2014: The Great Fire Cider Rebellion

You might not know it, but today is a special day.  It’s World Fire Cider Day!  A day to make and celebrate this most awesome of creations in Herbalism.  It dates back generations and was popularized by the most gracious Rosemary Gladstar starting back in the 1970s.

This event was inspired in response to a certain company who makes their own version, a cider that…

The Cider that Shall Not Be Named

The Cider that Shall Not Be Named

Must Not Be Named!  ;-)

But recently trademarked it and has been trying to block others from using this decades old name!

This is pretty well documented in blogs like these:

So I won’t go over all that again – since they cover it so very well.  But in the spirit of the day I’m sharing the Fire(d) Cider I made today.

Essentially, this awesome brew is a vinegar, or Oxymel (vinegar/honey blend) infused with powerful antimicrobial herbs (often onions, garlic, horseradish and peppers) so it is a pungent, spicy, sweet dose of awesome cold/flu fighting power.

  • Vinegar (16 ounce)
  • Honey (about a cup)
  • Ginger (a good stalk or so)
  • Garlic (nice head)
  • Onion – 2 onions
  • Cinnamon chips (spicy)
  • Black peppercorns – couple of tablespoons
  • Lemon (1 whole)

Fired Cider - Honey, Vinegar and Black Pepper (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Fired Cider – Honey, Vinegar and Black Pepper (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Instead of the usual Apple Cider Vinegar I sometimes use a Coconut vinegar (which is nifty and doesn’t actually taste like coconut) like I did today.  And instead of just run of a mill honey, I use a Brazilian Pepper Honey which is a peppery and awesome honey made by bees gathering pepper nectars!    Instead of jalapenos, or other peppers, I use black peppercorns.

Fired Cider - Garlic, Ginger, Lemon and Onion (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Fired Cider – Garlic, Ginger, Lemon and Onion (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Of course there is the usual crew of Garlic, Ginger and Onions.  But while most folks use horseradish. I usually skip it since I rarely find fresh, organic horseradish around here.  Plus I’m not a big fan of it.    I also throw in a lemon, and some spicy cinnamon chips!

I chop up the fresh stuff and mix it together with the other herbs and throw them in a quart mason jar.  Then I mix the vinegar and honey well in a measuring cup and pour it in the jar as well.

Top with some wax paper (to protect the lid from the vinegar and protect the mixture from the lid!), cover and ta – da!

Fired Cider - brewing, brewing, brewing (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Fired Cider – brewing, brewing, brewing (image by Michael Blackmore, Mad Crow Herbalism)

Magic has begun.

Ignore the Orange on the left.  It’s just photobombing the picture.  Oranges – so desperate for attention sometimes.   Don’t worry Orange, I’ll be making some bitters later and you’ll get to play then.

Depending how patient you are and whether it feels right to you – shake it regularly for a few weeks (some go for two to three, while I tend to be a four to six week man myself) and then filter out the solid bits and enjoy!

I know what you’re thinking – hey that isn’t the way I learned it or make it.  Nope it isn’t.  That’s kind of the point.

The path of true Herbalism, IMO, is all about experimentation, change and growth.  We all do our own thing.  Some is similar to the ways we learned from those who have gone before and taught us and some is what we bring to the table.   We all have our own fire ciders, etc. and they are all fire cider – like there are many chocolate cakes out there.

I think that is what Rosemary brought to the table in her teachings.  Open Source Herbalism, where we all learn, grow and participate – building on a heritage(s) and history in our unique ways.

It’s one of the reasons I use this picture I took a while back for the Boston Herbal Salons I run in Boston:

Community of Plants (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Community of Plants (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

Lots of different things all together and building a vibrant whole.   It’s a beautiful path.

That other “vision” which this day was inspired in reaction to – is one of separation, stifling and stagnation – the opposite of healing, growth and a joyous life.

So learn from others, experiment yourself, make your own magic and support others in theirs. :-)

Posted in Herbal Medicine Making, Influences | 12 Comments

Book Review: Planet Medicine: Origins, Revised Edition: Origins by Richard Grossinger


I recently finished reading Planet Medicine: Origins, Revised Edition: Origins by Richard Grossinger  and what a ride it has been.

