Spring Equinox is here! And a Super Full Moon too!
Spring Equinox is one of my favorite days of the year. The balance of night and day, yin and yang, earth and heavens is palpable to me. It is the pull of the awakening of life after a cold lifeless winter.
Spring is also the return of the Wood Element. We see green sprouts growing around us while within in us the yang energy also awakens. We feel this instinctively though it often goes unnoticed in our busy lives.
For the last two decades I have recognized and celebrated the Spring and Vernal Equinox, Summer and Winter Solstice and cross days like Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain. I pay attention to the changing of the seasons for reasons I can’t explain. It feels essential for my mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
These rituals connect to the universal energy around me and tune me in with natural cycles. And affected by in infinite ways I only understand in fragments. On days like today, with the Equinox and Full Moon energies, it’s easier to feel the connection. Revel in it!
May you find balance in life and love and be in harmony with the cosmic qi around and within you!
I have been hearing about gnarly colds and coughs still plaguing people all across the United States. These Winter bugs are still here and like I said on my Earth Element Podcast (which no one has heard because I haven’t been able to release it yet….), so I’m saying it again. We are going to hear about people being sick well into Spring. I wish it weren’t true, but people are still run down from illnesses they had weeks ago. And when Spring brings those winds, with it comes pathogens that thrive in the warmer weather ahead.
Let’s not talk about Spring quite yet, since Winter is still in full force. At least for me. Today I’m in Denver and there’s a pretty raging snowstorm right now. I thankfully am not down with anything, but I sure am bundled up, drinking tea, and staying out of this weather!
If you’re one of the many that still have the crud, this chest rub recipe may be for you. It’s quick and easy to make (if you have the infused Oil already made) and can be a fun creation to make with friends or kids.
2-3 grams Menthol Crystals (less if skin is sensitive; do not use on children under 4) You can substitute Mint Essential Oil if you don’t have the crystals.
12 drops Thymus vulgaris Essential Oil
12-18 drops Eucalyptus radiata Essential Oil
Please use organic and ethically wild-crafted and sourced ingredients
Pour infused Olive Oil into the top of a double boiler and add Beeswax. Heat Oil until Beeswax melts and there are no more than small bubbles are around the edges of the mixture. Add Menthol Crystals and stir until melted and well blended. Take mixture off the heat and add Essential Oils, blend thoroughly. Pour into 2 or 3 small glass jars (you will end up with about 6 ounces). Let cool completely before you put on the lid.
Rub on chest, behind the ears and along the lymph nodes on the neck. Skin may experience slight tingling and/or redness due to the Menthol Crystals and Essential Oils.
Remember to also stay hydrated with water and herbal tea. A hot cup of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) or Mint (Mentha species) tea with Lemon and Honey can do wonders to lift your mood, open your sinuses, and soothe your belly.
Cooking with common culinary herbs also help rid the body of unwanted pathogens and toxins. Add handfuls of fresh, organic Rosemary(Rosmarinus officinalis), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and Basil (Ocimum basilicum)to your salads, stews, and broths. A perfect reminder that food is medicine too!
Be well out there and be gentle with yourself.
when energy flows, wellness grows
PS: To tide you over until my new podcast episodes release, here’s one of my favorite episodes from Season One. I sit down with my very first herb teacher, Jane Bothwell, of the Dandelion Herbal Center. We talk herbs, plant communication, and why we love Humboldt County (which is known for its own strain of gnarly coughs, the Humboldt Crud). And please review my podcast, it helps get me out there to more people! Thank you!
Today feels really good! I am on the brink of something Big. Something so exciting I want to scream it from the top of the rafters. The timing is not right yet. Hopefully in just a few short weeks I can share what I am so pumped about!
Until then I will share with you an excerpt from my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine. Chapter 8- Cannabis: Reflect, Feel, Create, Evolve was probably the hardest chapter to write. Partially because of the stigma that surrounds Cannabis and partially because I am still processing my experiences of 20+ years in Humboldt County. It’s hard to be open about parts of my life that I have been so secretive about. Even writing these sentences is causing my heart rate to rise. (If I was at home I’d make myself some chamomile and rose tea!)
Excerpt from Chapter 8 of Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine Wriiten by Jessica Baker, LAc, RH (AHG)
The legalization of cannabis and its acceptance in the medical community is long overdue. I get giddy every time I see a cannabis dispensary. It brings back the fondest memories of standing in the middle of a ganja garden, feeling the warm Northern California breeze, smoking a joint, pruning the plants while listening to my solar-powered radio. This was the late 90’s, and although growing medical cannabis was legal under California law, there was still eradication under CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting). The fear of imprisonment was real. Growing medicinal cannabis was not respected as it is now and people risked everything for their right to cultivate. There is something exhilarating and empowering about growing your own medicine. It makes me feel alive and connected to all the people who have cultivated cannabis over the ages. For those in Northern California that grew under fear of harassment and arrest, the legalization of medicinal and adult-use cannabis has the potential to change not only the lives of patients, but also cannabis growers. A lot of healing can occur when prohibition goes away. Like many, there are days when I still pine for the good old days, when cannabis growers were the freedom fighters, providing clandestine medicine to those in need.
Today, cannabis is highly regulated, packaged for consumers, in child-proof packaging, and probably contains ingredients like propylene glycol, butane residue, and/or refined sugar. Yum! Almost makes me want to go back to the outlaw days. Almost. The fear that cannabis prohibition perpetuates is something that I have trouble comprehending. The losses of community, family and character that have come from imprisoning nonviolent drug dealers and cannabis users far outweighs the negative effects cannabis can have on a person’s health or psyche. As our culture evolves, we have to look at the bigger picture. Which is worse: ingestion of a safe plant for recreational purposes or knowingly ruining someone’s life because they are growing an herb? It is an obvious choice if we care about people at all.
So there it is. A little window into my past. If you’re interested in learning more about herbalism or cannabis, you can get a copy of Plant Songs from bakerbotanica.com or from Amazon.
May you be inspired to live your dream as I am living mine!
Cannabis is now all over the media. That makes me really happy! As an avid Cannabis user, educator, and advocate, even I am more than a little concerned about the ever-growing hype about CBD (cannabidiol, one of the many phytocannabinoids in cannabis). Yes, CBD has therapeutic properties. No, it is not the panacea miracle drug that so many people claim it to be. Yes, CBD is effective for extreme childhood seizure disorders. No, this does not mean taking CBD is going to cure all of your illnesses.
We are a culture of trending health diets and fads. I’m afraid CBD is falling into that category. Plant medicine is for real. Cannabis medicine is for real. CBD does have therapeutic benefits that interact with our own Endocannabinoid System. This does not mean that every hyped up CBD product on the market is going to work. Since most of them are derived from industrial hemp in Eastern Europe or China, they’re probably not going to. Price does not guarantee quality. I see all sorts of outrageous prices on the market! Researchers found that only 30% of CBD products on the market have within 10% of what is actually on the label. 42% had more CBD than listed on the label and 26% had less CBD than stated (Marcel O. Bonn-Miller, Mallory J. E. Loflin, Brian F. Thomas, Jahan P. Marcu, Travis Hyke, Ryan Vandrey. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA, 2017; 318 (17): 1708 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.11909)
We need a holistic approach to health. Including when working with Cannabis. We also need to be able to discern and weed through the marketer’s exploits. A stand alone CBD is only going to be have limited effectiveness. I always go back to what Ethan Russo, neuroscientist and cannabis researcher who theorizes that there is a synergistic effect between all constituents found in plants, including phytocannabinoids (THC, CBD) and terpenoids (aromatic compounds that have known therapeutic benefits and create the pungent smell of cannabis). That means that CBD alone can have some therapeutic benefit, but when we combine that with other constituents in the plants, we have an even stronger effect. When we ingest anything, we also have to take into account our own physiology, metabolism, and healing ability. All of these factors play a role in how plant medicine works within the body.
That’s why all herbal medicine, OTC and pharmaceutical drugs can react differently for each person. And that’s why we can’t make claims that CBD is saving everyone’s life and curing all illnesses. CBD companies shouldn’t be making health claims anyway. It violates FDA rules and many businesses are getting cease and desist letters because of it.
The beauty of what is happening is that there are millions of us that love Cannabis! Millions more have wanted to love Cannabis and have been lied to for decades about how dangerous and addictive it is. Now everybody’s curiosity is justified by the medicinal benefits of CBD! That’s great and all, but now we need to update our weed knowledge now that Cannabis has come out of the closet.
The more people excited about plant medicine the better! With all this enthusiasm- let’s drop some education about cannabis.
1. Cannabiscan be used in phytoremdiation. This means that Cannabis can be used to accumulate heavy metals like cadmium. Because heavy metals can be present in plant material (and even more concentrated in CBD products) it is so important to know where our CBD products come from. Know your supplier! And always ask to see proof of heavy metal and pesticide testing of the CBD used in their products.
2. Terpenoids, like linalool, beta caryophellene, and pinene are found in Cannabis. And also found in other medicinal plants. The same aromatic molecules are in plants like lavender, pine, citrus, and countless others. It is the synergestic effect of terpenoids and phytocannabinoids (CBD, THC, and others) that illicit Cannabis’s effects. Read Ethan Russo’s research article Taming THC.
3. The way we describe Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa is completely wrong. This is too in depth to go into here so I embedded The Real Dirt podcast interview where I speak in detail about the differences between the two species. You may be surprised at what you find out!
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning about Cannabis. Information and enthusiasm is spreading fast. Let’s stay informed, and high. Let’s definitely stay high!
when energy flows, wellness grows
PS: Speaking of Cannabis, I had so much fun interviewing Dr. Michele Ross for The Herb Walk Podcast this week. She is a wealth of information! Our conversation was exhilarating, reminding me how far we have come with cannabis in just a few years. And how far we still have to go! The episode will be released next month and I am so excited to share it with you.
For now, enjoy my episode, The Taxonomy of Cannabis on The Real Dirt instead.
I have never been into Valentine’s Day. Never will be. Don’t give a shit. And I have been in a very loving, supportive relationship with my husband for over twenty years. I just don’t buy into Hallmark holidays that revolve around buying more plastic or sugary crap for your loved ones (didn’t we get enough of that at Christmas?!)
For those that don’t feel like me, Valentine’s can be hard. It is another reminder of your loneliness from not having someone to share your life with. Or it could be that you are in a relationship that is abusive or just not serving your highest purpose. Valentine’s can stir up all kinds of emotions for us.
As always, plants are there for us.
3 Ways to Avoid the Valentine’s Funk (Herbalist style)
1.Eat Chocolate, Lots of Chocolate
The darker the better. If it has Rose petals, Raspberry filling, or is dipped on Strawberries- Do it! Rose soothes a broken heart and anything red in color is beneficial to the heart channel and the fire element, which is the element of passion, creativity, and joy.
2.Drink Herbal Tea
Nutritive herbs like Milky Oats, Skullcap, and Rose petals help keep you relaxed, while reminding you that you are supported and loved. Just add a teaspoon or two of dried herbs to 1 cup of hot water, steep for at least 10 minutes and then enjoy! TIP: Chocolate is a wonderful accompaniment to chocolate and will mellow out the richness of the dark chocolate.
3. Phone a Friend
This is Huge, especially today when we often text instead of call someone. Hearing a friend’s voice can do wonders for the soul when you’re feeling alone or isolated. If you have friends like mine, laughter is sure to follow- and we all know laughter is The best medicine.
As for me tonight I won’t be out at a romantic dinner or welcomed home from work with (chemical laden) roses. I will be happily at home, with my husband, not celebrating Valentine’s Day, but eating chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Tashi Dalek! The Lunar New Year is upon us and I love to celebrate the cyclical shift from one year to another! On Monday’s New Moon we left the year of the Yang Earth Dog and welcomed in the Yin Earth Pig. I hope this year’s energy is a little less aggressive wounded dog and more congenial lucky pig. May our collective focus turn more towards generosity and companionship and farther away from personal motives of money and power.
My birthday was also on Monday and along with honoring the next lunar cycle, I also celebrated my next revolution around the sun! A perfect yin yang balance! I threw an all day Drinky and Smoky Tea Party where we drank loads of Tea (Camellia sinensis), ate pastries, and smoked fatties. In typical Jessica fashion I took photos of me preparing the goodies, but forgot to get images of the final creations! I also had so much fun during the party I only had one series of pictures taken of some girlfriends and myself. Next time I’ll remember to take more photos!
I will admit I went to bed with a bellyache Monday night. I ate way too many sugary treats, drank too much caffeine, and then had cheesy calzones late in the evening. It was a deliciously indulgent day and I felt the aftermath. As a Chinese medicine practitioner I embrace their theories on food stagnation (bloating, gas, and fatigue due to eating heavy, rich foods) and know that eating like this can wreak havoc on my digestion. That’s when I remember the wonders of Hawthorn (Crataegus pinnatifida).
