May 19th, 2011 § § permalink
I’d like to share one of my favorite tea blends featuring skullcap and milky oats, two of my favorite herbs for reviving the nervous system. I like them individually as simples and do most of the time, but I also think they work well as a pair. Just the two of them, skullcap and milky oats, isn’t the best tasting tea I have ever had. I don’t mind them separately, but together? They need some depth, some warmth, some support and some flavor. Before I say more, take a look at the ingredients:
- 2 milky oats
- 1-2 skullcap
- 1 lemon balm
- 2 spearmint
- 1 chamomile
- 1/2 rosemary
- .25 ginger
- 1 rose hips
- 1 orange peel
I still struggle with what to call this tea. I first blended a variety of it for a friend of a friend, a new mom who was getting a little frazzled with the demands (and joys!) of a newborn on just a few hours of sleep each day. This mom’s birth was on the long side (40 hours or so), so she was exhausted from the get-go. Plus, she was selling her house, moving and remodeling the new one. Basically, this woman needed some nervous system support, with manifestations of feeling wired and tired simultaneously. For her I called it “De-Stress Tea”, and she reported in after about 2 weeks that her stress and exhaustion was declining, and she was starting to feel like her old self.
This tea also typifies a student burning the candle at both ends, so I have called it simply “Students Tea”. There’s a lot of mental energy being used as a student, not to mention late nights of studying (and/or partying). It is a delicate act to balance school, a social life, family, work and self-care.
Now I call it “Skullcap Om”, because of the chilled-out feeling I get from drinking skullcap. Buddhists monks use skullcap to prepare for mediation, and it has the ability to stimulate and relax at the same time. Skullcap clears the mind from circular thoughts – which become especially apparent when you are trying to fall asleep. Sometimes, this over-thinking is the only thing that prevents sleep; my body may be totally heavy and relaxed, ready for sleep, but the mind races on. I say that it stimulates because I become more aware of my senses, and my body wakes up and comes into present time. Here’s a little something I wrote about skullcap
a while back.
The four members of the mint family featured in this tea, skullcap, lemon balm, spearmint and rosemary, are well-known nervines. I love bringing mints together in a tea, especially picked fresh from the garden. That being said, I don’t want to drink only mints all the time, since as a group they are light, airy and cool. I happen to be light, airy and cool myself, so I need a little ginger, cinnamon, licorice, fennel and the like to anchor that dispersing mint nature. Combining them with the sunny sweetness of another nervine, chamomile, adds a little variety to the aromatic mints and directs the tea towards the middle burner/digestion.
Rose hips , ginger and orange peel are added for flavor, but they also direct the tea around the body a bit, orange peel and ginger again with affinities for the belly. I am not sure where rose hips would ‘go’ in the body, the heart maybe, blood vessels? I hesitate because I haven’t figured rose hips out yet. They are a bit sour and sweet, and thus astringe and tone, they are chock-full of nutrients in true red berry style, add color to an otherwise plain green tea, and they taste delicious. What don’t they do?
Milky oats (the tops of the oat (Avena sativa
) plant harvested while in the “milky” stage) is a great restorative, for the brain, emotions and body alike. I love, love, love oats. When I was interning at an herbal retreat center, I bought a half pound of locally grown milky oats and drank a quart of the tea every day. The milky oats (combined with the luxury of working in a herb garden at the top of a mountain for three months) completely revived my energy, body and emotions.
I bring this tea up because I need it right now! My brain is on overload, so much that I can’t seem to muster the energy to make this tea for myself. With doing this post, I am reminded of the strengthening these herbs bring to a worn-out system.
December 11th, 2009 § § permalink
Last spring I started seeds inside to get a jump-start on the growing season. When I planted the healthy seedlings out the first week of June, the weather consisted of downpour, near-freezing temperatures overnight, and incredible winds that smacked my innocent seedlings around with no pity. None of the fifteen or so different species made it. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I made another go with direct seeding, with varying degrees of success; zinnia, globe amaranth, chickweed, sunflower, teasel, elecampane, wild carrot germinated while the light-dependent germinators like tobacco, zahir poppy, foxglove, figwort, evening primrose, bee balms and holy basil did not.
Then while weeding the gardens in the middle of summer, I stumbled upon an uplifting surprise–holy basil! It was hiding underneath a canopy of bee balm and overgrown lamb’s quarters. Some how it made it through six weeks of gardening before I noticed it. Did it shoot up fairly recently? Or has it been there the whole time and I never payed attention? However baffling it may be, it is very welcomed.
Mmm…the aroma of tulsi is sublimely spicy and complex, yet hits the nose in a clear way. I use the names Tulsi and holy basil equally,but the plant is the same; Ocimum sanctum. Like the common kitchen herb basil, holy basil is in the Lamiacea or mint family originating from India and growing through Indo-China (southern China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand) (Winston, 168). It looks a little like basil, with serrated leaf edges and the pinkish-purple flowers. There are a few different varieties of holy basil, the one I chose from Horizon Herbs was rama tulsi because it is a more cold-hardy.
Tulsi has been (and still is) used in Ayurveda for as long as we know, which is at least three thousand years (168).
“Holy basil is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and is used in morning prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being. String of beads made from the plant’s stems are used in meditation to give clarity and protection. The ancient ayruvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita (approx. 100 BCE) and Sushruta Samhita (400-100 BCE) both mention the use of this herb to treat people with snakebites and scorpion stings.” (168).
Tulsi is an adaptogenic herb, enhancing the body’s ability to respond to stress of all kinds (or non-specific stress). In particular, tulsi promotes a sense of mental clarity and calmness. Winston describes its medicinal actions as: adaptogenic, antimicrobial, antidepressant, antioxidant, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, glactogogue, radioprotective, stress-reducing and supporting the immune system. There are numerous studies on holy basil which are all interesting in their own right. I suggesting reading Winston’s Adaptogens book for those of you who, like myself, are intrigued by scientific studies.
To summarize an herb with so many medicinal actions isn’t always possible, but there are some ways , holy basil is an adapotgenic herb well-suited for treating the mental and emotional body, at least in my opinion. Winston uses holy basil for reducing a “mental fog” and “stagnant depression” when people cannot seem to move past an event or trauma that brought them down. Holy basil makes a worthy addition to just about any uplifting/antidepressant or memory tea or tincture blend.
Here is my one of my favorite teas with holy basil, used for seasonal depression:
- 2 parts Holy basil
- 2 parts Lemon balm
- 1 part Rosemary
- 1 part St. John’s wort
- 1/2 part Rose hips
- 1/2 part Hibiscus
- 1/2 part Fennel seeds
Winston, David. Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.
May 26th, 2008 § § permalink
Do you see the motherwort in this picture? Hint: its vertical. Mmmm…Motherwort! I have been craving the bitter herb for a steady week running – and as a tea! Who in their right mind drinks motherwort infusion? Someone who needs it, or who likes the bitter zing. Have you ever eaten a motherwort flower? Try it, I dare you. I have been drinking motherwort infusion to calm my critical and exacting PMS self to a down to a low roar; its working quite well. It is also nourishing, stockpiling nutrients that will soon be shed; for this purpose I add a bit of nettle or oat straw. At this time in my cycle I tend to see things very clearly, which can either enrich my life with wise insight or keep me up at night ruminating. Motherwort, along with hops, eases my mind.
In the middle of winter, I dream of a sunny day and a garden full of motherwort. There is something very awakening and attracting about the upright member of the mint family. A friend once became very aquatinted with a particular motherwort plant and described her as juicy. I have yet to have a garden full of motherwort, as my seeds never seem to germinate. This year I am trying really hard to get my seeds sprouted…so wish me luck.
Motherwort promotes menstruation, reduces nervous tension and cramps, and is regulating to stress and anxiety caused heart problems, racing and/or irregular heartbeat (tachycardia). Culpepper says about motherwort, “Venus owns this herb and it is under Leo. There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapors from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry”. Yes, motherwort is warming in taste and even color with the sweet downy pink with white whorls of flowers, soothing to the heart and demanding emotions, and a wonderful ally for women of all ages and at all times of their cycles. The way it stands in the garden, attracting bees like mad, reminds me of an seemingly innocent attention-seeking amorous Leo. Well, not that innocent, if you have ever been tangled amongst their sharp seed pods at the end of the season!
It is called Ectes Herzgespann in German, which in an excruciatingly literal translation is “common heart team”; luckily a German woman described it to me as meaning “it pulls the heart forward, as one would lead a team of yoked oxen”. What a wonderful way to visualize this herb’s actions. Like many herbs, motherwort contains a myriad of chemical compounds that give rise to its unique uses. From its taste we know that it works on the digestion; Tierra says it is specifically a carminative. The tannins make it astringent to the uterus, and according to Wikipedia, “the herb contains the alkaloid leonurine, which is a mild vasodilator and has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles. For this reason, it has long been used as a cardiac tonic, nervine, and as an emmenagogue.”
As an emmenagogue, I view it as enriching the blood and circulating it, rather than starting delayed menstruation, as the latter has never worked for me. It still has an important pre-menstrual use of allying stress, anger and rage, worrying that keeps you up at night, and anxious palpitations. Stress and anxiety keeping your period away? Try motherwort. Motherwort may be helpful include during the last few weeks of pregnancy to promote uterine tone. Ruth Trickey states in Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle that motherwort “is one of the many herbs which posses the apparently contradictory actions of relieving spasm and stimulating uterine activity–an effect which seems to be brought about by a reduction in the irritability (spasticity) of the uterine muscle. This allows contractions to be followed by an adequate rest period when blood can circulate through the muscle again”(470). Of course, motherwort is useful for peri-menopausal women, adressing palpitations, night sweats and worrying keeping you up at night, Trickey combines hops, motherwort and black cohosh for this reason with “excellent results”.
Tierra, Micheal. Planetary Herbology.
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal. http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/frameset.html
Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal.