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. Read More
I wish I could spend more time on this blog. I dream about all the things I want to explore and share and ask about herbs and health. Most everyday I am jotting down inspirations and taking photos of the the herbal apothecary that trail my shadow.
Luckily a major shift in my schedule and life is approaching; I will graduate grad school on August 30th. That’s less than two months away! I cannot wait to 1) rejuvenate and 2) pursue my herbal interests 4) connect with family and friends and 3) go to Italy in September and Wisconsin in October.
So in the mean time, I want want to share some of the other places I am seen frequenting.
During the month of April, I took an Etsy vacation. I closed my shop down and focused on exploring herbs in a different, more personal way. In April I also started second blog about plants, flowers, and the Portland area. You can check it out here: Fall Into Place Blog. It was supposed to be a month of internet reduction, but the need to take photos of flowers overcame.
I have a Tumblr page for Kyra Botanica : bo-tan-ica.tumblr.com. You can find my plant-obsessed Pinterest page here:kyrabotanica. And when I remember, I post photos on Instagram: celia_jean. and as kyrabotanica.
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).Â This also means that a lot of my chamomile went to seed before I could get to it. Read More
What is it about poppies?
I don’t get them, but as if I’m entitled to understanding. They are so tender, fragile, delicate, finicky. Their petals are like tissue paper and their fuzzy buds look like they could barely be supported by their thread-like stem. One little bump and the plant falls over. But yet they contain some incredibly powerful medicine, and not just the opium poppy but many plants in the family (Corydalis, California Poppy for two). Read More
I have had the recent pleasure to read two new (to me) herb books. The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido MaseÂ´ describes herbal aromatics, bitters and tonics and their uses in food and medicine while sharing an elegant, supportive herbal philosophy. Read More
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 a uncharted territory for a new practitioner. What I end up doing in the clinic can be completely different from what I learned in the classroom or what is laid out in a book. A neat things about Chinese medicine is that we treat the pattern, not the disease. With this, we don’t have to have figured out the pathology and etiology of every single disease state. We listen to how the body is expressing itself and use that to determine the course of action.
Then there’s the normal, worldly limits: time constraints, the dynamics of working in a group where we are all really nice and don’t want to be bossy, computer problems, ect…
I suppose this is what it would be like to have gone to an herbal medicine school. This is what you would do all day! IS this so, herbal school graduates? We do mostly acupuncture shifts which include herbal medicine and formula writing.
I shared the challenges. Now I would like to share the gems which come from these shifts.
First and foremost, my favorite part of Herbal Internship is the opportunity to be mentored by incredibly knowledgeable and experienced practitioners. Every supervisor is unique, with their own blueprint of background, world view, lineage, educational style, patient rapport, formulation style, ect…
This term my supervisor is Dr. Jin. There is so much I could say about Dr. Jin, but I’ll limit it to a few of the main things she has transmitted to our group. One is extremely practical and grounding – time management and doing brief intakes. For the first few weeks, she did the intakes and one of us wrote chart notes to demonstrate how to do an interview. Nobody had done this before, and it rocked my world in the best way possible. Take the intake on the chief complaints, take tongue and pulse, ask a few more questions to get a sense of the constitution and confirm or rule out a diagnosis. This is quite different from what we normally do, which is ask about the chief complaints and then every other body system, take tongue and pulse, then come up with a diagnosis.
The tongue and pulse tell us a lot; it is the major diagnostic tool we have, so listen to it sooner than later! If you do an intake with someone who’s chief complaint is anxiety and the pulse is slippery and the the tongue has a greasy yellow coat (indicating damp/phlegm), then different follow up questions will be asked than if the pulse was weak and deep and the tongue was pale pink and purple with a thin white coat (indicating deficiency of Blood). Asking all the body system questions can be too broad. You get so much information that you simply won’t use. I have heard in China that there are doctors who diagnose and treat simply by looking at the tongue and pulse; yet most will ask a few questions to get a clear picture.
Last term, my supervisor was John. There were two things I learned from working on John’s shift; one is to always keep the nature and flavors of the herbs in mind to help you make your herbal choices. The second thing that I took away was to write down tongue and pulse and come up with a clear, like really clear diagnosis and treatment strategies before thinking of herbs and formulas. You have to know where you are going before you can get there!
I did three make up shifts with another supervisor, Michael, who I will have next term. From those few shifts, I learned about formula families and the concept of people having formula constitutions (reminded me a bit of homeopathy or Matthew Woods), as well as the relevance and use of taking the meridian, organ, seasonal and cosmological influences into consideration. As above, so below. Microcosm, macrocosm. Really neat stuff.
There are other cool things about herbal internship, of course. Patients get better, which is awesome. Major patterns change, minor patterns transform, the person feels whole. Suddenly someone stops having vivid nightmares which make them feel exhausted all day, which they have had their whole life. Yes, herbs can do that (not that I had any doubt).
I am learning the art of formulation, which is something Chinese Medicine has down. I am learning new applications of herbs. With herbal medicine, you have to have a very clear picture of the diagnosis, because it is possible (not likely, but possible) to mess someone up with herbs if you don’t know what your doing, or there could be no improvement or not as much improvement. Acupuncture is much more forgiving, plus you have the body, channels and Qi to tell you what to do.
Herbal Internship is a group setting; 4 interns and a superiors working together. It is neat to work though cases with a group, what can I say. We all work together and have different ideas to bring to the table. One intern may be trained in a different pulse diagnosis, one may be a nurse and know the effects of medications like the back of her hand, one may be receptive to the emotional and spiritual state of the person through their tone and body language, one may of experienced the exact problem the patient is going through and can speak from experience. When all of these forces come together, it is can be magic.
As I write this, I feel my excitement rising up through my body. I feel like I have been handed the keys to the castle, and my gratitude for these talented teachers and herbalists is beyond words. I may not be ‘getting it’ or coming up with the best, most perfect formulas, but at least I feel I have been given the best education I could have to build a solid foundation to work from.
After a photo shoot for my Etsy shop, I am left with all these beautiful botanical bits – flowers, leaves, and petals galore. They are too lovely to compost, but not cut out for a bouquet in a vase because the stems are trimmed. I threw them all in a wooden box as I was tidying up and left them there.
It was like a horizontal, flat arrangement. They sat on my printer next to my computer, so I could smell it when I was working. When else do I get to have flowers on my printer?
It’s the last hurrah for the Cherry Blossoms. It is also the last hurrah for April. Why not capture them both?
I found one Cherry still in bloom on Ankeny St., but by the time I brought the bunch of blossoms home they had fallen to pieces. I just had to share these, so lovely!
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. Read More
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. Â It is in the Calm Spirit category and its strategy is to tonify Heart Yin and Blood deficiency as it calms the spirit. Read More
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. Read More
An ideal Saturday afternoon for me consists of a walk, a nap, a cup of tea and playing with herbs! I was lucky enough to spend last Saturday just so, with lots and lots of herb exploration. I had a number of Â orders to fill for my herb shop which included making some body sprays. Read More