Yew Berries – A Pretty Killer

I spotted an ‘unknown’ berry a few weeks back, however not knowing the name of the berry doesn’t mean I’m not aware of when its prime time for picking is, so I had set out today to get a few, in hopes of bringing home and researching. As I was harvesting the fells, a grandma and her two grand-kids passed me and she asked ‘Are those berries edible?’ to which I replied, I was pretty sure the berries weren’t poisonous, but there was something odd about them that pointed to toxicity, so I’d be researching when I got home, as I was pretty sure they were soap berries or something to that effect.. She correctly nomenclatured them as Yew berries, which, I was correct, the berry itself is completely harmless, however as little as THREE of the seeds can do incredible harm! Even the foliage itself can kill you!

“The entire yew bush, except the aril (the red flesh of the berry covering the seed), is poisonous. It is toxic due to a group of chemicals called taxine alkaloids. Their cardiotoxicity is well known and act via calcium and sodium channel antagonism, causing an increase in cytoplasmic calcium currents of the myocardial cells. The seeds contains the highest concentrations of these alkaloids.[25][26] If any leaves or seeds of the plant are ingested, urgent medical advice is recommended as well as observation for at least 6 hours after the point of ingestion.[27][28] “

Yew Tree

These plants are located right between the new dog park and playground on Richter. With that in mind, all I can say be aware of the plants around you and watch your pets and kids!

Now that being said, everything in moderation!!! This plant, in controlled dosages, is a beneficial plant for extreme conditions, such as cancer and tapeworms. For more on that, click here!

‘Sticky Weeds’ – A gardeners Nightmare, a Herbalist’s dream

The first hint that a plant is good for you, is if it’s defense mechanisms are good at making you want to leave it alone! Sadly most gardeners feel removing said plants is better then using their qualities, creating a large gap in knowledge which separates your average gardener from a herbalist, IE, those who want it to look pretty, vs those who can live off the land.

Take for example Echinacea, most of us know it is an immune boosting plant, however, if you’ve tried harvesting one, you know you’ll need gloves for the spines and heavy duty to snips to break up the spiny flower once dried.

As per a thread on this site, ‘Sticky Weeds’ , bedstraw or its official name Galium Aparine should be removed asap as it will spread and cause havoc. Here’s a thought, you about you learn how to control it and use the benefits of the plant, instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water? Like most ‘weeds’ we’ve been told to remove, this ‘annoyance’ holds medicinal properties. Galium Aparine is a natural cancer fighter, yet whens the last time you’ve seen this as an ingredient?

Do yourself a favor, find out what’s growing in your yard, and see if it will help you before removing it! And in doing so, you’ll more then likely uncover a wealth of knowledge that will help you for years to come 🙂 The earth gives us what we need, let’s use it!

Carrot Cake Tea


Other Items Required:

  1. Mortar & Pestle
  2. Mixing Bowl
  3. Loose Leaf Tea Ball or French Press, etc


  1. Gather Ingredients
  2. Using a mortar and pestle grind each ingredient then put in mixing bowl
  3. Mix thoroughly
  4. Test out! – For every cup of water, use half a tablespoon of tea mix

Ready in 15 minutes

Serves 10-13 people


When grinding ingredients, take care not to grind too fine as it will leave a layer of silt in the bottom of your tea cup.

Note: Orange Mint has been suggested as a substitute for Orange Peel, however I have yet to test this yet.

Step By Step Guide with Tips!

What’s in Your Tea? – Orange Peel

When sourcing your orange peels, be aware that they pick up pesticides! After hearing about major tea companies crafting teas with unacceptable pesticide levels, and orange peko being the top, I delved into to check if there is any way to retain the flavor while eliminating the chemical – No verified safe methods have been found.

If you still choose to use orange peel in your tea, it is suggested to use ‘organic’, however, organic is just a title, and the source should be researched.

As I do grow a lot of my own tea ingredients, someday I see myself growing a little orange tree, but for now, I’ll be limiting the amount of teas I make with this item, as it’s hard to source safely.

Catnip – A Cure Right Under Our Noses

So, we all know how good cats find catnip, but did you know it was good for humans too? To know why, let’s take a look at where it comes from.

There is a slight relation between cannabis and catnip, being that they are both of the mint family,  in fact, if you’ve ever smelled fresh catnip, you’ll agree. It is far enough away however in it’s family tree that I’ve seen those with mint allergies be able to ingest it. I grew up with this stuff growing on our family estate, and as I was fairly sheltered and didn’t really learn about weed till my early 20’s, it explained why it always smelled ‘stronger’ around the back pathway after the teens of the neighborhood had walked through. I recently brought some into work for someones cats, after an argument with someone who said there was no way it smelt like it, yet even after tying it up in two garbage bags I was still getting looks and questions, to which I replied ‘Told ya so!!’

An amuzing article from a study done back in 1988 points to “Nepeta cataria, is a chemical called nepetalactone that sets off in the cat’s brain the behavioral patterns usually connected with a variety of pleasurable or exciting things,” and that it’s the smell not the ingestion that triggers it,  according to research by Dr. Benjamin L. Hart. The eating of catnip by a cat is thought to be an effort to bruise the catnip leaves to release more of the nepetalactone.

Now while catnip does not effect humans the same way, as in we do NOT get high from it, it does have other beneficial properties. lists catnip as Most Effective against non other then MOSQUITO BITES – That’s right, that plant that grows like a weed, something man tries to control, another one of nature’s wonders, and it’s reach out to HELP US!

That’s just the tip of the ice-berg!

For Cures, it’s considered Highly Effective against Anemia, Convalescence and Fever.

Effective against – Abdominal disorders, Acne, ADHD, Allergy, Anhidrosis, Anorexia, Anxiety, Arthritis, Ascaris, Bipolar Disorders, Bleeding Externally, Bloating, Bone Pain, Bronchitis, Bruises, Chicken Pox, Cold, Colic, Constipation, Convulsions, Cough, Cramps, Cuts, Dandruff, Depression, Diarrhea, Difficult Menses, Digestive Disorders, Diphtheria, Early Satiety, Eye Diseases, Eyes Bloodshot, Flatulence, Flu, Gastrointestines, Hay Fever, Headache, Hoarseness, Hysteria, Indigestion, Insanity, Insect Bites, Insomnia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Keshan Disease, Measles, Menses Scanty, Migraine, Morning Sickness, Motion Sickness, Multiple Scloerosis, Muscle Cramps, Muscle Spasm, Muscle Sprains, Nausea, Nervous Disorders, Pain, Panophthalmitis, Piles, Pneumonia, Premenstrual Syndrome, Repeated Miscarriages, Respiratory Diseases, Restlessness, Rheumatism, Scarlet Fever, Sinusitis, Small Pox, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Stress, Swelling, Swine Flu, Tachycardia, Teething Problems, Toothache, Urine Retention, Urticaria, Water Retention and Wounds.

I’ve personally and successfully used it against items in bold in above list.

But WHY Sarah!? How does this ‘Weed’ have so many benefits for us?

The active ingredient list for this plant explains far better then I.

Acetic Acid, Alpha Humulene, Alpha Nepetalactone, Beta Elemene, Beta Nepetalactone, Butyric Acid, Calcium, Camphor, Carvacrol, Caryophyllene, Chromium, Citral, Citral Nepetalactone, Citronellal, Cintronellol, Dipentene, Essential Oil, Geraniol, Iridoids, Iron, Magnesium,  Manganese, Myrcene, Nepetalic Acid, Nerol, Phosphorus, Pipertone, Potassium, Pulegone, Rosmarinic acid, Selenium, Silicon, Tannins, Terpenoids, Thymol, Valeric Acid, Vitamin A(Or Retinol), Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C and Zinc.

As you read that list, did you notice it looked a lot like shelf of bottles in a Natural Health Foods store? If you’ve done any research in this topic, you’ll see the common result of too much of this stuff makes you sick. The reason people get sick after too much of this plant is it’s an active medicinal plant, and as your body has an easier time recognizing elements that will help it in natural form then in pill, you must keep this in mind when ingesting.  It took me a bit to get the tea dosage right, but if you always remember that too much of a good thing = not good at all and start with 1 leaf, 3 if dried, (yes I know it sounds small, but this stuff is strong!!) and slowly increase dosage to test effectiveness, you will know what is just right for you.

Note that each one of the ailments and ingredients listed above can be further researched here, if you click on an ailment it will provide you with a list of potential cures:

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This plant grows in my backyard in Vernon, British Columbia. I started researching what uses it had, and to my surprise, I found out that there are more then just a poisonous Sumac! (As you can see, my yard can be a bit of a desert, so this is not the kind that grows in a marsh.)

The benefits of Sumac have a wide range-from anti-fibrogenic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antithrombin, antitumorigenic, antiviral, cytotoxic, hypoglycaemic, leukopaenic and atheroprotective effect, strong in anticarcinogenic Tannins, and has a potent antioxidant which protects humans against oxidative DNA-damage. It also has promising Hypoglycemic and Hypolipidemic properties, which have yet to be tested on humans.(Reference)

The leaves, flowers, bark and roots all have their own properties too!

  • Sumac Leaves – Infusion of sumac leaves is used for treating asthama, diarrhea and stomach disorders. A poultice of sumac leaves is used to treat skin rash, sore gums and sore lips.
  • Sumac flowers – Decoction of sumac flowers used to treat flatulence, indigestion, eye wash
  • Sumac bark and roots – Infusion used as tonic, treat fever, increase breast milk in feeding mothers, treat hemorrhoids
  • Sumac berries – Decoction of sumac berries used to treat diabetes, constipation, women disorders, coolant, bed wetting, other bladder disorders, Treat cough, asthma, fever, diabetes, ulcer, pain


I myself have been harvesting the berries and making wine, then I take the crushed berries, dry them out, and am left with a delicious lemon-berry tea!

I hope you find this information beneficial, please let me know in the comments your experiences with this plant.

On a side note, keep checking my FB Store as I hope to have some sumac tea available, though it will be in limited quantities!