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

Winter Solstice-Water Element Podcast Episode

The ultimate yin energy is upon us on December 21st as Winter Solstice approaches and we experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This year, we will also have a Solstice Full Moon to illuminate the night sky. 

In Chinese medicine, the day after Winter Solstice is when yang begins to rise again. As yin was dominant with the lengthening days, yang ascends slowly to overtake yin. Yang dominates after Spring Equinox when yin and yang reside in balance for a brief Earth day. 

The beginning of Winter also moves us from the Metal Element into the Water Element. (This statement needs a little clarification: For many of us that study the 5 elements, the Earth element/phase represents the 18 day transitional period between each season; therefore the Earth element is between the Metal and Water elements, and so forth).

The Water Element has many correspondences, like the season of Winter, the color of black/dark blue, and the flavor of salty. Instead of writing it all out for you- listen to this week’s episode of The Herb Walk Podcast where I discuss Winter Solstice, the Water Element, and deer penises (you’re just gonna have to listen to find out why!)

May your days be merry and bright!

With love,

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Sunday Evening Come Down Foot Soak

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.

If you want more herbal recipes, check out my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine from Balboa Press.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

We Are So Blessed

“We are so blessed

   We are so blessed

     We are so grateful

       We are so blessed”

I love the Karen Drucker song I am so blessed. I change the lyrics to “We are” instead of “I am” because I know that feels right to me today. One person is not truly blessed until we all are.

There is so much sadness in the world right now. The earthquake on the border of Iran and Iraq and the school shooting in Northern California are just the latest disaster that brings my grief to the surface. Life is so precious and I want to remember how blessed I am every single moment of the day. I want to be grateful with every breath and courageous in every action.

This doesn’t always happen and instead I am overwhelmed and fearful. My anxiety rises and my breathing shallows. I consciously breathe deep and long, feeling the connection between my lungs and my kidneys. In Chinese medicine, the qi (energy) of the kidney rises up and grasps the lung qi, guiding it down to the lower abdomen. I feel my breath reach my belly and low back. AHHH! I begin to relax as my shoulders drop and the tension in my jaw releases. Another deep breath. Gratitude.

To strengthen both my lung and kidney qi and give me energy to assimilate the world, I huang qi (astragalus slices).aa7569a1like to work with the herb Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus). Huang Qi is a popular qi tonic whose virtues are not overrated. I like to add 3 slices of the Huang Qi to rice and soup stocks, along with 1 Hong Zao (Ziziphus jujuba), and 3 slices of Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula).

Huang Qi reinforces wei qi defensive energy- “immune system”), while Hong Zao and Dang Shen tonify qi, improve digestion and calm spirit.

When our qi is strong and our spirit is calm, we are able to absorb the turbid energy of those around us. We can transform anger and fear into compassion. When this happens, our words and actions will be benevolent and we are one step closer to a blessed world for us all.

For the love of plants,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

Somehow all the craziness of the last few weeks has finally left my body and I am starting to feel “normal” again. Right now, “normal” means I have hours where I don’t feel panicked or despair. I am sleeping pretty well again and I don’t believe we are all going to hell in a hand basket. At least not today.

When my anxiety rises I’ve noticed all of my self-care techniques and advice to my clients go out the window. It’s like I don’t know what herbs and oils I need to be in balance. I am great at doing this for others, but not always for myself. I finally got enough distance from it to remember what I need to do.

  1. Breathe! It sounds obvious but it’s not. I have finally been taking deep breaths and it feels great! 
  2. Drink herbal tea! Again, sounds easy enough but when I’m stressed I go for black tea instead of nourishing nervines. My favorite this week (and every week)- skullcap and oat straw.
  3. Sniff essential oils! Not straight out of the bottle necessarily, but I’ve been using my diluted roll-ons. This week my go-to’s have been St. John’s Wort, Hemp, and Frankincense. My mood has improved and I have a much brighter outlook on life. 
  4. Walk in the woods. Or sit on the beach. Or go into nature and just be. You will feel wonderful. And you’ll breathe better!

For the love of plants,

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows

How to Make Calendula Salve

Last week I shared a recipe on how to make a calendula infused oil. If you’re ready, we can take this oil and make it into a salve. It’s super easy and fun!

Ingredients:

250 ml Calendula or other Herbal Oil

6-8 ounces beeswax

10 drops Essential oil of choice (optional)

Supplies:

Double Boiler

Wooden spoon

Dark, Glass Jars

Essential Oils

Heat oil and beeswax in a Double Boiler on low heat until beeswax is completely melted.

Test the firmness by placing a tablespoon of mixture in the freezer for 1-2 minutes. For a softer salve, add more oil. For a harder salve, add more beeswax.

Remove salve mixture from heat and add 10 drops essential oil. Stir with wooden spoon.

Immediately pour into dark, glass jars. Put on lids after salve has cooled.

Used on dry, irritated skin, bug bites, or scrapes.

With love,

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Jessica

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

A Common Sense Approach to Cleansing

So many people are obsessed with Spring cleanses. I enjoy a good cleanse, but I think it is often misunderstood and steeped in the idea that we are “dirty”, “unclean” and “impure.” I disagree with this notion (and think our patriarchal religions have contributed to this way of thinking.)

A Spring cleanse is important when we have been eating heavy or fatty foods that are needed in the Winter to keep us warm and nurtured through the long, cold months. A cleanse should be a nice break for the liver, which has to process everything we take into our bodies, including emotions.

For me I like my cleanse to last about a week. For 2-3 days I just eat simply. I like to have steamed vegetables and greens, well cooked rice or quinoa, and I drink only water and an herbal tea of dandelion flowers & greens, violet leaves & flowers, milky oat tops and horsetail. Then for 1-2 days only I will have only water, herbal tea, and diluted fruit and vegetable juice (my favorite juice is carrot, beet, kale, ginger and lemon). If I feel I need more sustenance, I will have one or two servings of steamed vegetables. Then another day or two of eating simply. That’s it! 

I don’t condone a cleanse that requires a ton of supplements. That is not giving your liver a much needed break. Which is the point of a cleanse! Be gentle with yourself, go slow and observe how eating simply feels within your body.

Lovin’ Myself Like Spring Teadandelion-tea-photo

1 tbsp Dandelion flowers & greens

1 tbsp Violet leaves & flowers

1 tbsp Milky oat tops

1 tbsp Horsetail 

If using fresh herbs, use 3 tbsp instead of 1 tbsp 

Add all herbs to 2 cups of hot water. Steep for 10-15 minutes. The tea will get bitter, but try to drink without sweetener. If it is too bitter, steep for only 5 minutes. Strain herbs and drink throughout the day. Try to have at least 2-3 cups of herbal tea each day during your cleanse.

With love,

JessicaBaker

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Hawthorn: Healer of the Heart

There is much to be said about the division we feel in the U.S.  The fundamental difference in how we view equality has always been here, but it is now being fully illuminated with the help of social media. I know I’ve been feeling more separated from humanity than ever before. Growing up in a military family and  moving often, I have always felt a step removed from other people. Relationships and places were temporary and that’s how I viewed life for a long time.

That changed for me when I moved to Humboldt County in 1997. The redwood forest instantly felt like home. I have cultivated friendships that have lasted almost two decades and I know what tribe, community and friendship mean. I am also grateful to have part of that tribe in Colorado. Their love has made my most recent transition to Denver much easier.

This division is certainly affecting my community, and I know it’s affecting most of yours too. There have been times when I am so overwhelmed I feel paralyzed in fear, anger and a deep sense of anguish that I haven’t experienced since my Grandma passed away thirteen years ago. Along with my qi gong and yoga practices, it is the plants that bring me back to myself. They give me strength and momentum when I want to give up on humanity and escape back into my redwood canopy.

hawthorn flowersIt is always, Hawthorn (Crataegus spp)- our master Heart healer that is here for me when I am in deep despair, heartache or grief. The leaf, flowers and berries all have cardiotonic action and have been used to treat heart disease in cultures around the world. The berries are known to dissolve fats and lower cholesterol, but I also hawthorn-tree-with-ripe-red-berrieslike to think of them dissolving all the heaviness of sadness or fear. When I drink a cup of hawthorn tea, I feel nourished, satiated, safe. I feel comforted and enlivened all at once. My shen, spirit, is at peace.

Once I have this peace within myself, I begin to have compassion for others. I can see their journey, their hurt, their fear and I just send them love. And I remember our place is with the plants, with the forests, and with the sea. We are a part of all life on Earth. We are not here to dominate, to rule, to conquer. We are here to live in peace. We just have to find it within ourself to remember.

Today, remember who you are and treat yourself with a warm cup of Hawthorn tea. Or find a Hawthorn tree in your area to sit under and return the love that she gives to you.

With love,

JessicaBaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Featured Art: “Hawthorn tree” by Arthur Rackman 

Ah-choo! Herbs for Allergies

April showers bring May flowers! Or in the case of Denver today, April snow brings much needed moisture to Colorado. A couple of days ago, everyone was sniffling and sneezing as our early Spring winds blew pollen and flowers all over us. Now we are back into Winter, leaving our bodies not quite sure how to react.

To strengthen your Wei Qi (Defensive layer of energy), begin taking Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceous) and Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). You can take as a tincture, tea or syrup. Also drink 2 cups of Nettle (Urtica diocia) a day. Fresh if possible. There’s nothing like the new growth of wild nettle to stop that post natal drip and watery eyes.

Remember, even one or two cups of herbal tea a day can make a big difference.

With love,

JessicaBaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows