Teas tell a story, especially hand-harvested teas. Finding the penultimate Rose, camping with friends and harvesting fresh Skullcap as the last think to pack into the car, cutting Passionflower for a trailing bouquet with dahlias and sunflowers, magenta sunsets, petting kitties in the waning moonlight.
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.
When I worked at a co-op in the health and body care section, I noticed that every year around November, bottles and bottles of elderberry products would fly off the shelves. Elderberry has earned a reputation as a cold and flu herb, especially for the dreaded influenza, and rightfully so. It packs a powerful punch of anthocyanadins, helps the immune system do this. Studies have shown that it is effective at reducing the length of the flu by half. Yet like most herbs, elderberry has depth and can be used in many situations.
Each year my garden sprouts more and more chamomile. It comes earlier each year, too. This year it was all done by the end of June. This leaves a shorter harvest time, and unfortunately I can’t tend my garden in Gresham as much I have been able to in the past. This means a few long harvesting days rather than a constant, steady harvest in better bite-sized chunks (which I prefer). This also means that a lot of my chamomile went to seed before I could get to it.
I have had the recent pleasure to read two new (to me) herb books. The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido Mase´ describes herbal aromatics, bitters and tonics and their uses in food and medicine while sharing an elegant, supportive herbal philosophy.
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 …
Day 1 Tea: a lower jiao warming, blood and Ki Qi nourishing and ever-so-slightly Blood moving herbal tea. I made it originally to ease menstrual cramps, starting with Yarrow as my chief herb. I have had this blend around for a while, but am sharing it with a customer for the first time and really, like really, enjoying making a new batch. I am using a mix of purchased rosebuds and rose petals I have harvested from Portland. Milky oats have been added to support the Kidneys (capital ‘K’ means a Chinese medicine concept and function), because I originally made this for someone with dysmennorhea with underlying Kidney Qi Xu (Deficiency), and I find Milky Oats to support the adrenals quite nicely. Grains are also mineral-rich, which can help reduce crampy pain and spasms. Sometimes during day 1 or longer, digestion can be messed up. Loose stools, upset stomach, crampy intestines along with the uterus. It is not fun. Milky Oats can help soothe the digestive tract, too. Let’s see…what other glorious herbs are in …
It is getting warmer. And brighter. Things are green, really green. Rose and calendula are in bloom! They come home with me, flowers stuffed in pockets and lunch boxes, and those which are not dried or arranged in a vase go straight into a cup of tea.
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.
Chinese herbs + gangsta = awesomeness. Check out their tumblr.
I have cleavers on the brain. They are growing tall and thick this time of year in the city and in the woods and meadows. I’d like to share a few links about this awesome and prevalent herb I found out there on the interwebs.