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 “G” Word : Honoring the Roma


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!

Spiders! Piles! We’ve RELIEF for You!

Hemorrhoids and varicosities are not, in general, fun to talk about or to experience.  Yet, hemorrhoids and varicosities are a common occurrence for many folks, so we might as well take the best care that we can of our bodies and ourselves when they are a bit out of balance and stressed.  One of the best environments for healing to take place is one of honest humor, so that is why our Spritz has such a silly name – our body feels like it is crawling with spiders and we’ve got a case of the piles!  Honest and funny all at once or at least a slightly more interesting way to talk about uncomfortable condition.  Examples follow:

“Honey, I’ve got spiders again!”

“A bit of the piles today it seems!”

Our Spiders & Piles Hemorrhoid and Varicose Veins Spritz is formulated for both preventative care as well as acute relief.  Spray it directly on the spot that needs relief or follow our instructions for creating a pad for extended acute relief.

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The Warrior + The Healer: Yarrow

botanical.com

Beware the Devil’s Nettle and all its accompanying glamouries – it knows well the art of divination, the charms of love, and has an affinity for blood.  The common name, Yarrow, is from the Old English gearwe which is thought to be derived from heiros, further linking Yarrow to the art of magick.  Placed over the eyes, Yarrow promotes clairvoyance, and Deb Soule recommends putting the herb in sachets to help connect with the green world.

Matthew Wood puts is succinctly when describing those who might be aided by the healing powers of Yarrow: “The Wounded Warrior, the Wounded Healer.” (1)  For those folks who serve on the front line in their lives, who are often the first in and the last out in any endeavor, and who are prone to ignore health needs until they are lying flat on their backs.  A particularly good remedy for the healers among us who have difficultly following their own recommendations of vital living, healing and resting.  Yarrow is for the ones who appear strongest and are often the most sensitive and bruised – they won’t let you know, but when they do the pain can seem immense and unraveling.  Yarrow is an everyday tonic with the skills of a crisis manager and can help those who feel they must always be the strongest to express their vulnerabilities in ways that restore true fortitude.

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