Autumnal Equinox: Recipes of Fortitude + Balance

Autumn Equinox Recipes

Continuing the conversation begun with our Autumnal Equinox : Herbs for Balance blog, we’ve created three recipes that feature herbs that we find resonate with the energies of the Autumnal Equinox including Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Horsetail (Equisetum arven). Make sure to read about these three herbal allies on our original Autumnal Equinox blog post.

For our Hawthorn recipe, our Blah Buster Brew fits the bill. A remedy for those days when the drearies descend upon the heart and mind (which can often happen when we realize that not only is summer truly over, but we might not be ready yet for the cold of the year), the Blah Buster Brew features Hawthorn flower, leaf, and berry along with soothing nervines and brain-tickling beauties to uplift the spirit and shoo the Blah-Beast from your door. Come this way to learn how to make your own Blah Buster Brew.

Skullcap is an Apothecary favorite and one of our dear green allies. The wise Skullcap tells us to slow down. If you are someone who worries that they are not getting enough done, you probably need to slow down instead of trying to put more on your plate (a common imbalance that many folks experience in during the Autumn of the year). If you are someone who never stops moving, you probably need to slow down. Seriously. If you are seeking to reconnect to your body, pulling your focus from your head into your roots, try slowing down first. For our Skullcap recipe we have created a nourishing, nervine extract with a Saturnian foundation for you to enjoy. As the Autumnal Equinox is also a time of the apple harvest, we’ve included fresh apples into our brew as well as apple cider vinegar. We call the brew Switch because it helps you to switch off, slow down, and be present.

Switch

Blend together the following herbs + fruits:

  • 1 part Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • 1 part Horsetail (Equisetum arven)
  • 1/2 part Nettles (Urtica dioica)
  • 1/2 – 1 part fresh apple

Cover them, with 1/4 – 1/2 inch of additional menstruum floating above it, with 2 parts alcohol to 1 part of raw apple cider vinegar. To make the blend alcohol free substitute simply use only apple cider vinegar as your menstruum. As an added bonus add a few drops of Elm Flower Essence to the finished blend. Let the blend brew for at least one cycle of the Moon, shaking it daily. When ready, strain out the plant material and bottle. Enjoy 5 – 10 drops a day.

Horsetail is dinosaur medicine. Thinking of old plants and our ancient planet, I think of our how star-life emerged from the waters of our ocean planet so long ago, it makes sense that we should submerge ourselves in the healing qualities of Horsetail in via an herbal bath. Herbal baths are like giant teacups of spa-ness and are an incredibly enjoyable and easy way to incorporate herbal healing into our daily lives. Since Horsetail is so rich in silica it creates a skin restorative blend to nourish our cells and create a radiant appearance.

Stars + Dinosaurs Herbal Bath

You will need:

  • Horsetail
  • Good Quality Sea Salt
  • Epsom Salts
  • Essential Oils of Choice

Begin by decocting your Horsetail. In a soup pot I bring a generous handful of herb to boil, then allowing it to simmer for 3 – 5 hours. While the herb is simmering, prepare the salt by grinding it up in your mortal and pestle, preferably while singing songs of the sacred bounty of the sea. For every one part of sea salt add three parts of epsom salts. You will want 1 – 3 cups of salts for your bath. Add 10 drops of essential oils to your salts and mix well, letting the salt sit in a sealed container to let fragrance blossom as your Horsetail continues to simmer. I think a combination Cypress, Juniper, and Lavender are a lovely scent for this time of the year.

Draw your bath and when the Horsetail decoction is ready, strain out the plant material and add the Horsetail infusion to your bath water. Add 1 – 3 cups of your salt blend to the bath as well, stirring the waters until the salt dissolves. Relax and enjoy your bath! Splashing around like a dinosaur is optional.

Blessed Autumn Equinox! Enjoy the darkening year, clever friends!

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Source of Strength : Herbs for Birthworkers

SourceOfStrength

As an herbologist who has been involved in the birthworker world for many years and is partnered with a midwifery student, I work with a lot of birthworkers in my practice. The needs of on-call birthworkers require herbs that hold a certain quality of flexibility and adaptability that reflect the often unpredictable hours and demands of the birth world. We need herbs to lend us strength when negotiating overculture systems of health that don’t always respect our holistic models of care. Or herbs that remind us to take care of ourselves in the same ways we compassionately tend to our clients. Herbs are excellent allies for birthworkers and when used conscientiously and consistently they can be very effective remedies.

First, a very quick breakdown of general self-care:

  • Eat Well
  • Sleep Well
  • Love What You Do
  • Love Who You You Do It With
  • And Love All that is You 

Assess and redress any shortcomings on the list above – always strive for surplus love.

We’ll begin our series of Herbs for Birthworkers with a brilliant group of herbs that are known as adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs that help us to adapt – especially to stressful situations. Birthworkers, at our best, could be called the adaptogens of the birth team.

Adaptogens are fantastic daily tonics as their healing qualities are best experienced over a long period of time helping the body to find balance and build up its reserves of strength and adaptability. For birthworkers, in particular, adaptogens help us to be present by supporting flexibility in all of our body systems, which is needed when you’ve had three hours of sleep in the past 24 hours and you’ve just been called to your next birth. And you can’t find your shoes. Or the car keys.

Let’s begin!

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The Longest Night: Herbs for the Winter Solstice Season

WinterSolsticeHerbs

The wheel of the year turns deeper into the dark, bringing us to the longest night of winter.  The Winter Solstice is both a time of honoring the reflective gift of solitude and the distant promise of the seed sparking to life.  With this spirit we invite herbs into our practice that root our dreams into reality as well as warm us with the inner fire of the sun’s promised return.

So put on the kettle, prepare your charm, and welcome in the winter!

PINE Pinus sp.
Evergreens are sacred trees and remain green throughout cold seasons when other trees lay bare.  The needles of the Pine tree can be made into a tea and is an excellent source of vitamin C (more vitamin C, in fact, than citrus fruits such as lemons and grapefruit!).  Drink Pine tea throughout the day to clear up congestion and excess mucus.

ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis
Warming Rosemary gives us the gift of a dry, Mediterranean heat in the long dark days of winter.  After a bought of sickness or a round of the blues, drink Rosemary tea to restore your body’s inner warmth and fire for life. Rosemary is very restorative to all of our blood organs such as the liver, heart, spleen, and kidneys, bringing back balance after a period of fatigue.  It is also helpful for a dispelling the winter fog from a dull mind.

VALERIAN Valeriana officinalis
A root of water and earth, Valerian is gently sedating, helping us to fully settle into the Season of Slowing Down.  Restlessness, insomnia, nervous stomach, and tension, dissolve with the use of Valerian.  My favorite way to take Valerian is as a glycerite, but it can also be enjoyed as a tea (even though we use the root, it should not be decocted since that would destroy its delicate volatile oils).  Mix Valerian with other herbs such as Mugwort, Anise, and Peppermint to create a potent brew for inducing visionary dreams.

yule dala winter solstice

CHAMOMILE Matricaria recutita
A classic herb for stomach upset, nausea, and indigestion, Chamomile also supports a sense of peace and cheerfulness in the body through its nervine qualities.  Chamomile flowers are miniature suns and can be used in bath, steams, teas or made into an herbal oil to uplift the spirit, calm the cranky, and center wayward energy.  I think a jar full of Chamomile flowers is a pleasant sun-honoring addition to the home altar.

I also find Flower + Gem Essences to be beneficial at any time of the year!  The following are excellent deep winter wonders:

SAGE Flower Essence
The Winter Solstice is the cusp between the signs of Sagittarius and Capricorn – Sage is a plant of Sagittarius and its ruling planet Jupiter.  As a flower essence, Sage has an initiatory quality to it, helping us to ease through life transitions.  It is an excellent rite of passage herb and provides release to stagnating emotions.  For the season of the Winter Solstice, Sage helps us to express our deepest kept secrets in ways that bring us joy.

sage winter solstice yuleSage Salvia officinalis

OAK Flower Essence
As the Wheel of the Year turns from the Holly to the powers of the Oak, the energies of Capricorn begin to shine.  A tree of Saturn (which rules Capricorn), Oak is a great flower essence for those folks who struggle on even though they are exhausted – they put on a happy and courageous face, hiding their feelings, and never complaining in hopes of not being seen as weak.  While they appear tireless, they have only become rigid in a state of constant stress brought on by a need to achieve the next thing on their list.  An excellent remedy for Capricorns who tend to burn the candle from both ends (you know who you are).  Oak helps us know our limits and be kinder to ourselves by realizing that taking time to rest is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of intelligent strength.

