Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent: Blog-a-roma

Plants mean nothing in isolation; they are a life-form rooted in and identified by their community, by their relationships to and interactions with all other life on Earth”. (Buhner)

I have just returned from the Holiday Faire at Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill, NC. A grand gathering of artisans, children, parents and teachers all dedicated to the passion and excitement of learning and discovery. Since I had been pondering how to weave the growth of community in this advent writing it was perfect to begin the morning with active participation in a community.

Like plants, humans also mean nothing in isolation. We are a life-form rooted in and identified by our community, by our relationships to and interactions with all other life on earth. During the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and St. Nicholas day) we are called to reflect on our earthly community: the minerals, plants, animals, elements, and humans of the world.

In my own reflections of community I ask myself: how may I be instrumental in creating community? How may I be of service? How may I share my knowledge and time in communities which need it the most? How does community build the idea of service? The tide of the holidays is strong and in its strength it can sometimes divide more than bring together, it can isolate the self in the fear of ‘not having’, how can I be a representative that what we have inside is of far greater value than what we can obtain outside ourselves? And how can I contribute to the creations of individuals rather than those of large corporations?

Since I entered the aromatic community over 20 years ago it has been a fascinating experience to witness the growth of so many dynamic aspects of the field. The aromatic community includes artisan natural perfumers, clinical aromatherapists, bath and body care product developers and makers, candle and soap makers, herbalists, psychologists, nurses, lay practitioners, and on and on. It is a large community, encompassing many philosophies, approaches, applications and beliefs.

I believe this diversity reflects the diversity found in the world of natural aromas and in the plants which give them forth. What unites this diversity in our community is the love, the passion and the dedication to plants and the natural world.

Unification, diversity, community: ah, what a great blend. In searching for an aromatic representation of this unification, diversity and community, the following comes forth:

A seed to be planted, in hopes of calling forth true intention in community: Carrot seed

A root to ground and center us in our community and in life: Vetiver.

A grass to clear our path: Lemongrass

A wood to provide strength in difficult and challenging times: Cedar

A berry to bring laughter and joy to our spirit: Juniper

A fruit to cleanse, release and uplift the weary heart: Bergamot

A leaf to move the breath of life throughout and within: Eucalyptus

A resin to heal our sorrows and our wounds: Frankincense

A flower to hold our love together: Rose

In closing, I would like to thank Roxana for her ability to gather community in a common cause and purpose and for her always eloquent and thought provoking writing.

Happiness is a perfume which you cannot pour on someone without getting some on yourself.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, August 29, 2009

'Tis the season for Golden rod. It is scattered throughout North Carolina. I was also amazed at its prolific presence in Massachusetts as well. In the heat of the last full month of summer, golden rod (often confused with ragweed) reflects the suns rays and warmth.

Golden rods Latin name is: Solidago virgaurea Another species Solidago canadensis can also be found here in North America.

Solidago offers its medicine in its dried above ground parts collected during flowering. It is a strong diuretic and is used to treat kidney and bladder infections. A tea can be made using 2-3 grams of the dried herb, steeped in hot water. For its diuretic properties, one can drink it 3-5 times a day. Goldenrod has also been used in cough medicines and antirheumatic preparations.

Its active ingredients include a mixture of flavonoids, phenolic glycosides, a volatile oil (with mostly monoterpenes), organic acids and polysaccharides.

Suzanne Catty has written about its properties as a hydrosol. She recommends it for its strong diuretic properties and says taken internally it may aid the treatment and prevention of kidney stones. Topically, it can be used as a compress for fluid retention and uric acid in the joints and tissues. The hydrosol of goldenrod is also a strong anti-inflammatory and moderate antispasmodic for sore muscles, stiff neck, tendonitis, and repetitive strain injuries. On an energetic note: she comments that goldenrod carries the intense vibrations of heat and the sun, opens the solar plexus and diaphram, bringing a state of calm. (Hydrosols: The next aromatherapy).

According to Catty, the internal use of the hydrosol should be avoided by those with extremely low blood pressure.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Revisions and updates Aroma101

Over the pastyears Cheryl Hoard, of Cheryls Herbs, and also an instructor for the East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, has been editing our courses. Being her usual busy self, with work, teaching, playing for the orchestra, spending time with her family, and running a successful business, Cheryl has done a fabulous job editing the Aroma101 Foundations course. I am incredibly grateful. For those of you who know Cheryl she has an eye for detail. This morning I have finally completed entering the corrections and making necessary changes and updates. Thank you Cheryl!!!! I feel truly blessed for all the incredible women who represent and support the East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What’s growing in your garden?

By garden I mean anything from the actual garden that you planted on your land to the plants growing up through the cracks in the city (e.g. St. John’s Wort in the sidewalks of Seattle). Your garden includes the natural landscape which you can drive to, walk to, or happen to be in. This spring and summer I am encouraging each of you to spend time exploring all that is growing ‘right under your nose’.

