On Learning About a New Plant

I checked in at East West’s student forum yesterday (even though it was supposed to be a non-working day.)  In a post, we were getting a scolding from our wonderful teacher and fearless leader, Michael Tierra, for not taking him up on his contest on Facebook.  I logged into Facebook and could not find the above picture, when I did, I thought, “hmmmm… that’s an interesting plant, it looks familiar yet it is totally new to me.  Alas, I can’t do any work today, it’s my ‘day off.'”
A lot of folks said it looked like amaranth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth), but the leaves looked too heart shaped in the specimen above to truly match amaranth (the ones I’ve seen at least.)  Also, notice how the stem splits several times (don’t ask me the proper botanical lingo, I don’t know it.)  Amaranth doesn’t split like that.  When you look real close at the splits (above), it’s almost like they are bandaged together.  I thought, “wow, that looks a lot like a Japanese Knotweed in the stem portions, or smartweed even.”  Off I go into my books and online to find out what this plant could be, despite my “day off” status.
At first I thought it was Polygonum erectum (http://www.herbsfor.net/knotweed-polygonum-erectum.html), after checking out the USDA plant database and googling different botanical names, common weeds, etc.  Michael asked where we could buy the seeds, and he gave us a big clue that the seeds are used in herbal medicine – that definitely ruled out P. erectum (which uses aerial portions.)
Off I go to Horizon herbs, look up Polygonum, and the following image came up:

Looks like it doesn’t it?  I cross-checked other sites/images (my fat Bensky Materia Medica book does not have this plant listed.)  I then googled “Polygonum orientale TCM”  and got the below information from TCMWiki.com.  Fits awful close, doesn’t it?

I shot my answer off, and happily report that the top picture is indeed Michael holding Polygonum orientale.  The common garden name is “kiss me over the garden gate”.

For those who are interested, here’s a bit of information:

Pinyin: Shui Hong Hua Zi
Latin: Polygonum orientale
Common: Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate
Salty, cool; Liver and Spleen meridians entered.
Dissipate blood stasis and break stagnation, tonify the Spleen and promote diuresis.
Scrofula, sores and boils, stomachache, abdominal mass, abdominal distension, poor appetite, ascites, acute conjunctivitis.
Dosage and administration:
Decoct 3~10 g seeds, pounded into powder or made into paste or soaked in wine.  Properdosage is for external application, made ointment or pounded for applying.
It is contraindicated for deficiency-cold in Spleen and Stomach.

(From: http://www.tcmwiki.com/wiki/polygonum-orientale)

Seeds at Horizon Herbs.  https://www.horizonherbs.com/product.asp?specific=533

Summer Heat Woes

Ostrich Ferns - Quaternity Holistics

As much as I tried to avoid getting overheated and succumbing to Summer Heat in the middle of a pretty horrid heat wave, I must admit: I failed.   It has been two years since I’ve had a Summer Heat invasion, the last time was when I decided to bicycle to work in 100F heat on an air quality alert day.

On July 4th, I woke up at 3am with the overwhelming sense that I was both burning up, and freezing.  I woke up only because I was having nightmares.  I was in a cold sweat, yet my body felt like it was boiling from the inside!  This is not a pleasant experience, but at 3am it seemed even more so mixed with my newly awakened foggy state.  Out of bed I crawl, taking a blanket and my pillow with me, and onto the couch.  I got a glass of water, cut a slice of fresh ginger, and started up a movie.  The fresh ginger may or may not have been a good idea, but it was the only thing that sounded appealing to my very unhappy stomach at the time.  I spent the next two and a half hours jumping up from the couch, and running into the bathroom.  I was miserable.

Eventually, I remembered that I had a tincture blend with some cooling herbs, herbs that would help me sweat a little, right on my kitchen counter-top.  I made some hot water, and in the tincture went.  I drank the hot tincture water, ate another slice of fresh ginger, then drew a tepid Epsom salt bath.  I sat in the bathtub, alternating between sweats and chills, until the goosebumps I’d had since 3am went away.  Thankfully, I started to fall asleep in the bath, so I promptly bundled myself up and crawled back into bed to sleep until 10.30am.

When I awoke, I was no longer in a feverish haze, and I made the following tea blend in my French Press:

  • 1 part chrysanthemum leaves
  • 1/2 part mung beans
  • 1/4 part mint
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 part qing hao

I let all of this steep for 25 minutes, then drank the whole pot.  By the end of the pot of tea, I felt like I could function enough to figure out something to eat (plain white rice, with some cooked veggies.)  I spent the rest of the day and weekend doing my best to eat a very simple diet, of cooked vegetables, not too much animal protein, and no raw foods.  I ate some steamed bean sprouts each day, which helped tremendously.

Looking back on this, I really wish I had had a packet of this tea blend (or tea pills) ready to go for my middle of the night illness as I believe I could have suffered for far fewer hours than I did if I had made this tea straight away – even though I was in no shape/state to be making proper tea.  I am thankful that I have a good number of tinctures lying about to help in a pinch though!  The day before I got sick, I had eaten a lot of avocado mixed with steamed and raw vegetables, salad with feta cheese, and a ton of watermelon.  I should also mention that I really like beer with ice in it when I get home from work.  I clearly did not follow my own advice.  The combination of food and drink during the heat wave made my body too cold and damp to handle the heat and humidity outside.

Take care during this season of Fire, especially with these very hot and humid days.  Don’t end up like me, feeling like a Baked Alaska, at 3am at the start of a holiday weekend!

Bringing a Community Together

Last night I attended a meeting to discuss forming a NYC-based chapter of the American Herbalists Guild.  I find the AHG to be refreshing, as I now feel like I’m part of an herbalist community outside of East West School of Herbology, in addition to various groups and forums (online) on a day-to-day basis.

Since a a NYC AHG chapter has been formed, it means that I’ll have more opportunities to connect with other herbalists and herb lovers – in person!

Spring Has Quickly Turned to Summer

Summer is here!

I hope everyone is taking it easy, not overdoing it, and resting so that you’ll have the energy to do all that needs to be done over the coming months! At the same time, I hope you are enjoying the warmth and light that this season brings!

I wanted to briefly introduce you to Akebia quintata (shown above, and below), also known as Mu Tong in pinyin.  My grandfather planted them on what is now my parents’ property (and what is my childhood home.)  This plant has basically taken over one whole area of their property, and it making headway into taking over as much of the other bit of their 3-ish acres as possible.  This particular Akebia vine has made its home in a holly bush.

While this is not an herbal monograph, for those interested:  Akebia is typically used to “drain dampness”.  It is slightly cold in temperature, it is bitter and is directed towards the Bladder, Heart, and Small Intestines.  This plant’s flowers have a gorgeous heady perfume.  I wish I could have bottled some!  Perhaps next year I’ll know how to capture flower’s fragrance and perfume!

The temperature of herbs indicates how it affects the body – “cold” temperature herbs/foods cool the body down (like mint tea, or watermelon.)  This is much like what an air conditioner does to a hot house, or ice cubes do to water.  “Hot” or “Warm” temperature herbs/foods heat the body up, and stoke the body’s internal furnace and heat generating ability (like cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger, curries and other spicy foods.)

When you are outside for long periods of time, in the extreme heat, your body becomes invaded by the heat of the environment.  Too much heat when it is hot out exhausts your body’s cooling abilities and makes you sick (think of Heat Stroke), too much cold foods when it is hot out creates “dampness” (like condensation on a glass of ice water on a hot day – but that’s what happens to the inside of your body!)  In TCM, all of this is called Summer Heat (that scorching hot feeling, or heat from overexposure) or Summer Heat with Dampness (the heat feelings from a hot and humid climate.)

Here are some things you can do, and some things to not do, to protect yourself from suffering from Summer Heat this season:

1.  Avoid: overeating cold raw foods, ice cold foods/drinks, juices/smoothies, melons and too much fruit
2.  Drink: hibiscus, lemon balm, rosehips, and chrysanthemum teas cool, not cold
3.  Avoid (or limit/restrict) red meat, alcohol and caffeine – except green tea which cools the body
4.  Eat: spicy foods and hot teas in moderation – they promote sweating, which in turns cools the body
5.  Avoid citrus juices, soda, sports drinks, sugar, honey, agave, etc – except Stevia – they create what is called Heat and Dampness thus aggravating what you are experiencing
6.  Eat: fresh vegetables, salads and fruits in moderation; legumes, white meats, mung beans, watermelon (in moderation), soy bean sprouts and room temperature herbal teas.  Balance fruit intake by eating the seeds or piece of the peel with the fruit – as always, eat organic and local!
7.  Drink: water with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, berries, mint leaves, etc in the glass.
8.  Do try to keep the indoor temperature as close to the outdoor temperature as possible, or at least cover up in the chilly air conditioning.  The extremes in temperature leave the body vulnerable to all sorts of invasions (think: summer colds/flus) – limit your risk by wearing a scarf and sweater inside, and removing it when you get outside.

