Category Archives: Herbalism

The Path of an Herbalist

The Path of an Herbalist

Feather Jones, Clinical Herbalist

What is an Herbalist?

dreamstime_330220An herbalist is a person who has chosen earth values over the dominant paradigms of medicine. An herbalist is one who recognizes that fixing a leaky roof when it¹s raining is not the same thing as healing a home. An herbalist has a bit of a wild streak running through their veins and is only satiated when they are sitting next to a plant with a sense of marvel at the perfection of nature.

Acknowledging there is a left side to the brain, an herbalist is one trained in the art and science of herbal medicine. A good herbalist has developed a sense of balance between intuition and practical knowledge. Herbalism is more than science, it¹s an art, and an herbalist has cultivated an attitude towards plants as healing allies.

Not to say that science isn¹t significant in understanding plant/human interactions, rather the scientific research is only part of a picture. More importantly, an herbalist needs to know what plant therapies to use in a given situation, line up characteristics of plants with personalities of people and find synergy in herbal formulations. A trained herbalist has gone through extensive studies of herbal therapeutics, understanding the effects of plants on human cells, tissues, and organ systems as well as subtle complexities of the whole constitutional makeup.

An herbalist knows that wellness is more than an absence of disease, it¹s a vitality of the spirit and the whole body is taken into consideration when healing is desired.

Other studies might include plant identification and basic botany, as knowing how to properly identify the correct, unpolluted healthy herb is paramount. A well rounded herbalist will know their local bioregional plants in the wild, which ones are edible, which are medicines and which may provoke undesirable effects. Vitally important is how to ethically harvest wild plants when it is appropriate and how to make medicines. This may become extremely important if economic and transport systems break down and European, Chinese or even American herbs would be harder to obtain. Knowledge of organic gardening techniques, particularly in the arid southwest, is a desired resource as well.

Medicine making, sometimes called kitchen pharmacy, is a necessary skill and reminder that herbal medicine is really the people¹s medicine. Anatomy and physiology, pathology and holistic nutrition are all a part of herbal training. Tools might also include client skills and learning from case studies, what works on individual body types and constitutions using time honored vitalistic strategies.

Earth centered studies, the other half of the scientific equasion, are described as plant journey work and intuitive training. Spending meditative (theta brain wave) earth time with the trees and plants in their native places and learning directly from them will give one insights not found in any herb book. These studies re empower one with ancestral abilities to gain access to generations of wisdom directly from nature.

From a larger perspective, the American Herbalists Guild has defined herbalists as people who dedicate their lives to working with medicinal plants. They might include native healers, scientists, naturopaths, holistic medical doctors, researchers, writers, herbal pharmacists, medicine makers, wild crafters, harvesters and herbal farmers to name a few. While herbalists are quite varied, the common love and respect for life, especially the relationship between plants and humans, unites them. Persons specializing in the therapeutic use of plants may be medical herbalists, traditional herbalists, acupuncturists, midwives, naturopathic physicians, or even ones own grandmother. (1)

Herbalists these days have a whole new paradigm to work within that is challenging beyond where generations before left no clues. We now have considerations with clients using multiple pharmaceuticals, supplements and herbs together. This translates to about 20% of the US population. However many herbs can be taken side by side with drugs with care and supervision.

How does herbal medicine work?

From a global picture, herbal medicine has persisted as the worlds primary form of medicine since the beginning of time, with a written history more than 5000 years old. While the use of herbs in North America has been overshadowed by a dependence on modern medications the last 100 years, 75% of the worlds population still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which are herbal medicine. (1)

On closer inspection, one may find plants and people to be quite alike. If one expresses the green juice from a plant like stinging nettles and puts it next to human blood under a microscope or use an advanced technique called chromotography, they would find remarkable similarities. In fact everything will be the same except one molecular difference. That difference is what makes blood red and plant juice green, iron and chlorophyll respectively. Primarily everything else is the same. However the body knows how to make red blood cells from plant chlorophyll. This is why humans can thrive on a plant-based diet. This is why herbal medicine works. Our bodies know what to do with plant remedies. Our bodies can use what it needs and easily discard the rest.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that the body is self-healing. That is our God/Goddess given right. And while we are sleeping, our bodies repair themselves from a day¹s worth of stressful onslaught. Only when the stresses become overwhelming, does the body not have enough time to renew itself. Plant therapies can realign the body to aid in repair work. One group of plants called nervines displays a remarkable ability to act as original keys that unlock the floodgates to healing.

How safe are herb remedies?

Herbs have been used traditionally not only for acute and chronic diseases but as preventative medicine for strengthening and supporting the basic constitution. Most pharmaceutical drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and purified and are often synthesized. In 1987 about 85% of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Currently, only about 15% of drugs are derived from plants. In contrast, herbal medicines are prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds to thousands of interrelated compounds. Science is beginning to demonstrate that the safety and effectiveness of herbs is often related to the synergy of its many constituents (1).

According to Ethnobotanist Dr. James Duke, Agricultural Research Services, USDA, herbs are about 3000 times safer than prescription drugs. For a comparison, herbal deaths are about 1 in 1,000,000 in this country while NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen) are about 1 in 10,000. Improper use of medication is 1 in 2,000 and western medicines all together are 1 in 333. This might put herbal medicine back in a proper perspective.

The primary focus of the herbalist is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have and to stimulate their innate healing power through herbs, diet and lifestyle choices. The primary focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but also many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that may be as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference between herbalists and conventional physicians has profound significance. (1)

The path of one herbalist

As I was finishing up at the Boulder School of Massage Therapy in Colorado in the late 70¹s, I absolutely knew massage was not my vocation in life. I took an elective while in school, Herbology 101, and was so inspired and felt a bit shaken awake, I started studying right then and there. Seeing an ad in a local paper for an herb program with Michael Moore in Santa Fe and sent in my deposit sight unseen. That was good enough for me. I remember clearly to this day arriving in Santa Fe and walking into the school with small child and backpack in tow. I saw a big man with a long beard looking rather like Santa Clause would if he were a biker, sitting at a table with a cowboy hat on with a sheriff¹s star on it. There was an Egg McMuffin, a bottle of caffeine related supplements and he was rolling a cigarette when he looked up at me. I asked him to direct me to Michael Moore and he said he was Michael Moore.

After a bit of an initial shock wore off, I realized how incredibly fortunate I was to study with this person. Your mind loves to make judgements that just get in the way. Not only did he know herbs, but he could take the knowledge one step farther than any books and explain herbal pathways in the human body. I have over the years learned he is a remarkable herbalist and musician, having written symphonies for the Santa Fe Orchestra in his spare time. I spent over a year studying with him and traveled the southwestern US learning plant medicines.

I also had the opportunity to learn from a Mandan/Lakota pipe holder and medicine person. She taught me to see from a different view, a view that healing the body is second to healing the spirit. Because in thinking that this is all there is, we forget our interconnectedness to all of creation and that includes layers of dimensions one can access for intentional healing.

Where to study Herbal Medicine?

Finding a school or apprenticeship program can take some research but most is readily available via internet. The American Herbalists Guild has an educational directory (1).

Check your local health food store where ever you live and find a local herbalist and ask to study with them. Many herbalists take on apprentices or teach classes or lead herb walks. The planet really could use a few more plant people.

Quantum Herbalism

My mentors have instilled in me the awareness that thoughts are real things. Our belief systems create the world we live in and the world we all share right now that is part of a consensus agreement, is based on a death economy. Drugstores, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, ambulance services and hospitals are all big business. Research has shown how a doctor¹s diagnosis is received within the first fifteen minutes determines the outcome of that disease. The mind is a powerful thing that can either help us or harm us. What if we start living as though we are in perfect radiant health? What if we set our intention everyday to live as though we are already the person we always wanted to be; strong, wise and healthy. Along with other natural modalities, herbal medicine can lead one on this journey to a vibrant, natural life style.

(1) www.americanherbalists.com

Cool down with Herbal Teas

Cool Down from the Summer Heat with Herbal Teas
Feather Jones, Herbalist

When summertime temperatures reach the nineties, it¹s time to keep a cool inner core. Many herbal teas can do just that. There is a whole classification of herbal remedies called diaphoretics, designed to help you sweat so you won¹t get overheated. They work by stimulating circulation to the body surface and thereby releasing heat through the pores of the skin. In a way, they act as a natural air conditioning unit.