A number of years ago I had the great honor to study with Erin Groh, NW herbalist extraordinare. Throughout the herbal training program I learned about and came into contact with over 50 different species that grew right outside my door and on the land around me. Plants I once admired but did not know became alive and in communication with me. I began seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching each plant, getting to know it (and me, more deeply). Learning when to harvest it, how to make medicine from it, and most of all, how to respect the natural habitat it grew in by ensuring I honored ethical wild crafting.

Learning herbal medicine along with aromatic medicine offers us an amazing journey and a great way to feel more empowered over our bodies and our medicine. What I realized most of all is the value of learning about the plants that grow right in your own back yard, so to speak.

For me, aromatherapy has always been intricately connected to my relationship with plants. I am quite fond of sharing my experience of living in Boston, MA in an old brick apartment building. I had a fire escape outside my front windows and it was there that I grew as many medicinal and aromatic plants as would fit. And I always loved looking up as I walked home to see those incredible plants blooming. You can grow plants anywhere! For those who believe they have a 'black thumb', try Calendula, it grows no matter what :-)

All of our instructors for the EWSHAS share this philosophy. Through our relationship with plants we deepen and enhance our connection with their aromatic extractions known as essential oils. When we moved to North Carolina I purchased the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs and began building my own medicinal gardens. For those of you in other areas, there are many Field Guides for all areas of this country. Check out For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, I would highly recommend Michael Moore’s book “Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest”.

Since we arrived in early January I was able to begin observing what plants grew here as soon as spring began. Some of the plants I found on our land include: cleavers (YEAH), chickweed, lots and lots of chickweed, plantain (both narrow leaf and common), and of course, dandelion. We also had long leaf pine, honeysuckle, sweet gum, jewelweed, golden rod, and a few others.

The plants I missed most from WA state were St. John’s and nettles. Two years after being here, I finally got around to buying some seeds and threw them out in different areas on our property. The next spring: no St. John’s Wort. But alas, NETTLES!!!!! Yes, stinging nettles. My favorite! I have already had one great harvest and they are dried and ready for tea.

In my medicinal gardens which grow in several different beds I planted: German chamomile, Lavender, Clary sage, Basil (both common and Thai), Melissa, Thyme, Yarrow, Oregano, Marjoram, Borage, Rosemary, Feverfew, Rose, Lemon verbena, Scented geranium, Echinacea ang., and Stevia. I don’t always harvest these plants for medicine, but instead take time to observe how they grow, how they smell and taste, and to share them with my son, Soren. I love being able to walk out into the garden and pick a lavender leaf or flower and smell it or taste it or simply to admire its beauty, its simplicity. To stand there for a few moments really ‘listening’ to its aroma. Truly inspiring!

Stephen Harrod Buhner believes “that the loss of connection to plants, to the land, to Earth, leaves the holes with which we are naturally born unfilled. No matter how much Ritalin or Prozac is poured into those holes, synthetic pharmaceuticals can never fill them; merely human approaches can never heal them. Pathologies come from the empty holes that are unfilled, from lack of contact and communication with the wild. The holes within us possess particular shapes - that of stone or tree or bear. It is not only plants that are our teachers and healers; not only plants that are among our community of life; not only plants that have a language we have long known.

Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric - human centered - in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category of error that all reductionistic sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of the land”. (The Lost Language of Plants, p.231)

I often ponder the impact of all the technology in our life: facebook, my space, twitter, cell phones, email, internet, all things outside of ourselves, things we believe connect us to others and yet somehow not as connecting as we perhaps believe or need. Does technology contribute to our desire to reconnect with the natural world or does it further separate us from it?

As I end this part of our newsletter, I would like to encourage each of you to be sure to get out and visit with the medicinal herbal and aromatic plants in your area by visiting gardens or natural environments or even planting some in your own back yard or ‘fire escape’. Take time to listen, to learn, to deepen your relationship with the natural world of plants and most of all, to smell, taste, touch and see their beauty.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taking care of self

I have had a sinus infection for the past month or two. Chronic nasal congestion, post nasal drip, and at times some great yellow/green mucus. Blowing my nose throughout the day, a dry cough, and general annoyance with my breathing. Last week it finally dawned on me that I have not done anything to really address what was happening. I just assumed it would take care of itself and eventually go away. But,,,,, noooooooo! It has not just gone away. It has simply become more annoying.

So finally I took charge (LOL). I have been working for the past three days with steam inhalations of Eucalyptus globulus, Inula graveolens, Citrus limon, and Melaleuca alternifolia. For the first two days I was experiencing quite a bit of relief but still had this congestion deeper inside my nasal passages. Today (the third day) I am finally feeling like what has been deeper inside is coming to the surface for relief. I am doing steam inhalations about 3 times a day. Tonight I am also going to do a nasal salt cleanse. Stay tuned!

Am looking forward to breathing freely and clearly again.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Nettles and blogging

I have decided to begin blogging to share experiences of deepening connections to the earth, plants, yoga and aromatic medicine. So here is to new experiences in the world of technology. Blessings, Jade