March Herbal Happenings

Friday, March 1, 2013

February was a short, but busy month. The Herbalista Free Clinic (aka the Herb Bus) made several stops and is looking forward to continuing to bring earth based care to Atlanta and beyond. Here we are, stationed at The Open Door, which is one of the communities we will be serving on a regular, monthly basis. We also ran the herbal first aid station at the Georgia Organics Conference, which proved to be an amazing opportunity to both spread the health and exchange ideas with a great group of people committed to sustainable, earth-friendly practices.

This month promises many more opportunities to connect people and plants, strengthening the bond that sustains us. Atlanta has been gifted with a new school, one that is dedicated to promoting “the wellbeing of individuals as well as the health of the community and environment through experiential self-reliance and sustainability skills education.” The Homestead Atlanta will offer a variety of classes from log splitting to fiber arts at different satellite locations around the city. And what homestead school could be complete without herbal offerings? I hope you can join me and the Homestead Atlanta for a weekend-long medicine making workshop later this month.

Herbal Happenings began one year ago, birthed in the month of March, when winter gave way to a rising spring. There is a vibrance and urgency to the energy of spring, one that we can harness and use for the greater good. How will you direct this resurgent energy? What is your vision of health and how can you nurture that within yourself and spread it throughout your community?

For the full newsletter, click here.

Clinic can be a demanding environment.  The main challenge we face as a mobile clinic, beyond typical medical stressors such as illness and pain, is how to provide a sense of calm and security when we have so many additional unknowns (the location, the weather, access to facilities, etc…)

The Herb Bus Service Manual is a work in progress, that outlines some of the nuts ‘n bolts to running the Herbalista Free Clinic– things such as station set-up, sanitation, intake considerations, forms & supplies lists.  Hope folks find this a helpful guide.

Click here to view The HERB BUS MANUAL

Viva la Herb Bus!

Next stop GA Organics Conference

February Herbal Happenings
Friday, February 1, 2013

Even in this typically bleak & frosty month, my heart is glowing. It is with a very special joy that I watch the first sprouts emerge of an herbal project whose seeds were planted long ago.

The Herbalista Free Clinic (aka the Herb Bus) begins her rounds this month! The incredible encouragement and support of this project by so many is proof of how eager Atlanta is for this type of care. We have been invited to take part in this month’s Georgia Organics Conference. We will be on site, providing Herbal First Aid and sharing our vision of building healthy community through herbalism. Please stop by– no scraped knees required!

In this month of giving valentines and roses to friends and family, don’t forget to nurture your own heartsong. The aromatic rose, ancient symbol for love, is one of our most powerful heart-medicines. Rosa uplifts our spirits, heals our grief, and with her thorns, protects our delicate many petaled heart. The Persian poet Rumi tells us “Every rose that is sweet scented within, that rose is telling the secrets of the universe.” To read more about rose medicine, check out this month’s issue of the Sevananda Co-options Newspaper, or if the co-op isn’t near your stomping grounds, you can read it here.

Early February marks the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox. We have passed the darkest hour and are rewarded with the dandelions, crocuses, and forsythia blossoms, pointing us towards spring. I invite you to take part in the many herbal happenings this month to help shake off your winter blues and celebrate a fertile year ahead!

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A Heart in Winter
Friday, February 1, 2013

When someone is sick, when they are in pain, lost to even a memory of health, a simple anti-this or surgical-that might not be all they need to heal. There are other essentials in the body, which if neglected, will prevent a person from uplifting through trauma or disease to find their way back to vitality. Our instinctual reaching towards life and health is generated by the heart and by the love that resides there. Love comes in many forms—as connection, as comforting protection, as desire, and as purpose. Quite simply, love is life.

Now, in the depth of winter, when the light is weak, the days frosted and cold, our spirits can fade. While we may not always admit that our existence is dependent upon such notions as love, our customs will remind us of these necessary truths. Traditions were cultivated just as the crops were, to help us to survive. It is no accident that in the bleak month of February, we choose to celebrate Love. And we give the aromatic gift of crimson petaled roses not only to symbolize that love, but also to heal the heart quite literally, quickening it towards spring and rebirth. The Persian poet Rumi tells us “every rose that is sweet scented within, that rose is telling the secrets of the universe.” The rose is a powerful medicine—a medicine for the heart.

