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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.