This episode of The Herb Walk Podcast is very close to my heart. I have had the pleasure of being friends with Kelly Green, COO of Refugio Altiplano, for almost 15 years. We met as neighbors on a 5 acre piece of land outside Watsonville, California when I was a graduate student at Five Branches University. Who knew all these years later he would be the proprietor of Refugio Altiplano, a Natural Healing Medicine Center in the Amazon jungle in Peru.
Kelly’s first trip to Peru 18 years ago led him to Iquitos and unknowingly, Refugio Altiplano. A random encounter at a cafe got him on a boat with a stranger and a lifelong connection to the river, land and people began. Kelly met Jose Huanaquiri, a Mestizo Ayahuascero that is the true custodian of Refugio, on that very first visit and now they share a heartfelt friendship.
As “medical” and ayahuasca tourism becomes more popular there is also a lot of concern and controversy. Unstable guests are permitted to sit in ceremony even when shamans or staff are concerned about their mental stability. There have been some very unfortunate incidents, including the murder of a well-known and respected female shaman who tried to get the murderer arrested by Peruvian police multiple times before he shot her.
People are not going to stop going to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca, and this is why it is so important that there are places like Refugio Altiplano. Guests are required to fill out a medical form prior to attending and Kelly and Jose will reject people that do not meet their criteria (many centers don’t reject anyone that has the money to pay). Refugio has a strict policy regarding inappropriate guests and once escorted back to Iquitos, they are not allowed back at the center for any reason. Holding a safe and sacred space for guests is always paramount at Refugio, as they understand the depth of healing that has the potential to occur.
The staff at Refugio are highly regarded for their compassion and understanding for the experiences the guests are having. The warmth and tenderness that everyone from the guards, to the women in the kitchen, to the shamans, is genuine. They are all available to guests to help with anything you need. The kinship and love that flows from them, from the jungle, from the river, will permeate your soul and stay with you forever.
If you or someone you know is interested in ayahuasca or traveling to Peru, share this episode so they can learn more. I suggest listening in a hot damp room surrounding by the sounds of insects to help set the Amazon vibe. If you’ve got mosquitos, even better.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the cannabis industry is hearing budtenders (and other people) ask me if I prefer Indica or Sativa. I usually cringe a little and side step the question by saying that doesn’t matter to me, I want to see and smell what you’ve got and then I’ll make my decision.
Sometimes I get irritated and I want to yell, “There is nothing substantial about that question at all!” A few years ago nobody gave a damn whether it was Indica or Sativa. Except for the growers, and now we know we didn’t have the proper understanding of Cannabis species when we spoke about it based on its growth pattern and maturation time.
A couple of weeks ago I was on The Real Dirt Podcast talking to the host, Chip Baker (who also happens to be my husband) about the taxonomy of cannabis and this myth of Indica and Sativa. It was a great episode really going deep into what botanists and ethnobotanists have come to hypothesize about Cannabis. I’m going to go into it a little here, but to hear the juicy details and personal rants, check out the The Taxonomy of Cannabis episode!
The Myth of Indica and Sativa
There is a commonly held belief that Indica are short, stout, broad leaf plants that are physically sedating or relaxing and Sativa are tall, narrow leaf plants that are invigorating and uplifting when ingested. There is actually no truth to this belief, but it continues to be perpetuated online and in dispensaries throughout the world. The (present) reality is that the myriad of cultivars that we smoke/ingest are all Indica.
After years of rigorous research from botanists and ethnobotanists, there are still different theories regarding the evolution of cannabis taxonomy, but what is widely accepted by most is that it is C. indica is the vast majority of biotypes in North America and that C. sativa includes only European hemp. In Robert C. Clarke and Mark Merlin, PhD’s comprehensive text, Cannabis Evolution & Ethnobotany, they discuss the history of cannabis biotypes from several different perspectives, the most plausible being from Karl Hillig, PhD.
CANNABIS BIOTYPES ACCORDING TO HILLIG (2005)
Acronym & Biotype
Possible- seed and crude fiber
Unrecognized or Extinct
Possible- seed and crude fiber
NLHA- Narrow leaf
C. sativa ssp. spontanea
Seed and crude fiber
NLH- Narrow leaf Hemp
C. sativa ssp. sativa
Seed and textile fiber
Unrecognized or Extinct
Possible ritual and medicinal
BLHA- Broad leaf
Unrecognized or Extinct
Possible seed and crude fiber
BLH- Broad leaf Hemp
C. indica ssp. chinensis
China, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia
Seed and textile fiber
NLDA- Narrow leaf
C. indica ssp. kafiristanica
Himalayan Foothills- Kashmir to Myanmar
Euphoria- hashish, “marijuana”
NLD- Narrow leaf Drug
C. indica ssp. indica
South & SE Asia,
Euphoria- hashish, “marijuana,” fiber, seed
BLD- Broad leaf Drug
C. indica ssp. afghanica
N. Afghanistan, Pakistan
As you can see from the chart, the only ancestor of C. sativa hails from the Balkan Peninsula. The ancestor of C. sativa ssp. spontanea is a Narrow Leaf Hemp Ancestory from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the modern C. sativa spp. sativa is Narrow Leaf Hemp from Europe. Both the ancestor and the modern C. sativa have been used as seed and crude fiber, not for intoxication/euphoria, as in the case of the Narrow Leaf and Broad Leaf Drug C. indica.
I know this news is hard to accept for some, but we already know that it is the cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBC, etc) and the terpenoids (myrcene, pinene, limonene, etc) that elicit the therapeutic, invigorating, sedating, and other affects that are associated with ingestion of cannabis. Since we know that it is the cannabinoids and terpenoids that produce the favorable (and sometimes adverse) effects, why do we keep saying it is because it is an Indica or Sativa?
It is time we stopped disseminating misinformation and educate ourselves about the true properties of cannabis (or what we know so far). Remember there are well over 100 cannabinoids and we have identified only a handful. We still have a very long way to go before we truly understand what contributes to the therapeutic and euphoric effects of cannabis.
I am still beaming from my weekend at the Red Earth Herbal Gathering. It will be hard to explain the myriad of emotions I felt as opened myself to gathering with women with the intention for ritual and healing, but I will try. I will describe my experiences if not for personal catharsis, then to entice you to join us next year.
I arrived at Peaceful Meadows Retreat early on Friday morning because I was in charge
of the Wellness tent and needed to set up before attendees came. I was given a shaded area near Registration and right beside the Kid Village. As I unpacked my supplies, I could feel the relaxed, joyful energy of the land and it infused me instantly. I knew deep healing would take place in this sacred place.
As women and children arrived and registered, the Sacred Gateway opened and we were all smudged and cleared with floral water as entered the doorway. Once inside, we burnt our worries and fears and wrote our intentions on fabric to link together with other peoples dreams and wishes. At the end of the entryway, we were greeted by women who offered us henna tattoos, card readings, and aromatic spritzers and elixirs. By the time I made it through the gateway I felt elated and rooted simultaneously. I glided to my campsite on the far edge of the large pond and watched geese take off and land.
Opening Circle was Saturday morning in the meadow near the Red Tent and the Womb Room. Teachers, volunteers, and sponsors were introduced so I spoke about my class, Rooted in Integrity: Working with Essential Oils and the free services we were offering at the Wellness tent. Besides basic first-aid, we had tinctures and elixirs for menstrual cramps, allergies, coughs, and emotional support. I offered tuning fork treatments for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, which was well received by recipients and so healing and fun for me.
I was only able to catch part of the keynote speaker, Lorene Wapotich, on Friday night. Her talk on creating sacred space and ritual resonated with us all. Because of Wellness duties, teaching, and relaxing by the pond with my friend Willow (and her 3-year old daughter Athena), I only attended a couple of classes the entire weekend. Saturday morning I chose to listen to Ann Drucker teach on Maya Spiritual Healing with Plants. I experienced her teachings last year at Red Earth, so I knew I wanted to be in her presence again. As I had hoped, we gave each other limpias, plant brushings and plant baths. We called in the Maya spirits with plants and chocolate, prayed over each other, and laughed and cried all our cares away.
Saturday night Shaela Noella led a song circle around the campfire. One by one women went around the fire and sang whatever they desired. Bethy Love Light, conscious hip hop artist, performed some songs and many women led songs that were call and response or sing-along. All were beautifully performed. I am still in awe of all the talent by the fire that night. When it was my turn I gathered the courage to sing a song I wrote earlier this summer. It is to the tune of Let It Be and is my devotional to Mother Nature. It felt good (and scary) to stand and sing in front of friends and strangers.
Before I taught my essential oil class on Sunday morning, I attended the Green Tent, an offering from Rachael Carlevale of Ganjasana. The Green Tent is a combination of of yoga, ganja, and ceremony. Rachael is wonderful and her class was the perfect way to start the day.
For my class I chose to teach about how important it is to use essential oils sparingly and reverently. Most of the women in the class didn’t know about sandalwood being harvested to extinction or how much plant material it takes to make very little essential oil (roses are an extreme example, but it takes 20-50 rosesto make 1 drop of rose essential oil!)
I always teach that herbal teas, oils, and tinctures should be the first line of defense, and
then use essential oils when stronger medicine is needed. Essential oils should not be used for every scrape and ailment, not only because of developing oversensitivity to the oils, but because the planet’s resources cannot sustain the current trend of essential oil use. I encourage students that use essential oils for aromatherapy massage to dilute essential oils in carrier oil before applying to the skin. To ensure that essential oils from plants like cedar wood, sandalwood, and even lavender, are around for future generations, we must dilute our essential oils and cease the practice of “neat” application. The students in the class were thankful for educating them about the environmental impacts of large-scale essential oil production and they left class with alternatives for essential oils when working with aromatic plants (incense, aromatic steams, fresh flowers, infused oils).
After my class, it was time for the Red TentInitiation, led by Ixeeya Lin and Astrid Grove. The Red Tent is a place where women gather to give and receive wisdom. Also called the Moon Lodge, the Red Tent was traditionally where menstruating women gathered during their moon time. In offering this space, the facilitators of Red Earth did not necessarily seek to recreate the traditions of other times/cultures, rather they wanted to create space within our present reality to honor the sanctity of women’s experience of menarche, menstruation and menopause.
Outside of the Red Tent, we lined up from oldest to youngest and as snake women began shedding our skins as we spiral danced into a circle. As we entered the tent, we were brushed with plants, smudged and welcomed into the sacred womb. I won’t describe the rituals performed in the Red Tent because they were intensely personal, sad, powerful, and healing. I left feeling more rooted and secure in myself than I have in many months. Joy surged through me as I remembered my own divinity.
Everyone was over-stimulated, full, grateful, and exhausted, so Closing Circle was short and sweet on Sunday afternoon. I finished packing up my campsite and Wellness tent. I was filled to the brim with joy and relaxation, deeply grateful for the power of women healing together, and eager to see my husband again.
Please join us next year at the Red Earth Herbal Gathering! We would love to share these healing practices with you.
Life seems a little surreal lately. Maybe it’s all the eclipses, but I have been feeling my shadow side big time. I know challenging times are opportunities for growth and I believe these times are no different. We are all being compelled to see the whole truth about ourselves, no matter how hard it is to wade through the illusions.
Clarity does not come easily, as we have built lies over millennia and the deceptions are ingrained in us. They have become part of our consciousness, part of our DNA. We must do what we can to awaken the truth.
And what is the truth? It’s simple: We are connected to everyone and to everything on this planet. We are alive to play, to learn, to bond, and to love. We are alive so we may honor the Earth and all her blessings, and so we may honor ourselves.
We have been taught that we are here to succeed, to be better than others, and to fear what is perceived as different. We have been fed these lies for thousands of years, and now those ruses no longer sustain us. We yearn for community so badly, but connection is difficult when we have been separated for so long.
For me the solution is easy (easier said than done). I call upon my plant allies, my herbal medicine to bring me insight into myself so that I may be closer to others. I ask for their guidance in how I may soften so that the harshness of our world doesn’t break me in two. I am comforted as they nourish me with their wisdom.
Clinically I have seen many herbs help those that want a deeper connection to themselves and others. One of my favorite herbal combinations to inspire that one love feeling, can be made into a tea with fresh or dried herbs, or applied topically as an essential oil blend (always dilute essential oils before putting on skin).
If you are making a tea, use 1-2 teaspoons per cup. If making an essential oil blend, use 1-2 drops of each essential oil and dilute in 1 ounce of your favorite carrier oil.
Clary Sage(Salvia sclarea)- to bring clarity and compassion to an unsettling truth
Pine(Pinus spp.)-to dispel guilt, shame, or anger that may arise upon your awakening
Rose(Rosa centifolia)- to arouse love for yourself and others
What herbs do you call upon when you feel disconnected from your truth? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
As I say every August 1st, this is an auspicious day for my husband Chip and I. It is the date we drove into California with nothing but our favorite albums and our cat, Mama Kitty. We were young, adventurous and ready to feel the freedom California promised. The passing of Proposition 215 and the reputation for great ganja was the catalyst for our move to Humboldt County in 1997. We were emboldened by our youth, Prop 215, and the freedom fighters that came before. Little did I know that the allure of cannabis would bring me to the redwood forest where I would be initiated into the world of healing plants.
