Those of you who read my blog know that I’m not a sugar coated unicorn-loving optimist. If anything I see unicorns as the symbol of white masculinity. Maybe if unicorns weren’t almost always depicted as white I’d feel differently.
This blog post isn’t about unicorns or white masculinity.
Today is one of those testy days. I got sick yesterday, which is pretty rare for me. There’s also some stress in our lives (good and bad) that have altered my sleep patterns. Not to mention a weekend of good times at the Baby Bathwater Institute Members Only Mastermind that definitely over stimulated me!
To bring myself back into balance (in body and mood) after too much stimulation I always come back to my herbs. They always know exactly what I need. This is what’s in my medicine cabinet today.
I’m rolling this blend on my chest, neck, and behind my ears. The therapeutic properties of Douglas Fir, Tulsi Basil, Eucalyptus radiata, Scots Pine, and Clary Sage help me take deep breaths and let go of the irritation and agitation I feel.
– GET OUT THE FUNK TEA– This is a blend that is my go-to when I’m sick. I don’t measure any of the herbs, but you can blend 1-2 teaspoons of each herb together and add as much as you want to a quart jar that you drink throughout the day. I’ll probably drink 2-3 quarts of tea over the course of the day. Blend together elderberries, citrus peel, peppermint, yarrow, and ginger.
– WATER– I can’t tell you how much water I’ve had today. Although my throat hurts I drink water and/or tea constantly to stay hydrated.
– REST– Guilt and commitments make me think I need to push through, regardless of how tired I am. Reality tells me that I should rest so I recover faster. Most of the time it’s okay if work waits until after a nap (which I am going to take right now).
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.
We are a country divided. I have heard this said over and over again lately and I have seen this polarization play out all over social media- especially Facebook. I have absolutely participated, as I have been quick to anger, to point fingers, and to make generalized statements about people I disagree with.
I am acting exactly like what I loathe and think I am working against. I am allowing myself to get riled up and angry, instead of transforming that energy into something productive. An example being a recent post I made on a Clinical Herbalists Facebook Group about a conference in Alabama that was threatening to kick out anyone being political.
First of all their statements about what being political are were vague and I thought it was rude of them to threaten to kick people out of their conference for disruptive behavior related to politics. The organizers state “this conference is for participants to reconnect with the land and our first love of using plants and alternative medicine.” Yes, that’s the reason we attend herbal conferences, but to censor people’s speech about politics (herbal medicine and politics are deeply intertwined unfortunately) is ridiculous. The keynote speaker took offense to their statements as well and has chosen to step down from speaking.
Second of all, it is a conference called The Deep South Conference without any sort of representation of the people that come from the South. There is one teacher that is a Cherokee man, but all others are Caucasian. Which is not uncommon at herbal conferences in the U.S.- just a little shocking when the name is the Deep South Conference and there is not one single black teacher. The south (if you haven’t been) has no shortage of African American herbalists.
I don’t think we can separate politics from herbalism. Most of us have learned some form of indigenous herbalism and we take for granted how easy and accessible it has been. It’s why we didn’t think twice (until recently) about burning sage and palo santo. We have never been prosecuted, shamed or killed for practicing our beliefs. We just got to expose ourselves to whatever we wanted to learn and then shout it to the rooftops as if everyone has had the privilege and right to do it.
As herbalists, we are activists! Even if we don’t want to see ourselves that way, it is our responsible to change, not only what we perceive health to be, but to make sure everyone has equal access to the medicines of the Earth. We must work to make herbal medicine affordable and accessible to as many people as we can. No one should be left out when it comes to working with plant medicines. But because of political structures that continue to keep up the business of capitalism and a racist foundation that we value one person’s life above another, this is not possible.
And that is why I have to speak out.
If you need some help building Courage or Resolve, remember your herbal allies. It could be a good time to call upon Eleutherococcus senticosis (Siberian ginseng) to help adapt to the changes in your life and relationships as you speak your truth more clearly. Maybe you need Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn) to transform your emotions of frustration and hate to clarity and compassion. It could be that you need to wear aromatic herbs like Lavender and Rose as an amulet or (diluted) essential oil to keep you calm and centered during heated conversations.
