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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Category: Plant Medicine

Yarrow: Magic of Blood + Spirit

Katie Gordon

Have you noticed there's been a lot of talk recently about boundaries?

It seems like everywhere I turn, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, I've been seeing books, articles, products, Facebook posts, newsletters, and conversations around boundaries. When I start recognizing patterns like that, I know it's something to pay attention to. And it makes sense! With all the seeming chaos happening in the world right now, setting strong boundaries is ESSENTIAL. 

 Photo from herbwisdom.com

Photo from herbwisdom.com

Mabon begins the third cycle of Wild Medicine Bundles.

Two years ago, I began crafting these bundles to provide soul + body nourishment, simple rituals, and an invitation to explore the connection between the bodysoul and Earth's cycles. With each turn of the wheel of the year, I've fleshed out my ideas a bit more and trusted myself and the plants to speak in ways that feel approachable. In ways that look like: ritual skincare, teas, baths, anointing oils, and room sprays. 

For the upcoming Mabon Wild Medicine Bundle, Yarrow came forward as a plant ally in setting + holding boundaries, but it felt like there was another reason to feature Yarrow, a reason that was just hiding under the surface. After sitting with it for a bit, I realized what that reason was:

Yarrow affects and moves blood, and blood symbolizes spirit. 

What does that mean and what does it have to do with boundaries?

In traditional healing modalities, blood nourishes Spirit. So if there's stagnation, irritation, heat, or depletion of blood, it'll affect the person's Spirit, which often looks like anxiety, insomnia, depression, and issues around boundaries. Yarrow moves stagnation so that the blood can nourish a depleted, starved Spirit. But as a cooling plant, it can balance overheat in the Spirit, helping one to feel calm and grounded. For me, Yarrow brings me back to my center, reminds me who I am, what I stand for, and where my boundaries need to be in order to be of service in the world. 

Sounds pretty necessary right now, yes?

In each bundle, I've been including a specific meditation or guided journey to connect with the spirit of the plant, but also with an aspect of yourself for which this plant might serve as a mirror. Within your Mabon Wild Medicine Bundle, you'll find a spell. A boundary spell. I'll be guiding you through it, but you'll have lots of space to actually be guided by Yarrow and the other plants featured in the bundle to learn how to set boundaries for yourself. Because boundaries are loving, not just for yourself, but for the people in your life.

Yarrow teaches us about shifting out of being the Wounded Healer and into the Whole-d Healer*. Grab your Mabon Wild Medicine Bundle before September 13 to get the discounted rate of $50, the e-book with product descriptions, uses, and extra recipes, and the guided Boundary Spell. PLUS you get a chance to win the Samhain Wild Medicine Bundle for free! Get yours here.

*Whole-d is a term created by my friends Lola + Tigre at Wild Playground

Wild Rose: At the Heart of Wholeness

Katie Gordon

This Spring has been a time of big growth and profound synchronicities. It seems as soon as I wonder how something is going to work, an answer makes itself known. I hold the same trust for our human tribe. That while we're wondering how we'll get to the other side of the mess we find ourselves in, we know there is another side. 

At the same time, we all experience this incredibly deep and at times pervasive emotion: fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being hurt (physically or emotionally). Fear of unlived potential. Fear that we're doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of our darkness. Fear of our light. And that's okay. It's just one of the many beautifully complex things that makes us all human and able to relate to one another. 

Sometimes, though, that fear causes us to close off ourselves and our hearts. We put up walls to protect ourselves from being seen because that fear makes us vulnerable. At one point in your life, and maybe still, it was necessary to protect yourself. Our bodies & psyches have an amazing ability to advocate for and protect us. But sometimes, what was once necessary to keep us safe on one level or another gets ingrained in us as a pattern that doesn't serve us anymore. 

This fear response is a pattern I've been working with a lot. The impulse to close off and shut down, especially when my heart is involved, can be so strong sometimes. When I feel that impulse, Rose is my medicine to soften around the edges and tap into my deeper, wiser, inner fire.

 Photo by Adarsh Ik

Photo by Adarsh Ik

I've heard Rose referred to as "heart healing," but I think it's not so much about healing, our hearts are always whole after all, as it is about reminding us of our nature. Rose is a heart salve. It calms as it brings us back to our truth and back to ourselves in moments when we forget that we're already whole. Rose teaches us about discernment. About when it's necessary to protect ourselves and when that sense of contraction is coming from an old wound and is an opportunity to re-member a part of ourselves. 

This year, the Midsummer Wild Medicine Bundle features Wild Rose and Hibiscus: herbs to calm, cool, and soothe {heart} heat, as well as an overheated, overstimulated body and nervous system. With touches of Sandalwood, Vanilla, Amber, and Ginger. As Summer Solstice is a fire festival, the bundle will explore fire magic and the medicine that the element of fire brings. In Chinese medicine, fire is associated with the heart, so we'll explore the physical and energetic heart, what it means to "heal" the heart, and what role plants have in the process of re-membering ourselves.

Order your Wild Rose + Hibiscus Wild Medicine Bundle by June 8th to be in the Midsummer Wild Medicine Keepers. In addition to getting your bundle for the discounted price of $50, you'll also get:

  • an e-book with a write up of each item, recipes for that I've tested but didn't make for the bundle, and a recorded audio/visual meditation to connect more deeply with the plant spirit medicine of Wild Rose
  • behind-the-scenes communication with pictures and sneak peeks into the medicine bundling process
  • an additional surprise gift to use in your Midsummer celebrations and help you connect with the Fire medicine of the season
  • a chance to win the a spot in the Wild Medicine Keepers for the following Wild Medicine Bundle (Lughnasa)

Curious about what might be included in the bundle? Read more here.

On Sacred Smoke

Katie Gordon

The word "sacred" is one we've come to associate with the otherworldly, the special, the non-ordinary. But sacredness is something we can find in each moment, in each embodied experience. From your morning shower to cooking to doing the dishes to the silent prayers you say to whoever may be listening to the afternoon cup of coffee or tea, these are all sacred moments. How do you marry the sacred to the mundane? 

One way I've found is to make things with plants. I've started making some specially crafted herbal smoking + incense blends for the Wild Medicine Bundles. At first, I wasn't sure how popular they'd be. Not everyone's heard of herbal smoking blends. Some people are confused about if there's tobacco or cannabis in them. Why would you want to smoke herbs? So I wanted to give just a quick overview of why you'd want to buy or make herbal smoking blends and what are some of the most common herbs you'll see in them or perhaps even like to use to craft your own.

People have smoked plants throughout history for a variety of reasons including recreational, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes. Different herbs have different effects on the lungs, and smoking them can have a different effect than if you were to take it in a tea or tincture. Even moistening herbs (such as mullein and marshmallow leaf) have a hot/dry effect when they're smoked. Do some research on the energetics of the plants you want to make your smoking blend with. I shouldn't have to say this, but I'm going to anyway:

It's important to make sure the herb(s) you're smoking is safe to inhale.

Here are some of my favorite plants to use in smoking blends: 

Mullein Leaf - A classic lung herb, I use Mullein in tea, tincture, and smoking blends. Mullein is mucilaginous, or moistening, and is wonderful for soothing inflamed, irritated mucous membranes, such as lung tissue. Because of its soothing actions, Mullein actually prevents coughing until the inflammation (or even infection) is improved, and then acts as an expectorant to promote a "productive" cough to actually move any stuck mucous out of the lungs.

Skullcap - A relaxant nerve trophorestorative, basically means it rebuilds the nervous system while relaxing tension, Skullcap doesn't just sedate the nervous system. It actually nourishes and strengthens it. I like Skullcap when I'm feeling stagnant or stuck in that more nervous/excitable/can't-calm-myself-enough-to-actually-relax state.

 Spring Rites Smoking + Incense Blend

Spring Rites Smoking + Incense Blend

Marshmallow leaf - Similar to Mullein, Marshmallow leaf is a demulcent and expectorant. The two of them actually make quite a nice pair. What I really love about adding Marshmallow leaf to my blends is how smooth it makes the smoke. My lungs are fairly sensitive and Marshmallow leaf adds body while soothing that hot irritation I often feel when smoking.

Peppermint - In my experience, smoking peppermint can increase circulation and relax the nervous system, as well as clear the lungs and open up the respiratory passages. And even though I said above that the effect on the tissues is hot and dry whenever you burn an herb, there's still that cool pepperminty sensation.

Damiana - Calming and uplifting, Damiana is one of the few things (smoked or consumed) that relieves tension headaches for me. For some people, nervines on the sedative end of the spectrum can actually increase tension. Damiana, while a relaxant, is not a sedative and so it allows energy to move freely through the body rather than suppressing it as many sedative herbs do. By allowing the flow of vital energy and relaxing constriction, we're better able to maintain emotional and physical balance.

Mugwort - Not medicinal per say, Mugwort (my favorite of the Artemesias) is a visionary herb. So, in that way I suppose it can be powerful medicine. Mugwort shows us what we often can't or won't see. When we get in our own way and our vision isn't clear, Mugwort invites us to see more clearly from our heart. When we try to turn a blind eye to what might be outside of our comfort zone, Mugwort firmly yet gently, sometimes in visions, sometimes in dreams coaxes our inner eye open to see what we might otherwise not see.

Don't take my word for any of this. Plant medicine is about cultivating your own relationship with the plants and learning about how you can serve one another. You can check out some of my own blends here, or start crafting your own!

Elder: The Queen of Herbs

Katie Gordon

My life has basically become one giant Wild Medicine Bundle as I've been exploring the energetics and plant medicine of Elderflower. I've been wanting to make magic with these soft, creamy flowers for a long time, but lately, the Elder tree has been calling more loudly than normal. So, I listened. 

Most of us are used to using the berries from the Elder tree for their immune-boosting effects. And while the flowers have some of the same benefits, they felt more mysterious to me. Enigmatic. And so ethereal. 

I first started working with Elder plant medicine last fall when I got an Elderflower essence from Casandra Johns over at House of Hands. She says, "Elderflower opens us to the liminal, crepuscular spaces between waking and dreaming, here and there, life and death." What caught my attention, though, was on the label: A somatic experience of spacious surrender.

Surrender... Something I've been feeling into and trying to understand from deep within my bones to have an embodied sense of it rather than just as an intellectual concept. Surrendering not in the sense of giving up, but in the way of following what you know to be true. Saying yes to your yeses and no to your nos. Acknowledging that when you feel like you're banging your head against the wall, there's probably a better way. Tapping into and being guided by your inner knowing. That kind of surrender.

Elder is strongly associated with the Feminine, which is quite comfortable with surrender, and one with ancient magical symbolism. Many folkloric traditions speak of the Elder tree with fear, with tales of witches, death, and the devil. But if you look deeper, Elder tells the story of beginnings and endings, death and regeneration, and transformation. Elder spirit guards the crossroads, the in-betweens, the thresholds. Death is actually a symbol of rebirth, change, transmutation, and initiation. A shedding of the old to make space for the new. And what a perfect time to invite in the new than at Beltane, when the Elder trees are in flower, when the belfires are burning hot to purge away anything no longer serving who you are at your core. 

What are the herbal energetics of Elderflower?

Elderflower is a relaxing diaphoretic, which means it stimulates persperation and increases peripheral circulation (i.e. circulation throughout your limbs) to not only help cool the body, but also relaxes the exterior. Meaning, if you have a bunch of trapped heat in your center, a relaxing diaphoretic like Elderflower can help release that trapped heat out through your pores. Have you ever noticed that, often, when you're anxious your hands and feet get cold? Me too. Elderflower is one of my favorite herbs for that because rather than simply telling your nervous system to relax, which rarely works for many people, it goes straight to where the tension is held and releases it. Cool, eh?

But one of my favorite ways to work with Elderflower is in skincare. The flowers of the Elder tree are incredibly anti-inflammatory, which leaves us with a BROAD range of medicines to make with it. Infuse it in a carrier oil like Sweet Almond oil for a massage oil for achy, swollen joints or make the oil into a face cream for irritated skin conditions like rosacea or eczema. I've been using Elderflower tea on my scalp and the hydrosol to hydrate my skin (which has a hard time in the in-between of seasonal transitions). 

One thing I emphasize in my work with plants is Right Relationship. Meaning, it's not about what I'm getting from them or what they can do for me. That kind of thinking is short-sighted, and for those of us who are working for a paradigm that is more Whole and holistically healthy, looking to herbs for their health benefits falls flat. Instead, the real medicine comes from spending time with the plants. Listening to their wisdom. Asking questions. Observing how they exist in the world in the most perfect balance, which means ever-evolving. 

Elder has been teaching me about death. About its surrender, its beauty, its space, and about the careful cultivation of life that necessitates death. That the in-between can be (and often is) uncomfortable, sad, frustrating, and confusing. And the waves and contractions that we feel are there to propel us forward and reveal potential. 

If you're curious about working more with Elderflower in all its various facets and forms, the Beltane Wild Medicine Bundle is available until Wednesday, 4/19. After that, it'll go into hibernation until after Beltane. 

If you purchase the bundle by the 19th as a Wild Medicine Keeper, you also get:

  • $10 discount on your bundle
  • E-book with product write-ups, ideas for Beltane rituals, recipes that don't end up being made for bundle products, and a guided journey with Elder
  • Behind-the-scenes emails with photos, bloopers (yes, there are occasionally accidents in the apothecary), and you'll hear from me sharing a bit about my creative process for making the bundles.
  • An opportunity to win a space in the Wild Medicine Keepers for the next Wild Medicine Bundle, a Midsummer celebration!

Lavender: An Old World Medicine

Katie Gordon

I've been busy testing recipes for the Lavender + Labdanum Wild Medicine Bundle, in honor of Imbolc, a festival of Fire and Light. I think I have it narrowed down to the 4 items that'll be included, but in the process of crafting and coming up with new ideas, I realized Lavender is a plant that seems to be both overlooked in favor of "sexier" herbs and simultaneously still serves as a go-to for so many issues from stress and depression, burns, wounds, and skin conditions to difficult labor, fevers, and digestive difficulties. Lavender has been widely used for thousands of years from the early Romans luxuriating in lavender baths, early apothecaries preparing freshly distilled lavender for their eau de Cologne, until now, when most of us have a bottle of lavender essential oil in our medicine cabinet or a lavender candle next to the bed. 

To me, that says there's something not only timeless about Lavender, but something that speaks to us as humans on a primal, physiological and psychological level. Something about this ancient plant that heals us in ways we perhaps don't understand, but still feel drawn to. Like we know there's something there for us without knowing what that thing is. After spending time researching Lavender from a standpoint of aromatherapy, herbal energetics, and Chinese medicine meridian theory, I still don't know. But I know a bit more about Lavender, "The Oil of Paradox and Renewal," according to Peter Holmes, my Aroma Acupoint Therapy teacher. 

I love paradoxes. Seeming opposites are bridged by something often subtle yet powerful. Paradoxes force us to wonder how two things can exist in one space that are so vastly and completely different. This reconciliation of opposites seems to me to be a place of profound medicine. Lavender guides us into those places of profound medicine. 

 Imperial Gem Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Imperial Gem Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lots of people use Lavender for stress, so let's look at that as an example. There's such thing as productive stress and unproductive stress. Productive stress is a normal part of life. You need to be alert and on-watch when you're driving. If you were feeling completely and utterly relaxed, it probably wouldn't be safe for yourself or those around you. However, the stress you feel when you can't sleep because you're thinking about all the things you need to do and your mind jumps from one catastrophe to another, and then you get stressed out that you're stressed out and can't sleep, which only serves to keep you from sleeping even more? That's unproductive stress. It can stem from either the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system. That kind of stress leads to, among other things, nervous tension, pain, irritability, feeling mentally distracted or unfocused, muscle spasms and cramps, heart palpitations, etc. Symptoms associated with being chronically in the fight-or-flight response. 

Lavender selectively inhibits certain sympathetic OR parasympathetic nervous system functions that cause those symptoms because it works with with the individual's constitution, so the body responds to the plant according to what it needs. Because Lavender works adaptively like this to modulate the nervous system, it doesn't interfere with the good/productive stress, which is a normal part of functioning in life.

Here's an example of Lavender's paradoxical power:

Let's say that habitual behavior or addictions, feeling stuck in a rut, repeating unhealthy or unproductive patterns, is on one end of the spectrum. On the other end of that spectrum is an acute crisis or spontaneous, sudden change such as an accident or trauma, surgery, family crisis, or the stress that comes with giving up an addiction (completely new patterns and behaviors that seem to us to come on suddenly). Lavender can help us both to move OUT of old, stuck patterns, promoting renewal and opening us to new possibilities, while also helping us to accept painful situations or the fear that comes along with sudden change and crisis.

Another place we see Lavender's paradoxical and harmonizing effects is how it can exert either a heating or a cooling effect on the body according to the needs of the person. For a person with a hot condition (fever, inflammation, often acute), Lavender would have a cooling, sedating, and anti-inflammatory effect. On the other hand, for someone with a more chronic cold condition (chills, exhaustion, cold hands and feet), Lavender would act as a stimulant, generating heat and activity in their system. 

Lastly, let's look at the energetics of Lavender for a few more clues to understanding its nature and effects. The Lavender shrub grows best in a hot, dry climate with a thin layer of rocky, well-draining topsoil. Lavender, tempered by these elements of Earth and Fire, expresses this rugged strength by reconciling contradictions. Just like we touched on above. Unproductive and productive stress. Habitual patterns and crisis. 

However, here we go with another contradiction, as far as fragrance classification goes, the scent of Lavender is largely considered to be the water element - cool, soft, fluid, sweet. It has harmonizing, calming, and refreshing properties, making it a plant of renewal through water as well as strength through fire. True transformation.

And if we look at the name, Lavender derives from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash. So, yes Lavender was used in and associated with bath houses, but the washing it really refers to takes place on the mind/body/spirit level, allowing the psyche to open up, and the heart to soften.

If you need some Lavender in your life, it's featured in the Imbolc Wild Medicine Bundle - crafted with Lavender, Labdanum (an ancient oil used in medicine and ceremony), and a bit of Clary Sage in honor of the Celtic goddess Brigid. Learn more or purchase yours here. They're available until tomorrow and then they're gone!

Labdanum: ancient medicine + sacred perfume

Katie Gordon

Labdanum is one of those scents that has been haunting me for the last couple months. It had come as a sample with an order of essential oils. As soon as I opened the tiny bottle it came in, I was transported to an ancient temple, surrounded by sacred smoke curling up from ritual censers. It smelled both familiar and foreign at the same time, as if it was waking up memories from long ago held in my bones rather than in my brain.

censer.jpg

Something about Labdanum ignited a new curiosity about botanical perfumes, which I'm already enamored with, but this was different. It was almost as if this oleoresin brought a piece of me to the surface that had long ago been buried and forgotten. 

So I started getting curious about Labdanum.

What is it? What plant is it distilled from?

Labdanum, not to be confused with Laudanum (a tincture of opium), is a dark, stick, brown resin that comes from a couple species of the shrubs in the Cistus genus, otherwise known as Rock Rose. These beautiful + aromatic members of the Cistaceae family grow primarily in temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin. 

Labdanum has an ancient history of being used in various cultures from Hebrew, Assyrian, Arabic, and Greek traditions. Egyptians used it in their Kyphi mixtures and it's even referenced in the Bible as the Balm of Gilead. It's said the Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead to which Joseph was sold, was transporting labdanum.

Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. - Genesis 37:25

It's believed the "myrrh" in this verse actually refers to a mixture of Myrrh resin and the resin of Rock Rose.

Similarly, the combination of Myrrh resin and Labdanum oleoresin has been documented as a food supplement to support the immune system, protecting against bacteria and fungi. Even Hippocrates prescribed it for sores, and the Romans used it to treat worms, the common cold and cough, and various infections. 

The fragrance itself is incredibly complex with balsam-like notes, with hints of oakmoss, leather, amber, smoke, and plum. Earthy, green, and woody. It's said that this complexity is one of the reason for Labdanum's strong affect on the subconscious with its grounding, warming, and sensual aromatherapeutic actions. 

Labdanum mixes beautifully with Lavender, a combination featured in the Imbolc Wild Medicine Bundle, as well as other green and earthy fragrances.

 

W I L D R O S E: Behind the Veil

Katie Gordon

My journey with Wild Rose has been one of deep trust, discernment, and acceptance. Not the “I guess this works for me” kind of acceptance, but the kind of acceptance that makes you say, “Oh. Right. I get it now.” The kind of acceptance that allows you to sink deeper into your physical and emotional body with gratitude for the journey and the love that has perhaps left us bruised and bleeding, bowing deeply to the light and shadow teachers on our way.

She’s been one of those friends you realize has been with you all along, in the most subtle ways. A spirit that has reflected to me my grace, strength, and delicate power in the moments I needed reminding. Rose keeps opening my heart to trust: myself, my voice, the rhythm of the universe, and the unfolding of it all. Wise in her ways of boundaries, compassionate in her full, open, clear, strong heart.

So the other day, I wandered off into the woods to commune with her. Along the McKenzie, they’re just now barely in bloom. Walking along a tree-covered path near my favorite bridge, to my left I see a hollowed out tree that looks like one I used to imagine as a kid to be a portal to the land of the fae. Behind the tree is a steep hill, and at the top of the hill, I see the Sun just poking through. A voice from somewhere deep in my roots says, “We’re going up there.”

I’ve never felt so clear in my footsteps and strong in my legs. Knowing full well I’m on the right path. But to what? I have no idea. As I get to the top and look around, there’s Wild Rose everywhere. And interspersed with the Wild Rose is Yarrow, another of my favorite plant spirits.  Just hangin’ out together.

wild rose.jpg

You know that feeling you get when you’re in a strange or foreign place, a bit disoriented, when all of a sudden you see something familiar and you immediately feel pulled back into your body? I think for most of my life, I’ve felt like I’m in a foreign place that I don’t understand, and don’t understand why I’m even here when nothing that “normal people” aka muggles do makes much sense to me. So when I stepped into that sunny patch of an otherwise rainy forest to be met by these two, I sat down to listen. And in her typically soft yet grounded, wise way, Rose says…

Hold space for trust. Slow down. Like, way the fuck down. Feel into your rhythm. Your time. How does your body and soul want to move? What does She want to do? Or not do? How can you love yourself more wholly?

And I realize: This connection is beyond me. This is more than Katie. This relationship is ancient. We have known one another through lifetimes.

Trust and all will be revealed.

Allow yourself to be held.
By the Earth,
by other awake souls,
in the vibration of love.

You don’t need to allow in fear, hate, or judgement.

{She says…}

Hold your space from a place of trust & compassion.
There’s nothing to prove.
Nothing to do.

Let your soul speak to & through you.

Trust yourself, your feelings.
No, they’re not permanent,
but they are
revelatory & real.

Listen.

Trust.

Wait, if you need to.

When have those whispers been wrong?

In honor of Wild Rose, in honor of deep self-trust, the Midsummer Wild Medicine Bundle will be crafted with the intention of bringing you into communion with the beating of your own inner wild heart and the whispers rising up from within. Wrapped in gold in honor of the Sun at its highest point of the year, these packages will be sent out in time for you to play with during your Midsummer night revelry.

Blessings of the Wild,
Katie

Herbs for Stagnant Anger

Katie Gordon

You know how anger can live in your body? How that smoldering heat can take up residence for so long that you can physically feel it? Stuck, hot, fiery, like you're living in a pressure-cooker? That, my friends, is stagnant anger. Stagnancy means energy isn’t moving. When energy isn’t moving, our body-mind-soul doesn't function optimally. In Chinese Medicine, anger is related to the liver, energetically and physically. To put it simply, when you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, the liver gets overwhelmed and stressed out. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of energy, and when it's stressed out, you think it works smoothly? Answer: Nope.

With a stressed out liver, energy stagnates EVEN MORE and anger, along with poor digestion, allergies, and compromised stress response, among other things, often manifests. It's like a hot mess negative feedback loop. This isn’t to say that anger is a direct result of liver stagnation. There are a gazillion things that can cause us to feel angry. However, emotions are energy and supporting your liver with herbs (as well as movement, finding healthy ways to express anger, etc.) can help move that stagnant energy because if energy isn’t flowing freely, you're left feeling stuck emotionally, physically, and even mentally.

So here's a few of my favorite plants to help move stagnant anger. Think cooling, sedating, calming...

This is in no way an all-inclusive list. Keep in mind everyone’s body responds differently to plants. It’s best to experiment with how your body experiences various herbs. Take your time to develop relationships with these plants. Explore what really nourishes you. Listen to the plants themselves and get curious about how to interact with them.

Bitters: Bitters are cooling. Why? I actually don't know. But they are, and the liver loves them. Happy liver = smooth flow of liver qi/energy = less energetic & emotional stagnation (Yes, that's a hugely simplified version of a much more extensive discussion on liver energetic and physiological function. I'm sure I'll talk about bitters in the future A LOT because we should all be using them way more than we do, but for now you get the idea.)

Motherwort: Also bitter. Very bitter. I don't recommend straight motherwort tea if you actually like to enjoy your cup of tea. But as a tincture it's fabulous. It is, among other things, a nervine and antispasmodic, meaning it both acts on the nervous system and relaxes tension. Muscle spasms and tension are often a symptom of a stressed out, stagnant liver. Motherwort moves that constraint. Another beautiful thing about Motherwort is its effect on the heart and the connection it reveals between the heart and liver. Mainly the anger that results at feeling unable to express our hearts, our emotions, our freedom, our creativity, our individuality, and our deep voice. The anger of feeling unheard, unseen, and even unvalued.

Rose: One of my absolute favorite plants in the world for overheated tissues! Now, there are lots of reasons for tissues in our bodies to build up heat, but one of the big ones is anger. When this heat has no where to go (because we don't express it in a healthy, productive way), it stagnates. Cooling, sedating, Rose speaks my language. Considered a relaxant nervine, Rose relaxes the nervous system, and in particular, it works beautifully to relax the liver, relieving stagnation and tension in the liver. I find it works wonders for people experiencing nervous exhaustion and adrenal fatigue as a result of too much heat. I think what I really love about Rose is the sweet, heady, wild, and thorny aspects all combined into one plant. Rose is tough yet compassionate, resilient yet tender, tenacious yet she invites you to soften your edges, set down your sword, and explore those parts of yourself you so staunchly defend.

Lemon: Also cooling, sedating, and sour, lemon has become well known as something we squeeze into our water in the morning to get our digestion moving. Cooling and sedating plants cool and calm hot, irritated tissues as well as a hot, irritated mood. You know that rising heat we feel when we're angry? Our chest and face get hot, we probably start sweating and in cartoons steam comes out of the character's nose? Lemon, especially when blended with other deliciously cooling, sedating herbs like rose and salvia (see below) can help to cool and ground that rising heat.

Salvia: Native species of Salvia, particularly when paired with nervines like lemon balm, lavender, salvia (aka sage) can cool, ground, and shift that fiery energy because it’s a stimulant. Stimulants move stuff around. My personal favorite to use is White Sage (Salvia apiana), which in terms of herbal energetics can be heating or cooling depending on who you ask. This is the reason why it’s really best to experiment with how your body experiences plants. For me, this plant clears heat, stimulates movement (of energy, digestion, tension, fluids, blood, etc.), and grounds me into the present moment.

Of course these plants will support the movement of energy, but what most of us also need to do is learn how to experience, feel, process, and express our anger. But that's for another post.

Here's a recipe for a tea blend to help move some of that stagnant liver qi...

Lemon Calm Tea Blend
1/2 c. hibiscus flowers
1/3 c. lemon balm
1/3 c. rose petals
1/4 c. peppermint or spearmint
1/4 c. rosehips
1/4 c. lemon peel

Combine all of the ingredients well in a bowl or mason jar. Store in said mason jar or some other air-tight container. I brew about 1 Tbsp. per cup of water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. This makes a (beautifully pink) iced tea also! And please feel free to play with the ratio of herbs and perhaps add fun things like lavender or lemongrass or vanilla bean or...

 
 
Disclosure: Wild Grace uses affiliate campaigns from Mountain Rose Herbs that may be displayed as text links or images such as banners, buttons and widgets.  When you click on these affiliate program links and make a purchase, a very small commission may be credited to Wild Grace.  The commission that I receive is very small and helps me to defray the cost of buying ingredients to craft skin + body care recipes.  When you do make a purchase using my Mountain Rose Herbs affiliate link, your purchase is the same price you would pay if you went directly to MountainRoseHerbs.com.  I sincerely appreciate your support and if you plan to purchase something anyway, I would be truly grateful if you did so through my affiliate link to Mountain Rose Herbs.

Plant Totem: Hawthorn, Fae Tree of Heart + Transformation

Katie Gordon

For a good while now, I've been considering how to work with plants just as some coaches/practitioners work with animals.  As spirit totems.  Teaching how to work with plants not to only heal us physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and energetically.  Understanding what they have to teach us in terms of our relationships, career, life circumstances, money, and most importantly, how to form better connections with ourselves, other people, and with the earth. hawthorn-tree-12

Lots of herbalists out there write beautiful and well-researched pieces on materia medica of western herbalism, herbal energetics, and the medicinal and therapeutic actions of herbs.  However, I think the deepest healing occurs when we form our own relationship with the plant and learn to work with the medicine it has for us individually.  This is the story of my own journey with Hawthorn, one of my foundational plant totems.

Traditionally viewed as a heart tonic, Hawthorn reminds us to be patient with ourselves, slow down, and give our heart space to breathe, be still, and speak his or her truth.  Though its prickly thorns protect the heart from outside assault, that very protection is what allows it to be such a nurturing and calming spirit.  It provides sacred boundaries and a soft space to rest in times of heartbreak, grief, or when the energetic heart needs a rest.

hawthorn thorn

For the past few years, I've been working and learning to listen closely to the whispers (or sometimes shouts) from my heart.  Establishing boundaries, softening, opening, protecting, clearing, and filling up my heart with the things she desires, yearns for, and guides me toward.  It's been the hardest thing I've done so far because so often my ego wants to take over with the shoulds, the have-to's, feelings of anger, guilt, and most of the time, fear.  Hawthorn came to me soon after my heart got cracked open during part of my Visionary Craniosacral training that I learned to work with the four-chambered heart (another shamanic concept that I'll write more on later).  The lessons Hawthorn taught me allowed me to integrate the wisdom of my heart and of love itself, sometimes gracefully sometimes not so much.

Artwork by Ruby Clark

Hawthorn is known for its associations with magic, witches, and fairies.  As Darcey Blue writes, Hawthorn's "rank smelling flowers and thorns and association with spirit worlds make Hawthorn a tree of 'death' and transformation, and also of protection and caution."  Death here, to me, doesn't mean literal death, but rather a shedding, releasing, letting die that which no longer serves us.  The archetypal theme of life/death/rebirth.

A key element of transformation, of alchemy of the soul is in the allowing of what needs to die in order for the rebirth parts of our self.  It's the Death card of the Tarot: learning how to detach and release, cutting through old patterns that bind us so that we can give birth to new forms and previously unexpressed parts of ourselves.

Death card from the Thoth Tarot

One of my favorite things about Hawthorn is the magical obstacles it presents to us at just the right moment.  It reflects to us the exact lesson we need at the exact moment in life that we need it.  Synchronicity at its finest.  Somehow she knows what we're ready for, what our next lesson needs to be on our path in order for us to meet our purpose.  Hawthorn will "guard you as it teaches you - sometimes strongly, sometimes gently - but always with love."

Autumn Equinox Tea Blend

Katie Gordon

flower ribs

Now that fall has FINALLY arrived here in Southern California (it actually rained twice!), I've been feeling the effects of cool, dry weather and feeling a little ungrounded and frazzled as so often happens in seasonal transitions.  My joints are a little creaky, my skin is dry, my mind is all over the place, and my hands and feet are ALWAYS cold.  So I've been experimenting a bit with herbs to soothe my skin and nervous system. Teas are the oldest form of medicine, as well as my favorite because it allows me time to slow down, acknowledge that I'm taking action to care for myself.  For me, making my tea has become a necessary daily self-care ritual.  It's my sacred alone time, and when I don't get it, I can get a little cranky, like a kid who needs a nap.   Whether my tea is a strong cup of black tea with some cream and honey, a subtle green tea with hints of linden blossoms, or an herbal blend that I'm experimenting with, one cup of of tea is a true medicine, not only because of  the power held in these plants, but in the love and energy I pour into that cup along with the tea.

This blend is full of herbs to keep you grounded and warm.  It is soothing to your nervous system, tonifies and aids fluid movement in your body, and gently strengthens immune and respiratory function.

All of these herbs can either be found in your kitchen or in the bulk herb section of your health food/herb shop.  I try to either grow or wildcraft my own herbs, but for the ones I can't, I order from Mountain Rose Herbs.  They're an awesome resource for wildcrafted and organic herbs in bulk!

Blend the following herbs:

  • 1 part Rooibos or Twig Tea (of course you can sub black or green tea for a caffeine kick)
  • 1 part Nettles
  • 1 part Chamomile
  • 1/2 part Cinnamon
  • 1/2 part Ginger
  • 1/2 part Licorice
  • 1/4 part Sage
  • 1/4 part Orange Peel

To dress it up a bit, try adding dried bits of apple, cranberry, raspberry, or any other fruit.

The great thing about tea is that you can make the blends your own, so feel free to add, leave out, or substitute to your heart's desire.

6 Reasons to Love Sage

Katie Gordon

As some of you may know, a dear friend and I have started an herbal medicine and body care company, something I’ve wanted to do since I was little and mixing potions in the kitchen.  Medicinal and energetic properties of herbs is something that is very near and dear to my heart.  More recently, I’ve come to find out it is also where my true nerd comes out.  My background in medieval history and latin has meant that learning the scientific names of the herbs has been more exciting than it is for most normal people.  So today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite herbs, sage. sage

The name sage comes from the latin word Salvare, meaning "to heal" or "to save".  My first memory of working with herbs is picking them with my uncle from the garden my mom and I planted in our backyard.  He was explaining to me how in the old days before there were medications, people would use plants they found or grew to heal themselves.  I had a mini mortar and pestle given to me by my grandmother, which I came across during a recent move, in which I remember so clearly grinding up the herbs we picked that day.  I loved to go out to our garden, especially when it was raining, just to listen, imagining I had fairies to guide me and plants to talk to.  Crazy, huh?  Not really.  Kids know what’s up.  I’d wear a red cloak that a family friend had made for me one Halloween (I was Little Red Riding Hood) that was far from waterproof, lean in and bury my face in each herb, taking in the peppery citrus of basil, heady pine of rosemary, and the soothing, warm aroma of sage.  Sage was my favorite back then and is still at the top of my list today.  Here are 6 reasons why you should love it too:

  • Digestive problems – aids relaxation of digestive tract, as well as acting as a carminative, working to alleviate cramping, bloating, and gas.
  • Memory & cognitive function – In part because of its grounding quality, sage improves concentration, especially for those who those nervous vata types who tend to jump from one thing to the next, as well as aides memory, and the ability to think clearly.
  • Purification & clearing negative energy – to drive away sickness and bad vibes, clear the air, and purify spaces.
  • Grounding – This is my favorite benefit of sage.  For those of us over-thinkers, sage helps ground, relax, nourish, and restore your nervous system you when you get that feeling like you’ve had too much caffeine or your blood sugar is too low with symptoms like sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
  • Pain relief & anti-inflammatory – As a poultice or in a salve, sage can be applied topically to cuts and scrapes to reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and prevent infection. Sore throat.
  • Prevent infection – An aid to the immune system, sage is particularly beneficial for the respiratory tract when it is burnt, steamed, inhaled, or ingested

Kiva sums it up best on her blog: “Sage is a remedy filled with common sense, down-home wisdom and practicality — it gracefully does what needs be done and gets on with life, all while tasting good and filling the kitchen with its savory scent.”

garden sage

Sacred Plant Wisdom Newsletter from Darcey Blue

Katie Gordon

Happy Monday friends!! Check out Darcey Blue's herbal Newsletter...she does awesome work and you can follow her right here on Wordpress!

From Herbalist, Darcey Blue, a twice a month subscription newsletter devoted to the Wisdom that comes from the Plants- and helping you find ways to connect with and learn from the plants in a Sacred Way. Each newsletter will focus on one plant, which has offered to me its desire to be included in this work- with information about what this plant wants to share and teach us at this time, poetry, art, recordings , meditations and journey prompts for you, in addition to journalling exercises to help you get the most out of the wisdom each plant is offering and applying it to your own life. This will include medicinal uses, but will not primarily focus on the physical medicines- but the deeper relationship and sacred medicine this plant can offer us as teacher, wisdom keeper and guide. Flower essences, energetic and emotional teachings, practices and deep spirit healing and connection with the land.

Click the link here to take a look at her newsletter and blog!