This post is for those of you who follow along with my monthly Moon Tea Circle newsletter. Each newsletter contains inspirations for making a lunar infusion in sync with other readers. Through the circle we focus on a unique intention or collective theme, and across the distance we connect with one another and the full moon to invoke wisdom & healing, manifestation & release.
Below are the basic steps for creating your own unique full moon tea.
~ Take the desired herbs and place as much or as little of them as you feel is the right amount into a clean glass jar. (As a starting point I usually use anywhere from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of dried herbs per 1 cup of water.)
~ If you don't have all of the herbs specified in the monthly newsletter, it's ok. Use what you have or make substitutions. You can used dried or fresh herbs. Everyone's moon tea will be a little different.
~ On the evening of the full moon pour pure, room-temperature water over the herbs then let your covered jar sit in the light of the moon overnight.
~ Your tea can steep anywhere the moonlight will touch it. This can be in a backyard, on a balcony, or on a windowsill. Try to place it somewhere elevated and with a clear view of the sky so it can catch as many moonbeams as possible.
~ If moonlight is not able to reach the steeping jar (as when it's cloudy, rainy or snowy) that's ok -- the intent behind the moon tea will still be strong, and that's where much of the transformative power of this tea resides.
~ Remember that other readers are placing their tea jars out to steep on the same evening, and send them telepathic greetings and well-wishes. Keep the intent in mind as you do so. This is the most important part of the tea-making process: when we join together as a group our intentions are amplified.
~ The next morning strain out the herbs (and compost them, if possible).
~ You can drink this brew throughout the whole next day or all at once. Remember to keep the monthly intention in mind as you drink.
Because the first trimester can be a delicate time I don’t recommend using many herbs, especially herbs that you’ve never had before. Stick to gentle, nutritive, food-grade plants.
Morning sickness and fatigue tend to be the main issues that most women deal with. My own morning sickness wasn’t too severe, but it was uncomfortable from time to time (and it wasn’t always in the morning). Making sure that I had plenty of good food in my body — and not going for long periods of time without eating — helped immensely. Also, getting enough protein and fat was important so that my blood sugar levels stayed stable.
Herb-wise I used gentle chamomile, peppermint and/or ginger teas to help with the queasy-ness. Ginger chews are also nice if you can’t make tea and need something right away.
Interestingly enough, the most helpful herb for me during this time of nausea was milk thistle, even though it is not particularly well known for this use. It is, however, famous for its wonderful supportive and gentle detoxifying action on the liver. Since the liver has extra work to do during pregnancy because of all the extra hormones in the body it makes sense that this plant would have a beneficial action. I used the ground up seeds and sprinkled them on my food — about 1 tablespoon or so per day, or as needed. I felt that this was an indispensable herb for me in this phase.
I also drank some rosehip tea from time to time as well as nettles, both of which are gentle herbs akin to food. The supplements I took during this trimester — and throughout my pregnancy — included magnesium, fermented cod liver oil and probiotics.
At this point in my pregnancy I felt more comfortable using a wider range of herbs. I sipped on overnight-steeped nettle tea quite frequently, as well as oat straw, lemon balm, rose, hawthorn and chamomile teas. I also began taking raspberry leaf on a frequent basis.
Raspberry leaf is a beloved ally for the childbearing years. You may read some sources that say it is safe to use throughout pregnancy, and you may read some that say it should only be used in the 2nd trimester and beyond. I am in the latter group because I found that when I drank a cup of raspberry leaf in my first trimester it made me feel a little crampy, which of course you want to avoid. So I held off on the RL until I was well into my second trimester. I upped my intake of it in the third trimester — a few cups per week — and tried to drink even more of it in my last final weeks.
You can read more about raspberry leaf and all of its wonderful benefits here. Briefly I’ll say that it is known as a partus preparator, meaning it prepares the uterus for labor. The tea contains an alkaloid called fragrine that helps to strengthen the muscle of the uterus and is thought to promote a quicker, easier labor.
