Q&A with JJ Pursell, Author of “The Herbal Apothecary”

By Shelley Pierce | December 18, 2016
Image by The Timber Press
by Shelley Pierce
December 18, 2016

Dr. JJ Pursell is a board certified naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist and has worked with medicinal herbs for more than 20 years. She owns Fettle Botanic Supply & Counsel, which has locations in Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn, New York.  Learn more about Fettle Botanic Botanic Supply & Counsel on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

In her latest book, “The Herbal Apothecary“, Dr. JJ Pursell provides an accessible and comprehensive introduction to medicinal plants, explaining how they work and how to use them safely.

Read on for more information about this book and find out how to win one of two copies from The Timber Press!

1. When planning next season’s garden, it would be difficult for most of us to accommodate space for all 100 of the medicinal plants in your book.  What herbs do you highly recommend that we allot space for and why?

That is the beauty of herbal medicine – you don’t need to plant very many to have an abundance of medicine at your fingertips. Here are 5 of my garden favorites. Lavender, Calendula, Catnip, Rosemary and Dandelion.

Lavender for cuts, burns, relaxation, sunburns and enjoyment

Calendula is anti-inflammatory, wound healing, anti-microbial

Catnip is a quick and tasty tummy tamer as well as gentle relaxer of tension headaches

Rosemary can be truly helpful in times of cold and flu and is also anti-inflammatory

Dandelion – yup, I said it, Dandelion. Instead of fighting with ridding your garden of these beautiful little flowers, embrace them and they’ll offer you a lot of healing. The leaf and flower are high in minerals that are great for the kidneys and the leaf can help with any type of water retention. The root is an excellent liver tonic that works extremely gently. It is also helpful when trying to cut out sugar in your life. A cup of dandelion root tea first thing in the morning is said to cut sugar cravings.

2.  Is the medicinal potency of herbs affected by how they are grown, where they are grown, and when they are harvested?

We all thrive under the best of conditions, plants included. While the philosophy of bio-dynamic gardening can manifest amazing results when it comes to growth rate and plant constituent increases, simple mindful practices will provide a bountiful harvest. The amazing thing is -a large number of healing plants need little to thrive. Picture dandelion, plantain, mullein, comfrey and yellow dock – regarded as pesty weeds that have grown a million dollar industry to rid our yards of them. Even under minimal conditions, plants survive. A few basic parameters are; harvest leaves in the late spring, flowers right as they are opening and roots in the fall.

3. What are some herbs that people are most surprised to learn have medicinal value?

When you enter my shoppe, Fettle Botanic Supply & Counsel, you see a large selection of herbs in jars, all neatly labeled with a bit of information about each one. I love watching customers slowly browse picking up jars and reading their faces when they realize a plant that they’ve know for so long is actually healing medicine. One of my favorites is Kudzu. Kudzu is a vine that likes to spread out wide and far if given the chance. For anyone that grew up in the south it is often pure shock when they realize the potential of this plant so often disregarded. Kudzu, along with all of the herbs when been trained to treat as “weeds,” are the ones that bring the most amazement when customers learn all that they can do.

4. It seems as though Mother Nature has lots to offer us with antidepressant microbes in the soil and a wealth of medicinal plants.  Just how many plants in existence have medicinal value and why did the 100 featured in your book make the cut?

Well – you’re talking to an herbalist, so when asked this question I honestly think that almost all plants have some sort of healing potential or at the very least, can provide as a food source. The reason we choose the 100 that we did was because I wanted to choose a list that could be easily found in the wild. Not everyone can afford to shop or garden for the herbs they wish, but taking a nature walk is free, as is responsible wild-crafting.

5. What advice do you have for people wanting to explore medicinal plants for the first time and how does your book help them in their exploration?

While not everyone will choose to integrate herbal medicine into their day to day lives, having some basic knowledge can be extremely beneficial. For anyone just beginning, reading a great introductory book is a great place to start. The idea behind this book was to write something that readers could relate to, which often triggers the herbal interest bug. I also encourage you to check out a class or two in your community. These are often low cost and a great opportunity to learn more.

6. What’s in your garden?

Everything. Last year I create a new 40×40 vegetable garden and half way into the spring I started dropping in all the culinary herbs as well as calendula, lavender, borage, nasturtium, and many flower varieties. On our 6 acres we have many wild herbs including; Hawthorne trees, Cedar atlas trees, fruit trees, mullein, Oregon grape, plantain, dandelion, burdock, blessed thistle, cleavers, yellow dock and so much more.

Herbal Apothecary AUTHOR by Shawn Linehan
The Herbal Apothecary!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Thursday, December 22, 2016 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What herbs are you most interested in knowing more about and growing in your garden?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See Rules for more information.)



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  • Joanne H
    Comment added December 23, 2016Reply

    I am currently planning a medicinal garden and would love to learn about burdock root, holy basil, and ginseng. Thanks!

  • Kristen Chan
    Comment added December 21, 2016Reply

    i want to grow turmeric.

  • gloria f
    Comment added December 21, 2016Reply

    I'd love to learn more about catnip! I know the cats like it but know nothing about usage for people.

  • Francine S
    Comment added December 21, 2016Reply

    I'd love to learn more about burdock, plaintain, and dandelions since we are already great at growing them!

  • Laura L.
    Comment added December 20, 2016Reply

    I look forward to adding savory and nasturtiums to my little garden next year. This year included calendula, red raspberries, volunteer purslane & chamomile.

  • Tom ~ Raise Your Garden
    Comment added December 19, 2016Reply

    Yep. Would love to win this book. And is there any way you can send complimentary copies to all my neighbors? They are driving me to insanity and beyond with their dandelion spraying. Hellooooo chemicals. Can't they just leave em alone?

  • patricia skinner
    Comment added December 19, 2016Reply

    I would like to grow chamomile and spearmint. I would like to know more about myrrh.

  • Jean F
    Comment added December 19, 2016Reply

    I would like to grow cilantro and chives. I've tried but failed so far.

  • Josie
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    I would like to know more about St Johns Wort And how to correctly use it!

  • chester marx
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    I have been using purslane, and I'm not really sure what I can use it for, other than a green for salad. And I'd love to find out how to use fennell.

  • Sheryle G
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    I'm interested in more information about horehound.

  • Michael Blackmon
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    I am interested in trying to add the saffron crocus and turmeric to my garden.

  • Lynn Ward
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    Actually, I absolutely love the questions & answers above... I would love to grow herbs for inflammation, healing and of course cooking. I would love to understand more of what already exists naturally. I would love to be one of the lucky ones to receive the book! Thank you!

  • Diane Young
    Comment added December 18, 2016Reply

    I would love to know more about growing lavender, rosemary and catnip. They seem to have a variety of uses as well as being nice to look at. I am interested in growing and drying herbs in order to preserve them for future use. It would also be nice to learn how to save the seeds to grow each year. I've tried rosemary a few times but so not quite sure what to do with it.

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