîroc Peach Vodka, Bols Peach Schnapps and Simply Orange®, topped with tangerine, pure cane sugar and…BUZZ FOAM.  The taste of the beverage itself is mostly peach.  But the foam does apparently deliver a tingle followed by a numbness. In the picture above, it's the vibrant yellow cocktail!

There is a smoothie chain called “Jamba”, which seems to show up in college towns. They carry preparations of ginger, wheatgrass, cayenne, turmeric and all those good things.  But not jambu juice.

You can purchase extract of Spilanthes acmella from various online sites, where it is marketed for all kinds of things, including repelling mosquitoes, acting as a human aphrodisiac and a snake bite remedy.

How Disney concocts the buzzy foam for big money cocktails is a secret and I know better than to mess around in the realm of Disney secrets. 

Or those of the Empire.

The Herb of The Year! Why do we study it?

 By Kathleen Gips ~ Ex- Officio Western Reserve Herb Society

Rubus or Brambles- The Herb of the Year 2020

The Herb of the Year ~ What is it all about? ~ Why do we study it?

In 1995 the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day every year. Soon after, they selected an herb for each year. The criteria were that an herb must fall into at least two of these three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

At the time I was an active member in this marvelous organization dedicated to the retail and business world of herbs. Our members were charged with educating the public about herbs during Herb Education Week. So the public would become more aware of herbs and their varied uses, we were to explore, in depth, the herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops. What an excellent way for the educators to be educated. Focus on a specific herb and learn everything about it. How exciting! I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect.

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I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year. Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I initially thought these were not herbs worthy of my passion. As I studied each of these herbs, I learned how wrong this first opinion was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs. In 2018 when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year  , I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!”

Worse yet, I am not even a beer lover. My first introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows". 

 I dutifully ordered hops for him, since they were an ingredient in his sweet dreams pillows that would be made in our workshop. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww! But then Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops. So that is why my Dad fell asleep while drinking a beer and watching a football game. It was the hops!

My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langdon from Mulberry Creek Herbs delivered to me to sell. Since my customers knew little about growing hops at the time, I was left with hops plants at the end of the selling season. So I planted them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season. What a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers! It was a traffic stopper and attracted a lot of interest. Everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops in their own garden. Imagine my surprise when it became my favorite landscape herb in the garden.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils of hops and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint! What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant. How useful it is in the garden landscape, the flavoring of beer and its calming medicinal properties. And there you have it!

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This is why the Herb of the Year is so important for those of us whose passion lies in the world of herbs. Our lives are enriched by studying the history, horticulture and uses of even the herbs that are not so well known to us!  We get to know these herbs by using them, observing them and even journaling about them and then suddenly a year has gone by and there is yet another new herb to get to know!

This year, our Herb of the Year is the absolutely delightful and sometimes completely frustrating Rubus, more affectionately known as Brambles, Raspberries, Blackberries or Brambleberries! This plant is definitely more familiar to me than Hops was, but nonetheless there is still so much more for me to learn!

The Herb of the Year fits very well into the mission of our Western Reserve Herb Society. Together we gather information about herbs and share that knowledge with the public.  So this year, we will all learn to be experts about  Brambles and we will  talk about them with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Join your fellow members as we stroll through  the Bramble patch in 2020, learning and teaching together.

The Rambling Beauty of Brambles!


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


This year, the Rubus genus is not only HSA’s January’s herb of the month, but it is the International Herb Associations herb of the year for 2020! The Rubus is a very large and diverse species and is part of the Rose family. Blackberries, raspberries, loganberries and boysenberries are all part of this delicious and festive group! The most common name for this boisterous genus is Brambles or Brambleberries, a name that always makes me smile having grown up with Jill Barklams delightful Brambly Hedge series! Somehow, the most fun always seem to happen under a canopy of rosehips and brambleberries!

I once read a wonderful story about Bramble bushes. It was in the mid 90’s in one of those wonderful new agey books (or as my son calls them “That weird hippy stuff  YOU read mother!) and the premise was that the all members of the genus Rubus have a collective consciousness that extends through an underground network all around the world. If I’m going to be honest with you, I loved the idea of that and I found it incredibly easy to believe. At the time that I read that book, I was still living on our farm in Burton Ohio where blackberries and black raspberries were flourishing around every corner. They drove my husband crazy because if you’ve ever had a bramble bush as a best friend, then you know just how prolific they really are. Every year before they’d flower, Jim would go into the thorny vines with his gloves and his clippers and every year he’d find more and more of them.

 Fortunately, when they began to flower, he’d have to leave them alone as the blooms are a major source of sweet nectar for the honeybees. He’s quite allergic to those bees, so if he missed a few the berries got their chance! Berry bushes are a bit like willow trees and If you drop just one clipping in a wet area, within weeks it will have taken root and begun to spread. I love to imagine that they are all entwining their tendrils in the earth underfoot and that they are all connected all around the world just like my little book said.

