The Spring Equinox yesterday was bittersweet. It was a gorgeous warm day in Oklahoma and I had the privilege of working from home. There was an illusion of normalcy as I walked around our land picking dandelion, shepherd’s purse, chickweed, dock leaves, and the ever-beloved violet flowers.
I tried to feel the balance of yin and yang energies, as the light and dark came into equilibrium among all the chaos. Many of us are uncertain, scared, alone, confused. Emotions welling up inside us as we try to appear calm, restrained, happy.
I have been planning to release my interview with Astrid Grove, herbalist midwife, and one of the founders of The Red Earth Herbal Gathering on Equinox. The timing of this episode of The Herb Walk is not ideal for encouraging people to gather, but it now seems essential as a reminder to everyone how important community is.
We are in a time of unknown, the great mystery unfolding before us, pushing us to our limits of comfort and sanity. Just know that you are not alone . Whatever you are feeling, resist the urge to retreat. Reach out to someone. Call an old friend, skype a loved one, hold virtual meetings with colleagues, anything to reach out to another human being and share in the collective experience. We need connection more than anything.
I’m going way back to the beginning of Season One of The Herb Walk Podcast where I interview herbalist and author Brigitte Mars.
Brigitte is an herbalist and nutritional consultant of Natural Health with almost fifty years of experience. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University and The School of Health Mastery in Iceland. She has taught at Omega Institute, Esalen, Kripalu, Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Arise, Envision and Unify Festivals, and The Mayo Clinic. She blogs for the Huffington Post and Care2. She is also a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild.
Brigitte is also the author of many books and DVDs, including The Home Reference to Holistic Health and Healing, The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, The Sexual Herbal, Healing Herbal Teas, Rawsome!,and co-author of The HempNut Cookbook. Her DVDs include Sacred Psychoactive, Herbal Wizardry for Kids of all Ages, Natural Remedies for Childhood Ailments, Overcoming Addictions, and Natural Remedies for Emotional Health. Her latest project is a phone app called iPlant that helps budding herbalists to identify plants in the wild.
May you find this interview inspiring and fun! You can see both me and Brigitte (and many more great teachers) at this year’s Red Earth Herbal Gathering in Boulder, CO September 13-15, 2019
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 am thrilled to announce that my new project, The Herb Walk Podcast, is finally ready to air! It has been a year since I started the interviews, but sometimes good things take a while to come to fruition.
On our first episode I interview Brigitte Mars, herbalist, author, professor, and natural chef. In our hour long discussion, we talk about how she became interested in herbalism, her passion for teaching about herbs and nutrition, cannabis, the spiritual use of plants, and so much more!
Brigitte teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University and The School of Health Mastery in Iceland. She has taught at Omega Institute, Esalen, Kripalu, Sivananda Yoga Ashram, Arise, Envision and Unify Festivals, and The Mayo Clinic. She blogs for the Huffington Post and Care2. She is also a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild.
Brigitte is the author of many books and DVDs, including The Home Reference to Holistic Health and Healing, The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, Beauty by Nature, Addiction Free Naturally, The Sexual Herbal, Healing Herbal Teas, Rawsome!,and co-author of The HempNut Cookbook. Her DVDs include Sacred Psychoactive, Herbal Wizardry for Kids of all Ages, Natural Remedies for Childhood Ailments, Overcoming Addictions, and Natural Remedies for Emotional Health. Her latest project is a phone app called iPlant that helps budding herbalists to identify plants in the wild.
Stay tuned for more interviews with other special guests like Mindy Green, Lisa Ganora, and other fabulous herbalists and educators.
Check out The Herb Walk Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play!
I’d love any feedback, suggestions, or requests for those you’d like to hear interviewed. This podcast is meant to inspire, educate, and preserve the science and art of herbalism for generations to come.
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!
My heart is full after attending the 1st annual Red Earth Herbal Gathering in Longmont, CO. Inspired by the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium, Red Earth honors women and the cycles we experience throughout our lives. Always present is the reverence for our medicinal plants that guide and support us along our way. Astrid Grove and Leela Whitcomb-Hewitt brought a much needed gathering to Colorado and I thank them greatly for it!
One reminder was the importance of ritual in my life. Some rituals have become so habitual and mundane that I barely recognize the fact that I’m making an herbal tea or aromatherapy blend. I am reminded to slow down, root deep and expand. It is in this space, called the WuJi in Chinese medicine, that I have extra sensory experiences and bring the wholeness of the universe into whatever I am doing. It is in this space that I see reality clearly and tap into what it is I need for the day.
The last few days I have noticed a substantial shift in the way I approach life. My morning tea ritual is much more intentional and I can feel the difference it has made. In my practice of yoga and qi gong, I am more aware of subtleties I have been too distracted to notice. When I diffuse an essential oil or decide which oils to blend I hear the voices of the plants, elated that I am once again listening with the oldest parts of myself.
I encourage you to take a few extra minutes each day to create simple ritual in your life. If you are the type of person that needs sensory tools to help creating your sacred space, I suggest Frankincense, Myrrh and Amber resins ground up and burnt as an incense, or if you don’t want the smoke to fill your room, you can diffuse the essential oils to elicit feelings of relaxation, expansiveness and meditation.