Spring & The Wood Element

There is much to be said about being on time, but since time is an illusion I’m going to say my timing is perfect.

Spring is in full force here in Oklahoma. The cherry and dogwood trees are blooming. It’s been 80 degrees and those spring winds are definitely blowing! Fingers crossed for a mild tornado season this year.

And double so for the winds that are stirring humanity. May we have truth and justice over division and strife!

Before you listen to the Wood Element, check out my (absolutely late) Earth Element episode. There’s an nice intro into the Wood Element that you may enjoy!

May you have compassion for yourself and then share that compassion with others.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

PS: For some reason my first Season of The Herb Walk Podcast is no longer on iTunes or Stitcher so I will be re-releasing those episodes over the next several weeks. Enjoy!

Finding Balance with Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox is here! And a Super Full Moon too! 

Spring Equinox is one of my favorite days of the year. The balance of night and day, yin and yang, earth and heavens is palpable to me. It is the pull of the awakening of life after a cold lifeless winter. 

Spring is also the return of the Wood Element. We see green sprouts growing around us while within in us the yang energy also awakens. We feel this instinctively though it often goes unnoticed in our busy lives.

For the last two decades I have recognized and celebrated the Spring and Vernal Equinox, Summer and Winter Solstice and cross days like Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain. I pay attention to the changing of the seasons for reasons I can’t explain. It feels essential for my mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

These rituals connect to the universal energy around me and tune me in with natural cycles. And affected by in infinite ways I only understand in fragments. On days like today, with the Equinox and Full Moon energies, it’s easier to feel the connection. Revel in it!

May you find balance in life and love and be in harmony with the cosmic qi around and within you! 

Happy Spring, y’all!! 

With love,

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

It’s Thyme to Breathe. Herbal Medicine to the Rescue!

I have been hearing about gnarly colds and coughs still plaguing people all across the United States. These Winter bugs are still here and like I said on my Earth Element Podcast (which no one has heard because I haven’t been able to release it yet….), so I’m saying it again. We are going to hear about people being sick well into Spring. I wish it weren’t true, but people are still run down from illnesses they had weeks ago. And when Spring brings those winds, with it comes pathogens that thrive in the warmer weather ahead. 

Let’s not talk about Spring quite yet, since Winter is still in full force. At least for me. Today I’m in Denver and there’s a pretty raging snowstorm right now. I thankfully am not down with anything, but I sure am bundled up, drinking tea, and staying out of this weather!

If you’re one of the many that still have the crud, this chest rub recipe may be for you. It’s quick and easy to make (if you have the infused Oil already made) and can be a fun creation to make with friends or kids.

Thyme to Breathe Herbal Chest Rub

4 ounce Lavender (Lavendula spp) infused Olive Oil 

35 grams Beeswax

2-3 grams Menthol Crystals (less if skin is sensitive; do not use on children under 4) You can substitute Mint Essential Oil if you don’t have the crystals.

12 drops Thymus vulgaris Essential Oil

12-18 drops Eucalyptus radiata Essential Oil

Please use organic and ethically wild-crafted and sourced ingredients

Pour infused Olive Oil into the top of a double boiler and add Beeswax. Heat Oil until Beeswax melts and there are no more than small bubbles are around the edges of the mixture. Add Menthol Crystals and stir until melted and well blended. Take mixture off the heat and add Essential Oils, blend thoroughly. Pour into 2 or 3 small glass jars (you will end up with about 6 ounces). Let cool completely before you put on the lid.

Rub on chest, behind the ears and along the lymph nodes on the neck. Skin may experience slight tingling and/or redness due to the Menthol Crystals and Essential Oils

Remember to also stay hydrated with water and herbal tea. A hot cup of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) or Mint (Mentha species) tea with Lemon and Honey can do wonders to lift your mood, open your sinuses, and soothe your belly.  

Cooking with common culinary herbs also help rid the body of unwanted pathogens and toxins. Add handfuls of fresh, organic Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and Basil (Ocimum basilicum)to your salads, stews, and broths. A perfect reminder that food is medicine too!

Be well out there and be gentle with yourself.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

PS: To tide you over until my new podcast episodes release, here’s one of my favorite episodes from Season One. I sit down with my very first herb teacher, Jane Bothwell, of the Dandelion Herbal Center. We talk herbs, plant communication, and why we love Humboldt County (which is known for its own strain of gnarly coughs, the Humboldt Crud). And please review my podcast, it helps get me out there to more people! Thank you!

Cannabis: Reflect, Feel, Create, Evolve

Today feels really good! I am on the brink of something Big. Something so exciting I want to scream it from the top of the rafters. The timing is not right yet. Hopefully in just a few short weeks I can share what I am so pumped about!

Until then I will share with you an excerpt from my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine. Chapter 8- Cannabis: Reflect, Feel, Create, Evolve was probably the hardest chapter to write. Partially because of the stigma that surrounds Cannabis and partially because I am still processing my experiences of 20+ years in Humboldt County. It’s hard to be open about parts of my life that I have been so secretive about. Even writing these sentences is causing my heart rate to rise. (If I was at home I’d make myself some chamomile and rose tea!)

Excerpt from Chapter 8 of Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine Wriiten by Jessica Baker, LAc, RH (AHG)

The legalization of cannabis and its acceptance in the medical community is long overdue. I get giddy every time I see a cannabis dispensary. It brings back the fondest memories of standing in the middle of a ganja garden, feeling the warm Northern California breeze, smoking a joint, pruning the plants while listening to my solar-powered radio. This was the late 90’s, and although growing medical cannabis was legal under California law, there was still eradication under CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting). The fear of imprisonment was real. Growing medicinal cannabis was not respected as it is now and people risked everything for their right to cultivate. There is something exhilarating and empowering about growing your own medicine. It makes me feel alive and connected to all the people who have cultivated cannabis over the ages. For those in Northern California that grew under fear of harassment and arrest, the legalization of medicinal and adult-use cannabis has the potential to change not only the lives of patients, but also cannabis growers. A lot of healing can occur when prohibition goes away. Like many, there are days when I still pine for the good old days, when cannabis growers were the freedom fighters, providing clandestine medicine to those in need. 

Today, cannabis is highly regulated, packaged for consumers, in child-proof packaging, and probably contains ingredients like propylene glycol, butane residue, and/or refined sugar. Yum! Almost makes me want to go back to the outlaw days. Almost. The fear that cannabis prohibition perpetuates is something that I have trouble comprehending. The losses of community, family and character that have come from imprisoning nonviolent drug dealers and cannabis users far outweighs the negative effects cannabis can have on a person’s health or psyche. As our culture evolves, we have to look at the bigger picture. Which is worse: ingestion of a safe plant for recreational purposes or knowingly ruining someone’s life because they are growing an herb? It is an obvious choice if we care about people at all. 

So there it is. A little window into my past. If you’re interested in learning more about herbalism or cannabis, you can get a copy of Plant Songs from bakerbotanica.com or from Amazon.

May you be inspired to live your dream as I am living mine!

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

So Much Trouble in the World (thankfully we have herbs for that)

I was all inspired to write about how Chinese New Year is coming up as I celebrate my 43rd year on planet Earth! Then Jussie Smollett was attacked by white terrorists and I have been outraged about how obvious hate crimes are committed daily in the U.S. and there are no repercussions. No fear of retribution when our entire society continues to build upon the foundation that our forefathers set over two hundred years ago; that straight white men are superior

This isn’t going to be a political post but it will be one deeply rooted in the knowledge that we cannot be silent when injustices are so great. We have to redevelop a reverence for all life on Earth and begin to see ourselves as an integral part of the whole, instead of the masters that can destroy at our will. I don’t have the answers to these problems, but I do have some tools. And they are our herbal allies. 

