Dr Fiona Smulders ND
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Cranesbill | Geranium spp

Family: Geraniaceae

Parts Used: Leaves and Roots

Appearance: Cranesbill is a perennial from a thick, scaly rhizome and woody and hairy stem base. The leaves are divided into 3-5 irregularly lobed and toothed segments that are more broad than long. The flowers can be blue to pink in colour and are typically bloom in clusters of 3-5 flowers. Cranesbill can be found in meadows, moist open forests and in disturbed soil throughout our area as far as Alaska.

Medicinal Uses: Cranesbill is a strong astringent  and anti-inflammatory with specificity to the pelvic region. It can be used to treat hemorrhoids, diarrhea, bleeding gums as a gargle, excess uterine bleeding and vaginitis as a douche made from the tea.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • Dry plant tincture as a 1:5 ratio in 50% alcohol (or 10% glycerine) suing 1/2-1 tsp as needed

  • Strong decoction can be made from the roots and take as 1-4 fluid ounces as needed

  • Powdered dry plant can be used topically as first aid to stop the bleeding of minor cuts

Cautions: long term use should be avoided due to its high tannin content, and it should be taken away from other supplements and medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider to ensure Cranesbill is safe for you.

Comfrey | Symphytum officinalis

Family: Boraginaceae

Parts Used: Leaf & Root

Appearance: Comfrey has large, rough, hairy and lance-shaped leaves ranging from 8-20 inches long. It has thick rough stems and white, pink or purple flowers that grow in a beautiful heliotrope-like curl. Comfrey is native to Europe and some parts of Asia but it can be found in gardens and growing as weeds along the Pacific Northwest. 

Harvesting Methods: The leaves and buds are best harvested when the flowers are just starting to bud, and the roots are best harvested in the Fall. Comfrey is toxic when taken internally for long durations due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids. The pyrrolizidine alkaloid content in the leafs vary depending on when it is harvested - it is highest in the early spring and lower later in the season. The long dark taproot (which grows up to 6 feet tall!) contains the highest levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and should not be taken internally unless supervised.

Medicinal Uses: Comfrey is also known as "Knitbone" because of its ability to heal broken bones. It contains allantoin which stimulates cell proliferations and encourages proper connective tissue formation. Allantoin also helps stimulate the production of white blood cells when there is an infection present to enhance our natural defences against infection and to speed healing. Comfrey is best used topically because its alkaloid content cannot be absorbed through the skin.

Preparation: Please visit my 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • You can make a salve, poultice or compress from the leaves or roots to heal broken bones and closed infections.

Cautions: Comfrey is toxic when taken internally due to its pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Caution should be made when applying comfrey to open wounds as this will increase the absorption of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Speak with your healthcare provider to make sure Comfrey is safe for you.



Red Elderberry | Sambucus canadensis

Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Parts Used: Flowers

Appearance: Elder is a deciduous large shrub which grows to 3 meters or more in height. The long green leaves are arranged in opposite pairs making up groups of 5 to 9 leaflets per stem. The long leaflets are about 10cm long and 5 cm wide with bundles of little white 5-petal flowers above the foliage in April-May. The fruits are drooping clusters of red berries that ripen in the early-fall. The flowers are the only edible parts of the plant, the berries are toxic when ingested raw.

Harvesting Methods: The best time to harvest the white flowers is in the early Spring when they blossom.

Medicinal Uses: Elder is a simple alterative diaphoretic, making it a useful remedy for acute fevers. It is also considered a diuretic for water retention and to dilute the urine in cystitis. Elder also has anti-microbial actions, although not as strong as its relative, Sambucus nigra, which is an excellent remedy for any upper respiratory tract infection, especially in children.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • The dried or fresh flowers can be made into a tea, taking 4-6 ounces up to 4x/day.

Caution: The fresh stems, bark, root and leaves are poisonous and the berries can cause nausea when eaten raw. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that Elder is safe for you.

Hawthorn | Crataegus spp

Family: Rosaceae

Parts Used: Berry & Leaf

Appearance: Hawthorn is a tall shrub with few large trunks and mostly robust stems and branches covered in rough, grey-brown bark in older plants and reddish brown bark in younger plants. The leaves are small bright green fan-shaped with a wide toothed tip. The flowers bloom in open bunches as little white roses growing our of leaf axils and side branches. The flowers mature into red or black little apples in irregular clusters. The stems and branches are armed in with short slightly curved thorns less than an inch long. Hawthorne can be found along rivers, in moist canyons and in thickets around the edges of natural meadows.

