A Return to Clarity

I successfully avoided getting sick all winter. Spring is a different story. As the temperatures fluctuate between 25-75 degrees in a single day and the winds blow pollen and pollution all around the city, my body finally succumbed last week. Thankfully I’m on the mend with just a little lingering congestion.

I forget how useless I am when I’m sick. My head was swimming with phlegm and I couldn’t focus on writing, formulating, or seeing clients. Clarity is returning and I can hold thoughtful conversations once again. Besides rest and hydration, my herbs and essential oils were wonderful allies that reduced the severity of it all.

I had to be humbly reminded that sometimes despite all I do, I have to just let it run its course and be okay with slowing down for a few days. With the pollen and pollution continuing throughout Spring I’ll do my best to keep my immune system strong.

I’m back on my daily dose of Nettle tea and medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Chaga. My good friend Greg sent me some Chaga from Massachusetts that should be in the mail today. I’ll send pictures of them when they arrive! I’m excited to see what they look like in “person” as I’ve only taken Chaga in tincture form.

Stay well out there friends!

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Energetics of Dandelion

Spring has arrived in Denver with sunshine, wind, and even a little rain. I am in no denial that we can have more snowstorms, but I am excited to see all the new growth popping up everywhere.

The dandelions are back! The bright yellow flowers are reaching for the sun, while that taproot is digging deep into the earth, defying those grubby hands that want to pull it out. I haven’t seen any bees yet, but I’m sure they’re waking from their slumber and will be buzzing around soon. They love dandelion like herbalists do.

Instead of thinking of dandelion as a noxious weed, think of it as one of the first foods that spring has to offer. The umbrella of yellow a reflection of the long, warm days ahead.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Western Energetics:

leaf, flower- bitter, salty, cool

root- bitter, cool

 Chinese Energetics:

entire plant- bitter, sweet, cold

Therapeutic Actions:

Clears heat and toxicity from the blood

Reduces nodules and sores

Promotes urination

Reduces congestion of bile

Promotes lactation

Vitamins:

A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B6

Minerals:

Calcium, Magnesium, Folate, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Copper

Fiber:

Contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that enhances the production of healthy gut bacteria

 Dandelion greens and flowers are a delicious addition to your salads, soups, and steamed veggies. May you see dandelion in a more appreciative light!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

 

Steamed Spring Greens Recipe

Spring has always been one of my favorite times of year. I yearn for longer days and I thrive when the sun is out! Although it snowed in Denver this week, I can still feel spring stirring in the air. The tulips are blooming and buds are beginning to form on the trees that line the streets. I even saw my first squirrel scampering through the alley. We are all feeling the regeneration that comes along with spring.

In Chinese medicine, spring is associated with the Wood element. The organ systems of the Wood element are liver and gallbladder, which is one reason people like to do liver cleanses in springtime. The energy is generating- as we see the creation of life that begins as plants sprout and grow. The color is green, another obvious sign of spring, the taste is sour, and the emotions that may come up for us are compassion (when Wood is in balance) or anger and frustration (when Wood is out of balance).

When someone is angry or frustrated we say that the liver qi (energy) is stagnant. We can promote movement of liver qi by exercise, meditation (especially moving meditation like qi gong or yoga), eating foods that are easy to digest, and ingesting herbs that are appropriate for your constitution.

One easy way to help move liver qi after a long, cold winter is to eat the tender greens of the herbs that are sprouting around you. Here’s a simple recipe that your liver will love!

Steamed Spring Greens

Gather a handful of leaves of dandelion, plantain, violet, miner’s lettuce, yarrow, and any other edible leaves that grow where you live. Add the leaves to a handful of your favorite store bought greens- kale, chard, collard, etc.

Lightly steam the store bought and harvested greens until they just get soft. Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar over the greens. Eat and enjoy!

Make sure the greens you harvest aren’t growing in an area that is sprayed with pesticides-many people love to spray our precious dandelion, as if it’s nothing but a noxious weed!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Waking Up From Winter’s Slumber

Spring is almost here! Thankfully the snow didn’t wash away all of the early fruit blossoms and we may have a bumper crop year of plums and apples. I hope so! Last year we didn’t get any so I hope this year is different.

I see some of my herbal friends starting to wake up from their winter’s rest…dandelion, plantain, violet, self-heal,….I see you shooting your new sprouts! Although they are still small, I see the potential for what is going to prosper on our land this year. It’s always a little different and I love to see who will show up next!

What plants are awakening around or within you?

By the way….have you ordered your copy of Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine yet?

If not (or you want to gift it to a friend), order here!

 

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Roots & Flower Spring Tonic

I woke up this morning to sleet and snow in Denver. It is inevitable that there will be at least one more snow storm before June, but it still shocks me. I was just in summer clothes, sitting on a roof top deck with a margarita.

Today I’ll be bundled up and sipping hot tea all day. (Who am I kidding- I drink hot tea on the beach in Mexico!) Since I need to stay balanced with these extreme weather patterns, today’s tea will be one that nourishes yin and blood, yet invigorates and strengthens qi and blood.

I like to eye-ball my ingredients for this one, depending on if I want to solely taste the Dang Gui Pian (Angelica sinensis). If you are blood deficient, add more Dang Gui Pian.

Roots & Flower Spring Tonic 

4 tablespoons Marshmallow root & flower

3″ slice of Reishi mushroom (buy thinly sliced- it’s too hard to cut yourself)

2-4″ slice of Dang Gui Pian 

Decoct all ingredients for 20 minutes- 2 hours. Simmer on low if you cook over 20 minutes. Strain out herbs and drink throughout the day. You will feel nurtured, held and supported!

With love,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Springtime in Denver

Spring in Denver is even more drastic than Winter. Yesterday morning was warm and sunny and in the late afternoon we had a thunderstorm that resulted in a torrential hailstorm that lasted half an hour. I was caught out in my truck in a parking lot and I will admit it was not a pleasant experience.

While I sat there, listening to the golf ball sized hail pound the windows and seriously praying that the windows didn’t get shattered (it happened to several parked cars), I thought about how temporary life is. Moments earlier I was enjoying the sunshine and loading my new work table into the back of the truck. Now I was watching the cardboard on the table get battered all to hell as other customers hid under awnings, wondering, like I, how long we would be stuck there.

I thought about everyone that didn’t have a truck or a home to use as shelter. I thought about what if the hail were bombs and that our shelter would be an allusion, as glass and steel do not stop bombs.

Once I was home and could see the piles of hail on the shade cloth covering my newly planted basil varieties, I was once again reminded how precious life is. And again how privileged I am. I am not growing those plants for survival or for a living. I am growing them because I want to. And that is a blessing in itself.

Our privilege is our greatest strength. May we use it wisely.

With love,

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Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows

Photo credit: The Denver Post 

A Common Sense Approach to Cleansing

So many people are obsessed with Spring cleanses. I enjoy a good cleanse, but I think it is often misunderstood and steeped in the idea that we are “dirty”, “unclean” and “impure.” I disagree with this notion (and think our patriarchal religions have contributed to this way of thinking.)

A Spring cleanse is important when we have been eating heavy or fatty foods that are needed in the Winter to keep us warm and nurtured through the long, cold months. A cleanse should be a nice break for the liver, which has to process everything we take into our bodies, including emotions.

For me I like my cleanse to last about a week. For 2-3 days I just eat simply. I like to have steamed vegetables and greens, well cooked rice or quinoa, and I drink only water and an herbal tea of dandelion flowers & greens, violet leaves & flowers, milky oat tops and horsetail. Then for 1-2 days only I will have only water, herbal tea, and diluted fruit and vegetable juice (my favorite juice is carrot, beet, kale, ginger and lemon). If I feel I need more sustenance, I will have one or two servings of steamed vegetables. Then another day or two of eating simply. That’s it! 

I don’t condone a cleanse that requires a ton of supplements. That is not giving your liver a much needed break. Which is the point of a cleanse! Be gentle with yourself, go slow and observe how eating simply feels within your body.

Lovin’ Myself Like Spring Teadandelion-tea-photo

1 tbsp Dandelion flowers & greens

1 tbsp Violet leaves & flowers

1 tbsp Milky oat tops

1 tbsp Horsetail 

If using fresh herbs, use 3 tbsp instead of 1 tbsp 

Add all herbs to 2 cups of hot water. Steep for 10-15 minutes. The tea will get bitter, but try to drink without sweetener. If it is too bitter, steep for only 5 minutes. Strain herbs and drink throughout the day. Try to have at least 2-3 cups of herbal tea each day during your cleanse.

With love,

JessicaBaker

Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Being Compassion: The Wood Element

Ahhh, Spring is here! Equinox always brings me to tears of joy as I witness the balance of yin and yang on our planet and feel it harmonizing within me. Winter is damn hard for many of us, and Spring bring us a renewed sense of hope and positivity. The longer days gives us that solar energy everything on Earth needs to thrive. Spring is the time to start bringing your wintertime musings and dreams from the visionary world into the material one. Understanding the nuances of the Wood element can help you with those manifestations.

I wanted to introduce you to the Wood Element in Chinese Medicine, as it represents Spring, and the generation of new life, new energy, and new ideas. The Wood element/phase has gotten a negative wrap (like an ethereal concept of the manifestation of life on Earth can be negative!) with people saying “when the wood element is out of balance, one is angry, inflexible, bossy, violent, loud and rude.” All of these qualities can be attributed to Wood out of balance- but one very important quality of Wood is often not talked about. The Hun- our ethereal souls.

The Hun are described in different ways but many texts say the Hun are three benevolent, 3vin-sagescompassionate beings that guide our actions, thoughts and dreams. When out of balance, the Hun are restless and can become frustrated, relentless or de-motivated. We can help balance our Hun by leading a more simple life. Eat foods that are easier to digest (knowing your constitution is key to good health because appropriate foods will differ between people), minimize the alcohol and drugs, take a deep breath in times of stress instead of spiraling out of control. These can be life changing moments when you just took one minute to care for yourself instead of going down a road of negative emotions.

Spring is the time to eat those tender, young greens! Dandelion, burdock, violet, nettles- all are sprouting right now and inviting you to take a couple nibbles of their new growth. Try it! You may just like it- and your Hun will love you for it!

May the blessings of Spring bring you renewed energy, compassion and insight into why you chose to be here, right now, with all of us.

With love,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows