Overcoming Fear- One Inhale at a Time

I’ve been fighting the urge to be in a bad mood for a couple of weeks now. There are all kinds of things I can blame it on- politics, regulatory agencies, conservatives. The reality is, I am irritated with myself.

With all of the injustices in the world I don’t feel as if I’m doing enough. I talk a good talk, but there have been weeks of just feeling hopeless and not accomplishing anything. I haven’t wanted to rush out to volunteer or march because it’s been hard to even be around people. I’ll be honest crowds have been intimidating lately.

And that irritates me- because I know that media and politicians love to spread fear and me not wanting to be in crowds is a direct effect of their propaganda.

I’m over feeling paralyzed and frustrated. I’m over blaming “them” for my discontent.

I’ve been seeing so much on social media about self-care being the most important thing you can do to help others.  I agree, kind of. Yes self-care is the most important thing I can do- at first. Then I have to do more. We have to do more. Just getting massages and taking time to walk in the woods is actually not enough to change the world. Time and time again, it is direct action that works.

I am at a place again where my anger is no longer stifling me, but preparing me for action. The challenge for me is to fuel this action with love and compassion and not fear and hate (which is sometimes easier said than done!) I always have my faithful herbal allies, reminding me that an open mind and calm heart is the only way forward.

Besides fueling myself with black tea (I have been adding rose petals to balance it out- does that count?), I’ve been using my Water Element Courage essential oil blend. I formulated these blends with the intentions and energies of each of the five elements of Chinese medicine. The Water Element is associated with Zhi, our determination and willpower. When we have conviction, purpose and vitality, our Water Element is balanced and we are able to respond with courage and resiliency. When our Water Element is depleted, we may experience fatigue, lack of control, or fear, which further drains our reserves.

The essential oils in the Courage blend can help bring the Water Element back into balance so that we may be the change we want to see in the world.

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)- for metal/water connection

Wild Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)- for calmness and serenity

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)- for relaxation of body and mind

Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanoides)- for rooting deep into your principles and desires

To order Courage or other 5 Element Blends, check out my new website www.bakerbotanica.com

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Finding Peace in Frustration

Today I find myself super irritable. I could blame it on the rising Wood energy of spring or all the political upheaval, but the truth is it is all me. I am letting the little (and big) things bother me. Instead of breathing through the stress, I am stewing it in, allowing my frustration to build until it erupts like a volcano, spewing on whoever is closest.

It’s one of those days when I’m like, “maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all since I can’t find nice ways to say it.” Then I’m like, “fuck that.” Which is my affirmation that I should think before I speak so I don’t say things I will regret.

Today I have to consciously breathe deeply. I have to skillfully navigate the turbulent waters of my own psyche. I have to find positivity among the negative speak of my mind. I have to remember that I am flawed and am a work in progress.

That being said, today I’m just going to find peace however I can. Walking among the budding trees help, so does drinking my herbal tea. I will diffuse my Vetiver and Lavender essential oils and try to be nicer to myself and others. I won’t beat myself up for feeling like this, but I will reflect on what is really bothering me so I can move past the anger and be more compassionate next time. My herbal allies help every time.

If you want to find out more about herbalism or how you can utilize plants for well-being, check out my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine!

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

Plant Songs Book Release!

Big News! Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine is now available for purchase through Balboa Press!

Two years ago (almost to the date) I was told I won a self-publishing contract with Balboa Press through a Writer’s Workshop I attended through Hay House Publishing. I am thrilled to announce that my book, Plant Songs is officially released!

Amazon has not updated the imagery in the book (I brightened the photos), so don’t order there YET!

If you want to check out my bookPlant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine,                click here!

And please tell me what you think once you’ve read it!!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Finding a Good Herbalist

Yesterday I taught the Vitalist Chinese Medicine class at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, as I have for the third year in a row. I just have to say how much I Love teaching about qi, the vital life force energy that encompasses all of life; transcending time and space; and taking herbs that help you propel your life forward. I mean how cool is it that I get to talk like that. And have people take me seriously! Even after I have them stick out their tongues at each other!

I love that so many people, including herbalists, are getting excited about Chinese medicine. I have heard more and more Western herbalists dappling with the concepts of Chinese medicine. And I think that’s awesome. I also find it concerning, because although there is a vague grasp of the theories, there is a deficit in understanding how to correctly diagnose the patterns that are causing the imbalances within the body. Giving or recommending an herb without the correct diagnosis can at best, kinda work, and at worst, exacerbate a condition instead of improving it.

I have clients come to me all the time telling me that they were given an herb or formula that either didn’t work or made their symptoms worse. It is usually because of two reasons:

  1. The client wasn’t compliant with the timing and doses given OR
  2. It was the wrong herb or formula based on their constitution and the root of the problem.

Chinese medicine shines in the ability to accurately diagnose patterns and get to the root of the disease. A lot Western herbal practitioners did not learn diagnostic skills, and therefore treat symptoms instead of addressing the cause of the disease. I noticed I lacked the ability to diagnose these patterns until I went to Chinese medicine school and spent years learning the nuances of the medicine.

Many Western herbal teachers are now teaching how to properly diagnose patterns that manifest in the body, but the information is slow to catch up with many herbalists. Most herbs are completely safe so not having the correct herb for someone usually does no harm. What it does do is perpetuate the thought that herbs don’t work. And we know that is not true! If you are an herbalist that works clinically, I urge you to please find a teacher that will guide you in the art and science of pattern diagnosis. If you want to find a reputable herb school or a registered herbalist to work with, check out The American Herbalists Guild directory (you’ll find me there!).  

You can also check out the first season of my podcast, The Herb Walk with Jessica Baker, where I interview some of my favorite herbalists!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Bitter Herbs to the Rescue

Feeling a bit better today now that I’ve had a couple of days away from holiday treats. I haven’t felt the bloating and indigestion that can accompany eating gluten, dairy, sugar and other irritants. I credit my healthy digestion to Digestive Bitters. I’ve been taking Bitters for almost fifteen years, and now they are all the rage (with good reason!) Many of our digestive issues could benefit from taking Bitters before meals as a way to stimulate digestion, transform nutrients, and maintain the integrity of cellular membranes.

Digestive Bitters

1 gram organic dried Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) root

1 gram organic dried Gentian (Gentiiana lute)a root

1 gram organic dried Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) peel

1 gram organic dried Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds

1 inch slice of organic fresh Ginger (Zingiber officinale) root

Add all ingredients to 8 ounces of Organic Vodka. Cover with lid and store in dark, cool location. Shake daily for 2-4 weeks. Strain out herbs and store liquid in dark colored, glass container. Take 8-10 drops of tincture before each meal to prevent indigestion or after meals to reduce gas and bloating.

I’d love to hear how this recipe worked for you!

For the love of plants,

 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Holiday Recovery Day

I am a little tired today, hung over from rich food and a little too much chocolate. I thankfully didn’t overindulge like I have in the past (last holiday season my stomach hurt for 2 weeks straight), but I still need a little herbal help today.

It is only around 15 degrees Fahrenheit in Denver so I started it off with a creamy, steaming hot cup of Spicy Chai. The warming spices of Cinnamon, Ginger, Clove, and Fennel coupled with a frothy coconut milk did wonders for my mood this morning! To combat the lingering fatigue that can come with eating rich, fatty foods I took a dropper full of Milk Thistle tincture, along with my Medicinal Mushrooms and homemade Digestive Bitters.

Today I’ll try to take it easy on the gluten and sugar. Instead of feeling like I need to eat them all, maybe it’s time to give away the remaining holiday cookies that my husband’s mom makes for us every year. I will stay away from the last piece of cake and eat only like one piece of chocolate…

Regardless I will continue to take my Bitters and drink copious amounts of Chai.

Stay warm out there!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Aromatic Spices for the Holy Days

‘Tis the season for warming carminative spices! We all associate cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, and holiday cookies, but they are also some of our most important herbal medicines. The exoticness of their fragrances has fueled their trade and popularity for centuries, making them now common spices in kitchens around the world. Spices, like other herbs, have distinct medicinal properties and have been present in cooking since time immemorial. It is ingrained in our nature to add spices to our food. All of our traditions reflect this connection to food as medicine, whether we celebrate Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

Aromatic Medicine for the Holy Days:

Cinnamon/Rou Gui (Cinnamomum cassia)- Spicy, sweet and hot; Chinese cinnamon bark is used to strengthen mingmen fire (gate of life), making it excellent for treating internal coldness that causes abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea

Cloves/ Ding Xiang (Syzygium aromaticum): Spicy and warm; cloves are a key herb for warming digestion and treating abdominal fullness, vomiting, nausea, and hiccups

Star Anise/Da Hui Xiang (Illicium verum): Spicy, sweet, and warm; star anise is wonderful for treating cold digestion that causes abdominal pain with bloating, vomiting, and nausea

I look forward to hearing about (and tasting) how you incorporate spices into your holy day dishes!

For the love of plants,

 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Image credit © Adam Ward

We Are So Blessed

“We are so blessed

   We are so blessed

     We are so grateful

       We are so blessed”

I love the Karen Drucker song I am so blessed. I change the lyrics to “We are” instead of “I am” because I know that feels right to me today. One person is not truly blessed until we all are.

There is so much sadness in the world right now. The earthquake on the border of Iran and Iraq and the school shooting in Northern California are just the latest disaster that brings my grief to the surface. Life is so precious and I want to remember how blessed I am every single moment of the day. I want to be grateful with every breath and courageous in every action.

This doesn’t always happen and instead I am overwhelmed and fearful. My anxiety rises and my breathing shallows. I consciously breathe deep and long, feeling the connection between my lungs and my kidneys. In Chinese medicine, the qi (energy) of the kidney rises up and grasps the lung qi, guiding it down to the lower abdomen. I feel my breath reach my belly and low back. AHHH! I begin to relax as my shoulders drop and the tension in my jaw releases. Another deep breath. Gratitude.

To strengthen both my lung and kidney qi and give me energy to assimilate the world, I huang qi (astragalus slices).aa7569a1like to work with the herb Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus). Huang Qi is a popular qi tonic whose virtues are not overrated. I like to add 3 slices of the Huang Qi to rice and soup stocks, along with 1 Hong Zao (Ziziphus jujuba), and 3 slices of Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula).

Huang Qi reinforces wei qi defensive energy- “immune system”), while Hong Zao and Dang Shen tonify qi, improve digestion and calm spirit.

When our qi is strong and our spirit is calm, we are able to absorb the turbid energy of those around us. We can transform anger and fear into compassion. When this happens, our words and actions will be benevolent and we are one step closer to a blessed world for us all.

For the love of plants,

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