Toward the end of my pregnancy I increased the amount of raspberry leaf I was consuming and tried to drink a quart of the tea every 2-3 days. At this point I also compiled my herbal birth and postpartum kit, which included herbs that I wanted to have on hand during labor and for recovery. Here’s what I included… (Read on to see what I actually ended up using…)
HERBAL BIRTH & RECOVERY KIT:
>> SCENTS / AROMATHERAPY
>> FLOWER ESSENCES
WHAT I ACTUALLY USED:
Honestly, I think I was a little over-prepared with this kit and ended up not using a lot of these items. Mostly that was because my labor came on so fast and furious and I quickly went to that place where you can’t speak or think straight.
The total time of my labor — including early labor and active labor through to the birth — was just 8.5 hours, which is quite fast for a first-time mom. Perhaps all the raspberry leaf tea I had been drinking helped to speed things along, but it’s hard to know for certain since I have nothing to compare it to.
A lot of the herbs in my kit would have been helpful if I had a really long, drawn out labor and needed more of a physical or mental boost.
What I ended up relying on during labor was the Labor Aid drink (which tasted so good!), raspberry leaf tea, and the flower essences (which I included in my beverages and also put in the bath at one point).
Soon after giving birth I also drank a bunch of raspberry leaf tea with a couple dropperfuls of yarrow tincture to help with the postpartum bleeding. It really seemed to do the trick. I also took the homeopathic Arnica 30C for about 2 weeks afterwards to help with the intense soreness my body experienced. I used herbal sitz baths to help heal tender tissues, and took fenugreek seeds from time to time to support milk production. Finally, I had a bottle of motherwort tincture near me at all times and took a few drops when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed or emotional in those first delicate weeks of new motherhood.
And that’s it!
If you are looking to create your own herbal birth kit choose the herbs and plants that you already love and know well. And keep it simple. In the throes of labor you want to keep one or two comforting items — whether it’s a tea, scent or flower essence — close by and not worry about various bottles to sort through.
I hope this is helpful for some mama’s-to-be out there. These beautiful herbs are here to help and support us— call upon them when you need them!
Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is a beautiful, delicious, nutritive and practical herb, and a very versatile plant that appeals to nearly everyone in one way or another.
Most of us are familiar with raspberry as a food — who doesn’t love fresh summer-ripe raspberries? But the part of the plant that I’ll be discussing in this article is the leaf. I love the foliage of this plant: the leaves are run through with veins, and are dark green on the top, and a lovely silvery-white on the back.
If you ever run into a brambly-type of plant growing in or near a forest you might be unsure if what you are encountering is a blackberry or a raspberry as they look quite similar. But a quick way to tell the difference is to turn the leaf over: if it has that beautiful silver-white color to it, you know you have found raspberry.
This delightful fruiting shrub is native to both to Asia and North America, and is a member of one of my favorite plant families, the Rosa (a.k.a. Rosaceae) family. While everyone is aware that raspberry fruits are edible and nutritive, most people do not know that the leaves themselves are a very nutritive agent. In fact, they are high in Vitamins C, E, A and B, and hold a range of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. They also contain essential trace minerals such as zinc, iron, chromium and manganese. These vitamins and minerals are imparted to us when we make a tea out of the dried leaves.
Beyond being a gentle, nourishing herb raspberry has been used for centuries to support respiratory, digestive and reproductive health. In Ayurvedic medicine raspberry leaves are considered to be a cooling herb that is good for reducing heat and inflammation in the body, especially throughout the digestive tract. As an astringent herb it helps to tighten up the skin around wounds and promote healing. It is traditionally used for diarrhea; nowadays it is also used to strengthen the lining of the intestinal tract where there is permeability or “leaky gut.” Raspberry leaf can help protect the gut from irritation and inflammation.
Raspberry leaf is most famously known as a lovely and supportive herb for women’s reproductive health, especially during the childbearing years. As a tea raspberry can help ease menstrual cramping (perhaps due in part to its high content of magnesium). In addition, the leaves contain an alkaloid called fragrine which helps strengthen and tone the uterus and the pelvic area. This special constituent can promote fertility, prevent miscarriage, and prepare a pregnant woman for birth.