HEMATITE Gem Essence
A reflective mirror of night, Hematite is grounding and centering during the hustle of winter holidays.  Hematite is also a very protective Essence and helps folks feel shielded from fears, especially those of the “lurking in the dark” sort of insecurities, teaching us that it is not the dark we fear, for darkness is beautiful and necessary, but what we perceive to dwell within the shadows.

Be well and drink deep the darkness for after the Winter Solstice the days begin to grow longer as we prepare for the burst of spring!  

Create your own delicious + fully enchanted recipes for the winter with The Winter Apothecary!

00wintercover

Hematite Gem Essence is available in our Apothecary along with other fully enchanted herbal remedies for the wintertide.

A Tea Charming: A Yuletide Musing on Tea + Magick

A repost from a guest blog + giveaway I took part in last Yule.  Enjoy!

I have spent much of my life in coastal cities where the rhythm of the day is broken up between fading light on the water, ships sliding between waves and the shifting landscape of fog over the idle cliff sides and curving slopes. For me, the Yule season is an incredibly rich time of year when Moist Mother Earth slumbers and the Bone Crone gnashes Her teeth, rattling the edges of our winter shelters. I recognize the fog that steadily creeps and retreats to and from the shore as the thick veils of the Bone Crone and Her sister the Sea Hag who are meeting at the edge, exchanging bones of earth for bones of saltwater. I see the fog as the same mist that hides the sacred Isle of Apples, confusing the unwary, pulling the careless down below. I know the fog as a softening of boundaries pulling our visions towards the darkness where we can better learn of our own depths, uncertainty and expansive joy. (more…)

Let’s Begin At the Beginning: 10 Seeds to Start Your Herbal Studies

pepper tree schinus molle

1. Sit with trees.

Just be still and listen to them – what can be learned in those moments of tree conversing is limitless.

As a child I could often be found up in a tree or a fort at tree level.  That is how I came to know the Pepper Tree Schinus molle that grew over the fence of our yard from our neighbor’s backyard.  I would sit in my fort with my plastic play buckets full of water and carefully remove the outer pink skin of the Pepper Tree’s berries, crushing the papery skin between my fingers and mixing it into my water buckets, discarding the hard inside berry back over the fence.  I would let it brew overnight, sometimes days, and convince the other kids in the neighborhood that they were magickal brews.  I loved how the water would change colors with the berry-skin infusion and I truly believed that magick was at work.  I still know that magick was at work then and years later I learned that I was unknowingly mimicking the medicinal preparation of the Pepper Tree by earlier peoples, such as the Incas.

2. Grow something.

It can be a herb, a succulant, zuchinnis, flowers, moss, or something else but it is important to grow!  Buy seeds, find seedlings in the farmer’s market or maybe take a cutting with permission from a neighbor’s yard.  Begin to speak the unique root-clicking, multifloral, seed-spreading  languages of plants.  Find out the best growing conditions for your plant friend, water it when needed, and talk to it all the time.  For those who say they have no green thumb I would say that it is more about having a green heart.  To grow a plant we must grow ourselves and that requires building relationships, all which go through cycles of sprouting, fruitfulness, death, and decomposition.

3. Talk to plant folk, herbalists, and the guy down the street who knows how to prepare nopalitos.

You are surrounded by folks who know about plant medicine – really, you are!  Whether your Aunt who uses Tumeric on her skin to maintain her glowing complexion or your high school science teacher who keeps a beautiful potted garden, there are real live humyn creatures who could tell you a thing or two about plant medicine.