Rose heals the heart from grief and loss and kindles our capacity to love again. Her sensuous scent helps us be open to love while her astringing qualities provide a protective boundary. Even her form demonstrates this interplay between vulnerability and power, defending her blushing blossoms with a sharp embattlement of thorns. Love is gentle strength.

As an herbalist, I often work with patients whose sufferings stem from a trauma of the heart. Sometimes it is an obvious wound, inflicted by the death of a loved one or a relationship betrayed. Sometimes, we might not understand the traumatic origin, but can see the effects, such as a child’s lack of interest or a teenager’s aggression. But while the spectrum of human emotion can be complex, working with rose medicine is quite simple. Spritz your face with rose water and take a deep breath to relax and restore emotional balance. Blend a splash of rose water with pomegranate juice to refresh and awaken the heart’s curiosity. Infuse honey with fresh rose petals and drizzle it over a dessert or your lover to remind us of the sweetness of life. Coat the body with rose oil and then soak in a hot bath to release from grief. Just sitting and enjoying the beauty of a single petal will heal.

This Valentine’s Day remember to share rose’s gift with your friends, your family, your lovers, and yourself.
Lorna Mauney-Brodek
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper February 2013

How to dispense the herbs from a mobile clinic to a homeless population with limited funding takes careful consideration, both in terms of ease of use for patients and the cost of packaging.

TINCTURES/GLYCERITES – For a long time I would only use glass bottles to dispense tinctures, however, after my experience at staffing the Rainbow First Aid Station, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference Clinic, and Sandy Relief Clinics, I began to use 1 and 2 oz plastic bottles that have a lined cap — no dropper. Droppers and glass tincture bottles are a bit costly, and the plastic bottles with cap come to around 25 cents a piece for a 1 oz and 29 cents for a 2 oz. And while it’s true, I am not the biggest fan of plastic bottles, they do have a few things going for them other than affordability. First, they don’t break, and second, they are much lighter than glass.

And to answer the obvious question of how I control dosage without a dropper– I use the cap as the measuring device. For example, in the 1 oz bottle, the cap holds 4 mils and 1/2 cap holds 2 mils. If I want to do a smaller dose than that, I simply dilute with water. If I fill the bottle with 1/2 tincture formula and 1/2 water, then 1 capful contains 2 mils of tincture and 1/2 capful holds 1 mil.

One bottle holds around 8 capfuls total, so if I am using a drop dosage plant such as anemone, I must decide how many drops I want for each dose and multiply by 9. For example, if I want a 5 drop dosage, I multiply 5 X 8 which equals 40. I place 40 drops in the bottle, fill with water and on the instructions say “Take 1 capful as needed.” It follows that with each capful, the patient is getting 5 drops of anemone. Or if I want more doses in the bottle, I can place 5 X 16 = 80 drops in the bottle, fill the rest with water and say “Take 1/2 cap as needed” and thereby provide 16 individual doses of 5 drops each in the 1 oz bottle.

TEA – Loose tea is an absolute pain in the butt if you don’t have the equipment to make it with ease (such as a french press or kitchen, etc) so I pre bag my teas in hopes that will make it more doable for folks. Enter the iron-shut tea bag, also known as the Press n’ Brew. These are cheap and oh-so-handy. You simply blend your tea, fill the bag, and iron shut. In the picture above, I am preparing calendula tea bags, which do double duty as both an antimicrobial for internal use (as a gentle and tasty anti-fungal for example) or as a compress in first aid for infection. Other such double duty tea bags I keep in stock are chamomile and marshmallow. We can also custom blend personalized tea formulas for clients in the bus, with our electrical hook-up, but it’s a good idea to have commonly used blends already on hand.

