New Moon Altar dedicated to...
» Shedding old, ill-fitting and uncomfortable skins. (I have no idea how this'll come but it's coming!)
» Staying well grounded and nourished.
» Remembering to feed spirit.
» Persistence, commitment, dedication. (Work.)
» Patience and understanding. (I can't and don't need to produce and control every moment.)
» Flowing with time, not fighting it.
» Doing my fair share.
» Loving myself and others well.
The spring energy is in me. I am ready to produce. I am ready to focus, persist and do sustainable hard work.
I have spent the last many seasons incubating and shaping ideas. I have built so much community and forged incredible relationships with the best people I have ever known. I have begun to tend and heal old, abandoned, hurt relationships as well. I have done good work and am grateful for the ability and circumstance to do this work, but time is come to shift.
I dedicate this season to manifestation and fulfillment of my callings. It's time to do my work that no one else can do. It's time to bring all that has been gestating into the world. It's there, just reach in and bring over to this side.
I must remember to care for myself during this work. To ground and nourish my physical body and my spirit. Both must eat well.
actions: SOOTHING * GROUNDING * PAIN-RELIEVING
systems: NERVOUS * DIGESTIVE * SKIN
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a familiar herb that most of us know as a relaxing sleep aid. Though it does excel in this function, it has so much more to offer us than just a snooze! Chamomile is an herb for irritability and inflammation - both in the physical and emotional realms. It cools what is hot and smooths out the rough patches. It is an excellent remedy for gastrointestinal distress, skin injury or irritation, and emotional irritability or frustration.
Like most aromatic plants, chamomile gently soothes and stimulates our nervous system at the same time. It has a toning effect on the nervous system, it can tighten things up where they are slack or release tension where things are too tight. These effects can be modulated by combining it with different herbs to bring the energy up or down. Our mind and our gut are directly connected though the vagus nerve and chamomile is so good at treating both sides of this connection! I find it particularly useful for GI troubles that "flare-up" or involve irritation, or those that are accompanied by pain or cramping. This is where its antispasmodic action really shines. It's a great choice for gut troubles caused or accompanied by nervousness and anxiety since it can directly modulate a person's mental/emotional state. A cup of chamomile tea will reduce spasms and inflammation in the guts while easing pain and soothing a troubled or anxious mind. I drink chamomile tea to ease the pain of mild menstrual cramps, and as a bonus it dials down irritability and other symptoms of PMS! This pain-relieving action can also be used to treat muscle pain and tension due to stress or bad posture.
One of my favorite ways to use chamomile is on the skin both to encourage healing and to maintain health. As a wound wash it's particularly well suited to children and pets, anyone who might throw a fuss over the sting of hydrogen peroxide. It is antiseptic, soothes pain, reduces inflammation, and encourages healing. To make a wound wash steep 1-2 tablespoons of chamomile in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to cover the tea while it steeps, strain it well, and apply liberally to the wound once it's cooled to a comfortable temperature. If you have a new piercing you can put chamomile into your salt soaks too, just be sure to strain it well! I also like to include chamomile in my homemade body butter, where its anti-inflammatory and vulnerary (wound healing) actions keep skin cells in top shape and help to heal small blemishes or sooth irritation from the get go.
I was once told that chamomile is a great herb for children or anyone acting like a child. Think whiny, cranky, grumpy, irritable, maybe irrational. Frustrated and fatigued, feeling overwhelmed and taking it out on anyone around. This is the shit for chamomile. She's tender and soothing, but puts our head back on straight in a no-nonsense way. Chamomile picks us up and tells us matter-of-factly we'll be alright, our wounds aren't that bad, kisses our boo-boos and sends us on our way. It is so effective and so versatile, I think every home should have a stash of chamomile on hand - it really earns it's keep!
**This post also appears in the zine POSEURS #14.
actions: NOURISHING * ANTI-INFLAMMATORY * ENERGIZING
systems: RESPIRATORY * RENAL//ADRENAL
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are commonly known as a "spring tonic" - spring tonics are super nutritious plants that help clean-up and refresh our systems after a long winter of (usually) heavy foods. These plants are also known in herb-speak as "alteratives," they enhance the nutrition and repair of tissues and generally promote healthy changes in a body.
Nettles are a good source of protein, vitamins A, B, C, and D, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, chlorophyll, and silica - whew! They also have an alkalinizing effect on the blood and body. (Things like sugar and wastes acidify the body and things like cancer cells prefer acidic environments, so we want to be slightly alkaline!) It's best to eat nettles fresh to preserve their bioflavinoids, enzymes, and vitamins B & C - but how do you eat a raw plant covered in tiny stinging hairs? Blend it! Nettle juice is alkaline and neutralizes the acid that causes the sting. If I can convince you to make one recipe with nettles, let it be nettle pesto - just swap nettles for basil and process with olive oil, parmesan, garlic, and nuts of your choice. SO GOOD. Nettle nutrition can also be extracted with vinegar or honey for use in salad dressings, sauces and beverages. Making teas or infusions with the dried herb is also a great choice if you don't have the fresh.
Medicinally, nettles are a great herb to know. In acute scenarios nettle tincture can reduce inflammation caused by allergic reactions or asthma by dilating the bronchial tubes, sinuses, and throat. When taken long-term nettle will help to heal lung and sinus tissues. Nettles have a diuretic effect and improve urinary tract health by nourishing the renal and adrenal systems. They're particularly useful for urinary tract distress caused by irritation rather than infection.
Nourishing and supporting our renal and adrenal systems also gives us sustainable energy! One of the mind-blowing things I learned during my first week apprenticing at Cedar Mountain Herb School is that by nourishing our adrenal system, nettles can help normalize our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone our body produces in response to stress or low blood sugar. It's an important and normal part of our stress response, but like anything, too much can be bad news. Symptoms of wacky cortisol levels include weight gain, poor sleep, low immune response, fatigue, low libido, and feeling strung-out or crazy. But nettles help balance us out - how cool is that?! Thanks nettles!!
**This post also appears in the zine POSEURS #13.
My partner and I recently made an agreement about being more present. We have a good life and we love each other. We agreed to get comfortable, enjoy what we have now and worry less about how we're going to get to the next big phase in our lives. Will we still hold our future-dreams in our hearts? Yes. Will we work towards them? Yes, but by being present. Our future grows from the seeds we plant now, but the seeds can't grow if we're not here to tend them day by day. We made this agreement after spending a day in the arboretum, which, by the way, is a tree garden you guys. TREE GARDEN! A garden of trees!! (I have a special feeling for trees, they're my gods, but that's probably a story for another day.)
Anyway, the arboretum. Beautiful! Filled with trees and bushes and birds and worms and flowers and mud and mushrooms and every good thing. As we left the tree garden and walked back into the human-made world we realized how good we had felt while we were in there, insulated by nature. We're both anxiety prone people, so deep ease and relaxation are profound and sought-after states for us. While we were there I was present in a way that I'm usually not. My mind was clear and quiet. My heart was light and free to move. My breath was easy and deep. My responsibilities were still there but they didn't stick or hold me down. We bathe in the energy of everything around us and we were bathing in the energy of all those plants and wild-things. In the energy of the air and the earth even. The clattering wheel of human energy was gone and we were left to soak in the good vibes radiating from all those plants.
We've been having a fair spat of spring-ish weather that has me just beginning to crave fresh greens again after a winter of cooked, cooked, cooked, and more cooked foods. My body has a strong opinion of when I should and shouldn't be eating raw foods. Heavy on the fresh salads all spring through summer but as fall approaches I start to get that (somewhat child-like) one-more-salad-and-I'll-barf attitude. It's usually a few of my favorite herbs that start the new year up again - as I walk about town I see the chickweed that has been flourishing in our crisp but mild winter weather, little dandelion crowns are just starting to appear here and there, and even the arugula and mustard greens in my abandoned garden bed are looking peppy and edible once again.
Sweet, mild, juicy chickweed (Stellaria media) is an easy herb to find all winter long in our region. It takes off in the cool crispness of fall and winter, growing in pillowy patches out of direct and prolonged sunlight. In the grass underneath lone-standing trees, against the North and East sides of buildings, anywhere regularly shaded with good air flow and clear ground. She is a lady who likes to preserve her complexion (and moisture) by keeping out of the sun.
Dandelion, sweet rascally dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). The little baby crowns are just so damn cute. I love dandelion all year round (she is perhaps my best herb friend), but this is the time to harvest her if you want greens for eating fresh, as the young spring leaves are less bitter than any other time of year. You know where to find dandelion, she's never very far from us. Choose crowns that look appetizing, vibrant green, tender flesh, free of blemishes. Toothy and sassy.