Herbal medicine is enchanting because it’s a simultaneously an art, craft, and science. It’s an art to formulate and be a matchmaker between people and plants. It’s a science to inquire about why and how herbs work the way they do. This post introduces you to the craft of herbal medicine, and demystifies some of the terminology. [This post was originally published in the November 2017 Face the Current magazine.] Read more
Posts from the ‘Making Botanical Medicine’ Category
I’m cutting back on caffeine and stimulants this Winter to really rest and restore. Caffeine and specifically coffee has numerous health benefits. But when consumed in excess (points finger to self), it can promote sympathetic dominance and affect cortisol and other adrenal hormones. Like all substances that affect our physiology, it’s best to keep our habits in check and cut back every now and then.
So I’ve ditched coffee for now and rekindling my love for tea recipes. My favorite is chais. If you’ve only had store bought or prepared chais, this recipe will change your mind about chai teas. When brewed for a long period of time, these warming spices infuse beautifully and give you a natural energy boost. And Reishi is a medicinal mushroom that supports systemic immunity, as well as adrenal function and cortisol regulation.
Green tea has potent antioxidant fractions due to its polyphenol content (EGCG) and supports Th2-mediated immunity. Reishi supports the Th1 arm, so the two together are a terrific match for supporting deep immune function.
Reishi-Green Tea Chai
- 1 quart water
- 2-3 Reishi mushroom slices (harvest your own or get through an organic source like Moutain Rose Herbs)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- sliver of nutmeg
- 3 allspice berries
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
- 3-4 peppercorns (red, white or black)
- 3-4 cardamom pods
- 1T organic Green tea (added at the last 5 minutes)
Decoct the Reishi along with the spices for 30 minutes. The longer it decocts, the stronger it will get. Turn off the heat and add the Green tea. (You can also substitute black tea, puerh, lapsang souchong, white tea, or yerba maté.) Let it steep for 5 minutes, then strain. Add sweetener or milk/milk substitute to taste. This will make 2-3 cups. If you have some leftover, I suggest straining it and storing in the refrigerator–the tea will become very bitter if left to steep.
If you want to increase your intake of healthy fats, you can include a little coconut oil, ghee, or grass fed butter.
You can also add your favorite herbs to this base recipe. Ashwaganda or Eleuthro root made wonderful additions, as does Astragalus, Hawthorn berries, Burdock, or Marshmallow root. Good mushroom substitutes include Turkey Tails, Chaga, and Maitake. Be creative!
Botanical Medicine – also known as Herbalism, or just Herbal Medicine – is the study and practice of safe & sustainable use of herbs for whole-person health, including gathering & use of safe/available plants, basic medicine making & basic nutrition. In the process, we learn more about our environment and the natural world. Read more
Herbal Terminology Demystified: A Bit on Herbal Actions, Energetics & Listening to the Language of the Plants with our Bodies
(For a PDF handout version, see Resources.) Plants are complex, living beings—just as we are. And their interactions with our bodies in the context of healing can begin to be understood in terms of patterns of basic energetics: heating & cooling, drying & moistening.
Herbal actions describe the observable effects of herbs in the body. Energetics refers to the overall characteristic or quality of an herb— for example, we know cucumbers are cooling and ginger is warming. This language of energetics & actions gives us a way to understand the broad spectrum of plants in a healing context. It also allows us to get creative with plants and determine substitutes when our first choice isn’t available. A number of bitter plants can be used to assist digestion. Similarly, a wide range of antiinflammatories can be called in to relievethe pain & tension associated with certain types of inflammation. Familiarity with the language of herbal actions and energetics opens our senses & imaginations to the plants around us, and ultimately helps deepen our practice with them.
Botanical medicine is an art & a science. And this is the art part. The way plants flow through us can be perceived & described in several ways. Read more
Tea is the perfect theme for this month’s Wild Things Roundup. I truly love tea—it’s an art and, sometimes, a form of therapy.
In the depth of Winter, we confront dark, hard, uncomfortable things. I doubt I’m the only one recovering from the turmoil of 2012, ducking from the seasonal bugs whizzing through our communities, and trying to find solace & a silver lining from the horrific events we’ve witnessed in the last few months. It’s been a rough few months, I won’t lie. But tea—well, that makes everything a bit better. Teas (infusions & decoctions) make available some very useful compounds to rebalance our physiologies. But they’re also satisfying, comforting & soulful. Read more
Tomorrow night’s workshop is The Basics of Herbcraft, presented by yours truly. We’ll talk about core principles of medicine making, with a special eye for branching out, being creative and developing your craft. We’ll specifically talk about infusions, decoctions, infused oils, salves and alcohol tinctures. I put together a short & sweet 12-page booklet of what we’ll be talking about for participants. It includes methods recipes, tips & tricks. For those of you not in attendance and want to obtain one, here’s the .pdf file for you to print, peruse and distribute as you see fit. Read more
I had a great experience last night. Can I tell you about it? I took a bath. A bath with Western Red Cedar–with tea made from the fresh boughs, essential oil, flower essence, capped with a hydrosol and spagyric tincture (via Sean Croke). And it was the best medicine for how I was feeling! See, my own healing journey has been greatly enhanced by regular baths. Ingesting herbs is certainly powerful, but much is absorbed through our skin. And our physical body can hold so much–there’s something about a simple bath that really helps us clear and release. So this is what I’ll share today, along with a bath salt recipe that’s easily adapted to suit your needs.
I’m inspired to write about this because we’re in the season of Water. In Chinese 5-element medicine, Winter is the season of Water–the season and element of cleansing, restoration, gathering reserves for the rapid growth in the springtime. Water holds and conducts energy and intention. So when you need some deep medicine, what better way than to immerse yourself in such a restorative medium? Read more
The Wheel of the Seasons is turning, and we’re entering the Season of Water here in the Pacific Northwest. The light and warmth of the Sun has waned, and the plants have drawn their energy downward into their roots. The leaves are brown, the clouds and rain have turned the forests into misty, secretive cathedrals. And the rains have returned, cleansing, restoring and nourishing the life that will spring forth when the Wheel turns again. And this is the gift of Water.
In herbal practice, the water element shows up in a variety of ways. But one of the most important applications of Water is in teas and brews. This practice entails the interaction of all the elements: fire heating the water, water meeting the plant (Earth), infusion meeting the Air and warming the Heart. It’s elemental art at work.
There’s something so alluring about making beautiful teas & brews. The simplicity and tradition of the practice is so nurturing to the soul. It’s just about hot water and plants. Unlike other botanical preparations, my tea and brew-making activities are very informal and casual. I don’t like to fuss or worry about amount of this or that or exact times. Read more