People’s Relief Medical Clinic — After Sandy

So the Herb Bus didn’t make the trek up to NYC, but its driver did. I spent some time over the turn of the New Year volunteering with the People’s Relief Free Clinic in the Rockaways and Coney Island. The People’s Relief Free Clinic is a made up of group of health professionals (nurse practitioners, herbalists, doctors, EMT’s, street medics, etc) who came together shortly after the storm to provide medical care for this community when the local government failed them. This grassroots healthcare volunteer collective has been extremely effective, so much so, that they have often been recognized for their work by media, the Red Cross, and even the mayor himself.  They were extremely welcoming to this southern herbalist and it was a pleasure to work in such a collaborative environment.  I was paired with nurse practitioners and what an incredible team is formed when these different forms of healthcare come together in mutual respect.  The patient benefits from full-spectrum care.

Even though Hurricane Sandy hit over two months ago, the pain and damage inflicted on many of the marginalized communities of NYC are still suffering. After seeing patients during the day at the walk-in clinics in the Rockaways and Coney Island, we spent the evening canvasing a 19 story high rise that is still without elevator services. The elderly, disabled, pregnant, and other folks with limited mobility are trapped in their homes, unable to navigate the endless flights of slippery, concrete stairs to get basic food and medical supplies.  The photo with this post is of the walk-in clinic in Coney Island.  The People’s Relief Free Clinic is working out of a donated train car that has been custom-fitted as a medical facility.

For many of the patients we worked with, they had preexisting medical conditions that were severely aggravated by the trauma and stress of the hurricane.  I packed a fairly full kit, unsure of what I would be needing to treat, but found the most common complaints were blood pressure issues, pain, asthma, blood sugar imbalances, poor sleep, immune system imbalances, and generalized anxiety.  I won’t go into specific case histories and treatment protocols here, but I will say that without a doubt, the favorite “remedy” I handed out were lavender flower filled sachets.  There was a complete shift the second their hands closed around the bags and the lavender aroma wafted towards them.

This goes for the other volunteers as well!  They have been working so hard over these last couple of months, dealing with such devastation on the daily that their bodies and emotions couldn’t help but also take a toll.  I made it a point while at the Rockaway clinic to spend time mixing tonics for the other workers to ease their pains and bolster their spirits.  I am honored to be able to have been of service these great healers.

January Herbal Happenings
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

This month’s offering–a hope for 2013 that we can live with purpose and work with compassion. And if you don’t yet know your life’s passionate purpose, may you have the courage and curiosity to keep looking for it.

I’m writing fresh off a shift with the People’s Relief Medical Clinic in the Rockaways and Coney Island. The picture here is of the Coney Island walk-in clinic being run out of a medically outfitted train-car. After offering some care to walk-in cases, we spent the evening providing medical services door-to-door in a 19 story high rise that hasn’t had elevator service since Hurricane Sandy hit. The residents of Ocean View Towers not only have had to withstand the horrors brought by the hurricane, but a difficult recovery process that is lasting far too long. Many residents are elderly and/or disabled and are unable to navigate the endless flights of cold, slippery, concrete stairs to fetch their food and medicine. We encountered a wide range of medical ailments, conditions often aggravated by the fear and frustration they are living through. They are now told the elevator won’t be fixed until the end of February. It is truly heartbreaking.

The team of volunteers that coalesced to provide relief services when governmental agencies were failing this community is an inspiring vision of what health care can be. These dedicated, compassionate and endlessly patient health care workers provide a full spectrum of health care services — nurse practitioners, herbalists, doctors, EMT’s, social workers, and street medics working side-by-side. This is collaborative medicine at its best. Navigating the tactical challenges of providing free grassroots health care in a country whose healthcare system is profit-based can be draining and daunting. It is important that we continue to share the stories of our successes and failures to create a collective knowledge base from which we can continue this work. To learn more about the People’s Relief Medical Clinic including plans for a more permanent wellness center click here.

Atlanta has urgent medical needs as well. And there are many here working to spread the health. In particular, I’d like to thank all the volunteers from the Harriet Tubman Free Foot Clinic for their dedication to providing foot care for our city’s homeless. Caring for feet not only ensures basic mobility, but can provide relief from pain, ease stress, and tonify the different organs and systems of the body. For our last clinic of 2012, we had a celebratory evening, offering foot, acupuncture, and massage services all while passing spiced cider and sweets. You can see pictures of the holiday clinic and party here.

This month’s edition of Herbal Happenings is filled with many more opportunities, both herbalistic and fantastic, to learn, feel, and share the health. Enjoy!

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