top of page

Blog Posts

These are samples of research-driven posts for an herbal health and wellness website. The website is no longer active; I've copied a few of the articles here. I've removed most of the photos. I wrote about forty posts for this website.

Screenshot 2022-06-17 160613.png

Barberry is a recent target in the fight against invasive plants. Barberry (Berberis) is a low growing, spiny shrub with pretty red foliage in the fall accompanied by bright red berries. Landscapers and botanists love to hate this plant. I would like to offer several reasons to love Barberry.


Why So Many Barberry Haters?


Barberry comes in several species:


  •  European Barberry, Berberis vulgaris: A native European shrub introduced to the US as a landscape plant, now considered invasive.

  •  American Barberry, Berberis canadensis: Our native Barberry is currently on the imperiled list and protected in some states.

  •  Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, is the most common and frequently encountered Barberry and the one that gets the most hate.


There are a few others. I am focusing on the three listed above because of their berberine content, which is my main reason for loving Barberry.


First, more about Japanese Barberry. This species of Barberry has recently garnered so much attention as an invasive plant in need of eradication. It is native to Asia and was first brought to the US in 1864 as a landscape plant. It is still widely planted as an ornamental. Its spines make it a great privacy hedge.


Japanese Barberry is now listed as an invasive in many states and is said to force out native plant species with its aggressive growth habit. The plant is spread by animals who eat the Barberry fruit and spread the seeds through excrement.


Recently, the plant was also named a breeding ground for ticks. In a recent study, Japanese Barberry was cited as creating “a perfect, humid environment for ticks.” The report further states, “When we measure the presence of carrying the Lyme spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) we find 120 infected ticks where Barberry is not contained, 40 ticks per acre where Barberry is contained, and only 10 infected ticks where there is no Barberry.”


An eradication campaign has begun, using propane torches to burn Japanese Barberry from “native” landscapes.


Could the higher incidence of ticks living near Barberry be due to a fondness for Barberry by deer, which are primary carriers of ticks? Is this enough reason to despise and eradicate Japanese Barberry from our part of the world?



Thoughts on Invasives


I am an herbalist. I love plants. I talk to plants and learn from plants. After many years of admiration, study, and use of medicinal plants, I have a deep connection with them.


In short, I trust the Earth and the plants on her. Classifying a plant as “invasive” is purely a human construct. Part of our human-centric viewpoint of the planet is neither accurate nor beneficial.


Humans are the most invasive species on the planet. We have spread to every corner of the globe and are taking over the Earth as if it were ours alone. The Earth is a living entity that is not owned by a single species--it is by her grace that we are allowed to share her space and resources.


OK, enough of that for now. Let me offer you another way of looking at Barberry and other “invasives” that may offer a different perspective. Ever hear of Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)? If you are at all crunchy or green, you probably have.


Goldenseal is a plant native to North America and has been used by native people of this continent for hundreds of years as a potent antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer herb.


Goldenseal has been overharvested and is on the endangered species list in the U.S. and Canada. In my apothecary, Goldenseal was my go-to plant for any bacterial infection, and my clients and I found it highly effective. I used Goldenseal for:


  • Upper respiratory infection (sinus infection) Bacterial infection of the lower respiratory system Infection of the throat (tonsillitis).

  • UTI.

  • Topically to prevent infection of wounds.


I still keep Goldenseal in the Community Apothecary for times when other herbs don’t work, or as a small part of a formula. But Goldenseal has become extremely expensive, and because it is endangered, herbalists like me are looking for alternatives.


This brings us right back to Barberry. Plants in the Berberis genus contain berberine and hydrastine–the same effective chemicals in Goldenseal. With Goldenseal all but gone, we need another option for berberine-containing plants.


Japanese Barberry is very hardy. It is hard to kill, and if we stop torching it, hard to eradicate. What if Barberry is abundant just because there is no longer Goldenseal to fight bacteria? We need plant antimicrobials, especially considering how antibiotic-resistant some bacteria have become.