We always have a choice as to how we are going to react. Maybe tomorrow I’ll react calmer when faced with colleagues that don’t want to rock the boat or call out injustice. Instead of attacking them with cynicism and withdrawal, hopefully I’ll be able to have a more intelligent conversation. I’ll do my best.
when energy flows, wellness grows
Featured Image: Photo taken by Jessica Baker Artist- Apex
I’m super stoked about this podcast episode because it is with a successful stoner sister, Rachael Carlevale. Rachael is the founder of Ganjasana, a ganja infused training that incorporates permaculture, plant medicine, and yoga. It is truly a unique concept for a yoga teacher training.
I don’t want to give the episode away, but as a teaser I’ll tell you she has studied in Peru with Chris Kilham (Medicine Hunter) through UMASS. Rachael won a grant from Cosmic Sister to go back to Peru years later and she an activist for all plant medicine. Oh, and she loves good ganja.
We had a great time recording this interview. I hope you enjoy listening to it! Remember to Subscribe to The Herb Walk Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher!
ps. My visions for 2019 blog post will be released this weekend. It’s kind of a heavy one, y’all….
How is it November already!? Like many of you, I’m surprised once again of how quickly time passes. We are deep into Autumn and the holiday season is quickly approaching. Many of you know that in Chinese medicine theory, there are 5 Elements or Phases that have several correspondences, including a season. Autumn is associated with the Metal Element, as are the organ systems of the lungs and large intestines, the emotions of grief and acceptance, and the flavor of spicy.
Phase of Life
Spicy (Acrid, Pungent)
Po- Corporeal Soul
Each element has a flavor or taste attached to it. In Chinese herbalism, flavors have very specific actions and can travel to precise areas of the body. Understanding the energetics of herbs and foods is essential in combining effective formulas.
The spicy flavor of the herbs has the specific function of dispersing Qi (vital life force energy) from the external part of the body, called the Wei Qi. You’re probably thinking, Ok, so what does dispersing qi from the external part of the body mean?
When qi is dispersed throughout the Wei Qi, the pores open and sweating occurs- reducing body temperature and pushing external pathogens, or “evil qi” out of the body. When someone has a strong Wei Qi, the pathogens that cause cold or flu are pushed out of the body. If there is a weak Wei Qi, the immune system is not strong enough to fight off the pathogen and frequent and recurrent colds may occur. A weakened Wei Qi can also be associated with Lung Qi deficiency that manifests as seasonal allergies, asthma and even eczema.
After twenty years of studying herbal medicine and ten years as an acupuncturist, I have years of experience working with all of these conditions. My love of aromatic plants and Chinese Medicine is what inspired me to create my Baker Botanica 5 Element Essential Oil line. Resolve, my Metal Element blend includes spicy herbs like Eucalyptus radiata, Douglas Fir, Scots Pine, and Tulsi (Holy) Basil. Terpenes in Holy Basil are proven anti-pyretics (fever reducers) and Eucalyptus radiata is not only safe for children, but also has strong anti-bacterial and expectorant properties. The delicate notes of Douglas Fir and the sharpness of Scots Pine provide additional anti-microbial properties.
The therapeutic properties of aromatic plants are well documented, not only in Chinese medicine, but also from medicines around the world. Today most of us have access to highly medicinal plants and we don’t even think about. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, fennel, cilantro, parsley, garlic, onions, and scallions are found in grocery stores around the world, and although we think of them as culinary herbs, we have forgotten how they have been used as medicine for centuries.
To find out more about spicy herbs, the Metal Element (including our corporeal soul, Po) and more, check out the first episode of Season 2 of my podcast, The Herb Walk with Jessica Baker on iTunes. And please Subscribe and leave a review so I can serve you better!
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!!
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.
It astonishes me how many essential oil companies encourage excessive use of essential oils. These companies are well aware of how much plant matter it takes to make an essential oil, still they promote undiluted use and harmful large doses (yes, one drop of some essential oils can be a large dose).
The amount of plants needed depends on what plant is being used. The amount of oil that is extracted from each batch will fluctuate due to many factors such as temperature and climate, interaction with insects, soil health, fertilizer use, and other natural and human influences.
Since Lavender (Lavandula angustofolia) is so popular and Rose (Rosa damascena) so expensive and exotic, I will use them as our examples.
Plant Part Needed to make an Essential Oil
Approximate Flowers Needed for a Pound of Essential Oil
Approximate Flowers Needed for 30 ml (1 fl. oz) of Essential Oil
Approximate Flowers Needed for aDrop of Essential Oil
References: Crop Watch, Mountain Rose Herbs
As you can see, there is a dramatic difference between how much plant matter it takes to make an ounce of essential oil. What is evident is that it takes A LOT of material to make a small amount of essential oil.