Harvesting Methods: Gather the flowering branches in the spring and dry them carefully hanging upside down in bundles in a dark well-ventilated room or loosely in brown paper bags. For a fresh tincture, you can use the whole flowering branch (leaves, spines, small twigs, and flowers). For dried herb tinctures, use only the leaves and flowers and discard the twigs. The berries can be collected in the Fall when they are purple-black and can be dried in a brown paper bag for teas or tinctures. The dried flowers and leaves will last for a year if stored in a sealed bag/jar, and the dried berries can last for several years.

Medicinal Uses: Hawthorn is a heart tonic. It is a mild vasodilator for the coronary arteries of the heart, which increases blood flow and nutrient delivery to the heart muscle and reduced the chance of spasm, angina and shortness of breath. It is also used for hypertension, arrhythmia and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat). The berries contain a high level of flavonoids which lowers chronic inflammation in the circulatory system and reduces free radical damage. Hawthorn takes weeks to a few months to take effect, but the effects are well-maintained.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • A tincture of the fresh berries and/or flowering tops is made as a 1:2 ratio in 50% alcohol and taken as 15 to 30 drops up to 3x/day, then reduced to 2x/day after a few weeks

  • A tincture of the dried flowering tops and/or berries is made as a 1:5 ratio in 50% alcohol and taken as 10-20 drops up to 3x.day, then reduced to 2x/day after a few weeks

  • A well-rounded tsp of the flowers and leaves, or a scant tsp of crushed berries, in 1 cup of hot water makes for a lovely tea

Caution: Consult your healthcare provider to ensure that Hawthorn is safe for you.

Huckleberry | Vaccinium parvifolium

Family: Ericaceae (Heather family)

Parts Used: Berry & Leaf

Appearance: Huckleberry is a deciduous shrub up to 4 meters tall with green branches and small, thin, oval leaves with smooth edges. The flowers are small, pink and urn-shaped that grow singly along the stems. In the early summer, small pink to orange-red berries form ranging in size with a norm of about 1 cm in diameter. Huckleberries love to grow in shaded coastal coniferous forests, often using rotten logs and stumps as their nurseries. 

Harvesting Methods: The best time to harvest the berries is in mid-summer when they are round with a nice vibrant red colour. When the berries are fully ripe, you can simply shake the branches with a large basket underneath to collect the falling berries, or spend the day in the sun collecting the berries by hand.

Medicinal Use: As with all Vaccinium species, the berries are full of vitamins, minerals and flavonoids to help reduce inflammation and boost your nutritional status. The leaves are quite acidic, which makes them a useful medicine to treat alkaline pH cystitis. The leaves also help modify blood sugar elevations in Type 1 diabetes, a disorder manifested early in life by autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. Some people with allergies that cause skin reactions may benefit from taking a tea as the leaves have shown to produce an anti-inflammatory effect within the body.


  • A tea can be made from the leaves and enjoyed at 3-4 ounces per day up to 3x/day

  • The berries can be eaten fresh, frozen for winter use, or made into delicious jams, cakes, etc

Caution: Due to the acidity of the leaves, speak to your healthcare provider to make sure Huckleberry leaf is right for you.

Kinnikinnick (Uva Ursi) | Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Family: Ericaceae

Parts Used: Fruit and Leaf

Appearance: Kinnikinnick is a low creeping shrub that contains small leathery, spoon-shaped, dark green leaves that produce trailing stems. The flowers are pinkish-white and bell-shaped that turn into juicy red berries in the summertime. It can be found from sea level to 11,000 feet, growing in the open hillocks, in the mountains, on the dry sides of canyons and in logged and burned forests --- almost anywhere with acidic soil and sun.

Photo by Eduardo Jovel

Harvesting Methods: The easiest way to gather these plants is to snip the long runners at the major centre root. They may be dried in brown paper bags or bundled and hung to dry away from sunlight in a well ventilated area. Once dried, it is good for 3-4 years.

Medicinal Uses: Kinnikinnick is most well known for its use in the treatment of urinary tract infections and cystitis. It does this by keeping the urine slightly acidic to prevent bacterial overgrowth in the urethra and bladder. It's main constituent, arbutin, acts as an antimicrobial to further reduce bacterial invasion of the urinary tract. Kinnikinnick is also high in tannins, which makes it an excellent tonic and astringent wash for abrasions, bruises, broken bones and herpes breakouts.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • The berries can be consumed either raw or cooked for its high vitamin content

  • The leaves can be made into a tonic tea or as a mouthwash for canker sores

  • The dried herb can be used to make a tincture of 1:5 in 50% alcohol, taken as 30-60 drops in warm water up to 4x/day

  • A sitz bath can be made with 8-12 ounces of tea in warm water for postpartum birth recuperation (best to wait at least 24 hours after birthing to start the bath)

Cautions: Due to its high tannin content, kinnikinnick may irritate the stomach lining with prolonged use. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that Kinnikinnick is safe for you.

Coming soon!

nettle | urtica dioica

Family: Urticaceae

Parts used: Root and Leaves

Appearance: Nettle is a brilliantly dark green plant with a square stem and round opposite leaves with jagged edges and a sharp tip. Nettle is a tall plant ranging from 2 or 3 ft to 10 ft in height. This plant blooms in the spring, producing flowers that grow small stems which sprout from the main stem at the leaf axils. The clusters of green seeds are matured by mid- to late summer. Nettle loves moist environments and you can find it in any meadow, waterway or creek of the Pacific West. You know you've found it when you get a stinging kiss from the tiny hairs on the long green underside of the leaves and all along the stem.

Harvesting Methods: Fresh nettles to be juiced or steamed should be collected in the spring and early summer before it begins to flower. Nettles to be dried for tea or tincture can be harvested from mid-spring to full seed (late summer). Make sure you're wearing your gloves before you gather nettles as it is sure to give you a good sting.

Medicinal uses: Nettle leaves are packed full of vital nutrients, such as high levels of chlorophyl, Vitamin A C & D, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, silica, choline, acetylcholine and amino acids. These nutrients act as food and building blocks to our muscles, nerves, bones, ligaments and organs, which makes nettle leaf teas an ideal remedy for any soft tissue injury, nervous irritability, premenstrual cramping, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, menses, pre-pregnancy and exercise recovery. The root has also been used as a tincture or capsule for urinary issues such as benign prostatic hypertrophy, oedema and cystitis.

Nettle can also be used for osteoarthritis without even needing to harvest it. If you have painful osteoarthritis of the extremities, try brushing it through a patch of nettle. You will feel a sting, but afterwards the sting and the pain and inflammation from the osteoarthritis will be reduced. This is because the little stinging hairs on the plant contain histamine. When the hairs contact your skin, the histamine will be absorbed through the skin and have a local vasodilation effect, helping to promote circulation in the extremity and easing pain and inflammation.

Preparation: Please note - drying, steaming and juicing nettles gets rid of the stinging hairs. Visit my 'Medicine Making' page for more details.

  • Fresh juice from the leaves can be preserved for a month with an addition of 25% alcohol, and can last up to 6 months if refrigerated.

  • Lightly steaming the fresh leaves gets rid of the stinging hairs and serves as a nutritious and delicious side dish.

  • 1 tbsp of dried nettle per cup of hot water makes a calming, mineral-infused nutritive tea

Cautions: Do not consume fresh raw leaves, you must either dry them, juice them or steam them before ingestion to get rid of the stinging hairs. If there is a known allergy to nettle or if you are hypersensitive, do not consume or touch nettles. Speak with your health care provider to make sure Nettle is safe for you.

Oregon grape | mahonia (Berberis) aquifolium

Family: Berberidaceae

Parts used: Root, Stem & Leaf

Appearance: Oregon grape is a perennial leafy bush, from 2 to 5/6 ft in height, covered in thick, waxy, prickly pinnate leaves. The leaflets are oblong-oval and about 1.5-3 inches long and are shiny dark green on the top and dull underneath. The leaflets are opposite and each stem ends in a single terminal leaflet. The stems are yellow-green and the roots are a brilliant yellow-orange. The flowers form in bright yellow clusters from the end of the stem which bloom from March to May and turn into juicy sweet & sour blue-purple pseudo-grapes with a bitter aftertaste. Oregon grape enjoys growing in the shady undergrowth of the Oregon, Washington and BC forests.

Harvesting: Since Oregon Grape is a perennial plant, It is best to collect the roots and lower stems from mid-summer to winter and the leaves from May through mid-fall. Oregon grape often has an upper stem bark and wood with little to no colour, these should not be used. The washed root and stem should be chopped while still fresh, while the leaves can be placed in a paper bag to dry. Dried leaves, if stored out of any light, will last for up to a year and dried roots and stems will last for several years.

Medicinal Uses: Oregon grape has three main functions: as a bitter tonic for digestion, as a stimulant to the liver and as an antimicrobial for the skin and intestinal tract. As a bitter tonic for digestion, it facilitated the natural secretion of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and carrier proteins for vitamin transport to help break-down food and aid nutrient absorption. As a liver stimulant, Oregon grape helps to improve impaired liver function by assisting in metabolism and detoxification. Oregon grape contains a potent antimicrobial alkaloid called berberine. Berberine functions similarly to antibiotics as a disinfectant with additional antimicrobial action against pathologic viruses and fungi.

Preparation: visit my 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • You can use the root fresh or dried to make a tincture. If using fresh root use a 1:2 ratio and if using dried root use 1:5 ratio. both with 50% alcohol. It's best to take 15-30 drops up to 4x/day to stimulate digestion

  • The leaves can be made into a salve or oil to be used topically for cuts/scrapes as an antimicrobial

  • The leaves and fresh root & stem can also be made into a tea for topical use or as a mouthwash

  • The berries can be made into a jam with sufficient apple juice and pectin

Cautions: Oregon grape should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to its high alkaloid content. It may also affect the action of other medications, so please speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that oregon grape is safe for you.



Salal | Gaultheria shallon

Family: Ericaceae

Parts Used: Fruit & Leaf

Appearance: Salal is a creeping to erect shrub that grows from 0.2 to 3 meters tall. It is an evergreen plant with 2-4 inches long thick and leathery oval leaves that are shiny dark green on top and a rough lighter green underneath, with a pronounced central vein. The leaves are alternate and zigzag off the red-mealy barked stems (although older plants tend to straighten out and lose the zigzag formation). The flowers are pink-white urns that cluster off the sides of the terminal stems and turn into succulent sweet purple-black berries in late summer. Salal can be found growing along the coast and coastal mountains from Santa Cruz to Alaska.

Harvesting Methods: It is best to gather the young, reddish, zigzag branches from late spring to mid-fall. Bundle them and hang them to dry in a dark and well ventilated area. The berries should be collected in early to mid-fall, when fully matured. The leaves are good for several years and the whole berries (dried or in cakes) last until the next season.

Medicinal Uses: The tea is used as an astringent and anti-inflammatory for sore throats and indigestion, and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the urinary tract, sinuses and lungs as well. The tea is helpful for scratchy, irritated coughs from allergies or dusty, dry air that provokes a low-level wheezing in the throat and lungs. The tea is also helpful for colic and gas pains from food hypersensitivities in children and diarrhea and gastritis in adults. The tea and powdered herb can also be used as an effective first aid treatment of scrapes, burns and insect bites. The berries are very high in flavonoids, and can be used as a free, nutritional therapy for strengthening capillaries.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • A simple tea of 5 or 6 crushed leaves is the easiest media for medicine

  • Powdered leaves can be applied topically as needed or mixed with water for a short-term poultice

  • he berries can be enjoyed fresh or dried in cakes for their high vitamin content. The dried cakes are made by pouring fresh berries into a cardboard box covered in a layer of salad leaves, mash them semi flat and dry as is.

Cautions: Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure Salal is safe for you.



Salmonberry | Rubus spectabilis


Parts Used: Fruit and Leaf

Appearance: Salmon berry is a tall shrub with dense thickets, a golden-brown bark and zigzagging twigs with scattered prickles. The leaves alternate with 3 leaflets at the end of each stem which are dark-green and sharply toothed. The flowers are pink to red and about 4 cm across on short stems. The fruits are yellow or reddish large juicy berries scattered throughout the shrub. They enjoy growing in moist to wet places in forests and disturbed sites, often abundant along stream edges, avalanche tracts and in wet logged areas. The reason why this shrub is called "salmon berry" is because the ripening berries serve as a sign that the spring salmon were ready to be fished. 

