I drink a lot of herbal tea. 

I have since I was a child. In my younger, more flippant years, it was mainly when I had a cold, or needed some calming sleepy time tea, or just felt like doing something "old-timey"that I would drink herbal tea. As I got older, I would reach for herbal tea to feel more nurtured (because what mom would do is always the right thing). I couldn't help but notice that herbal tea actually did things to my body that other things couldn't - like calm me down, or wake me up, or help me out with stress, or soothe my throat when it was sore. My awareness progressed leaps and bounds when I went to graduate school, and we really had to develop relationships with not only the herbs we used compounding for others, but how they affected us individually. The art of blending tea and ingesting it became intoxicating and magical. As my apothecary grew and my experience widened, I found that blending and drinking tea was something I craved; Something that really grounded me spiritually and physically and emotionally. The ritual surrounding herbal tea is so engrained in my daily life now that I can't help but feel even more connected to my ancestors and unacquainted cultures who also share this love and ritual when I partake myself.

There is something deeply empowering about tea blending and tea drinking. When I think of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony my heart just fills with joy knowing that so many people find peace and ritual with others around such a medicinal plant source. When I think of a traditional cocoa ceremony, I think of the connectedness of friends and strangers that ingest the same potent plants to bridge foreign minds. Nothing comes between the Brits and their tea time. This is essential chit chat, catching up on the world friend time. In America, though, we don't really have this ritual, and if we do "meet for tea" its usually in a to-go cup so we can rush back to work. American's...we get it so backwards. 

Here's the bottom line about the magic of tea blending and tea drinking: When you take the time to become aware and notice what your body needs, you prioritize your time to make your body a better place. Herbs are so powerful and medicinal. Once you get to know a few herbs here and there, you'll find that when your body speaks to you in whispers (a headache here, a little stomach ache there, etc), you'll know what herbs will be your ally to support you during that upset. You can whip together a special tea blend to suit just what your body needs, and you'll take the time blend it consciously, smelling and feeling the texture of every herb. You'll measure out a fragrant, colorful scoop and let it steep in the freshly brewed water and let the sweet aromas of herbal goodness wash over you while it's steeping by your favorite chair. You'll practically be forced to sit down and enjoy a cup of your delicious tea while it nourishes and supports your body's organ systems. 

For now, start with making herbal tea a ritualistic part of your day. Try an herbal tea of your choice (I really love Traditional Medicinals, Gaia herbs or Mountain Rose herbal teas) and find a sacred and peaceful spot to enjoy it. Maybe in your favorite chair curled up with a book or your cat, or sip while taking a long, relaxing bath, or even while you're up in bed, about to drift off to sleep. I usually enjoy my herbal tea during my morning ritual (after breakfast or before my yoga practice). Sip consciously and slowly, and really start to get to know these new flavors. Notice how you're feeling before and after drinking. What has changed or shifted? Do you feel less tense or less foggy-brained? Has your digestion gotten better or your productivity increased? This is how you start to find your herbal allies! 

If you've never blended your own tea before, not to worry! You can purchase loose/bulk herbs from your local health food store or order them from Mountain Rose HerbsFrontier Co-op, or Banyan Botanicals. I will be posting more detailed tea blending information in future posts very soon, so stay tuned for extra herbal tea blending info!


Spring is finally in full swing here in Richmond and and I have to say: I am Oh. So. Grateful. Spring seems to make everything better. All day this past Sunday I was outside, planting the rest of my summer garden, potting geraniums, playing with the pup on the porch and catching wafts of fragrant lilacs from the front yard. Our apple trees are blooming. Our garlic and onions are kicking ass in their allium bed. Our windows are open all over the house.  It's a time of year I take a particular fondness to...the air is sweet and cool with a hint of warm. The onslaught of southern mosquitos haven't yet taken over my entire life. And the sun isn't quite so hot to scorch my skin. At this time of year, there is almost nothing about winter that I miss. Except maybe the soups...(just a little bit). 

So I tried a mysterious recipe for Carrot & Chamomile soup that I've had floating in my head for about 5 years. I first had carrot and chamomile soup when I was visiting the United Plant Savers* and Equinox Botanicals during my second year of graduate school. My friend Gaby was cooking for us there, and she served a soup like this that just blew my mind. Seeing as how Chamomile just made her debut, I thought I would give it a whirl, and (three tries later), I think I nailed it. 

This soup of PERFECT for spring and warmer weather. It's so light and frothy and bright and absolutely delicious. The natural sweetness of the carrots and apples balances the aromatic slight bitterness of the chamomile. It's so easy to throw together for a lunch gathering, and I loved eating it with a heaping side of Farmstead Ferments garlicky greens kraut. Not to mention of course this subtle soup is remarkably easy to digest for those with sensitive tummies or folks with a weaker digestive fire. The fennel and chamomile are both excellent carminatives (meaning they help with gas and bloating), and chamomile is an intestinal modulator when it comes to inflammation. It's cooling and soothing to sensitive or inflamed digestive tracts. And, it's delicious...with carrots. So so delicious. 

Carrot & Chamomile Soup

2 cups carrots, chopped (4-5 medium carrots)

 1/2 gala apple, seeded and chopped

 1/4 fennel bulb, chopped

 1/2 teaspoon salt

 1/4 teaspoon roasted garlic powder

 2 tablespoons honey

 1 tablespoon chamomile flowers

 1.5 cups hot water
Serves 2

Place carrots in a small pot and cover with filtered water. Boil for 10 minutes. 
While carrots are boiling, bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a kettle, and steep 1 tablespoon of chamomile flowers in the freshly boiled water. Let steep for 10 minutes, and strain. 
Once carrots are boiled, strain, and add to a food processor or vitamix along with the apple, fennel bulb, salt, garlic powder and chamomile tea. 
Blend together until smooth. 
Serve immediately (or chilled on the warmer days!). 


*P.S - If you're a lover of herbs, consider visiting (or donating!) to the United Plant Savers foundation. They truly have a haven of medicinal, wild appalachian western herbs in their beautiful Ohio land. Visiting and spending several days in this beautiful sanctuary was a life changing experience for me, and really brought my love of herbs to a whole new personal and spiritual level. Your support and donation will help the volunteers keep up the land and tend to the cultivation of both abundant and endangered medicinal herbal species <3

If there's one herb that almost everyone knows, it's chamomile. Sweet and dainty, yet powerful and strong, chamomile is a staple in almost everyone's home as a gentle, relaxing remedy that the entire family can use. Safe for babies all the way up to the elderly, chamomile is often a go-to herb when you just need some support or a warm cup of comfort. It's delicate flavor hints at it's wispy structure with an intricate, tiny flower with reaching long stems. Chamomile to me just embodies the whole of herbal medicine, and I make sure to never be without this herbal ally. 

Energetically, Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is warm to neutral while being slightly drying. It's filled with essential oils,  flavonoids and sesquiterpenes and has a slightly sweet to bitter taste. It has traditionally been used for ulcers and inflammation around the stomach and has proven itself a mighty champion over the years of quelling inflammation all throughout the gastrointestinal tract. I have found chamomile to be my go-to herb for spasms and pain anywhere in the gut (especially the stomach or large intestines). Of course, it is also an excellent relaxant and nervine too! Helping to calm the mind and relax the muscles, chamomile is a classic "sleepy time" herb used in almost every calming herbal tea formula. And with it's anti-inflammatory properties, chamomile it remarkably effective to use topically for eczema and psoriasis itchiness on the skin!

Chamomile can be made into a delicious herbal tea and sipped throughout the day for digestive support and calming stressful lives. It can also be taken as a tincture (hydroalcoholic extract) for really acute symptoms like stomach spasms or large intestine/bowel spasms. As a tincture, it can work it's magic in minutes (versus a tea, which may take 30 minutes to an hour to have an effect on some people). If you get a little anxious or overwhelmed when traveling, keeping a small bottle of chamomile in your bag can be a real life saver. I NEVER travel without some chamomile tincture on me. Ever. 

I find chamomile to be most helpful in people with IBS or other stress induced digestive troubles. They may be a little jittery or run cold to the touch. They hold their nerves in their stomach and can be kind of wound up most of the time. I've also used it often for babies while they're teething by making chamomile ice cubes for them to suck on (works like a charm). It's usually the first herb I think of for folks with dull, achy menstrual cramps as it's a fantastic anti-spasmodic (and really safe to take in high doses as often as needed). Below is a delicious chamomile based tea formula that I love for spring!

Calming Chamomile Tea
2 teaspoons chamomile
1/2 teaspoon lemon balm
1/2 teaspoon peppermint
1/2 teaspoon lavender
Blend together and steep in 2 cups of hot water for 7-10 minutes, covered. Sip consciously and in a peaceful place. 

Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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