Monday, November 9, 2015

The Working Professional's Herbal Companions and Healthy Practices

I like to keep my herbal infusions nearby.
Maintaining healthy habits in the workplace, some days we are all about it and other days we just want to 'get through it'. But what I've found when caught in the web of that ebb and flow is that if we keep up with the healthy habit flow we can make more progress towards resilient balance every time we take that route. Just like water and how it makes it's own pathways and can change rock formations over long periods of time with it's 'flow focus'. I'll be focusing on personal practices that have helped me, especially within this past year, and that mainly revolve around herbalism.

Move Groove

Mineral water with aloe and rose.
Movement is so important upon waking up to get our mind and body in gear.  I like a good herbal chai tea to support me in being more active as I rise with the sun along with a glass of mineral water with aloe vera juice. The cinnamon alone stimulates my blood flow and gets me going. If I feel my nerves are a little on edge I'll add some rosewater or wild rose tincture to my aloe vera mineral water. Yoga, garden walks and greeting my dog are a part of my morning body movement. Simple things can work wonders for the mind, body and spirit. I hope to start getting back into running again, I have a runner spirit! But for now, I am focusing on healing my joints from years of competitive running and must remain patient with that healing process. I discuss more morning beverages below.




Coffee Talk

Lets talk coffee, for just a little bit. It's been about 4 months since I've stopped drinking coffee to start my day. I seemed to, sadly, build an intolerance to it. I first felt it in my taste buds, my face would perspire, I then learned it was adding heat to my liver, I believe it was also contributing to the new and annoying hormonal acne and hormonal night sweats I was beginning to experience. I've slowly started to enjoy my cup of coffee again, sometimes in the afternoon or after breakfast on Sunday. For now that is the rule of thumb I will go with unless I am absolutely desperate; drink to enjoy not as a wake-up crutch. Don't get me wrong, I envy you coffee drinkers and if you are not affected by it than go for it, heck, drink a cup for me! But, it is important to recognize the signs our body shows us, even if that means giving up our favorite daily morning beverage. 

Tasty Coffee Alternatives 

Blend to support my nerves & liver.
Chai herbal tea isn't my only morning beverage of choice, it's just the most common. I was actually making this nourishing recipe, to ween me off of my morning coffee consumption and then migrated to other herbal blend infusions. I enjoy Mountain Rose's Dawn Chorus Herbal Tea blend, Yerba Mate, Tulsi basil tea, and Reishi-cordyceps Hot Chocolate by Kings Road Apothecary. These are nourishing blends that really help get my work day started on the right foot, I have other go-to blends besides these for other types of support I might be needing. Want a special herbal infusion blend created just for you? Contact me and lets make that happen, click here if interested, and send me a message.  




Aromatics Awaken

CA Island Pitcher Sage, highly aromatic.
Sometimes when my mind is still a little foggy after having my first sips from my morning tonic I'll go to my aromatics. Aromatic plants wake the brain and spirit up, I can't think of one that doesn't. Each scent carries different properties and I believe that each human spirit receives them in their own way. My go-to scents to uplift my mood are white sage, CA sagebrush, pitcher sage and desert lavender. These are my go-tos mainly because of daily access. Sometimes I'll switch it up, usually during springtime, and will smell fresh geranium and lemon verbena leaves. I feel like the sages and the desert lavender are more grounding, great for Fall and Winter, and the geranium and lemon verbena fresh scents are perfect for Spring and Summer when we are most active. 








Good Food

I don't want to get into diet too much here but there is one thing I must say. Having three balanced unprocessed meals a day with healthful snacks in between is the key to working off of a foundation in which these herbal and health practices can actually gain traction.

Rest is Best

There is nothing more healing than rest. I recently wrapped up a long event week and was faced with an enticing weekend full of fun Fall activities. My friends were beckoning me to come out and play but my body and mind were saying, "what, you need to pay me back for all that hard work I just did, you better not go play or I will go on strike!" Some folks even said, "just take some pain relievers," to which I replied "but, how will my body actually rest and heal then?" that is the perfect combo for burning one's self out. Give thanks for the hard work your being does and take good care of it, it will return the favor ten-fold.


Here are a few herbal goods and healthy practices that have supported me in my professional work life. 


- Elm Essence. This essence is for folks that can handle big loads of responsibility but need some support when things get really unbalanced. One of my favorite essences for stellar working professionals to keep keepin' on! I first experienced it's supportive strength when I was handed a huge and rather unexpected crowdfunding project, a first for the organization as well. I had to figure out the new online platform quickly, work with IT to get it tailored to our needed structure, come up with a team sign-up process, and train So Cal regions all while staying on track with my other marketing and communication duties. I took the essence before delivering my trainings because I wanted to be sure that I stayed on track in lieu of all the questions and push back that may come my way during my presentation. I was cool, calm and collected and did not get overwhelmed at all. Ever since then I know what essence to reach for when I feel a bit overwhelmed but still need to be the savvy problem solver and highly effective communicator that I am proud to be. Also, just a note, this essence is not for folks who get easily overwhelmed or who are constantly overwhelmed, there are other essences that can address those emotions in particular.

- Rosemary Mint Tea (herbal infusion). At one of my last strategic planning meetings I made myself a strong cup of rosemary and mint tea and after having half the cup I was on a roll with defining goals and streamlining actions. Everyone was like, "Kat, what are you drinking? And, can we have some?". This simple combo really gets my brain focused on the project at hand. Some folks will find rosemary too stimulating, if that is the case, I recommend a simple mint tea in place of the combo. Although, I do find that the rosemary also helps me retain information after meetings without taking notes. Both of these plants are super easy to grow and can be found fresh at farmer's markets. So, it's easy to make your own herbal infusion. Simply lay them flat on a clean screen or hang upside down for a few days and then store them in an airtight container. As soon as the plants have dried I store them to maintain their potency.

- Focus & Clarity Elixir by Kings Road Apothecary. Whenever I feel like my creativity meter is running low and I still need to crunch out some creative coolness I'll reach for this awesome elixir by one of my favorite local herbalists, Rebecca Altman. This magickal and priceless elixir contains the following plant power: tulsi basil, organically grown gotu kola, and organic rhodiola in organic alcohol, with wild California sage honey. One of my favorite things about this elixir is that it's also calming!

- Saturn Return by Sister Spinster. About a year ago I received my very first lay-off notice from a non-profit I had been working at for over 7 years. Little by little they laid off everyone in my already small marketing and communications department, leaving me to run the show with minimal support. I learned a whole lot at that place and I'm thankful for that but I also learned how nonprofits aren't always what they seem. Lots of them fall into pushing people for profit. Anyhow, I found this flower essence by Sister Spinster when that organization sent me on a trip for one of my last projects up in the Bay Area. It was so hard for me to focus on the job at hand knowing I was going to be without a job very soon, that is, if I didn't do anything about it. During that trip my intuition guided me to Temescal Alley in Oakland where I picked up this awesome flower essence and some other healing goods at Homestead Apothecary to support sound sleep in the extremely shitty hotel the organization put me in for about a week. I felt the essence's power right away as it supported me to take action in this unknown place I was finding myself in. It also helped me accept what was happening as a part of my journey, it was indeed time for me to leave. It held me and propelled me. A most essential essence for times of change. And now, I have landed in a place that is so much better for my health and future! I actually landed three interviews and a few offers before making the decision to be where I am at now and before my lay-off date, so technically I resigned. Boom!

- Milky Oats Tincture. The work grind can add lots of wear and tear to your nervous system and milky oat tops are my go-to when I know I'm running at my nerves' ends. They will quite literally, rebuild your nervous system increasing your stress threshold and will guide reactions induced by stress into more calmer action-orientated responses. Homestead Apothecary carries a good range of single plant tinctures, including milky oats.

- White Sage Leaf. 
White sage leaf at my workdesk.
I talked about aromatics previously but wanted to cover what I do with white sage. I make sure to have one white sage leaf at my work desk at all times. Whenever I need to move my mood, I will rub it with my fingers and take a whiff. These simple practices make a big difference and I find change the entire vibration of my working area.

