Four Books on Medicine from the Amazon

I am still in the Amazon jungle about an hour boat ride up the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru. More than likely at this moment I am listening to the symphony of insects, birds, and monkeys while I lay in my hammock and reflect on the ceremonies of the past couple of nights.

If you are interested in coming to Peru, I highly recommend you bring herb books so you can identify some of the plant life that thrives in this ancient rainforest.

Two books I can’t do without are The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinalsby Leslie Taylor, N.D. and A Field Guide to Medicinal and Useful Plants of the Upper Amazonby J.L. Castner, S.L. Timme and J.A. Duke.

For understanding the medicine of ayahuasca, check out these books, Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon by Jonathon Miller Weisberger and The Fellowship of the River, A Medical Doctor’s Exploration into Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicineby Joseph Tafur, M.D.

I hope you find these books as helpful as I do.

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Conifer Foot Bath Recipe

As I sit among the plethora of trees and other plants in the Amazon jungle I think of how grateful I am for the life I live because of them. As much as I love all trees, there is a special place in my heart for conifers like pine and redwood.

This recipe is inspired by the Tree Walk I took with Deb Soule and Kate Gilday at the International Herb Symposium and for my love of our life giving conifers. Thank you Deb and Kate for your gentle wisdom.

Take a walk through your favorite grove of conifers and breathe deeply, giving thanks for the life they have provided for millions of years. Look down and see if there are any offerings of small branches with fresh green needles on them. If so, gently pick them up and bring a small bundle back to your house. Put the branches in a large pot and cover with water. Put lid on pot and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn down heat and take out one cup of tea for yourself. Cover again and simmer for 20 minutes. Take out another cup of tea for yourself.

Once the water is warm enough to use as a footbath, pour water (with or without branches) into a small tub. Soak your feet for 5-10 minutes, allowing the strength of the trees to come up through your roots, helping you stand tall and true in your convictions. Breathe and give thanks.

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

Back in the Amazon Jungle Again

I am in Peru with six beautiful women experiencing all the Amazon jungle has to offer. We are back at Refugio Altiplano, a natural healing wellness center, where I spent time last year with my husband and a few dear friends.

Since I am immersed in my jungle retreat and not in Internet range (thank goddess!) I share with you my experience from Peru last year. I will share my most recent experience when I return in the middle of the month.

From July 2017: It’s hard to explain the Amazon rainforest to those that haven’t experienced it. I’ve listened to others tell me all about their trips to Peru and how much they loved the people, the plethora of plants and animals, and none of their explanations could’ve prepared me for how utterly amazing this place is.

My husband Chip and I started it off with a day in Lima, scouring music stores for a Peruvian made guitar and a 10-stringed Andean instrument called a charango. Much to our surprise, we came across a luthier that had both in his shop. My charango is so new I can still smell the varnish on it! On the plane from Lima to Iquitos, the guitar got a little banged up, but it just adds to the story of our Peruvian guitar.

Once we arrived in Iquitos, we met up with our friend Kelly (aka “Sparkles”) that has been coming down to the Amazon for 17 years. After the unfortunate death of the owner of Refugio Altiplano, he was asked if he would be interested in buying it since he had been attending ceremonies there since 2000. Much to his (and our) pleasure, he was able to pull it off and is now the proud custodian/proprietor of a natural medicine-healing center with over 20 years of history of helping people heal.

Refugio Altiplano is over an hours boat ride up the Amazon River on old cattle grazing land surrounded by 1,200 of acres of rainforest preserve. It is a beautiful property with El Centro, a meeting area that includes the kitchen and dining area, several rustic jungle casas, and a maloca where ayahuasca ceremonies are held.

They also have a large medicinal herb garden where they are growing peppers, aloe, and noni, alongside wild sangre de grado (dragon’s blood), una de gato (cat’s claw), chacruna, and ayahuasca. The reverence that Jose, a Mestizo shaman, and the true custodian and guardian of Refugio Altiplano, has for all of these plants is as palatable as the oxygen rich air the rainforest exudes.

It was during the ayahuasca ceremonies that I truly experienced Jose’s love of plantmedicine. Once he began to pray and sing the ayahuasca songs, I could feel the sacredness of his words infusing me with love that transcends time and space. Once Daniel, a very powerful Shipibo shaman, begins to sing an icaro to each one of us, I was already deep into the medicine of ayahuasca. An icaro is a song that shamans sing to induce a profound state of healing and awareness. It is unlike anything I have experienced before. Beautiful and deeply, deeply healing.

The river, the villagers, the shamans, the abundance of medicinal plants, they are now ingrained in my body and in my soul. They are again a part of me, as they always have been, as they always will be.

With love and gratitude,

cropped-jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Open & Bloom Spritz

One of my favorite things about Spring is watching the trees bud. As I watch them unfurl and open, I am reminded of how I also have the ability to blossom and grow year after year. In Denver it is always such a welcoming sight as I know the cold Winter is coming to an end. Living so long in California I forgot how drastically different I feel with each season change.  It feels good to witness my internal and external bloom!

Open & Bloom Spritz

2 drops Magnolia blossom essential oil- for transformation of self and spirit

2 drops Lavender essential oil- for accepting ourselves in times of transition

2 drops Mandarin essential oil- for integrating changes during transformation

2 drops Frankincense essential oil- for holding on to the truths of transformation

Add all essential oils to 1 ounce of spring water in a glass spritzer bottle.

Shake well. Spray yourself as often as needed to help with times of transformation.

 

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

A Return to Clarity

I successfully avoided getting sick all winter. Spring is a different story. As the temperatures fluctuate between 25-75 degrees in a single day and the winds blow pollen and pollution all around the city, my body finally succumbed last week. Thankfully I’m on the mend with just a little lingering congestion.

I forget how useless I am when I’m sick. My head was swimming with phlegm and I couldn’t focus on writing, formulating, or seeing clients. Clarity is returning and I can hold thoughtful conversations once again. Besides rest and hydration, my herbs and essential oils were wonderful allies that reduced the severity of it all.

I had to be humbly reminded that sometimes despite all I do, I have to just let it run its course and be okay with slowing down for a few days. With the pollen and pollution continuing throughout Spring I’ll do my best to keep my immune system strong.

I’m back on my daily dose of Nettle tea and medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga. My good friend Greg sent me some Chaga from Massachusetts that should be in the mail today. I’ll send pictures of them when they arrive! I’m excited to see what they look like in “person” as I’ve only taken Chaga in tincture form.

Stay well out there friends!

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Realities of Cannabis Legalization in California

Emotions are high as cannabis legalization comes to fruition in California. There is eagerness as the green rush (or weed greed, as I call it) brings professionals into a market where there was once only “criminals” or outlaws. The pink shirts can’t wait to make money off the backs of those once vilified and imprisoned for fighting for the decriminalization of cannabis. I openly hope that the pink shirts like John Boehner don’t thrive, as some of these hypocrites were the loudest to criticize cannabis users.

There is fear from those that have made their livelihood off of the private cannabis market and aren’t sure how they fit into the new legal industry. Those that have been able to conduct business unregulated and untaxed are now in the most over-regulated and over-taxed industries in the state. In the Emerald Triangle (Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties) where cannabis cultivation has been what keeps the local economy afloat, I have heard many growers say they are priced out because local agencies require absurd regulations that have never been applied to any other industry.

There is also excitement as anyone 21 and over can legally purchase cannabis at retail stores across the state (or will soon once local jurisdictions get it together to grant permits). I will admit that I am stoked that I can walk into a store and buy a sack of weed and a bar of ganja chocolate. It will be even better when the taxes on cannabis are not so high.

As those that participate in the new public cannabis market, we have to work hard to make sure that everyone that is still incarcerated for cannabis related “crimes” are set free. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that with some of the tax money from cannabis, that we pay reparations for those whose lives were ruined when they were busted for cultivating or dealing weed. In this new world of cannabis freedom, we have to remember that it is not equal opportunity for all as we like to believe.

With love and gratitude,

cropped-jessicabaker

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,

cropped-jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Citrus Diffusing Blend

The spring winds are kicking up all the construction dust around my neighborhood and I have been feeling a little congested from all the particulates flying around. Along with drinking my nettle tea to reduce irritation from allergens, I’ve also been diffusing essential oils daily.

My go to has been filling the air with crisp, citrusy tones and doing wonders for the irritants in the air.

Citrus Spring Diffusing Blend

2 drops Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) essential oil

2 drops Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil

1 drop Lavender (Lavandula angustilfola) essential oil

1 drop Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) essential oil

1 drop Hemp (Cannabis sativa) essential oil

Mix all drops together in a small glass bottle with diffuser cap. Add 1-3 drops to your diffuser.

*Always dilute essential oils. Purchase your essential oils from companies that understand and honor that they are precious gifts that should not be consumed greedily.

For the love of plants,

jessicabaker 

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