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May is one of my favorite months of the year. It's beautiful here in Richmond, Virginia this time of year. The breeze is slight and cool. The days seem longer. The humidity isn't quite here yet. The birds are all over - serenading at every corner. And our garden is having an absolute renaissance. May 1 is also my birthday, and I've spent almost the entire day on my porch soaking in the early spring dreamscape that presented today and listening to my favorite David Bowie albums. An ideal day is so many ways. It's perfect transition weather from cool to warm, from dark to light, from sleeping to waking. I've been craving more room temperature and cooling teas lately as the warmth starts to settle in more permanently. This month, my May Steep is a warm infusion left to cool, filled with invigorating and nourishing herbs that taste just like the spring breeze feels. Damiana, Hibiscus, Nettle, Mugwort & Lavender are the lucky ones this month. 

I've always loved the versatility of herbal tea. The strength and potency and steeping calculations and how technical it could all be, and also how forgiving a simple brew can be when you're feeling lazy and nonchalant about it's ingredients. Sipping an herbal tea brew is just pure magic, and this recipe is pretty forgiving. So much so I never even wrote a recipe down until I came to publish this post. I've been making this for days now, a little different every time, never measuring anything and I like the subtle differences in flavor from day to day. I've been throwing this together once I get to my office each day, varying the amounts of damiana and mugwort, really, depending on what I'm feeling like that morning. More damiana when I need more of a kick in the pants and am feeling a little sluggish. More Mugwort when I need more support with mental focus or have lots of cerebrally heavy (and focusing!) tasks that day. Mugwort is SO GOOD at helping me focus and keep to the task at hand...especially when they're tedious computer tasks (and it's a main ingredient in my Book Nook Tea just for that reason!). Hibiscus gives it a sweet, springy, colorful and vibrant flavor. Nettle adds the punch of minerals and nutrients, and lavender adds the subtle sweetness to offset the bitter of mugwort. Together, perfection. 

This recipe makes a month supply of tea. Brew yourself up a pint or two early in the day and sip all afternoon. Add a twist of lemon or extra dash of honey if you're like more zing or more sweetness.  If you don't have access to herbs locally, you can source them from Zack Woods Herb FarmMountain Rose HerbsStarwest Botanicals & Oregon's Wild Harvest. Joyous May wishes, everyone!

May Steep

20 grams Damiana
20 grams Hibiscus
10 grams Nettle Leaf
7 grams Mugwort
5 grams Lavender Flowers
3-4 cups filtered water
1 tsp Raw Honey
Makes 1 month supply

Blend all herbs together and store in an airtight glass container. When making a batch of infusion, add 1 heaping tablespoon to a 1 quart mason jar and cover with just warm, filtered water. Add 1-2 tsp raw honey to taste and a twist of lemon if desired. Stir well and let steep at least 10 minutes before straining out the herbs. Drink immediately, or let cool and drink throughout the day. 

 

There are a lot of exceptionally fun things about being an herbalist (too many to count, really), and my personal favorite is creating, blending and sharing herbal formulas for my clients and friends and family. I remember first learning how to construct herbal formulas in school - I felt like I was in potions class. It seemed so overwhelming at first...the blending process can be ridiculously easy but also amazingly complex. We would be given a case study, have a few minutes to brainstorm our ideas and then each one of us would write down our formulas on the board and talk through it, getting critiques on our herb choices and learning from everyone else's perspective. We must have done that hundreds of times - no two formula ever being the same twice. That's the beauty and complexity of herbal formulating - everyone gets something different depending on their unique health story and symptom picture. If you're just starting out, having a guide to herbal formulating can be extra helpful so you have a starting point of things to consider when blending up a tea, tincture or powder formula. Here is my process of herbal formulating and things I take into consideration, step-by-step:


What is my primary herbal action?

This is your main focus for the formula. Sometimes it can be hard to pick just one - especially if lots of symptoms are presenting at once. Do your best to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms (which may or may not be obvious). What is your primary goal for the formula? Pain relief? Digestive support? Immune stimulation or modulation? Stress or anxiety? Here's a list of herbal actions and their corresponding herbs:

Adaptogen (increases endurance and resistance to stress)

Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Licorice, Milky Oat Tops, Nettle

Analgesics (Pain relieving)

Skullcap, ashwagandha

Antispasmodics (prevents and relieves spasms)

Chamomile, Peppermint, Skullcap, Yarrow, Wild Yam

Anti-inflammatory

Ashwagandha, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Holy Basil, Nettle, Turmeric, Yarrow

Anti-microbial

Chamomile, Elderberries, Yarrow, Ginger, Goldenseal

Bitters

Chamomile, Gentian, Dandelion leaf

Carminative (soothes digestion, relieves gas & bloating)

Fennel, Cardamom, Chamomile

Demulcent (to soothe inflamed tissues)

Marshmallow, Slippery Elm bark

Expectorant (increases the elimination of excess mucus)

Mullein, Wild Cherry, Thyme

Hepatic (liver protecting)

Burdock, Dandelion root, Turmeric, Reishi

Immune Stimulant (to acutely increase immune activity)

Echinacea root, Elderberries

Immune Modulator (to balance and support the immune system)

Astragalus, Reishi, Elderberries, Turmeric 

Lymphatic

Calendula

Nutritive

Alfalfa, Nettle, Slippery Elm, Milky Oat, Reishi

Sedative/anxiolytic (calms the body and nervous system)

Chamomile, Ashwagandha, Skullcap, Passionflower, Valerian, Kava kava, Lemon balm

Stimulant (increases circulation and breaks through obstructions)

Ginger, Turmeric, Rosemary

(You can learn more about stocking/creating your own herbal apothecary in my previous post!)

What is my secondary herbal action?

This is your chance to add in additional herbs for secondary support that are often at a lower dose and included to immediately support other symptoms that are presenting. For example, if the primary action is adaptogen/adrenal support for stress, and you also have stomach pains and cramps after eating, this is a good opportunity to add in some antispasmodic herbs to support digestion. I generally only pick no more than 2 secondary herbal actions per formula to keep it as straightforward and targeted as possible

What is my synergist / third action (if applicable)?

If absolutely necessary, you may add in a third herbal action or third area of focus in one formula but at this point it might be getting a little convoluted. Luckily (as you might notice in the herbal actions list above), some herbs serve multiple purposes and can address multiple issues at once. These are the ideal third herbal actions because they're already playing a role for additional area of focus. For example, Holy Basil is both an adaptogen and an anti-inflammatory (which may be 2 herbal actions that you need - so this might be a good fit). Synergists are also great to include in a formula (usually the lowest amount) to tie formulas together that have a bunch of herbs that may not necessarily naturally jive well together. Licorice is usually my favorite choice as a synergist. 

Generally speaking - I try to keep all of my herbal formulas to 6 herbs or less. If I start adding more, the primary focus on the formula gets lost and sometimes potency is diminished. This is just my approach and not every herbalist will formulate this way. I just like to really fine tune my herbal choices and take a more minimalist approach. It's not uncommon for me to break it up and make 2 seperate formulas if I need to include more herbal actions to keep the potency and therapeutic value more concentrated.  

   

What are the herbal energetics and do they match the symptom picture?

This is a more complex and advanced topic to explore in later posts, but important to consider for a good formula. Herbs carry their own energetics (and vibrations, if you're into that) that can have a strong influence on people outside of their predictable herbal actions, and understanding herbal energetics can help you narrow down your herb choices. Herbal energetics include things like damp, dry, cool, moist, hot, pungent, astringent and acrid (to name a few) and we use these energetic plant qualities to balance out someone's constitution or presenting symptom. Michael Moore & Kiva Rose have a great info on herbal energetics if you want to learn more.

In what form am I dispensing (tea, tincture, glycerite, powder)? 

You may be limited to what herbs you can use depending on what forms are available to you or what you have on hand. Also, cost is a factor here too, with powders and teas being significantly more affordable than alcohol based tinctures. Dosage also changes depending on what form you're taking. If using tinctures for kiddos, consider glycerite forms instead of alcohol bases. If you don't have access to herbs locally, you can source them from Zack Woods Herb Farm, Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Gaia Herbs, Herb Pharm, Oregon's Wild Harvest, Banyan Botanicals & Urban Moonshine

Appropriate dosing and frequency (age appropriate considerations)?

Keep in mind the age, body composition and lifestyle of whomever you're formulating for. Children require lower dosages, thinner (more vata) folks usually respond to small doses, while pitta and kapha folks can tolerate higher dosing. Again, Michael Moore has a great reference for tincture dosing. Also, how often can someone feasibly make a tea during their day? If something really needs to be taken 3 times per day and you want to make a tea, make sure you can actually make it three times per day, otherwise powder and tinctures are much more convenient to take. 

Are there any contraindications / potential for interactions?

Not sure about which herbs interact with which drugs or should / should not be taken along with certain things? Look it up or talk with a qualified herbalist. Generally speaking - herbs are pretty safe, but some do interact with other drugs or shouldn't be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding or pre/post surgery etc. Henriette's Herbal is a great reference for looking into herbal contraindications. 

How long will the formula last and appropriate storage:

If you're taking a formula for several weeks (maybe even months?), then take care with how you're storing your herbs. Herbs will always last longer when stored properly. I love using Infinity Glass Jars to store my herbs because they're airtight to seal in aromatics and freshness, and made with ultraviolet glass. This deep violet (almost black!) glass is thicker and more durable than your standard glass containers and blocks out UV light, and all of the jar lid systems are completely airtight. Their small glass bottles are perfect for herbal tinctures snd glycerites and come it several sizes (5ml-100ml) and are great for traveling or throwing in your bag for day to day use. The Apothecary Jar (my favorite) is so beautiful and stores dried tea formulas like a dream for up to 6 months. These are ideal storage containers for herbs (or spice mixes, coffee, herbal salves, oils.....everything!) and a great way to extend the shelf life of more perishable formulas, especially teas and powders. 

Remember to label your formulas with all herbs used, the date of formulation and expiration date (if applicable). I like giving my formulas names, like "Dreaming Blend" or "Femme Power Potion". You know - have fun with it!

This post is made in partnership with Infinity Jars. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


I'm so thrilled to introduce a new collaboration, Garden to Table, with my sweet sweet friend Lindsay Emery of Suite One Studio. Fifteen years ago, Lindsay & I met and became fast friends, and during our young years together both dreamed of having our own creative businesses (that's the truth). Flash forward to today, and Lindsay owns her own amazingly successful and DOWNRIGHT GORGEOUS tableware design studio that I have been head over heals in love with since day 1 of her first design. At Suite One Studio, Lindsay's goal is to "make mealtimes beautiful", and we teamed up this year to offer my passion of brining your garden foods to the table for a truly delicious and ethereally beautiful table situation. Get the recipe for my Lilac Infused Honey + Rosemary Drop Biscuits on her blog, and you can shop her porcelain collection (shown above) exclusively at Anthropologie

HELLO, I’M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

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