Harvesting Methods: Salmon berries are one of the earliest fruits to ripen in our region, typically from May-June. The young stem sprouts are also edible when peeled and are ready for harvesting in early spring through early summer as a green vegetable. The berries tend to be a bit mushy, especially after a heavy rainfall, so make sure not to fill your bucket too deep or else you may end up with a bucket of mush.

Medicinal Uses: the berries are high in vital nutrients that help maintain a healthy heart, muscle function and blood vessel integrity. Salmon berries contain Vit A, C & K, calcium, magnesium and flavonoids. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that help reduce free radical inflammation in the body that can contribute to skin wrinkles, chronic fatigue, heart disease and cancer. The leaves also contain high levels of vitamins and minerals with the addition of selenium and iron. A tea of the leaves can be made to help ease PMS and support menses, rebuild muscle tissue and enhance nutrition.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • The berries can be eaten fresh off the shrub, frozen for later, or cooked down into a delicious jam or pie.

  • The fresh or dried leaves can be made into a nutritive tea as 1 tbsp dried herb (or 4-5 leaves) per 1 cup hot water up to 3x/day.

Cautions: Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure salmonberry leaf tea is safe for you.

Saint John’s Wort | Hypericum perfoliatum

Coming soon!

Usnea (Old Man’s Beard) | Usnea app

Coming Soon!



Yarrow | achillea millefolium

Family: Compositae

Parts Used: Leaf, Root & Flower

Appearance: Yarrow is a perennial aster with dark-green feathery leaves of 2-5 inches long. From May to August it sends up tall, flowering stalks topped with flat umbels of snow white flowers and can be anywhere from 1 to several feet tall. Yarrow flowers are highly aromatic and smell like a cross between chamomile and pine. In California it likes to live in mountainous areas where the pine trees grow, but in BC you can find Yarrow at any elevation along the coastal range and down to the river valleys.

Harvesting Methods: Gather the recently flowered stalks and bundle them, facing the same direction, with an elastic band 1-2 inches from the cut end. The bundles can be hung out of sunlight in a well ventilated area and, once dried, the leaves and flowers can be placed in sealed glass jars for later use. The roots should be washed after harvesting and dried in bundles or in half-box cardboard flats. Once dried, the flowers and leaves last for 18-24 months and the roots last several years.

Medicinal Uses: Where to start! Yarrow is one of my favourite plants because of its wide-ranging use. It's simplest use is its benefit for acute fevers. Drunk as a tea or in tincture form, Yarrow stimulates sweating and moderately lowers core body temperature. Normally I don't encourage the suppression of fevers because they are the body's natural defence against pathogens, but if the fever becomes too high or occurs in children I would recommend this use. Like Cranesbill, Yarrow is an excellent hemostatic, can be used to treat bleeding ulcers, hemorrhoids, nosebleeds and heavy menses. Yarrow is also a strong anti-inflammatory and can be used topically as a poultice for muscle and joint inflammation and internally for gastrointestinal infections, chronic cystitis and urethritis. Yarrow is most known as a woman's medicine. It has a long history of use for menstrual problems like a long menstrual flow with chronic dull pain by tonifying the uterus and promoting a more regular menstrual flow.

Preparation: Visit the 'Medicine Making' page for more details

  • Tinctures can be made from the fresh plant in flower (as a 1:2 ratio) and the dried plant in flower (1:5 ratio) in 50% alcohol. You can take 10 to 40 drops in warm water, up to 5x/day for either form.

  • As a tea, you can enjoy 1 tbsp of the leaves and flowers per cup of hot water up to 2-4ounces 4x/day.

  • A poultice of the fresh or moistened dry plant can be used topically for muscle and joint pain and varicose veins.

  • A tea of an ounce of herb steeped in 2 quarts of water can be added to a soothing bath to relieve joint inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • You can also eat the roots as a snack. Fill a small jar with root sections, pour 2 or 3 tbsp of corn whiskey or rum over them, shake them up and cap well. This will make the roots softer and easy to chew.

Cautions: Yarrow should not be used during pregnancy. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that yarrow is safe for you.