In my own recent pregnancy I drank a lot of raspberry leaf tea. However, I waited until the second trimester to do so because if taken earlier it may cause a sensation of cramping. (I typically recommend only food grade herbs during pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester.) I increased my intake of raspberry leaf tea as I neared my due date. I felt that it was gentle, supportive and full of so many good vitamins and minerals for both me and the baby. I also brought a huge container of the tea with me to the birth!
Many people claim that it can promote a shorter and easier labor. I can’t say if it truly does or not. My own labor was relatively quick and straightforward for a first-time mom… but it definitely was not easy!
I also drank raspberry leaf tea right after the birth and for a while afterwards to help the uterus regain its normal size and tone. Again, I found the mineral content of the tea to be refreshing and helpful after such a physically intense process. Hands down, raspberry leaf is my favorite herb for fertility, pregnancy, and post-natal health.
But it’s not just for women! Men can also benefit from raspberry leaf as it supports prostate health and has a toning effect for the whole male reproductive system. Raspberry tea is also wonderful, safe and gentle enough for kids (perhaps sweetened with a bit of honey.) I also enjoy it as a simple beverage tea — it makes a wonderful alternative to conventional iced tea, having a similar flavor, but without the caffeine.
HOW TO USE:
➤ Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaf per cup of hot water for 10 minutes.
➤ To make a more nutritive infusion with a high content of minerals, steep 4 tablespoons dried herb in a quart of hot water for 6 to 8 hours.
➤ Raspberry leaf makes a great iced tea in the summer. You can do a cold-brew steep (or sun tea) of raspberry leaf by placing 4 tablespoons of the dried leaf in a quart of cold water for 3 to 5 hours. Place in a sunny windowsill if possible.
➤ Raspberry leaf mixes well with rose petals, red clover, mint, and chamomile
In pregnancy wait until the 2nd trimester to begin drinking red raspberry leaf tea because it may cause uterine tightening or cramping. Also, because of the high tannins in raspberry leaf some people feel slightly nauseous if they drink the tea on an empty stomach.
Elecampane is one of my favorite herbs. But I must admit that it can be an acquired taste, and many people don’t get past its surprisingly pungent and forceful flavor, eschewing it for more mellow-tasting herbs. However, once you give it a chance there are many gifts to be gained from this beautiful, graceful and healing plant.
Before we get to its use in herbalism, I want to note that elecampane is often planted in gardens due to its tall stature and beautiful flowers. It is a relative of the sunflower and you can see the resemblance in the cheery, long, yellow petals and in its graceful height. This plant will grow taller than a human! Elecampane takes its botanical name, Inula helenium, from the legend of Helen of Troy. Legend has it that the plant sprung up in the places where her tears fell when she was kidnapped from her home.
The pungent root is the part used in herbal medicine; it is harvested in the autumn when the plant is two or three years old. The taste of the fresh or dried root is strong: it imparts a bitter, spicy and warming flavor all at once.
Elecampane is most famous for its ability to strengthen and support the respiratory system. It is known as one of the best herbal expectorants for congested and stuck mucus in the chest, phlegm-y coughs, and for many respiratory infections, such as bronchitis. It can reach deep into the lungs and gets things moving again by clearing and releasing old infected mucus. Emotionally it is also used for grief and sadness that is stored in the lungs.
A strong antiseptic and bactericide that helps resolve bacterial infection elecampane will change thick, green, infected mucus to white or clear mucus. Old herbal writings also indicated the use of it for shortness of breath and swollen and inflamed respiratory conditions.
In addition to its wonderful respiratory properties, the bitter properties of the root stimulate the appetite, overall digestive function and help increase the flow of bile from the liver to the small intestine. Traditionally it was used for all sorts of digestive woes from intestinal parasites to stagnant digestion to imbalanced intestinal flora. In fact, another amazing attribute of elecampane is that the root is a rich source of source of inulin. This is a storage carbohydrate found in some plants which feeds and supports healthy digestive flora, acting as a prebiotic, i.e. food for our good gut flora.
HOW TO USE:
➤ To make a decoction of the root, place 1 tablespoon dried root in 2 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and cover. Let cook for 15 to 20 minutes, then strain out the root.
Note: Avoid elecampane during pregnancy.
RECIPE: Elecampane Infused Honey
Frankincense is a small, shrubby tree that is native to hot, dry, desert climates. The resin of this fascinating plant — native to India, Oman, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — has been used for over 5,000 years. It has been highly regarded as a medicine, an aromatic perfume, a ceremonial tool, and was once worth even more than gold.
Perhaps you are familiar with the scent of frankincense — often burned as incense in religious ceremonies. Or perhaps you are more familiar with the essential oil — sometimes referred to as olibanum. The oil is commonly used in aromatherapy for soothing chronic stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, and boosting immunity.
It is also an ingredient in many natural skin care products because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Frankincense is believed to help protect and heal skin cells and is used to reduce acne, prevent wrinkles and slow signs of aging. It is an astringent, meaning that it helps to tighten and tone loose, sagging or lax tissues. The essential oil can be added to any moisturizing serum as a nice, supportive addition to a daily skin care routine.
Its physical properties also make frankincense a powerful antiseptic; it is used to eliminate bacteria and viruses, and can help disinfect an area — use it as an aromatherapy spritzer or burn the resin for this purpose.
The astringent action of this plant can also help eliminate phlegm and congestion in the lungs. For mucous-y situations that seem to hang around in the respiratory system or sinuses, try frankincense as it will not only help to dry up mucous but will also act as an anti-inflammatory in the nasal passages, making breathing easier.
Finally, when rubbed on the body topically frankincense oil can improve circulation and the symptoms of joint or muscle pain in arthritic and rheumatic conditions. It tends to have a soothing effect for any sort of bodily inflammation.
Let’s speak a bit of the more esoteric and spiritual aspects of this amazing resin… Frankincense is a venerable old tree, in use for thousands and thousands of years. It was so highly treasured that it was brought as one of the gifts of the Wise Men to be presented at Jesus’ birth. The resin was also found in the tombs of Egyptian mummies, used not only as an embalming agent, but also as an offering to help the departed souls make their journey to the afterlife.
Amongst many cultures around the world the fragrance of this resin was believed to increase one’s spiritual connection and intuition. The Chinese called it “fanhunxiang” meaning “calling back the soul fragrance.” It is often used in meditation, since the scent is calming, grounding and pleasant to the senses. It helps one to become more present in the moment and encourages feelings of peace.
Several religions use frankincense incense in their ceremonies. It may be used to prepare the environment for ritual, and is said to call forth the angels and other invisible beings to assist in creating sacred space. Symbolically, the smoke that rises as the resin burns helps to carry prayers and offerings to Heaven.
HOW TO USE
Make Frankincense Water:
Place 4-5 small pieces of resin in a quart sized jar. Cover with boiled water, cap, and let steep for a few hours or overnight. The resulting liquid will be light in color and a bit cloudy. Drink up to a cup or so a day, using your taste buds to guide you on your own proper dosage. This tea comes in handy when you are feeling congested. Many people also drink it to help with arthritic or painful joints.
Use the essential oil topically:
Dilute 10 - 15 drops of frankincense essential oil in 1 oz. of a carrier of your choice (olive, jojoba, grapeseed, or almond oil) and rub onto the skin. This is useful for scarring, acne, wrinkles and painful joints.
Burn the resin:
To burn the dried resin use a small charcoal disc (often sold to use in hookahs). Light the charcoal outside on a fire-proof dish and when it finishes smoking and sparking it should simply glow. Place 1 to 3 small pieces of resin on the charcoal and it will start to burn immediately. The resulting incense is pleasant and sweet and can be used to clear and purify the air.
NOTE: Frankincense should not be used during pregnancy, because of its emmenagogue and astringent qualities.
The Rose family (Rosaceae) is one of the most beloved botanical groups; humans have had a deep affinity for these plants for thousands and thousands of years.
Not only does this family produce beautiful flowering plants such as spirea, potentilla, lady’s mantle, agrimony and hawthorn, but also important fruit crops such as pears, peaches, plums, cherries, quinces, almonds, raspberries and strawberries.
What would our world be like without these delights?!
Of all these family members, Rose is the most well-known and sought-after. She is the true queen of flowers.
While most people are familiar with the aesthetic and olfactory beauty of the rose, in this country there tends to be less familiarity with the fruit of the rose, i.e. the rosehip.
I adore using rosehips this time of year, when the scarlet fruits become full and ripe. All roses will develop hips once their flowers fade, but depending on the species they vary in shape, color, texture and taste. The hip of the dog rose, Rosa canina, is often sold commercially for tea. Around our neck of the woods we are lucky to find Rosa rugosa, the beach rose, which produces the most beautiful, large, tomato-like fruits.
Why would we want to use rosehips?
First of all, these fruits are a delicious wild edible. They are nutritive and tart, and can be infused into a tea that is high in many vitamins, especially Vitamins A and C. Even though citrus fruits get all the glory for being a great source of Vitamin C, rosehips actually contain a higher concentration of this important vitamin and are in fact one of the richest botanical sources of it.
We cannot produce our own Vitamin C so it is essential that we obtain it from food. It is needed for producing hormones, neurotransmitters and hormones in the body. Having plenty of this vitamin in the diet has been correlated with a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, Vitamin C supports the immune system and has been shown to shorten the duration of the common cold. This makes rosehips an excellent addition to fall and winter tea blends.
Like other red-hued herbs and fruits -- such as schisandra, hawthorn, and hibiscus -- rosehips are high in bioflavonoids which have an antioxidant action that prevents free radical damage in the body. These bioflavonoids also strengthen heart and blood vessels.
Perhaps a lesser known use of rosehips are its effect on the digestive system. The hips are anti-inflammatory and soothing, and thus are useful for hot, inflammatory conditions in the gut such as ulcers, colitis or Crohn’s. They are also a gentle laxative that is traditionally used for mild constipation; the natural pectin content has a beneficial, soothing effect on the intestinal tract.
Above all, rosehips are a food. They are commonly harvested to be made into jam and jelly; they can also be baked into pies, used as a thickener for sauces (because of their pectin content), and can even be made into a beautiful soup! (Check out this Swedish rosehip soup recipe I recently discovered…)
HOW TO USE ROSEHIPS
MAKING A ROSEHIP OXYMEL
The combination of honey, vinegar and herbs creates an ancient preparation called an oxymel. This simple medicine dates back to the time of the Greeks and has been used for many different ailments, but most especially for digestive and respiratory issues. Today we can make oxymels as a delicious way to preserve our favorite herbs, or to create a medicinal tonic.
The simplest method of making an oxymel is to mix together equal parts honey and apple cider vinegar and pour this mixture over your herbs to steep. (Use more vinegar for a thinner oxymel, less vinegar for a more syrup-y oxymel.)
Use this tart honey-vinegar concoction directly by the spoonful, or add to seltzer water for a refreshing drink. You can also use it as the base for sauces, marinades and salad dressings.
MUGWORT (Artemisia vulgaris) is a queen of the weeds. This lovely plant grows gracefully by roadsides, railroad tracks, and along the edges of woods. She is a common visitor to urban environments, often towering as high as -- or higher -- than a human. Mugwort's leaves are silvery on the underside, and are pungent and aromatic when crushed.
Inside these leaves lies an array of nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. Artemisia is a traditional herb for the digestion, as it is a bitter herb that stimulates the production of stomach acid and the flow of bile. This property combined with its rich mineral content make it an ideal kitchen herb.
I especially love to use it infused in apple cider vinegar -- it is delicious when drizzled over salad, vegetables, or even enjoyed by the spoonful! This unique vinegar is simple to make, full of nutrition, and is a beautiful way to make use of an abundant local plant.
Read more about my love of this fascinating plant here...
How to Make Mugwort Infused Vinegar: