It’s probably no surprise that I prefer tea over tinctures. Yet, I often use tinctures for both myself and for others because of their ease of use. There’s no waiting for a pot of tea to brew, nor do you have to take cups of tea to work with you! Tinctures have many benefits beyond these; the alcohol is a perfect medium to extract certain chemical constituents to create a concentrated herbal extract with a fairly long shelf life. Yesterday on the Summer Solstice, I used Chinese herbal formulating principles to create a Harmonizing tincture blend to soothe my acute upset stomach.
This summer I grew Feverfew for the first time, in a pot with Mexican Oregano and Dusty Miler. It grew well, and tolerated frequent harvest of its flowers and leaves for tincturing, sprouting new buds and growth many times. I hope it comes up next year so I can enjoy it all over again. Feverfew had always confused me. I rarely heard it used for any other use besides migraines, and since I rarely experience migraines or headaches myself or treat many headaches, I didn’t gain experience with it. It seems that there were differing opinion about it. Some said it was only good for headaches with specific indications, some said to take it as a prophylaxis daily for any sort of migraine. Some said it was overrated and some said it was highly reliable.
The last 4 weeks have been a whirl-wind. But I made out out on the other side! Yes, I officially graduated. My last board exam was the herbal one. I spent a week doing practice tests, reading through my notes and fondling my samples. My herb samples came from the free table at school. Some samples were missing, some had pre-made notes and some had lost their, um, freshness, but I didn’t care. They did the trick. It is much easier to memorize things when the thing you have to memorize is in your hands, or at least it is for me. I would’ve preferred to taste each one individually, see it growing, learn the botany, chemistry and ethnobotanic history in an attempt to really learn it. How much can you know about a plant by just reading about it? A lot, true, but so much can be gleaned experientially.
I am almost done with school; 3 weeks until graduation. My heart is bursting with joy. As the end nears, I find myself needing some reflection, processing, integrating and closure at my experience, so please forgive this semi-gushy personal post.
There is a clinical shift in my education program called Herbal Internship. Herbal Internship is solely dedicated to, you guessed it, herbal consultations. There are 4 one hour slots to treat 4 patients with herbs. Do an intake, take pulse and look at tongue, determine diagnosis and treatment principles, discuss a formula, send the formula off to be filled. Seems pretty basic, no? Despite the fact that I have elected to do extra Herbal Internship shifts and know the drill, it is a far cry from basic. First of all, people are complicated. There are often 3-5 major complaints. Rarely does someone have just one single thing as their chief complaint. Secondly, conflicting signs are commonplace. Heat and Yang Xu (deficiency). Dampness in the Middle Jiao (digestion), which is an excess condition, and Blood Xu (deficiency). Thirdly, we make it up as we go along. This is not a bad thing at all; it is simply challenging and pushes me to the limits and forces me to expand my way of thinking. There is …
Gan Mai Da Zao Wan is a Chinese formula from the Jing Gui (The Golden Cabinet), a medicine text written by Zheng Zhong-Jing in 220 AD. It is in the Calm Spirit category and its strategy is to tonify Heart Yin and Blood deficiency as it calms the spirit.
It seems like everyone is talking about (and taking) adaptogens. Perhaps you have heard of Rhodiola? Or Eleuthero? American Ginseng, Panax Ginseng, Oplopanax and Eleuthero are well-known adaptogens from the Araliaceae family and have been used for a long time. Holy Basil or Tulsi is another popular and very tasty adaptogen that I see all over the place.
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Even a Chinese medicine student knows Gui Zhi Tang is an really important formula. Gui Zhi is Chinese for Cinnamon Twig; Tang means ‘soup’ or ‘decoction’. It is named so because of the chief (representative) herb of the formula, Gui Zhi/Cinnamon. This formula is simple yet complex, and demonstrats the elegance of Chinese herbal formulation. I am not attempting to disseminate the theory behind this formula or its combinations, which I do not feel prepared to do as I am still exploring it as we speak, but instead will share a bit of my experience with this awesomely tasty and effective tea.
I have been preoccupied with school. It is my constant companion, my ball-and-chain, my ultimate teacher, my inspiration, the first thing I think about when I wake and the last thing on my mind at night.
It seems that there are a lot of cooling herbs in comparison to warming herbs, at least regarding what we need to know of Chinese herbs for class. There are cool herbs to release toxicity, cool herbs to clear deficient heat, cool herbs to resolve damp-heat and phlegm, and of course, cool herbs to release the exterior. Again, these are known diaphoretics and diuretics. And also again, they are working from a Chinese perspective to get some sort of invading pathogenic factor out of the body. We mostly think of pathogens as being microbes of some sort, in this case the common cold and influenza. But really, pathogenic factors can be all sorts of things – it just has to come from outside and make its way inside. An example of this is seen in people who are sensitive to eating a lot a sugar or drinking alcohol. They may start off feeling a scratchy, sore throat, drippy nose, gummed up ears, low energy, and if they continue to eat sugar over the next few …
The first groups of herbs students learn in Chinese herb classes are the warm and cool herbs to release the exterior. These herbs are active on the surface of the body and useful in externally-contracted conditions, like colds or the flu. Many are diaphoretic and open the pores to promote sweating, vent rashes, treat red, itchy eyes and sore throat in the case of a wind-cold or heat invasion, treat headache of carious causes, or drain dampness by being diuretic. One thing I love, love, love, love, love about learning Chinese herbs is the emphasis on the energetics of taste/flavor. I already mentioned this in my last post, but I can’t help but (over)state it again, because it has been so helpful in learning the herbs, and providing a bit of theory to base the use of these herbs in. Overall, the flavor and energy of these herbs goes up and out. Some are aromatic, most are acrid, a few are bitter or sweet. Most but not all of these herbs enter the Bladder and/or …