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By the time that we moved 21 years later, there were black raspberries and blackberries everywhere and to my absolute delight they’d become completely uncontrollable.  They didn’t all ripen at the same times and they were all amazing. We had our favorite patches but Alex and his best friend Jessica swore by the ones that grew down by our pond.  They didn’t start out down there , they came from some of the first clippings that my husband tossed over the fence as far away from the garden as he could find!

 When they were little, Alex and his friends Tyler and Jessica used to spend hours eating their way around the brambles.  They’d come running up with handfuls of the warm juicy berries for me and I loved them so much for the taste of course but more for the pleasure of knowing that these children that I adored were having an early experience of sustainability.  We’d share them and then they’d go running off for more.  I’d send them home covered in purple juice but thankfully their mothers forgave me! Alex is 32 now,  but he loves to reminisce about his childhood growing up on the farm and all of his favorite stories usually have something to do with those blackberries which I understand because they were so completely sweet and delicious!

 Tequila marries well with black raspberries, mint and a bit of sugar and surprisingly so does bourbon.  Black Raspberries and Meyer lemon juice mixed with  sugar, filtered water and cracked ice make a delicious and refreshing lemonade that is absolutely delicious and lovely to look at too! Fresh blackberries with arugula, fresh spearmint, ripe pear,  basil and burrata cheese is another favorite combination of mine. Served with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar  and olive oil, there really is no lovelier summer salad. Then there is fresh raspberry jam, a condiment in a class by itself. Whether you serve it with buttered toast, a savory white cheddar  or baked with a chicken breast or pork tenderloin, it’s always one of the most useful jams I make every summer.

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My first experience of the black raspberry as a medicinal tonic came when I was a child and I developed a serious tummy ache one day after eating too many pieces of very greasy pepperoni pizza. Instead of  going for the antacid in the cupboard, my mother vey wisely took out the bottle of  homemade black raspberry cordial that she kept in her medicine cabinet and poured  a nice bit of it into a cup of hot water. She gave it to me to sip and it has been my favorite stomach tonic ever since. Raspberry leaves and their fruit contain vast amounts of natural and easily assimilated vitamin C, B, A, E, Calcium and iron.  A cup of raspberry tea made with the a bit of mint , raspberry fruit, dried nettles and alfalfa and raspberry leaves really helped to ease my morning sickness. 

It’s been 17 years now since we sold our farm and I miss those black raspberries every summer.  We have created a lovely home in Cleveland Heights, with a huge front porch and gardens that wrap around the whole lot. I’ve planted an orchard now with lots of native fruits and herb beds, but until 4 years ago, it didn’t have any brambles! I have to admit that I finally planted some without asking my husbands permission.  Poor Jim! Well.. poor Jim until the first crop of enormous , juicy berries came in. After the first handful he was delighted, and although they still get wildly out of control and have ended up far from the places I have planted them, he is enjoying them very much. They were a great present for Alex that first summer when he came home from New York to find them fruiting wildly. It’s not often that you get to relive the past, but he went running out to the back yard when he saw them and stuffed himself until he couldn’t eat any more.  I hadn’t told him I’d planted them, I was keeping them a surprise. At this point, they’ve taken over my yard and my neighbors, but her children love them and I get to watch the cycle all over again. The brambly hedge is one of those wonderful plants that is capable of providing such amazing amounts of great joy.

Just keep your pruning shears sharpened.  

Only Connect!


By Kathleen Hale - Unit Chair,  Western Reserve Herb Society


Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”

― E.M. Forster, Howards End



It will surprise absolutely no one, that I am starting a new gardening passion in the New Year.  I’m growing mushrooms!  Well, I have a batch of Blue Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus var, columbinus) mushrooms starting down in my basement laboratory.  The Case Western Reserve University Farm, also known as Squire Valleevue Farm, offers classes in growing mushrooms.  Having taken precisely only one of those classes, and visited the Cave of Wonders that is the Farm’s Mushroom Cellar, I now consider myself an expert.

Well, maybe not an expert. But it does have me thinking a lot about mushrooms.  Spreading the mushroom spawn evenly through a bunch of newly pasteurized, wet, shredded straw, ready to stuff the mess into a clear plastic film cylinder, I remembered the packet of “Mike” or mycorrhizae, purchased from some overpriced plant catalog, that I carried around in my jacket pocket last spring, having been assured that roses and other plants absolutely love to be planted with a fungal assist around their roots.  Who knows? 

The thing is, the fungus world is complicated and fascinating.  As any gardener paying attention can tell you, plants communicate with each other. And fungi facilitate that communication. A mycorrhiza is a symbiotic association between a fungus and a plant. The fungus inhabits the plant’s root system.  This colonization benefits the plant’s nutrition, soil biology and soil chemistry. We don’t yet have a clue about all the services provided by mycorrhizae. This is new and exciting stuff. But one fascinating area of study is how the mycorrhizae act as “bankers”, saving up nitrogen to distribute to the plant roots in times of nitrogen shortage. Mycorrhizal networks don’t just help out individual plants.  They appear to facilitate communication and cooperation between plants.

Nerdy enough for you yet?  Well, I do have a point, and it has to do with good gardeners in a New Year.  We need to connect with each other.  More important, we need to connect in ways that are “mutualistic”, a word used to describe the relationship between plants and mycorrhizae. This sometimes can be difficult.  We are perhaps more complicated than those fungal tendrils, and less likely to explore new territory. We can be resistant to putting ourselves out there. Gardening can seem to be a solitary activity, until you realize the teeming world of organisms working around us.  

Our human gardening companions are worth exploring.

In the New Year, I challenge you to put yourself out there.  Only connect.

Mistletoe, Mischief and Magic!


By Kathleen M Hale, Unit Chair ~ Western Reserve Herb Society


I have nothing against the Druids.  But it must be said that (apart from the practice knocking on wood for good luck) they have not contributed a lot to our way of doing things… except at Christmas! Holly and ivy and Christmas trees, all are part of the Druidic legacy. But another persistent and peculiar Druidic Solstice custom involves the supposed fertility magic conferred by a parasitic plant, the Mistletoe.

There are more than a thousand varieties of Mistletoe throughout the world. It has many names, including birdlime, all-heal, golden bough, drudenfuss, iscador and devil's fuge. All are plant parasites. The European Mistletoe, Viscum alba, is most commonly found on apple trees, poplars, willows, lindens, and hawthorns.  North America’s Oak Mistletoe finds its hosts among a host of deciduous trees, and is named Phoradendron, Greek for “tree thief”. Once the link is established, the Mistletoe will syphon nutrients from the host plant. It gives nothing back in exchange.  Mistletoe will sometimes give up its own photosynthesis, and drain the life away from its host. Sometimes it will produce its own branches and leaves, growing from the host plant’s stem or trunk. The growth of the Mistletoe is slow, but persistent.  Its own life relies on the life of its host. The substance of the Mistletoe’s own stem is so slight that, in Nordic myth, it was deemed too inoffensive to offer harm to the gods as material for weapons.  Hence, the magic protecting Baldur the Beloved from harm neglected to mention weapons that might be made from Mistletoe.  Suffice it to say that Loki, God of Mischief, found a way.

 Once the host tree loses its leaves in the Fall, the Mistletoe, which produces a “witch’s broom” tangle of evergreen foliage, is clearly visible. In the deep Midwinter, this makes Mistletoe a star.


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Once the Mistletoe is happily in position, it can propagate itself.  It produces flowers, and later waxy white drupes or berries. Those berries are beloved by birds. The berries are filled with a thick, sticky gel, cradling the seeds of the Mistletoe.  Birds, eating the berries, are left with a sticky beak. As the bird cleans its beak by raking it against the bark of a tree, seeds from the Mistletoe are deposited into the new scratches. Or the Mistletoe seeds may find a new home after passing through the bird’s digestive track. The name “Mistletoe” comes from the Saxon for “dung on a tree branch”.

However, those berries are highly toxic to humans.  That’s one reason why the “Mistletoe” sprigs that you will find in your local garden center will be genuine plastic. The old custom of kissing under the Mistletoe involves removing a berry for each kiss, and a loss of the plant’s powers after the plucking of the last berry.  But I have found that magic lies in intention, not technicalities.

Modern study suggests that the Mistletoe, while needy and controlling, is not a bad neighbor.  Woodlands containing Mistletoes are hospitable to birds, animals and insects, probably because of the housing made available in the dead or dying host plants. This makes it an ecological “keystone” species. There is promising research underway using the Mistletoe to derive treatments for cancer in humans.

The Victorians loved to share Christmas ghost stories, and The Mistletoe Bough is one of the classics.  A number of stately manors claim to be the site of the sad events. In the 1830’s, the legend was memorialized as a ballad with lyrics by Thomas Haynes Bayly, and music by Sir Henry Bishop.


The mistletoe hung in the castle hall,

The holly branch shone on the old oak wall;

And the baron's retainers were blithe and gay,

And keeping their Christmas holiday.

The baron beheld with a father's pride

His beautiful child, young Lovell's bride;

While she with her bright eyes seemed to be

The star of the goodly company.

Oh, the mistletoe bough.

Oh, the mistletoe bough.


The mischievous bride, during the celebration of her wedding breakfast, decided to hide in a large oaken chest during a game of Hide and Seek. She hid too well.




And years flew by, and their grief at last

Was told as a sorrowful tale long past;

And when Lovell appeared the children cried,

"See! the old man weeps for his fairy bride."

Oh, the mistletoe bough.

Oh, the mistletoe bough.


At length an oak chest, that had long lain hid,

Was found in the castle — they raised the lid,

And a skeleton form lay mouldering there

In the bridal wreath of that lady fair!

Not, I must point out, the fault of the Mistletoe.  But, perhaps, the work of Loki, the God of Mischief, who has (we know) used Mistletoe as an innocent accomplice before. Perhaps it’s best to expect mischief under the Mistletoe.


I cannot find any artist associated with this illustration of "The Mistletoe Bough". If you know, please write me in the comments!