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
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!
Although I’m 42 (43 in less a month!) I felt like last year was a year of growing up a little bit more. I’ve had to reconsider the trajectory of my career and make some serious decisions on how I want to move forward. I’ve had to face some past traumas that are preventing me from growing the way I want to.
I have always been a feminist. At least as long as I can remember, I had a sense of the inequality between men and women. My family is from the south, and I’ve seen misogyny (and racism) from a very young age and loathed it from the get go. The last couple of years was a reminder of how little respect our politicians have for women. And for indigenous women and women of color, it has become even more blatant. (We have had some victories like Ms. Cynotia Brown)
It’s hard to talk about inequality for women without admitting the inherent system of racism that is the fundamental principal that the United States of America is founded on. If we truly want equality for women, then we have to look at the deeper issue of white supremacy and domination.
What does this have to do with herb blog?Everything! Most of the herbal business models are also built on the foundations of capitalism, which really only work if someone along the way isn’t really being paid a living wage or someone’s indigenous land is now exploited for profit. Yes there are some amazing companies out there to support, but we have to do our research and not blindly buy from any herb or essential oil company. We have to become conscientious consumerisms and organic gardeners if we want our favorite herbs and oils to be around for future generations.
Most important, we have to admit that as white people in America, we have a privilege that non-white people have. We also have a responsibility to try to change the colonization mentality that our ancestors have spread across the planet. We are not at fault for their transgressions but we are to blame if we don’t acknowledge our current role in the perpetuation of their ideals and beliefs.
I encourage you to listen to the book called Waking Up Whiteby Debby Irving. She grew up rich in New England and had to come to grips with her own inherent privilege and racism. I think it’s important for all white people to hear how insidious white supremacy has affected all of our lives. Even for those of us that think it doesn’t pertain to us.
One thing I’m working on all year (and the rest of my life) is the Me and White Supremacy Workbook by author and podcaster Layla F. Saad. For now it is a free download, although feel free to donate generously to her work. The White Supremacy Workbook is going to be essential for my understanding of how I can do better as a white woman.
Ok, kind of deep thoughts for my reflections on 2018 and how I want to envision my 2019. I am excited for what’s ahead! May you find your truth this year and live it to the fullest! The world needs your participation.
when energy flows, wellness grows
Featured Image: Rep. Ruth Anna Buffalo image by Lea Black Photography
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….
Last week I totally linked the wrong episode to the blog post. Instead of The Real Dirt episode from Peru, I linked the episode where I discuss cannabis taxonomy and the differences of Indica and Sativa. Although that’s a great interview, I meant to share my first experience at Refugio Altiplano in the Amazon jungle in Peru. The Real Dirt host Chip Baker and I discuss my love of herbalism, how we met at the University of Georgia through the Cannabis Action Network and other engaging topics of plant medicine.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to get my thoughts in order after all that sugar intake yesterday! I’ve been writing down my Lessons Learned from 2018 and Vision for 2019 and it’s been a little hard rehashing the year. It was challenging for many of us and as we have high hopes for the future, it is going to take hard work on our parts to make it happen.
As an herbalist, I rely on my herbal allies to keep me healthy, sane, and balanced. This means everything from smelling a rose bush or spruce tree when I walk by to drinking a cup of herbal tea to smoking a joint of some fine cannabis. I utilize what I need when I need it.
Right now I need to brew myself an elderberry citrus peel tea, take a bath, and check out for the night. I’m not going to release another episode of The Herb Walk Podcast until January. In the mean time, enjoy this interview of me on the The Real Dirt Podcast. Recorded at Refugio Altiplano in the Amazon jungle in Peru, Chip Baker and I discuss cannabis, ayahuasca, and how we met through the Cannabis Action Network back in the early 1990’s. You can almost feel the mosquito bites through the recording.
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!)
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.
I can feel the stirring of Autumn on the wind. Although we may still have a few sweltering days left in Denver, there is crispness to the air as the sun sets earlier each day. Like the plants and trees around me, I am beginning to go inward. Usually I don’t want Summer to end, but after two months of stifling heat I need a reprieve. The Yang energy that peaks on Summer Solstice now wanes until Yin overtakes it after Autumn Equinox. The subtle shifts from Yang to Yin is palpable now, the cool evening breeze replacing stifling hot nights.
All around my neighborhood, I see the vibrant flowers begin to fade, as their energy concentrates into seeds that will become next year’s beauty. I notice the same natural cycles are occurring within me, I feel an urge to concentrate and reserve that fiery yang energy of the Summer sun. I want to soak in the last few weeks of sunny, hot weather and eagerly await the relief of Autumn.
Observe what the cycles of nature are reflecting back to you. How has your energy changed since the beginning or middle of the season? What have you harvested from the experiences of the last couple of months?
Life seems a little surreal lately. Maybe it’s all the eclipses, but I have been feeling my shadow side big time. I know challenging times are opportunities for growth and I believe these times are no different. We are all being compelled to see the whole truth about ourselves, no matter how hard it is to wade through the illusions.
Clarity does not come easily, as we have built lies over millennia and the deceptions are ingrained in us. They have become part of our consciousness, part of our DNA. We must do what we can to awaken the truth.
And what is the truth? It’s simple: We are connected to everyone and to everything on this planet. We are alive to play, to learn, to bond, and to love. We are alive so we may honor the Earth and all her blessings, and so we may honor ourselves.
We have been taught that we are here to succeed, to be better than others, and to fear what is perceived as different. We have been fed these lies for thousands of years, and now those ruses no longer sustain us. We yearn for community so badly, but connection is difficult when we have been separated for so long.
For me the solution is easy (easier said than done). I call upon my plant allies, my herbal medicine to bring me insight into myself so that I may be closer to others. I ask for their guidance in how I may soften so that the harshness of our world doesn’t break me in two. I am comforted as they nourish me with their wisdom.
Clinically I have seen many herbs help those that want a deeper connection to themselves and others. One of my favorite herbal combinations to inspire that one love feeling, can be made into a tea with fresh or dried herbs, or applied topically as an essential oil blend (always dilute essential oils before putting on skin).
If you are making a tea, use 1-2 teaspoons per cup. If making an essential oil blend, use 1-2 drops of each essential oil and dilute in 1 ounce of your favorite carrier oil.
Clary Sage(Salvia sclarea)- to bring clarity and compassion to an unsettling truth
Pine(Pinus spp.)-to dispel guilt, shame, or anger that may arise upon your awakening
Rose(Rosa centifolia)- to arouse love for yourself and others
What herbs do you call upon when you feel disconnected from your truth? I’d love to hear your thoughts.