Linden Love

Wow!  Herbstalk festival starts today!    Each year Herbstalk has a particular plant as a theme and this year it is Linden.  Here’s a post I did for the Herbstalk blog back in May– Linden Love.   Hope to see you all at Herbstalk this weekend (I’ll be teaching there tomorrow!)  :-)

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Right now is one of my favorite times of the year because it is when the linden trees start to send forth their spring leaves. It’s a magical time thanks to a magical tree.  There are numerous linden trees about in Boston, since it is a longtime favorite of urban landscapers, but there is one linden tree that has a special place in my heart.

Beloved Linden Tree (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Beloved Linden Tree (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

Each day on the way to work I walk by it in the morning.  I always take the time to pause, place my hand against it and connect and ground before starting the day.

When you look at the general shape of a linden tree it forms a fairly distinctive bell, which I think speaks to its essence in general as a plant that promotes harmony.  Its soothing nature is recognized by the Germans where the word to sooth is “lindern” and the tree is thought to represent “mercy.”

It’s usually not classified, in herbal parlance, as a nervine but I think in its heart linden is a nervine. I find it particularly well suited 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 with an emotional basis are often best dealt with by linden.  It is also good, in general, for relaxing the arteries and warming the digestive system.

I prefer to use it solo as a tea for its strictly calming and sedating actions and in combination with herbs aimed at specific physical ailments where there may be an emotional cause – like willow and linden tea for headaches or linden and hawthorn for heart or high blood pressure issues.

For me, linden trees are powerfully soothing and calming and I love to meditate under them.  Some trees’ presence can be so powerful as to be almost intimate and be a bit too majestic, but linden is comforting and gentle in its strength.  Infusions of linden flowers and leaves are my go-to tea when I’m seeking to connect with its warm and supportive nature.  However, I have made linden glycerides that were just amazing.  I don’t find tinctures with harsh alcohol as amenable to the gentleness of linden.

Beyond its many wondrous internal uses as a tea, it’s great for the skin — you can apply it as a tea wash or compress for itchy or inflamed skin.  Or infuse it in oil as the basis of a healing skin salve. The tea also makes a great refreshing face wash. I brew it overnight and press it out and wash my face with it in the morning for an amazing start to a day. And it makes for a great facial steam after a long day of work as well –- just throw some linden flowers into some boiling water, cover, let steep for a bit and then remove the lid and place your head over the batch with a towel to cover and keep the steamy linden goodness in.

You can also make a cough syrup of the flowers which children (and adults!) love by making a strong tea, adding sugar and reducing it down over a low heat until syrupy.

We’re fast approaching the time when the flowers emerge and you can make a flower essence of them, which is great for those dealing with emotional blockages and helps to open up people who struggle with the giving and receiving of love and affection after painful pasts.

It’s been said that if you fall asleep under a linden tree – you’ll awake in the realm of fairies.  But even time spent awake with them is magical to me.

Posted in Trees | 2 Comments

Oh, Oak – would you, could you?

To think the Herbstalk festival starts in just a week!    Here’s a post I did for the Herbstalk blog back in April– Oh, Oak – would you, could you? Enjoy…and you better rush and buy your tickets for the festival! :-)

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We all know oak trees and we all love oak trees. But sadly, we don’t know them as well as we should including us herby folks who can forget the magic they offer.

English Oak (Querus rober) and friend; Family: Fagaceae

English Oak (Querus rober) and friend; Family: Fagaceae

Well, at least some love oaks like they should…right, my squirrelly friend?

There are a couple of classic species used by herbalists: Querus rober (English Oak) which is the mainstay of UK herbalism and Querus alba (White Oak) which is the oak of choice for US herbalism. Most of the common oak species have similar properties since the primary medicinal aspect are their tannins which are prominent in most oaks. The Northern Red Oak (Querus rubra) is one of the most common around here and quite useable for medicine making.

Generally speaking oaks are broadleaf trees with distinct lobes and sinuses which are alternately placed rather than side to side. Their leaves are longer than wide and asymmetrical (in contrast to Maples which are symmetrical and shorter.) Only oaks have acorns which is one of their best identifiers. Black/Red Oaks have pointed lobes while White Oaks have rounded ones.

Ideally, you make herbal preparations from the inner bark and you should use young twigs or small branches for it. However, you can also use the acorns, leaves and galls for it too. Historically, oak galls have also been used to make ink and many famous historical documents were written with oak ink, including the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. (And some Native Americans would use powdered oak galls for treating inflamed and infected eyes!)

Thanks to its tannin content the primary action of oaks is astringent. Think of really strong black tea (which is also rich in tannins) and how tightening and bitter it is when you drink it. This is why it is great for dealing with excess fluid, easing inflammations, helping with bleeding, and as an antiseptic. You generally use it as a decoction or tincture to treat things like diarrhea and dysentery, or for hemorrhoids, mouth inflammations, nasal polyps, sort throats and wounds.

You can use oak in so many ways:
•As a gargle for sore throats, mouth inflammations and coughs (decoction)
•As a cream or salve for hemorrhoids
•As wash for burns and wounds and generally as a disinfectant (decoction)
•As a mouthwash for bleeding gums (decoction)
•Chew on the bark for mouth ulcers and sores
•Use for poison ivy (tincture – the decoction won’t work as well because while the tannins help deal with the rash aspect, the alcohol part of the tincture helps disperse and breakdown the oil)
•Use for rashes (tincture or decoction)
•Use in salve form for muscular pains
•The leaves make for quick field medicine – soften by steaming or immersing in boiled water or just crush them a bit and apply them to wounds to ease inflammation and as an antiseptic
•Drink as a tea for diarrhea (Since the tannins tend to block nutrient absorption don’t take it for more than a couple of days – use it only to deal with the immediate problem of diarrhea and not as a daily tea.)

A couple of fun general oak uses that I love include the tradition of carrying an acorn to feel youthful. Or that the flower remedy is used to help folks be brave and strong in their lives, especially those who have trouble accepting their own weaknesses.

Finally, I’ve been experimenting lately with making acorn unguent – unguents are oily pastes for wound healing, rashes and skin conditions.

Essentially you make a decoction of acorns. (Be sure to throw away those that float when you first throw them in. ) Simmer it until the water is at least half its original volume. Press it out and mix (Slippery or Siberian) Elm bark powder to make a paste and apply as needed. Surprisingly good!

So go out and find some oak love – you’ll never regret it!

Posted in Trees | 4 Comments

Herbal Madness

As I mentioned the other week, I’ve been busy lately editing the Herbstalk blog lately, but as we head into the final couple of weeks before the Herbstalk Festival - and you know you want to go don’t you! Heck, I’m teaching there so it’s almost a must! ;-)   So I thought that each week, I’d reprint one of my posts from the Herbstalk blog here.   Here’s one I did in February called – Herbal Madness! Enjoy…


Stop! Step away from those herbs…yes, I mean you. I know this is a blog for an herbal festival and so it is all about herbalism, but I just want to make the case for not taking herbs – at least every once and a while. ;-)

Shocked Cat (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism

Shocked Cat (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism

It is pretty easy to get in the habit of always incorporating all the wonderful plant friends into our daily lives – teas, tinctures, capsules, etc.   But sometimes I think it is good just to take a break once and a while from them all.

Too often, we tend to think of ourselves as static instead of dynamic. When in fact, we change from year to year, season to season and even day to day as our world changes, our lives change and even the weather changes.

I find it helpful to take a break from time to time and see what is truly going on in your body. What changes have happened? Is there a new normal? Sometimes you can more profoundly recognize the effects of different herbs and what different combination are having on you when you aren’t taking them.

Taking a break and when you’re done – trying a new herb or re-visiting one that you never really connected with before can be a powerful experience.   And one always worth exploring. You may find a new herbal best friend or re-visit a long lost one! More importantly, you may learn something about yourself in the process.

One of the hazards of plant love is that we can begin to see the world through narrowed “herbal” colored glasses. Just like that old piece of wisdom, Maslow’s hammer – if all you do is hammer than everything looks like a nail.  You can see yourself, family, friends and customers and clients no longer as full individuals but as nails requiring an herbal hammer.

I see it all the time on line in places like Facebook, when a simple observation about a momentary mood, event in day, physical ache, pain etc. – invokes a torrent of “herbal” fixes from my many online herbal friends.

I generally just smile, roll my eyes and think “bless their well-meaning hearts”, but sometimes things just are and they pass. It is part of living life, impermanence and being.   Trying to “fix” things through herbs can be just as bad as the over-medicating that seems to be an epidemic in mainstream Western medicine.

Herbs: feel free to use and love them. Share that love with others.

But take a break from time to time to be not so attached. Then you can learn more about yourself and others while remembering to truly see people and be with them and not just see objects to be “herbaled.”

Just my own insane .02

Posted in Events, Healing, Path of the Healer, Random Musings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Where I’ve Been Lately

I’ve been a bit busy lately since I’m spending time editing the blog for the Herbstalk festival.   You should check out the festival in June (I’ll plug it again in a while!) and the blog!

Say What? (Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Say What? (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

There are lots of great herbal posts there, including one by me earlier in the week about the wonders of Oak!

So be sure to read it regularly as we build excitement for Herbstalk and you can get to know the teachers (I’ll be one of those too – talking about Tree medicine!) via the blog!

 

Posted in Site News | 1 Comment

Enjoy Everything!

It feels to me that the past few months of winter, with their relentless cold and storms, have been especially soul wearing this year.   And I know from talking to others that I’m not the only one who’d felt that way.  As I joked with a friend, if it weren’t for deadlines I don’t think I’d have gotten anything done during that time.

Image by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism

Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism

One of the problems with winter in our culture, is that we try to keep so busy during it.  Frenetically pursuing to do lists and tasks that require energy better suited to spring and summer.  When instead we should be spending our time quieting down, conserving ourselves and perhaps looking within – more being and less doing.  And working so hard against that seasonal pull can be especially draining (part of the reason I took a break from blogging and was very light on the social media front as well, but I’ll write about that another time.)

But at last it is spring.   The days grow longer and temperatures rise bit by bit. (Or if you live in New England the weather see-saws between seasons in a way that is almost manic depressive in its energy!)  To me, now is the time to break out the to do lists as your energies rise with the season – not January 1 – when  the days grow shorter and weather becomes so challenging!

The beginning of this month was April Fool’s Day.  I’m not much of a prankster, but, for me, I think of the spirit of the day is less in the notion of playing jokes or pranks as it is in sharing joy and laughter.  Remembering fun and to enjoy things – to lighten up.  Making that transition from the dark days and introspection – really a re-birth and very keeping in the spirit of spring.  And let’s not forget Easter time with all of its symbolism about rebirth!

Now take that rebirth energy go and make your to do list and change your life for the better but not in some somber task, work, work, work way – instead take the time to laugh and reconnect with that sense of fun.

As Oscar Wilde said:

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

Or in a more fun take, here’s one of my favorite Buddhist jokes:

The Buddhist hands the vendor a five. The vendor gives the Buddhist the hot dog. The Buddhist stands there waiting for change. The vendor shakes her head and says, “Change comes from within.”

So it’s  Spring:  Be reborn, embrace changes and most importantly ENJOY EVERYTHING!

Posted in Healing, Path of the Healer, Random Musings, Seasons and Climate | 4 Comments

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

Planet-medicine

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.

Mouse-ear-chickweed

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

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