hiyacleverfriend

I’m Alexis J. Cunningfolk and it is quite nice to meet you! I’m an herbologist and apothecarian which means that I work with plants and people to bring minds, bodies, and spirits back into magickal balance. You’ll find me in sunny, Southern CA living with my love (she’s a midwife!) and our lurcher pup, Basil. Curious still? Learn more about who I am and the values I keep.

I also drink a lot of tea. Hi-five!

Our little Apothecary is part of the greater healing movement to make herbal medicine more accessible, holistic, and radically kind. I teach ecstatic herbology – traditional western herbalism rooted in the magickal. I am also the creator of the Lunar Apothecary, an online learning community for womyn exploring the realms of moon herbology, medical astrology, and learning how to trust our magick.

Get started by perusing our blog full of free tutorials, sign-up for our amazing Hedgehog Herald for herbal inspiration and exclusive recipes, and learn more about our online learning community, the Lunar Apothecary.

In wild community,
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Connecting With Our Plant Allies

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One of the most common emails I get (besides “Who are you and where do you come up with the names behind your products?! Zombie bait, what?!”) are ones that ask me about my path of becoming an herbologist and how to start working with herbs. I wrote about 10 ways to start your herbal studies, but I wanted to focus more in-depth on a subject central to the craft of the herbologist – cultivating our relationship with the plant medicine.

As I suggested in the previous post about herbal studies, I recommend starting with one herb. You do not have to work exclusively with only one herb, but choose to work with one herb consistently for an entire year. You should, though, spend at least some time working only with that herb in order to understand its full complexity. You may choose to work with an herb that you already feel a resonance with or something that you spot growing down the street from you. You may dream of an herb, study a plant that has a long history of significant use within your culture or choose an herb that may have a beneficial impact on a particular health imbalance. The importance of working with one herb regularly for an extended length of time is manifold:

  • Many herbs are best able to impart their healing qualities over the long term when used consistently in small doses.
  • Just as it takes time to build meaningful relationships with humyns, so too does it take time to build honest relationships with plants.
  • If you are able to grow or find the herb in the wild, observing its physical journey through the year provides us with many lessons about its medicinal uses and magickal gifts.
  • Finally, commitment is an excellent skill to be practiced by the herbologist.

In my own practice, both personal and professional, I work with a handful of herbs at a time, and while I enjoy a complex tea blend or a raw cacao concoction with multiple herbs dancing in wild harmony, when I am learning about a plant or dealing with a chronic health imbalance, I generally stick to one or two herbs. We are in the midst of an herb revival within North America, as well as many other parts of the western world, and that means that there is an abundance of information and access to a wide array of plant medicine. I tend to think that we will learn more about ourselves and the plant medicine we are interacting with if we treat our practice with the rhythm of a slow, regular tea time conversation as opposed to a social media aggregate of endless stream of herbs shuffling through our lives at a rapid pace.[1]

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It is pleasurable and useful to recognize the affects of individual plant medicines on our mind, body, and spirit. Working with one or two herbs at a time allows for greater clarity and distinction between the subtleties of difference between herbs with similar healing qualities. Moving steadily in our relationship with plant medicines, we begin to build our knowledge of the energetic signatures of herbs along with their physical qualities. These energetic signatures combined with their physical qualities is one reason why one herb will be so successful for Person A, but seem to have little affect for Person B in a similar situation. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) are all remedies for migraines, for example, but each have unique energy signatures that affect our physical, emotional, and mental systems differently.

As you begin working with a chosen plant medicine (whether you chose them or they chose you), I offer the following considerations for your journey together, based on the idea of recognition, engagement, and kinship.

Recognition

  • Recognize your needs.
    • What our your needs, wants, and desires in your relationship with the plant medicine?
    • Are you seeking a cure or kinship?
    • Recognize the plant’s needs.
      • What are the needs, wants, and desires of the plant both within and apart from the relationship you are seeking from it?
        • If you are growing the herb, what are its growing needs? How is it sustainably harvested and/or wildcrafted?
        • Create a supportive environment for the plant to express itself to you.
        • Be able to identify the physical and energetic characteristics of the plant as it grows, how it tastes, smells, and feels.

Engagement

  • We must be accountable to our interdependence with the plant world and how we engage plant medicine is a reflection of our understanding of our interdependence.
  • Maintain a willingness to experience the world from the plant’s perspective. In turn we are better able to empathize with those we serve as herbologists and healers.
  • Engage with your plant ally every day, every night, whether greeting them in your garden, meditating with them, using them as internal or external medicine, and/or some other practice.
    • Learn about the historical, mythological, and modern uses of the plant medicine.
    • Sing sacred songs, draw, write poetry, dance, and engage in pleasurable experiences with your plant.
    • How do you and the plant make medicine?
      • When you harvest the herb, when do you do it, where do you do it, and how do you do it? When you purchase it, how do you do it, and from whom?
      • Try creating different types of medicines – from teas to tinctures – with the plant.