Herbs don¹t have to taste bad to be beneficial. Many herbs are tasty and deliciously refreshing. Hibiscus flowers with a tart lemony taste, is high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. It wards off colds, is an anti-inflammatory to infections and strengthens the immune system. It also finds beneficial action in the cardiovascular system by strengthening the blood vessel walls and lowering high blood pressure naturally. It¹s cool refreshing taste gives energy when you are wilting from sweltering temperatures.

Another diaphoretic herb, Oatstraw strengthens the adrenals, improving endurance. It promotes moisture to the mucus membranes and revives, tones and soothes the nervous system from daily stresses. It also is called an aphrodisiac and rejuvenator as it was first noticed that horses increased their level of friskiness after eating oats. Thus, the saying, “Feeling your oats”.

Yarrow flowers, one of the best diaphoretics in the plant Œkindom¹ has an acquired slightly bitter taste. Drunk as a warm tea with a little lemon and agave nectar to offset any bitterness, it will make you sweat. Drunk cold, it also acts as a diuretic increasing urination.

For those hot summer nights when you want to keep the windows open and not run to the air conditioner, try an after dinner tea of Peppermint, Oatstraw and Lemon Balm. They keep the pores open, improve digestion and are relaxing to the nervous system. Though they are not strong sedatives on their own, they will ease you into a restful sleep when sleep is needed.

If you like to spend your summers hiking in the arid southwest, overheating can become a cautionary reality. Many people don¹t even know when they are getting dehydrated until it¹s too late. A headache, dizziness, or nauseousness sets in. Being a hiking tour guide all summer in Sedona, I always carry a few of those fizzy Emer¹gen-C packets. They have 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C but more importantly they contain valuable electrolytes that get depleted with water loss through sweating. I urge my customers to carry and drink a half-gallon water for a half-day hike. Another way to replace electrolytes is add the juice of a lemon to your water bottle. It¹s not only refreshing but keeps essential nutrients in check.

Here’s a few different tea blends to help keep you cool this summer.
Summertime Tea Blend #1 for the citrus lover
1/2 ounce of Hibiscus flowers
juice of one-half lemon with cut up rind
1/4 ounce of Oatstraw
1/2 gallon water

 

Summertime Tea Blend #2 for those wanting a minty flavor
1/2 ounce Spearmint leaf
1/4 ounce Peppermint leaf
1/8 ounce Yarrow flower & leaf
1/8 ounce Cinnamon bark
1/2 gallon water

Hikers Tea Blend
1/4 ounce Oatstraw
1/4 ounce Alfalfa or Nettle leaf (rich in calcium, magnesium and iron)
juice of one half lemon
1/2 gallon water

For preparing all teas, use a half-gallon canning jar as it won¹t break when pouring hot, just boiled water into it. Place your herbs in first, water second and tighten the lid and let it sit for an hour before straining. Your tea blend can be served hot or cold and will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. While it is still warm, sweeten with honey, agave nectar or your choice of sugars. Agave nectar is a plant-based sweetener that has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn¹t cause your blood sugar to spike, preventing sudden elevations. It is also twice as sweet as honey so use conservatively. When making teas, mostly go by taste, if too strong, use less herb.

Most, if not all of the herbs mentioned can be purchased at most health food stores in their bulk herb section, or have them special order the ones you want. Enjoy!

Dancing with the Earth Changes

Dancing with the Earth Changes

Herbal Wisdom in a Chaotic World

Feather Jones, Clinical Herbalist

There is an old Zen proverb “Before enlightenment, chop wood, haul water; after enlightenment; chop wood, haul water.”

2013-07-13 12.01.22Cosmically Speaking
Life¹s demands in an energy-draining world of chemtrails, auto exhaust and tap water can make one bone tired. The immune system works hard to neutralize air borne toxins like viruses, molds, bacterias and harmful chemicals. A person can be left feeling spent when they haven¹t done anything yet. How does a person keep their body healthy, display an inner calm and have energy reserves for the next mini crisis that is just around the corner?

Thirty years ago, the term instant karma¹ was always used jokingly but now it¹s more of a reality than ever before. One used to have time to process an experience, look at the choices they made and think about it. Now days there is no processing time, a person needs to get the life lessons of any situation quickly before the next challenge/opportunity is presented. The speed of it all, thanks to technology, is stressful. No matter what field of awareness one operates in, life still wants to fulfill itself. No matter what, you still have to chop wood and haul water.

The earth is traveling towards a higher frequency, moving into alignment with our galactic sun¹s light streams, and demands a clear level of attention from us to keep pace. We falter, we pick our selves up and get the same opportunity again to try it a different way. Fortunately the body is self-healing and during sleep will attempt to right the wrongs of a day¹s worth of stressful onslaught. We are graced with another blessing; everything we need to know is already within us awaiting acknowledgement. Yet another blessing, if there is anything we have forgotten, it is surrounding us in nature.

Herbally Speaking
Looking to herbal remedies, we find many allies. Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stresses. Plants like Eleuthro (Siberian Ginseng), Reishi mushroom and Shiitake mushroom are considered deep immune tonics and endocrine system replenishers, resetting the metabolic thermostat and balancing and rejuvenating body functions. While Reishi and Eleuthro are best taken as extracts or capsules, Shiitake mushrooms are delicious with stir-fry vegies or in soups and whole grain dishes.

 

Milky Oat Seed extract is another deep nervine trophorestorative known for its ability to protect the myalin sheath that wraps and insulates all the nerves in the body. It helps one recover from fatigue, insomnia, cardiac neurosis and nervous exhaustion, where the brain is overworked from anxiety and worry. It can help one in an emotionally fragile state, calming, grounding and strengthening.

Gotu Kola, another adaptogen and nervine tonic is high in magnesium and carries nutrients to the brain increasing longevity, mental alertness and vitality. It rejuvenates brain cells by thinning capillaries and increasing circulation. It gives new ways to think about old things. It is considered the elephant¹s favorite food. It grows in the tropics as a weed where it is eaten as a wild food salad herb. It makes a pleasant cup of tea along with other deep supportive and good tasting herbs like Alfalfa and Nettles.

Many find problems with digestion. Feeling tired after eating, painful indigestion or just not absorbing their food well. Try a bitter tonic like Oregon Grape root extract 20 minutes before meals to enhance absorption and assimilation of nutrients. One needs to put the bitter tasting drops on the tip of the tongue without diluting it. There is a reflex point there that stimulates the body¹s own digestive enzymes. This helps with carbohydrate, fat and protein digestion as well as cut down on food sensitivities and allergies. Bitters are not to be used with stomach ulcers or gastritis. It is now scientifically proven there are more neurotransmitters going from the gut to the brain than there are from the brain to the gut. ŒGut instincts¹ can be an important part of making good choices in life.

It is vital to get outside in nature as often as possible. It changes your perspective and reconnects you to a greater energy field. The plants are extensions of nature, the voice of the Earth Mother, the keepers of wisdom. Accept her guidance and relax in your body. The trees themselves are like beacons for cosmic messages hitting the planet and grounding the energy for the rest of us. Create time for yourself and envision yourself with unlimited energy to accomplish anything you can imagine. The fact is energy follows thought.

On the Journey
I was traveling through the four-corners area on the reservation and I picked up an elderly couple hitchhiking on the side of the road next to their hogan. I was in my Volkswagon van and the old man had to help his short wife step up into the front seat and he slid in the back. The first thing that came into my mind was ŒWhere were their relatives? What about their kids? Why are they reduced to hitchhiking to town? Why isn¹t anyone taking care of them? They were both quite old and their faces looked a lot like the land they lived on.

 

We got to their destination in Kayenta about a half hour later and the old woman finally looked at me before she opened her door and took my hands in hers and said something in her native language, Dine¹. She had tears welling up in her eyes and was starting to cry. I asked her husband what she said as he spoke broken English. He said she wanted me to know her son died in the war.

I had been so irritated, angry and made such assumptions up to that point and my whole foundation crumbled. I too started to cry with her and she sang me a song. I felt her pain and her comfort. And I knew I was being blessed. Her next words, again translated by her husband who really just wanted to get out of the van but was unable to open the sliding door, were a question. “Where are you going?” I took a moment to think about this wondering if she meant in life or just that day. I said I was going up to Colorado to visit my kids. Her final parting words were “You don¹t always get to choose the road you are on, but you can choose how to walk it”.

I took her words to heart, so for all the bumps in the road, I still chop wood and haul water;..and then make tea.

Spirit of the Wild Places, Part 1

Spirit of the Wild Places, Part 1
Feather Jones, Clinical Herbalist

2012-09-16 08.45.44

We live and experience most of our lives in a very narrow band of frequency called the “world”. This is what we perceive as real and our physical senses are tuned to it. But all around us are other densities of infinite creation. Seen and heard by animals, like cats when they react to “empty” space and dogs that hear sounds higher than we can. Children, until they are conditioned also respond to unseen frequencies. *

According to Italian physicist Giuliana Conforto, 90% of the total calculated mass of the universe is “dark matter”, and unobservable. While we observe 10% through the infinite rainbow which is light. How one accesses this non-observable substance requires intention, passion, allowing our intuition to guide us, shifting awareness and interacting with the aliveness of nature.

While teaching an herbal workshop at the Montana Herbalists Gathering a few years ago, I met a man, Michael Pilarski, who captured my attention. He had long white hair and a flowing white beard, sparkly eyes that spoke volumes and claimed to be an emissary for the fairie world. Being a plant person, I have always had an affinity for the Devic realm, that unseen world that is absorbed in the care of nature.

This highly animated man with cackling laughter, that looked rather like a large elf himself, was teaching a class on how to access the fairie realms and their connections to the land. The workshop title was ŒThe Plant Devas¹. While it seemed a bit woo woo to me in the sense of, who is making this up, who really is in touch with this mysterious plane of existence, and how would one know the difference, I still went, curious to know what he knew.

What I learned is there are plant, tree, meadow, hill, valley and mountain collected energies that are conscious of their role in nature. They encourage growth, death, rebirth, and beauty and are responsible and very aware of their existence. They can also interact with humans when plugged in to their world. We were given simple tools to access this world behind the curtains.

As I was leaving the workshop that was very informative and entertaining, he singled me out of the crowd and without even having met yet, asked me if I would like to take two fairies home with me to Colorado. He said he was being instructed to do so. Without thinking I didn¹t hesitate to say yes. He asked me to sign a piece of paper that was full of names. There was one line left at the bottom of the page and after I signed it, I caught a glimpse of light shining through all the names on the page. As soon as I signed it, I felt a movement of energy around me like a soft breeze. I also felt this same movement of energy inside my body, a filling up of space like someone bringing furniture into the house and finding room for the new pieces. It was gentle and comfortable so I made room. It dawned on me and I quickly realized I had signed a contract, unspoken but binding.

The contents of this contract soon made itself clear, I was to be responsible for my thoughts, actions, and even my environment. I was to realize there was more than myself to consider in any given situation. The mental image I was given as a tool for access to the fairie realm and to my assigned charges was to envision a house with a family room and several bedrooms. When I wanted to contact my fairie friends, I would call them and wait in the family room for them to show up which could take a while or be immediate.

It took me a long time and a concerted effort to figure out how to communicate with them, a mental aerobic exercise of listening without constantly questioning my abilities to do so. I was determined and without any more guidance than I had been given, it was like strenuous work. After a session of trying to ask a question and getting the answer, I would be visibly glistening with sweat. Something akin to crawling through a tunnel that is a bit too tight for all the clothes you have on.

I must say they continually un-teach me all the things I thought I knew. After about a month with the two of them, I asked them their names. The wise one with a feminine grace about her is Alaria. She can anticipate my questions even before I have them solidified enough to ask but is patient with me none the less. The other one is definitely male and named Puk. He is playful and daring, always ready to try new things.