If you’ve been overdoing it like me, then you need one of my favorite Hawthorn Berry recipes. Perfect for sluggish digestion after too much fun! This tea is tasty and works wonders to help digest fats and heavy foods. I recommend drinking small 2 ounce cups throughout the day if you tend to overeat. I should have been drinking this tea during my party and I wouldn’t need it so badly now!
Swollen Belly Decoction (aka Belchy and Burpy Tea)
I was all inspired to write about how Chinese New Year is coming up as I celebrate my 43rd year on planet Earth! Then Jussie Smollett was attacked by white terrorists and I have been outraged about how obvious hate crimes are committed daily in the U.S. and there are no repercussions. No fear of retribution when our entire society continues to build upon the foundation that our forefathers set over two hundred years ago; that straight white men are superior.
This isn’t going to be a political post but it will be one deeply rooted in the knowledge that we cannot be silent when injustices are so great. We have to redevelop a reverence for all life on Earth and begin to see ourselves as an integral part of the whole, instead of the masters that can destroy at our will. I don’t have the answers to these problems, but I do have some tools. And they are our herbal allies.
The same plants that we are hell bent on poisoning (dandelions, chickweed, shepherd’s purse and countless others) will be our saving grace.
When we remember our place in the cosmos, we will once again contribute to the balance between Earth and the Heavens. As long as we forget our connection to each other (much less the rest of nature) there will be wars, famines, hate crimes, and down right ugliness. I refuse to participate in that. Instead I will spread love, hope, and the wisdom of the plants.
When I asked who wanted to be written about today Rose (Rosa centifolia)came up loud and clear! She loves to open our hearts and minds with her aromatic properties, all the while telling you to watch out if you treat her wrong. Those thorns are medicine in themselves, a warning and also a reminder to be gentle, to be conscious when you interact with others.
If you’re feeling like I am, you probably need to share a cup of Rose petal tea with someone else and talk through the feelings of despair and disconnection. We all need more love, but what we also need is togetherness. We have to be stronger than this hate. We have to better than this.
Rose Petal Tea
Drop a small handful of dried rose petals in a pint glass. Pour hot water over petals and steep for 15 minutes. Strain out petals and set aside. Drink tea slowly. Add a touch of honey if you need a little sweetness in your life.
Please be nice to each other. And stand up for what you believe in.
We are a country divided. I have heard this said over and over again lately and I have seen this polarization play out all over social media- especially Facebook. I have absolutely participated, as I have been quick to anger, to point fingers, and to make generalized statements about people I disagree with.
I am acting exactly like what I loathe and think I am working against. I am allowing myself to get riled up and angry, instead of transforming that energy into something productive. An example being a recent post I made on a Clinical Herbalists Facebook Group about a conference in Alabama that was threatening to kick out anyone being political.
First of all their statements about what being political are were vague and I thought it was rude of them to threaten to kick people out of their conference for disruptive behavior related to politics. The organizers state “this conference is for participants to reconnect with the land and our first love of using plants and alternative medicine.” Yes, that’s the reason we attend herbal conferences, but to censor people’s speech about politics (herbal medicine and politics are deeply intertwined unfortunately) is ridiculous. The keynote speaker took offense to their statements as well and has chosen to step down from speaking.
Second of all, it is a conference called The Deep South Conference without any sort of representation of the people that come from the South. There is one teacher that is a Cherokee man, but all others are Caucasian. Which is not uncommon at herbal conferences in the U.S.- just a little shocking when the name is the Deep South Conference and there is not one single black teacher. The south (if you haven’t been) has no shortage of African American herbalists.
I don’t think we can separate politics from herbalism. Most of us have learned some form of indigenous herbalism and we take for granted how easy and accessible it has been. It’s why we didn’t think twice (until recently) about burning sage and palo santo. We have never been prosecuted, shamed or killed for practicing our beliefs. We just got to expose ourselves to whatever we wanted to learn and then shout it to the rooftops as if everyone has had the privilege and right to do it.
As herbalists, we are activists! Even if we don’t want to see ourselves that way, it is our responsible to change, not only what we perceive health to be, but to make sure everyone has equal access to the medicines of the Earth. We must work to make herbal medicine affordable and accessible to as many people as we can. No one should be left out when it comes to working with plant medicines. But because of political structures that continue to keep up the business of capitalism and a racist foundation that we value one person’s life above another, this is not possible.
And that is why I have to speak out.
If you need some help building Courage or Resolve, remember your herbal allies. It could be a good time to call upon Eleutherococcus senticosis (Siberian ginseng) to help adapt to the changes in your life and relationships as you speak your truth more clearly. Maybe you need Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn) to transform your emotions of frustration and hate to clarity and compassion. It could be that you need to wear aromatic herbs like Lavender and Rose as an amulet or (diluted) essential oil to keep you calm and centered during heated conversations.
We always have a choice as to how we are going to react. Maybe tomorrow I’ll react calmer when faced with colleagues that don’t want to rock the boat or call out injustice. Instead of attacking them with cynicism and withdrawal, hopefully I’ll be able to have a more intelligent conversation. I’ll do my best.
when energy flows, wellness grows
Featured Image: Photo taken by Jessica Baker Artist- Apex
Getting to talk about energy and our relationship to nature and the cosmos may be the coolest thing about teaching Chinese medicine classes. I spent the last two days at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism talking to students about the dynamic relationship between yin and yang that is necessary to create and sustain life. We discussed ethereal concepts like qi (vital life force energy), jing (essence) and shen (spirit) and how to choose herbal medicines based on their energetic properties.
In Chinese herbalism, the taste of herbal substances is what determines its therapeutic action. Five Element theory tells us each element has numerous correspondences, including a taste. In this weeks episode of The Herb Walk Podcast, I talk about Chinese herbal energetics and the importance of choosing the right herb for a person’s constitution. Just like all Chinese medicine practitioners, I also mention poo quite a bit and how it relates to the health of our digestive system.
I hope you enjoy this episode and learn some fun information about why loose stools happen. Please Subscribe to The Herb Walk Podcast so you never miss an episode! And if I can ask a favor- to please post a review wherever you listen to podcasts. It would really help me out!
Although I’m 42 (43 in less a month!) I felt like last year was a year of growing up a little bit more. I’ve had to reconsider the trajectory of my career and make some serious decisions on how I want to move forward. I’ve had to face some past traumas that are preventing me from growing the way I want to.
I have always been a feminist. At least as long as I can remember, I had a sense of the inequality between men and women. My family is from the south, and I’ve seen misogyny (and racism) from a very young age and loathed it from the get go. The last couple of years was a reminder of how little respect our politicians have for women. And for indigenous women and women of color, it has become even more blatant. (We have had some victories like Ms. Cynotia Brown)
It’s hard to talk about inequality for women without admitting the inherent system of racism that is the fundamental principal that the United States of America is founded on. If we truly want equality for women, then we have to look at the deeper issue of white supremacy and domination.
What does this have to do with herb blog?Everything! Most of the herbal business models are also built on the foundations of capitalism, which really only work if someone along the way isn’t really being paid a living wage or someone’s indigenous land is now exploited for profit. Yes there are some amazing companies out there to support, but we have to do our research and not blindly buy from any herb or essential oil company. We have to become conscientious consumerisms and organic gardeners if we want our favorite herbs and oils to be around for future generations.
Most important, we have to admit that as white people in America, we have a privilege that non-white people have. We also have a responsibility to try to change the colonization mentality that our ancestors have spread across the planet. We are not at fault for their transgressions but we are to blame if we don’t acknowledge our current role in the perpetuation of their ideals and beliefs.
I encourage you to listen to the book called Waking Up Whiteby Debby Irving. She grew up rich in New England and had to come to grips with her own inherent privilege and racism. I think it’s important for all white people to hear how insidious white supremacy has affected all of our lives. Even for those of us that think it doesn’t pertain to us.
One thing I’m working on all year (and the rest of my life) is the Me and White Supremacy Workbook by author and podcaster Layla F. Saad. For now it is a free download, although feel free to donate generously to her work. The White Supremacy Workbook is going to be essential for my understanding of how I can do better as a white woman.
Ok, kind of deep thoughts for my reflections on 2018 and how I want to envision my 2019. I am excited for what’s ahead! May you find your truth this year and live it to the fullest! The world needs your participation.
when energy flows, wellness grows
Featured Image: Rep. Ruth Anna Buffalo image by Lea Black Photography