Kinship

  • As you work with a plant ally, you become accountable to one another.
    • How do you remain honest with yourself and your plant ally on your healing journey?
    • How do you create sustainable structures of healing whether through the principles of permaculture, mindful wildcrafting, social justice organizing or similar practices of interconnectedness?
    • How do you honor the medicine of your plant ally?
      • Perhaps as a herbologist, storyteller, medicine-maker, teacher, ritual-facilitator, rabble-rouser, or heart-opener?

Each of us will engage our herbal practice with different insights, experiences, and personal skills that shape every aspect of our lives and relationships. As an herbologist, with my experiences as a Pagan, queer, feminist, multi-racial, tea-loving womyn living in the United States with the myriad of privileges I have and lack access to, my relationships with my plant allies is rooted in these experiences – a foundation of legacy and futuredreaming. The process of working with plant medicines is about learning the ways that I may help facilitate healing between plant and people and creature, but also is about my own personal journey and how I relate to the world within and around me.

I hope that your own journey with the plants of our ocean planet is sweet, challenging, ecstatic, luminous, and balancing, and that you grow in your own wild and greening healing energy.

Be well, clever friends!

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[1] Can we take a moment to imagine the Twitter account or Tumblr of some of our favorite plant medicines? Hawthorn will always be posting the latest heart-warming video about puppies, while Cacao keeps posting an endless stream of abstract party photos involving a lot of nudity, and Elder’s stream would be sorta spooky, badass, and intriguing.

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The Lunar Apothecary just got better (even before it began)!

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We’ve had an incredible group of women join the Lunar Apothecary so far and I’ve been thinking about all the ways to make the Lunar Apothecary an incredible experience. I know that my own studies have been enriched by long-term connection with incredible folks and practices, where I can sink down roots, be vulnerable, be brave, and be present day-after-day, night-after-night.

So, my clever friends, we’ve made a change to the Lunar Apothecary.

It’s still an incredible twelve week ecourse for women overflowing with wild knowledge of lunar herbology…

It’s most definitely still a space for folks to explore the heritage of medicinal astrology in western herbalism…

Oh, and you better believe we’ll be working not only medicinal herbology, but plenty of magickal herbology, as well!

But we’ve gone ahead made space for deeper levels of learning and experience to occur! When you join the Lunar Apothecary you’ll have access to the private learning circle for ONE FULL YEAR!

AND… Any NEW material I develop for the Lunar Apothecary during that time WILL BE YOURS. No extra charge or sign-ups required.

Are you ready to answer the call?

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Herbs for Times of Tragedy

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Hiya, everyone,

Given the recent events in Boston, I was reminded that I have wanted to start a community conversation about herbs in times of tragedy. In my own practice I work with lots of folks who are recovering from various levels of violence and trauma in their background, so I have certain herbs (including flower and gem essences) that I find myself reaching for often. In general, I reach for adaptogens (such as Tulsi Ocimum sanctum) and nervines (like Oats Avena sativa) for dealing with the impact of trauma. I think Bach’s Rescue Remedy is an excellent in-the-moment aid and I usually keep a small bottle on me. The remedies I use range depending on the circumstances as well as when I use them, but Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), Elder Berry and Flower (Sambucus nigra), Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) have all been useful. For those who hearts are hurting right now, consider inviting Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) in as a tea, tincture, glycerite or powder.

For herbalists, street medics, birthworkers, social workers, and others who find themselves working on the edges, I always recommend knowing what plants are your allies – the ones who have your heart when things get really tough – and to develop a sacred relationship with them before the hard times come.

What other herbs have folks used? I look forward to learning about other folk’s herb allies and the way we support our communities when they are in pain. Join in the conversation here on the blog and over at Poppy Swap.

Be well, be tender, and reach out to those around you,
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The “G” Word: Honoring the Roma

I am reblogging this post in honor of International Roma Day! 

Today is International Roma Day which celebrates Romani culture and contribution to society as well as raising awareness of the ongoing issues that the Romani people face throughout the world. As herbalists, herb folks, herbal medicine users, and people who like Nettles, we have an opportunity to make our communities more inclusive, more kind, and more just by simply adjusting our language to honor a culture that many feel inspired by.

The term “Gypsy” is a pejorative and offensive word used to describe the diverse population of people known as the Roma / Romani / Romany / Rroma, depending on local Roma dialect.  While many folks on view “Gypsy” as just another descriptive term to be used to describe a situation, a person or to sell items it is important to recognize that words are the framework that hold together institutional racism. Words and their connotations are necessary tools of oppression, so they do hurt, they do matter, and they are worth questioning and hopefully dismantling.

As herbalists, especially those who practice Western herbalism, we have a particular responsibility to honor cultures that have perserved herbal knowledge through the centuries and that we now use today.  In my practice and devotional work with our plant kindred, I have watched how we become more like the plants we work with and the plants become more like us in turn.  So when there is a plant that plays particular importance within a culture or a remedy that is associated with a certain people, I pay attention to both the stories of the plants and of the people they are so closely intwined with.  There are many plants and remedies associated with Romani culture, from the mythic Queen of Hungary Water to “Gypsy” cold cures featuring Peppermint, Yarrow, and Elder, many herbalists have not only heard about these remedies, but make them as well.  What’s more is that there is so much romanticizing that goes on about Romani culture and the Roma themselves, that learning historical Romani herbal remedies can be a hard thing to do, especially since Romani culture is beautifully diverse.

As a humyn creature of mixed ancestry, I am particularly invested in changing the ways we talk about, around, and over Roma peoples, like myself.  In the United States there is not a lot of real information about Romani culture and it has been my experience that most Americans aren’t even aware of the Roma of an actual ethnic group, so sometimes it can be harder for folks to understand that Gypsy is a pejorative word used passively as a form of ignorance and actively as a form of violence.  For me, the foundation of changing language is wanting to more authentically describe the world and our experiences in it to better understand ourselves and each other.  So if you use the word “Gypsy,” I would ask for you to let it go, put it in the compost, allow it to decompose, be transformed, and fertilize your garden of knowledge resting in that noggin of yours.  It’s easy, honorable, and a whole lot of fun coming up with a new vocabulary to replaced outdated terms that no longer serve us.

Interested in learning more? I recommend the following article by Professor Ian Hancock. He is of Romani descent, teaches at the University of Texas Austin, and writes about the history of the use of the word “Gypsy” and why it is a term that is offensive and oppressive to the Roma people.

What’s In A Name?

As a final note, I hope that any conversations that ensue from this post are from a place of compassion, willingness to learn, and understanding that words hold power so we should celebrate that gift and use them respectively.

Opre Roma!

The Moon is calling, the herbs are singing, we’re sharing our dream!

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I feel grateful and awe-struck to be able to put this work out into the world and to invite so many beautiful and clever souls into a circle of learning and magick! I have designed the course that I was looking for years ago – a place to dig deep into the world of herbology, revel in mystery, take delight in our ability to heal, and embrace the enchantment of our lives and worlds.

The circle is forming, the web is singing, and the Moon is calling our names…

I hope to see you at the Lunar Apothecary!
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P. S. Keep reading for a special Early Moon discount! 

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The Lunar Apothecary is for the brave, the odd, the curious, the moongazers, and midnight gardeners. Come if you are ready to experience a world of Moon medicine and magick, where we seek to know “As Above, So Below” in our herbal practice. If you are drawn to live your life by the pace of Lunar tide, recognizing your inner changes with the changing face of the moon – come meet us in the garden at midnight. If you want to learn to make herbal remedies and formulations both medicinal and magickal – join our circle. If you are intrigued by the world of medicinal astrology and its important legacy in Western Herbalism – sit down for a cup of moon-blessed tea with us.

We have space for you, clever friend, if you’re ready to answer the call.

Expect to work with lunar plants in new ways, incorporating the written and spoken word to better understand the influence of the Moon in your life, herbal practice, and medicine-making.

Expect to learn in a way that recognizes enchantment as a tool of healing. Whether crafting charms or brewing tinctures, both are given equal reverence and attention.

Expect to change and shift, opening yourself up to the cleansing and compassionate power of lunar herbology.

Expect to embrace all that is dark and beautiful, night-filled and starry, to fully experience the rich spectrum of a life lived not just for the bright expanse of day, but the healing mantle of night.

The Moon is rising – are you ready to join our circle?

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◇ ☾ ◇ ☾ ◇ ☾ ◇ DETAILS ◇ ☾ ◇ ☾ ◇ ☾ ◇

The Lunar Apothecary is a twelve week ecourse for ☾ women ☾ composed of weekly newsletters, pdf books, hand-drawn goodies, and guided meditations. You’ll be invited to join an exclusive online circle with your fellow Lunar apothecarians and I’ll be present to answer questions and offer weekly guidance.

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Weekly:

  • Moonwise: The Lunar Apothecary Newsletter
    • Full of Lunar inspiration for the coming week and guidance about the current moon phase
  • Guided Journal Exercises
  • The Mansions of the Moon Guide
    • Exploring the ancient Lunar Zodiac
  • The Celestial Wheel : The Moon + The Zodiac
    • Exploring the twelve signs of the Solar Zodiac and Lunar Herbology

Monthly:

  • The Lunar Compass : Nightly, Weekly, + Monthly Calendar
  • Herbal Moon Ritual / Amulet / Charm
  • Medicine-Making Tutorials (Twice Monthly!)
    • Teas
    • Extracts
    • Flower, Gem, + Moon Essences
    • Lunar Dreaming
    • Basic Lunar Aromatherapy
    • The Basics of Formulation

BONUSES!

  • o Guided Moon Meditations
    • Five 30 minute audio recordings of guided meditations including building your own sacred lunar space + meeting your lunar plant ally
  • eBooks:
    • Moonrite: Creating Nightly, Weekly, and Monthly Lunar Rituals + Celebrations
      • Developing a Lunar spiritual practice for yourself and your community, including a guide for hosting Moon Tent Revivals full of herbal magick + medicine!
    • Moonlight: Using Moon Signs to Guide Medicine-Making + Healing
  • Growing + Harvesting Plants by the Moon Illustrated Chart
  • An annotated bibliography for further reading and explorations
  • All the materials from the Lunar Apothecary are yours to keep and use and learn from and love forever.

Start Date: May 1. Space and sliding admissions will be limited, so to secure your seat at the circle sign up early!

Early Moon Special :
ENROLL by Monday, April 8 and receive 15% off
with the coupon code “EARLYWORTMOON” 

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How to Follow the Traveling Apothecary

Hiya, clever friends!

A bit of a housekeeping announcement today! As Google Reader has moved beyond the veils of the internet and may be reborn in middle earth as a plucky kid who will become the greatest superlibrarian the galaxy has ever known, we thought we would let you know where you can find us and how you can follow us.

Bloglovin’ is our favorite Google Reader alternative and you can follow our latest posts and site updates by following us there.

If you want to keep track of not only the latest blog posts but first dibs on new products and programs (including our upcoming Lunar Apothecary!), including exclusive discounts, blogs, and recipes, The Hedgehog Herald is a direct owl to herbal awesomeness.

Our Facebook page and twitterings are other ways of following not only our posts and latest Apothecary updates, but more personal stories, photos, and insights into the day-to-day workings of a modern, urban Apothecary!

If you really just want to look at pretty, funny, quirky, herby pictures, you’ll be very happy over at our Tumblr.

And, of course, for all your fully enchanted herbology needs you can shop the Apothecary at our Etsy and Poppy Swap storefronts!

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<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3284365/?claim=u7vzspzaarx”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Source of Strength : Herbs for Birthworkers

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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!

Read the full post »

Apothecary Holiday Plans

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Now that the Apothecary is closed for the holidays (we’ll be back around December 28) we finally have some time for some of the items on our winter respite to-adventure list.  Since it often involves brewing up new goodies for the Apothecary, we thought we would give you a peek into our winter workshop.

Just what are we doing these wintery days and nights?

Working on my Swedish Chai recipe.
A lot of my remedy ideas come from dreams.  So it was that one night I dreamt of DeLoreans and the idea of making a chai recipe that incorporates classic Swedish herbal elements.  I already have an idea of what herbs I am going to use, now it is just experimenting with the proportions.  I’ll share the recipe once I’m done!

Reading.
I am never far from a book and I have a couple of books I have been carrying around but have yet to read that I look forward to tucking into during these long nights.  One of these books is Culpeper’s Medicine: A Practice Of Western Holistic Medicine by Graeme Tobyn, which explores the work of Nicholas Culpeper’s herbal practice and especially his use of medical astrology.

Catching up on my writing.
Journaling, writing up new blogs for the Apothecary, such as plant profiles, and other freelance writing work fill up lots of my time when I am not making medicines (or walking dogs or making tea).  Between Samhain and Yule I write down my goals and dreams for the year which build upon the work of the previous year, arching towards my long-term visions.  It is a season, in other words, of making bridges out of lists.

Making lots and lots of sweet herbal goodies.
This is the time of year that I fill up friends and family with adaptogenic, bliss-filled herbs in the guise of holiday sweets.  I love Kate Magic’s wonderments, My New Roots, and Earthsprout are some of my current sources of my recipe inspiration.

Sending out handmade postcards like a boss.
I guess I am a boss of myself so I would therefore be the type of boss to make and send out handmade postcards.  If you get a lot of boxes this holiday season that you don’t have much use for, cut them up to postcard size, decorate them with some glitter, and make the folks who get them in the mail really happy.

Working on a new adventurous offering from the Apothecary!
We’ll be offering a brand new something in the next few months that we’ve never done before in the Apothecary.  I’m in the phase of charming dreams into the waking world…  There will be a tiny preview – just a hint – of what we’ll be offering on the Winter Solstice.  Keep your eyes on the skies…

So, my clever friends, this winter dark may you…

 Find the festiveness of quiet moments + simple retreats.

 Delight in the delicious company of loved ones. 

 Love + nurture the tangled roots of all your dreams. 

The Longest Night: Herbs for the Winter Solstice Season

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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.

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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!

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