The first time I knew they were Œreal¹, my cat was sick and dying. There was nothing I or the vet could do and I asked my fairie friends to keep her company on her passing. That night I went to bed, I could tell she was checking out. However the next morning, she was sitting on my bed staring at me waiting for breakfast and to be petted, as if she had been coaxed and made a decision in the night to stay a while longer.

Another time, I was speaking at the Human Fairie Relations Congress in Washington State. This annual gathering hosts 400 like minded people and 3000 fairies. My teenage daughter, Topaz called me from Colorado on my cell, which up to that point, I had no reception being at the dead end of a dirt road miles from any town on a piece of private wild land. She was crying as she just broke up with her boyfriend of two years and just wanted to ask me if I could send Alaria back home to be with her. Topaz has always had this natural gift of communication and took to the fairies immediately. I mentally called Alaria and she sweetly told me she was already on her way, getting the message before me. My daughter called me again the next morning to thank me for sending her and she was happy that she stayed and was still present with her. I got confused as I felt Alaria was right there with me also. Alaria quickly announced to me she had assigned Topaz her own fairie as this was the easiest remedy. Topaz said she knew the fairies were there because she was getting ready to make popcorn in the popper and the kitchen/dining room chimes went off. We have no breeze running through there to cause them to ring and the only way to make them ring, is to raise your arm walking through one room to next.

Another crazy time, I wanted to visit a casino and make some quick cash. Whimsically, I asked Puk to come with me and help me double my $40, he said ok. I lost it all in about 5 minutes and we left. When I questioned him, he said we needed to depart. He described the energy as “riding bareback on a wild dragonfly through a thorny thicket”! I got it.

They have since tapped me on the shoulder to show me something remarkable, including how to find the right wild plants for my medicines, how to ask questions of the plants and trees themselves about their nature. An excellent example is the Arizona Cypress that grows all around the high desert and as the drought continues to dominate the landscape, the Cypress is loosing some of its ability to fight the bark beetle. Although I felt saddened from this loss of a mighty tree, the tree tells a different story, that its place in the landscape is changing, that we can not hold on to the past and embrace the present and be grateful for what we have right now. According to one of my students, Joan Perrier that is acutely aware and connected to nature, even the fires that raged through here recently were met by exhilaration from the trees. An accepting of what is given and finding the ability to transform.

The fairie folk and plant devas still amaze me with their gifts and lessons. I¹m never sure what I am giving them except my appreciation and love. They have told me if anyone ever asks what those gifts are, I am to share them completely. Here they are:

… Trust your first impressions, they are usually the right ones. Science tells us we have more neurotransmitters running from our gut to our brain than we do from our brain to our gut. Think about gut instincts.

… Eat healthy, nuture yourself. Our immune systems need nourishment to keep the healthy barriers up in a stressful world.

… Do ceremony everyday. It shuts down the rational mind, pulls you out of the control mechanisms that run your life. You can create your own simple ceremony at home by yourself. Start there.

… Ask why you need something before you act on your desires. Intention motivates the process, be clear. The Iroquois teach us that our actions ripple through time even unto seven generations. It is explained to me that thoughts and beliefs create the world we live in.

… Create full moon paper. When the full moon comes, set a piece of blank paper outside under the moon to get charged. I usually set mine out on my deck and put a crystal on top of it so it doesn¹t blow away. In the morning, put it away until the new moon comes two weeks later. Then write on your paper what you want to manifest in your life. The paper is conditioned, fulfilled and complete just waiting for your words.

… Find the joy in your life and have fun. My mentors have imprinted on me that there are only two reasons to be on this planet. One is to create with consciousness, being aware and accountable of your every action. The other is to have fun doing it!

“Life can take many forms. Look at the forms life can take on this planet alone. Here in the bush, there are insects you could easily mistake for rocks or for pieces of bark until one of them stings you, that is. Life does not have to consist of bipeds who move and breathe and smoke cigars as we do. I have said it before and I say it again the universe is a gigantic chamber of possibility where everything has the chance and the right to happen, and so we must not have cut-and-dry theories regarding just how life should look. Life could surprise us!”

Credo Mutwa
The official historian of the Zulu ation, in his book, Song of the Stars

* The Matrix, author David Icke