That is why I am so concerned when I hear companies tell people to use essential oils for everything from anxiety to digestive issues. With the knowledge of how many plants it takes to make even an ounce of essential oils, it is obvious that our current use of essential oils is not sustainable. Why use a highly concentrated essential oil, when inhaling a single flower or drinking a simple cup of herbal tea will do the trick.
If we want the variety of essential oils we enjoy to be available in the future, we should not be using essential oils undiluted, we definitely should not be using them in the irreverent way they are being used now, and we shouldn’t purchase oils from companies that don’t care about sustainability. The greedy practices of MLM companies like Young Living and doTerra, which promote inappropriate and excessive use of essential oils, do not care how their business practices perpetuate habitat extinction and ecological instability across the globe. All they care about is making more and more money off of destroying our precious plant species.
A prime example is how last year Young Living was sentenced for violating the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act for the illegal trafficking of Rosewood (Aniba roseaodora) essential oil. This is a serious crime, as Aniba roseadora is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Sure Young Living was fined $760,000 for their offense, but the Justice Department calculates the market value of Rosewood essential oil they sold to be between $3.5-$9 million. Young Living made a pretty penny off their crime as they contributed to the decimation of one of our many endangered species. Way to go! Not really the values of a company I want to support.
In my 5 Element Essential Oil Blends I use the least amount of essential oil possible to elicit the aromatic properties I want in each of my 5 Element creations. I think it is extremely important to educate people on the importance of conservative use of our plant medicines. The enthusiasm for these precious oils is potent, and I know you want to use these precious oils. It is absolutely imperative, we use them wisely. If you want to learn more more about aromatherapy and on how to properly dilute essential oils, watch my video on Dilution & Frequency of Essential Oils
We have to use our dollars wisely and hold companies (and each other) accountable for our actions, or I fear there won’t be many plant species for our future generations. It will take all of us doing our part. I’m glad we’re on this journey together.
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.
My feet ached after three nights of dancing to one of my favorite bands, STS9. Two of those nights were at Red Rocks Amphitheater, which boasts 380 stairs to the top. Needless to say, I needed to soak my feet!
I pulled out my resin foot bowl, filled it hot water, threw in flowers, sea salt, and a couple of drops of essential oil, grabbed a book (Educated by Tara Westover- not the best book when trying to relax, but a must read if you haven’t), a joint, a glass of water, and chilled. It was beautiful.
And not something I do often enough. As I sat there feeling the warmth of the salt water and the aroma of the herbs work their magic, I began to breathe long deep breaths of relief. The intensity of the last couple of months moved through me and freed up tension that entangled my muscles and my mind.
After three eclipses, everything retrograde, and moving into production of my essential oil line, I finally felt like myself again. The effects of a little self-love and recognition for the transformations I have gone through are still marinating, but it feels good. Like I will transcend into loving myself for exactly who I am.
I share my Sunday Evening Come Down Foot Soothing Soak recipe with you, but I encourage you to choose whichever flowers and herbs you need that day.
Sunday Evening Come Down Foot Soothing Soak
Handful of Sea Salt (can use Epsom salt)
Handful of dried Organic Rose petals
3 sprigs of fresh Tulsi Basil (from my friend Willow’s yard)
3 sprigs of fresh Garden Sage (from my yard)
6 sprigs of fresh Mints (variety from my yard)
2 drops of Lavender essential oil
Muddle the herbs and add to footbath (bin, or tub big enough to fit both feet), along with the salt. Fill the bath 1/4-1/2 full with water that has been boiled. Add enough cold water to have your feet rest comfortably. Add essential oil and disperse it in the water. Take a moment of gratitude as you immerse your soles in the warm liquid. Soak your feet for as long as you feel like it. Keep adding hot water (it’s awesome if you have someone boiling water and replenishing it for you, but that could be wishful thinking). After you dry your feet, apply coconut oil liberally. Pour the herbal water into your grass or garden. Give thanks for the nourishment they provide.
If you don’t have a bin or tub large enough to fit both feet, or your body wants it, make this a bath soak instead of a foot soak.
Take care of those souls. And remember to keep on dancing.