At its base, this book is an anthropological survey of healing systems from around the world as well as a bit of a philosophical examination of healing and healing systems.  Which by itself is completely made of awesome.

It is also a big shaggy dog of a book that often meanders about sometimes uncovering thoughtful treasures and sometimes digging up old shoes that may not be quite so exciting.    I have to admit there were times when I skimmed sections not quite convinced of the points he was making nor where he seemed to be going, but those were more than balanced by absolute gems and insights that would start me into deep attention.  Followed but exciting turnings of my own thoughts.

In amongst the surveys of different traditions you’ll find intriguing quotes like this scattered about like gold glittering in a stream bed:

1)  Allopathy has become, first and foremost, a competitive multinational corporation with trademarks to protect, products to sell; second, a means for preventing disease and curing sick people.

2)  Western medicine is based on healing people to go back to jobs and niches. Disease in indigenous society is an opportunity for life change.

3)  Most of daily life hypnotizes us—its customs, jobs, vehicles, clocks, billboards, and other media all implant “post-hypnotic” messages while keeping individuals in zombie-like trances.

Wow, I love those quotes because they do capture a bit of truth so well.

Beyond just being a fascinating look at so many varied philosophies of healing it has a couple of particular things that I really appreciated in its general approach.

One was how he also talks about Western scientific medicine as one of the systems.  A philosophy with good points and bad points, strengths and weaknesses as well as blind spots and agendas.  Which is a valuable POV that should always be remembered – heck no system of healing, thought, etc. should ever be treated as truth with a capital T!

I’ve seen too many books like this simplify the explanations and theory so much to make them accessible that they instead instead end up uncomfortably bland and generic sounding.  It’s like saying most people have two eyes, legs, etc. – true but it is not a useful way to talk about different peoples around the world, any more than it is useful to talk too simply about different healing modalities.  And thankfully he doesn’t do that.  Instead he digs in to the stuff that makes them different and the things which leave the uninitiated going – “really? You think that?”

That is good. Actually really good because…

Real knowledge and understanding isn’t found in only being reflected back your current understanding and beliefs – but in being forced to re-consider them as you are exposed to different ones!

So sayeth I.

Lastly, there was one tidbit that really struck me, especially since I’ve had similar experiences in my yoga practice and working with my teacher.   In one section of the book  a man is told in a Tai Chi class to feel something in his body and had no idea how and was told “To whom did you sell your body? I hope you got a good price.”

Isn’t that one of the keys?  How many of our problems come from no longer being connected to ourselves?  Having a sense of ownership and care for our bodies and our health?  It gets too easy to ignore or treat our bodies as foreign things to be done with, or done to, rather than developing that understanding and connection with.  If there is one commonality to all good healing modalities to me, it is one of re-building that lost connection – buying back our bodies, our health.

Just my insane .02

Posted in Book Reviews, Path of the Healer | 2 Comments

My Little Chickweed

Chickweed and me have been having this crazy little affair going on.


Chickweed (Stellaria media) ; Family Caryophyllaceae

Chickweed is just wonderful in the many ways you can use it – how it molds itself to be so very helpful in so many forms is just part of its special magic.

You can eat it in salad, cook it with foods, make it into tea, juice it, make vinegars with it, make salves, oils and just about anything you imagine you do with it.  But before we get into some of that, how about if I get the herby facts out of the way…

It has lots of useful phytochemicals – as well as vitamins and minerals in it such as:  flavonoids, triterpenoid saponins, coumarins, mucilage, vitamins A, B, C, D; calcium copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

In herby speak its actions are considered:   antiarthritic, emollient, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, astringent, febrifuge, expectorant, antitussive

In words we may actually know, it is historically used for things like: gastritis, colitis, peptic ulcers, IBS, constipation, asthma, dry coughs, bronchitis and sort throats.   Or in other words it is great for soothing the irritations in the respiratory and digestive systems.

Externally it is most often used for anything where there is inflammation and heat involved such as  eczema, itching, heat rashes, sunburns, oils and acne.   Fresh leaves can be helpful for burns as well as for  insect bites where their drawing action is great as well as to help in drawing splinters.

Kind of a nifty list, huh?

In general, Chickweed has a great affinity for fluids helping to release them when blocked and to aid their movement within the body.  It’s easy to think of it as dissolving blockages in the body – physical as well as emotional.   Culpepper thought of it as being under the domain of the Moon with its connection to water and flow.

Part of its magic as a cooling and soothing herb is that it helps with excess pitta and makes for a great ally in Spring when those of us with occasional Pitta imbalances can feel it most.

Beyond just the usual teas/infusions here are some of the fun ways I like to spend time with Chickweed:

  • Infuse it in wine – a great traditional remedy for rebuilding strength after a prolonged illness
  • Make flower essence which helps you be in the present and let go of the past – who knew Chickweed had such a strong Buddha nature!
  • Make a Chickweed infused vinegar which is wonderful nutritive (throw it on salads!) and great for baths and the skin in general
  • Throw some fresh Chickweed in with some water a blend it for a refreshing juice
  • Take that juice and freeze it in ice cube form to have around to sooth dry skin, rashes or just throw in your drinks year round

And just plain eating Chickweed and drinking Chickweed tea to is pretty awesome.  I can’t count the times I didn’t know what I wanted and it turned out some Chickweed tea was the answer!

Somehow it’s like a song (with apologies to Barnes and Barnes and their song Fish Heads!):

Chickweed, Chickweed,
Rolly-polly Chickweed,
Chickweed, Chickweed,
Eat them up, yum!

In the morning,
Laughing happy Chickweed,
In the evening,
Floating in the soup!

(BTW – here’s the original song…)

Now, while I will never get that song out of my head, I always welcome Chickweed in my heart. ;-)

Posted in Herb(s) of the Week, Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments

He’s back or What’s Happening?

My overly long hiatus from the blogging world is over.  I had intended to take a little break because things were just so busy, but it ended up a tad longer than I thought.  But I’m back to regular posting and I’ve had lots of exciting things happening.  So pull up  a seat…

Shocked Cat (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism

Shocked Cat (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism

And try not to look so darned shocked that I’m back.

I’ve been mainly working on two things in my herbal life lately.  One is finding a nice location to teach monthly herbal workshops in my neighborhood in Boston.  After a long search, I finally found one and am starting up a mostly monthly series of herbal workshops.

The first two of which are coming up shortly.  The first one is on one of my favorite topics TREES! Cause trees are the bees knees!

10 Trees to Know and Love
(Herbal Healing Circle – Boston)
Sunday – November 17, 2013 from 1 – 3 PM;
Spontaneous Celebrations, 45 Danforth St, 1st Floor, Jamaica Plain, MA (google maps)
(Just a two minute walk from Stony Brook on the Orange line!)
Cost: $25

Trees make for great medicine, but there is more to trees in herbal medicine than just Elder, Hawthorn and Linden.  This workshop is an introduction to some of the herbal uses of our friends the trees – starting with just  ten of the many trees  available to us.  Hear about the varieties of common local trees, as well as some of the not so common ones.    Learn harvesting tips, where to buy and how best to work with them. 

Come and learn so you won’t end up “barking” up the wrong tree.

And in December I’m tackling another favorite topic – things you can do with what you most likely have in your kitchen:

Herbal Magic in Your Kitchen
Sunday – December 15, 2013 from 1 – 3 PM
Spontaneous Celebrations,  45 Danforth St,  1st Floor, Jamaica Plain, MA (google maps)
(Just a two minute walk from Stony Brook on the Orange line!)
Cost:   $25

You don’t need to order things from specialized stores or even hunt for them in the wild – you can make magic with herbs and foods you commonly have in your kitchen.  Come to this workshop and share the fun as we explore the wonders hidden in your spice rack and lurking in your fridge that you never suspected you had!

Or what I sometime call MacGyver herbalism.  ;-)   I was so tempted to call it that too. But I did just barely restrain myself.

In 2014 I’ll be lining up some more workshops that I’ll be teaching as well as bringing out some guest speakers from amongst the many gifted herbalists in the Boston area – many of which are part of my circle of herby friends.

The other project is something I call the Boston Herbal Salon:

Community of Plants (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Community of Plants (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

which was partly inspired by the last couple of Herbstalk Festivals here in the Boston area. One of the things that we all loved was catching up with folks that we hadn’t seen in a while.

It was then I decided we needed a semi-regular social gathering for herbal folks and the Boston Herbal Salon was born.   I had a first, kind of testing the waters, one at the end of August where ten of us met one Sunday afternoon in the garden yard of my place.  We had so much fun just talking and connecting that I knew magic was being born.

Now the next Boston Herbal Salon is coming up:

Boston Herbal Salon
Tuesday, November 19 from 7 – 8:30 PM
Hosted at the Commonwealth Center for Herbal Medicine, 25 Saint Mary’s Court, Brookline, MA.    Directions at link – (directions)

We herbalists all love spending time with our plants friends, but it can be just as much fun sharing that love with others. So come on out to the Boston Herbal Salon where you get that chance to meet and share that joyful celebration of our plant pals with those who feel just the same way. The Boston Herbal Salon is an informal discussion/get together for herbalists (both current herbalists as well as those on that path) in the Boston area. It’s a chance to socialize and network a bit with other herbalists.

Bring a favorite herbal recipe to share with the group or a good herbal story!

We’ll talk, laugh, share bodice ripping tales of forbidden plant love (well maybe not so true….) There will be teas, snacks, tinctures and more. But most of all fun!

And it promises to be even better!

So that’s what I’ve been doing during my blogging vacation. ;-)

Now that you’re caught up it’s time to go back to my usual collection of silly and inspiring tales of herbs, yoga and spirituality.

Posted in Kitchen Herbalism, Site News, Trees, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Pondering the Finger or the Moon

I’ve been thinking a lot about a Zen teaching concept – “Finger Pointing at the Moon” – and just how valuable a lesson it is in so many aspects of my life from my yoga practice, in herbalism, etc.

MoonThe short version of the it is that the phrase points out you can obsess about details while losing sight of the bigger picture or end goal.

Or more elaborately when you overly focus on the minute details of the teachings and practice as if they were the point but instead they are just the finger pointing the way to the moon (goal.)

This shows up for me in yoga practice far too often where I can overly focus on those nagging Pitta Perfect Self questions like am I doing this asana right, etc.  And tending to forget where the practice is pointing in general.   More often than not this shows for me in not letting go enough by aiming for a non-existent “just right” asana – instead a looser spiraling exploration of myself in the journey of asana.

But occasionally I have funny moments of letting go like when I was kicking up into headstand the other night and did it with a bit too much gusto and instead of obsessing/panicking as I fell – I just let myself fall and enjoying my butt whopping into the bed and my feet whacking into the workstation sending the keyboard and mouse of my computer into their own lunar exploration!   Then I laughed, and set myself up and did it again! ;-)

In herbalism, this is part of the reason I’m not big on leading plant walks.  There’s always something that has bothered me about going around just categorizing (identifying) and talking about how you can use things.

Mind you, I love me a big old fact filling info buffet as much as the next geeky herbal sort, but it seems too using and ungrateful.  I think I want to create a plant (un)walk where instead you go around thanking the plants and sharing how you have worked together with them.

Kind of like how one Thanksgiving instead of doing the normal nonsense we do that day in America.  I wrote thank you letters to the people in my life.   Giving THANKS!  Which is the point of the holiday isn’t it? -Rather than all the other stuff which just points to that goal.

One final way of looking at this all is how I explained cooking and life to a friend once.  I’m one of those folks who can just throw things together and yummy magic happens.   I said recipes are great but you really learn how to cook once you get to the point of letting go of them and playing in the inspiration of the moment and ingredients you gather.  And you really start living when you let go of the idea of a path (recipe) and starting playing/living your own way.

  • Just like in yoga when you learn enough to really play in the asanas, then you’re on your real path as a full yogi.
  • Or in herbalism when you learn enough to play with the herbs in ways that inspire you then you’re on your way to true herbalism.
  • There are no recipes/paths in your life.  A path is what is formed in your wake as you go forward.   Following others paths too closely never lets you create your own way.

Ponder the finger but let go of the finger once it helps you find the Moon.  Then you can dance in the moonlight.

Just my insane .02

Posted in Path of the Healer, Random Musings, Spiritual Practice, Yoga | Leave a comment

Herbal Books – The Not So Secret Love That Binds Us All

If there is one thing that herbalists (and plants fans in general) love spending time with, almost as much as spending time with their plant friends, it’s a good herbal or plant book.

Book Love (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Book Love (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

Recently I come up with the idea of and hosted the Boston Herbal Salon (a monthly gathering where plant folks gather and talk about their not so secret herbal love!) at my place in Boston.    As a conversation starter for the first get together I had folks bring a favorite book as a show and tell and boy did that start a great round of conversation all around!

Here’s a partial listing of the books we brought and shared:

  • Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger
  • Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
  • Flower Power: Flower Remedies for Healing Body and Soul Through Herbalism, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, and Flower Essences by Anne McIntyre
  • The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
  • Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise by Scott Cunningham
  • Seaweed: Nature’s Secret to Balancing Your Metabolism, Fighting Disease, and Revitalizing Body and Soul by Valerie Gennari Cooksley
  • The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures by Julia Graves
  • Dispensing with Tradition: A Practitioner’s Guide to Using Indian and Western Herbs the Ayurvedic Way by Anne McIntyre and Michelle Boudin
  • The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

Inspired by that here’s a random, and not remotely definitive pair of lists of my favorite herbal books.

First are books that inspire me spiritually in my connection or thinking about plants.   In essence they fuel and nourish my herbal heart in one way or another:

  • Wisdom of the Plant Devas by Thea Summer Deer
  • Herbal Rituals by Judith Berger
  • Plant Spirit Healing by Pam Montgomery
  • Healing Wise by Susun Weed
  • Plant Spirit Medicine by Eliot Cowan
  • Secret Teachings of the Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner
  • Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner
  • The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures by Julia Graves

While these are books that I go to to soothe that info hungry part of myself, so they feed my herbal head:

  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier
  • Backyard Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
  • A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve
  • Male Herbal by James Green
  • Earthwise Herbal (both volume Old and New World) by Matthew Wood
  • Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress
  • Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes
  • Dispensing with Tradition: A Practitioner’s Guide to Using Indian and Western Herbs the Ayurvedic Way by Anne McIntyre and Michelle Boudin

Not that the first list lacks for knowledge nor the second one for spirit/heart but they have different albeit complementary strengths.

I find you need both an openness of spirit/heart and knowledge then you apply both in life and as you gain experience with those tools, you develop wisdom.  :-)

Here’s a really cute video about loving books!

Too fun! :-)

So what are your favorite herbal or plant books?

Posted in Book Reviews | 6 Comments

True Heart Tea

Sometimes in the flurry of daily life your heart can take a beating and become hidden away.   That’s when that happens,  I try to re-connect to my true heart via the magic of Hawthorn, Linden and Rose as a tea (with just a touch of Licorice root.)

True Heart Blend (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

True Heart Blend (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

Linden -aka Lime, Basswood, Bee Tree (Tilia spp.)  Family: Linden

Linden is a pretty magical tree in of itself.  One of my favorite bits of folklore says that if you fall asleep under a Linden tree you will be whisked off to fairyland.  To be honest, as much as I’ve tried to replicate that, I still always awake where I started.  Dangnabit!

Although not classified as a Nervine, in its heart Linden is a Nervine. I think of it as particularly helpful for generally calming and relaxing the emotional nervous system and addressing a host of physical ailments whose underlying cause is emotional. Insomnia, IBS, headaches, indigestion and high blood pressure whose basis is more emotional are often best dealt with by Linden.

In this blend I think of it as having a special affinity for the emotional heart – soothing and gently unwinding the emotional knotting of it.

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) Family: Rosaceae

One of its other names in England is the May tree because it tends to flower in May.  I like to think of it as adding “Spring/spring” to the heart.   It is also known as the “father of the heart” which speaks to its profound affinity to the heart.

It is the classic herbalist heart remedy and is great for almost every heart and circulatory issue. It strengthens the heart and its antioxidants components help protect the heart from damage. It relaxes the blood vessels and thus improves the blood circulation and circulation to the heart. It generally works in a fairly gentle and supportive way. Its full effect builds slowly so it works best over long periods of time. While not only a classic physical heart tonic it can be a great balm for the emotional heart as well and is almost nervine like in its ability to support in cases of nervous tension and stress.

So I place it in this blend for its healing of the physical heart but also for its ability to align in a healing way to the emotional heart as well.

Rose Family Rosaceae

There’s a saying that “Roses are good for the skin and the soul” and I think that is powerfully true.   While herbally they have been used for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to help with everything from headaches to sore throat as well as in skin care.  Which is just a way to show off their ability to soothe in general.

There is a particular uplifting quality to ones spirit with Rose is involved, which makes it a great addition to this blend for the more spiritual aspects of the heart.

Finally, I usually add a touch of Licorice root to the blend to harmonize the formula as well as for the touch of sweetness it adds which always help sweeten not only the tea but one’s mood and life.

That’s my favorite True Heart Blend for keeping you “young at heart.”

Young at Heart – Jimmy Durante

Yes, I’ve been on a bit of Jimmy Durante kick lately.  :-)

Posted in Herb(s) of the Week, Herbal Medicine Making, Plant Friends, Trees | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Make Someone Happy

I was thinking about happiness,  spirituality, herbalism, yoga and living in general recently.  Call it a confluence of thought leading to an a-ha moment.

English: Emotions associated with happiness

English: Emotions associated with happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of it came when I was flipping through a couple of volumes of an annual anthology of best spiritual writing and I was struck by something.   Not one of the essays was about helping or even dealing with other people.  They were all about turning in or at times about connecting with nature.  Nothing wrong with that but I was bothered by how not one essay was about spirituality and helping others.

Then I was thinking about a friend whom I would call a self-help addict.  She was always a bit lonely and unhappy, always broke and chronically “busy” running to seminars about improving herself and changing her life as well as  buying books about the topic – while never truly connecting with others or actually seeming to find her own happiness since she was so busy in quest of it.    I could only help but think how much her fuller and richer (in many senses of the word) her life would have been if she channeled that money and time away from her “self-help” and into connection with others.

In herbalism, one of the most popular requests is about herbs to help with emotional issues that really could be said to stem from being lonely and/or unhappy.   And folks go to yoga to often work on themselves in similar ways as well.

While I do think these are valuable tools and great parts of one’s life, I look at some folks using them and think how they are still so aimed just at themselves and change eludes them.

Sometimes, I think when you focus too much energy on yourself and changing yourself it becomes almost like a black hole continually sucking your time and energy inward allowing little light to emerge.  There has to be a balance of energy connecting you out and to others. And, as you do, you get positive energy back from them as well.  And it becomes a wider web of support and connection supporting you rather than a hole growing ever deeper.

Practicing acts of kindness and connection to others is powerful and profound and should be a part of one’s “self-improvement”, spirituality, yoga and other practices.

I think parents can touch upon that magic with their children (and many folks can with the animals in their lives as well) which is of course why it is so easy to spoil them too. :-)

In other words, make someone happy.

There’s actually a lot of wisdom in that song, which is why I’ve always been fond of it.

So, of course, it is good to be self-aware and work toward changing yourself though whatever modality you are drawn to but try to balance it with energy toward being kind, helping and connecting to others as well.  For that is an important part of your practice and growth as well.

Perhaps in finding the balance of that is where happiness can be found.  :-)

Posted in Healing, Random Musings, Spiritual Practice | 7 Comments

Tulsi, I just have to sing about it…

Ah yes, I’ve been enjoying me some fresh Tulsi tea a whole lot lately and it’s been something to sing about.

Tulsi Flower

Tulsi Flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tulsi, aka Holy Basil, (Ocimum sanctum/Ocimum tenuiflorum)  Family:  Lamiaceae

I have to say the time I’ve spent with Tulsi has been eye opening.   Sometimes you can know about a plant but haven’t quite discovered its real magic yet.    Like the difference between knowledge and the beginning of true wisdom.

Typical Information

Here are some of the bits of Tulsi information….

In typical  herby speak it is considered to be: diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, antispasmodic, antibacterial,  analgesic, adaptogenic and antioxidant

Toning down the polysyllabic addiction problem some herbalists have you can think of it as by what it has been seen as traditionally:

  • Helping with stress
  • Improving memory and concentration
  • Good for respiratory problems
  • Aiding with balancing blood sugar levels and cholesterol
  • Easing IBS and gastrointestinal issues
  • Soothing minor aches and pains including headaches
  • Helping fight infections and such
  • Potentially lowering blood pressure

You can also use the juice externally for insect stings and skin diseases as well as rashes and fungal problems.    And as ear drops for ear infections.

(Which is actually pretty similar to a lot of the Mint family and especially many of the herbs we think of as culinary, or Italian seasonings, like Basil proper, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme for some examples.)

But Tulsi special magic is something more complex…

The Spiritual Side of Tulsi

In Ayurveda, it is not just thought of as an herb aimed at improving physical health and vitality but also valued for aura cleaning and helping to balance the chakras.  It is said to be sacred to Vishnu and often used in daily prayers.

As well as considered to be a potent dream herb to increase the vividness of dreams as well as your recall of them.   Which is not often mentioned as such but I’d consider it a nice shamanistic dreaming aid myself.

Three are One

Recently, I saw some folks online discussing how they had used Tulsi to aid with emotional issues but how they hadn’t really appreciated it for the ability to help with more physical problems (like insomnia in that case) until recently and how impressed they were by it.

That is one of the interesting things about herbalism is how different plants have different strengths and affinities.  Not only for particular physical aspects but in a more broader philosophic sense of  physically, emotionally and/or spiritually supportive and healing.

And that is where I had the realization of what it is that made Tulsi special once I truly got it and connected to it.   There may be many herbs better at any one of those aspects, but I find Tulsi to be very evenly balanced and supportive across all three.  The physical, spiritual and emotional aspects are all connected powerfully in this plant.

For example, it is an important part of a blend I use in retuning my nervous system.  You know how when life seeming gets out of way and you react too strongly to simple things?  I see that as times when you need to re-tune a bit and I use a blend of Passionflower (classic Nervine), Tulsi (to harmonize and apply cross the three aspects of physical, emotional and spiritual self), Eleuthero (classic Adaptogen)  and Licorice (another Adaptogen and formula harmonize) that call Harmonizer Blend.   Then I have  a cup a couple of times of day, each day until I feel more settled.

It’s that subtle cross support of three aspects in one herb which makes Tulsi such a marvel.

And, of course, something to sing about…. ;-)

“Tulsi” (to the tune of Maria from West Side Story and with apologies to Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, et. al.)

“I’ve just drank a tea made from Tulsi,
And suddenly I’ve found
How wonderful a sound
Can be!
Say it loud and there’s music playing,
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying. “

Tulsi, love ya babe!

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Forgive me my teacher…

Ever get the nagging feeling something is missing in your yoga practice and interactions with teachers?

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes there’s an attitude of relativity and acceptance that simply doesn’t always fulfill me.

I can always take down dog or child’s pose as I need to?  Or uses props and adjust as I want in the asanas?  It’s my practice and don’t need to compare it to others?

Really that just doesn’t leave room for good old fashion guilt! ;-)

I almost feel like I want a yoga Priest/Priestess where I might confess my yoga sins.  Perhaps something along these lines:

Student:  “Forgive me my teacher.  It’s been a week since my last practice.  And almost two since my last class…”

Teacher: “Go on.”

Student: “I go to using a prop out of habit without awareness and so avoid really exploring the asana I’m working on.

Instead of listening and learning from my body’s action in a pose, I subtly twist and look at the clock to see how long I’ve held it so far and how long until the class ends.

Often in savasaana, I think about when, and what,  I’m going to eat afterwards and whether I worked hard enough to get a treat too….”*

Teacher:  “I see.  Take 3 extra Sun Salutations each practice and work on three new asanas you’ve never tried before in the coming week.  And work toward changing all that.  Now go and practice in peace.”

Whew.  Feeling better already!

I wonder if I’ve earned that chocolate bar I’ve been eying while writing this…

*  For the record – yes I do all of those things.  I’m probably the worst clock watcher ever.  Even when there is not a clock to watch I follow the time in my head and think about it. ;-)

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