Chinese Herbal Energetics

Getting to talk about energy and our relationship to nature and the cosmos may be the coolest thing about teaching Chinese medicine classes. I spent the last two days at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism talking to students about the dynamic relationship between yin and yang that is necessary to create and sustain life. We discussed ethereal concepts like qi (vital life force energy), jing (essence) and shen (spirit) and how to choose herbal medicines based on their energetic properties.

In Chinese herbalism, the taste of herbal substances is what determines its therapeutic action. Five Element theory tells us each element has numerous correspondences, including a taste. In this weeks episode of The Herb Walk Podcast, I talk about Chinese herbal energetics and the importance of choosing the right herb for a person’s constitution. Just like all Chinese medicine practitioners, I also mention poo quite a bit and how it relates to the health of our digestive system.

I hope you enjoy this episode and learn some fun information about why loose stools happen. Please Subscribe to The Herb Walk Podcast so you never miss an episode! And if I can ask a favor- to please post a review wherever you listen to podcasts. It would really help me out!

With love,

Jessica

The Herb Walk Podcast: Metal Element Episode

Season 2 of The Herb Walk Podcast with Jessica Baker is finally here!!  

Happy Samhain/Halloween! I am happy to announce the release of Season on one of my favorite holy days, Samhain! Known as Witches’ New Year, Samhain is the end of summer for the Celtic traditions. An auspicious day to release my new season!

In this first episode I introduce the 5 Elements of Chinese Medicine and discuss the Metal Element, the element that is associated with Autumn.

This season I’ll read from my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine, discuss Chinese herbal energetics, and interview amazing people like Rachael Carlevale of Ganjasana, Kelly Green of Refugio Altiplano, Nicole Gagliano of Wild & Wise Herbal CSA, and much more!!

Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher and never miss an episode!

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Free Class on Aromatherapy & Chinese Medicine

So many people are into aromatherapy and essential oils right now. Which is awesome! Along with the enthusiasm, I believe we need more education about when, why and how essential oils should be used (check out my blog post on how much plant material it takes to make a small amount of essential oil).

As an herbalist and acupuncturist, I also love to share how we can use the theories of Chinese medicine when working with aromatic plants. The longevity of aromatic plant use in Chinese medicine is well documented. We believe that aromatic plants have the ability to open the orifices (of the heart and the brain), which allows for clarity of thoughts and actions, and deepens the connection to spirit.

In my Free 30-minute Facebook Live about Aromatherapy & Chinese Medicine I will discuss how essential oils affect the jing (essence), qi (life force energy), and shen (spirit); how to dilute essential oils; and common essential oils that bring more clarity and peace into your life. This webinar is not just about lavender and pine (although we love those too).

On Monday 29, 2018 at 7pm (MST) join me as I share about Aromatherapy and Chinese on Facebook Live! Like my business page, Jessica Baker, LAc, to watch the live video and have your essential oil questions answered.

I’ll see you there!

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Finding Peace in Frustration

Today I find myself super irritable. I could blame it on the rising Wood energy of spring or all the political upheaval, but the truth is it is all me. I am letting the little (and big) things bother me. Instead of breathing through the stress, I am stewing it in, allowing my frustration to build until it erupts like a volcano, spewing on whoever is closest.

It’s one of those days when I’m like, “maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all since I can’t find nice ways to say it.” Then I’m like, “fuck that.” Which is my affirmation that I should think before I speak so I don’t say things I will regret.

Today I have to consciously breathe deeply. I have to skillfully navigate the turbulent waters of my own psyche. I have to find positivity among the negative speak of my mind. I have to remember that I am flawed and am a work in progress.

That being said, today I’m just going to find peace however I can. Walking among the budding trees help, so does drinking my herbal tea. I will diffuse my Vetiver and Lavender essential oils and try to be nicer to myself and others. I won’t beat myself up for feeling like this, but I will reflect on what is really bothering me so I can move past the anger and be more compassionate next time. My herbal allies help every time.

If you want to find out more about herbalism or how you can utilize plants for well-being, check out my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Autumn Ritual Tonic

autumn-let-go

In Chinese medicine fall is associated with the metal element. Each element has several correspondences like seasons, colors, organ systems, and spiritual entities. For metal the organ systems are the lungs and large intestine and the entity is the corporeal soul, or Po. Our Po is housed in the lungs and is a dense energy that manifests as pride, envy, greed, shame, guilt, or negative judgments when the metal element is out of balance. When we are tormented by feelings of resentment for ourselves or others, this is our Po acting out.

During fall many people also notice the arise of unresolved grief or sadness. Grief also settles in the lungs and can be felt this time of year. I always think of friends and family that are no longer here. I do rituals to honor their life and their passing.

Autumn is the season of letting go of what no longer is and what shall never be again. It is the season of impermanence and acceptance. I have trouble with that sometimes and I find my Po dwelling on the past or I become full of fear and doubt. What helps me is to make nourishing medicine that will strengthen my Qi and ground and calm my Po. I love this grounding root and bark blend. The herbs in this tea strengthen and nourish and bring me back to center. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Autumn Ritual Tonic

2 astragalus roots (Huang Qi)- strengthens lung qi

2 pieces mimosa bark (He Huan Pi)- calms spirit, moves qi

2 rolls of cinnamon bark (Rou Gui)- warms interior, benefits gate of fire

2 burdock roots (Niu Bang Gen)- nutritive, strengthens lungs and digestion

Rinse roots and bark. In a stainless steel or glass pot, simmer plant material in one quart of spring water for 20-30 minutes. Strain herbs and set aside to make another batch. Sip warm tea throughout the day to feel nourished and calm.  

For the love of plants,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Actions Speak Louder than Love

I am disgusted by the white supremists that are emboldened by our current president and conservative politicians, since they have normalized being racist, misogynists, and downright hateful. I am not surprised like many people. If you think this is something new then you are ultra privileged, have your head in the sand, or both.

Racism is learned behavior, taught by generations of hateful people that use the excuses of fear and economy to stay ignorant and mean. Besides donating money to organizations that fight oppression and racism, take the time to work within your community to make a positive change for those that need it most. It’s not easy, it won’t happen overnight, but it is us, the privileged ones, that are responsible for contributing to making America safe for all of us.

One of the ways I help is to spread knowledge of herbal medicine. Knowledge is power, and knowing what herbs we can use to heal ourselves (instead of relying on doctors and the pharmaceutical industry to do it for us) is empowering. It may be the most important thing we can do to lessen the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

If you are an herbalist, acupuncturist, or other health care provider, I encourage you to give back. Teach a donation based class on community herbalism, give free or low cost treatments to those in need, donate herbs or products to free clinics, just give back in whatever capacity you can.

Don’t let your fear, sadness, or embarrassment keep you from making the world a better place. It will take all of us.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Wild Humboldt Tea Recipe

Among the old-growth Redwoods of Northern California, my herbal journey began in the late 1990s. Having thousands of acres of ancient forests to explore, my primal self was awakened.  

I wanted to live off the land, eat wild foods, wildcraft herbs and make all my medicine. And so I did that blissfully for years. Then a desire to become an acupuncturist came over me and I completed a four-year master’s degree and passed the licensing boards. I opened a clinic and worked closely with my community to provide much-needed healthcare. Seeing clients and helping people heal themselves is the most rewarding experience, but I knew I had to share the wisdom of herbalism and Chinese medicine with as many people as I could.

And so I left the comfort and shelter of the wilderness to live in Denver, with views of towering downtown buildings instead of majestic forests and Mother Ocean. It is now easier to teach at conferences throughout the US and abroad, and I have the opportunity to work at Colorado School of TCM and Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism.( Not to mention I now actually have consistent, high-speed internet which was hard to get anywhere I lived in Humboldt County, Cali.).

I know it was the right decision because everything has fallen nicely into place since I moved here over a year ago. This year’s teaching schedule is filling in nicely and I have the time to both see a few clients and continue to work on my herb book, “Plant Songs.”

This week I’ll leave you with the tea that made me fall in love with herbalism and our plant allies. It is a delicious and nourishing tea that will leave you feeling more than satisfied. Stay wild!

Recipe: Wild Humboldt Tea (wildcrafted with reverence)

Ingredients:

Handful of fresh nettles

Handful of fresh violet leaves and flower

Handful of fresh plantain leaves

Small amount of fresh dandelion leaves

Small amount of fresh prunella flowers

Instructions:

  1. Infuse all ingredients in the sun in a glass quart jar. 
  2. Infuse one to four hours or overnight on a full or new moon if desired.  
  3. Strain herbs out or be like us herbalists and strain through your teeth or just eat the herbs too.

When energy flows, wellness grows.

I’m Always Growing Like A Weed

There is so much going on in my life, I feel like the weeds and flowers, firmly rooting into the Earth, but reaching up high towards the Sun. Invigorated by the longer, warmer days and ready to burst with life!

This is an exciting week for me, as it is my first official week in my new office! I’m buying furniture and hanging art on the walls, as I envision all the creativity that will take place in this space. I finally have a kitchen to create medicine! This means my aromatic blends can finally come to fruition. I have space to formulate as well as see clients and I couldn’t be happier that I have a place for all my books, herbs, tinctures, and oils.

Many of you know I have also been writing a book called Plant Songs. I am happy to say that the first draft will go to my editor in a few days! Plant Songs is my journey into herbalism intertwined with personal stories, and cultural and medicinal uses of the plants that have been most pivotal to my personal growth. I explore sixteen plants, including magnolia, cannabis, psilocybin, hawthorn and angelica and share the messages they have told me. Plant Songs is my gift to the plants, for always being there, for always listening, and for always saying just the right things.

The last big announcement is that I have a new business name! Last year I wasted over 6 months of time and money working with both marketing and branding companies with disastrous results. That lesson learned, I feel great about what is happening now. Sometimes the stars just all have to align! I can’t wait to share the name and logo with you soon!

That’s enough excitement for now. I wish you a warm and wonderful week!

With love,

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Jessica

Being Compassion: The Wood Element

Ahhh, Spring is here! Equinox always brings me to tears of joy as I witness the balance of yin and yang on our planet and feel it harmonizing within me. Winter is damn hard for many of us, and Spring bring us a renewed sense of hope and positivity. The longer days gives us that solar energy everything on Earth needs to thrive. Spring is the time to start bringing your wintertime musings and dreams from the visionary world into the material one. Understanding the nuances of the Wood element can help you with those manifestations.

I wanted to introduce you to the Wood Element in Chinese Medicine, as it represents Spring, and the generation of new life, new energy, and new ideas. The Wood element/phase has gotten a negative wrap (like an ethereal concept of the manifestation of life on Earth can be negative!) with people saying “when the wood element is out of balance, one is angry, inflexible, bossy, violent, loud and rude.” All of these qualities can be attributed to Wood out of balance- but one very important quality of Wood is often not talked about. The Hun- our ethereal souls.

