Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Meet Janet Pagan

Description: Ayurveda is the “science of Life”. Recognized by the World Health Organization as a legitimate medical model, Ayurveda offers a healing system based on observations of our natural world. How can we use, understand, and apply this healing system in our everyday life? My guest this week, Rev. Janet Pagan is an Ayurvedic nutritionist, certified health coach, Reiki counselor. She discusses dosha types, seasons and more. Join us for an informative discussion.

About My Guest: Rev. Janet M. Pagan, CEO of Phoenix Sol H.P., Inc. is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Rev. Pagan is a Certified Health Coach; Ayurvedic Nutritionist; Reiki Master and Spiritual Counselor. Rev. Pagan also holds a Master Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College and has worked in the field of Child Welfare servicing children and families for over 15 yrs. (Rev. Pagan received a Bachelor of Science in the field of Education and Black Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies from SUNY- New Paltz. )

Transcript:  #33 Janet Pagan

Blog: Plants Like Tea Too



Our gardens like tea too!


We drink tea for different reasons. We sip peppermint tea to quiet an upset stomach. We make a blend using plants from our gardens to enjoy throughout the winter, not only savoring the aroma and taste, but receiving health benefits too from minerals and vitamins contained in flowers and stems, leaves, and roots.

Making compost tea from weed clippings is easy and gives additional nourishment to plants free from synthetic fertilizers, or chemical ones.

Weeds are a powerhouse of minerals, in trace amounts that the soil uses and needs to stay strong and healthy, a good base for our plants to grow. When we clip weeds rather than pull out all roots we keep an incredible underground network intact. This network of fungi, mycorrhizal hyphae, microscopic in size, and insects sends nutrients where needed. I have stopped pulling weeds from garden paths. They are often soft and I can easily keep them cut and low but I have become keenly aware that they have an extremely important role in maintaining garden health. It’s like we have an underground highway beneath our feet, one that delivers information, nutrients and even aid, all through an intricate communication system. It can pick up messages about an unwanted pest and send signals to plants to prepare, if possible.

My guest this week, Kris McCue from the Bionutrient Food Association, stresses over and over that healthy soil makes for healthier food. The BFA has great articles, youtube videos, information to assist in keeping soil healthy. And I don’t know about you, but I love a juicy tomato fresh picked from my garden on a hot summer’s day filled with taste and flavor.

So let’s get back to compost tea. It’s nothing new and yet it seems to me to be even more important now that we are uncovering the incredible network joining various root systems underground. Like sun tea, we use water, weeds, and sun to brew the weeds in a bucket, strain. The resulting tea can be watered onto a garden and even used as a foliar spray.

Compost Tea Recipe:

  1. Use cut plant material, typically weeds, and place into a quart bucket. Some sources suggest a bucket with a tap too. Consider placing them into a cloth, like cheesecloth so small pieces do not clog the hose when you are ready to use it.
  2. Fill 1/2 container with plant material, then cover and fill the bucket with water.
  3. Let sit for three weeks, understand this will smell.
  4. Stir every couple of days
  5. Add one large spoonful of molasses and stir again.
  6. When three weeks is over, you can water your garden with this tea. For a foliar spray, it is often recommended to dilute the tea in a ratio of 1:10: one part tea to ten parts water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil to 4 quarts of water so the tea adheres to the leaves.


“Compost tea is an effective, low-strength, natural fertilizer for seedlings and garden plants. It can suppress fungal plant diseases. The tea-brewing process extracts (and in some cases grows and multiplies) nutrients and beneficial bacteria and fungi and suspends them in water in a form that makes them quickly available to plants.” Rodale Press

Biodynamic farming, organic farming sources give many examples of healthy thriving gardens that employ these practices.

I like tea making for myself and family. I have used many weeds for their nourishing properties. In previous posts, I have highlighted the nourishing components found in common weeds that are edible. Our garden’s soil needs food too. Compost tea is easy to make, can be kept outside and replenished with more cut weeds as we use the tea water.

Got tea? Don’t forget your garden! Notice any difference? Send us your observations and use of compost tea. We’d love to hear from you.



Holistic Nature of Us: Can a Plant Reveal Its Secrets by Its Color and Form?




Can a plant give us a clue by its structure, its form? Can the color of a flower or root be an indication of some of its properties or the organ system it helps?

Apparently, that’s not new information. In herb classes, the Doctrine of Signatures is a  well-known reference to these correlations. Stemming from the ancients and passed down through the ages, often referred to as folklore, gave herbalists, the village healers, doctors, a reference point for which ones to use in healing various conditions, disorders, organ systems.

The doctrine of signatures, dating from the time of Dioscorides and Galen, states that herbs resembling various parts of the body can be used by herbalists to treat ailments of those body parts.” (Wikipedia)

“Paracelsus was a physician and alchemist (early 1500’s) who believed that medicine should be simple and straightforward. He was greatly inspired by the Doctrine of Signatures, which maintained that the outward appearance of a plant gave an indication of the problems it would cure. This theory is sometimes surprisingly accurate.” (USDA forest service)

Today we have advanced equipment, labs to test the validity of some of these claims and guess what? Science is proving what the oral traditions, the folklore traditions knew: clues from the plant, their structure, their form, colors that seem to help heal, can, in fact, help heal specific organ systems. Nature reflects back to us what we are and offers help. Many successful healers looked at the plant world in this way. They were connected to the sun and moon cycles, very aware of the weather, knew their landscapes well.

Centuries ago and not that long ago, we did not have the knowledge of bacteria, viruses that we can see with super microscopes. Evil spirits were the names of the stuff that gets you, brings in illness etc. That was the lingo of the times. There was a deeper more colloquial connection to the Creator, to God, by whatever religion you followed. There was a recognition that the Divine in nature provided clues, assistance. My Native elders said that we have all that we need for healing if we pay attention to what’s beneath our feet, what’s near us. Observe.

My guests this week, Andrea and Matthias Reisen, have over 25 years experience as growers deeply connected to the plants and their land. They are caretakers in the true sense of the word, offering prayers of thanks, gratitude, and acknowledgment for the gifts the land provides. In our discussion, we touched upon invasives, Japanese knotweed in particular. My curiosity piqued. I decided to look into this plant more carefully because the Reisen’s harvest it, for use in the medical community for Lyme’s disease.

Name: Japanese Knotweed: Polygonum cuspidatum var. Japonica or Japanese bamboo; bamboo-like stems with somewhat heart-shaped leaves, herbaceous perennial shrub-like.

Where Found: Originated in Eastern Asia, member of the buckwheat family. It was introduced in the US in late 1800’s. Thrives in disturbed areas, forms dense thickets; little grows with it so it crowds out vegetation. Unfortunately, the soil remains bare between the stems which can be susceptible to erosion. This plant decreases species diversity, alters ecosystems. Can grow to 3-15′ tall. Its stems are easy to identify, notched like bamboo and have purple-red speckles.

Properties: very high in resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes, peanuts, mulberries, red wine

Uses: Leaves, young shoots: spring vegetable in Asian cultures, Used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine with other herbs for gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular issues as well as cognitive function. Resveratrol continues to be studied for its effect on decreasing cancer and helping combat Lyme’s Disease. In the plant, resveratrol acts to stop microbial infections. It’s this observation that links the way Japanese knotweed may work in Lyme’s disease.

I came across this article, from the forager chef, on how to cook and use it. I am not familiar with foraging this plant but the recipe I link you too looks delicious. It’s too early here but I know of a patch and will keep an eye on it. Young stems 12″ or less need to be cut in the early spring. Otherwise, as the season and growth progresses, the stems become too fibrous and not very palatable. You can make a refreshing tea from its roots.

Let’s look at the root, known as ‘tiger root’ in the orient..

Healing Spirits Herb Farm has been selling the root for many years. It’s been difficult for me to find a picture of its roots due to royalty rights. However, from the ones I found, I can see Matthias’ description very well. There’s a knot, then root, then knot, then root and the root can go down 10′! No wonder once you got it, it won’t go away. It’s the root that he harvests and because he does so, he contributes to managing the land space where this plant is located by his ‘neck of the woods’ in western NY. Will it go away? No. but by harvesting in large quantities he helps control its spread.

Now, tying in the Doctrine of Signatures, the root system seems to have notches, like steps, Maybe this pattern gives a clue as to how the plant works. Studies are showing that the root in tincture or capsule form helps kill the bacteria found in Lyme’s Disease. The resveratrol may work on the bacteria in steps. Can we prove this? Not yet. But observations from nature have validity and patient healing offers hope for healing Lyme’s disease.

Today, its too early to gather the young shoots and leaves but I want to try. I also want to make a tea this summer from its root. How about you? We have plants in our backyards we have forgotten how to use. How about looking into an invasive such as Japanese knotweed and use it. Get your neighbors involved. Make a recipe and bring to a block party, a family picnic. Remember it’s a cherished food in Asian cultures.

Send me your recipe, a short story on how you use Japanese knotweed. I look forward to hearing from you.

Enjoy. Judith


The Tree of Peace: White Pine

Autumn winds through December bringing the holiday season to our doors. Pine and Juniper boughs decorate our hearths leaving the smell of the forest mingling with the aromas of holiday baking. Doesn’t the scent bring you back to childhood or a time when we used fresh boughs more frequently? It does for me. Did you know that Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea for electric Christmas tree lights in 1882? Prior to these inventions, candles were used to light up the trees. The combination of candlelight and dry needles posed for a serious fire hazard. They began mass production of them in 1890.

White Pine, Pinus strobus, is often used and thought of as the “Christmas Tree.”

White pine has a rich and noble history that predates the arrival of European settlers.

The Iroquois Confederacy began hundreds of years before 1492.  This Confederacy culminated in the joining of Five North Eastern American Tribes into a peaceful union. Weapons were buried beneath the White Pine tree or planted at the bottom of the hole of a new planting to symbolize the laying down of arms. The Confederacy sought to negotiate a peaceful outcome with and for all tribes. The Iroquois Nation offered this symbol to the new arrivals in order to develop diplomacy.  Thus the White Pine is a powerful symbolic and healing plant for the Iroquois nation.

Did you know that when the first Europeans arrived in North America, they noticed large swaths of bark peeled from the trees? Many NE Tribes used the inner barks of trees for food and medicine.

White Pine: Pinus strobus

Where Found: Eastern US; Evergreen, tall, grows to about 50-80′; native and common to eastern half US; needles-  5 inches; the needle count of 5 is a distinguishing characteristic. This tree is considered the most valuable hardwood in North America used for trim work, delicate cabinetry, etc.

Wildlife and birds feed on the seeds and soft needles. Deer and Porcupine seem to like the inner bark for winter feed.

Bald eagles will build nests at the main branch located below the crown top.

Parts Used: Twigs, bark, leaves, and pitch;

Pine needles used for sewing; basket making; tea; good to chew on to freshen breath; strong tea can be used as a hair, face or body wash; High in Vitamin C,  pine needle tea helped the early settlers relieve symptoms of scurvy. This is an easy tea to make when out camping overnight. During a wilderness class I participated in several years ago, we made pine needle tea at our campsite. One less item to carry; needles readily available in our forest setting.(See recipe below)

Resins (pine pitch) used as cement to seal the seams in canoes; also chewed for a sore throat; they would dry, powder, and apply the dried resin to sore throats; resin added to a salve is supposed to be great for taking out a splinter or bringing a boil to a head;

Inner bark: used with other herbs or inner barks e.g. wild cherry bark, to make a cough syrup for colds; chronic indigestion, flu, kidney troubles. The inner barks and small twigs as a tea helped as an expectorant;

Essential oil: antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, deodorant, diuretic; refreshing, stimulating qualities; can also bring relief in a body oil for muscular pain.

Whiffing the soft fragrant essential oil can help alleviate a dark mood as it has an uplifting, enlivening quality. Essential oil of pine can be added to bath or skin oils in very small amounts as it can be irritating to the skin for some people. You will find pine oil used in combination with other essential oils for this reason.

Inhalation of the oil is good for colds, sinusitis, and sore throats and can be mixed with eucalyptus or tea tree oil. Placing several drops of pine oil in a pot of water and leaving on a wood-stove can permeate the room with a delightful forest fragrance.

Caution: Do not use: Dwarf pine oil: Pinus pussilio or Pinus mugo. These oils are hazardous to health.

I like drops of essential oil of pine sprinkled in a pot of warm water on my wood stove. The essential oil comes in handy too for any sniffle. As December takes us into the midst of the holiday season, remember white pine. Sprinkle a few drops on your decorations and bring the scent of the forest into your home.

Enjoy. Judith

Wild Edibles: Chickory


Summer time is a time to ramble down highways and country roads. We see many wildflowers, some in bloom, some spent. For me, August is the color of blue and golds. Goldenrods fill the fields and byways along with black eyed Susans. The light blue purple chicory flower adds a contrast of color that easily captures our eye with its beautiful star-like petals of blue. And is often found right by our roads whether highways or exit and entry ramps, medians and of course in fields.

Caution: It is never wise to gather plants near roads. The ground is polluted with exhaust fumes and tars.


The Details
Chicory: Chicorium intybus; a perennial plant  native to Europe, India and Egypt.
Parts Used: Leaves: gather in mid summer; roots: gather in late summer,
Uses: the tender leaves can be chopped and used in salads. Tea, made from their roots, is often used in coffee like beverages because it does not contain caffeine. The root is also used to mellow coffee. In reviewing the literature, chicory uses and effects  seems to temper the caffeine effects of coffee which is why it has been mixed with coffee. It is consumed in large amounts in many parts of the world with little or no side effects. However, if you notice chicory at the edges of your gardens and forests try tender leaves in salad. Chop like you would dandelion greens.

Health Benefits: Dr Weil tells us: “in terms of glucose control, the root contains up to 40% inulin, which is a zero on the glycemic index, so it has a negligible effect on raising blood sugar. This makes it a favorable choice among diabetics and a small study in 2015 show early promise that chicory root could actually help delay the onset of diabetes.” 

Practical tips: its bitter much like dandelion root which is why it is favored in coffee substitute beverages. I have found it difficult to harvest. It can be found in compacted or dry soils and they are difficult to dig. also critters get after the roots too. I find the ones near my garden and meadow areas are worth digging for. I wash, chop roots and let them dry. They can be added to your teas or by itself for a strong coffee like brew.

Also one can mix them with dandelion root.. Both impart bitter coffee like flavors. Does this tea taste like coffee? No, but the bitter flavor is close.

Any other recipes? I would enjoy hearing from you.



Grapes: Fruit on the Vine

Grapes have a rich and fascinating history. Experimentation on finding hardy varieties that produce good quality wines has been ongoing for centuries. Today 7.2 trillion gallons of wine are made per year. Parts of the plant today continue to be researched for nutritional and health benefits

Parts Used:

Leaves: smaller leaves are tastier than large leaves. Foragers typically pick them at about 3-4” long usually in the spring. Grapes leaves have a rich culinary history and many sites give great recipes. They also contain antioxidants and omega 3 fats. Stuffed with pasture raised meat and rice boosts healthy omega 3’s which supports cardiovascular health and helps decrease inflammation. The Cherokee used grape leaves in tea form for liver disorders and diarrhea.


Fruit: who can resist crisp cold grapes on a hot summer’s day? I know I can’t and while I like both green and red varieties I usually pick the red fruit for resveratrol. Some controversy continues today that in supplement form resveratrol, an antioxidant, could be detrimental or at least negate the benefits of exercise in men. However eating normal amounts of a daily serving of fruit doesn’t appear to pose any health risk. When out in the wild, fruits typically ripen late summer, early fall. They also contain Vitamin K, fiber and potassium. (Note: the photo at the right is a picture of muscadine grapes, Vitus rotundifolia which many birds love. It is also the host to local species of the sphinx moth.)

What about pesticide residues on commercial grapes? Good question. It seems commercially grown grapes are loaded with pesticide residues. In fact, 56 have been identified. It’s my understanding that grapes are one of our most heavily pesticide use food crops.  I place my grapes in cool water and add 1/4 cup vinegar to water and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Then I rinse thoroughly and dry. Vinegar can be helpful in washing residues off fruits and vegetables.

Seeds: Grapeseed Extract made from grapeseeds is intensively studied. Does it have health promoting effects on cardio vascular tissue? Does it mitigate inflammation? It does have specific antioxidants. Antioxidants protects cells from free radical damage. Today grapeseed extract is being used to help in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancers.

Foraging and Survival Fact: Out on a trail overnight? Grape vine stems have a bark that peels. Small amounts of this remove easily and can be effective fire tinder. And, cut grape vines, in most cases, provide potable water; cut vine and you will see liquid water substance which can be safely drunk and quench thirst.


Grape Juice: I discovered homemade grape juice by accident. I was making jelly from wild grapes. Once I cooked and mashed the grapes to remove skins and seeds I was left with a bright wine red juice. I let it cool and tried it a bit later. I had not added any sugar at this point and found I didn’t need to. It was delicious.

The specific colors in fruits and vegetables contain specific antioxidants that scientists are studying for health benefits. Fresh grape juice is loaded and may even protect one against Type 2 Diabetes.

Grapes by the handful are a refreshing snack. Some folks eat the seeds too. Depending on where they come from and how farmed, I would be cautious.  Harvesting from your own woodlands is a different story.

Enjoy. Judith

Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. © all rights reserved.