East West School of Herbology Seminar 2013

I have been to the Californian Redwoods and back!  It is time to tell folks about my experience at my most wonderful herb school’s annual seminar (intensive!)

Seminar ran from April 26 through May 3 this year, thus I took an early morning flight from LaGuardia Airport and arrived in San Jose, CA early afternoon on the 26th.  I was so excited, I could barely contain myself!  I might have gotten two hours of sleep on the plane, if that!  When you arrive at Seminar, you check in and are told where you are staying.  So down to my room I go, dump all of my stuff and run back to talk to people (I thought Seminar was going to be a week-long party with classes in between – boy was I wrong!)  We all had dinner, the opening ceremony and got to talk to more people.

When everyone was talking and saying hello to each other (thank goodness for those name tags we had to wear), I saw my mentor and we gave each other a big hug.  I just adore my mentor, he is amazing.  I got to meet my teacher, the founder of the school, Michael Tierra too.  What a moment that was!  After all I’ve been through, it was so wonderful to be meeting these two men who have greatly influenced my life.  I met some wonderful people, who I hope to be connected with and talking to for many years to come.

Although it was my first Seminar, I was invited to move into the second level for a variety of reasons.  I was honored and terrified that I wouldn’t know enough.  The very first class we had was also on abdominal diagnosis, and it was an all day class run by Holly Guzman.  It was a wonderful class!  We had very informative classes from Roy Upton on the GMP regulations, and Christopher Hobbs on inflammation.  We had several Materia Medica (herb) classes, all of which were great, although I wish we could have covered more material in the 3 hours we had!  We had a great class with Michael Tierra on the Five Stagnations (Cold, Blood, Qi, Fluid, Food) where we learned about mu and shu (front and back) point diagnosis and different methods of moxibustion!  My favorite with the moxibustion was the direct method – where you put little carefully rolled cones of loose moxa directly on the skin and light it!  It is intense, I thought it felt amazing.  We had a “starting your herbal practice” class with Susan Kramer, lots of great practical information and advice; and a fantastic case study class with Susan as well.  The case study class is where you bring in a client’s information (anonymously), and you work on their intake to figure out what is going on with them (aka assessment, strategy, recommendations.)  This helped me a great deal, as I tend to over-think and second guess myself when working on intakes and case breakdown/assessment.  Susan is able to penetrate to the heart of the matter quickly, as do all of our wonderful teachers, they truly are wonderful role models and inspiration to all of us EW students!   Mornings were filled with Qi Gong and the Four Purifications, we had plenty of nourishing food (so much so that I didn’t have to snack during classes!)

I experienced not a bout of homesickness like I usually do, but a bout of husband-sickness.  I missed my husband so much, I could barely stand it at one point.  It was quite the rude awakening knowing that I felt I couldn’t function without my rock.  I felt like I’d been torn in two the first part of the week, it was very difficult.  Add to that the very intense social atmosphere, limited alone time (which is so needed and valued as an introvert) and you have quite the combination!  While I did not implode, I did feel quite lonely amongst all of my peers and teachers.  It was a great learning experience in that I’ve forgotten how to be by myself without distractions, like I used to be BH (before husband.)  There was a time when I’d basically turn my phone off for days on end, do my thing, and not talk to anyone (except my cat.)  I’m constantly connected and talking to my husband, my family, friends, teachers, etc.  It was a great lesson in self-sufficiency, independence, self-security, and also the power of silence in our day-to-day lives for reconnecting with our true selves.

Below is my very favorite poem, from the moment I arrived at Seminar this basically sums up how I felt.


Spring Flower Essences

I adore Spring; how the trees assume glows of color – bright green, yellow, orange, red, pink, white – in the form of new buds and flowers.  I love the flush of life, and the trout lilies that carpet the forest; and especially the green and purple mottled leaves with yellow flowers that seemingly float over last autumn’s foliage.

Where I grew up, Bloodroot used to be everywhere, but they are showing up less and less now.  I plan on planting some (along with other endangered species native to the area) in an enclosed forest space to protect the plants from the grazing habits of the deer who apparently love everything but the invasive garlic mustard plant, unfortunately.  Side note: Garlic mustard is edible, delicious, and invasive – so harvest to your heart’s content, especially before the blossoms appear and the seed head forms!  Feel free to pluck the entire plant (and roots) from the ground – discard the roots away from the forest to prevent the plant from returning later in the season and the following year.