As you approach the Humboldt County line on 101 North you notice that the temperature drops as the towering redwood trees block out the sun. The air stills and time seems to slow down as soon as you are in the presence of these gentle giants. A feeling of serenity and calm engulfs you as you enter the timelessness of an ancient forest. It is a visceral feeling, being in awe of magnificence much greater than oneself.
I still remember the first time I experienced a redwood forest. Their beauty temporarily stunned me, as I stood looking up into their branches. Visions of times long ago instantly flashed through my mind. I could see what it was like before humans separated from nature, before profit surpassed our love of the land, before the decimation of entire forests and their ecosystems. The reality of how recent it all occurred struck me deeply and I began to understand how greatly humans impacted the world. It was a surreal interaction to have these trees communicate with me instantly and so directly. All I could do was listen.
In my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine,I devote a chapter to Redwood although the entire book is inspired by my love of these brilliant beings. Here is an excerpt from Plant Songs about the wisdom from the Grandmother Tree that lives behind my house:
Redwood: Think Back, Slow Down, Listen, Remember
There is a 2nd-growth redwood tree beside my house whom I call Grandmother Tree. I have been speaking to this tree since my husband and I bought the property where she lives. Grandmother Tree has one of the largest burls I’ve eve seen at her base. In this burl are the spirits of Green Man and an ancient tree fairy. I see them both very clearly, although it is with Green Man that I most often converse. Green Man has been called by many names: Shen Nong, Pan, and Osiris are but a few. He is one of the manifestations that nature speaks through. With Green Man and Grandmother Tree I have had the most profound insights about humanity’s place in the natural world. I have listened to nature as she describes witnessing the demise of the human race. It is our mad quest for dominance that has separated us from the rest of Life and has stunted evolutionary growth as a result. Instead of working alongside nature, we have attempted to manipulate and control it, to the detriment of all of life on Earth.
The Earth is a living being with countless ecosystems that are always altered and sometimes destroyed by human habitation. The dramatic decrease in redwood trees has also decreased the intense fog that once engulfed and sustained life in the millions of acres of redwood canopy. The loss of canopy and fog has led to the decline of species within an ecosystem that has existed for millions of years. We can’t foresee the consequences of destroying such an ecosystem.
Grandmother Tree has spoken to me about how humans have nearly destroyed themselves time and time again. She says we are a resilient species but not beyond extinction. Her neutrality soothes me. She is matter-of-fact. Her attitude says, We enjoy having you here, but it’s your choice to stay. We can destroy or we can create, and we will reap what we sow. Life on Earth will thrive. The question is, will we?
As I re-read this passage it gives me hope. Human time is so small compared to planetary and cosmic time. I hope we humans change our ways. If we don’t the Earth will survive and eventually thrive again. I really hope the redwoods are part of that revolution.
Here on the coast of Northern California, the mist-covered mornings is a nice reprieve to he harsh sun and dry heat of Denver. The fog hugs the coast in an intimate embrace thanks to what is left of the ancient redwood canopy. I am grateful for the cool breeze and grey skies.
The rhythm of the waves lulls me to sleep each night and the birdsongs sing me awake each morning. I am reminded me that this is when I am happiest. I know that among the trees and by the sea is where I’m meant to be. One day it will be again. Until then I cherish the moments I am here.
I walk around our land and am surrounded by blackberries (Himalayan, which are quite invasive, but the bees love them), huckleberries, and salal berries. Patches of daisies, roses, and foxglove are scattered along side the plantain, horsetail, and self-heal. It’s an herbalist dream around here. I am grateful to have access to these herbal treasures.
I look forward to the berries that will be plentiful soon! Until then I may take a blackberry blossom or two (if the bees allow) for an afternoon sun tea. I have many iterations of “yard” tea, but the fruit blossom teas are some of my all time favorite!
You can use any blossom that grows (unsprayed) around you.
Berry Blossom Sun Tea
Handful of blossoms from your favorite berry bush:
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 Courageessential 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 Courageblend 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
You either love or hate the Peace is Patriotic bumper sticker. I love it! To me, peace is the ultimate patriotic act because you love your country, the land, and her people, enough for them to be safe and happy. I don’t believe in the “you have to have war to have peace” paradigm. What you need to have is true sustainability, less consumerism, and a true belief in justice and equality for all (not just Americans).
We can sugar coat it all we want, but it is domination over “resources” that keeps the war machine going. It is corporations like Monsanto, Bayer, Nestle, Exxon, and others that are linked to big governments like our own that continue to spread their agendas of drilling and mining resources and controlling water and food supplies, while selling us pesticides to kill the pests and pharmaceuticals to subdue the rest. It’s a paradigm we all participate in and one that must be evolved if we truly care about our future generations, our water, land, or air.
This 4th of July post doesn’t sound too patriotic. And that’s the point. We’re shifting this reality one breath at a time, one word at a time, one cup of tea at a time.
With that I leave you with a recipe that I hope will encourage you to think beyond the confines of what it means to be an “American.” Maybe it will bring you a deeper sense of what it is to be Human. Perhaps you will go even further and ponder what it’s like to be a Being, one with all other beings on Earth, united in peace and compassion.
Patriotic Peace Tea
1 teaspoon Red Rose petals (organic or unsprayed)- open your heart to allow compassion to come in
1 teaspoon wild Yarrow flowers- bring out your peaceful warrior spirit
1 teaspoon Borage flowers- to release grief and restore strength
Steep all flowers in 8 ounces of hot water for 15 minutes. Set herbs to the side and sip the tea in a quiet, relaxing environment. Observe how it feels to go within. Remember this sense of peace when you interact with others today and everyday.
There is so much anger and grief in our society. The realities of inequality are undeniable and cause guilt and shame among those of us that are the privileged ones. If we are actively working towards equality and justice for all then there is no need for shame. If we are complacent in what is happening then we need to turn that guilt and shame into action so we can do our part in making the world a happier and safer place for all.
There’s a lot you can do like donate money (and more importantly time) to an organization that touches your heart. You can sign petitions, march in solidarity, and call your representatives. You can just be a good human and help those you see in need.
If these seem overwhelming, maybe you just need to start working with your herbal allies to give you the courage, strength, or energy to be an advocate for those in need.
Here are my three favorite herbs that help when I feel helpless or overwhelmed:
Reishi Mushroom– a strong decoction or lunar infusion is great to nourish the heart and calm the nervous system. Reishi helps you make clear and conscious decisions.
To make a decoction, place one medium sized Reishi (or 2-3 inch pieces) in one quart of water and simmer covered for 1-12 hours. The longer the decoction the more bitter the tea!
Rose– pretty much my go-to for anything that hurts my heart or brings me despair. A sun tea or infusion of Rose petals brings us back to a place of compassion and love
To make an infusion, place a handful of fresh or dried Rose petals in 16 ounces of water that has slightly cooled after boiling. Cover and steep the tea for up to 10 minutes. For a more delicate floral flavor, steep for only 3 minutes.
Pine(or any Conifer)- conifers activate the area of the third (first) eye and allows us to see beyond our own suffering.
To make an aromatic footbath steep a few Pine, Redwood and/or Fir needles in a large bowl of hot water and allow the aroma to fill the air. Pour out a cup to drink and use the rest of the water in an aromatic footbath. As you pour out the footbath water, wash away the anger, grief, shame, and guilt that prevent you from being an advocate for yourself or others.
Tomorrow is Solstice, the longest day of the year. A time to celebrate the shining light that indescriminately provides life to every being on Earth.
Heaven is walking around my neighborhood this time of year! Along with the Linden Roses, and Lilacs, one of my favorite aromas erupt from the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) that spread wherever they are planted.
that were gifted to me from the plants I encounter. Honeysuckle reminds us that to grow we must
Dissolve & Evolve
Honeysuckle is your ally to remind yourself that you are worthy and capable of accepting divine love and compassion. It is when we can dissolve into the discernment of our own hearts that we evolve into the people we long to be.
– 1 cup fresh honeysuckle flowers (Make sure they are not sprayed)
– 2 cups honey
Place honey and flowers in the top of a double boiler and heat on low for 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat and strain out flowers. Store honey in a glass jar. Add a teaspoon to black or herbal tea.
Fresh Honeysuckle Tea
Gather a handful of fresh honeysuckle flowers. Boil 2 cups of water. Pour hot water over flowers. Cover cup with lid. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain out flowers and compost plant material. Slowly drink the fragrant tea. Sweeten tea with honeysuckle honey.
To find out more about herbalism through my blog, podcast, and other offerings, check out my website, Baker Botanica.