This episode of The Herb Walk Podcast is very close to my heart. I have had the pleasure of being friends with Kelly Green, COO of Refugio Altiplano, for almost 15 years. We met as neighbors on a 5 acre piece of land outside Watsonville, California when I was a graduate student at Five Branches University. Who knew all these years later he would be the proprietor of Refugio Altiplano, a Natural Healing Medicine Center in the Amazon jungle in Peru.
Kelly’s first trip to Peru 18 years ago led him to Iquitos and unknowingly, Refugio Altiplano. A random encounter at a cafe got him on a boat with a stranger and a lifelong connection to the river, land and people began. Kelly met Jose Huanaquiri, a Mestizo Ayahuascero that is the true custodian of Refugio, on that very first visit and now they share a heartfelt friendship.
As “medical” and ayahuasca tourism becomes more popular there is also a lot of concern and controversy. Unstable guests are permitted to sit in ceremony even when shamans or staff are concerned about their mental stability. There have been some very unfortunate incidents, including the murder of a well-known and respected female shaman who tried to get the murderer arrested by Peruvian police multiple times before he shot her.
People are not going to stop going to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca, and this is why it is so important that there are places like Refugio Altiplano. Guests are required to fill out a medical form prior to attending and Kelly and Jose will reject people that do not meet their criteria (many centers don’t reject anyone that has the money to pay). Refugio has a strict policy regarding inappropriate guests and once escorted back to Iquitos, they are not allowed back at the center for any reason. Holding a safe and sacred space for guests is always paramount at Refugio, as they understand the depth of healing that has the potential to occur.
The staff at Refugio are highly regarded for their compassion and understanding for the experiences the guests are having. The warmth and tenderness that everyone from the guards, to the women in the kitchen, to the shamans, is genuine. They are all available to guests to help with anything you need. The kinship and love that flows from them, from the jungle, from the river, will permeate your soul and stay with you forever.
If you or someone you know is interested in ayahuasca or traveling to Peru, share this episode so they can learn more. I suggest listening in a hot damp room surrounding by the sounds of insects to help set the Amazon vibe. If you’ve got mosquitos, even better.
Due to my lack of computer savviness, I’ve been having some issues with my podcasts uploading to Stitcher and other platforms. iTunes seems to be ok! My editor is also waay backed up so my episode releases may be delayed as well. I will try my hardest to remain consistent in releasing podcasts this season, but Fear not- all episodes will be released! I’m just chalking these glitches up to Mercury Retrograde and am going with it.
That being said, this episode of The Herb Walk Podcast is one of my favorites, because I got to interview my friend, Nicole Gagliano of Wild and Wise Herbal CSA. Being an herbalist, farmer, and wildcrafter, Nicole’s herbal CSA includes a newsletter and seasonally inspired treats like delicious teas, balms and salves, and even her own distilled hydrosols! Nicole is also a great chef, hilarious, and great to be around. I look forward to the next time we’re together!
Enjoy this episode as we discuss herbalism, conservation, herbal CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), living in Humboldt County, and much more!
Remember to Subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode! I also just uploaded an episode of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker, where I’m asked about the truth behind the misconceptions of Cannabis sativa and indica. Next week’s blog I’ll share my thoughts on MJBizCon and a post I wrote for The Real Dirt blog going into more depth about the origins of Cannabis. I think you may be surprised!
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.
Brrrrrrr…a cold, wet storm has been hovering over Colorado for the last few days. The leaves have turned, and I see the squirrels scurry around preparing for the coming Winter, I have been wearing my scarf and gloves, but for the first time since I moved to Denver, I am not lamenting the coming cold.
I am excited to make more oatmeal congees, where I will add butter and honey, cinnamon, ginger, jujube dates, and citrus peel. I look forward to big pots of beans and stewed roots. I will have early nights of reading by dimmed lights, with a warm cup of herbal tea by my side. Just writing about it makes me want to cuddle up with a good book.
I’ve been drinking a really delicious tea lately and it is perfect for not only warming heart and soul on cold nights, it is also full of flavonoids and proanthocyanidins, which have shown to fight infections and reduce effects of colds and flu. I drink a couple of cups each morning, but you can have up to a quart a day if you so desire.
Elder Rose Immuni-Tea
2 ounces dried Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
2 ounces dried Citrus peel (Citrus reticulata) organic or unsprayed; I use mandarin or tangerine peels
1/2 ounce dried Red Rose petals (Rosa centifola) organic or unsprayed
1/2 ounce dried Milky Oats (Avena sativa)
1/4 ounce dried Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
Mix all ingredients together and store in a glass jar in a cool, dark location. Use 2-3 tbsp of herbs per 2 cups of tea. Boil water and pour hot water over herbs for 10-20 minutes, cover with lid. Strain herbs and set aside to use one more time (if steeped for less than 20 minutes). Add honey if desired. Sip and feel the herbs nourish and strengthen your body, mind, and spirit.
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.
My husband and I took a road trip to Tennessee for our 11th wedding anniversary (we celebrated our 11th year on the Harvest Moon). As we drove the thousand plus miles to Chattanooga, there were moments when I was overwhelmed with emotion at the beauty of our planet.
This was my first (I think) driving through Kansas, Missouri, and Kentucky. Growing up, we would drive back to Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida to visit family during our summer or holiday breaks, but I don’t remember going this way. I love a new adventure, and even miles and miles of farmland had me enthralled.
The changing of the seasons was palatable, with chilly nights and fallen leaves. With each new terrain, I gave thanks for the opportunity to witness the natural shifts that occur in nature, and within myself. Like a child, I saw everything with new eyes, in awe of the miracle of existence.
As I drove through sunflowers, cornfields, and hay bales I was inspired me to create a tea as pleasing as the journey east with the love of my life (and our hound dog, Alice).
Milky Silk Rose Tea
1/2 ounce dried Rose Petals, unsprayed- for loving life fully
1/2 ounce dried Milky Oats- for nourishing life
1/2 ounce dried Citrus Peel- for regulating energy
1/2 ounce dried Corn Silk- for remembering what’s really important
1/2 ounce dried Elderberries- for strengthening vitality
Mix all dried herbs together and store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place. Take 1 tbsp of herbs and steep in hot water for 10-15 minutes. Strain out herbs, sip, and think of what a wonder it is to be alive, right here, right now. What are you grateful for? How can you help others to see the miracle that is their life?
I am still beaming from my weekend at the Red Earth Herbal Gathering. It will be hard to explain the myriad of emotions I felt as opened myself to gathering with women with the intention for ritual and healing, but I will try. I will describe my experiences if not for personal catharsis, then to entice you to join us next year.
I arrived at Peaceful Meadows Retreat early on Friday morning because I was in charge
of the Wellness tent and needed to set up before attendees came. I was given a shaded area near Registration and right beside the Kid Village. As I unpacked my supplies, I could feel the relaxed, joyful energy of the land and it infused me instantly. I knew deep healing would take place in this sacred place.
As women and children arrived and registered, the Sacred Gateway opened and we were all smudged and cleared with floral water as entered the doorway. Once inside, we burnt our worries and fears and wrote our intentions on fabric to link together with other peoples dreams and wishes. At the end of the entryway, we were greeted by women who offered us henna tattoos, card readings, and aromatic spritzers and elixirs. By the time I made it through the gateway I felt elated and rooted simultaneously. I glided to my campsite on the far edge of the large pond and watched geese take off and land.
Opening Circle was Saturday morning in the meadow near the Red Tent and the Womb Room. Teachers, volunteers, and sponsors were introduced so I spoke about my class, Rooted in Integrity: Working with Essential Oils and the free services we were offering at the Wellness tent. Besides basic first-aid, we had tinctures and elixirs for menstrual cramps, allergies, coughs, and emotional support. I offered tuning fork treatments for a few hours on Saturday afternoon, which was well received by recipients and so healing and fun for me.
I was only able to catch part of the keynote speaker, Lorene Wapotich, on Friday night. Her talk on creating sacred space and ritual resonated with us all. Because of Wellness duties, teaching, and relaxing by the pond with my friend Willow (and her 3-year old daughter Athena), I only attended a couple of classes the entire weekend. Saturday morning I chose to listen to Ann Drucker teach on Maya Spiritual Healing with Plants. I experienced her teachings last year at Red Earth, so I knew I wanted to be in her presence again. As I had hoped, we gave each other limpias, plant brushings and plant baths. We called in the Maya spirits with plants and chocolate, prayed over each other, and laughed and cried all our cares away.
Saturday night Shaela Noella led a song circle around the campfire. One by one women went around the fire and sang whatever they desired. Bethy Love Light, conscious hip hop artist, performed some songs and many women led songs that were call and response or sing-along. All were beautifully performed. I am still in awe of all the talent by the fire that night. When it was my turn I gathered the courage to sing a song I wrote earlier this summer. It is to the tune of Let It Be and is my devotional to Mother Nature. It felt good (and scary) to stand and sing in front of friends and strangers.
Before I taught my essential oil class on Sunday morning, I attended the Green Tent, an offering from Rachael Carlevale of Ganjasana. The Green Tent is a combination of of yoga, ganja, and ceremony. Rachael is wonderful and her class was the perfect way to start the day.
For my class I chose to teach about how important it is to use essential oils sparingly and reverently. Most of the women in the class didn’t know about sandalwood being harvested to extinction or how much plant material it takes to make very little essential oil (roses are an extreme example, but it takes 20-50 rosesto make 1 drop of rose essential oil!)
I always teach that herbal teas, oils, and tinctures should be the first line of defense, and
then use essential oils when stronger medicine is needed. Essential oils should not be used for every scrape and ailment, not only because of developing oversensitivity to the oils, but because the planet’s resources cannot sustain the current trend of essential oil use. I encourage students that use essential oils for aromatherapy massage to dilute essential oils in carrier oil before applying to the skin. To ensure that essential oils from plants like cedar wood, sandalwood, and even lavender, are around for future generations, we must dilute our essential oils and cease the practice of “neat” application. The students in the class were thankful for educating them about the environmental impacts of large-scale essential oil production and they left class with alternatives for essential oils when working with aromatic plants (incense, aromatic steams, fresh flowers, infused oils).
After my class, it was time for the Red TentInitiation, led by Ixeeya Lin and Astrid Grove. The Red Tent is a place where women gather to give and receive wisdom. Also called the Moon Lodge, the Red Tent was traditionally where menstruating women gathered during their moon time. In offering this space, the facilitators of Red Earth did not necessarily seek to recreate the traditions of other times/cultures, rather they wanted to create space within our present reality to honor the sanctity of women’s experience of menarche, menstruation and menopause.
Outside of the Red Tent, we lined up from oldest to youngest and as snake women began shedding our skins as we spiral danced into a circle. As we entered the tent, we were brushed with plants, smudged and welcomed into the sacred womb. I won’t describe the rituals performed in the Red Tent because they were intensely personal, sad, powerful, and healing. I left feeling more rooted and secure in myself than I have in many months. Joy surged through me as I remembered my own divinity.
Everyone was over-stimulated, full, grateful, and exhausted, so Closing Circle was short and sweet on Sunday afternoon. I finished packing up my campsite and Wellness tent. I was filled to the brim with joy and relaxation, deeply grateful for the power of women healing together, and eager to see my husband again.
Please join us next year at the Red Earth Herbal Gathering! We would love to share these healing practices with you.