I traveled up to my childhood home this past weekend, and kept thinking about dandelion and violet flower essences.  Typically, I will use black tourmaline, bloodstone, Bach’s Rescue Remedy and/or yarrow essences.  I have other flower essences around, and do enjoy them as well, but the four previously mentioned are the ones I always have in my purse with me.  I’m “new” to flower and gem essences, and have only been using the Bach’s Rescue Remedy for about a year now.  Suffice it to say, I am late to the flower essence game!  When I packed my bag for my weekend trip, I also brought some sterilized blue bottles, caps, droppers, clear glass “pinch” (or prep) bowls, distilled water, brandy and a funnel in case I got lucky with the weather.

While a tincture is a concentrated extract of an herb (flower, stem, leaf, bark, root, rhizome, etc.) an essence is a dilute extract of a flower (and sometimes gems, leaves, etc.)   Both tinctures and essences reawaken and re-balance the body.  Flower essences work on the vibrational, subtle, energetic, level of the body – thus they contain the energetic imprint of the plant material that is captured in the water and stabilized with brandy.

Here is how you make a flower essence:
1. Get all of your supplies: clear glass bowl – no markings, distilled/spring/rain water, brandy (I used an Italian brand), amber/violet/black/blue bottles with droppers (preferably), funnel, strainer.  Sterilize the bottles, funnel, strainer, etc.
2.  Wait for a perfectly clear, cloudless, sunny day – select your flowers.  It is best to pick your flowers early in the morning (I picked mine at 10am – it was only 45F out after being 35F all night!)
3.  Ask your flowers if they’d be willing to be turned into flower essences, tell them what you plan on doing with them, and assure them that they will be put to good use.  (Additionally, I promised them that I would eat as many of them as possible, when possible.)  In my opinion, you must have the plants permission to make any sort of plant medicine from them.
4.  Once you and  your flowers have come to an understanding, get a piece of leaf from that particular plant (if possible) and pluck the flowers, gently placing them into the bowl.  I did half of mine pre-filled with water, and the other half without water – I do not think it made a difference.  Be sure to not touch the flowers themselves with your hands.
5.  As I wanted a particular amount of flower essence, I measured and poured that into the bowls.  So, I planned ahead and used bowls that were small enough to float the flowers on the amount of water that I wanted, and cover the entire surface of the water at the same time.
6.  Leave this bowl in full sunlight, without any exposure to shadows from trees, clouds, people, etc. undisturbed for three or four hours.  (Note: I had to move mine twice as tree shadows were encroaching on my essences – talk about panic!)
7.  When your time is up, fill the bottle with the amount of brandy you need (should be a 50/50 mix, but a friend told me that 30%ABV is best to prevent deterioration of the essence.)
8.  Insert the funnel into the bottle and pour the flower essence into the bottle.  I did not bother with a strainer since I left my flowers whole (and they were big enough not to slide into the bottle.)
– – This is what is called the stock bottle.

To use the flower essence:
1.  Make a 50/50 mix of Brandy/water and fill a small dropper bottle with this mixture.
2.  Add 2-7 drops of the stock bottle’s essence to this bottle.
3.  Now you have Flower Essence, ready to take anywhere with you!
4.  Flower essences may be taken in 2-4 drop doses, up to four times per day.
– – I read that you can use plain water instead of the 50/50 mix if you plan on using your flower essence right away.  In this case, I’d probably use only 2 drops of essence per glass of water – as the greater the dilution, the greater the essence’s power.

Vinca, Periwinkle – Vinca minor
Promotes peace, instills peace,  compassion and forgiveness for both oneself and others. Aids in the ability and grace to move through uncomfortable situations and paths, reminding that all is well, and as it should be.


Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale
Promotes awareness and release of emotional tension held in muscle tissue; increases body-mind communication so we are better able to identify the underlying issues and attitudes that lead to the creation and holding of tension in our bodies.  Releases stress and emotions long held within the body so that one can relax and express emotions.

Forsythia – Oleacea intermedia
Helps to open up to our spiritual nature, and brings a sense of freedom and joy from that opening.  Encourages growth on all levels (physical, spiritual, emotional) and bolsters one to keep moving forward.

Japanese Pearl Flower – Pieris japonica
Helps to recognize, listen, hear and interpret our thinking patterns in relation to others’.  Helps one to understand their style of thought process, to help separate the ego from what is actually being said.  Supports discernment, awareness, and helps dissolve beliefs blocking our hearing and interpretation.  Opens up the ability to listen and hear our thoughts as well as others’.

Violet (Common Blue Violet) – Viola sororia
I had trouble finding information about this particular species, so am using info for Viola papilionacea:
For those who prefer solitute, who are shy but desire contact with others. This person seems cool and aloof, but they are fearful of being overwhelmed by others and losing their sense of self.  This person is lonely.  Violet helps the person trust that being with others is a positive experience, especially in sharing.  It therefore helps with those with intimacy issues, as well as shy children and pets.

If you would like to try some of my flower essences, please refer to my Products page for more information!

Forsythia helps us open up to our spiritual nature, bringing joy and a sense of freedom in that realisation.
Oleacea intermedia
– See more at: http://www.baileyessences.com/shop/forsythia/#.dpuf
Forsythia helps us open up to our spiritual nature, bringing joy and a sense of freedom in that realisation.
Oleacea intermedia
– See more at: http://www.baileyessences.com/shop/forsythia/#.dpuf

Adventures in Herbal Remedy-Making

One of my favorite parts of being an herbalist is the process of making remedies.  Of course, when one wild-crafts one must know the plants they are harvesting, whether or not they are at-risk or endangered, and if they are indeed the plants one thinks they are (vs toxic!)  See 7Song’s amazing PDF on responsible wild-crafting practices here, and of course check out United Plant Savers for their list of at-risk and endangered species.

I love going into the wild and collecting plant material for remedy making.  I love getting my hands dirty, smelling like the woods, and being in contact with the plants that make this type of work what it is truly about – deep connection.  From this deep connection comes healing, and an opportunity through the process of making herbal remedies to continue to harness and maintain the connection and healing from the plants.  Herbalism is so much more than “take this herb to help with this ailment.”  To me, herbalism is, “take this herb to help your body remember how to get better.”  When this remembrance occurs, the body is able to process what it has been avoiding, or unable to process, until that moment in time.  This is what herbalism does for me, for you it may be different!

A few weeks ago, I dug up a rather tenacious skunk cabbage root.  A series of pictures and botanical information from 7Song put skunk cabbage in my brain, and around the same time I ran across Sean Donahue’s lovely posts on skunk cabbage on his blog.  Needless to say, skunk cabbage was calling to me!  Down to the riverbed I go, hearing my husband say, “there’s nothing growing, are you sure you’re going to find what you are looking for?”  Lo and behold, skunk cabbage flowers were peeking up out of the cold ground!  I must mention, that I am using skunk cabbage roots and, really, they should be dug up in the fall or in the spring well before those flower heads poke through the ground (or at least before they start turning purple) when the plant’s energy is circulating in the root vs the flower.  I was not going to let several months pass me by, I just had to have skunk cabbage tincturing in my closet.  It was all I could think about for weeks leading up to harvesting this plant, and bordering on completely irrational thinking.  I am anticipating a weak tincture as a result of my poor harvest timing, but nevertheless looking forward to seeing what skunk cabbage has in store for me.

I plan on marking at least one spot for another skunk cabbage root, to harvest in the fall, as my chosen skunk cabbage did not want to come out of the ground very easily (that’s my first lesson in this adventure.)  The skunk cabbage was in the ground much deeper than I anticipated and really made me work to get it out.  I got mighty dirty, cold, wet and muck spattered.  My hands were very very cold, but for some reason it didn’t bother me the way cold normally does.  When the root yielded to my digging, I thanked it for coming out and carefully washed the roots in the stream, put the whole plant in the bag that I had with me – flower and all – and hiked back up the hill.  My husband did not understand why I did not want to dig up more roots, as there were plenty of skunk cabbages all around us.  One was enough, more would have been greedy for just one person’s medicine.

I let the root dry overnight, then washed and washed and washed the roots with a soft toothbrush to get as much muck off of them as possible.  I swear the roots expanded while I was washing and scrubbing them.  At this point, even with cold water for rinsing the roots, aided by a toothbrush for scrubbing out as much muck debris as possible, my hands began to heat up to the point of burning and then began itching from what must have been the oxalates.  I think the reason my hands did not get so horribly cold digging it out by the riverbed was because of these oxalates, which are neutralized through heating, drying and/or tincturing.  Second lesson learned: wear gloves when preparing raw skunk cabbage roots!