A little further on in this blog, I will also show you how berberine is being studied as an anti-obesity chemical. Obesity is nearly epidemic in the U.S. Is this another reason for the indestructible Japanese Barberry to make its way to our continent?


Is Barberry invasive and needs to be eradicated? Or is it here due to a deeper wisdom that transcends our human-centric views of the planet? Something to ponder. I do.

Barberry As Medicine


Two species of Barberry (B. vulgaris & B. thunbergii) have been studied as a substitute for Goldenseal. The Journal of Pharmaceutical Biology did a 2008 study that compared the plant alkaloids of Goldenseal, Japanese Barberry, and European Barberry.


Overall, while Goldenseal had more than twice the alkaloids of any Barberry species, Japanese Barberry had more of these antibiotic plant extracts than European Barberry.


“In conclusion, these results suggest that Berberis thunbergii is a potential substitute for goldenseal with respect to its berberine content and in-vitro antibacterial activity”


Since the primary concentration of berberine is found in the roots of the plant, using Japanese Barberry root for medicine would, in effect, control its growth and spread.



Berberine Potential Uses


So why care about Goldenseal, Barberry, or berberine anyway? Berberine has been studied in hundreds of clinical trials, and the potential uses are impressive.


In December 2012, the Natural Medicine Journal published an abstract called “Clinical Applications for Berberine,” which includes links to dozens of studies on berberine’s therapeutic uses. Here are a few potential uses of berberine:


  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Antimicrobial against bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Increases bile secretion (improving digestion)

  • Wide range of GI infections


Berberine and Metabolic Syndrome


Metabolic syndrome is a very common complaint in our overweight and obese culture. Metabolic syndrome includes:


  • Insulin resistance: the body produces insulin that is not properly burned as fuel by the body, but is often stored as fat

  • High blood pressure Elevated cholesterol levels

  • Abdominal obesity (belly fat)


Sound familiar? It should. Metabolic syndrome affects up to 30% of our population; primarily those who are obese. Metabolic syndrome results in heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver, PCOS, and more.


Metabolic syndrome is thought to be caused primarily by:


  • Smoking

  • Eating a high-carbohydrate diet

  • Sedentary lifestyle


Here is where berberine (and Japanese Barberry) might come to the rescue. Studies have shown that berberine is one of the few alkaloids that activates AMPK, an enzyme that determines how energy is used in our bodies.

Metabolic syndrome happens when AMPK enzyme production gets switched off. It turns out that high glucose levels (eating a high-carb diet) initially inhibit AMPK enzyme production.


Research suggests that switching back on our AMPK enzymes might produce the same benefits as dieting and exercise. And-you guessed it- berberine is one of the few chemicals that activate AMPK. Berberine decreases insulin resistance and thereby stimulates weight loss.



Berberine and Cancer


Maintaining a healthy weight and getting exercise each day is a way to avoid getting cancer. Berberine also inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells. There are dozens of studies taking a closer look at the potential of berberine for cancer prevention and treatment.

More Reasons to Love Barberry


Sometimes, I am confounded by the human need to exert control over everything, and I include myself here. 


If we live with the concept that there are no accidents, then things start to make more sense. When we trust that the Earth is alive and aware, our perspectives can shift. When our perspective shifts from dominating to belonging, we feel the urge to protect our home planet. What a wonderful domino effect.


We practically eradicated wild Goldenseal because of its healing berberine content. Nature brought us some berberine that is harder to kill--Japanese Barberry. A good metaphor is taking a glass away from a toddler and replacing it with an unbreakable sippy cup.


In my Plant Wisdom series, Herbalism for Home and Homestead, I teach people a new way of seeing the Plant Nation. Weeds become medicine. Invasives become gifts from our tolerant Earth mother. Our urge to resist softens, and we become part of our ecosystem.


Next time you come across a Japanese Barberry, perhaps you can resist the urge to hate it, to kill it. Instead, dig up a root and scratch off the top, thin layer of bark. You will find gold just under the surface of the roots. Come join me for some classes, and see how to learn to love Barberry.


A Natural, Non-Toxic Approach to Flea Control


The Fleas Are Here


This year has been a bumper crop year for these dangerous pests! The frequent rains and hot temperatures have everything growing like mad, including the bugs. Mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas are the worst I have experienced in years.


Many of you have called me looking for a natural alternative to ridding your home of fleas. Fleas travel into your home on you and your pets and can be extremely hard to get rid of once they are established. Today, I will share with you my tested and effective flea control methods—without using a single drop of neurotoxic chemical pesticide.



There Are Many Types of Fleas

Did you know that there are several types of fleas, and each has a preferred host? There are dog fleas, cat fleas, human fleas, rat fleas, and fleas that prefer fowl. These fleas will bite others if their preferred host is not available.


Fleas can jump up to 7″ vertically and over a foot horizontally- which makes them very mobile! They easily move from host to host, host to person, and host to house. Flea saliva contains chemicals that can cause a severe itch response in some animals and humans. This is known as flea bite dermatitis and can lead to infection if scratching or biting the area is intense.


Did you also know that fleas are a host for tapeworms? Tapeworm eggs travel inside the adult flea, and if the flea is accidentally swallowed or inhaled by an animal while licking or chewing, the animal may become infected with tapeworms. The animal also becomes a host for tapeworms. And if that animal is your pet, you may also be exposed to tapeworms.


Finally, flea eggs can lay dormant in your home for months, waiting for their preferred host to arrive. Let’s get rid of them now.

How To Tell If My Dog or Cat Has Fleas

How do you know if you have fleas in your home or on your pet? Watch for frantic scratching, digging, and biting from your pets. Using your fingers, comb the hair backward around their rump, base of tail, or tummy, where fleas love to live.


Fleas are tiny brown spots that move quickly. They leave small, black, dried blood spots in your pet’s fur. These tiny dots of dried blood are called “flea dirt” and are often the most noticeable sign of a flea infestation. If your pet has flea dirt but you don’t see any fleas, they do have fleas! Fleas lay 20 to 50 eggs a day, which roll off the host onto bedding, carpets, and furniture. If your dog has fleas, you have fleas.

You are not dirty or bad…you have fleas.

How Do I Kill Fleas?

Firstly, fleas are very hard to crush. No matter how hard you squeeze, you cannot kill them--you must use your nails to break them.


Fleas need moisture to survive and prefer around 70-80% humidity. Without adequate hydration, they struggle to live. Immersion in water, however, drowns fleas quickly. Armed with this knowledge, we begin our treatment.


Pet Flea Bath


Give your pet a bath in warm water with shampoo. Chemical flea shampoos can be harsh and dangerous. They claim to repel fleas for up to three months, but I have found this to be false. Use tearless baby or pet shampoo on the animal’s head and face to get right around the eyes. If you do not soap up the face, the fleas will pool around the eyes in an attempt to escape. 


A diluted castile soap on the body, like Dr. Bronners Lavender Castile or an herbal flea shampoo, works well and offers the added benefit of soothing sore, bitten areas. Choose your favorite scent. If you use the castile soap, always dilute— about 1/4 cup in a quart of water. Let the pet stand for 5-10 minutes in the flea or castile shampoo. Rinse well. Watch the dead fleas run down the drain.


In the meantime, wash every sheet, towel, comforter, blanket, and throw rug you can fit in the washer. Use warm or hot water. OK, you have now killed most of the live fleas. But what about flea eggs and fleas still living in the house and yard?

Kill Fleas In The House and Yard


Enter four flea-eradicating, low-toxicity options:



These four ingredients will eradicate fleas and ticks from your home and yard. They will also kill spiders, silverfish, ants, roaches, and other creepy crawlies. Please read my blog here for specific help with an ant infestation.


Please be aware that there are some lower-cost alternatives to the Cedarcide links, above, but they are not as effective.