4. Read good books.  

There are lots of wonderful herb books to inspire you on your journey.  My growing list of books for beginners can be found over at LibraryThing, but I’ll recommend a few here, too.  Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health is a great place to start – colorful, easy to follow, and diverse in its coverage, Gladstar’s book is a valuable assest to any aspiring (and practicing) herbologist.  I am also a fan of James Wong’s book Grow Your Own Drugs which is not only beautiful to look through but full of simple, effective herbal recipes (I also recommend watching Wong’s show of the same name).  Check out our LibraryThing “Books for Beginners” list for more inspiration!

5. Start with one herb.

We are surrounded by growing plants on an ocean planet.  Beginning to study plant medicines can seem overwhelming with the quantity of material to learn.  Find one plant and work with that one plant for a year – write about it, taste it, smell it, grow it, make medicines with it.  You can work with other plants, certainly, but commit to working with this one green ally for a full turning of the seasonal wheel.  It is incredible the complexities and nuances of use and potential found in one plant – very much like each of us.  I’ll write more about building relationships with a green ally over the course of a year in future posts.

yum, thai basil!

6. Invite your green allies in to your home.

Drink tea, cook with spices, and clean your counters with essential oil concoctions.  Plants are everywhere!  Invite them to participate in your life, be conscious of the ways they are already in your life, and experience the green world pulling back its layers a bit more, inviting you back into their homes.

7. Make your own drugs.

There are so many ways to prepare herbal medicines.  Oils!  Teas!  Syrups!  Salves!  Tinctures!  Powders!  Essences!  And more!  Learn how to make medicines, make mistakes (brews gone wrong, cayenne in the eyes, exploding fermentations), and make even better medicines.  Herbal medicine-making is a nuanced art – we make remedies for individuals, not miracles for the masses (though I’ll not pass on a global miraculous healing were it to come our way).  Medicine-making is another way of building relationships with the plant world, one that changes the material of the maker as much as the plant.

8. Laugh a lot.

Need I say more?

9. Trust yourself.

You will not know everything that ever was and was-not.  You will still be able to be a good herbologist, a healer, and green ally.  One day you might even teach others.  Trust yourself to know thyself.  To know that you are capable of learning more every day, of owning up to your shortcomings, and celebrating your powerful gifts.  Trust yourself to receive what is given and give in return.

10. Expect the mysterious and indulge in it.

We live in a enchanted world – one that continues to grow stranger and more unusual by the minute.  And we are truly strange creatures in it bumbling and dancing on our green, ocean rock of celestial matter hurtling swinging round space.  What an adventure!  You have the opportunity to engage in inter-species communication as a herbologists, to recognize plants as clever, funny, and deeply wise.  The green path is full of mystery and every time we reach the edge of what-we-know to find there is much more to learn, take time to indulge in the fragrance of complexity ever-guided by the certainty of our own desires to live enchantedly.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little guide to starting your herbal studies.
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How To Make Herbal Oils – Warm Infusion Folk Method

herbal oils worts and cunning apothecary

The infusion of herbs in an oil-based menstruum is a wonderful way of using herbs medicinally and can be a base for further medicine-making adventures including salves, lotions, and creams.  We’ll be using a warm infusion folk method of creating a herbal oil which more or less means that exact measurements are not used and we’re not looking for an exact herb-to-oil ratio (it is all very hang-loose in the Apothecary today!).  We’ll also be gently warming our oil as part of the infusion process, so it is important to set aside time that you’ll be able to be home and checking in on your herbal oil potion throughout the day.

Let’s start with the foundation of our Herbal Oil – the Oil Menstruum. (more…)

Spring Equinox: Herbs of Balance

SpringEquinoxBanner

The Spring Equinox is the promise of Imbolc finally come!  The Spring Equinox turns the wheel of the year with wind, often rain, the last chill breath of winter, but also bud, flower, and bird song.  Today also marks the time when night greets day as an equal and then retreats back to let the hours of light grow longer and longer.  As with the Autumnal Equinox, the early spring is an excellent time to strengthen the body’s natural abilities of wellness and health through gentle cleansing of our winter body into a spring one.

The early spring is a good time to turn our attention to our liver and our gallbladder.  The liver is our body’s largest internal organ and a great deal of our body’s detoxifying processes happen through the liver.  As the life warms to the surface of our greening planet, so too does our body’s energy and blood warm to our own skin’s surface.  Our liver cleanses our blood of impurities and distributes nourishment throughout our body.

Our gallbladder stores and secretes bile to help us digest nourishment from our food.  An imbalanced gallbladder can lead to flatulence, gallstones, and general indigestion, and it is important to consider our mental and emotional health, especially our stress levels, when supporting our gallbladder.

There are many herbal allies that we might find useful in supporting the liver and gallbladder.  Take time to learn what herbs best fit your constitution in order to get the most benefit from the medicine our green allies have to offer as well as build a more meaningful relationship to the plant kingdom. (more…)

Flower + Gem Essences for the Journey: The Third Trimester

amethyst from wikipedia.org

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Flower + Gem Essences that are particularly useful during pregnancy, labor and postpartum (to learn more about what Flower + Gem Essences are visit our previous blog post).  The great thing about Flower + Gem Essences is that they are good remedies that, by their very nature, can do no harm which makes them wonderfully safe to take during pregnancy.

Ok, I’m totally pregnant and it’s almost over and it’s just beginning.

OLIVE “I am revitalized”

An excellent remedy for both the third trimester and labor, Olive helps us to maintain energy during a time of great transformation, especially when we may feel that our energy reserves are completely spent.  Olive aids us in finding space to be emotionally and mentally presence even when we feel physically exhausted.  More than just bringing relief to our physical exhaustion, Olive helps us to connect the dots between our mental wellbeing, emotional wholeness, and our ability to thrive in our physical bodies.  Excellent for those folks who are feeling too exhausted to “deal with it all” because it helps them to reconnect with the ever-renewing energy of our deepest selves and find pleasure again in day-to-day life.

AMETHYST “I go with the flow”

The purple stone of Amethyst teaches us to go with the flow but not get overtaken or overwhelmed by the current.  With the early stages of labor on the horizon, there is excitement for baby and, at times, a feeling like all of the “to-do’s” will never get done in time.  Amethyst is helpful for folks who are moving quickly, but sometimes feel they are in a race against time.  In addition to its centering properties, Amethyst is also helps address those anxious thoughts that wake us up in the middle of the night and spur on arguments between loved ones.  Amethyst helps us to float gently when the waters feel tumultuous, eventually leading to a current that guides us gently back to shore.

RED CHESTNUT “I radiate calm”

Realizing that soon there will be a new baby and all of the responsibility that comes with a bundle of joy, can bring up issues of dependency, worry, and, at times, anxiety between partners.  Red Chestnut can help folks feel centered in their own ability to love themselves, to love others, and to care deeply for all without becoming overwhelmed but the unexpected nature of life.   Red Chestnut assists in facilitating the transformation of patterns of co-dependency into models of adventurous trust and a peaceful knowing that we are fully able to care and be cared for unconditionally.

Read our recommendations for the First Trimester and Second Trimester.

We carry Amethyst in our Etsy Shop and Poppy Swap Shop.  Essences such as Olive and Red Chestnut can be found from a variety of resources such as the Flower Essence Society and Bach Flower as well as local health food and natural healing stores.

Next time we will look at Flower + Gem Essences for Labor.

Flower + Gem Essences for the Journey: The Second Trimester

lavender from wikipedia.org

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Flower + Gem Essences that are particularly useful during pregnancy, labor and postpartum (to learn more about what Flower + Gem Essences are visit our previous blog post).  The great thing about Flower + Gem Essences is that they are good remedies that, by their very nature, can do no harm which makes them wonderfully safe to take during pregnancy.

Now let’s look at the Second Trimester:

Woah, I am really, really pregnant.

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Flower + Gem Essences for the Journey : The First Trimester

milkweed

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring Flower + Gem Essences that are particularly useful during pregnancy, labor and postpartum (to learn more about what Flower + Gem Essences are visit our previous blog post).  The wonderful thing about Flower + Gem Essences is that they are good remedies that, by their very nature, can do no harm which makes them wonderfully safe to take during pregnancy.

Let’s begin by looking at the First Trimester.

Wow, I’m pregnant (!) (?) (.) (!?)

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