Lomatium dissectum


Having read about this herb in Richo Cinch’s book – Growing at risk medicinal herbs it went onto the must grow seed list. Seed was procured from Horizon herbs sown and in spring it promptly germinates. The seedlings were pricked out into larger pots (the root intact) to allow free root growth.

Everything is going along fine and the first true leaves appeared when the plants seemed to be dying off. I thought it was a fungal disease at first but I found in scratching around that the root was still there and the plants had gone into early dormancy.

This could have been triggered by a temporary lack of water or over hot temperatures (remember this is a high mountain plant). Anyway I stopped throwing out the pots and kept them to one side in the poly tunnel. That was over a year ago.

Well a couple of weeks ago in July little leaves poked up from the porting mix so they were alive and growing. But funny time of the year to be sprouting leaves the middle of an Australian winter!

Time to go back and read Richo Cech again about raising these plants

Well I just did and reporting back to you have found the reference explaining this behaviour. Richo says seedlings become vegetatively dormant by midsummer…..The plant then re-emerge in mid winter in mild areas and in the very early spring in very cold areas

So the plant behaviour is right on the mark.

Schisandra the five flavoured fruit


Wu wei zi  its Chinese name means five flavoured fruit.

This fruit from this vine encompasses the tastes of sour, sweet. bitter, pungent and salty. Quite a range for one plant. This is a superior tonic herb in Chinese medicine.

Schisandra relates to all five elements and the plant energy enters all twelve meridians. Such is its wide ranging effect that Ron Teeguarden’s Korean Master held it as his personal favourite amongst the Superior tonic Herbs.

It also contains in abundance all three energetic treasures in the Chinese medical system. These are Jing Qi and Shen. This is a personal favourite of mine in the Superior tonic range of Chinese herbs.

An interesting lesson I learned from Schisandra tincture was using a bottle of 12 year old tincture and finding it still good and efficacious. The finer notes of the taste had diminished but the medicinal effect was still good. Whilst this cannot be extrapolated across all plant type tinctures it shows that an alcoholic tincture can be a very long lasting medicine. Far longer than the recommended shelf life codes placed on just about anything these days.

I respond well to Schisandra and with the 12 year old tincture I felt a beneficial effect from just five drops straight away. Powerful tonic herb indeed

From there I moved on to making my own tincture and after pressing out the berries decided to use them on my breakfast each morning rather than throwing them out. They make a nice surprise in the morning muesli with their complex flavour.

Growing this interesting plant from seed is my current project. Richo Cech has this plant down as belonging to the seed whispering category for success. My first attempt is still sitting in a pot with not much happening.

The current second attempt is looking more promising after some internet research revealed a scientific paper on propagating this plant from seed and cuttings. The seed needs to go through a range of very specific conditions especially temperature. This paper hailing from authors in Moldova was a revelation for me.

The link to a PDF of this paper is below.

By the way Schisandra is spelled in a few different ways, the second s sometimes being a z. The Chinese name Wu Wei Zi also varies amongst authors. Scientific name is always the same and I have a related article talking about its American cousin.



Ron Teeguarden – The ancient wisdom of the Chinese tonic herbs

Brandon Daemon – Tonic herbs audio talk


The biology of the propagation of Schisandra chinensis

The paper from scientists in Moldova on propagating this wonderful plant.

Chi  Berry Farm

This link takes you to some details about Dr Chang’s Schisandra farm in Western Massachusetts. I have no commercial relationship with Dr Chang.



Schisandra glabra – The American connection

Schisandra glabra seed


Having joined United Plant Saver and received my first annual journal (Spring 2013) I was excited to see an article titled “Wu Wei Zi” the Chinese name of Schisandra by Glinda Watts.

Well my interest grew further when I realise that the article was talking about the American species of this famed tonic herb. I never knew that before and better yet there was the information that Horizon herbs have the seed for sale.

Immediately I was onto the web page and looking for Schisandra. Damn it was not there, conundrum number one.  Patience and sure enough the seeds were listed. So off goes the order and the precious seeds arrive. It said ten seeds on the packet but really only nine were of any use. Number 10 was in pieces! A victim of the international mail journey.

Well the next conundrum – what pre treatment to give these seeds? Horizon mentioned to soak overnight sow and leave over winter for a slow but steady germination over a year. Having already delved deeply into Schisandra germination with the chinensis species I decided to give it the same treatment (see previous post on Schisandra) with an added twist of watering with seaweed solution initially to boost germination. So the waiting game continues through the pre treatment process leading to germination.

Growing these plants teaches you patience. Its interesting that the older I become the more patient I am with these herbs that have long germination times. It becomes an interesting challenge rather than a frustration.


True Comfrey

Comfrey 2

Symphytum officinalis the true species.

Everyone thinks they know comfrey and can identify this plant. What is not commonly known is that most comfrey plants seen in gardens is the agricultural hybrid Symphytum uplandicum hybrid.  The botanical ID of this plant has been mightily confused due to the hybridisation program of creating the agricultural varieties.

This agricultural hybrid is actually much higher in the pyrrolizidine alkaloid (PA) compounds that have caused this plant to be restricted from internal use by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration).

So to make a good comfrey product start with true species.  I sourced seeds from Horizon herbs in Oregon United States. Then you harvest the leaves in preference to the roots and go for the older leaves rather than the young one. Dry the leaves then you have some raw material best suited for making medicine with a low PA content.

You can make tincture (for external usage only!) or an infused oil preparation.

A good reference for comfrey information is comfrey central. Google it. I especially recommend the article by Paul Berger who puts a good perspective on the do’s and don’ts of comfrey usage.

Water Lilly Wonder

Nymphaea odorata sulphurea

Waterlily growing happily in the dam

Waterlily growing happily in the dam

Water Lily as a remedy and as a commercial tincture is fading from current herbalists usage and knowledge. Taught by the late Dorothy Hall in her classes there are only a few largely empty tincture bottles mouldering on the shelves of dispensaries these day. Now seemingly out of fashion and not commercially produced in Australia and apparently not in North America either.

This plant is currently growing in the dam that has been set aside for aquatic herbs. Longer term  there can be some limited harvest  to provide this remedy again to the herbal community. I’m constantly surprised at the easy to grow remedies, that have a proven track record yet some how fall off the range of commercially available product. Are all the commercial growers just providing the popular marketable items the Scullcaps and Echinacea ?

A quote from Matthew Wood  “The Book of Herbal Wisdom” to summarise its use.  ” The root is large and starchy, containing much carbohydrates, mucilage, and tannins so that it makes an ideal topical dressing for external sores and inflammation, also acting through the system to soothe and tone the mucosa and the attendant internal surfaces and organs”

Preparation of the remedy starts with harvest of the root in autumn and can be tinctured fresh or sliced thinly and dried for storage. An Indian tradition that has carried forward to our times is to not use any iron implements in cutting the rhizome or preparing the root