- Aromatic Body Oils. Keep some at your office and rub some on before a meeting. I first experienced the power of this a few months ago with a wild rose and sandalwood body oil sample from Kings Road Apothecary. I rubbed some on in the office and everyone started asking, "what is that lovely's soooo nice". People were drawn to my area, in a good way and they all entered my space with a huge smile. Gentle and mild aromatics can change the vibration of a whole office. So cool! I'm now having fun changing up the scents with the moods. These aren't just oils with essential oils included, these oils have been infused with healing plants and some essential oils might be added after to increase potency and scent. I actually have a rather lovely healing body oil (and extremely affordable for the quality of products used) up in my Etsy shop right now that is perfect for dry winter skin, check it out by clicking, here.

- St. John's Wort. This is one of the first herbs I experienced, early on in my career, it helped me focus on the task at hand by dispelling any lingering anxieties and assuaging mild cases of depression, thus allowing me to focus and get the job done.
- Acupuncture. 
This is a new healing practice that I decided to start in order to go deeper into my own healing path. It's been about 4 months now since I have been receiving treatments from the lovely and talented licensed acupuncturist and clinical herbalist, Andrea Penagos, and I plan to keep them going. These treatments have awakened a deeper level of healing that I've been looking for. I'll be writing more about this experience in a future blog as there are some awesome revelations I'd like to share with you all. If you're looking for a form of stress management and deep healing, I highly suggest giving acupuncture a try.

- Plant life. Sometimes plant life at our work desk can't always work because of ventilation and light. However, there are different varieties that can handle different growing conditions. Right now I have some aloe at my desk. I chose aloe because it requires little water and moisture, is a 'cooling' plant, is associated with water and with the feminine. Plants will add life to your work space, supporting you in pushing through stagnation and stimulating growth.

- Walking breaks.
Walking break scene. Find your path.
I am so fortunate to work at a university which requires me to walk a lot. Before working here I was stuck behind a desk a whole lot more. My body was so stagnant! Walking breaks are crucial not only for circulation but for breathe, our life force. Practice mindful deep breaths when you walk and you will find yourself much more refreshed then if you didn't set that intention. Give yourself at least 10 minutes for a good walk, two to three times a day.

- Stretching breaks. My co-workers will sometimes find me stretching by my desk. I have no shame in my healthy work life game! I plan to start bringing my yoga mat to work to use outdoors on the grass for quick 10 minute practices. I may be the only one now but I'm sure I'll start a trend.

Nature breaks.
Nature breaks, don't forget to look up.
Sometimes, time likes to limit our possibilities in the workplace. When this happens and I can't go for a 10 minute walk I'll sit outside for as long as I can to have the elements re-charge my body, mind and spirit. I'll set my focus on breath, observe any nearby plants, relish in the good energy that runs through my outdoor environment and set intentions for what I want to feel and have happen when I go back to my desk.

 Most importantly, give yourself permission to have 'one of those days', rather than fighting against it and denying your emotions, move with them and let them inform you by remaining in your stillness.
Sometimes those dreary days have much to teach us and if we ignore that I feel that we tread the fine line of deflection and numbness.

I'd love to hear from you! What supports you in being an awesome working professional?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cultivating our Natural Intuition

An image captured on my last nature hike.
How many times have we picked up a reference book to read about a specific plant, rock, mineral, gem, or animal? And, is it because we are yearning to learn something new or to reaffirm our intuitive thoughts? I think, it's reaffirming buried instincts more than learning something new.

By picking up 'these' reference books are we limiting our curiosity and hindering our intimate communication with the natural world? Books make mistakes but earth does not and if our goal is to really connect with nature then we must re-ignite that relationship, allowing the plants, rocks and animals to teach us. After all, they’ve been here a lot longer than us. And just to clarify, I’m not talking about identification guides or books written by our elders. ID guides and our elder teachers are much needed in building this long lost relationship as well as resources from folks who are developing their own relationships directly with nature aside from just book knowledge.

Perhaps, it’s also our need as modern Americans to want an answer right away too. But there is much detriment in that approach. We are all different and things affect us all differently and by solely referring to a reference book limits our innate knowledge and cheats future generations of new knowledge, which is really just lost knowledge. And yes, this approach takes a lot more time but, there are practices that help and a community that can build upon your findings.

So how does one begin this practice? There are several approaches to take in re-kindling this lost relationship. 

Journaling is a great place to start. Go outside, walk around your neighborhood or local trail and keep your heart open in order for your senses to receive messages from the natural world. You may find that an aroma captures you or it might be a branch moving in the wind that has caught your eye, go with it and find its source. Once you locate it spend some time observing the plant. How does it grow? Upwards, outwards. What’s growing next to it? Does its scent make you feel a certain way? Write all your observances and experiences down and you may want to take note of how you were feeling before beginning your exploration. Take this journal with you everywhere as you may run into this plant unexpectedly in your daily life and it may carry a new or different message for you, or you can just use your notes app on your cell phone. My most magical learning moments do happen unexpectedly.  For plants, the Doctrine of Signatures greatly supports this process of discovery too, it's been used for generations by folk herbalists, for those not familiar with the Doctrine of Signatures they are traits that plants have that closely resemble various parts of the body shedding a little light on what the plant’s affinity might be.

On a roadside in South Colorado spending some time with mullein.
Another way to build your knowledge and relationship is to make a plant, rock, gem or mineral your partner. Keeping it close to you for as long as possible. Observe how your spirit and daily interactions are affected during this time with your partner of choosing. And once again, make note of how you were feeling before you engaged in the relationship. Once you are comfortable with this process you might abandon our journal, and that’s okay as long as you feel you are absorbing the messages you are receiving. 

When appropriate, with plants, take some ample time experiencing them in different ways. For example, taste one just by itself when fresh and then dried, make a hot or cold infusion, burn it to release smoke, and/or make a tincture. Most importantly, when experiencing your plant take your time. It is rare that we actually sit down and really experience these plants because we usually move on to our next task or whatever else is on our agenda and when doing that how do we know when a plant is really affecting us or if it’s a combination of our physical actions and overall environment? The focus on our physical and emotional reactions thus becomes diluted. If we actually make a ‘date’ with our plant of choosing and set aside some time to fully experience it we can learn so much more.

Partner for the week, Island Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans).
“In using them we gain experience and insight.  Additional information is supplied by their taste, smell, touch, and appearance.  The natural history, stages of growth, and environmental niche supply additional knowledge.  Chemical constituents contribute to our understanding, but they are not the basis for a well-rounded knowledge of either the medicinal properties, or the personality of the plant,” says Matthew Wood. 

We are the makers of our medicine and we are and have always been a part of nature. I spoke a lot about plants in this piece but most of this can also be translated to rocks, gems and minerals. Animals too! Just need to be a little more creative with animals and that's really a whole other blog post in itself. But, here's a few tips. We can focus on birds when outdoors, tide pools, or the tiny insects in our garden. Sometimes a feather will be in our pathway, pick it up, make it your partner, if you so desire, learn from it. Animal traits are patterns in themselves and can help us understand their medicine. The earth trusts us so very much, let’s start to trust it and in turn ourselves. 

Guinea Fowl Feather. Protection for an adventurous spirit.
And what about the essentials we need as humans to survive, one being water. How disconnected have we been to natural sources of water? Connecting to the elements is also essential in this journey and you may be led to work with an element as opposed to a specific plant, listen to that and go with it. Find out where your closest natural water source is and visit it. Harvest water if you can. Talk about really connecting to nature!

Our local water source, the Rio Hondo which is connected to the Santa Anita creek.
Here are a few sources that guide me in connecting to nature, but the best one is always, nature herself:

Monday, June 8, 2015

- Honeysuckle Breeze - A Healing and Nourishing Body Oil

Our ‘Rite of Spring’ body oils were such a success that we’re at it again! Really though, in my opinion, moisturizing your skin with natural oils is thee best way to go, I mean it’s been practiced literally for centuries. And not only are we making our skin glow and feel super soft but we’re also feeding it vitamins and minerals that will prevent damage in the long run.  When using body oils you may find that you can skip a day or two of use thanks to the nourishing and healing properties in these oils.

Strolling around town in late May you’re bound to spot some honeysuckles blooming and when you do you should stop and smell the flowers to receive its divine aroma. Which is super fun to do in public, a real conversation starter I’ve come to notice, and who knows you might just start a flower huffing party, tehehehe.

Not only did I want to capture this beautiful light floral scent in a body oil but I wanted the oil to be highly nourishing and healing and boy did I out do myself! Organic oils of Jojoba, Sunflower and Apricot Kernel were infused three times at a very low heat with organically homegrown chamomile, calendula and meyer lemon leaves as well as locally foraged honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium). You’ll notice that any current skin irritations will be soothed and gone after using this blend of oils just a few times. 

Now, as the early summer breeze greets me after my morning cleansing I reach for my Honeysuckle Breeze body oil and slather on its divine contents, as I would any lotion or cream for hydration, and not only are my senses whisked away to some magical garden realm filled with golden light and honeysuckle blossoms while putting it on but I'm also feeding my skin some amazing plant medicine. A healing and nourishing powerhouse indeed!
Click on image to purchase.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica & Lonicera caprifolium) is cooling to the skin especially if inflamed and is an antibacterial, antiviral and antibiotic. Learn more about its actions by clicking my source links below. It really is a great plant that we should be using more especially since it's such a resilient grower too!

Chamomile is a gentle healer providing antibacterial and antiviral skin protection. Is also an antiseptic, which is said, according to A Modern Herbal, to have 120 times more antiseptic power than that of sea-water.

Calendula is one of thee best healing herbs for the skin. Great for damaged skin yet gentle enough for irritated and sensitive skin too. Also antiviral, antibacterial and soothes inflammation along with the pain accompanied with it.

Meyer lemon leaf adds to the uplifting properties in this body oil and also serves as another antiviral and antibacterial.

And like I mentioned before, the oils used in this blend were triple infused for long periods of time on very low heat with all the ingredients mentioned below.
Click on image to purchase.

Contains: Foraged honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) flowers, buds and leaves, organically homegrown chamomile, calendula and Meyer lemon leaves infused in organic oil of jojoba, apricot kernel and sunflower with wildcrafted honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium) absolute.

2 oz. size available. A little goes a long way with this divine body oil!
Only 16 available as of today.

*Please excuse our label typo, honeysuckle absolute is wildcrafted not organic.

1. A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve F.R.H.S.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thoughts on Communing with Nature

“Plants will find those that listen…” is what I wrote after stumbling upon a field of wild chamomile with a friend and fellow herbalist this past weekend.

That phrase made me think…do plants really find us? Or, do we find them?

After taking a trail I had prematurely mistaken for one I was more familiar with, I spotted a tiny growth in the middle of the trail; a little beaten down because of placement, and because of that it looked more like pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) to me. Then, my friend looked to her left and with great delight saw sporadic patches of wild chamomile.

Matricaria chamomilla. 
Both in awe of the many wild patches, while smelling and touching the beautiful tiny discs of sunshine, started conversing about the role chamomile was currently playing within our herbal practice. 

Before making the decision to harvest some flowers we journeyed further down, what ended up being, a wild chamomile lined trail and soon enough, to an even greater delight, we found an abundant field of wild chamomile!

We harvested a humble amount and went home elated and I with the thought of plants finding us….like magnets; wanting to be tended. We scattered a few seeds but I think just moving amongst them and harvesting their medicine will increase this plant’s population. Chamomile is one of those reliable garden re-seeders too, once it’s established it keeps on thriving.   

And after pondering about the relationship between nature and people, I came to the conclusion that yes, plants can find us!

The stronger a person focuses their energy to a specific plant the stronger the connection can become, but more importantly I think nature seeks out people more now than ever because of the disconnection that has grown over generations. I see this courtship happening within my own neighborhood. Nature found the nature we cultivated in our front yard and now nature is stopping passersby to admire our CA Native and drought tolerant landscape. Time and time again my husband and I observe, with great pride, children stopping first to look at all the flowers and plants and then encouraging their parents to ‘open their eyes’ and look at the pretty plants too. It’s time to reclaim our spaces and cultivate wildness!

Nature finds nature and we are nature.

One of the crafts I have been planning to make for family & friends was a sleep-time elixir.
And now we have an important part of the elixir:
Wild chamomile and wild rose infused raw honey in brandy.  

Favorite 'connecting to nature' resources when not in nature.

Favorite Blogs connecting humans to nature:
Woolgathering & Wildcrafting
Cauldrons & Crockpots
The Indigo Vat - Especially this blog post, which I love: The Embered Eye of the Buck

Few Books connecting humans to nature:
A Sound County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
Walden Pond by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I read the two books above in my Outdoor Biology college course and although I thought they were slow I ended up loving them and they really taught me how to observe nature.
Tending the Wild by M. Kat Anderson