The Clayoquot Botanicals Blog contains articles and musings from Carmen Bell.  Read more about Carmen here.

Healing in the Garden of Life

Posted: Friday May 14th, 2021 @ 9:42am


A garden provides both physical & intangible gifts that can be a source of healing. For me, the healing aspect comes from nurturing the plants & their seemingly oblivious reciprocity. Although the act of harvesting herbs & using their properties to provide health benefits is likely obvious, there is much to explore in the healing benefits of tending to the plants themselves. The act of respectful harvesting ensures that the natural cycle of the plant is maintained, often leaving the plant with minimal trace of the harvest, allowing flowers for the pollinators & tugging encouragingly at the roots, which stimulates new growth in many of the herbs I work with.

Working in my garden is participating in a vital life force that is natural in its cycle. While humans can influence rhythms already in place, through enrichening the microclimate or providing nutrients, we can access the vitality with simple appreciation and consider our own natural rhythms in observation of the natural world.

Life presents challenges & we can choose how we engage in the recovery from a setback.  My garden always calls to me in this pause. My baskets accompany me as I wander into the wilds. The vital life force that is consistently in place holds me intact and I am generally not thinking, I am focussed on working with the plants whom are so unaffected by the grief, confusion or despair that clouds me. Often the simple gratitude for the diversity of the life in a garden is metaphorical for the many shapes our lives can take.

Some really big curve balls have happened. I feel that soil & plant roots are able to absorb & dissipate the constrictions I might face & that I am not harming the plants while I process. I cannot support such a statement with scientific study, but I can say that I always feel better, always. The same occurs as I work with the herbs I have harvested, it doesn’t seem to matter what time of year or day it is. Through the rhythmic interaction of my hands in dried flowers, roots or leaves, stress & anxiety melt away. All aspects of working with nature offers a meditative calming that provides a larger perspective when I again reengage with the details of my own life.

As a child, I helped clear the bases of the totem poles in Kispiox & harvested berries with the Gitxsan friends of my parents. As a young adult, I attended the College of Phytotherapy affiliated with Cardiff University of Wales. In 1999, I designed and implemented the medicinal herb garden at the Tofino Botanical Gardens for George Patterson. My daughter, Sayge, seems to have come to this world with an inherent green thumb & appreciation. There has never been a time in my life that I have been far from working with plants for nutrition, directed healing or the simple joy of their presence. At this stage of life, I am completing a BSc in neurobiology with a focus on becoming a genetic counselor. It is my intention to continue to facilitate a positive interaction between humans and this glorious planet.


Carmen Bell

Clayoquot Botanicals Inc.



Cleansing Guidelines

Posted: Friday May 14th, 2021 @ 9:42am

Many of us are feeling the need to purge the winter stores and remnants, as well as kick-start the liver to embrace the new Spring. A common mistake in this beneficial process happens when we shock the body through drastic action. Breaking patterns requires subtle determination. Be gentle and focus on the good... self-love is powerfully transformative! Below is the info sheet included in the cleanse kit, a worthy read whether you are cleansing or not.

Happy eliminations,
E.C. Bell


Compliments to you for choosing to cleanse your body of unwanted accumulations of foods, wastes and toxins. Internal cleansing of your organs helps to increase their overall performance enhancing health and longevity. Reducing the amount of collected fecal matter in the intestines provides for better assimilation of nutrients from our daily food choices.

Clayoquot Botanicals has designed this herbal cleanse to strengthen the body's own systems of detoxification and processes of elimination. The herbal formulas support the natural processes of cleansing in the specific organs, and encourage increased production of intestinal lubrication to prevent reabsorption of released wastes and toxins.

Please begin this process slowly. Avoid releasing toxins into circulation until your body is prepared to dispose of them efficiently. Fasting and purging too quickly can cause a "healing crisis" and deplete your vitality. Follow the dosage and directions on each item and place them where you will remember with routine.

It is important to work these herbs into your daily routine through consistency. The components are all of food grade, very nourishing, containing essential nutrients without harmful "scrubbing" actions. Occasionally, certain herbs do not agree with individual tastes or constitution. You should not experience intense bowel movements. Warnings and contraindications are listed and you should consult a physician for possible interactions if you are taking pharmaceutical or herbal prescriptions.

It is important not to become overly compulsive about your eating habits nor food choices. Try to maintain what is relatively normal to your daily routine & incorporate subtle shifts as opposed to dramatic change. Take realistic assessment of your usual food choices; keeping the positive & letting-go of those that you instinctually know aren't so good for you (i.e. baked goods, refined foods, animal protein everyday, too much caffeine, alcohol, sugar, or excessive anything).

Consider what portion of your diet is of cooked food & how to balance that with raw sustenance. Flours clog the pipes. During this cleanse do your best to eat very few (if any) foods with flour; and yes, this means bread, muffins, most crackers. Take this as an opportunity to indulge in a new cookbook and try different recipes. A cleanse should not be a period of punishment and denial.

If I could advise one main focus for your diet, it would be to increase the amount of enzyme rich choices & to start sprouting the beans & grains sitting in your pantry. Sprouts are unbelievable sources of enzymes & are so incredibly agreeable to digestion! Sprouting is enjoyable & rhythmic in practice, also very affordable.

Pay close attention to food combining. Understand that improperly digested foods turn toxic within the digestive system. Keep it simple, eat many greens with protein, eat greens with fats, eat greens with starches/carbs.; but don't eat them all together. Each example would be its own meal. Fruits require at least a couple hours to digest & should definitely be eaten alone. However, if you have a meal that doesn't work within these guidelines, then balance your system with more of the root tea & an extra big salad (try homemade dressings with omega oils & your favorite vinegar). Don't berate yourself if you have difficulty fitting these patterns into your lifestyle. Remember subtle changes, use each meal as an opportunity to clean the system.

Fresh juices and vegetable broths are easy to make and exceptionally beneficial to the cleansing process. Miso can be added to broths after they have simmered. Roasted veggies are super satisfying on a chilly day and also quite nourishing and cleansing. Try to use organic produce to reduce exposure to harmful pesticides: artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, daikon, dandelion greens and roots, endive, corn, peas, peppers, kale, lettuce, okra, sprouts, onions, garlic, parsley, parsnips, radishes, spinach, squash, swiss chard, turnip, zucchini.

Legumes, beans, peas, and lentils are efficient sources of protein, reduce saturated fat and cholesterol in the blood, and are cleansing to the arteries. Sprouting further enhances their effective nutrition. There are many wholesome grains that you can cook with or instead of rice, whose varying flavors may surprise you. Unprocessed grains are an excellent source of niacin and contain quality vitamin E in their oils.

Apple cider vinegar is considered very detoxifying and can help to balance digestion. Use as a salad dressing, sprinkle on top of steamed greens and veggies, or try a teaspoon diluted in 1/3 cup of water drunk first thing in the morning (please wait until a week into the cleanse to ensure proper elimination of toxins). Fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice first thing in the morning or on an empty stomach can be used in a similar way.

Your cleanse kit includes tonic herbs that will nourish & build your systems, facilitate elimination, and fine-tune the processes of metabolism. Develop a routine that suits you, whereby you take the capsules & tinctures twice daily. Alternating preparation of the loose leaf tea with the root decoction can simplify the program. If you happen to take a break from the cleanse simply resume the routine when ready. Remember that consistency yields the most efficient results.

Engage in activities that give you a gentle sweat and increase metabolism. Do what you love to do, especially if it increases your heart rate. Focus on getting plenty of fresh air & be positive in your thoughts. Observe how you feel & enjoy the improvements.

For your health, happiness, and quality of life;
Clayoquot Botanicals.



Root Harvest

Posted: Saturday August 22nd, 2009 @ 3:20pm

There is great satisfaction to be gained in harvesting your own plants or those growing in the environment about you. Aromatic fragrances release themselves from both the earth & the plant itself. Loosening the dirt around the roots reveals colours & textures, as well as the critters whose habitat lies beneath the surface of the soil. There we discover the characteristics of the roots of our chosen plant. Just as each individual has a different hairstyle, all roots are unique. Some are tuberous & easy to follow into the depths with your hand; while others have thin strands that project like a mop & require the entire surrounding earth to be lifted.

If you are going to harvest botanicals & use them therapeutically or for food, you first have to know the plants. You don't need a whole bunch of different varieties, you just need to know the ones you gather & know them intimately.

When ‘going after your own grub', it is crucial to know where the plant can be found; how it is gathered & when; how common or rare it is; how it is to be processed, dried, or preserved; & how long it will maintain its goodness. Be sure of the plant you are picking, cultivate your judgement, pick what you need or what is respectively available & protect the rest.

The medicinal herb garden has been a tradition since we humans began to dabble in agriculture. Even older is the tradition of wildcrafting. It has been discovered that some groups of First Nations peoples attempted to preserve their knowledge & spiritual connection with various plants by carving the images of the plants on wooden sticks, usually combinations of 2 to 8 plants. Approximately a dozen of these "prescription sticks" are currently known to exist in public or private collections.

Medieval Monks are famous for their medicinal herb gardens. When the Romans invaded the British Isles they found Inula helenium to be so highly revered that they took it home with them, it can now be found growing in both regions.

Doug Elliot tells a wonderful story in his book "Roots: An Underground Botany & Forager's Guide". "The long trailing roots of this plant, so the legend goes, possessed not only extremely beneficial healing properties, but extraordinary magic. So beneficial was it for the people that used it that the Devil himself became angered & tried to change the qualities of the root from good to bad. The power & goodness of this plant was so strong, however, that his attempts were always thwarted. Finally, the Devil flew into a rage & personally bit off every one of the roots. His rage was so searing that to this day the roots have not been able to grow back. But the remaining stub is still imbued with good medicine, & every spring it is able to put forth the tall spike of beautiful blazing-star blossoms as a reminder that the power of goodness can always avert the forces of evil."

Recently, Jen Pukonen presented her graduate studies, the Tl'aaya-as project, inspired by the Nuu-chah-nulth communities of Clayoquot Sound:
"The Tl'aaya-as project has engaged students and community members of all ages in the research and re-creation of a Nuu-chah-nulth root garden of kuuxwapiihmapt (northern riceroot), tlicy'upmapt (Pacific silverweed) and ?a?iic'uqmapt (springbank clover)*. Ahousaht community members have guided all stages of the garden's development and have offered many great ideas and suggestions. Over the past two summers, six high school students from Ahousaht have helped with the fieldwork, which included getting to know local plants, planting and tending to a root garden, organizing community steam pit cooking events and preparing an educational poster for the Ahousaht school about root gardens."

"Root gardens like the ones we are restoring were historically important to First Nations all up and down the bc coast. For the Nuu-chah-nulth, the gardens were part of the hahuulthi system of ownership and chief's responsibilities. The roots were highly valued as an important food source and were often eaten in large quantities at feasts, as well as for everyday meals. To produce enough of these roots to feed the communities, the Nuu-chah-nulth would carefully tend their gardens, weeding out other plants, churning the soil with special digging sticks, and selectively harvesting and replanting rootlets to grow for the next years' harvests. Like most Nuu-chah-nulth food practices, this type of gardening was sustainable in the long-term, producing an abundance of food without degrading the land. River estuaries and tidal marshes are one of the most productive types of habitat and were ideal for root gardens."
"The sustainable harvesting of these roots vegetables required a great deal of knowledge and respect that was developed over many generations. Many of the plants formerly cultivated by the Nuu-chah-nulth are now quite rare in their natural habitat, and their populations can be severely harmed by just a few wild harvesters. In addition, mistaken identification or misuse of wild plant foods can be very dangerous. Always be careful eating wild plants!"

Clayoquot Botanicals in co-operation with the Tofino Botanical Gardens will be hosting a "Five Root Harvest". Learn about and use the medicinal plants of tradition, cultivated & growing wild here in our region. Discover tools of recognition to apply to the five roots, why they are medicinal, & how they work. Get in there, get dirty, harvest your own. Drink the root decoctions while you prepare tinctures to take with you. Leave with the five roots brewing, five rootlets growing for a future harvest, & the knowledge of five new friends.
Please email to register. $150, all materials supplied.

As you compost your soil preparing for winter, plant your seeds this Spring, & make plans for the coming Summer,
may your roots grow fat & strong...



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