For the Home:


Buy one of those glass cheese shaker-top jars. Open the boric acid, and for each cup of powder you use, add 1 tablespoon of Cedarcide Original. Shake this up well and put it into your shaker-top jar.


Shake this powder over every surface of the home--carpets, under the furniture cushions, and cracks in hardwood floors. Take a broom and sweep the powder into the surfaces so it is well distributed. Leave for 24 hours then vacuum it all up. (I actually leave the powder under the seat cushions of my furniture). You typically do not have to remove pets from the house when you do this, but cats and birds may be more sensitive. Use your common sense and keep an eye on your fur-and-feather friends.


Now, take your spray bottle of Cedarcide Original and spray the baseboards, closets, and any vertical surface the powder will not adhere to. Spray once a week for several weeks. Do not spray on houseplants, birds, fish, or use in the yard.


No more fleas. The boric acid dehydrates the fleas, and the cedar insecticide suffocates them. Boric acid has the same toxicity as table salt- so while it is relatively harmless, do not let children and pets lick or lay in concentrated amounts of it. It is not tasty, they won’t purposely seek it out. Don’t get stuck on this point- boric acid is hundreds of times less toxic than chemical flea sprays, bombs, and powders. This carpet/floor treatment will also kill ticks, carpet beetles, roaches, spiders, and anything else that dares to crawl around your home.


For the Yard, Patio, and Porch:


You must use the plant-approved version of Cedarcide, PCO Choice, to spray the yard. It is safe for plants, pets, and people. Beneficial bugs (bees, ladybugs) will be safe if you do not spray them directly.


Spray your entire yard as directed. Repeat every few weeks until flea and tick season is over. Your pets and children can use the yard directly after use.


You may also sprinkle the diatomaceous earth around the foundation of the house to keep creepy crawlies away.


Safely Kill Fleas On Pets


Now back to the pets.


Kitty and puppy are all dry and clean from the bubble bath. But without protection, they will simply go back outside and bring back more fleas. With your new and continued boric acid and cedar insecticide flooring treatment, the fleas will not survive in the house. Remember to wash the pet’s bedding often. But the fleas you get on walks and hikes will still dine happily on you and your pets.


Boric acid is, in my opinion, too harsh for direct application onto a pet’s skin. But Cedarcide Original and diatomaceous earth are very gentle and totally non-toxic to pets--even if they lick and chew after application (Always test a very small amount on cats first--they are ultra-sensitive).


Those flea drops that you spread onto your animal’s neck? They are proving to be very dangerous. Often, a good wetting down of your pet’s coat with Cedarcide Original is all you will need to keep fleas away. Spray the pet’s coat, covering all areas down to the skin, once weekly during the hot summer months, less during the winter. It is so gentle you can use it on puppies and kittens, as well as your kids and yourself to keep mosquitoes and ticks away. Apply directly to exposed skin and clothing.  It smells great, works great, and can be used for so many of your buggy problems.

Safe Flea Powder, Diatomaceous Earth


Some pets, though, need a little extra protection. Just like with people, some dogs and cats seem more prone to attract fleas than others. For these pets, we will kick it up a notch. Follow the link above and buy some diatomaceous earth (DE) that is made for pet applications. It looks a lot like flour. If you wish to treat your yard, buy some additional DE for lawn & garden use (it’s cheaper) and follow the directions to treat the yard. Do not use lawn & garden DE on your pets.


For the pets: Mix 1 cup of organic food-grade DE powder with 1 tablespoon of Cedar Insecticide. Mix well and sprinkle over your pet’s coat, rubbing the powder in well. Use extra in the places the fleas like to live: tail, rear, and belly. You may even sprinkle a bit of this into your pet’s ears for ear mites. Do this outside or over a towel to keep the floor clean. I have found this powder & cedar oil mix to be foolproof, even during the height of flea season! And again, it is totally non-toxic. Apply as needed--once weekly during the hot summer months.

bottom of page