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"Nature is our home, and in nature we are at home. This strange, multicolored and astonishing world that we explore - where space is granular, time does not exist, and things are nowhere - is not something that estranges us from our true selves, for this is only what our natural curiosity reveals to us about the place of our dwelling. About the stuff of which we ourselves are made. We are made of the same stardust of which all things are made, and when we are immersed in suffering, or when we are experiencing intense joy, we are being nothing other than what we can't help but be: a part of our world...." -- Carlo Rovelli

I've been tearing through some books and podcasts recently. It may be the wooing of my front porch swing or the hours and hours spent on long road trips that allow for more time to read for pleasure and zone into a podcast series more intensely. In any case - it's most welcome. For the past several months, almost ALL of the books and podcasts absorbed into my brain have been recommendations from friends and colleagues that did not disappoint. I've been really drawn to science meets intuitive wisdom lately and reading anything I can get my hands on to this extent. 

Books  ------

Braiding Sweetgrass - a gift from my Aunt this past holiday, and a lovely reminder of our connection to our ancestry, our traditions, our connection with the earths seasonal gifts, and our ability (and responsibility) to share life's pleasures and nature's bounty.

The Hidden Life of Trees - to quench my desire to get to know my towering, leafy friends on a more personal level. 

Harvest - if you have a garden, you must read this book! Not only is it strikingly beautiful (those photos!), but the recipes it provides for dozens of garden and backyard treasures are so fun! I want to make every single thing in this book - especially the pickled rhubarb and the herbed salts. 

Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians - I'm planning a private retreat in June to the Virginia mountains of Appalachia to do a weekend herb walk and medicine making workshop with some of my friends and colleagues (you can read about last year's dry run here). Appalachia is SO FULL of traditional folk medicine with a rich history of herbal use, although so little of this knowledge is in written form. It's a verbal tradition, passed from generation to generation. But for some preliminary reading (and to brush up a bit myself), I'm re-reading this tried and true classic, filled with dozens of Appalachian herbs, their use and medicine making tips. 

7 Brief Lessons on Physics - a sweet find from listening to the On Being podcast with guest Carlo Rovelli. His interview is one of my favorites in that podcast series, and his little pocket sized book is a much needed reminder of the wonders and complexities all around us (and the basics of physics I've forgotten over the years...)

Podcasts ------

On Being - with every free moment I'm listening to Krista Tippet's interviews in this beautiful podcast. Her guests have really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and perspectives I've never considered on everything from poetry to physics to music to religion. Definitely worth a listen. 

Invisibilia - all about the invisible forces that control human behavior and it's mind blowing

Stuff You Should Know - what to know more about __________? They've got it on this podcast. Applicable to all the gardeners right now : How Composing Works

Revisionist History - this was a frequent go-to on a recent road trip I took to New Orleans, and if you're a history junkie like me, it's an interesting perspective on the little bits of history we may not think twice about - but dives deep into the long forgotten details of those seemingly insignificant historical characters and their bigger impact on the world today. 

What are some of the books and podcasts that you've been loving lately? I'm on the hunt for upcoming summer reads and podcasts for upcoming road trips and travels! Share yours below...

Photo by Renee Byrd

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.

Just two months ago, I felt like I was really struggling to put into the place the basics of what makes me feel my happiest and healthiest. This was, of course, midwinter, and my inner hibernating nature really took hold and my mental wherewithal was as sluggish as could be. My movement and exercise fell by the wayside for months. Food cravings started to creep in every day. My supplement and morning routine was often completely ignored. Every time the cheerful voice of wellness piped up, my louder voice of overwhelm and laziness piped up louder and I often made every excuse to listen to that louder voice. It was a ridiculous struggle, and I started to succumb to the daily guilt of not doing my best. This all was especially troubling because I literally create care plans for other people every single day, stressing the importance of routines, rituals, nutrition, herbal therapies, self care, and making their health a priority. Why was this so hard all of a sudden? (Hint - creating a care plan for yourself is inherently a difficult task, and I think I figured out why.) 

I realized that one of the biggest struggles for my clients is their sense of overwhelm. Not their day to day grind, but the overwhelm of how many health changes they wanted to make all at once. They get in their own way, and feel like if they can't do it all at once, why bother doing one thing? This was exactly how I felt, too. In my head, I wanted to exercise more, eat more plants, take my supplements every day, cook more and give Greg a break, read more, have less screen time, perfect my evening routine, learn more things, take Gromit for our 3 mile walk every day...the list goes on and on. It was so jumbled. So disorganized. So much

Fast forward two months, and I finally sussed it out. I took a lot of intentional time creating a care plan for myself, and it brought so much into perspective.

1. Take intentional time to check in. Sit quietly. Breathe deeply. Calm down. I took one whole evening to turn everything off, and just sit quietly with this enormous task. 

2. Journal it out. Make a list of what you want to change and the practices you want to put in place. This might be three things. It might be thirty. Once it's on paper, everything becomes more clear. Get it out of your head and into the physical realm.

3. Prioritize. Put the simple things at the top of your list and more challenging or time consuming ones at the bottom. I put simple things at the top of my list like, "Morning routine: a) apple cider vinegar + 6 ounces water first thing, b) probiotics, c) fulvic trace minerals, d) protein rich breakfast" (with exact recipes listed). At the bottom of my list, I have things like, "Lifestyle: a) read 1 educational book every month, b) start morning with 30 minutes of yoga/exercise, c) shut off all screens after 6:00pm.". In between, I have my daily goals, like walking 3 miles a day with the pup, practicing mindful eating and cooking, 20 minutes of combine stretches, weights, muscle toning exercises throughout the day. I also wrote down, hour by hour, how I want to manage my time in the evenings and elaborated on my evening tea ritual (evening tea is SO AMAZING, FYI). 

4. Be honest. Seriously ask yourself, "What's getting in my way? Why am I not doing this?". The answer is really important, because it's the mental blocks that are the hardest to acknowledge and remove. You'll catch yourself saying the same excuse immediately after your realize it for the first time, and it's easier to move past after this. 

5. Start with two practices every week, and start at the top of your list. Implement the simple daily habits first, then work your way down. You have to do something at least 15 times to form a habit, so repeat, repeat, repeat before layering on more new habits. Your care plan should, above all else, be sustainable. Moving slowly through your goals helps make this a lasting reality. 

6. Have someone hold you accountable if you can. Show someone else your list, or verbalize your goals and have another person check in with you every day, or every week.

It's so much easier to see someone else's life from the outside and pin point the areas that they could use improvement and see and hear why they're not implementing these. It's so much more difficult to do this for yourself. That's why actually going to see someone, whether it's your doctor, nutritionist, acupuncturist, friend etc is really helpful to get that outside perspective and get out of your own head. We all know what to do for ourselves. I can't stress that enough. We just get caught up in our own stories and our own sense of wellness overwhelm. But I can say for a fact that every little thing really makes a difference - every single one. 

For you - Set aside some time this week to begin to make a care plan for yourself. Identify your areas of struggle and the areas where you excel. Journal it out, and share. We can all use some support with this!

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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