The Herb Walk Interview with Kelly Green

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. 

You can read my blog post on my first experience at Refugio

Listen to my interview from Refugio Altiplano on The Real Dirt Podcast 

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Milky Silk Rose Tea Recipe

My husband and I took a road trip to Tennessee for our 11th wedding anniversary (we celebrated our 11th year on the Harvest Moon). As we drove the thousand plus miles to Chattanooga, there were moments when I was overwhelmed with emotion at the beauty of our planet.

This was my first (I think) driving through Kansas, Missouri, and Kentucky. Growing up, we would drive back to Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida to visit family during our summer or holiday breaks, but I don’t remember going this way. I love a new adventure, and even miles and miles of farmland had me enthralled.

The changing of the seasons was palatable, with chilly nights and fallen leaves. With each new terrain, I gave thanks for the opportunity to witness the natural shifts that occur in nature, and within myself. Like a child, I saw everything with new eyes, in awe of the miracle of existence.

As I drove through sunflowers, cornfields, and hay bales I was inspired me to create a tea as pleasing as the journey east with the love of my life (and our hound dog, Alice).

Milky Silk Rose Tea 

1/2 ounce dried Rose Petals, unsprayed- for loving life fully

1/2 ounce dried Milky Oats- for nourishing life

1/2 ounce dried Citrus Peel- for regulating energy  

1/2 ounce dried Corn Silk- for remembering what’s really important

1/2 ounce dried Elderberries- for strengthening vitality

Mix all dried herbs together and store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place. Take 1 tbsp of herbs and steep in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Strain out herbs, sip, and think of what a wonder it is to be alive, right here, right now. What are you grateful for? How can you help others to see the miracle that is their life?  

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Glamping with my Herbal Allies

I just returned home from a great trip to Europe! I have been to Amsterdam several times, but never in the summer. The days were warm and long and Roses (Rosa) were blooming everywhere! On the 15-minute train ride from Schipol Airport to Central Station, I could see Elder (Sambucus nigra) flowering along side the tracks. Rows and rows of white clusters waving at me as the train sped by. Seeing one of my favorite herb friends as soon as I landed was an auspicious sign that our trip was going to be incredible!

We spent most of our time on Obonjan Island, a 136- acre private island off the coast of Northern Dalmatia in Croatia.  A mastermind group my husband is a member of rented the entire island, so about 150 of us had the island to ourselves for five days. There are too many highlights to mention, from learning about business from a highly curated group of some of the smartest and coolest people on the planet, to the epicness of glamping on a private island in the Adriatic Sea.

As an herbalist, I think what I was most excited about was that there is an abundance of IMG_1827medicinal herbs growing all over the island. There is an herb garden that may have once been tended, but now is taken over by the Mint (Mentha) that was used in some of the cocktails served at the sea-side and pool-side bars. All along the roadside, Bindweed (Convolvulus thunbergii), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota),  grow in abundance, adding beauty and color to the planted Allepo Pine (Pinus halepensis).  The contrast of pink, yellow and white flowers with the vibrant blue of the Adriatic filled me with joy everywhere I looked.

As always I am reminded that no matter where I go, my herbal allies are there. They are a reminder that their are no borders, no boundaries, nothing that separates us from one another. Plants remind us that we are home, regardless of where we are.

To find out more about herbalism through my blog, podcast, and other offerings, check out my website, Baker Botanica.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

 

Learning from the Masters

I have been having a hard time liking humans lately, which is not a good place to be in. When I went to Peru this trip I knew that is what I wanted to work on with the shamans at Refugio Altiplano. The shamans Jose and Heracio, listened compassionately as I spoke about how humans are on the fast track to destruction and how I couldn’t assimilate the actions of our insane reality. When I was finished, I felt more at peace just knowing there are men like these two helping to facilitate the healing of us all.

The next day Jose tells us we are going to Terapaca, the small village 30 minutes or so

IMG_1433
Older children by the new playground

upriver from Tamshiyacu. Terapaca is where some of the staff live, including Jose. Last year we went to the village to celebrate Peruvian Independence Day and noticed that the playground at the school was in total disrepair. The small group I was in (all friends of Refugio owner, Kelly Green) decided to pitch in and buy a new playground for the children of the village. A year later, it was such a joy to see the kids playing on the swings, see saw, monkey bars, and other structures. 

 

I knew what Jose was doing. He reminded me that all humans are not evil, destructive. By taking us to the village, he reminded me that all humans are not evil, destructive beings. He showed me how village life is in contrast to our modern lifestyles. I saw the beauty of life through the eyes and hearts of children. I saw our future and the potential for greatness in us all. It was heartfelt and beautiful. A gift I needed at just the right time.

So that is my message today. Be hopeful for the future. Be a beacon of light for the children, for they emulate what they see. Know that we are all held in the bosom of the Earth, loved and adored for exactly who we are. And if you need reminding like I did, go to Refugio Altiplano and they will show you your brilliance.

With much love and gratitude for all of life,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Image: Staff at Refugio Altiplano

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

Bringing Home the Good Vibes

I just returned from the Yucatan Peninsula where I spent a week at a yoga retreat at Papaya Playa Project with two of my favorite teachers, Hannah Muse-Lerner and Ben Good Vibes. It was a perfect week of cultivating peace- daily meditation, asana, and basking in the sun with friends. Pretty much the life I want all of the time!

I forgot to bring my Mayan plant book, which was a bummer at first. As an herbalist, I want to know as much about my plant kin as I can. Then I realized I wasn’t going to leave the beach and I recognized the coconut trees around me, so all was good!

If you haven’t explored the Yucatan I urge you to do so. Especially before it gets too built up! Tulum has changed tremendously over the last 7 years and I couldn’t believe how busier (and more expensive) it was from just last year. It is truly a magical place and I hope it can stay rootsy amongst all the “progress.” My favorite place on the peninsula so far is Coba, an ancient Mayan city, where you can still climb the pyramid, Nohoch Mul. I have had many enlightening moments from the top of Nohoch Mul! One of the most intense being on Mayan New Year in 2012 (I write about it in the Psilocybin chapter of Plant Songs).

Speaking of Plant Songs, it is so close to being released! I was not satisfied with how the color illustrations translated into greyscale, so I had the images lightened and the new copy looks great! Once I have the okay from the publishers that the new version is available I will let you know. Any day now…..!!!!

I can’t wait to share it with you.

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

My Adventures in Peru

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.

IMG_3166My 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 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhere 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 plant IMG_3248medicine. 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 humble and 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 people, 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,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jessica

An Herbalists Essentials for Travel

I’m getting super excited about the International Herb Symposium this weekend outside of Boston at Wheaton College. I went two years ago and had a great time learning from some of the most revered herb teachers from around the world.

One of my highlights was planting an herb garden dedicated to the grandmother of Western herbalism, Rosemary Gladstar. I look forward to seeing how the garden has grown over the last two years. I bet it will be beautiful!

As I travel this week, I am reminded at how important it is for me to stay healthy despite all the exposure from those around me. The summer epidemic season seems to have already started, as many of my friends and I had a gnarly cough and sinus congestion last week. Thankfully I am better now, but I want to make sure my immune system is strong and prepared for the adventurous week ahead.

For yesterday’s flight to Cali, I made sure to drink my daily dose of elderberry tea (which is not usually something I am taking into June- but this year I Need it!). I always have my essential oils traveling with me- planes are full of germy re-circulated air and I need my defensive team!

Here’s a list of some my essential travel oils this week:

White Sage– purifies, calms, and is able to negate the most toxic energy (be it infectious disease or that irritable passenger beside you)

Laurel– strengthens will and courage, strengthens your resolve and helps you adapt to the stresses of travel

Scots Pine– improves memory and strengthens lung qi, aids you in keeping your patience with challenges that are outside of your control.

St. John’s Wort– helps with others getting on your nerves, also great for improving qi and blood flow to the nerves after hours of sitting on planes, trains or automobiles.

As always, use common sense when using essential oils. Dilute-use sparingly-respect the earth

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Essentials for Travel

I tried to send this blog post from the air, but I can never access the onboard wi-fi. The friendly skies of United are all too familiar to me the last couple of years but I must say I do Love traveling and get excited before every flight. There are certain things that I must have for my flights, the most important being my essential oils.

For starters, smells can be funky on the plane; stale air, BO, and the other unpleasant realities I won’t speak about. To help with the nausea from these smells and from motion sickness, I put one or two drops of diluted Peppermint essential oil on my hair or scarf (if peppermint leaves mortal pestelI’m wearing one). That way I can inhale deeply without fear of noxious odors! In a pinch, I can also drop one drop of Peppermint oil in a little fat based substance (milk, yogurt, coconut oil) and ingest internally in case I need something stronger to settle my stomach. For relaxation after the push of getting to the airport, through security and to my gate on time, I’ll place a drop of Lavender essential oil behind each ear (Lavender is one of the oils you can place Undiluted on your skin) and feel my tension melt away. For protection against any germs that linger within a closed air environment I bring a small spritzer with essential oils of Lavender, Thyme, Eucalyptus and Lemongrass that I use as a hand sanitizer or mist if someone is coughing or sneezing around me.

Of course I bring way too many other essential oils,  but I have other necessities as well, like my laptop, noise canceling headphones, lots of tunes and a good book. And I always carry at least one herbal tincture and my Rescue Remedy too. I hope you stay healthy and energized during your travels and have as much fun as I do!

With love,

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Jessica

Recipe: Keep on Movin’ Spray — for When You’re On the Road

Road trips, herb classes, and camping are three of my favorite things. As I pack for my trip this weekend, I am reminded of how blessed I am. I can freely travel wherever and whenever I choose. I do not take this life for granted.

Currently, my energy is high as I pack up my car. That’s the beauty of car camping — I bring all my cozy things.

On the road, I love to roll down the windows, crank the tunes and belt out my favorite songs. To keep me alert and focused, I also love this spritzer.

Recipe: Keep On Movin’ Spray

Ingredients:
1-ounce lemon verbena hydrosol
1-ounce spring water
8 drops peppermint essential oil (spearmint is yummy too)
6 drops Mandarin essential oil
3 drops lemongrass

Mix ingredients in a 2-ounce glass spritzer bottle.

Keep it in your cooler for extra relief on a hot day!