Spicy Herbs & The Metal Element

How is it November already!? Like many of you, I’m surprised once again of how quickly time passes. We are deep into Autumn and the holiday season is quickly approaching. Many of you know that in Chinese medicine theory,  there are 5 Elements or Phases that have several correspondences, including a season. Autumn is associated with the Metal Element, as are the organ systems of the lungs and large intestines, the emotions of grief and acceptance, and the flavor of spicy.

Element Metal
Season Autumn
Color White
Environment Dry
Phase of Life Harvest
Organ Systems Lungs/Large Intestine
Flavor Spicy (Acrid, Pungent)
Sense Organ Nose
Tissue Skin
Emotion Grief/Acceptance
Sound  Crying
Entity Po- Corporeal Soul
Animal Tiger

Each element has a flavor or taste attached to it. In Chinese herbalism, flavors have very specific actions and can travel to precise areas of the body. Understanding the energetics of herbs and foods is essential in combining effective formulas.

The spicy flavor of the herbs has the specific function of dispersing Qi (vital life force energy) from the external part of the body, called the Wei Qi. You’re probably thinking, Ok, so what does dispersing qi from the external part of the body mean?

When qi is dispersed throughout the Wei Qi, the pores open and sweating occurs- reducing body temperature and pushing external pathogens, or “evil qi” out of the body. When someone has a strong Wei Qi, the pathogens that cause cold or flu are pushed out of the body. If there is a weak Wei Qi, the immune system is not strong enough to fight off the pathogen and frequent and recurrent colds may occur. A weakened Wei Qi can also be associated with Lung Qi deficiency  that manifests as seasonal allergies, asthma and even eczema.

After twenty years of studying herbal medicine and ten years as an acupuncturist, I have Resolve Amazon Picyears of experience working with all of these conditions. My love of aromatic plants and Chinese Medicine is what inspired me to create my Baker Botanica 5 Element Essential Oil line. Resolve, my Metal Element blend includes spicy herbs like Eucalyptus radiata, Douglas Fir, Scots Pine, and Tulsi (Holy) Basil.  Terpenes in Holy Basil are proven anti-pyretics (fever reducers) and Eucalyptus radiata is not only safe for children, but also has strong anti-bacterial and expectorant properties. The delicate notes of Douglas Fir and the sharpness of Scots Pine provide additional anti-microbial properties.

The therapeutic properties of aromatic plants are well documented, not only in Chinese medicine, but also from medicines around the world. Today most of us have access to highly medicinal plants and we don’t even think about. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, fennel, cilantro, parsley, garlic, onions, and scallions are found in grocery stores around the world, and although we think of them as culinary herbs, we have forgotten how they have been used as medicine for centuries.

To find out more about spicy herbs, the Metal Element (including our corporeal soul, Po) and more, check out the first episode of Season 2 of my podcast, The Herb Walk with Jessica Baker on iTunes. And please Subscribe and leave a review so I can serve you better!

I almost hate to say it, but the holy days are just around the corner. For fresh ideas, check out my Baker Botanica 5 Element Blends (purchase one or the entire set!) and my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine, both available on Amazon.

With love,

JessicaBakerPic 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

The Herb Walk Podcast: Metal Element Episode

Season 2 of The Herb Walk Podcast with Jessica Baker is finally here!!  

Happy Samhain/Halloween! I am happy to announce the release of Season on one of my favorite holy days, Samhain! Known as Witches’ New Year, Samhain is the end of summer for the Celtic traditions. An auspicious day to release my new season!

In this first episode I introduce the 5 Elements of Chinese Medicine and discuss the Metal Element, the element that is associated with Autumn.

This season I’ll read from my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine, discuss Chinese herbal energetics, and interview amazing people like Rachael Carlevale of Ganjasana, Kelly Green of Refugio Altiplano, Nicole Gagliano of Wild & Wise Herbal CSA, and much more!!

Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher and never miss an episode!

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Subtle Shifts from Yang to Yin

I can feel the stirring of Autumn on the wind. Although we may still have a few sweltering days left in Denver, there is crispness to the air as the sun sets earlier each day. Like the plants and trees around me, I am beginning to go inward. Usually I don’t want Summer to end, but after two months of stifling heat I need a reprieve. The Yang energy that peaks on Summer Solstice now wanes until Yin overtakes it after Autumn Equinox. The subtle shifts from Yang to Yin is palpable now, the cool evening breeze replacing stifling hot nights.

All around my neighborhood, I see the vibrant flowers begin to fade, as their energy concentrates into seeds that will become next year’s beauty. I notice the same natural cycles are occurring within me, I feel an urge to concentrate and reserve that fiery yang energy of the Summer sun. I want to soak in the last few weeks of sunny, hot weather and eagerly await the relief of Autumn.

Observe what the cycles of nature are reflecting back to you. How has your energy changed since the beginning or middle of the season? What have you harvested from the experiences of the last couple of months?

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Steamed Spring Greens Recipe

Spring has always been one of my favorite times of year. I yearn for longer days and I thrive when the sun is out! Although it snowed in Denver this week, I can still feel spring stirring in the air. The tulips are blooming and buds are beginning to form on the trees that line the streets. I even saw my first squirrel scampering through the alley. We are all feeling the regeneration that comes along with spring.

In Chinese medicine, spring is associated with the Wood element. The organ systems of the Wood element are liver and gallbladder, which is one reason people like to do liver cleanses in springtime. The energy is generating- as we see the creation of life that begins as plants sprout and grow. The color is green, another obvious sign of spring, the taste is sour, and the emotions that may come up for us are compassion (when Wood is in balance) or anger and frustration (when Wood is out of balance).

When someone is angry or frustrated we say that the liver qi (energy) is stagnant. We can promote movement of liver qi by exercise, meditation (especially moving meditation like qi gong or yoga), eating foods that are easy to digest, and ingesting herbs that are appropriate for your constitution.

One easy way to help move liver qi after a long, cold winter is to eat the tender greens of the herbs that are sprouting around you. Here’s a simple recipe that your liver will love!

Steamed Spring Greens

Gather a handful of leaves of dandelion, plantain, violet, miner’s lettuce, yarrow, and any other edible leaves that grow where you live. Add the leaves to a handful of your favorite store bought greens- kale, chard, collard, etc.

Lightly steam the store bought and harvested greens until they just get soft. Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar over the greens. Eat and enjoy!

Make sure the greens you harvest aren’t growing in an area that is sprayed with pesticides-many people love to spray our precious dandelion, as if it’s nothing but a noxious weed!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Spring Equinox Brings Balance

Today is the Spring Equinox, an auspicious day when the opposing energies of yin and yang are in balance. On Equinox (Spring & Vernal) the dynamic relationship of yin and yang is synchronized and we may feel this Universal balance within us as well.

If you feel out of sorts or are having a difficult day, it could be a reflection of the imbalances within your life. It could be health, finances or relationships- how are these things showing up for you.

Reflect on what it is you need to do (or not to do) to bring yourself into harmony with the natural rhythms of the inner and outer Cosmos. As always what is happening in one is happening in the other.

One of my favorite herbal combinations for bringing a sense of harmony to yin yang is Calendula officinalis (golden like the sun) and Artemisia vulgaris (herba de la luna). Artemisia is bitter and can be intense if steeped too long, but I love to make a solar/lunar infusion with cool spring water. The herbs infuse with the energies of the sun (yang) and the moon (yin) and I feel this deeply as I drink it throughout the week.

Happy Equinox!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows,wellness grows

Find (& Spread) Peace and Harmony

I just spent five days at the Pacific Symposium at the Catamaran Resort in San Diego. The Pacific Symposium brings Chinese medicine scholars from all over the world together to share their love of this ancient medicine.

As always, I come back full of enthusiasm and reverence for this life I have chosen. I am reminded that we are dynamic energetic beings that are deeply connected to all life in the universe. We are of one source of energy or qi, navigating time, space, and matter as best we can.

We are also broken people. On a constant quest for self, we have forgotten our innate connection to everything else. Chinese medicine reminds me that we are wood, earth, fire, water, and metal. We cycle with the planets, moon, and tide. We cycle together, in rhythm and harmony.

It is evident that we are out of rhythm, out of sync with this universal energy. We all feel it and it is manifesting in the extreme violence, fear, and sadness that is pervading our society. It is overwhelming. Thankfully we have a multitude of tools to help bring us back into balance.

Breathe– the most obvious and for me sometimes the hardest

I hold my breath all the time. Throughout the day when I begin to feel tired, anxious or fearful I notice I am holding my breath. Check in with yourself and see if you too are holding your breath.

Practice Gratitude– not for what you have, but for what nature provides

I find that when I have gratitude for air for breath, trees and plants for food, medicine, shelter, and clothing, and water for all of life, it brings me a sense of peaceful wholeness. Breathe and notice what you are grateful for.

Take your Herbs– food is medicine

I have had subtle and profound changes in my life from taking herbs. I sip a cup of warm chamomile tea after dinner and I begin to relax. I add a pinch of cinnamon and ginger to my morning oatmeal and I am warmed by their presence. From basil in our pesto to pepper on our eggs, herbs have been an integral part of our daily lives.

Keep it Simple– life is easier than we make it

Breathe, say thanks, and remember our plant medicine. If you practice these three things I promise life will be a little easier. I’m not saying it is going to solve all the world’s problems, but it will make your day a little better. Remember when we are more balanced, we will be less aggressive, afraid, or apathetic. Sometimes that is all we can do for the world.

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Plant Spirit Communication

These holy days of honoring our ancestors always make me a little sad. I have lost a lot of loved ones (two and four legged) and my altar usually overflows with pictures and names of friends and family that have passed over. I am in San Diego this year so my altar is small and sparse, with only my medicine bag, some gemstones, and a few oils and elixirs I like to travel with. Although I can’t honor them the way I normally do, I still thank them for all the wisdom and love they have given me.

In Chinese medicine, many aromatic plants have the ability to “open orifices.” This means that they can expand our consciousness and open our heart and mind to new thoughts and experiences. Aromatic plants also transform dampness, which can bring us more clarity of thought and action. While the opening and transformative powers of aromatic plants help connect us to our own spirit, they can also help with communicating with our ancestors and other spirits as well.

There are a few aromatic plants I call upon when I want to deepen my insights, meditations, and communication with the spirit realm.

Marigold– the aroma of Marigold is the only flower that the dead can smell; opens communication between earthly and spirit realms

Clary Sage– brings clarity of thought and feelings; increases visionary awareness

Rose– transforms all grief and heartache, helps to see the beauty of life

Frankincense– opens chest and lungs, reduces constriction caused by loss and grief

Cinnamon bark– warms and invigorates, strengthens gate of fire, provides grounding for deeper meditation

I hope you find the aromatic plants that call to you and discover all they have to offer.

May you, and your ancestors, be nourished.

For the love of plants,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

Autumn Ritual Tonic

autumn-let-go

In Chinese medicine fall is associated with the metal element. Each element has several correspondences like seasons, colors, organ systems, and spiritual entities. For metal the organ systems are the lungs and large intestine and the entity is the corporeal soul, or Po. Our Po is housed in the lungs and is a dense energy that manifests as pride, envy, greed, shame, guilt, or negative judgments when the metal element is out of balance. When we are tormented by feelings of resentment for ourselves or others, this is our Po acting out.

During fall many people also notice the arise of unresolved grief or sadness. Grief also settles in the lungs and can be felt this time of year. I always think of friends and family that are no longer here. I do rituals to honor their life and their passing.

Autumn is the season of letting go of what no longer is and what shall never be again. It is the season of impermanence and acceptance. I have trouble with that sometimes and I find my Po dwelling on the past or I become full of fear and doubt. What helps me is to make nourishing medicine that will strengthen my Qi and ground and calm my Po. I love this grounding root and bark blend. The herbs in this tea strengthen and nourish and bring me back to center. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Autumn Ritual Tonic

2 astragalus roots (Huang Qi)- strengthens lung qi

2 pieces mimosa bark (He Huan Pi)- calms spirit, moves qi

2 rolls of cinnamon bark (Rou Gui)- warms interior, benefits gate of fire

2 burdock roots (Niu Bang Gen)- nutritive, strengthens lungs and digestion

Rinse roots and bark. In a stainless steel or glass pot, simmer plant material in one quart of spring water for 20-30 minutes. Strain herbs and set aside to make another batch. Sip warm tea throughout the day to feel nourished and calm.  

For the love of plants,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Autumnal Equinox Blend

Tomorrow is the Autumnal Equinox, one of my favorite days of the year. There is something about equal day and night that brings balance to my ever changing moods. This year, more than most, I feel we need a sense of balance. We need to remember the importance of equality, duality, harmony.

Today’s recipe is very simple. Two herbs that represent yin yang, day and night, sun and moon. May we honor the light and the dark that resides within us all. May we be illuminated by our own courage to see the beauty in ourselves so we can finally recognize it in everyone else!

Autumnal Equinox Blend

3 drops St. John’s Wort essential oil

2 drops Night blooming Jasmine essential oil

10 ml Organic Apricot kernel oil

Pour apricot kernel oil into a 10 ml roll-on glass bottle. Add essential oils to carrier oil and shake gently. Apply to areas of the chakras to feel the balance of light and dark. 

With love,

Jessica 

The Herb Walk Podcast Interview with Brigitte Mars

I am thrilled to announce that my new project, The Herb Walk Podcast, is finally ready to air! It has been a year since I started the interviews, but sometimes good things take a while to come to fruition.

On our first episode I interview Brigitte Mars, herbalist, author, professor, and natural chef. In our hour long discussion, we talk about how she became interested in herbalism, her passion for teaching about herbs and nutrition, cannabis, the spiritual use of plants, and so much more!

Brigitte teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University and The School of Health Mastery in Iceland. She has taught at Omega Institute, Esalen, Kripalu, Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Arise, Envision and Unify Festivals, and The Mayo Clinic. She blogs for the Huffington Post and Care2. She is also a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild.

Brigitte is the author of many books and DVDs, including The Home Reference to Holistic Health and Healing, The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, The Sexual Herbal, Healing Herbal TeasRawsome!,and co-author of The HempNut Cookbook. Her DVDs include Sacred Psychoactive, Herbal Wizardry for Kids of all Ages, Natural Remedies for Childhood Ailments, Overcoming Addictions, and Natural Remedies for Emotional Health. Her latest project is a phone app called iPlant that helps budding herbalists to identify plants in the wild.

Stay tuned for more interviews with other special guests like Mindy Green, Lisa Ganora, and other fabulous herbalists and educators.

Check out The Herb Walk Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play!

I’d love any feedback, suggestions, or requests for those you’d like to hear interviewed. This podcast is meant to inspire, educate, and preserve the science and art of herbalism for generations to come.

With love,

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows