Herb in season: Fresh Milky Oats

Fresh Milky Oats in Upstate NY, 2017

Fresh Milky Oats in Upstate NY, 2017

Making medicine with “fresh and in seaon” herbs is very special. When plants are in their peak time, that means their energy, vibration, and nutrient are in the highest point. Although many herbs carry its potency when in dry, some herbs only offer treasures in very limited period when in fresh. Oat is absolutely one of them! We already know oats as energy boosting food. Do you know that "fresh milky oats" have deeply nourishing and medicinal aspect?

"Fresh milky oats” are harvested when oat tops produce milky sap. This milky stage lasts only for a week or so (Depends on the weather. Late summer in general). This is why it’s worthy of special mention. How do you ingest them as medicine? — Tincture from fresh milky seeds gives you a great benefit.

This year (2017) in NY state had experienced cooler summer, so the milky stage had been later and lasted longer than usual years. Now it’s the time to make medicine with them. Here are benefits of fresh milky oats.

• Supremely moistening (super Yin nourishing), demulcent

• Nervine tonic

• Nervous system trophorestorative

• Anti-depressant

• Help withdrawal from addictive substances

The taste is very sweet and the texture is viscously smooth as infusion. Sweetness is nourishing and restorative flavor. For conditions related to anxiety, insomnia, severe fatigue, nervous debility... Fresh milky oats is definitely the go-to herb. In addition, menopausal conditions, including vaginal dryness and low libido, are in its indication.

Oriental Herb: Shiso (紫蘇) To Revive Your Energy

Shiso (Parilla frutescens) is one of the most widely used culinary herbs in Japanese cuisine. It is one of my favorite herbs, as its exotic aroma accentuates almost any dish. For those of us who don’t have a Green Thumb, it's not a difficult plant to grow, as long as it gets enough sun light. I have made many attempts to grow it in my NY apartment room in the past, however, there unfortunately wasn't enough sun light for Shiso to thrive. Now that I have access to an open field in the countryside, I have been enjoying fresh Shiso for the entire summer! It's like heaven to be around abundant Shiso. :) 

Here in the states, Shiso is called 'Japanese basil.’ Easy enough to imagine... it's such a versatile herb for Japanese people just as basil is so important for Italian cuisine. There are two kinds of Shiso: aka-shiso <red (purple) shiso> and ao-shiso <blue (green) shiso>. In Kampored (purple) is the one used as medicine, while blue (green) is mainly used as food. In my opinion, the red is a little rough and firm, and blue ismore tender and more aromatic. Due to those characteristics, blue was eaten up by wild animals quickly in country side, and only red has been available for us humans to eat. I still enjoy it fully. I am hoping to see Shiso in local markets one day soon!

There are many therapeutic benefits of Shiso. They are remarkably high in anti-oxidants, anti-sepsis, and detoxification. These actions have been utilized in Japanese food culture for a long time in history; you may have seen green leaves right by fresh sashimi (or sushi) in Japanese restaurant… These garnishes are kept nearby to prevent the raw fish from spoiling.

Shiso is a purple herb that brings us alive, quite literally! In Japan, Shiso is believed to cleanse the blood. There is an anecdote behind the name, shiso (紫蘇) —One man, who was dying from a severe food poison, was given a Shiso decoction, and soon after, he was recovered.— 紫 means 'purple', and 蘇 means 'revival.’

Interested in a homemade Shiso tincture? Contact me here!

Freshly harvested Shiso in PA, 2017

Freshly harvested Shiso in PA, 2017

Harvesting: June ~ October: Flowers come out at the end of summer. 