The same plants that we are hell bent on poisoning (dandelions, chickweed, shepherd’s purse and countless others) will be our saving grace. 

When we remember our place in the cosmos, we will once again contribute to the balance between Earth and the Heavens. As long as we forget our connection to each other (much less the rest of nature) there will be wars, famines, hate crimes, and down right ugliness. I refuse to participate in that. Instead I will spread love, hope, and the wisdom of the plants. 

When I asked who wanted to be written about today Rose (Rosa centifolia)came up loud and clear! She loves to open our hearts and minds with her aromatic properties, all the while telling you to watch out if you treat her wrong. Those thorns are medicine in themselves, a warning and also a reminder to be gentle, to be conscious when you interact with others. 

If you’re feeling like I am, you probably need to share a cup of Rose petal tea with someone else and talk through the feelings of despair and disconnection. We all need more love, but what we also need is togetherness. We have to be stronger than this hate. We have to better than this.

Rose Petal Tea

Drop a small handful of dried rose petals in a pint glass. Pour hot water over petals and steep for 15 minutes. Strain out petals and set aside. Drink tea slowly. Add a touch of honey if you need a little sweetness in your life.

Please be nice to each other. And stand up for what you believe in. 

If you want to read more about Rose and other medicinal plants, check out my book Plant Songs:Reflections on Herbal Medicine

With love,

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

The Real Dirt Podcast Interview from Peru

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to get my thoughts in order after all that sugar intake yesterday! I’ve been writing down my Lessons Learned from 2018 and Vision for 2019 and it’s been a little hard rehashing the year. It was challenging for many of us and as we have high hopes for the future, it is going to take hard work on our parts to make it happen.

As an herbalist, I rely on my herbal allies to keep me healthy, sane, and balanced. This means everything from smelling a rose bush or spruce tree when I walk by to drinking a cup of herbal tea to smoking a joint of some fine cannabis. I utilize what I need when I need it.

Right now I need to brew myself an elderberry citrus peel tea, take a bath, and check out for the night. I’m not going to release another episode of The Herb Walk Podcast until January. In the mean time, enjoy this interview of me on the The Real Dirt Podcast. Recorded at Refugio Altiplano in the Amazon jungle in Peru, Chip Baker and I discuss cannabis, ayahuasca, and how we met through the Cannabis Action Network back in the early 1990’s. You can almost feel the mosquito bites through the recording.

Have a fabulous rest of 2018! Until next year.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Image: Maloca at Refugio Altiplano; taken by me

The Herb Walk Interview with Nicole Gagliano

Due to  my lack of computer savviness, I’ve been having some issues with my podcasts uploading to Stitcher and other platforms. iTunes seems to be ok! My editor is also waay backed up so my episode releases may be delayed as well. I will try my hardest to remain consistent in releasing podcasts this season, but Fear not- all episodes will be released! I’m just chalking these glitches up to Mercury Retrograde and am going with it.

That being said, this episode of The Herb Walk Podcast is one of my favorites, because I got to interview my friend, Nicole Gagliano of Wild and Wise Herbal CSA. Being an herbalist, farmer, and wildcrafter, Nicole’s herbal CSA includes a newsletter and seasonally inspired treats like delicious teas, balms and salves, and even her own distilled hydrosols! Nicole is also a great chef, hilarious, and great to be around. I look forward to the next time we’re together!

Enjoy this episode as we discuss herbalism, conservation, herbal CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), living in Humboldt County, and much more!

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

We Are a Circle Within a Circle

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

wellness tent red earth 2018
Me and Jax holding it down at Wellness

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

IMG_2609
Me teaching about essential oils and aromatherapy

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).

red tent red earth
Red Tent

After my class, it was time for the Red Tent Initiation, 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.

With love,

cropped-jessicabaker 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured image: Unsure of artist- but I love it!

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,

 cropped-cropped-jessicabaker.jpg

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows