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

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

My Adventures in Peru

It’s hard to explain the Amazon rainforest to those that haven’t experienced it. I’ve listened to others tell me all about their trips to Peru and how much they loved the people, the plethora of plants and animals, and none of their explanations could’ve prepared me for how utterly amazing this place is.

IMG_3166My husband Chip and I started it off with a day in Lima, scouring music stores for a Peruvian made guitar and a 10-stringed Andean instrument called a charango. Much to our surprise, we came across a luthier that had both in his shop. My charango is so new I can still smell the varnish on it! On the plane from Lima to Iquitos, the guitar got a little banged up, but it just adds to the story of our Peruvian guitar.

Once we arrived in Iquitos, we met up with our friend Kelly (aka “Sparkles”) that has been coming down to the Amazon for 17 years. After the unfortunate death of the owner of Refugio Altiplano, he was asked if he would be interested in buying it since he had been attending ceremonies there since 2000. Much to his (and our) pleasure, he was able to pull it off and is now the proud custodian/proprietor of a natural medicine-healing center with over 20 years of history of helping people heal.

Refugio Altiplano is over an hours boat ride up the Amazon River on old cattle grazing land surrounded by 1,200 of acres of rainforest preserve. It is a beautiful property with El Centro, a meeting area that includes the kitchen and dining area, several rustic jungle casas, and a maloca where ayahuasca ceremonies are held.

They also have a large medicinal herb garden OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhere they are growing peppers, aloe, and noni, alongside wild sangre de grado (dragon’s blood), una de gato (cat’s claw), chacruna, and ayahuasca. The reverence that Jose, a Mestizo shaman, and the true custodian and guardian of Refugio Altiplano, has for all of these plants is as palatable as the oxygen rich air the rainforest exudes.

It was during the ayahuasca ceremonies that I truly experienced Jose’s love of plant IMG_3248medicine. Once he began to pray and sing the ayahuasca songs, I could feel the sacredness of his words infusing me with love that transcends time and space. Once Daniel, a very humble and powerful Shipibo shaman, begins to sing an icaro to each one of us, I was already deep into the medicine of ayahuasca. An icaro is a song that shamans sing to induce a profound state of healing and awareness. It is unlike anything I have experienced before. Beautiful and deeply, deeply healing.

The river, the people, the shamans, the abundance of medicinal plants, they are now ingrained in my body and in my soul. They are again a part of me, as they always have been, as they always will be.

With love,

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Jessica

The Essence of your Favorite Tree

“I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again”

I feel like this is my theme song the last couple of years! One of my favorite things to do is travel. It makes me feel alive, brings me closer to understanding other cultures, and makes me so grateful to have a planet as gorgeous as our Earth.

The recipe today is a simple offering from my heart to our life-giving Earth.

Sit at the base of your favorite tree (it can be in your yard, the park, or in the forest- just make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals). Take 3 deep breaths and notice any subtle or profound changes in your body that occur with each breath.

What does the exchange of CO2 and O2 with this magnificent tree feel like? With permission, take a leaf, flower and/or twig from the tree and place it in a bowl of fresh spring (or filtered) water. Infuse in the water for as long as you have time, whether it’s 5 minutes or overnight).

When you feel ready, gently take out the plant material and take a sip of the infusion. Allow the vitality of the tree to flow through you. What medicine does this tree have to offer? What do you have to offer back?

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

A Peaceful Journey

May has been one full of dramatic changes. It hasn’t just been the weather, where we have had 80 degree days, thunderstorms, hail and snow all within a couple of weeks. The shifts have also been of heart and soul.

Many of us are coming to grips with the undeniable injustices that are occurring all over the place. These horrific acts have always been happening, but now with the internet we know exactly when they happen and sometimes we even get a live feed.

We want to know what’s happening so we can try to change it. I just don’t know if our psyches are able to assimilate all the information that comes at us in newsfeeds, notifications, and pop-ups.

I know for me it is overwhelming and downright obnoxious. Knowledge is power, but a lot of what we see is not knowledge, but distraction and opinion pieces that look like real news. How are we supposed to know what is important and relevant and what is just written to rile us up.

As I sit here upset with the way things are, I remember that I can help change what I don’t like to see in the world. My place is just to remind others, and myself, that it is our relationship with Nature that will bring about the greatest peace. I just have to find peace within myself and then I will be much more peaceful and loving towards others (easier said than done!).

Here’s my Peaceful Journey Blend that I will be dousing myself with all day today, and probably the next 4 years! Remember, use organic and ethically wild-crafted herbs and essential oils whenever possible! And use those precious essential oils sparingly!!

Peaceful Journey Blend 

3 drops Mt. Shasta Lavender essential oil- relaxes NS, reduces anxiety

3 drops Clary Sage essential oil- brings clarity to thoughts and feelings

2 drops Mandarin essential oil- transforms energy

2 drops Frankincense essential oil- reduces pain and sorrow

Add all essential oils to 1 ounce carrier oil (I Love apricot kernel oil). Mix well. Put in a roll-on bottle and anoint yourself when you need clarity and relaxation.

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

The Evolution of Spirit & Science

Although I couldn’t attend a March for Science Rally because I was at the Acupuncture Association of Colorado’s Annual Conference, I was there in heart and spirit! What is most exciting to me about this movement is that emphasis is on our planet and how we can advance technology to enhance the Earth instead of destroy it.

There has been a gap in environmentalism and science and that is now rapidly changing. The chemical, pharmaceutical and agricultural leaders (Monsanto having a hand in all three) need to come up to speed. Domination and greed is the reason why they constantly fight to quell our food and health independence. The paradigm shift of manifest destiny is becoming one of ecology and transparency and companies that are motivated by destruction based profit are not going to be acceptable anymore as people become more educated about global climate change and our role in it. Sustainability, small organic farming, and herbalism have been the way of the past and are resurfacing as our path to a better future.

“The times, they are a changing”, sometimes just not as fast as some of us would like. As I keep forging ahead with my essential oil blends, the thought of being a steward of the Earth is foremost in my mind. I am not happy with the “sustainability” model of many essential oil companies, as it doesn’t seem to me that they take seriously the issue of how much plant matter it takes to make even an ounce of essential oil. If they did, they would not promote such vagrant use of our precious resources.

It takes about 250 pounds of lavender to make 1 pound of essential oil- that’s about 15 Wild_rosepounds of lavender for 1 ounce of oil! It takes 10,000 roses to make 5ml of rose essential oil! How about instead of dousing yourself in undiluted essential oil, you walk around with a few sprigs of lavender or rose petals in a sachet or anoint yourself with a couple of drops of diluted essential oil only.

A little goes a long way folks. Be mindful, have respect for the whole plant, and not just the distillate you buy in a bottle. Grow your own herbs. Make your own medicine. A cup of rose tea that you make from roses you grow can be just as strong as a drop of the pure essential oil.

We are all on this Earth together. Let’s make it the best we can.

With love,

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Jessica