We Are a Circle Within a Circle

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

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Me and Jax holding it down at Wellness

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

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Me teaching about essential oils and aromatherapy

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).

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Red Tent

After my class, it was time for the Red Tent Initiation, 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.

With love,

cropped-jessicabaker 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured image: Unsure of artist- but I love it!

Lovin’ It All Up Sun Tea Recipe

Lovin’ It All Up Sun Tea

1-3 tablespoon of the following fresh herbs:

Stinging Nettle, Dandelion, Plantain, Lemon Balm, Wild Violet flowers, and/or your favorite herbal allies 

Lightly garble all herbs together and put in your favorite clear glass jar (and a teaspoon of honey if you want to).  Pour cool spring water over the herbs and sit jar in the sun for as long as you desire. Strain off herbs and give back to the earth with thanks for her nourishment. Drink tea with gratitude for your life and for everyone else’s too.

With love and gratitude for all of life,

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Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows

Photo credit: Me

Fragrant Flower Tea Recipe

My daily walks around Denver are so aromatic this time of year. Everywhere there are roses, dogwoods, cottonwoods, and lilacs wafting their gifts my way. The rain has made everyone vibrant and green, coming to life after winter.

All of their beauty has inspired me to share a recipe from the Rose chapter of my book, Plant Songs: Reflections on Herbal Medicine. I hope Rose fills you with as much love as she has me.

Rose’s Song: Love Yourself, Everyday

Fragrant Flower Tea

Harvest a handful of roses, daisies, calendula, violet flowers and any other edible flower (make sure they are not sprayed with pesticides). If using lavender, use only a small amount, as it can taste soapy. Pour hot water over flowers and cover completely. Steep for 20 minutes in a glass jar with lid on. Strain flowers and collect water in a glass quart jar. Drink the tea throughout the day to open your heart and promote relaxation.

If you’d like to order your copy of Plant Songs, go to Balboa Press or Amazon.

With much love and gratitude,

cropped-jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Image: Rose created by Jason Garcia 

Three Faithful (Herbal) Friends

Tuesday I mentioned the frustration I have been feeling the last couple of days. I have had time to reflect on what it is that is causing me such turmoil. Although I really wanted it to be something external, it never is. It is my reaction to situations outside of my control and my own inability to communicate clearly.

Speaking my truth is not always easy. I don’t want to disappoint people and my words don’t always come out right. With each stifled breath, my irritation grows as I censor what I truly need to say.

To help me find the compassion I need to speak truthfully, but with love, I call upon these three faithful friends.

Rose (Rosa damascena)– softens harshness towards myself and others, opens my heart to the divine within us all

Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia)– relaxes tension of mind and body, makes me more flexible to the beliefs/opinions of others

Milky Oats (Avena sativa)– nourishes and relaxes my nervous system, calms my spirit and mind

You can make a simple tea with equal parts of each herb. Let steep for 15 minutes and then sip and enjoy!

For the love of plants,

cropped-jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Citrus Diffusing Blend

The spring winds are kicking up all the construction dust around my neighborhood and I have been feeling a little congested from all the particulates flying around. Along with drinking my nettle tea to reduce irritation from allergens, I’ve also been diffusing essential oils daily.

My go to has been filling the air with crisp, citrusy tones and doing wonders for the irritants in the air.

Citrus Spring Diffusing Blend

2 drops Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) essential oil

2 drops Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil

1 drop Lavender (Lavandula angustilfola) essential oil

1 drop Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) essential oil

1 drop Hemp (Cannabis sativa) essential oil

Mix all drops together in a small glass bottle with diffuser cap. Add 1-3 drops to your diffuser.

*Always dilute essential oils. Purchase your essential oils from companies that understand and honor that they are precious gifts that should not be consumed greedily.

For the love of plants,

jessicabaker 

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

Morning Cup of Tea

It hardly seems like winter this week in Northern California. Instead of our steady fog and rain, we have had sunshine and temperatures in the mid 60’s. No complaints here as I soak up as much sun as I can!

It is getting brighter in the mornings and the days are gradually increasing, making the warmer days of spring more of a reality. I am still taking my daily tonics as people are still getting sick around me and I do my best to avoid going down like that. Especially since I leave for a yoga retreat in Tulum in 10 days!

I have been loving the Tulsi Rose tea from Humboldt Herbals. I worked at Humboldt Herbals many moons ago when they first opened in Old Town Eureka 20 years ago! Time flies, and us with it! Check out all the herbs, teas, essential oils, skin care, and other goodies they have to offer. You can also hear my interview with the proprietress of Humboldt Herbals, Julie Caldwell.

The combination of Rose Petals, Tulsi Bail, Red Raspberry leaf, and Green Cardamom is mildly spicy and so delicious. Sometimes I add a pinch of  Elderberry and Star Anise to keep my immune system even stronger. Either with little honey or unsweetened, this blend keeps me healthy and happy.

May you also enjoy a nourishing cup of herbal tea today!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Winter Wellness Recipe

So far I have scathed off any of the flus and viruses that are floating around the United States. On the plane from Denver to San Francisco, I was the masked person on the flight. Although I got many weird looks, I felt empowered taking my deep breaths as people coughed and sniffled around me, including the guy to my right.

In my cloth mask (thanks Willow!), I applied a diluted blend of holy basil, eucalyptus radiata, douglas fir, and pine. I also tried not to touch anything and I washed my hands religiously. That is the best I could do on a plane, but in the winter I rotate a daily preventative tea that is full of Vitamin C and antioxidants that will strengthen my immune system. This tea is not only nutritious, it’s also delicious!

Winter Wellness Tea

2 tbsp Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

2 tbsp Rose hips (Rosa centifolia

1 tbsp Citrus peel (Citrus reticulata)

1 inch piece of fresh Ginger (Zingiber offinicale)

Gently boil all ingredients in 16 ounces of water for 15 minutes in a covered pot. Strain out herbs and set aside for a second boiling. Cover and boil herbs with another 8 ounces of water for 15 minutes. Drink up to 4 cups a day as needed to prevent colds and flu. Stay well!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica 

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Aromatic Spices for the Holy Days

‘Tis the season for warming carminative spices! We all associate cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with pumpkin pie, hot apple cider, and holiday cookies, but they are also some of our most important herbal medicines. The exoticness of their fragrances has fueled their trade and popularity for centuries, making them now common spices in kitchens around the world. Spices, like other herbs, have distinct medicinal properties and have been present in cooking since time immemorial. It is ingrained in our nature to add spices to our food. All of our traditions reflect this connection to food as medicine, whether we celebrate Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

Aromatic Medicine for the Holy Days:

Cinnamon/Rou Gui (Cinnamomum cassia)- Spicy, sweet and hot; Chinese cinnamon bark is used to strengthen mingmen fire (gate of life), making it excellent for treating internal coldness that causes abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea

Cloves/ Ding Xiang (Syzygium aromaticum): Spicy and warm; cloves are a key herb for warming digestion and treating abdominal fullness, vomiting, nausea, and hiccups

Star Anise/Da Hui Xiang (Illicium verum): Spicy, sweet, and warm; star anise is wonderful for treating cold digestion that causes abdominal pain with bloating, vomiting, and nausea

I look forward to hearing about (and tasting) how you incorporate spices into your holy day dishes!

For the love of plants,

 

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Image credit © Adam Ward

Elderberry Dreaming on a Winter’s Day

December is here already and I am as shocked as everyone else. I’m back in Denver and the nights are cold and windy. There isn’t any snow in the city and I hate to say that I am glad!

I can hear people sniffling and coughing around me as I’m out and about. It’s a good reminder to keep my immunity strong! Small things like washing your hands frequently (many people don’t wash door handles or light switches) and eating nutrient dense foods like soups and stews will be a big help in staving off other people’s germs.

I also drink elderberry tea every morning, switching up the other ingredients depending on what I have going on.

My 3 favorite Elderberry blends:

1 tsp Elderberries, 1 tsp Hawthorn berries, 2 inch piece of Citrus peel – I make this on those days of over-indulgence, where there may just be a cookie or two enjoyed

1 tsp Elderberries, 1 tsp Yarrow flowers, 1 tsp Peppermint– This is my go-to when I begin to feel that chill or fever coming on and I need to kick it out

1 tsp Elderberries, 1 tsp Rose petals, 1 inch piece of Citrus peel– This is my base tea on most days. I drink as is or add an herb or two that is calling me that day.

Steep herbs in 8 ounces of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink while warm.

I’d love to hear what herbs you like with elderberry!

For the love of plants,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellnes grows