Part used: Leaves, Seeds and Flowers

Method: Tea, Tincture (seeds or fresh leaves are preferred) 

Action: Anti-microbial, Detoxifying, Intestinal regulator, Stomachic, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Anti-tussive, Expectorant, and Anti-depressant

Indication: Onset of cold, loss of appetite, food poisoning, (summer) heat lathery, allergy, phlegm, constipation

Jul 8, 2017 The Many Forms of Herbal Medicine: Yarrow

Yarrow in the still

Yarrow in the still

We held a garden workshop at 61 Franklin Street Garden in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We demonstrated how hydrosol (flower water) is made with a copper still. Many people are familiar and know about essential oil, however hydrosol is not widely known and used. It was a great opportunity to witness another aspect of plant alchemy! Our focus is to introduce what plants can offer in many different forms — infusion, tincture, flower essence, and hydrosol, and also what each modality can provide therapeutically.

We used Yarrow, having its peak-time around this time in a year, to demonstrate, taste, and talk about.

Hydrosol is so-called 'by-product' of essential oil making — my herbal fellow puts it as "Distillation of a plant, often used in cosmetics for it’s aromatic qualities. It is the essence or soul of a plant in liquid form, and because it also has some chemical constituents, it has the ability to work on the physical level as well as spirit medicine." 

Yarrow hydrosol is used for protection from negative energy, and wound healing as Yarrow always is good at! 

Blue is Yarrow essential oil.&nbsp;Chemical constituent, azulene, create this beautiful deep blue.

Blue is Yarrow essential oil. Chemical constituent, azulene, create this beautiful deep blue.

Yarrow has a long history as medicine in many regions world wide. Its Latin name, Achillea millefolium, comes from Achilleus, an ancient Greek hero in Greek mythology. He was given Yarrow by Chiron, and used it in the battle field to cure the wounds. Millefolium means 'thousand leaves', as its leaves have many layers of fine leaves. In Japanese language, Yarrow is called 'Seiyou-nokogiri-sou' (Western Saw Weed), because the leaflets resemble teeth of crosscut saws. Sure enough, Japanese people found its leaflets pretty distinctive.

Yarrow has 2 Major known usages:

1: Any conditions involving 'bleeding'

Matthew Wood, American herbalist, describes Yarrow as 'Master of Blood'

Native American also uses it topically with conditions of injuries, wounds, and inflammations. Both open wounds and old scars, bruises, blisters and such. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) uses it for topical injuries, and also internal inflammations. Modern herbalism, too, uses it for internal inflammations in GI tract, such as gastritis, ulcers, colonitis, enteritis, diarrhea etc... Another big benefit of Yarrow is seen in regard to menstrual bleeding. As 'Master of Blood', Yarrow can calm and regulate blood flow.

2: Cold and flu

Yarrow has properties of anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and diaphoretic (=promotes perspiration). Bitterness and pungency are the prominent flavors. The strong bitterness gives cooling and downward energy, and the pungency helps pushing the heat out to exterior through the pores. 

At the onset of cold and flu, we may experience shivers, chills, fevers, sore throat, aches... this is the best time to start taking Yarrow, before the pathogen and symptoms go deeper into the system. Take it every 1~2 hrs then. Combining with Elder may result in synergy!

Entire aerial part can be used. Yarrow can be taken internally and externally as infusion and tincture. For the external wounds, you can crush the plant and apply directly.

Yarrow can be also used as flower essence — the pure vibrational energy from plants, working on spiritual ~ physical levels. Here also, Yarrow is associated with "protection from vulnerability" – Protection specific to the mental and social aspects. For those who feel they have to hide their true selves to be in a social setting. It helps a person stay mentally and socially receptive without feeling vulnerable. (* from my herbal fellow, Maiya's speech on Yarrow flower essence)

Real Story of Soy, Behind the Spotlight

"Knowledge Is Power" (知識は力なり)

Francis Bacon (British philosopher, 16~17th Century)


Knowing is a treasure that no one can steal from you. The hard part is to sort out which information has the truth in this deluge of information era, with internet and media.

Information is right there when we need it once we turn TV on, search on google, or connect with thousands of SNS postings (incl, my posting)... When celebs talk about "my way of staying in a good shape is having green smoothie every morning!" (I think the smoothie boom has been going on for a while now) people blindly follow that.

...WHY NOT? "Green smoothie is 'the thing' you can get a great benefit, from many nutritious veggies and fresh fruits, just in a glass! Oh don't forget soy milk in it. It's better than whole milk and has lots of phyto-estrogen, which is good for women"

How does that resonate in you?

Smoothie in morning can be great for some constitutional people, NOT FOR EVERYONE. Next, what's in the smoothie? > Kale? — NO! > Banana? — ...How is your blood sugar level? > Soy milk? — Nooo.

Just last year, 2016, I was watching a TV show in Japan, about food, health, and beauty care — every girl's best interest. Then...I got speechless!  This 'beauty advisor' was talking about how beneficial for 'all' women to drink soy milk and eat soys. When the beauty professional says so, I bet so many women go with that idea, drink soy milk and eat soys (in any form) with no doubt!  ( In US, I sense people are a bit more exposed to the information about the risks of soy. ) (**Fermented Soy products are exceptions. They are purely 'Super-Foods'**) This is a perfect example of 'a deluge of information' that can confuses people. 


Unfermented soybeans contain massive Anti-nutrients, giving negative affects on our body functions. Its known elements are listed below

• Phytate: Most of legumes and grains have Phytate. Among legumes, soy carries it the most. Phytate binds with minerals (zinc, magnesium, iron, copper, calcium) in a body. As a result, a body loses minerals.

• Enzyme inhibitors: They block the actions of digestive enzymes, promoting digestion and assimilation of protein and carbohydrate. Due to this indigestive effect, bacterias in the large intestine have to work. That could cause unpleasant symptoms in a gut.

• Goitrogen: Soy is rich in goitrogen, which could cause goiters and inhibit the production of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is more popular among women. So please be careful if you have a history or potential of hypothyroidism. Thyroid function takes quite an important role on energy level (life force) in a body. Therefore, lowered thyroid functions mean a decline of cardiac activity.

• Isoflavone in soy (genistein): It's been encouraged to ingest soy products loudly to prevent any conditions associated with depleted female sex hormone, such as menopause, female hormone imbalances, and skin rejuvenation..., for its estrogen-like activity. But wait! Consuming excess amount can impact on a body in many different levels. First, it can interfere thyroid production. Second, it can heighten the risk of estrogen-sensitive conditions. 

If you have a history and potential of any excess-estrogen conditions, such as breast cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, endometriosis, fibroids etc..., please be careful with the excess isoflavone consumption.

⚠︎ It's been reported that consuming 70~75mg of isoflavone per day could bring positive feedbacks FROM ACTUAL FOODS (1 pack of Natto has 50mg / 1 pack of Tofu has 60mg). Food safety commission (in Japan) suggests to consume upto 30 mg of it FROM SUPPLEMENTS. 

• Watch out for GMO soy: In the recent history, the techinque of gene recombination (gene modification) brought a big progress in the agricultural business. More harvested crops, less herbicidal and insecticide labors. That means we can purchase those products with cheaper prices. And they are ubiquitously found not only in soy products, but also in so many food products on supermarket shelves. That all seems to make sense. We have to remember though, that's not how nature created plants originally. 

Since GMO products became prevalent in the market, chronic disease rate went higher proportionately. How do you read this correlation? 


Our ancestors hold a full of wisdom. They fermented stuff for reasons. In the process of fermentation, the anti-nutrients, above, are neutralized. Not only that, that'll add much more benefit to the food, such as beneficial bacteria for a body.

Benefit To Eat Foods In Season: Bitter Melon

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory, Shoku-yojo 食養生 (dietary-regimen) is one of the foundations for our wellbeing. In Japanese, it means "nourish our lives with foods". 

"Eat foods seasonally" According to the traditional wisdom.

That is to say, shoku-yojo varies in season to season. Our condition is influenced by seasons. When the air gets dry in Winter, that affects to skin externally as dry skin and lungs internally as virus and bacteria get active under dryness. In summer, our body is drained during a day, and experience the lack of sleep at night because of the heat. Also humidity can decay Spleen/Stomach function in TCM theory, meaning it can cause anorexia and indigestion. Spring and Fall, as seasons change, autonomic nervous system may be disturbed by dramatical temperature shift through a day and stress under environmental change. 

Foods in season provide nutrients, actions, tastes, and energetics which our body desires each season. The seasonal foods mean the foods, grown under the most preferable environment naturally and ripen at the best condition. Season is the time their flavor and nutrients are the richest. It's been demonstrated that the nutritional quality of spinach in season goes twice as higher as one grown in greenhouse. 

Now, I'd like to talk about one of my favorite summer vegetables, bitter melon. Bitter melon is known to help low energy in summer when we lose the appetite because of the heat. Its bitterness stimulates stomach and intestine, and improve the appetite. This summer has been hot in NY. Perfect time to try it.

BItter Melon (Momordica charantia)

Parts used: Fruit

Family: Cucurbitaceae

Area of origin: Tropical and subtropical climate (Africa, Asia, and South America)

Memo: Required condition is tropical and subtropical climate. Easy to grow. Vine. 

Harvesting: June~August is the most nutritious time to harvest

Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-viral, Hypoglycemic, Cholesterol reduction

• Very rich in Vitamin C (x3 than lemon, x4 than cabbage)

     Vit. C Bitter melon contains is tolerant of heat.

     Vit. C helps to produce collagen (good for damaged skin from UV)

• Bitter taste comes from the constituent, called momordicine


     Help to lower the blood sugar and blood pressure

Indications: Diabetes prevention, weariness in summer



Oriental Herb: Dokudami ドクダミ for Detox

I'd like to introduce an oriental herb, Dokudami (Houttuynia cordata), from my home, Japan. It's commonly known as a medicinal plant in our history, appeared in "Yamato honzo: Medicinal Herbs of Japan" (1708) by Ekiken Kaibara; "it's called 'ten-medicine (薬)' in Japanese Kampo, from its potency that has medicinal actions as ten herbs can give." Detox herb.

Dokudami (Houttuynia)&nbsp;in Japan, June 2016

Dokudami (Houttuynia) in Japan, June 2016

Since I started herbal study here in States, I've realized it's not common here, wheres it grows everywhere in Japan. It has an exceptionally distinctive oder and taste. It took a while for me to get used to the flavor as a child ...seriously. Yet, I have a strong fondness for it.

"Good medicine is bitter to the mouth"

I have a 'bitter' story to share. I had been suffered from severe acne during my childhood, entire adolescence all way to adult period. My mother, coming from "food is medicine" spirit big time, tried anything on me to heal it. Acne was red, deep rooted, big eruptions sitting all over my face and back. It was a horrible experience for a girl at a vulnerable age, as you can imagine. One approach she gave me was to drink dokudami-cha (tea). It was not about the flavor. It was about searching a method to get rid of ugly pimples. After some times, my gustatory sensor got used to the flavor, and started drinking it just like water. I assume this is how I built my high tolerance for wide range of tastes.

It's usually mixed with other tea, such as pearl barley. It tastes pleasant and is smoother to take.

It has a pretty, white flower with heart-shape leaves. Yet, the name, doku (poison) dame (store), comes from its wild oder thrown off.

Harvesting: May~June. Harvested in flowering period. It is ideally dried under the sun, then under half shaded area.

Part used: Aerial part

Method: Tea, Tincture, Poultice, Bath

Action: Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Laxative, Drainage, Pyretic, Cardiotonic

Indication: Tinea pedis, Skin issues, Acne, Edema, Urethra inflammation, Constipation, Hypertension, Arterial sclerosis, Empyema