My Initiation into Herbalism

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.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Overcoming Fear- One Sniff 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

3 Herbs for Stressful Times

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. 

With love,

JessicaBaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Image: Wild Prairie Rose

Lovin’ It All Up Sun Tea Recipe

Lovin’ It All Up Sun Tea

1-3 tablespoon of the following fresh herbs:

Stinging Nettle, Dandelion, Plantain, Lemon Balm, Wild Violet flowers, and/or your favorite herbal allies 

Lightly garble all herbs together and put in your favorite clear glass jar (and a teaspoon of honey if you want to).  Pour cool spring water over the herbs and sit jar in the sun for as long as you desire. Strain off herbs and give back to the earth with thanks for her nourishment. Drink tea with gratitude for your life and for everyone else’s too.

With love and gratitude for all of life,

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Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows

Photo credit: Me

Fragrant Flower Tea Recipe

My daily walks around Denver are so aromatic this time of year. Everywhere there are roses, dogwoods, cottonwoods, and lilacs wafting their gifts my way. The rain has made everyone vibrant and green, coming to life after winter.

All of their beauty has inspired me to share a recipe from the Rose chapter of my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine. I hope Rose fills you with as much love as she has me.

Rose’s Song: Love Yourself, Everyday

Fragrant Flower Tea

Harvest a handful of roses, daisies, calendula, violet flowers and any other edible flower (make sure they are not sprayed with pesticides). If using lavender, use only a small amount, as it can taste soapy. Pour hot water over flowers and cover completely. Steep for 20 minutes in a glass jar with lid on. Strain flowers and collect water in a glass quart jar. Drink the tea throughout the day to open your heart and promote relaxation.

If you’d like to order your copy of Plant Songs, go to Balboa Press or Amazon.

With much love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Image: Rose created by Jason Garcia 

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,

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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

Energetics of Dandelion

Spring has arrived in Denver with sunshine, wind, and even a little rain. I am in no denial that we can have more snowstorms, but I am excited to see all the new growth popping up everywhere.

The dandelions are back! The bright yellow flowers are reaching for the sun, while that taproot is digging deep into the earth, defying those grubby hands that want to pull it out. I haven’t seen any bees yet, but I’m sure they’re waking from their slumber and will be buzzing around soon. They love dandelion like herbalists do.

Instead of thinking of dandelion as a noxious weed, think of it as one of the first foods that spring has to offer. The umbrella of yellow a reflection of the long, warm days ahead.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Western Energetics:

leaf, flower- bitter, salty, cool

root- bitter, cool

 Chinese Energetics:

entire plant- bitter, sweet, cold

Therapeutic Actions:

Clears heat and toxicity from the blood

Reduces nodules and sores

Promotes urination

Reduces congestion of bile

Promotes lactation

Vitamins:

A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B6

Minerals:

Calcium, Magnesium, Folate, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Copper

Fiber:

Contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that enhances the production of healthy gut bacteria

 Dandelion greens and flowers are a delicious addition to your salads, soups, and steamed veggies. May you see dandelion in a more appreciative light!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

Morning Cup of Tea

It hardly seems like winter this week in Northern California. Instead of our steady fog and rain, we have had sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60’s. No complaints here as I soak up as much sun as I can!

It is getting brighter in the mornings and the days are gradually increasing, making the warmer days of spring more of a reality. I am still taking my daily tonics as people are still getting sick around me and I do my best to avoid going down like that. Especially since I leave for a yoga retreat in Tulum in 10 days!

I have been loving the Tulsi Rose tea from Humboldt Herbals. I worked at Humboldt Herbals many moons ago when they first opened in Old Town Eureka 20 years ago! Time flies, and us with it! Check out all the herbs, teas, essential oils, skin care, and other goodies they have to offer. You can also hear my interview with the proprietress of Humboldt Herbals, Julie Caldwell.

The combination of Rose Petals, Tulsi Bail, Red Raspberry leaf, and Green Cardamom is mildly spicy and so delicious. Sometimes I add a pinch of  Elderberry and Star Anise to keep my immune system even stronger. Either with little honey or unsweetened, this blend keeps me healthy and happy.

May you also enjoy a nourishing cup of herbal tea today!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Photo credit: Shutterstock