For you Somervillians and Boston locals, you are cordially invited to attend my annual Flowerfolk Open House taking place this Friday, Dec. 13th from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Feel free to stop in, have some mulled wine and browse my herbal products (ranging from chai blends to comfrey salve to natural perfumes). Please email me for the private address.
I speak for the plants, and they for me...
Lately I've been consumed by a project that is near and dear to my heart, work that is both challenging and very fulfilling to undertake. This project will soon be coming to the end of its yearly cycle, and in these final weeks of its unfolding, despite the excitement I feel, I also tend to get pretty stressed out and worn down. So, I've been trying to take adaptogenic and nervine herbs every day for overall support and vitality, and to help keep the stress in check. It's interesting for me to observe that the times I most often need some help from the herbs are the times when I am least likely to actually take care of myself. For me, as for many people I suppose, the more stressed I feel the more likely I am to "forget" to do things that are good for me, the more resistant I am to take the time to cook meals, the more prone I am to let myself be stuck in the stress-cycle rut... But here's where some of my favorite herbs step in to help get me out of my head and to take a more relaxed perspective on things:
In moments when I feel frazzled and with a million things on my mind and to-do list I make a tea of Violet, Oat Tops and Skullcap. Makes me feel soothed. Violet is a more delicate herb, but offers a floral aroma that is uplifting and calming. The Oats provide good nourishment for a frazzled nervous system and the Skullcap is really wonderful for anxiousness.
On evenings when I just need to let the day go and have a restful sleep, I drink an infusion of Oat Tops and Linden. I am always so surprised how quickly and deeply this tea knocks me out, but it never fails to facilitate a deep night's sleep. It seems to let you relax enough to feel how tired you are. The other night I drank this tea right before bed and actually overslept the next morning - the first time in a long time!
On days when I just want to feel fortified and more centered, I drink Tulsi. This is one of my absolute favorite teas, and has a little bit of spice and warmth to it. You can drink it by the gallon to help tame anxiety and overwhelm. I feel that it is also a good match for people who deal with self-induced states of stress like perfectionism and obsessively driven behavior. I definitely recommend using loose Tulsi leaves instead of the pre-packaged tea bags to make a really strong brew. This dark tea goes well with honey - even some milk.
All of these plants have become my dear friends, standing by my side in demanding times. I hope they will be of use to you, too... and help you to come closer to your relaxed and naturally-centered self.
Around these parts we are finally seeing some new signs of life. It is always worth the wait.... Usually spring seems to happen all at once and pass by much too quickly, but this year the new season's arrival has been more of a slow transition. I like that. I like catching a glimpse of where the first chickweed is popping up or where the crocus bulbs are blooming. I await the first green buds of the willow tree and keep close watch on the willows that line my morning walk.
In spring the sap is starting to move, and so must we. Now's the time to gently shake off our winter selves and move into more active times. Time to support the cleansing action of the liver, time to eat bitter greens and gather young wild leaves. Watch for the dandelion, violet and chickweed leaves that are about to emerge: they make good food and medicine, imparting minerals and other nutrients while also energizing our bodies with the spring energies.
In the meantime, before my beloved plants peek their heads out of the snow, I am making spring teas out of dried herbs. I mix dandelion leaf, violet, nettles and red clover. I'll add in a bit of linden or elderflowers for fun, and for beauty. Dandelion leaf makes me feel pure and sparkly (!); violet makes me feel calm and mysterious; nettles and red clover make me feel nourished....
sparkly + calm + pure + mysterious + nourished = ready for springtime
On this snowy, cold weekend I was inspired to cook-up something that would be colorful, nourishing and full of sunshine. This far north, we could all use a burst of cheer at this point in the winter season. So after a walk down to the local farmers' market on Saturday morning (the always wonderful Somerville Winter Farmers' Market) I came home with a beautiful butternut squash and a hankering to make some soup with it. What follows is the recipe for my sunshine soup - so called because the theme was yellow, and the secret ingredient is calendula petals!
(* I never measure things when I cook, so the recipe below is my best guess-timate! Enjoy creating your own version using this as a reference...)
large butternut squash
beef stock (preferably homemade - can also use chicken or vegetable stock)
one large yellow onion
1 tsp. thyme
1 tblsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
handful of dried calendula petals
a couple cloves of garlic
lemon to taste
- Roast the butternut squash until soft, let cool, scrape out the flesh and blend on high speed with about a cup of beef stock.
-In the meantime, chop and saute the yellow onion with the salt and spices. Add the calendula petals last, with another cup of stock, let everything simmer together for a few minutes.
-Blend this onion mixture with the squash mixture, then return everything back to the pot.
-Add in some finely chopped or pressed garlic and some fresh lemon juice to taste.
-Heat back up and serve.
-Know you are eating lots of yellow goodness and be happy!
Now it is early November, that transitional time that carries us into deep winter and into darker days. It is a time of descending. And also a time of releasing - we must let go of what is old and no longer needed, just as the trees do with their leaves. I love this time of year for that very reason - because even though it is essentially a time of decay, darkness and of slowing down, it also brings with it a paradoxical freshness. We can either feel weighed down by the shorter days and increased darkness, by the snow and cold, by the onward rush of the holidays.... or, we can feel ourselves gently releasing as we breathe in the new crisp air of the season, prepare our home nests with winter essentials, and trade the outward energy of the summer for the inward energy of the winter.
What herbs can support us during the cold months and this transitional time?
When the dark days roll around I turn to herbs that offer nourishment and that can be incorporated into foods, especially soups. Often this means root medicine: burdock, astragalus, dandelion, ashwaghanda and codonopsis roots start making a regular appearance in my kitchen. Autumn is the time of year to harvest roots from the earth, and so now is also the time to start incorporating them into our daily routines. Any of the above herbs can be thrown by the handful into soups and long-simmered broths, where they will impart their grounding strength and immune-supporting energies. Ashwaghanda you may want to try as a powdered herb, to be mixed in with milk (of any kind) or honey and used as a long-term tonic that will feed the adrenals, support restful sleep and build an overall vitality and strength throughout the body.
In future posts I'll write more about each of these roots and offer recipes to experiment with and make your own...
I use a lot of roses in my skin care formulations, and rightly so, for this is a radiant plant full of healing and skin-loving properties. We all know Rose as the symbol of love and beauty but its use as an herbal medicine and cosmetic ingredient is perhaps not so well-known. This is indeed a pity, for who would not love to nourish their skin with such a beautiful flower?
The cold-pressed oil of rose, from the rosehip seeds, is used for anti-ageing and skin rejuvenation and commonly used for scaring, wrinkles and UV damage. This luxurious and healing oil contains Vitamin A, which helps to delay the effects of skin aging, and can assist with cell regeneration. There are also high amounts of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E, which further promotes healthy skin. The entire plant is incredibly anti-inflammatory, and beyond its cosmetic applications is used for injuries and sore muscles amongst other ills.
Energetically, Rose works on opening the heart chakra (not surprisingly) and also acts as heart-settling nervine. It brings peace and strength to the body and spirit, and can help to lift anxiety and depression.
Its beauty helps us to recall and claim our own.
How did the rose ever open its heart
And give to the world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
Otherwise we all remain too frightened.
It has been an herbal-infused summer... I was consumed by this for the past several months...
and I’ve been studying here, with my most amazing teachers. Plant beauty and wisdom abounds.
I walk amongst the city streets and find so much inspiration in the green beings that hold their medicine for us. They offer their generous hearts to us whenever we may need their help.
Burdock, comfrey, rose, red clover…. I find these friends wherever I go.