A Little For You, A Little For Me

Permaculture Magazine North America

Fall 2017 issue

Growing a Medicinal Tool Box In Your Garden

By Kerr Jackson

On the North Shore of Kauai, there is an incredibly dynamic example of permaculture in action. The Kauai Farmacy is a medicinal herbal tea farm growing more than 70 unique medicinal plants for teas, powders, salves, hydrosols, and tinctures, creating a healthy environment for plants and people alike.

To be well, we must grow what we are passionate about – both in our gardens and in our lives. In the garden, my bliss is growing medicinal plants and trees. I believe all plants and trees are medicine for the soul, but my fascination lies in the ones that are also capable of bringing balance into our physical bodies.

I have the great fortune that my work completely aligns with my passion. I am the lead gardener at Kauai Farmacy – a medicinal herb farm in Hawai’i. Here we grow, craft, and ship our artisanal herbal products direct from the farm, while maintaining an emphasis on permaculture and herbal medicine education.  Consistently listening, observing, and creating are my best tools in holding the balance between the health and well-being of our plants and the productions needs of the business.  While Kauai Farmacy has over 2 acres in production gardens, you can create a diverse medicinal garden in a very small space. Here are some of my insights that can be applied to your backyard or any growing space.

In permaculture we are always trying to mimic nature. Plants and humans hold the common demoninator that our base state is health – the bodies of plant and human are always working towards abundant vibrancy. Sometimes we all need help getting back to that optimum state. The beauty of tending plant medicine is that it benefits both the gardener and the plants.

If you nick your finger with the sickle, where is your medicine cabinet? Mine is right next to where I was using the sickle. First, I would run for a handful of succulent oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus) and squeeze the juice into the cut to clean it. Next, I would chew a leaf of tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and gotu kola (Centella asiatica) into a pulp and pack it into the wound. If I need to cover and protect the wound, I would craft a comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinalis) into a bandage. This way I have disinfected the wound and given my body support for the healing process.

Succulent Oregano

A creeping ground cover and incredibly prolific, it has shallow roots, so if it meanders beyond your likings, simply pull and toss into your compost pile. And oh how delicious the smell while you are doing it! Easily propagated from cuttings, plant it to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture. You can cook with it and use it on your skin, rub on clothes as a mosquito repellent, and some people even use it as a deodorant. In my opinion, the best way to learn about the possibilities of medicinal plants is to use and experiment with them.

This oregano prefers some shade and does not need much water, though it will modestly tolerate lots of rain. It grows best in the tropics and subtropics. Because it cannot withstand a frost, it can be grown in a pot and moved indoors during winter and in cooler climates.


     Oh, how I love Tulsi! One of the top five plant medicines I couldn’t live without. On the human side, tulsi is excellent for making tea, cooking, and using topically. The range of health benefits can span pages. It is my go-to for just about everything…from trying to digest my husband’s loving attempt at cooking dinner to moments of “what just bit me?!?” In permaculture, we work to feed the system, rather than treating it for disease. I use this same approach in my personal health, including eating a handful of tulsi leaves a daily. Tulsi is a perennial with enormous life force. In optimal conditions, the variety of vana tulsi can grow up to 7-feet tall. Tulsi provides our garden with a great amount of extra abundance for compost, while still giving to sustain our own health. I see tulsi as the garden sentinel – spread throughout, making sure all is well.

Native to the Indian subcontinent, tulsi is considered a perennial in tropical climates and an annual in temperate climates. Tulsi loves the sun and humidity. Many people in cooler climates have had great success starting it indoors then planting as a summer crop – doing a final harvest before the cold and drying it for use over the winter. Tulsi can also be grown in a pot next to a sunny window. There are many varieties, so if one doesn’t thrive, try a different type. Mata Amritanandaamayi worked on a project distributing tulsi seeds around the world. In the book, Tulasi Devi, the Goddess of Devotion, she mentions that the variety Rama might be more suited to colder climates than variety Krishna.

Gotu Kola

One of my favorite snacking herbs. I have often been caught down on my hands and knees munching through a patch of it. Plants remind us of our carefree, child-like joy, and that in itself is probably the best medicine there is. Gotu kola loves to grow in mulch and makes nice fluffy patches when rain is abundant. It creates a perennial ground cover, always available for grazing and wound healing. This common herb, often labeled as a “weed,” is referenced in classical Ayurvedic and Taoist medical texts, as Yogis in the Himalayas have long used gotu kola to balance the hemispheres of the brain and enhance meditation.

Gotu kola is also a tropical native and is sensitive to frost. It grows by root runners, so gardeners in colder climates can overwinter a few runners in pots (indoors) and put them back into the garden  when it is warm again. In the Kauai Farmacy garden, we find that wood chop mulch and lots of water are key ingredients for its abundance.



This is another one in my top medicinals and is both a powerhouse in the garden and on the body. It grows in shade or sun and creates an excellent living mulch beneath plants and trees. Make sure that you plan to keep the comfrey in the area where you plant it for the foreseeable future, as even just the tiniest slice of root left in the ground will sprout. To feed the rest of the garden, I ferment the leaves to make a compost tea teeming with microbes. The leaves are very valuable as compost – whether you are putting it into a pile or just chop and drop. It is quite effective at creating a barrier that many ground running plants find challengin to cross. In our garden , we use lines of comfrey to divide the garden space from the grass space. Comfrey also carries the nickname :knit bone”, as it contains a compound called Allantoin which is a cell proliferant and aids fractured bones in healing. Many times over the year have I used it for aches and pains from hauling too many wheelbarrows of mulch.

Comfrey will grow in just about any climate and soil, as long as it has lots of water available. While we do not have a problem with excessive seeding propagation in our Hawai’ian climate, in wet temperate climates, self-seeding varieties tend to be invasive, and varieties that spread by division, such as Bocking 14, may be more appropriate for containing in one location.

It is always good to research your plants and their growing habits. Here in Hawai’i, we have to be very careful about what we introduce into the environment. Many exotic plants find bliss in this climate and quickly create mass populations that strangle out the natives. As gardeners, it is our responsibility to plant and tend our gardens responsibly.

Here at the Kauai Farmacy garden, we are growing in a tropical climate. Find the plant medicine that loves to grow in your climate. Look around for what grows prolifically and start talking to people who use local plant medicine. A vast number of medicinal plants are perennials and “weeds”…a perfect match for us and a permaculture garden!

The plants I tend are my best friends. In any good friendship there is the balance between giving and receiving. They are taking care of me and I am taking care of them. If I’m not healthy, it affects them and vice versa. What a gift it is to grow such medicine. Being so intertwined with these plants and having them course through my veins offers a heightened state of communication between us. Because at this point, where is the separation? We share air, we share food, we share medicine, we share love. A little for me, a little for you…

Wishing you health, happiness, and abundance in and out of your garden!

Kirsten (Kerr) Jackson is the lead gardener at Kauai Farmacy. She describes herself as “the listener”, as she is responsible for the plants’ overall well being and orchestrating the team effort of gauging harvest, planting, feeding, weeding, mulching, loving, and all the other wonderful things that it takes to keep the garden happy!

Reservations for tours, product purchases, and more information on plant medicine can be found at KauaiFarmacy.com.

Mahalo to www.permacultemag.org


Herbs for Healing

Medicinal Plants can promote wellness

Jessica Else –  The Garden Island, Wednesday, July 19, 2017

KILAUEA — Doug Wolkon was tunnel-visioned in his pursuit of vitality when he moved to Kauai eight years ago with his wife, Genna.

Now, the two own and operate Kauai Farmacy, where they grow, blend and sell medicinal teas, tinctures, salves and powders.

But they haven’t always been herbalists.

Back on the Mainland, Wolkon said the two were living a “fast-lane life”; he was in real estate finance, she was an industrial designer. They needed a change of pace.

“When we moved here, I still had 30 extra pounds on me and I’d lost my intuition and willpower,” Wolkon said. “We were on this healing path.”

Medicinal plants were introduced to them shortly after moving to the Garden Isle, and the pair used them to create wellness in their bodies and balance in their lives.

It all started with noni tea.

“We read about it and someone recommended using the noni leaf, wild crafting it and putting it in our water,” Wolkon said. “That was the first connection we made.”

The tree’s fruit and leaves have been shown to have hypoglycemic properties, according to a 2016 study published in Pharmacognosy Journal.

It is used in various parts of the world to treat problems with eyes, skin, gums, and the throat, as well as respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, according to the study.

Wolkon can attest to the healing powers of noni, and many other healing plants — 70 different species of which have been planted at Kauai Farmacy.

“We’ve been drinking teas for thousands and thousands of years,” Wolkon said. “It’s more balanced and more gentle than eating the fruit in a lot of ways.”

Lemongrass, ginger, ashwaganda, hibiscus, and tulsi are just a few of the plants in their herb gardens that are harvested, dried and processed on location.

Each of them has a different specialty, from anti-inflammatory properties to targeting gastrointestinal, skin and hormonal issues.

And while each has their known uses, Wolkon said the healing properties of the plants differ depending on the culture of the people and location.

“It’s all based on your diet, lifestyle and sleep patterns; everything that’s in our culture because the plants interact with what’s going on in your body,” he said.

Using the properties of ancient Chinese medicine, Wolkon explained medicinal plants, especially in tea form, break up energy blockages in the body – meaning they target toxins and acidity.

“We have thousands of words to describe blocked energy, but these teas go in and alkaline the blockages, chemically speaking. Once the body goes alkaline, it spits the acid out,” Wolkon said.

And an alkaline body is Wolkon’s key to wellness.

Trial and error is how Wolkon and his wife learned how to blend their own wellness teas. He said beginners might experience headaches and lethargy if they overdo it on tea strength or quantity. It’s also possible to experience vomiting, diarrhea, fever rashes as detoxification symptoms.

“The key to (relieving) these side-effects are typically rest and water,” Wolkon said. “Drink plenty of water and detox.”

Depending on individual bodies, medicinal plants will react a bit differently for everyone. Wolkon suggests starting slowly with loose-leaf teas and gradually stepping up strength and quantity.

Wolkon’s other secret to wellness success is integrating medicinal plants into a lifestyle, not just sporadically indulging.

“It’s about integration with your lifestyle. This is easy to understand and integrate, it’s as simple as simple gets, and for health, that’s critical,” he said.

“Health Talk” with Genna on KKCR Radio

Tune in to KKCR “Health Talk” radio show with Dr. Donna Caplan and Genna, owner of Kauai Farmacy, discussing “How to use Plant Medicine to Heal Yourself”: today, May 1st, from 12-1pm Hawaii time- the show can also be heard on live-stream on Kkcr.org.

Please listen and call in during the show
to make a donation to support Kauai Community Radio for their Spring fund drive- Everyone who calls in to donate to KKCR’s cause will receive a Kauai Farmacy product!

The two largest donations during the show will receive herbal packages valued at $100 each (products shown here).

Mahalos for tuning in!

#KKCR #community #radio #healyoself #herbs #tunein

Tasting Table: Hawaii Chili Pepper Water Will Rock Your World

Meet your new go–to condiment for absolutely everything

By TT Content Studio

View on Tasting Table


Hawaii is known for many things: beaches, waterfalls, shave ice and, yes, SPAM. But one integral part of daily life on the Islands has been flying under the radar: Hawaii chili pepper water, the state’s beloved hot sauce. It’s time to put the Sriracha down and get to know your new favorite condiment—one that’s worth a plane ticket around the world and one that’s worth breaking your no–checked–baggage rule for, just to bring home a big bottle.

KF Hawaiian Chilis

Hawaii chili pepper water is made with red chili peppers, white vinegar, garlic and boiling water. You could add ginger or any other seasoning, but these four ingredients make up the classic base. Mix everything together in a jar, cover and let cool anywhere from overnight to a couple days. Then store in the refrigerator to enjoy at will. And that really means at will: Fans of the hot sauce use it on morning eggs, noodle soups, sandwiches and BBQ. If you think your lunch could withstand a little kick, douse it on.

The hot, red chili peppers grow easily in Hawaii, especially on Kauai, whose extremely wet climate has earned it the moniker the Garden Island. At Kauai Farmacy, an idyllic farm on the north side of the island that grows herbs for teas, spice blends and an array of health products, the chili peppers, also called nioi in Hawaiian, are abundant. They’re used for an epic curry blend or simply ground to a powder that can be sprinkled into soups or over vegetables for flavor and varied health benefits, like increased circulation, better digestion and reduced heart risks.

KF Curry Powder

Hawaii chili pepper water is a staple in mom–and–pop restaurants and in local Hawaii households alike. Even upscale restaurants, like Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849 on Kauai, use the stuff to spice up sashimi. Though it’s not difficult to make, certain places take pride in the secret touch their customers have learned to crave. Sean Garcia, owner of Kauai’s popular breakfast spot, Java Kai, loves the chili pepper water at Waipouli Deli & Restaurant, a favorite diner down the street. Still, others are loyal to their family’s brand—likely a closely guarded recipe.

Kauai Juice Co Hot Sauce

Whether you’re buying the condiment at the store, using a restaurant’s version or making your very own, once you get used to the lingering heat, you won’t be able to stop. Don’t be surprised if you leave Hawaii with a few bottles in your bag or if you plan a return trip as soon as you notice your supply looking a little low.


Sunset Magazine’s Essential Guide to Kauai, Kauai Farmacy

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Jeanne Cooper and Chloe Roth. Photo by Erin Kunkel

March 2017 issue

Kauai Farmacy

Located on the north shore in the town of Kilauea, the Kauai Farmacy is made up of 4 acres, 70 medicinal herbs, seven loose-leaf teas—and one family behind it all. Doug and Genna Wolkon moved to Kauai in 2007 after the birth of their first child and began using herbal remedies to aid their health. “Kauai empowered us with the ability to self-heal,” Doug says. The couple have taught themselves how to hand-harvest their crops, cure plants with solar dehydrators, and chop and blend everything into tea, culinary spices, superfood elixir powders, salves, and hydrosol sprays. The Wolkons run the farm with a team of 10 gardeners and herbalists, all the while raising their three children. Although the family sells most of the herbal elixers and teas at the local farmers’ market and at restaurants and health food stores, they also offer immersive farm tours. As visitors stroll the grounds and learn about the Wolkons’ perma­culture techniques, they’re encouraged to taste samples straight from the garden, from the explosively sweet fresh stevia leaf to the mouth-tingling spilanthes herb. Just as fascinating as (and much more delicious than) a helicopter tour, it’s a chance to experience the island’s legendary flora from the ground up. The farmers grow 70 medicinal herbs and make seven loose-leaf teas, five herbal culinary tea powders, two healing salves, and seasonal hydrosol sprays. Make reservations to visit the garden at kauaifarmacy.com. They also have a stand at the Anaina Hou Farmers Market in Kilauea every Saturday.

Kauai Farmacy. Sunset Magazine. Photo by Erin Kunkel

Kauai Farmacy. Sunset Magazine. Photo by Erin Kunkel

Hana Hou! the Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines: The Medicine Garden

Hana Hou!The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines

Feb/March 2017

The Medicine Garden

Story by: Brittany Lyte
Photo by: Mallory Roe

Doug and Genna Wolkon’s home tea garden is an acre-and-a-half of well-manicured herbs, wild with abundance. A slim tread of dirt serves as a footpath between hardy Hawaiian chili pepper plants and a bed of knee-high ginger. The grounds, delicately fenced with chicken wire, are impossible to explore without feathery brushes from a tulsi plant or the budding leaves of a mission fig. As backyard herbalists, the Wolkons draw upon the traditions of Polynesian, Chinese and ayurvedic medicine to make a variety of loose-leaf herbal teas. They call their business Kauai Farmacy because each of the seventy-some herbs they grow has medicinal value of one sort or another.

On a stroll through the garden Doug Wolkon plucks a red and sheeny leaf from a cranberry hibiscus tree, places it on his tongue and chews. “Like candy,” he smiles, savoring the delicate sweetness. Cranberry hibiscus adds a pop of flavor and a zip of vitamin C to the Women’s Wellness Tea, a tonic that also contains tulsi, ginger, bele spinach, moringa, lemongrass, turmeric and other herbs. Among the Wolkons’ blends are Tulsi Mint Tea, a digestive and palate cleanser, Vitalitea, an energy booster, and Love Potion Tea, which we leave to your imagination. Packaged in small tins, the teas are sold at the Kilauea Farmers Market, online and to visitors who come to tour the gardens. 

Not every plant in the Wolkon’s tea garden goes into the teacup. Kauai Farmacy also produces drink powders, salves and hydrosols, as well as something called Buzz Chew, which is said to freshen both breath and mind. Its star ingredient is Spilanthes acmella, a.k.a the toothache plant, which numbs the gums and sets the mouth atingle. The teas, of course, tend to have a more soothing effect. “As for the flavor of a cup of tea, it should be exquisite all the way through,” Doug says. “Healing should be all about ease and happiness.”

Kaua’i Traveler: The Golden Spice

The Golden Spice

Turmeric is good for your mind, body and soul

Kauai Traveler Magazine Spring 2017

By Mary Troy Johnston
Photos by Kauai Farmacy

The medicinal benefits of turmeric have been known throughout the centuries, first recognized by non-Western cultures in South Asia, China and the Middle East. Turmeric is central to the five-thousand-year-old tradition of holistic Ayurvedic medicine, originating in Northern India and still widely practiced today.    

No one on Kaua’i knows better the history of turmeric in India than Vaidehi Herbert. She has lived here for 15 years where she pursues her passion of translating the ancient poetry of the Tamil region of Southern India, having produced numerous books. Vaidehi described to me how the Tamil poets wrote about turmeric over 2,000 years ago, between 3rd century BCE and 3rd century CE, when they developed the extensive literature known as Sangam poetry. She perused the poems to find references to turmeric. She finds that “fragrant turmeric was hung around the memorial stones as a decoration” to commemorate fallen warriors and also used in religious rituals. Vaidehi finds a charming reference to a scene where “women playing in a river used turmeric to wash their skins.” Another poem tells us that people in the mountains grow turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Modern science has come to recognize that black pepper ingested with turmeric enhances the absorption of the latter whereas ancient Tamils seemed to have known this intuitively! Piperine is the compound found in black pepper that aids in the absorption of curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric. 

Where turmeric is concerned, the ancient Tamil past has met with the Kaua’i present. Our island provides fertile ground and a tropical climate for growing olena (turmeric). A member of the ginger family, turmeric is a rhizome, meaning it grows as a stem underground. When it is harvested, it shares the rough tubular appearance of edible ginger, except that it has its own distinct golden color, reminiscent of saffron, and the curvature of a shrimp (also noted by a Tamil poet). Turmeric infuses food with the same strong reddish-yellow hue and, for this reason, is sometimes used as a substitute for the more expensive saffron. As for its culinary use, the spice is best known as one of the basic ingredients of a curry (from kari in Tamil), when paired with other herbs and spices from India.    

On island, makers of teas, juices, hot sauces and curry powders have renewed interest in developing products utilizing turmeric to promote physical and emotional well-being. Doug Wolkon of Kauai Farmacy, a firm believer in turmeric’s role in overall health, has developed a variety of related products on his tea farm. The Farmacy offers a Curry Blend that combines the health benefits of turmeric, kaffir lime and curry leaves, galangal and yellow ginger, and our island chili peppers known for their heat. He recommends his favorite, Cacao Olena powder constituted from the basic ingredients of cacao, turmeric and ginger to be used to make a hot tea or golden milk latte. Doug, in his blog post for Natural News, states that the “raw juice” (cold-pressed from the root) “is the most potent medicine for the liver and other organs as well as easy to apply externally.” Ancient medical traditions have long recommended applying turmeric to wounds, bruises, and skin irritations. Seeing turmeric as so integral to health maintenance, Doug writes, “We use turmeric as a daily tonic to keep the body, mind and spirit healthy and feeling alive.” These products are available at the Kïlauea Farmers Market on Saturday or directly from the tea farm, which also offers informative tours of the tropical plants grown there and their medical uses. Visit www.kauaifarmacy.com to learn about their farm and products.

There is no end to the beliefs about healing turmeric attributing anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and antioxidant properties (at the very least) to the “golden spice.”  Consequently, there is no end to turmeric-derived products on Kaua’i. Turmeric shots are available across the island from juice bars, as well as smoothies and other varieties. Janine Lynne has developed a Citrus Curry hot sauce for her Black Dog Farms Kauai that she mixes with yoghurt for a dip and adds to safflower oil (¼ cup hot sauce to ½ cup oil) as the base for vinaigrette. Kaua’i also boasts a number of island-crafted soaps infused with turmeric, harking back to the Tamil women using the spice as they bathed in the river. As Indian women are said to use turmeric in their cooking every day, it seems this exotic lesson has reached our small island in the Pacific.  

Home cooks will appreciate this recipe provided by Vaidehi Herbert, who also taught Indian cooking classes from her home here for 10 years to raise funds to support schools and tsunami victims in her birthplace of rural Tamil Nadu state of India.

Onion Tomato Chutney Recipe
  • Onion – 1 big red onion (finely diced)
  • Tomatoes – 2 big (finely chopped)
  • Olive oil – 8 Tablespoons
  • Turmeric (powder) – 1/2 Teaspoon
  • Cilantro – 2 Tablespoons (chopped)
  • Salt – 1 Teaspoon, or to taste
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 Teaspoon
  • Cumin powder – 1/2 Teaspoon
  • Chili powder – 1 Teaspoon
  • Curry Leaves – 10 leaves 

Heat oil in a pan. When oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and turmeric. Sauté for 10 seconds. Add the curry leaves and chopped onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes on medium heat, covering the pan with a lid between stirring the onion. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt. Sauté for another 10 minutes. Add the cumin, chili pepper and chopped cilantro. Sauté for a few minutes. 

The chutney can be served with tortillas, steamed rice and toasted bread.

Turmeric powder and rootA Kauai Farmacy Turmeric PatchCold pressed Turmeric juiceDoug and Genna Wolkon

Island Time Magazine: Kaua’i Farmacy, Kaua’i

January / February 21017

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Flourishing in the heart of Kaua’i’s north shore is Kaua’i Farmacy, a two hectare herbal garden, tended to by owners Doug and Genna Wolkon.

Home to more than 60 medicinal heral plants, Kaua’i Farmacy offers tea for health and pleasure. As all harvesting is done by hand, Kaua’i Farmacy offers a premium quality of tea, selecting only the strongest, most vibrant plants to craft into herbal blends and supplements.

In addition to sourcing product for many of Hawai’i’s restaurants, Kaua’i Farmacy also offers guided tours of the farm, allowing visitors and residents an opportunity to experience the oasis first hand, and learn more about the history and culture of tea farming in Hawai’i.