The Hun are described in different ways but many texts say the Hun are three benevolent, 3vin-sagescompassionate beings that guide our actions, thoughts and dreams. When out of balance, the Hun are restless and can become frustrated, relentless or de-motivated. We can help balance our Hun by leading a more simple life. Eat foods that are easier to digest (knowing your constitution is key to good health because appropriate foods will differ between people), minimize the alcohol and drugs, take a deep breath in times of stress instead of spiraling out of control. These can be life changing moments when you just took one minute to care for yourself instead of going down a road of negative emotions.

Spring is the time to eat those tender, young greens! Dandelion, burdock, violet, nettles- all are sprouting right now and inviting you to take a couple nibbles of their new growth. Try it! You may just like it- and your Hun will love you for it!

May the blessings of Spring bring you renewed energy, compassion and insight into why you chose to be here, right now, with all of us.

With love,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

5 Elements

The 5 Elements (I prefer to call them Phases or Cycles) of Chinese Medicine are often discussed but not accurately understood. Many people are excited about Chinese Medicine and want to share it, but the lack of depth in understanding Chinese medical theory has left a gaping hole in most of the teachings on Chinese medicine.

When we talk about the 5 Elements/Phases we are not only discussing the dynamic changes that occur within the body, mind and spirit during each season (and during the transition time between seasons), but also the myriad of colors, emotions, spiritual entities and other correspondences that accompany the “elements.”

Our current interpretation of the 5 Elements is from the Warring States period, when 5 factions were fighting for control. This directly affected how we applied the elements to daily life.

I prefer the classical interpretation, when Earth is represented as the 18 day period five-elements-earth-289x270between each season, a time of transition and preparation for the season ahead. This makes more sense to me than Earth as “late summer” where it seems to be placed just to serve ideology instead of seasonal shifts. In a later blog, I will go deeper into the 5 Elements and the emotions, colors, sounds and other associations.

For more information on the theories of Chinese Medicine, check out The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (NeiJing SuWen) translated by Maoshing Ni. It is the foundational text of Chinese medicine and is a fascinating read.

With love,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

5 Elements

The 5 Elements (I prefer to call them Phases or Cycles) of Chinese Medicine are often discussed but not accurately understood. Many people are excited about Chinese Medicine and want to share it, but the lack of depth in understanding Chinese medical theory has left a gaping hole in most of the teachings on Chinese medicine.

When we talk about the 5 Elements/Phases we are not only discussing the dynamic changes that occur within the body, mind and spirit during each season (and during the transition time between seasons), but also the myriad of colors, emotions, spiritual entities and other correspondences that accompany the “elements.”

Our current interpretation of the 5 Elements is from the Warring States period, when 5 factions were fighting for control. This directly affected how we applied the elements to daily life.

I prefer the classical interpretation, when Earth is represented as the 18 day period five-elements-earth-289x270between each season, a time of transition and preparation for the season ahead. This makes more sense to me than Earth as “late summer” where it seems to be placed just to serve ideology instead of seasonal shifts. In a later blog, I will go deeper into the 5 Elements and the emotions, colors, sounds and other associations.

For more information on the theories of Chinese Medicine, check out The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (NeiJing SuWen) translated by Maoshing Ni. It is the foundational text of Chinese medicine and is a fascinating read.

With love,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

Community Offerings Revised

I got so excited about putting classes out there that I didn’t realize I had a scheduling conflict with the studio at Urban Sanctuary. I’m not able to host a 4-week series at this time, but I can offer an Intro to Herbalism on February 28 and two Community Herbalism classes on March 16 & March 30. A longer herbal series will be offered later this year!

Life is about going with the flow, and because of this shift I am able to offer another Community Acupuncture on March 17. The transformations that occur when we come together with the intention of healing our traumas is beautifully profound. I am honored to be able to offer this once again.

All offerings held at Urban Sanctuary 2745 Welton Street, Denver CO

Tuesday Feb 28, 2017

6pm-7:30pm 

Intro to Herbalism 

This donation-based class is offered to give you a brief overview of western and Chinese herbal energetics, aromatherapy, and plant spirit medicine. I’m interested in knowing what the community wants to learn about so I can offer classes according to your needs.

Thursday March 16 & Thursday March 30, 2017

7pm-8:30pm

Community Herbalismlove-yourself

These classes are meant to inspire you to take your health into your own hands. You will be introduced to Western & Chinese herbal energetics, aromatherapy, and plant spirit medicine. The second class will build on the first class. You are welcome to come to one or both. Herbal teas, essential oils and elixirs will be shared.

Please come with an open mind and an open heart. Drop-in available if the class doesn’t fill. Class is limited to 15 people.  $15/class

Friday March 10 & Friday March 17, 2017

12pm-2pm

Community Acupuncture

$10-20 suggested donation (no one will be turned away due to lack of funds)

Your session will be in the yoga room. There may be up to 8 people receiving acupuncture at the same time. You will be lying on a mat, supported with blankets and bolsters. Auricular (ear) acupuncture will be provided and body points may be used in some cases. The intention of this community acupuncture is to help heal the collective trauma we have all experienced. Walk-in only

If you’d like to attend the herbal classes, contact me at 707.499.8587 or jbakerlac@gmail.com

I hope to see you at one or all of these events. Please share the word to others in the Denver/Boulder area!

With love,

JessicaBakerPic

 

Jessica

Rising Up to the Occasion

Being in Denver has been a drastic change from my rural lifestyle of northern California. The opportunity to step away from daily clinical work and the stresses of running a thriving practice have given me time to write, formulate and come back into myself as Jessica, instead of the professional self of “Dr.” Baker. It has been an insightful transition, as I’ve reflected on my own insecurities surrounding all the aspects of who I am and why I am drawn to working with plants and people.

I have missed the one-on-one counseling of my clients as well as the community vibe of group acupuncture. That is why I’m so happy to announce that I will be seeing clients at Urban Sanctuary. I’m offering private sessions of Western and Chinese herbal consultations, Aromatherapy sessions,and Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

Beginning in March I will be hosting one Community Acupuncture sessions a month! Urban Sanctuary is a perfect location,. Being a yoga studio, there is plenty of space to lay down on yoga mats, breathe and allow your body to heal. I will also be able to hold classes on herbalism, Chinese medicine and anything else I’m inspired to share. The intention of my work is to help empower others to heal themselves so that our larger community will benefit in ways that can be hard to imagine.

I’m really stoked to be a part of Urban Sanctuary, a boutique wellness studio that offers yoga, meditation, workshops and
traditional health care services in the 5 Points community. The founder, Ali Duncan, created the sanctuary as a way to encourage and educate people on the powers of preventative health and self-healing. Learn more about  Urban Sanctuary and all they have to offer.

Call me at 707.499.8587  to schedule an acupuncture session or herbal/aromatherapy consultation! I’m honored to be part of healing and uniting our community.

With love,

JessicaBakerPic

Jessica

The Future is in Your Presence

I’ve heard countless people say they can’t wait for 2016 to be over. The deaths of so many legends (too numerous to name, but I will have a blog honoring those I hold dear) and the astonishingly eye-opening presidential race, left us all a little worse for wear. Disillusioned, we are all looking towards 2017 with anticipation, reluctance, and a lot of wishful thinking.

If we expect 2017 to be better than this year, we have got to become active members of our community. No amount of blogging, signing petitions or reposting on Facebook is going to be enough. The only thing that is going to heal this world is to re-connect personally with those in our everyday lives. It’s easy to engage with someone via social media, where you can get dressed, make coffee and hit the like button all at the same time. This shallow attempt at connection is inadequate at a time when we really need each other. I encourage you take the time to sit down with someone, look them in the eye and say with truth and conviction, “I see you, I honor you, I’m here for you.”

I have to transform the intense anger I’ve been harboring about the political and group-healingenvironmental future into something positive. I’ve decided to direct my fear and anguish into community action. As soon as I find a space in my 5 Points neighborhood I am going to host free herb classes on healing trauma. I feel a strong need to heal my own wounds through sharing my love of herbalism and Chinese medicine.  In time I hope I  can also include free community acupuncture to those that need it most. I haven’t had the opportunity to offer community acupuncture clinics since I moved to Denver and I miss it!

Words cannot describe the energy of  group healing. It will be an honor to share this space with all of you. It will be an offering of peaceful transformation, where fear can turn into strength and anger into compassion. A place where we make the world better one person at a time.

May the last few days of 2016 be full of peace and rest, so that 2017 may be one of compassionate action.

With love,

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Jessica

Photo credit: Facebook

Reflections on the Mountain West Herb Gathering

IMG_0316I cannot say enough positive things about the Mountain West Herb Gathering.  As with any conference there are bound to be unexpected hiccups but my experience as a teacher and attendant was that it was not only a well organized event but extremely heartfelt as well. I’m already getting excited about next year’s gathering.  Thank you Amanda Klenner for putting on such a welcoming event!  Check out her monthly herbal publication Natural Herbal Living

As someone new to Colorado, I am also happy to have met more local herbalists!  Every class I attended was wonderful, but my favorite had to be Healing the Spirit: Using Plants, Song and Prayer in Modern Herbal Practice, with Shelley Torgove and Monticue Connally.  I am glad they are both in Denver so I can learn more from them.  Deep healing occurred in the space created in their class.  There is nothing like singing with the plants!

IMG_0338My favorite part was to see (hear, taste and feel) new and old plant allies.  The mountain yarrow and horsetail looks so delicate and tender compared to our North Coast varieties.  I have found the mountain plants to be smaller, but packed full of vital energy due to their ability to thrive in such harsh conditions.  And the conifers!  I got to taste and smell the differences in some of the pine, spruce and fir.  The medicine in these mountain plants are strong and give us the gift of resiliency.  So needed at this time.

I leave you with a simple tasty tea that can be easily harvested from many places around the world.  Just make sure the trees and flowers haven’t been sprayed or are close to a heavily trafficked area.

Conifer Rose Tea IMG_0181

1/2 cup needles of your favorite evergreen (pine, spruce, cedar, cypress, fir, redwood)

1/4 cup wild roses

1/4 cup wild blackberry or raspberry flowers

Make a sun infusion with needles and flowers for 2-3 hours.  Strain out herbs and drink deeply.

When energy flows, wellness grows

Happy Summer and Abundant Blessings,

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Jessica

Artemisia: Moon Medicine

I don’t know about y’all, but I am feeling the yang energy of Summer approaching.  Thankfully the warm weather has hit Colorado and life is returning to the mountains after what seemed like a long Winter.  Yesterday I went hiking in Eldorado Canyon and saw many of my favorite herbs, including Artemisia, Pine, Yarrow and Rose.  Coming from California, I am used to a much earlier Spring and I was surprised at how small the Artemisia still are.  I could feel their compact potency though and am excited about seeing them grow throughout the season.

Did you know that we use several Artemisia species in Chinese Medicine?  Each species has it’s unique taste, temperature and therapeutic action. Ai Ye, Artemisia argyi, is so important that it is a separate modality of medicine.  We call the burning of Ai Ye, Moxibustion and we use it to warm the meridians of the body and expel cold, relieve pain due to cold stagnation, dispel dampness, stop cough, and calm the spirit.  If you have PMS or painful menstruation due to cold or damp, moxibustion over the abdomen can provide warmth and relief.  (Always have a qualified practitioner advise you on moxibustion application)

The first mention of Artemisia in Chinese medicine was in the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), probably written around 200CE.  In that text, Ai Ye, was said to make the body light (bring you back to the light being you are), sharpen your eyes and ears, and prevent senility.  Ai Ye was also said to promote hair growth, eliminate evil qi in the five viscera, boost qi and supplement the middle jiao.

Today, we use the essential oil of various  Artemisia species for many reasons.  The essential oil of these plants can be very strong and must be used with caution (thujone content varies with each species).  I like to massage Artemisia alba (Mugwort) essential oil (diluted in hemp oil) on my abdomen before and during menstruation to reduce stagnation due to cold and damp that can cause cramps, bloating and tension.  I also diffuse a couple drops of essential oil in my home as well to help reduce any accompanying irritability.  Adding Lavender can further enhance your relaxation.

To help reduce infectious respiratory diseases, diffuse Mugwort essential oil or burn Ai Ye as you would White Sage throughout your house to repel “evil” energy.  This can also be effective for clearing negative energy out of your space.  You can smudge yourself with it when you need more energy or clarity.

I leave you with a spritzer recipe that I hope you enjoy as much as I do!  Artemis is the Maiden Goddess of the Hunt and the Moon and Achilles was an undefeated warrior that represents courage and strength.  I like to think these two plants work as a yin (Artemis) yang (Achilles) pair that can bring about deep healing and the courage needed to witness your own healing.

The Alchemy of Artemis & Achilles artemisia-vulgaris-1

1-2 drops wild Artemisia essential oil (alba, argyi, or vulgaris preferred)


1-2 drops wild Achillea essential oil (yarrow)

1/2 ounce wild Helichrysum hydrosol

1  1/2 ounces spring water 

Add water and hydrosol to a 2 ounce glass jar with pump spray top.  Add essential oils.  Shake well and thoroughly blend mixture.  Spray on any injuries (physical or otherwise) that need healing.  Great for bug bites, sprains, dermatitis and deep traumas of body or spirit. This blend is a great healer, as it helps to balance the duality of our yin/yang nature.   

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,

JessicaBakerPic

Jessica

Cultivating Wildness

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to teach at my favorite herbal symposium in existencesympcircle_05 today.  The Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium is the Heart medicine that we all deeply crave.  There is a collective healing that is palatable and at times so thick that you have no choice but to witness the truth of your own pain.  It is beautiful.  I am so grateful for the women that work endlessly to provide this space for us all.

 
A highlight of the weekend for me was stargazing with Stargazer Li.  A fantastic story-teller and mischievous medicine maker, Li has given me an even deeper fascination with the cosmos.   As we lie on our backs and gaze out into the universe, Li mentioned that what if in fact we were looking down at the sky and not up, as we have no idea where we were in the rotation of the Earth.  The sensation created in my mind and body when I thought I was above the sky and not below it was exhilarating.  It made me feel weightless, formless and in the infinite void (WuJi in Chinese medicine).

stunning-images-of-the-universe-from-hubbleIt is moments like these when we remember our wildness.  There are no physical barriers or limitations to what we are capable of achieving.  It is all in our perception, attitude and awareness.  When I am totally aware that I am connected with everything around me, I feel limitless, endless and free.  This is our true nature- connecting, communicating, exchanging with all of life around us.  I am blessed to have stepped into those moments and allowed myself to open up to their gifts.

I leave you with a tea that I hope will inspire you to open up to your own gifts, and to your true, wild nature.  You will need good gloves to harvest these herbs- they are covered in prickles and thorns (like many of our paths in life!)

I’m Wild and Free TeaWild_rose

1 handful wild nettle

1 handful wild horsetail (unopened)

1 handful wild blackberry leaves/flowers/berries 

1 handful wild roses

Make a sun (and/or moon) infusion with  1-2 quarts water.  Strain (or not) and drink deeply.

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,

JessicaBakerPic

Jessica

Celebrating an Herbal Activist: An Interview with Mary Blue

This weeks blog is an interview with activist and herbalist, Mary Blue.  She is the founder of Pharmacy Herbs Community Health and Education Center in Providence, Rhode Island and has opened the Sage Clinic, a collaboration with Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency program.  Along with being a farmer, medicine maker and professor, Mary Blue is also a talented rapper.

JB: How did your herbal journey begin?mary-back-cover1

MB: I started using herbs for personal healing in 1998. I was drawn to herbs because I needed to connect to the earth in all aspects of my life, especially self care. It fit with my lifestyle and environmental advocacy work. I was engaged in community organizing and activism while working to detoxify my life and the planet. Herbalism aligned with my natural instinct to help people too. I also saw herbs as a way to passively resist big pharma, and their control over health care.

In 2001, I volunteered at an herb shop in my home town of Providence, RI. The owner, Danielle Cavallacci, eventually hired me. I apprenticed and worked with Danielle for 3 years. After studying at Indigo Herbals, I was hired at Seven Arrows Herb Farm in Southeastern Massachusetts and worked there for 4 years. I worked in the greenhouses, herb shop and organized herbal events (this is where Radherb was born in 2006). This is also where I started offering consultations, classes and herbal products. In early 2008, my best friend, Jessica, died of cancer, and asked our community to donate to building Farmacy Herbs instead of buying flowers. I was able to open the Farmacy Herbs Community Health and Education Center in the summer of 2008….This was a lasting gift to me and the community from a beautiful dying friend.

I was also part of the anti-globalization movement from 1999-2010. We were always fighting against something.  After 10 years, I went from lobbying, to the streets, to the court rooms, to the herbal clinics, and I realized that that high intensity work was not sustainable for me long term. I then decided to pursue community herbalism as a career, and weave my social justice principles into my work. I still occasionally show up to rallies, city hall, and I am still fighting in the courtroom with the Fire Cider battle! I feel lucky that I am able to be an herbalist that can make a living without compromising my social justice principles.

JB: You wear many hats as herbalist, farmer, entrepreneur and professor of Western Herbalism at Brown University Medical School, how did the opportunity to work at Brown University present itself?  

MB: After traveling around in my twenties, I realized if I wanted to affect any positive social change, I needed to stay in one place and focus.  Since 2006, one of my goals has been to affect change in the health care system through working with local doctors. I believe that if doctors are educated on what an herbalist can do to support their patients, this could change health care for a lot of people. As time went on, I built my herbal practice while many of my clients were also working with local doctors. I began developing relationships with doctors through their patients. The patients were having success with my protocols, telling their doctors, and that is how it all started.   In 2010, I was invited to speak at Memorial Hospital by Dr. John McGonigle. He is an integrative family medicine doctor and runs the Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency Program.

Since then we have been collaborating on clients, classes for my herb school and now, teaching at Brown Medical School.  John and I also just became business partners  and opened the Ocean State Holistic Medical Collaborative, Sage Clinic. This clinic is the teaching site for the Brown University Integrative Medicine Residency Program and for my Herbal Residency Program.

JB: Can you speak about the trademark lawsuit over the Fire Cider name that you and two others (Nicole Telkes and Katheryn Langelier ) have been named in? (learn more about trademarking commonly help names at http://freefirecider.comFireCiderRecipe

MB: We have an amazing legal team, which we are so thankful for. They have put a lot of thought into our case, and have completed hundreds of hours of work for little pay. At this point in the case, our lawyers are advising us to not make any statements regarding the details of the case. It is highly stressful for all of us and our families to be in this position.

I hope the herbal community understands that we are juggling a lot right now, and if your email goes unanswered for a week or longer, that we are doing the best we can to keep up with our lives, the case and our businesses. Our group Tradition Not Trademark is committed to seeing this through and fighting for our traditional herbal terms to the bitter end.

UPDATE from Tradition Not Trademark: AMAZING NEWS to report on the lawsuit Shire City brought against the herbalists Mary Blue, Nicole Telkes and Katheryn Langelier!!!! On May 12, 2016, the federal court in Massachusetts dismissed five out of the ten claims that Shire City had brought against the 3 defendants. The claims that were dismissed were all based on the three defendants’ participation in the movement to cancel Shire City’s “Fire Cider” trademark registration. Shire City had claimed that the 3 defendants’ activities had caused Shire City $100,000 in damages.

JB:  Where do you see herbalism going in the future, in terms of education, licensing, and regulation?

MB:  In terms of Western Herbalism education, it seems to be growing fast!  We don’t have national standards for herbal education, so it’s hard for any Western Herbal student to follow a clear path to becoming an herbal practitioner.  I see a lot of my students choosing to be acupuncturists or massage therapists because there is a clear path to a career.

I think it would be helpful to have a community standard that differentiates between educational requirements for a family herbalist, community herbalist or a clinical herbalist. We do have the American Herbalist Guild, but many herbalists (like myself) are not easily accepted into the AHG, and because of this they do not represent a large portion of herbal practitioners.  I would love to see coalition of established herb schools come up with educational standards for Western Herbalists. These standards would not have to be enforced by law… they would be community standards that would help herbal students and the general public understand what it actually means to be a clinical herbalist, community herbalist or master herbalist.

My generation (40 years old) was the last generation that didn’t have access to multiple blogs, podcasts and online learning tools when we were budding herb students in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  All of my education was in person with teachers, in the clinic or working directly with clients. I feel that that aspect of learning is integral to herbal education, and I hope that the ease of access to internet education doesn’t dilute the traditional way of learning herbs through hands on, in person, education. I also think it is amazing that there are so many more online resources out there for new herbal students!!

Herb schools like Farmacy Herbs and Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism (and many others) are working on training professional herbalists in the art of herbal medicine AND to understand the legal aspects of becoming an herbalist. This includes health justice principles, cultural competency, FDA regulations and more. I think it is integral for all herbal students to understand not just the how-to of herbal medicine, but all of the political and legal aspects of herbalism too.  For more info about health justice principles, check out my webinar hosted by the American Herbalist Guild onMay 17, 2016 at 7pm on Politically Compassionate Herbalism.

The regulations on herbal product companies are extremely hard to comply with. As an herbal product company owner, I had to make the decision whether or not to bring my product to the mass market or stay small. If herbal business owners want to go big or sell online, then they must understand that this could mean a lot of red tape and money. I decided to stay small, selling herbs only to local restaurants, stores and at clinics in Rhode Island.  All herbal companies (small or large) should do due diligence to follow Standard Operating Procedures and follow local health department laws.

There are pros and cons regarding licensure and regulations. On one side, licensure could provide some legitimacy to the field of herbalism in the allopathic setting, and could potentially allow herbalists to take insurance…which would be great.

On the other hand, do we really want to be regulated by a system that does not comprehend all the complexities of herbal work?  I really hope the growing field of herbalism can be defined by the herbal community, not the government.

JB:  What is the most important message about herbalism that you want to share with the readers?

MB: I would like to share that I think it is important for herbalists to understand (at minimum) and be active with the legal and political aspects of herbalism; this includes trademarking of traditional terms, understanding what is happening with the FDA, and understanding health justice principles. I also think that to survive these legal barriers and the growth of our profession and herbal education (without an agreed upon standards in the field) — AND avoid it being co-opted or misrepresented in this process — herbalists must be focused on setting the standard for herbal production, education and clinical work in our local communities and nationally.

Understanding and implementing standard operating procedures and using structure and function language with herbal product and in our consultations are small ways we can all work together to set the standards for what it means to be a professional herbalist.

JB:  Thank you for your passion and activism.  The world is a better place with activists like you working on all of our behalf.  

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,

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Jessica

Releasing Old Wounds

Growing up, May was always  one of my favorite months.  It signified the end of school and the beginning of a summer of adventure and travel.  Since my Grandma passed away at the end of May in 2004, May had taken on a more somber feeling.  Then last year a friend committed suicide on May 9th.  The anniversary of her death was harder on me than I thought it would be.  The same feeling of shock and despair that I felt when I heard she had killed herself resurfaced and stayed with me for a couple of days.  My shadow side (or Po) has been stirring, revealing things about myself I must acknowledge, accept and let go of.

I have been relying on my herbal allies for the support I know I need.  The amount of gratitude I have for these plants cannot be described in words.  They are the life-giving, soul-awakening, heart-opening experiences we are all desperately searching for.  All it takes is a moment between you and a plant to remind you that you are loved, unconditionally, no matter what.

IMBR-00193067-001St. John’s Wort has been in my life for years and one I use both internally and externally for depression, nerve irritation and pain.  I am referring to neurological pain but also to when people are getting on your nerves.  There are times when I am getting on my own nerves, and St. John’s Wort works wonders.  I am instantly cheered when I take fresh St. John’s Wort tincture.  She has been an integral part of me finding joy in all the dark places my mind has gone this week.  I am lucky enough to have been able to harvest my own the last several years and have had a steady supply of fresh oil and tincture on hand.

Rose is an herb that has always brought me a sense of peace when I drink a tea of her wild-rose-782x534blossoms.  The essential oil of Rose has given me cathartic bouts of crying that I haven’t been able to access in years.  All of the sorrow from a lifetime of loss came spilling over and was almost unbearable.  Adding Lavender essential oil to Rose is what actually allowed me to relax enough to process it all.  It was a beautiful experience and one I obviously needed, but for now I may just go back to just the Rose tea!

There are a few more (Skullcap, Oatstraw, Chaga), but I like to keep my blog as short as possible.  I’d rather you go outside and sit quietly with a cup of tea than read more ramblings.

I leave you with an aromatherapy blend that can be applied to the chest, throat or temples, or anywhere you feel it needs to go.  I like to dilute in 1 ounce organic apricot kernel oil and use as a massage oil or add to my bath.  Use organic and ethically wildcrafted ingredients.

Life Reviving Anointing Oil

1-2 drops Rose essential oil (brings grief to the surface to be released)

1-2 drops Lavender essential oil (relaxes the body, mind and spirit, facilitates release)

1-2 drops St. John’s Wort essential oil (brings joy back into your heart, reduces irritation)

1-2 drops Vetiver essential oil (works on healing deep wounds, chronic soul-ache)

Bring your shadow side to light so that All parts of you can be healed by the universal love that binds us all. 

When energy flows, wellness grows

Abundant Blessings,

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Jessica

Aromatherapy: An Interview with Mindy Green

Mindy Green has been someone I have admired since I began studying herbalism in 1999. mindy greenThe book she co-authored with Kathi Keville, Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, inspired many herbalists to deepen their study of plant medicine with aromatherapy. This book continues to be a valuable resource for anyone that has an interest in herbalism or aromatherapy.

Mindy Green, MS, RA, RH (AHG) has over four decades of experience and success in the natural products and health care industries. Her expertise on botanical medicine has rewarded her with positions at Aveda Corporation and the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine. She is a prolific writer and speaker and has her own consulting company, Green Scentsations, LLC. Mindy is an environmental activist and believes plants in all their forms create healing, globally and individually.

It is with great pleasure that I bring you this interview with Mindy Green

JB: As a lover of plants and herbs, I have at least 10 plants I say are my absolute favorite. What are some of your essential plant allies?

MG: FOR HERBS, I AM A BIG FAN OF THE NERVINES. WE ARE ALL SO BUSY AND STRESSED OUT, WITH LITTLE TIME FOR OURSELVES. I LIKE THE DAILY-USE HERBS THAT GENTLY CALM SUCH AS OAT, LEMON BALM, CHAMOMILE, LINDEN AND MOTHERWORT. I ALSO LIKE THE NOURISHING TONICS – NETTLE, ALFALFA AND DANDELION. OF COURSE, EVERYONE SHOULD BE USING THE ADAPTOGENS – SHIZANDRA, ASHWAGANDA, AND ASTRAGALUS AMONG MANY OTHER OPTIONS. I OFTEN USE MANY OF THESE HERBS IN SOUP STOCK AND OTHER FOOD DISHES… IT JUST FEELS LESS MEDICINAL AND MORE NOURISHING. AFTER ALL, THE MORE WE USE HERBS AS FOODS, THE LESS WE WILL NEED THEM AS MEDICINES. WHICH BRINGS TO MIND A FEW MORE: GARLIC, GINGER AND TURMERIC!

AS FAR AS ESSENTIAL OILS GO, I OFTEN REACH FOR LAVENDER, HELICHRYSUM, CISTUS, ROSE AND FRANKINCENSE. A BLEND OF THESE IS EXCELLENT FOR MATURE SKIN THAT HAD TOO MUCH SUN EXPOSURE IN THEIR YOUTH (ME!).

JB: Essential oil use is getting popular, in part to MLM companies that promote somewhat excessive use of their products. With the immense plant matter that it takes to create 1 ounce of essential oil, are their essential oil companies on the market that are promoting sustainable farming and harvesting practices?

MG: THERE ARE MANY COMPANIES WHO DO KNOW OF THIS CONCERNING ISSUE. WITH ESSENTIAL OILS GOING MAINSTREAM IN MANY RETAIL OUTLETS (MOST RECENTLY IN TARGET), I PUT AN EMPHASIS IN ALL MY CLASSES ON AN AWARENESS OF THE PLANT MATERIALS REQUIRED TO OBTAIN A DROP OF ESSENTIAL OIL. I ALWAYS RECOMMEND A MORE HOMEOPATHIC APPROACH TO DOSING, RATHER THAN THE HEROIC APPROACH THAT, IN MY OPINION, IS USUALLY A WASTE OF PRECIOUS RESOURCES AND A RISK TO PERSONAL WELL BEING ON MANY LEVELS. THIS IS A BIG SUBJECT AND ONE THAT WAS ADDRESSED AS A NEW CHAPTER IN THE SECOND EDITION OF MY BOOK (WITH MY COAUTHOR), 2009 – Aromatherapy, a complete guide to the healing art.

JB: This may not be an area you have insight on, but we are all familiar with natural products like Aubrey Organics and John Masters that are prevalent in natural grocery stores. Are products like these using sustainable practices in regards to the herbs and essential oils in their products?

MG: I AM NOT AWARE OF THE SUSTAINABILITY POLICIES OF THESE COMPANIES, IN PARTICULAR. THOUGH, HAVING WORKED AT A LARGE ENVIRONMENTALLY AWARE COSMETIC COMPANY FOR MANY YEARS, I CAN TELL YOU THAT ESSENTIAL OILS ARE GENERALLY USED AT VERY LOW PERCENTAGES FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS: COST, RESOURCE LIMITATIONS, CONSUMER SENSITIVITIES AND LIABILITY. ALSO, MANY ESSENTIAL ARE EFFECTIVE IN EXTREMELY LOW DILUTIONS, SO NOT MUCH IS REQUIRED, DEPENDING ON THE CLAIMS A COMPANY MIGHT BE MAKING OR WHAT THE PRODUCT IS TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH.

JB: What, if any, challenges do you see with herbalism and the natural products industry in the near future?

MG: I SEE MUCH MORE INTEREST; EVEN MAIN STREAM TV COMMERCIALS ARE BRAGGING ABOUT BEING MADE WITH NATURAL INGREDIENTS AND NOT CONTAINING ARTIFICIAL COLORS, ETC. ALSO, THERE ARE MANY DOCS BEING TRAINED IN INTEGRATIVE CARE, PROVIDING GREATER EXPOSURE FOR MANY ADJUNCT TREATMENTS BEYOND ALLOPATHY. IN GENERAL, I BELIEVE THIS CAN BE A POSITIVE STEP FORWARD, ONE THAT MANY OF US HAD HOPED TO SEE WHEN WE STARTED OUT 40 YEARS AGO. HOWEVER, THIS ALSO REQUIRES MORE AWARENESS OF RESPONSIBLE SUSTAINABILITY PRACTICES AND MORE ORGANIC SOURCING AND CULTIVATION FOR RAW PLANT MATERIALS TO KEEP UP WITH DEMAND. IT ALSO REQUIRES THAT CONSUMERS BE AWARE OF ADULTERATION IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN FOR THE HERB AND ESSENTIAL OIL INDUSTRIES.

 JB: Would you like to add anything about herbalism, aromatherapy, or your services?

MG: THE GROWING INTEREST IN PHYTOTHERAPIES IS EXCITING. I MEET NEW GRADUATES OF WELL QUALIFIED EDUCATION PROGRAMS AND IT IS GREAT TO SEE ALL THE WAYS THEY ARE INTEGRATING THEIR PRACTICE IN MODERN HEALTHCARE, ESPECIALLY WITH NUTRITION AND HERBAL THERAPIES. I WISH THEY WERE IN PLACE WHEN I WAS YOUNG, BUT MANY OF MY CONTEMPORARIES WERE THE INITIATORS OF SUCH PROGRAMS. IT IS WONDERFUL TO SEE THE EVOLUTION OF THOSE FIRST SPARKS OF THE NATURAL PRODUCTS MOVEMENT.

I DON’T SELL PRODUCTS ON MY WEBSITE, BUT PROVIDE SERVICES TO THOSE SMALL COMPANIES JUST STARTING OUT, OFFERING THE WISDOM OF MY EXPERIENCE OVER THE PAST 43 YEARS IN MANY ASPECTS OF THIS INDUSTRY.

JB: Thank you for taking the time for this interview and for your love of spreading the wisdom of the plants.  I have included a link so readers can find out more about your consultation business. 

Mindy Green’s consultation business: www.greenscentsations

National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists: www.naha.org

Alliance of International Aromatherapists: http://www.alliance-aromatherapists.org/

Blessings,

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Jessica