A little background on skunk cabbage, from Sean Donahue’s site, if you are so inclined.

I do not have pictures of the tincture in progress, the whole root/rhizome, being washed, cut up, in the jar, etc.  I’ll do another post in the future with a less messy tincturing plant!

When making tinctures from fresh root material, as I did with skunk cabbage, there are two ways to go about it: one is the folk method, and the other is a standardized measurement. (There is a third method: percolation, but I haven’t tried percolations yet and they are for powdered material.)  I went with the standardized measurement of 1:2 fresh in 50% alcohol, as per Michael Moore’s information.

Here are the steps, once you’ve gathered your material:

1.  Clean then chop up your root material very finely, or as finely as possible (sometimes it is easier to break up the material, let it soften for a couple of weeks int he menstruum and then puree in the blender.)
2.  Measure the material out by weight (I use grams, because I’m a nerd)
3.  Place the herb in a large jar
4.  Cover with the volume of alcohol needed.  In my case I had 250g exactly of root, so added 500mL of 50% alcohol to cover.  My jar was the exact size I needed as well – it was meant to be apparently!
5.  Seal the jar, then label it.
6.  Put it in a nice cool dark place, and shake it daily for the first couple of weeks.  Then, let it macerate for at least 6 weeks.  I have tinctures macerating that are over a year old, some I just wait until the time feels right and then I strain them.

My labels typically look something like this:

Sample Label

After the maceration period, you may strain your tincture and store it in a brown or blue glass bottle.

I strain/press through cheesecloth, and then re-filter the tincture with a fine mesh sieve if there are still plant bits in the tincture.  Modify the label so it has the “strained” date on it.  Some people put pertinent information on the bottle labels, such as energetics, Organs/organs affected, actions, etc.

I will post an update/new blog post on the efficacy of this particular tincture, and what it did for me, after it is ready in June/July.

Update 07/2014: it has been over a year since I first made this tincture, and I still haven’t tried it!  I look at the bottle every week, and still haven’t bucked up to actually try the tincture.  I suppose I’ll have to do that, as skunk cabbage tincture is said to only last a little over a year once tinctured.

Books for Soul-Healing

I wanted to share some books that have been very useful to me over the years, and also tell you why I found them to be useful and influential.  This is pretty much in reverse chronological order as well!

Lesley Tierra Metaphor-phosis
While I am not finished with the work in this book (when are we not works in progress?), I find Lesley’s style of writing to be frank, honest, sensitive and giving.  I feel like I have a motherly/crone figure/fairy godmother coming to give me advice in my living room/bedroom!

James Gordon Unstuck
I first read this a few years ago, it was a huge help and gave me the courage to get myself “unstuck” and out of my years long depression.  It also planted another seed in my brain to explore herbalism more deeply.

Carl Jung The Red Book
If only for its beautiful imagery, and heavy thoughts whose depths I have yet to plumb!

Clarissa Pinkola Estes Women Who Run With the Wolves
This book has been one of the most influential books in my life.  This book made me realize that being who I am is just fine, and that all the things have happened to me have been for a reason: to teach me something.  This book taught me to stop being the victim in my life, and to move forward as a powerful woman.

Carl Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections
I can’t remember if I read this just before or after Women Who Run With the Wolves, but it was greatly influential in teaching me to pay attention to my dreams more.  Prior to this book, I had thought my dreams may mean things but dismissed them more as “sleeping movies” – entertaining, and sometimes scary, but nothing more than a reorganization of the day’s thoughts.

Rabindranath Tagore Wings of Death and Sadhana: The Realization of Life
Both of these books opened my eyes to my connection with the Universe, and started cementing some of  my beliefs and understandings.  They have been, on more occasions than I can remember, my rocks and reminders that everything is connected in unspeakably beautiful ways.

Susan Bush Early Chinese Texts on Painting
This may have been the seed that was planted for my love and fascination with TCM/Five Element Theory (except I did not know that’s what it was called at the time), and the ultimate sublime balance/imbalance.  The theories and aesthetics made intuitive sense to me even if I could never paint landscapes like the Chinese Masters.  The supreme peace and understanding is what brings me back to this book, over and over.


What books would you include in your list?

Thoughts on Experiencing a Healing Crisis

Last week marked my first full year(1) of being on my herbal formula, it has been an interesting year; and the last couple of months I have seen huge leaps in my progress.

Winter on Tug Hill, NY

On my one year decoction(2)anniversary, I felt terribly cold – even with more than adequate warm clothing and layers on!  I’ve been trying to listen to my intuition more often, as I tend to dismiss it, and so heard my intuition telling me to take a particular herb in homeopathic form to help “warm” me up.(3)  At first I thought I had given myself a heart attack, or was experiencing a panic attack (I have suffered from those in the past), then I realized I was fine.  I sat down on the A train, and took my pulse every so often, then did the same on the L train – evaluating what was going on, how my breathing was, how my heartbeat was, etc.  Everything was normal, but I had this sharp pain in my chest!  Why was I experiencing this sharp heart-ache?  What was happening in my life that was giving me such pain?  I contacted my mentor, who told me to keep track of how I felt for the next 24 hours. The next week was very interesting: had lots of insights, and even got jolted out of a useless mind-obsessive-loop in the form of tripping up a set of stairs! I realized that the homeopathic allowed the energy in my body to break through and into my heart, allowing me to feel things that I had purposely blocked off long ago.  It allowed me to see the deeper reasoning behind a lot of actions, feelings (both happy and hurtful) that have been in my life for a long time.  It was just what I needed, just when I needed it!  Thank you Intuition. 

Sometimes healing crises are events where you feel physically better and worse (ie an old illness rears its head, but overall you feel much better) and sometimes a healing crisis has more psychological/emotional/spiritual components – both are brought on by a change (diet, herbal, lifestyle), both are short-lived.  Sometimes a healing crisis and wrong formula/herb/diet are confused with each other.  For more information about healing crises (and wrong formulas), check out the following blog post: http://www.planetherbs.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=healing-crisis-or-wrong-formula.html&Itemid=141

Valley of Fire, NM

Additional Information: 
It is said to allow 2-3 months of herbal therapy for every year that one has experienced a particular imbalance, 1 month if the person does everything recommended (ie incorporating all dietary, lifestyle and herbal recommendations together for a fuller/larger effect.)  I have been experiencing certain issues for half of my life, so knew up front that I’d probably have to be on my herbal formula for at least 18 months before trying a few months without it. That means I still have another 6 months to go, even though I’ve been feeling like I’m not needing my formula/decoction as much.
A decoction is a tea that is slowly simmered, uncovered and reduced in volume while cooking up to 1 hour (depending on the ingredients sometimes this time is more, sometimes less.) An infusion has the ingredients steeped in just boiled water, in a covered vessel, for about 20 minutes (depending on the ingredients, some infusions are made by steeping the herbs in cold water for several hours.)
Homeopathics are very dilute versions of herbs, minerals, etc that help to rebalance the body.  I find homeopathics to be very powerful when used appropriately, although they can have unwanted side effects.
Water Lily, taken in RI

Seasonal Eating

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) and five seasons (Spring, Summer, Indian Summer/Late Summer, Fall, Winter.)  Each of the Elements is associated with a particular season, and each of the Elements is also associated with a particular color and taste.  Below is a chart of the basic information for the Five Elements and seasons.  

Within TCM, there is Yin and Yang.  Everything is made of Yin and Yang, there are no absolutes (ie nothing can be pure Yin or pure Yang) – there is always a little bit of Yin in Yang, and a little bit of Yang in Yin. Catching a cold/flu where you end up with a fever but chills: your body is hot from the fever, yet you have a cool/chill feeling.  The body is mostly hot (Yang) with a little bit of cool (Yin.)

The primary goal with Yin/Yang is not to be totally balanced, because if we were totally balanced we would not exist!  What we want to do is to be as balanced as our constitution allows us, and not swing wildly from one end to the other.  Thus, eating too many icy cold foods and drinks in the heat of Summer can result in an imbalance, just as eating too many spicy/hot foods in the Summer can create an imbalance.  We want to eat appropriately to remain healthy and balanced.

Yin – Yang
Wood Liver – Gall Bladder Spring Green Sour Wind
Fire Heart/Pericardium – Small Intestine/Triple Warmer Summer Red Bitter Heat
Earth Spleen/Pancreas – Stomach Indian/Late Summer Yellow Sweet Dampness
Metal Lung – Large Intestine Fall White Pungent/Metallic Dryness
Water Kidney – Urinary Bladder Winter Black/Dark Blue Salty Cold