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What's in My Bag with Val Elkhorn of Woodspell Apothecary

Val Elkhorn is an herbalist that, in her lovely words, “uses practical magic to heal land and body by cultivating the forest and crafting bitters.” She is the owner of of Woodspell Apothecary and captures her Michigan woods life in a beautiful series of photos that she posts to her instagram. Val is also a creator of magic and herbal goods, (make sure you follow along to get updates about her product launch and shop restock on July 29th!!) as well as curator and writer for her free monthly publication, the Forest medicine Journal. I’m so excited that Val was willing to share what she keeps in her bag to feel powerful and connected to herself and the land around her. Enjoy.

Spencre xo


My name is Val Elkhorn and I am an herbalist living in the middle of the Michigan northwoods. I craft specialty bitters that incorporate the magic and flavors of the forest as well as other well-loved herbs. Aside from growing and producing this medicine, my main focus is to explore and share various sustainable agriculture practices as the world and climate change. Forest farming and biodynamics are what call to me the most. I believe all the medicine, food, shelter, and magic we need can be found in the forest, and by working with the rhythms of the earth we can produce the largest harvests while also connecting to our roots.

When I’m not working in the garden, I spend most of my days with my dog Odin, traversing the thousands of acres of woods that surround my house. From the carpets of wintergreen to the mighty white pine, medicine is offered in every nook and cranny. Because our ancestor’s stories are no longer passed down from generation to generation, I try to seek out those who remember. The crimson cardinal flower and wise elderberry are two of my favorite allies. Even the lakes and streams of this water state have taught me more than I can ever repay.

What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
  • Bag: This bag is amazing. It’s a stylish cross-body bag that is durable and has pockets on the inside for my various tools. I take it with me when I’m going on a short walk in the woods or travelling to town.

  • Trees of Michigan: I love tree medicine. Not only do they offer their bark, roots, sap, and leaves, but many branches can be used for crafts, tools, and building supplies. This little guide is small enough to tote around with me and is very helpful in identifying trees in the winter when most trees have dropped their leaves. I also like to have this on hand when travelling to other parts of the state with trees I am not as familiar with.

  • Pruners: My most important companion. I have multiple pairs of these in my bag, car, home, etc. just in case. I love the simplicity and durability of this brand and I’ve found them to last longer than any other pair I’ve owned. If you ever only buy one pair of pruners make sure they’re Felco brand. 

  • Plant Alchemy Solar Eclipse Zinc Sun Shield: Although a good portion of the year is cold and snowy in Michigan, I need to have this with me during the summer months. It’s smooth coverage and natural ingredients make it a no-brainer for me.

  • Forest Salve: I make a big batch of this forest salve every winter when most things are hidden under the snow. I forage pine resin, wintergreen, juniper, and black spruce and infuse in hemp oil to make this healing salve. When you live in the woods, there are constant scrapes, bruises, burns, and other wounds that benefit from the use of a salve and I use this on almost everything.

  • Bitters: As a person with a sensitive stomach and unpredictable digestive system, I have to have bitters on me whenever I go out to dinner with friends or spend the weekend with family. These are delicious and help to keep everything running smoothly. I also use them as an alcohol alternative when I want to take part in social festivities without drinking and being prey to the dreaded hangover.

  • Foraging knife: This knife is perfect for stripping bark and harvesting mushrooms. Handmade out of damascus steel, it has a nice hefty weight, but is small enough to carry into the woods for long periods of time. It also comes with a nice leather holster with a loop for your belt as well.

  • Sketchbook: I am a writer and an artist at heart and love to have a journal with me when I wander into the woods or travel. One of the best ways I have found to get to know a new plant is to sit and sketch it. You begin to notice the fine curvature of the petals and formation of the leaves, and soon the plant takes on a life of its own. I found this journal on Etsy and am obsessed. The UK based shop makes these sketchbooks and journals out of recycled materials and I love the rustic simplicity of it.

  • Wisteria oil: Wisteria has been a favorite plant of mine since I was a child. Its dreamy mysterious vines have always filled me with wonder. This oil smells heavenly and is used in magickal practices to bring illumination and elevate consciousness. I use a few anointing drops when meditating in the woods and can find complete serenity. 

Find Val online and on Instagram @woodspell.apothecary

What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What's in my bag with Val Elkhorn
What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox of Ancient Roots Mama

What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox

Like most people in this What’s in My Bag series, I discovered Hadas through Instagram. I was immediately taken with her style of photography and once I read more, I learned that she had a book of her own! It’s called The Holistic Antidepressant Diet. Here’s the description from Hadas’ website:

“The Holistic Antidepressant Diet: Traditional, Edible Practices to Align with Mother Earth, Raise Vibrations, and Naturally Curb Anxiety and Depression. A holistic approach to healing anxiety and depression, drawing heavily from traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurveda and modern scientific research. This book is designed to guide you in healing yourself, in reconnecting with your Source, and in gaining a deeper understanding of how you fit into and can thrive on this planet. Includes plenty of plant-based, medicinal recipes, esoteric and ancestral wisdom, and practical steps you can take today. “

I’m excited to share a bit of Hadas’ magic with you here on Gingertooth & Twine. Grab a cup of tea, get cozy and read on. And maybe add a copy of The Holistic Antidepressant Diet to your cart while your at it ;)

Spencre xo


My bag tends to be a hodgepodge of supplies ranging from grounding potions to toddler necessities and of course, snacks. It also takes many forms. This morning it is a backpack, and this afternoon it will be a basket. Unless I'm visiting with a client, you can usually find a little two-and-a-half year old sputtering nearby at hip level. My bag holds ample supplies to keep him happy and engaged, as well as some of my mama necessities like a camera, flower or land essence, and a good book.

What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox

Right now I'm reading “The Continuum Concept" by Jean Liedloff. This book makes me feel validated and lonely at the same time. The author is a writer an psychotherapist who spent two and a half years in the jungle in South America, observing how indigenous communities raised their young. It's mind-blowing how far and how quickly our society has veered away from rearing children in line with the ways our species evolved. The expression in the birth world "it takes a village" rings so true. It's comforting to read about cultures that honor our mothering instincts. Books like this help me feel less crazy for choosing to raise my son differently than most.

Speaking of crazy, it might seem a bit odd that I’m usually carrying around at least three different books with me at all times. The second book is “Edible Wild Plants.” Foraging season is in full bloom and both my son and I find so much pleasure in gathering from and relating with the natural world. I had planned to go to herbal school in Oregon before becoming a mother, but that plan was put on hold. One day I will formally study herbalism. Until then, you’ll find me in the fields with a reference book in hand, or in the kitchen, dabbling.

Lastly, my journal always come with me. I could probably make my bag a little lighter and just take notes in my phone, but it really isn’t the same. This journal comes from a past trip to South America, where I spent a lot of time growing up. My inspiration and intuitive hits often come when I’m not specifically seeking them (like in the shower, when first waking up or drifting off to sleep, or just walking in the woods). I like to write these messages down as they come, before I forget. When I have the time later, I like to unpack some of them with longer journaling sessions.

We're preparing to move to a new home in a new area, and as an extra sensitive person, I find transitions easily become overwhelming. I tend to carry an essence with me to help me feel grounded. Last year I took an online course called Intuitive Plant Medicine and started making flower essences myself. When preparing for this blog post, I told my husband, "I feel like a failure for not making my own essence in months." He shrugged. "You're a mom." So it goes. Right now I'm using St. John's Wort from my local apothecary.

My son's favorite phrase during a lull is "I want something to hold." We never leave home without something for him. Often it's a small basket or bag of his own to gather things in nature that interest him. If we’re driving, he can look through his basket of treasures on the way home.

My camera. Unless it feels necessary, I leave home without my phone, or I at least leave it in the car when we go adventuring. The difference in my experience when my phone is on and available vs. off or in another place completely is truly noticeable. The last thing I want to model for my son is a cell phone addiction, but we both enjoy having a camera around. There are moments that he, too, wants to capture and remember, and he loves watching back the videos we take later on in the day. Photography is a simple way for me to be creative throughout the day. One shift in perspective I'm practicing is not waiting for that one hour a day when my son is asleep to work on my projects, but the idea that I can work on them, incrementally, throughout the day. I don't need to wait for him to fall asleep to practice photography but can incorporate this hobby into our regular routine.

Food is a huge part of my daily rhythm and wellbeing. What we eat can either supports our health or hurt it. I'm exhausted more often than not, so I find it absolutely essential to set myself up for success when it comes to food, at least. When we go out, I throw some fruit and nut energy balls in my bag. I make them every week or two with my son and they're the perfect on-the-go snack. We love switching up the recipe to keep them exciting. The base is always dates and nuts, and then we change the flavors between cacao, matcha, berry, bee pollen and raw honey, etc!

In the same vein, I carry a water bottle with me. This one is made from copper, an essential trace mineral with so many health benefits! According to Ayurveda, drinking water enriched with copper first thing in the morning helps all three doshas. Similar to my thoughts on photography, I used to wait until I had time to myself to engage in the rituals and ceremonies that I used to cultivate before becoming a mother. Ritual would help me feel grounded and more present. But man, waiting around for those perfect, calm moments during this phase of motherhood meant that I was basically not longer engaging in any rituals! I’m coming to see that all of life can be a ceremony, and I can bring the sacred into my experience at any moment, with as simple a ceremony as fueling my body with healing waters.

What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox


I call these date and nut balls Earth Candy and I make a different flavor each season. Springtime has an affinity for the liver and gallbladder. When the energy of this meridian is strong, we feel emotionally light, flexible, silly, happy. When we’re off balance, our liver holds onto anger and frustration. We can look to green foods in the Springtime to nourish the liver and gallbladder. This is why I make this nutrient-dense snack with matcha and pistachios.


In a food processor, blend 2 cups of pistachios, 12 soaked and strained medjool dates, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, ⅛ tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. matcha. Roll into balls and roll in a light coating of matcha (If you’re planning to share these with children, I recommend substituting matcha for a more kid-friendly flavor like freeze-dried and powdered green apple.)

What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox
What's in My Bag with Hadas Knox

Hadas Knox is a mother practicing primal, intuitive parenting, a holistic health coach, full spectrum doula, and Pilates instructor. Her business, Ancient Roots Mama, focuses on guiding and supporting women in reclaiming, reconnecting, and rewilding with healing nutrition, ancient wisdom, birth, ritual and ceremony, motherhood, and sisterhood. As a coach, she offers one month programs and individual consultations. On her blog and instagram, she shares about parenting, connecting with nature, holistic nutrition, and simple living. She is the author of "The Holistic Antidepressant Diet" and is currently creating an e-course called "Crafting a Sacred Postpartum."



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