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This is a space to learn about herbal medicine & generally see what VCM is up to.



Hey there everyone! Today we are exploring Lavender, whose Latin name is Lavandula angustifolia.

Most people think of Lavender as just a scent, maybe in a little sachet stored in a drawer, or a scent option for a room spray, but Lavender is so much more than that!

This lovely plant with little purple flowers has many cousins, meaning there are lots of lavender types. Some are better for smelling & some look pretty in gardens, but only Lavandula angustifolia is approved by the American Botanical Council to be used for medicinal reasons. This means that you should be checking on the lavender type you’re using, before you eat or drink it.

Lavandula angustifolia can be made into a tea to help you relax before bed or to soothe your nerves. Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over ½ a teaspoon of dried flower buds and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Strain out the flowers and it’s ready to go!

Lavender is sometimes found as a tincture or glycerite, meaning that either alcohol or glycerine were used to concentrate the herb. These should be used in small amounts since they are much stronger than tea. 1-2 dropperfuls is all you’ll need. Remember that a “dropperful” of tincture is just the amount that shows up when you squeeze the top once. You don’t have to make it fill all the way up.Lavender tea, tincture, or glycerite can be great for calming an upset stomach, for reducing anxiety, and to help with insomnia. It is safe to use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Lavender is also very commonly found as an essential oil, meaning that the components of the herb have been pulled out to make a very strong liquid. Please don’t eat or drink any essential oils, since they are too concentrated to be safe that way, but there are lots of other ways they help!

The scent of lavender is very calming, so go ahead and add a few drops to your bath water, or sprinkle some on the shower wall. While you never want to place an essential oil directly on your skin, you can add 1-2 drops of it to a tablespoon of olive oil, and use that as a massage oil. This can be rubbed on your chest to assist in getting a better night's sleep, or rubbed on sore muscles and joints. Use this mixed oil on your temples and the back of your neck if you have a tension headache.

While lavender grows all over the place locally, it’s best to only harvest what you’ve planted and grown, so you can be sure it is the correct type of lavender. Lavender oil can be found in many stores such as Natural Grocers and Chuck’s. The bulk herb is found locally at Healing Arts Apothecary in Battle Ground, and I order it online from Starwest Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs. Again, please be sure that Lavandula angustifolia is the type you are purchasing. We aren’t opening up that sweet-smelling sachet to make tea, okay?

We hope this video helps you feel a bit more comfortable with using Lavender. Please always remember that some herbs can interact badly with each other, or with medications, and knowing your way around them is important before using them. If you want to learn even more about this herb, you can check out the American Botanical Council (link below), and you can always make an appointment to see the VCM Team for botanical guidance and support, especially around the childbearing year.



Hey there everyone! Today we are checking out Marshmallow, whose Latin name is Althea officinalis.

Now I know you’d love it if I were talking about those sweet, fluffy treats found in the grocery store baking aisle, but the marshmallow we are talking about today is of the plant variety. This beautiful giant can get to be about 4 feet tall, and grows little flowers all over. We mostly use the root medicinally, but can use its leaves as well.

Marshmallow’s Latin name actually stems from “Althos”, which means healer, because that is exactly what this plant is, in so many ways. It’s used for respiratory issues like sore throat, cough, or bronchitis. It’s fabulous for the digestive system, helping both diarrhea and constipation, because it balances the mucous membranes in the intestines. It helps soothe an irritated bladder, and is amazing for skin problems like eczema, sunburn, bruising and swelling. Those with heartburn can sip on it through the day as needed. Okay, so we’ve established that this plant is fabulous, now how in the world do we use it?!

Marshmallow is a bit different, since it’s best made in what we call a cold infusion. This means that we don’t want to use hot water on it, like many other herbs, since hot water actually destroys a lot of the main healing bits we are trying to use. Take 2 tablespoons of the chopped up root and pour 16 ounces of cold or room temperature water over it. Place it in the fridge for 4-12 hours, though it can be left out in a cool area if a fridge isn’t available to use. I like to prepare it before bed, then it’s ready to use in the morning. Strain out the root pieces, then you can drink it down or sip on it through the day! Drinking it best helps with those respiratory, digestive or urinary issues, but you can pour it directly on your skin for those external issues.

You can make something called a poultice as well, which is just marshmallow powder, moistened slightly with water, & wrapped in a bit of cloth. This is placed right on the irritated area of skin. If you’ve made a cold infusion, you can even make a poultice using the herbs you strained out of that.

Marshmallow grows pretty well here in the Pacific Northwest. If you grow it in your garden, you’ll see flowering in its 2nd year, and you should wait until it is 3-4 years old before harvesting some of its roots. Marshmallow isn’t something you’ll want to try to harvest from public areas since it’s mostly decorative in those spaces, and those who planted it may not appreciate you uprooting it.

If growing Marshmallow isn’t in your plans, then you can purchase the dried root. Healing Arts Apothecary in Battle Ground is a great place to get bulk herbs locally, and I like ordering it online from Starwest Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Marshmallow is safe to use in pregnancy, and also while breastfeeding. It’s important to know that Marshmallow does slow down the absorption of some medications, so you should wait an hour or two to drink it after taking any meds.

We hope this video helps you feel a bit more comfortable with using Marshmallow root. Please always remember that some herbs can interact badly with each other, or with medications, and knowing your way around them is important before using them. If you want to learn even more about this herb, you can check out the American Botanical Council (link below), and you can always make an appointment to see the VCM Team for botanical guidance and support, especially around the childbearing year. using an image. Try keeping the paragraph short and breaking off the text-only areas of your page to keep your website interesting to visitors.



Hey there everyone! Today we are looking at our herbal friend Nettle, whose Latin name is Urtica dioica.

Often known as stinging nettle, this plant is true to its name, and will sting when touched fresh, leaving behind a rash. It’s best to pick this plant wearing thick gloves, though some people actually use that sting on their joints to bring blood flow to the area and treat arthritis. This treatment goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, and Roman troops were even known to use the stinging all over themselves to keep warm! Nettles are so amazing that people even turn them into fibers, and make clothing from them!

This plant really is one of my absolute favorites. It shows up in spring, and supports us perfectly just as we are coming out of our winter hibernations. It’s a strong plant that defends itself, always growing close to its best friend Cleaver, who complements it well. Nettle knows how to help us find strength, waking up our bodies and supporting that transition into the warmer months through good nutrition. It’s a very safe plant, and can be used in pregnancy and during breastfeeding. It works so well for so many things, that we often say, “When in doubt, add Nettle!”

Most often, we see Nettle used in a tea or tincture form. The young plant can be eaten as a food also. Try sauteeing it up the same as you would spinach, or steaming it. Throw it into stews and broths, or you can freeze it and toss it into a smoothie! Just make sure to cook it down well, since that makes the stinging ability go away. When we take it internally, it is nutritive, meaning it is full of healthy vitamins and minerals for our bodies. It can be a great addition to your diet if you have low iron levels, since it helps your body absorb the iron from other foods.

To make tea, boil 8 ounces of water and pour it over 2 teaspoons of dried nettle, then let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and enjoy! Simple as that. You can drink this tea a few times a day if you’d like. It can be a little bitter, so some people like to add in herbs like chamomile or peppermint, or you can just add Nettles in with your favorite flavored tea bag!

Nettle tincture in another option. Tinctures are concentrated herbs, meaning a little bit goes a long way. You can take 2-5 dropperfuls, up to 3 times a day. Start out with the lower dose, and see how it feels, then add more if you’d like to. Tinctures are pretty powerful, so no need to go over that max amount. You’ll get what you need from the smaller doses. Also, when I say “dropperful”, it is just the amount that shows up when you squeeze the top of tincture bottle. It never fills all the way up, so don’t worry about trying to get it there.

Nettles grow all over the place in Vancouver, WA and the Pacific Northwest in general. It loves moist soil, so you can find it on the edges of rivers and streams, but it can show up all over the place here, where it rains a lot. It likes full or partial sun, and grows up in springtime, sometimes getting to be taller than 5 or 6 feet!

It’s best to harvest nettle when it is at least a foot tall, but before it starts to grow flowers. Use scissors to snip it down, but please leave behind a few inches at the bottom, clipping it just above where the first group of leaves branch off, so it has a chance to continue growing. You can find nettles in local parks and wildlife areas, but remember that nettles can hold onto whatever they find in the air around them, including fumes from cars, so don’t eat ones that grow near roads or parking areas.

If you’d like to buy Nettle instead of harvesting it, it is easily found dried, and in tincture form. Check out local places like Chuck’s or Natural Grocers for the tincture. Healing Arts Apothecary in Battle Ground carries the bulk dried herb. It can be ordered online too. I like ordering from Starwest Botanicals and Mountain Rose Herbs. And no, I’m not paid to say that, they’re just great companies who grow great herbs, and you can find their links below.

We hope this video helps you feel a bit more comfortable with using Nettles. Please always remember that some herbs can interact badly with each other, or with medications, and knowing your way around them is important before using them. If you want to learn even more about this herb, you can check out the American Botanical Council (link below), and you can always make an appointment to see the VCM Team for botanical guidance and support, especially around the childbearing year. 

Cooking Through the Childbearing Year:

An herbal exploration of food, drink, and family

by: Emilie Jenkins, MSM

Emilie Jenkins, MSM, is a midwifery graduate of Bastyr University. She is an herbalist and lover of food based out of Bellingham, WA. As our guest blogger, she shares her love for botanical medicine and working with recipes as they apply to pregnancy’s specific trimester needs. In her spare time, Emilie is a cellist-baker-beekeeper, a reader of books and enjoyer of strolls around the park.

If you enjoy these recipes, stay tuned for Emilie’s full cookbook, Cooking Through the Childbearing Year, due to be published June 2021.

Simple Syrup

 Early pregnancy discomforts can vary widely. One of the most common is nausea and vomiting, often called “morning sickness” through it is very rarely limited to morning. Pregnancy is hard work. You’re making a human being from scratch! And all that building takes a lot of building blocks, things like glucose (sugars), proteins, and lipids (fats). There are also huge hormone shifts in early pregnancy as you shift from one to two. These big jumps and shifts along with the quick changes in blood sugar are  some of the things that can lead to morning sickness.

There is hope. Eating small frequent meals, high in protein can be one way to combat morning sickness. Keeping a bowl of nuts next 

to your bed to eat first thing in the morning can be helpful. The following are recipes to settle your baby belly and equip you to handle these first months of change.

Ginger Simple Syrup

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup water

4 TBS grated fresh ginger

Peppermint Chamomile Simple Syrup

1 Cup sugar

1 cup water

¼ Cup dried peppermint

¼ Cup dried chamomile

Substitute peppermint with the zest of 1-2 lemons for Lemon Chamomile Simple Syrup. Use 1 TBS of lavender with or without the chamomile, for a more relaxing flavor. Take care with lavender, it can easily become overpowering and perfum-y.

Place ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat on medium high, stirring constantly until it begins to bubble lightly, taking care not to boil. Stir until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add to fizzy water to dress up a drink or to ease nausea throughout the day or night.

Add fresh fruit to dress up a summer mocktail. 

Easy Flat Bread

Early pregnancy is all about survival. You eat what you can when you can. And most of what you’re eating is carbs. Simple carbs such as crackers, breads, and grains are easy to digest and can help with that nauseated “Am I pregnant or did I just lick something moldy” feeling. This bread is easy to throw together, contains ingredients that you probably have on hand, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. The other great thing about this recipe is that it contains only real food, things you can pronounce and know where they come from. No weird lab made preservatives, no funky chemicals, no modified plastics. Just flour, salt, oil, baking powder, and yogurt. You can use this bread as a foundation for pizza, cut into triangles and dip in hummus, dip in oil and vinegar, or for a sweeter treat, melt a little butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and honey.


3 cups plain flour plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup milk

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the yogurt, oil and milk.

Knead for about 1 minute until a soft dough is formed (it doesn't need long). Cover bowl with wrap or a plate and set aside to rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

Dust a clean work bench with a light coating of flour.

Divide dough in half, then divide each half in 4 equal-sized pieces (you will have 8 pieces in total).

Roll the pieces into balls; flatten them out with the palms of your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece 2mm thick and about 3 1/2 inches or 10cm in diameter.

Lightly grease a nonstick pan with cooking oil spray (or a small brush of oil) over medium heat.

Cook one piece for 2 minutes on one side.

Lightly spray or brush the top over with oil/butter again before flipping. Cook until golden.

Repeat with remaining flatbread.

To serve, lightly brush each piece with a small amount of olive oil or garlic olive oil (optional).

Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie

I look forward to blueberry picking every year. The Pacific Northwest grows some of the best berries in the United States. Beautiful vistas overlooking Mount Baker, green fields, and plump blueberries. My family and I each claim a bucket and move through the rows gathering these little capsules of sweet sunshine. I often feel more berries end up in the bellies of my babies, than the bucket. But sure as the sun in July, we come home with pounds and pounds of berries ready for canning, jamming, pies, and ice creams. Wrapped in slate blue matted skin and bursting with flavor, these perfect round gems hold more than the flavor of cool rain and blue skies. The medicine they hold helps protect against bladder infections also known as urinary tract infections (UTI). UTIs are more common in pregnancy and often go unnoticed until they turn into painful urination or something more serious, like a kidney infection or preterm labor. For this reason, most providers will test for bacteria in the urine during your pregnancy. Ways to avoid UTIs or to treat them early often include cranberries due to the flavonoid group proanthacyanidins. These help prevent bacteria such as E. coli from sticking to the walls of the bladder and urethra. Blueberries and pomegranates also contain large amounts of proanthocyanidins without the sour and bitter flavor that cranberry brings to the table.


1 Cup frozen blueberries

1 Cup pomegranate juice

1 Cup plain Greek yogurt, or non-dairy substitute

½ Cup cranberry juice

1 banana

Honey to taste

Place ingredients into the blender and pulse until smooth. If the cranberry juice is too tart, you can substitute water or milk for some or all of the ½ C of cranberry juice. Pomegranate juice, beet juice, or blueberry juice is also really good. You can of course, use fresh blueberries, but frozen blueberries are more effective for bladder health and help make the smoothie cold without adding ice. Throw in some spinach or massaged kale for an extra kick! Try freezing the extra for a summertime treat. 

Almond Pancakes

Gestational diabetes or not, it’s a good idea to eat sugars and carbs in moderation. That pesky little hPL hormone is in full force by 28 weeks so increasing veggies and protein is a great strategy to​ give good nutrients to you and your baby. I'm of course not here to tell you to eat salad every day. As a​ midwife, I'd much rather you have a pancake with elderberry syrup and go for a walk, or do some yoga then have you sit on the couch and eat lettuce all day! Pregnancy, like tree pose, is a balancing act. you do what you can with what you have. So here's a recip​e for alm​ond pancakes and elderberry syrup. Eat! enjoy! then go take a walk.

These pancakes are packed with protein and have the added benefit of being gluten free, if that’s your thing. This recipe has some ingredients that may take an extra trip to the store. Coconut sugar contains more minerals than white sugar, but it’s still a sweeter, so use it sparingly. Feel free to substitute white sugar for the coconut sugar knowing that going for a walk after enjoying this snack is a good idea.

Dark colored fruits and veg contain flavonoids which reduce inflammation and help make strong blood vessels, both of which are needed in pregnancy. Flavanoids have been shown to improve focus and prevent bacteria from sticking to tissues.


1 Cup almond flour

1 TBS coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/3 Cup unsweetened milk (cow, goat, almond, oat, you choose)

2 TBS coconut oil, plus extra for frying (any oil will work for this)

Combine above ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring until smooth.

Heat an oiled griddle or skillet over medium low heat. Using a ¼ C measuring cup, pour the batter onto the griddle to form small circles. Or make a bunny. Or a lion. My mom had an affinity for bears. Get creative! You may as well start practicing making food fun now.

Cover the pancakes for 2 minutes. If you have a glass lid look for the bubbles. When the top of the pancake starts to bubble, and the bubbles pop, it’s time to flip. If you can’t see through your lid this may take some practice, check them at 1 ½ minutes and give extra time as needed. Much like due dates, not ever pancake is ready at the same time. Trust your instincts. You’re a great pancake Mama/Papa.

Using a spatula, channel your inner chef and flip those babies to the other side. Cook for about 2 more minutes on the opposite side until well browned. Repeat until all the batter has transformed into tasty high protein pancakes. Take that hPL!

Serve with nuts to boost your omega-3 intake. Add fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. Eat the rainbow!