My Initiation into Herbalism

As I say every August 1st, this is an auspicious day for my husband Chip and I. It is the date we drove into California with nothing but our favorite albums and our cat, Mama Kitty. We were young, adventurous and ready to feel the freedom California promised. The passing of Proposition 215 and the reputation for great ganja was the catalyst for our move to Humboldt County in 1997. We were emboldened by our youth, Prop 215, and the freedom fighters that came before. Little did I know that the allure of cannabis would bring me to the redwood forest where I would be initiated into the world of healing plants.

As you approach the Humboldt County line on 101 North you notice that the temperature drops as the towering redwood trees block out the sun. The air stills and time seems to slow down as soon as you are in the presence of these gentle giants. A feeling of serenity and calm engulfs you as you enter the timelessness of an ancient forest. It is a visceral feeling, being in awe of magnificence much greater than oneself.

I still remember the first time I experienced a redwood forest. Their beauty temporarily stunned me, as I stood looking up into their branches. Visions of times long ago instantly flashed through my mind. I could see what it was like before humans separated from nature, before profit surpassed our love of the land, before the decimation of entire forests and their ecosystems. The reality of how recent it all occurred struck me deeply and I began to understand how greatly humans impacted the world. It was a surreal interaction to have these trees communicate with me instantly and so directly. All I could do was listen.

In my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine,I devote a chapter to Redwood although the entire book is inspired by my love of these brilliant beings. Here is an excerpt from Plant Songs about the wisdom from the Grandmother Tree that lives behind my house:

Redwood: Think Back, Slow Down, Listen, Remember  

There is a 2nd-growth redwood tree beside my house whom I call Grandmother Tree. I have been speaking to this tree since my husband and I bought the property where she lives. Grandmother Tree has one of the largest burls I’ve eve seen at her base. In this burl are the spirits of Green Man and an ancient tree fairy. I see them both very clearly, although it is with Green Man that I most often converse. Green Man has been called by many names: Shen Nong, Pan, and Osiris are but a few. He is one of the manifestations that nature speaks through. With Green Man and Grandmother Tree I have had the most profound insights about humanity’s place in the natural world. I have listened to nature as she describes witnessing the demise of the human race. It is our mad quest for dominance that has separated us from the rest of Life and has stunted evolutionary growth as a result. Instead of working alongside nature, we have attempted to manipulate and control it, to the detriment of all of life on Earth.

The Earth is a living being with countless ecosystems that are always altered and sometimes destroyed by human habitation. The dramatic decrease in redwood trees has also decreased the intense fog that once engulfed and sustained life in the millions of acres of redwood canopy. The loss of canopy and fog has led to the decline of species within an ecosystem that has existed for millions of years. We can’t foresee the consequences of destroying such an ecosystem.

Grandmother Tree has spoken to me about how humans have nearly destroyed themselves time and time again. She says we are a resilient species but not beyond extinction. Her neutrality soothes me. She is matter-of-fact. Her attitude says, We enjoy having you here, but it’s your choice to stay. We can destroy or we can create, and we will reap what we sow. Life on Earth will thrive. The question is, will we?

As I re-read this passage it gives me hope. Human time is so small compared to planetary and cosmic time. I hope we humans change our ways. If we don’t the Earth will survive and eventually thrive again. I really hope the redwoods are part of that revolution.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Overcoming Fear- One Inhale at a Time

I’ve been fighting the urge to be in a bad mood for a couple of weeks now. There are all kinds of things I can blame it on- politics, regulatory agencies, conservatives. The reality is, I am irritated with myself.

With all of the injustices in the world I don’t feel as if I’m doing enough. I talk a good talk, but there have been weeks of just feeling hopeless and not accomplishing anything. I haven’t wanted to rush out to volunteer or march because it’s been hard to even be around people. I’ll be honest crowds have been intimidating lately.

And that irritates me- because I know that media and politicians love to spread fear and me not wanting to be in crowds is a direct effect of their propaganda.

I’m over feeling paralyzed and frustrated. I’m over blaming “them” for my discontent.

I’ve been seeing so much on social media about self-care being the most important thing you can do to help others.  I agree, kind of. Yes self-care is the most important thing I can do- at first. Then I have to do more. We have to do more. Just getting massages and taking time to walk in the woods is actually not enough to change the world. Time and time again, it is direct action that works.

I am at a place again where my anger is no longer stifling me, but preparing me for action. The challenge for me is to fuel this action with love and compassion and not fear and hate (which is sometimes easier said than done!) I always have my faithful herbal allies, reminding me that an open mind and calm heart is the only way forward.

Besides fueling myself with black tea (I have been adding rose petals to balance it out- does that count?), I’ve been using my Water Element Courage essential oil blend. I formulated these blends with the intentions and energies of each of the five elements of Chinese medicine. The Water Element is associated with Zhi, our determination and willpower. When we have conviction, purpose and vitality, our Water Element is balanced and we are able to respond with courage and resiliency. When our Water Element is depleted, we may experience fatigue, lack of control, or fear, which further drains our reserves.

The essential oils in the Courage blend can help bring the Water Element back into balance so that we may be the change we want to see in the world.

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)- for metal/water connection

Wild Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)- for calmness and serenity

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)- for relaxation of body and mind

Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanoides)- for rooting deep into your principles and desires

To order Courage or other 5 Element Blends, check out my new website www.bakerbotanica.com

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

An Offering of Life (incense recipe)

As I am still reveling in the magic that is the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium I keep being transported to the tipi circle and the sacred fire. Each time I attend symposium I bring an offering to the fire. I don’t remember when it started, but I do know it was because of the way Linda, the keeper of the fire, attends her holy flame. It is an intimate dance of offering wood, resins, and plants in reverence for receiving warmth, light, and sustenance in return. The ultimate expression of love and gratitude passes between Linda and blaze as they offer life to one another.

It is this offering and exchange that inspires today’s recipe.

An Offering of Life

Powder 1 teaspoon each of the following resins:

Myrrh, Frankincense, Copal, Dragon’s Blood (1/2 tsp), and other resins desired

Powder 1 teaspoon each of the following flowers:

Rose, Lavender, Chamomile, Cannabis, and any other aromatic flower you adore

Mix all powders together and place in a small glass jar.

As desired, burn a dime-sized amount of incense alone or on a piece of charcoal. Sit near the burning incense and verbally give thanks for breath, for life, for all of the blessings that have been bestowed upon you. Inhale deeply and breathe out all that gratitude.

 

With love and gratitude for all of life,

Jessica

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when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Photo Credit: pagan path

Conifer Foot Bath Recipe

As I sit among the plethora of trees and other plants in the Amazon jungle I think of how grateful I am for the life I live because of them. As much as I love all trees, there is a special place in my heart for conifers like pine and redwood.

This recipe is inspired by the Tree Walk I took with Deb Soule and Kate Gilday at the International Herb Symposium and for my love of our life giving conifers. Thank you Deb and Kate for your gentle wisdom.

Take a walk through your favorite grove of conifers and breathe deeply, giving thanks for the life they have provided for millions of years. Look down and see if there are any offerings of small branches with fresh green needles on them. If so, gently pick them up and bring a small bundle back to your house. Put the branches in a large pot and cover with water. Put lid on pot and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn down heat and take out one cup of tea for yourself. Cover again and simmer for 20 minutes. Take out another cup of tea for yourself.

Once the water is warm enough to use as a footbath, pour water (with or without branches) into a small tub. Soak your feet for 5-10 minutes, allowing the strength of the trees to come up through your roots, helping you stand tall and true in your convictions. Breathe and give thanks.

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

On the Road Again

I am on the road again. This time driving back to Denver from Northern California. I’m a little sad to leave my epic coastal home to come back to “Babylon,” but I am more than a little excited to see my Colorado friends. I’m also thrilled to finish up the first line of products for Baker Botanica….and hopefully have some ready for release in the next month or so! We’ll see how it all goes.

Also wanted to let you know that my book, Plant Songs, is in the production phase. This means that I’m working on the cover art and formatting for the book. I will have a printed copy of Plant Songs in hand in January 2018! Agh!!! It’s so exciting and scary at the same time!

It feels good to wrap up these projects by the end of the year (and to have put out the first season of The Herb Walk Podcast).  It has been a whirlwind year of intensity and amazingness! I look forward to a more mellow December to assimilate it all.

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

Change Comes From Within Blend

There’s a lot of energy in the air with many people feeling overwhelmed, sad, or angry at what is happening in our country. Monday’s solar eclipse also has some people excited and energized, hoping that this event will shift our paradigm and perspective. Maybe it will, but I think it’s going to take more than an eclipse to change the politics and beliefs of our citizens. It is going to take standing up for our beliefs and giving to organizations that are working towards ending oppression.

This week I know I need something to nourish and relax my nervous system, while giving me the energy to stay active to create the changes I want to see in the world. This essential oil blend has been helping me tremendously. I hope it helps you too.

Essential Oils:

3 drops Lavender- to reduce anxiety and fear

3 drops Frankincense- to ease heartache and grief

3 drops Clary Sage- to bring clarity to thoughts and actions

Add essential oils to 10 ml of carrier oil (I love olive or apricot kernel)

Put essential oil blend in a 10 ml glass roll-on bottle. Apply to heart chakra, third eye, or anywhere else you desire. Don’t wait until you are already overwhelmed or emotional. Use preventatively to help you stay calm, clear, and collected.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Strong Woman Tea

In preparation for my class at this year’s Red Earth Herbal Gathering (August 19-20 in Longmont, Colorado- tickets still available!) I want to share this nourishing and delicious sun tea to support women’s health and wellbeing. This is one of my go-to teas when I feel fatigued, overwhelmed, or out of balance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Strong Woman Tea

2 tbsp Red Raspberry leaf

1 tbsp Milky Oat tops

1 tbsp Marshmallow root

1 tsp Vitex seeds

1 tsp Nettle leaf

Place all herbs into a glass quart jar and cover with filtered tap water or spring water. Set in the sun for 4 hours or so. Strain out herbs and drink the tea over the next couple of days. You will feel great!

With love,

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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

How to Make Calendula Oil

After all that talk about how I love making herbal medicine I want to share a super easy infused oil recipe with you.

Ingredients:

250 ml Olive, Apricot kernel or Oil of choice

50-125 grams Dried Calendula flowers (100-300 grams Fresh)

Supplies:

Double Boiler

Wooden spoon

Glass Bowl

Cheesecloth

Dark, Glass Bottles

Put Calendula flowers and Apricot Kernel Oil in the Double Boiler and heat on low for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth into a bowl or large mouth jar.

Press excess oil out with a wooden spoon

Pour oil into dark, glass bottles and store in a cool, dark place 

Apply oil to dry, irritated skin or add a spoonful (or two) to a warm bath for smooth, silky skin.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows