Friday, July 31, 2009

Hanging out with the bees and other plant musings

The bees just love this oregano! I was marveling at how many bees were actually on the plant when suddenly one flies literally about 5 inches from my face and stayed there in mid air... as if to say 'what the heck are you doing here?' I was grateful that after he got a good look at me he flew away- then they all seemed OK with me hanging out... I was able to get this pic of the bee that said 'hello'.

The lemon balm seems to be doing pretty well to spite the heat...

Further up the mountain there are plenty of shady spots to get a little break from the heat... beneath this tree is a nice place to sit...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Simple, Easy, Effective- Getting started as a home herbalist

When I was in my Taekwondo class in college (1991)- I will never forget Grandmaster Tae Hong Choi saying "simple, easy, effective". He said this several times throughout class. He would heatedly remind us of this when we tried to make the simple complicated. When everyone first enters class their thoughts are Taekwondo must be fancy and magical- or it takes someone with special powers or abilities to have 'the gift'. They have all seen the movies with the fancy moves that look almost magical- they believe the hype. The first instinct is to try and copy these advanced 'moves' without learning the basics first (this could get you kicked in the face, is what a lot of students learned very quickly in class) Really it is starting out with, and mastering the basic 'moves' that leads to what looks to be very complex forms of fighting when it comes to advancing in competition - but you get there by practicing the simple basic moves FIRST. *I should add here that the magical part is connecting with the energy, this comes with patience and long term practice... this could be compared to plants too, but this is for another post:).

Master Choi was a champion, he was famous at my college for the picture of him breaking several concrete slabs with his head (far from the thought of simple, easy, effective- kinda intimidating as a new student thumbing through your class book before class begins) So everyone was quite shocked to know that there were about 10 'moves' that we practiced over and over again for the entire term. No 'magic' moves- no big secret. He assured us that these were the core of the class- and would get us far. All it took was commitment, knowledge and practice- he himself was over 60 years old and there were plenty of other students who were older there as well- he assured us anything was possilbe. There were students of all shapes, ages and skill levels, and we all learned something.

And you know what, Master Choi was right! By the end of the year, I was able to break a board with my fist, compete in competition, recieve my colored belt, and to this day I still feel confident that I have the basic tools for self defence. What does this have to do with herbs (you may ask?)

Being an herbalist is not reserved for the 'gifted healer' you can be your own herbalist for yourself and your family!

It reminds me of the common mindset that there is some kind of complicated secret to practicing with herbs, that someone else has to do it for us, that it is extremely dangerous or complicated.
I was at the store the other day looking at some herbal teas. I turned over the box to marvel at the 15 plus ingredients- "no wonder people are intimidated", I thought to myself!
There is a reason why chamomile and green tea are the top selling teas- that's right, simple, easy, effective!

I am not a 'healer', rather, I try to empower others to learn about herbs so they can use them to benefit their own health and well-being. Really, my goal is not so much to have someone depend on me forever, I would rather have them learn the 'magic' of working with herbs themselves! SHOCKING, I know.... and not a very good sales pitch, but it is the truth. Admitting that someone will eventually not 'need' me... huh- and I have no special powers- dang!

Don't get me wrong, I am not against herbal formulas (a very enjoyable process ) - but when you have 15 or 20 herbs in one tea bag or on the back of a pill bottle, I have to ask myself, is this just making a lot of herbal 'noise' in the body? This just adds to the 'placebo' theory of herbs, and adds to the skeptics saying 'herbs don't work'.
Really, can you explain how 20 herbs in one little tea bag are synergistic with one another and necessary for a stomach ache? Do you really need that specific 'blend' or will other herbs that are easily accessible (and less expensive I might add) do the trick?

I would rather see someone experiment with chamomile for example (has many uses for this 1 herb, nervousness, stomach ache, anti inflammatory just to name a few) If you had this ONE herb in your house, grew it yourself, made some tinctures, dried some for tea, used some in an herbal bath, made an oil, now you would be on your way to learning about how to take care of yourself and your family with herbal medicine!

OK, just to add- I am in no way bad-mouthing the big time corporations making the 20 ingredient teas. I am sure they may be great for some, for whatever reason.

But consider when you get started with herbs the "simple, easy, effective" mindset. Really get to know one plant and then move on to others. Get to know the spices in your drawer in a new way, is that ginger good for other things besides cooking- or how do you feel when you eat it? How about adding some to tea or making your first fresh plant tincture? How strong is it? What kind of sensations do you feel?

You see, taking charge of you and your family's health is as close as your kitchen cupboard or backyard- not necissarily some far away land or exotic miricle blend. Simple, easy, effective....

Grandmaster Choi passed on March 8, 2009.... his lifes work and teaching changed my life (this is not to be stated lightly, I don't think I would be the person I am today without the lessons I learned during class for those 2 years) and the life of many others, he will be missed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Growing plants that attract wildlife

Check out my article in the July issue of American College Of Health Science newsletter!

Find it on page 4 How to help children discover the wonders of nature: Growing plants that attract wildlife