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.
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.
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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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!
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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