Where we shop matters.
Please support indies.

To all of my friends, but especially to herbalist friends,

I follow a lot of herbalist-authors and book lovers, and much of the time, when you post about books online, you link to Amazon.  I’m writing to ask you to rethink that, because of the same priorities that make you as dedicated to herbalism as you are.  Amazon is easy and cheap, but for people who are trying to make mindful choices about how we impact the world, I want to propose other options.


We know that healthy ecosystems house a variety of species.  We also know that monoculture is a dangerous and unhealthy practice.  Amazon has, more and more over the last several years, been entering the realm of a monopoly, an economic monoculture.  And Amazon is not a benevolent dictatorShopping at Amazon results in a net job loss, and Amazon has a history of workplace abuses.   Amazon has not scrupled to strong-arm publishers with unfair negotiation tactics, nor to accept tax breaks while doing its best to avoid collecting sales tax.  In short, Amazon’s actions demonstrate a failure to value employees or community, and it doesn’t even seem to genuinely value the books it sells.  The way I see it, Amazon is the Monsanto of ideas.  I don’t want Monsanto to have control of our seeds and our food supply, and I don’t want Amazon to have control over the way we share information, ideas, and stories.

Please also take into consideration that Amazon is in direct competition with local retailers, including not just independent bookstores but kitchen shops, grocery stores, toy stores, outdoor gear stores, garden stores, and more.

dock+and+nettleWhat I do want is a world full of strong local economies that house diverse businesses.  These businesses are the wildflowers of Main Street.  The ornery baker who bakes the best bread you’ve ever tasted.  The farmer who hand-delivers CSA shares to each and every home after he gets snowed in and can’t bring them to the farmer’s market.  The bookseller who can help you find a story that changes your life, or a thoughtful gift for your daughter, or an herbal book you didn’t even know existed.  These are the nettles and the dandelions and the mullein of our economies.  These are the businesses that will hire people for meaningful jobs, the business owners who see the results of their decisions and will, over time, help heal our broken economy and society.  These are the people I want to have influence: many people in each community, not one CEO who has power over the fate of thousands.

Cultivating Wildflowers

dandelion+and+thymeThere are other ways:

When you link to a book you’ve written or one you want to recommend, consider using an IndieBound link.  IndieBound, a network of independent bookstores, even has an affiliate program.  When you buy a book, please buy local.  (Find your local bookstore here.)  Even if the herbal book you’re looking for isn’t on the shelf, indie bookstores can often order it in quickly.

If you are self-publishing a book, please consider the many alternatives to CreateSpace.  CreateSpace is fully owned by Amazon.  Because of this – and because of objections to the way Amazon does business – many indie bookstores won’t carry books published or printed by CreateSpace.  Lightning Source is one excellent option.  Even better, there might be a company local to you that you can work with.  (Remember to ask where their books are printed.  Unless you’re working directly with a local printer, there’s a chance that the publisher is actually using CreateSpace as a printer.)

If you run a nonprofit, please just say “no” to Amazon Smile.  This post by bookstore consultants Paz & Associates asks how indie bookstore contributions compare to Amazon Smile.  The upshot is that, for every $10,000 in purchases, Amazon Smile will donate only $50.  An indie bookstore is likely to donate $1000-2000 out of that $10,000 to schools and nonprofits.

I know that, by asking you to buy local, I’m (in many cases) asking you to spend more money.  But you get what you pay for:  If you want a world where Amazon controls the publishing industry, than only pay what they’re asking.  If you want a world full of diverse voices and strong local/independent businesses, you need to invest in that world.

Anna Lappe said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”  Please cast your votes for a world full of wildflowers, a world full of healthy ecosystems and healthy local economies, a world where no one organization has too much control, but rather where we acknowledge and honor that we exist in a web of interdependence.


It’s a Giveaway!

giveaway graphic 10-2015One of my favorite holidays is just around the corner, and, to celebrate, I’ve put together a giveaway!  This will end at midnight on Halloween, and one winner (picked at random from the comments below) will get these treats:

  • a PLANT WEEDS: THE “S” MAKES IT LEGAL t-shirt.  It’s a unisex size XL in a nice dark chocolate brown.
  • a copy of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide
  • three travel-sized spray bottles of Urban Moonshine bitters (one each of their maple, original, and chamomile bitters)

I’m pretty excited about this little package:

UM spraysUrban Moonshine bitters – in addition to being delicious – are ideal to have around during the approaching holiday season.  You can read here all about how bitters help curb sugar cravings, balance the appetite, soothe gas and bloating, and relieve upset stomach.  There are always more sweets around than usual through November and December and – whether I want to pass on having an extra cookie at work or alleviate the effects of indulging at a family party – I find it’s a huge help to have bitters close to hand.  These little spray bottles are convenient and also just fun.  Urban Moonshine’s maple bitters are a delicious choice for the bitters newbie (or anyone who’s mad about maple).  Their original bitters are yummy and complex, and the chamomile bitters are beautifully aromatic and soothing.  I’m a big fan of dandelions (as you can tell from the seed featured on the “Plant Weeds” t-shirts), and all three of these contain organic dandelion root and leaf.

RG Med HerbsRosemary Gladstar‘s Medicinal Herbs is a perfect introduction to herbalism for the beginner, but also has tons of material and recipes for more experienced herbalists.  This is the book I like to keep on hand to give to people who you can tell really want to try herbalism but just haven’t taken that first step yet.  The photography is gorgeous and – like most, probably all, of Storey Publishing‘s books – the design and layout are inviting and easy to use.  Rosemary’s style of writing is personable and rich, and her instructions are accessible and practical.  This book features sections on 33 easy to obtain plants, including culinary herbs like basil and turmeric as well as wild and weedy species like dandelion and plantain.  There are plenty of recipes in this book for enjoying during winter months, but it’ll also have you planning your garden and forays into foraging come spring.  You might even decide to set aside some space in your garden for weeds!

Image-2The PLANT WEEDS – THE “S” MAKES IT LEGAL shirt is my own design, and is locally printed by Amalgamated Culture Works.  It’s made of super soft organic cotton.  You can read more about these t-shirts here, and if you can’t wait until November to find out if you’ve won, you can order one here.

How can you enter to win these goodies?  I’m glad you asked!  You can enter up to four times.  When you log in to leave a comment, make sure to enter a correct and valid email address, so I’ll be able to get in touch with you.  Leave a comment for each individual entry:

  1. What’s one of your favorite weeds?  Do you harvest it?  Have you planted it?  Tell me in the comments of this post.
  2. Visit a Vaguely Bohemian shop.  Poke around a little.  Come back and – in a comment on this post – tell me what’s most important to you about these shirts (that they’re organic? that they’re printed locally?) or something you’d like to see (e.g. a different color or fabric).
  3. Follow Vaguely Bohemian via your method of choice, e.g. email (sign up in the righthand sidebar, under “Stay in the Know”) or  twitter (@vaguelybohemian).  Comment and tell me you’ve done this.  Are you already following Vaguely Bohemian?  Comment and tell me so.
    PLEASE NOTE:  You can also find Vaguely Bohemian on Facebook, but following on Facebook is excluded from this method of entry, due to Facebook’s terms.
  4. Share this giveaway, or a Vaguely Bohemian shop, via your method of choice.  This might be word of mouth, on your own blog, on twitter, etc.  Comment on this post and tell me you’ve done this.
    PLEASE NOTE:  Sharing on Facebook is excluded from this method of entry, due to Facebook’s terms.

Good luck!  The entry period ends at midnight EST on 10/31/15, and the winner will be drawn on 11/1.

Giveaway ends 10/31/15 at midnight EST. Open to residents of the US only.  (Shipping address must be in the US.)   Winner will be selected randomly and be notified by email. Winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Vaguely Bohemian will send the prize to the  winner directly. The products offered for the giveaway are free of charge, no purchase necessary. This giveaway is administered by Vaguely Bohemian only, and Facebook and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway.  If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Responding to Antibiotic Resistance:
a resource round-up

There have been some pretty scary headlines in the news this week.  Stuff like:
Drug-Resistant Bacteria Are Common Killers
Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Lead to 23,000 Deaths a Year, C.D.C. Finds
‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’
Yes, Agricultural Antibiotics Play a Role in Drug Resistance
While antibiotic resistance has been a concern for some time, I can’t recall it ever receiving this type of press or this degree of validation from the CDC.  And if the issue is old news to some, it’s no less urgent for that.  So, what’s to be done?

According to the New York Times, “The report said that “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” It also said that about half of antibiotic use in people is inappropriate.”  Will lawmakers and regulatory agencies regulate this from the top down?  Will large livestock farmers stop using antibiotics excessively?  I don’t know.  But we can influence this from the bottom up, by refusing to buy meat raised on farms that regularly dose their animals with antibiotics.  (Talk to your farmer, your butcher, and/or your grocery store manager to learn more about how your meat was raised.)  We can also talk to our doctors and figure out if we really need to take antibiotics for a given issue.  These are a couple of basic steps we can take, by deciding what goes into our bodies, and what practices we want to support.

Having made those decisions, it’s important to have tools to prevent the need for antibiotics – as well as alternatives/complements to pharmaceutical antibiotics should the need arise.

On this subject, I can’t recommend any book more highly than Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Herbal Antibiotics.  While this book provides great tools for fighting bacterial infections in general, it focuses on resistant strains.  Buhner also gives a comprehensive overview of the issue of antibiotic resistance, and describes in fascinating and alarming detail the ways in which bacteria are able to adapt and how they work in the body.  This book is readable for laypeople, though Buhner’s suggestions are well-documented enough to impress your M.D.  In addition to scads of scientific studies, Buhner draws on his own experience, as well as traditional and current uses among herbal practitioners.  A companion volume, Herbal Antivirals, is due out later this month.  (You can read Buhner’s response to the CDC’s report here, at Inside Storey.

For common ailments, I find Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health to be invaluable.  It contains recipes to help you fight off all sorts of issues, from earaches to UTIs.  My go-to recipe from this book is Fire Cider.  I always have some on hand, and I find it can help me fight off just about anything if I catch it quick enough.

As good as these books are, it’s of course far better not to get sick in the first place.  In addition to basic practices like getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising, taking adaptogens can help build a strong, responsive immune system.  My prime reference here is the aptly titled Adaptogens, by David Winston.  Adaptogens fall under a wider category of herbs referred to as tonics.  Tonics are safe to take regularly, and they build good health in general (though they often address one system especially).  Guido Masé’s Wild Medicine Solution includes a wonderful discussion of tonic herbs, and specifically addresses immunity.  The whole book is a great introduction to using herbs for better overall health.

I grew up believing that bacteria were no longer a threat, having been all but vanquished by pharmaceutical antibiotics.  One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from Buhner’s book on the subject is that bacteria are far more complex and adaptable than I imagined.  I no longer believe that we possess any “silver bullets” in this battle – and I think we’ll lose if we continue believing that we have the capacity to wipe out bacterial infections wholesale.  Instead, I think it’s time to take an honest look at our vulnerabilities and our strengths, at how it’s possible to support the immune system and give it a competitive edge, and at the rich and varied resources we have in the form of whole plant medicines.

Books featured in this post include:





Click any of the covers to order from your local indie bookstore.

Book Review: The Wild Medicine Solution, by Guido Masé

(Click to buy local.)

I’m giving a great big virtual cheer that The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic Plants has been published and is on my shelf. I’ve been anticipating this since I first heard last May that Guido Masé – clinical herbalist, cofounder of the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism, part of the team at Urban Moonshine, etc. – was writing a book. It’s even better than I’d hoped.  Why?

  • It presents a system for using herbs in daily life that’s so accessible it goes beyond simplicity into elegance.
  • Guido both speaks hard science and can translate it for laypeople.
  • Storytelling is a skill near and dear to my heart, and Guido uses storytelling to great effect to both illustrate the uses of herbs and to communicate how powerful these plants are – physiologically, spiritually, and culturally.
  • The recipes included are easy and delicious.  I’m particularly enamored of the hot chocolate recipe, which tastes smoothly bitter and rich, everything I’ve always wanted coffee and Guinness and hot chocolate to taste like.
  • The herbs that Guido focuses on are easy to find and generally very pleasant to take: Think chocolate, ginger, and peppermint.
  • The photos are gorgeous.
  • While many books on natural health can leave you feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle (as though to be healthy, you must rid your home of every molecule of plastic, drink only spring water newly burst from the earth, eat tons of fish, never eat any fish because they’re all contaminated, and spend every waking hour doing mindfulness exercises), The Wild Medicine Solution is inspiring.  You come away from this book feeling that your body is strong and resilient, and can deal with the challenges of modern life if only you give it the right tools.

The upshot: If you have to deal with the stress and stressors of modern life, please read this. Accessible to non-science geeks and very appealing to those who like some soul served up with their science, this book is also a good one for skeptics who want scientific proof before they’ll buy into the validity of using herbs.

If you still have doubts, you should wander on over to The Wild Medicine Solution page on Guido’s blog:  You’ll find that this book is also recommended by David Winston, Susun Weed, David Hoffman, Michael Tierra, and others, including Rosemary Gladstar, who said:

“I have a new favorite book in my herbal library. What is most masterful about Guido’s teachings and writing is the way he weaves folklore, tradition, and science flawlessly together, making a sensible cohesive argument for the daily use of these common and important plants. Guido has written a classic.”

Hear, hear.

Book Review: Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs

Click on cover to buy
from your local bookstore.

I’m far overdue in posting about this book, which has been out since the spring.  This is the newest from Rosemary Gladstar – an inspiring herbalist who I’ve been lucky enough to study with, and one of my absolute favorite herbal authors.  Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs is an ideal book for the beginning herbalist.  It starts out with easy-to-follow instructions on growing and using herbs, and continues with profiles of 33 easy to use and easy to find herbs.  Having read this book – written in Rosemary’s friendly and inviting style – I think even the most tentative students of herbalism will be inspired to dive in and start gardening and harvesting, concocting and decocting. I’d also recommend this for more experienced herbalists – in large part because this book focuses on some of the herbs that are so widely available that it’s easy to forget they’re also medicinal.  This is a gorgeously designed book that’s a pleasure to own and use.

Book Review: The Woman’s Handbook of Healing Herbs

Click on image
to buy from your
local indie bookstore.

I’m a big fan of this relatively new title by Maine herbalist Deb Soule. It strikes a wonderful balance in tone and depth: accessible to someone with little or no experience in herbalism, but specialized enough to contain valuable info for even experienced herbalists. It speaks from both the intellect and the heart, and is a nurturing and practical book for any woman interested in natural health to own.

The Woman’s Handbook of Healing Herbs covers a range of topics, and contains a true wealth of information for women who have specific health concerns as well as for women who just want to stay healthy.  Herbal formulas (with clear instructions) are set apart from the text, which makes them easy to find and follow.  The book is a trade paperback on good, heavy color, with lovely black and white illustrations by Susan Szwed.  It also contains an extensive list of resources, full citations, a Latin-to-Common-Name glossery, and a general index as well as an index of formulas and recipes.  A wonderful book to start with, these details make it all the more usable.

Author Deb Soule is the founder of Avena Botanicals.  A gardener, she teaches and consults with women and health care providers around the country.  She lives in Rockland, Maine.

Book Review: Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages

Click on image to buy
at your local bookstore.

Okay, I’ll be honest:  I don’t have any kids, I’m a youngest child, and I don’t babysit for love or money, so I’m not your obvious first choice to review a kid’s herb book.  But I will say that, while I purchased this as a gift for a young acquaintance, I want a copy for myself!  The recipes are not only fun but very, very useful.  The songs are a little silly, but are great learning aids for helping young and old remember which herb helps with which conditions.  The stories are absolutely charming.

If you’re buying this for a little one and not yourself:  Very young children will need some help with the text, so you get to share in the fun.  Middle grade children will be all set with the text, but will need some help with many recipes.  All children will need your help in either safely IDing and wildcrafting plants, in growing an herb garden, and/or in buying dried herbs from the store.

I totally recommend this, for young and old.  And just in case you’d like some advice from someone who knows all about children, no worries:  I asked my mom to take a look at the book, and she recommends it too!

Book Review: Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care

Click image to
buy at your local
indie bookstore.

This slender, down-to-earth volume compiles a working holistic veterinarian’s recommendations on common feline health problems, as well as maintenance of good health.  It’s readable, practical, and accessible, even for someone with little or no experience in herbalism.  Experienced herbalists might not find a ton of new information here, but it’s still nice to see things laid out with an eye to a cat’s needs, especially since not all herbs that work for humans are safe for cats.  Kidd also has some interesting and useful notes on how to get your cat to take herbs in the first place, and which herbs they’re likely to take willingly.  This book has a permanent place on my shelf, and I look forward to helping support my cat’s health with some of the herbs Kidd recommends.

Book Review: Backyard Medicine

Click Cover to Buy
from your Local
Indie Bookstore

Backyard Medicine, by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, is an absolutely gorgeous combination of information and full-color photographs.  It’s also my go-to book for in-depth info on easy to find (and easy to grow) medicinal herbs.  Backyard Medicine is very readable, and the bulk of the book is made up of a short chapter on each of fifty plants, including photos, description, historical and present-day uses, mythological or folk beliefs about the herb, the authors’ personal experience, and instructions for suggested preparations.  There’s also a brief how-to for basic preparations (decoctions, herbal honeys, etc) in the beginning of the book.  Backyard Medicine focuses specifically on common wildflowers, like dandelion, mullein, and yarrow, which makes it particularly useful.  A portable trade paperback with lovely paper quality, it’s a joy to use and to page through, making plans for the summer.

Book Review: Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

If you know me in person, you’ve already heard about this book :)

If you’re looking for an accessible, fun, compassionate, and well-balanced book on herbalism, this title is a great pick.  The bulk of this book is dedicated to specific herbal remedies for everyone in the family — children, men, women, and elders. There are tons of yummy herbal dishes and treats, a section on everyday ailments, and a chapter full of easy and indulgent herbal cosmetic treatments.  The A-to-Z guide of herbs in the back isn’t exhaustive, but it’s extensive and offers some unique information.

Rosemary Gladstar has been called the ‘godmother of American Herbalism’.  She founded the California School of Herbal Studies, the oldest running herb school in the U.S.  She is the founder and president of United Plant Savers. She has written numerous books, including the bestselling Herbal Healing for Women, and has written for or been featured in magazines like Body+Soul, Yoga Journal, and The Herb Companion.  Gladstar has been practicing herbalism for over 35 years, and is considered a pioneer in the field. She lives at Sage Mountain, near Barre, Vermont.

The square layout is nice as well.  The paper quality is lovely and sets off the gorgeous photography in this book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in taking charge of their own well-being, whether you want to practice herbalism in-depth or just want a few pointers.