Thanks to the EZ Awning we can carry on our mission, even in less than perfect weather! This 8×8 canopy will provide plenty of protection, and it folds up small for easy storage. Viva la Herb Bus!
Today begins the big experiment with making tea concentrate granules. First, I’d like to thank Christopher Hobbs for planting this seed in my brain. I attended a plant walk with him at the 2012 American Herbalists Guild Symposium and he just happened to mention this process. It was the missing link for the Herb Bus– a way to deliver effective herbal medicine without utilizing the traditional (American) alcohol based tincture.
For starters — WHAT ARE TEA CONCENTRATE GRANULES?
They are concentrated extracts made by dehydrating an herbal tea or decoction till you are left with a concentrated powder. It seems there are two distinctive ways to make the granules, either with or without added starch or an herbal powder.
Due to the high humidity of Atlanta, I have decided to create my granules utilizing starch powder. This will prevent the granules from sticking together and creating a tea concentrate rock.
Here are links to a couple resources I found helpful as I tried to learn more:
While the process is pretty straightforward in the descriptions, the information I have not been able to locate is how much potato starch to add per ounce of the greatly-reduced-decoction-of-herbal-glop. Based on my gleanings from other kitchen preparations which utilize a starch of some type (jello, jelly, etc) I am beginning with 1 tsp per 2 oz of reduction.
Ginger Concentrate Granules – The Maiden Voyage
I began by putting 2 ounces of dried ginger root (powdered fresh) in a stainless steel pot and covering it with 16 oz of cold, distilled water (1:8). I then simmered it covered for 20 minutes to get out the goods. Then I let it simmer on the lowest heat possible for another 20 minutes uncovered to begin reducing it down. After a slight cooling period I strained the glop through a muslin press cloth to separate out the solids. After an exciting explosion of gingery shrapnel as the cloth gave way to my relentless pressing, I was left with about 4 oz of reduction. So based on the ratio of 1 tsp potato starch per 2 oz reduction, I mixed in 2 tsp of potato starch.
Next I poured the lovely, ginger goo onto a tray meant for making fruit leather in the lovely dehydrator donated to the cause by Kyla Zaro-Moore. I’ve set the thermostat to 95 degrees (the lowest setting) and now I just have to wait and see…
While running a clinic out of a van is definitely a convenient way to service a broad segment of the population, it certainly has it’s achilles heel… the weather.
My VW bus is small, so the clinic itself will happen mostly outside of the vehicle, with the interior serving as the apothecary/dispensary/kitchen. Lucky for me, the world of VW buses is a bit… shall we say, cultish, and all manner of accessories have been created with the mind of making life on the road in the VW more convenient and enjoyable.
After weeding through the many options, I decided on the E-Z Awning, an affordable, easy to erect 8×8 canopy that will be mounted to the side of the bus when we are stationed. Now we can sit out of the rain/sun/etc while we work! It has been ordered and due for delivery on Monday!
Update: The awning has arrived!
Today’s American herbalist, tends to have an arsenal of alcohol-based medicines a.k.a. tinctures in their apothecary. While there are many reasons to use tinctures (convenience, preservation, solvency, etc…) when working with a homeless population, alcohol is best avoided. Why? Here are two good reasons:
1. Alcohol is energetically hot and tends to deplete vital energy. Many homeless suffer from malnourishment and deficiency is a concern. We do not want to further deplete.
2. Alcohol sensitivites. Many in our community struggle with alcohol addiction.
So once I decided the use of alcoholic tinctures was to be limited, I begin to suss out my remaining herbal options:
1. Glycerine Based Tinctures – Decent extraction (about 1/2 the extraction power of alcohol). Tasty. Can be easily utilized in place of traditional alcohol based tincture (similar formulation techniques and method of dispensing.) Diabetic friendly.
2. Vinegar Based Tinctures – Great for extracting minerals and alkaloids. Can be easily utilized in place of traditional alcohol based tincture (similar formulation techniques and method of dispensing.) Diabetic friendly.
3. Syrups – Tasty. Nourishing. A way to preserve tea-based medicine. If prepared with honey or sugar, not diabetic friendly. Honey based syrups often still need refrigeration.
4. Teas – Great medicine that has been the bedrock of herbalism for thousands of years. Nourishing. Can be difficult to prepare if no access to a kitchen. Prebagged in iron-shut baggies is the most likely to be utilized.
5. Powders – Convenient (just stir portion into water or mix with honey or nut butter). Can grind and sift herbal formulas on the spot from dried herbs. Lightweight.
6. Pills / Capsules – Convenient. Western (allopathic) medicine relies heavily on pills. Increased familiarity means increased compliancy . If digestion is impaired, herbs in capsule form are not as readily available. Use glycerin to make pills (avoid honey for diabetic concerns).
7. Tea Concentrate Granules – Convenient (just stir portion into water). Predigested (previously decocted). Concentrated (cuts down on size and weight).
As I think of more options, I’ll add them. But for the moment, my focus is going to be on the preparation and utilization of tea concentrate granules. I like that they are a a water based medicine (very nourishing and soothing), lightweight, and conveniently administered. However, while this is the norm in chinese medicine, it has not caught on among western herbalists in the same way. There is going to be a bit of a learning curve, so here we go! As I practice, I’ll post my errors and successes – all great learning moments.
Welcome to the Herb Bus Chronicles. Deciding to facilitate a mobile, herbal clinic for underserved populations comes with a large set of hurdles. By keeping track of the problems encountered and solutions found, hopefully the Herb Bus can serve as a prototype for sister clinics.
Trickle-down Health Care
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Normally reserved for discussions of economic theory, I think it time to look at how our current institutionalized healthcare policies have been trickling down and poisoning the vital force of our nation for years. Lack of preventative care, limited access due to prohibitive costs and pharmaceutically oriented disease management has resulted in widespread health disorders. The current structure of our medical system results in unhealthy and unhappy individuals which means our communities suffer in every other aspect of life. I don’t think it a stretch to propose that our current medical system has resulted in realities such as children performing poorly in school or even higher rates of crime. The putrid trickling down of poor health stifles our dreams and inhibits our capacity for love and happiness– If you don’t feel good, how are you going to feel the desire to do good in your community?
Instead of trickle down, let us grow from the bottom up and build lasting community through herbalism. Herbalism turns the entire system on its head. Herbalism can be practiced in your kitchen and garden and creates empowered individuals who aren’t at the mercy of a for-profit health system. Herbal remedies strengthen the body without poisoning the environment. Herbs bring us together in a sustainable way. The reason we are members of the Sevananda community is because we believe in the commitment to a triple bottom line philosophy of economic, environmental, and social responsibility.
This holiday season is the perfect opportunity for practicing these philosophies. Let’s spread peace and goodwill by spreading health with the gift of herbs. Herbally, tis’ the season of warming, aromatic spices such as clove and cinnamon. Not only do aromatics tantalize the senses, but they are also extremely anti-microbial and anti-infectious, important during the cold and flu season. A famous blend of anti-infectious aromatics is called Thieves Oil. The legend of Thieves Oil (also known as Four Thieves) dates back to the Middle Ages and the era of the Black Death, which was a bubonic plague that wiped out around ½ half of Europe’s entire population. According to legend, there were thieves and grave robbers who were able to withstand the plague while lining their pockets. How? They were the sons of perfumers who protected themselves with potent essential oils (e.o.’s).
We still use these oils to protect ourselves, adding them to an array of products which clean surfaces, the air, and slow the spread of infection during the winter season. And these blends truly smell fantastic! Here is a list of oils commonly found in a Thieves Blend: Lavender, Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Oregano, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Ravensara, and Lemon. Blend the ones you love and add to spritzes or bath soaks. Notice that most of these herbs are actually cooking spices, meaning you could also steep the herbs themselves in an oil or vinegar, or just mix together as a potpourri! The options are endless. Just remember e.o.’s are potent and to be handled with caution for external use only. Never apply them straight to skin, but dilute first in a carrier oil.
Thieves Oil Spritz
¼ oz Thieves Blend e.o.
3 ½ oz. distilled water
¼ oz. vodka (helps the oil to blend with the water)
In a four oz. bottle, add all ingredients and shake well. Use to aromatize the car, wipe down door knobs, spritz in the HVAC returns to cleanse the air. Label, tie with a ribbon, and give the gift of health this holiday season!
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper December 2012
December Herbal Happenings
Saturday, December 1, 2012
As we move towards winter, I experience a mix of emotions. There is a tinge of sorrow and unease as the brightly colored leaves fall to the ground and we say goodbye to the bounty of summer. But woven into these unsettled feelings are glowing ribbons of absolute gratitude and joy, for as the world strips down to its bare bones and enters winter hibernation, it reveals what is truly important. At year’s end, we ask ourselves if we have stocked the pantries of our homes and our hearts to get us through the cold, dark days ahead. This is the chance to focus on WHAT WILL KEEP YOU WARM this winter. For myself, serving and celebrating with community kindles my fire. Last month, at our Holiday Herbcrafting Class, after brewing hawthorne-rose syrup and spiced pear brandy, mixing bath salts and mulling spice blends, we took time to craft lavender sachets and Winter Tulsi Chai (a warming and soothing tea blend) to send to the Third Root Community Health Center who is caring for Sandy survivors in New York City.
And after many years of caring for the homeless here, in Atlanta, and other under-served populations around the country, this herbalista would like to ask for your support on a new project–
THE HERB BUS
Traveling Botanical Free Clinic
The Herb Bus is a free, mobile clinic offering herbal care and comfort, including basic first aid. The Herb Bus is an attempt to fill the hole left by our current medical system and is dedicated to providing health care for under-served populations, including our city’s homeless.
Hitting the road January 2013.
If you would like to SUPPORT THE HERB BUS, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via the Baraka Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization. All donations go towards herbs and services and can be made via Paypal or by check.
Checks: Payable to the Baraka Foundation c/o Lorna Mauney-Brodek
PO Box 17967, Atlanta, GA 30316
Paypal: Please click here
Let’s build a strong and vibrant community through herbalism and a commitment to the health of our neighbors. For more thoughts on how you can give the gift of health this holiday season, please read my article in this month’s Sevananda Co-Options here.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!
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November Herbal Happenings
Thursday, November 1, 2012
As we witness the devastation from Sandy, extending from the Caribbean through New England, it is a reminder of the importance of community. When our homes have been destroyed and our normal means of existence ruptured, we hope there is a hand to catch us. It is important not to wait until disaster to begin weaving your web of support. This support structure starts with you and includes your neighbors, your local fauna and flora, and will continue to grow as long as you nurture and care for it.
This past month I was lucky to attend two herbal conferences which filled me with abundant gratitude, not just for the opportunity to work alongside the healing plants, but also for the deeply compassionate and incredibly intelligent herb-lovers I am sharing this journey with. First came the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference. This annual gathering of over 1,000 women and children, offers learning on so many levels. Helping to facilitate the free clinic each year is a highlight, as I appreciate the opportunity to combine passions– free health care, herbal first aid, and support for out sisters. Here is a link to photos from this year’s clinic. In an effort to “spread the health,” I put together a checklist for supplies needed to set-up a highly functioning clinic to service 1000+ women and children for 3 day events. This is still a work in progress, but I hope is helpful and can be a stepping stone to making this type of offering a more regular occurance.
Just a fews days later I hopped a plane to Western Pennsylvania for the American Herbalists Guild Symposium for 3 days of classes and plant walks. The woods were on fire with fall (the picture above is the fading foliage of Wild Yam.) The teacher-roster was incredible, and really displayed the diversity that gives herbal medicine both its relevence and longevity. The Georgia Herbalists Guild sponsored a viewing of the documentary Herbal Aide which promotes community building through herbalism. This one hour film highlights the wonderful miriad of ways in which we can support our community through our herbal work (disaster relief, United Plant Savers, free clinics, education, etc…) Here in Atlanta, one way I contribute to community building is through my work at the Open Door. Our weekly free foot clinic was featured in a beautiful photo essay in last month’s issue of Hospitality, the Open Door’s monthly newspaper (see pgs 6 & 7.) Click here to learn more about this clinic’s holistic offerings and how you can be of service.
So what’s to come? The month begins with 3 days of amazing classes at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens with Christopher Hobbs and Richo Cech (see calendar below for details.) Then, as we ease into the holiday marathon, I’m offering an herbal gifts workshop on the 10th in the hopes that we can show our friends and family how healing the holidays can be when we gift them with herbs.
Today is seen by many cultures as a day of transition. We move from summer to winter and we recognize the cycle of life and death. We have just witnessed massive destruction, and now we have the chance to rebuild and nurture.
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Guarding our Herbal “Gold”
Monday, October 1, 2012
The chill of October sends energy downwards. Plants draw their juicy potential from leaves and flowering tips and direct it into their roots as they prepare to survive the long winter. It is for this reason that autumn is the traditional root harvest season; roots are at their most potent, fully charged from a spring and summer of photosynthesis.
The use of roots as medicine is highly valued in American Appalachian herbalism (goldenseal, black cohosh, ginseng, stone root, etc… ) Partly due to concentration of active constituents, the romance of the root can also be attributed to the unfortunate influence of commerce. Commerce places a higher value on that which can be stored and sold when it suits the market and roots tend to last longer sitting in a burlap bag or on a shelf than a flower or leaf.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is one of our most famous herbal residents in Appalachia. Its beautiful yellow root is traded around the world. The yellow color signifies it contains berberine, which is a bitter alkaloid that acts as a powerful anti-microbial. Goldenseal has been shown to be extremely effective against many feared pathogens, such as e.coli and staphylococcus, both in practice and in laboratory testing. Goldenseal is also a mucus membrane tonic, meaning it improves both the structure and function of mucosal tissue, such as your gut lining, nasal passages and skin. This is an invaluable double action –both fending off unwanted microbial overgrowth, and making the terrain of your body stronger and more resistant to a micro-floral imbalance in the first place.
With all of these wonderful benefits, it is no wonder the root is extremely popular, Unfortunately, this popularity had its price. When the root is harvested, the life of the plant is sacrificed. Goldenseal was so overharvested that wild populations dwindled and most herbalists began to call for discontinuing its use. Luckily, many farmers have begun growing it and each day more and more of the goldenseal available on the market comes from a cultivated, and therefore, sustainable source.
Another way to reduce pressure on goldenseal populations is to encourage the use of the leaf, an often discarded portion. Instead of ignoring the leaf in the desire for the root, we can gather it for medicine without disturbing the root, or use it in combination with the root. I was first trained to use the leaf by my former teacher, Michael Moore, and have observed positive results in my practice. Recent clinical research also suggests that the combination of leaf and root is even more powerful than the root alone! This is due to synergistic effects between the leaf, which is higher in flavanoids, and the root with higher concentrations of berberine. This means less root is needed for equal effect!
As residents of the magical Southern Appalachians we are both benefactor and guardian of many herbal treasures. Let’s work to promote the preservation of goldenseal so we can enjoy her company for many years to come.
**Sevananda carries the leaf and root in the bulk herb section.
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper October 2012
September Herbal Happenings
Saturday, September 1, 2012
I am very appreciative of the green thread that runs through my life. It is strong and flexible, a thread to follow when I wander into unknown territory, providing loving purpose, and most importantly, weaving me to others. When I walk the streets of Atlanta, the herbs are strung along sidewalk cracks and empty lots, gardens and city parks. This past month, as I explored the Oregon coast, the green thread led me through many diverse bio-spheres. I met quite an interesting cast of characters–wind-buffeted dune and cliff dwellers, quiet forest recluses, bog squatters who were knee deep, and lake loungers, who dangled their feet in the cool waters while soaking in hot sun with upturned faces (I became an honorary lake lounger myself). To see photos from my Oregon trip click here.
Now I’ve returned home to Atlanta and am excited for the month to come. September is graced with cooler weather and a spattering of brilliant events. The fun begins on Thursday, September 13th with another tasty class at The Herb Kitchen’s Farewell to Summer Garden Party. On September 15th-16th, the Georgia Herbalists Guild hosts a weekend workshop on Community and Herbal Approaches to Disaster Situations with herbalist and activist Leah Wolfe. And to round out the month, we will be having the final hike in our Appalachian Field Studies Program up in the North Georgia Mountains. Hope to see some of you there!
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