Thursday, August 15, 2019

My dream of summer is quiet abundance. The world around me now is bursting in green and growth. In life and flavor. I want to soak up every summer day. So, each week, I spend intentional time out in the summer forests where I live. This practice, for me, is very personal time to rest and imagine. Some call this Forest Bathing. To surround oneself in the understory of trees, and look at the world with soft eyes. When we make the time to take in the smells, the colors, the organic shapes, the flavors, the textures, and the feeling of the air on our skin, our body becomes wired for bliss. Forest bathing with herbal allies for grounding rituals is truly abundance. When we bring herbs with us into our grounding rituals, it is a connecting, and deeply intimate experience.

Joy Tonic for Grounding Rituals

Your herbal allies can be anything that speaks to you: in taste, in smell, in energetic plant medicine, in connectedness of any kind. My favorite herbal ally to take with me on a forest bathing afternoon is Joy Tonic from Urban Moonshine. This beautiful, portable little formula combines herbs that support a calm, peaceful and inspired mood*. It highlights an herb that I absolutely love that is often so underutilized – Motherwort. Quite a bitter herb, it’s not included in many herbal formulas these days, but it’s one that I find so delicious in both taste and physical body sensation. Motherwort is traditionally used for issues around the heart, and its botanical name, Leonurus cardiaca, is a nod to that heart tonic affinity. One of the best herbs for grounding and calming.

Joy Tonic combines motherwort, rose, linden, lemon balm, lemongrass and mugwort. This aromatic blend of herbs is traditionally used to promote a joyful spirit, and when taken daily, that’s what I notice, too. This joyful bottle of herbal allies helps when stress leads to worry and tension. And it can offer support and stress relief for occasional anxiety*. I take this with me on my forest bathing excursions, and make small tonic potions throughout my afternoon, sipping consciously while I journal, or imagine, or meditate, or simply rest.

Joy Tonic How To

Sipping on Joy Tonic while forest bathing is such an ideal way to enjoy this herbal formula. I like to pour a bit of mineral or sparkling water in small cups (about 1 ounce) and add 5 ml (1 tsp) of Joy tonic. I sip slowly, and let the flavors fill up my senses. I make one of these little combos up to three times daily, and feel my spirit lift up with the trees. You can take each dose of Joy Tonic straight into your mouth, if you prefer. It is a bit bitter, and if you don’t enjoy the flavor of bitter herbs, then I would suggest you dilute in some water. Personally, I love the taste of bitter herbs, especially the combination of motherwort and lemon balm together!

Forest Bathing

How do you forest bathe? It’s so very easy. All you need is a tree. A groups of trees, a forest or small grove of trees works nicely, too. Walk to your space slowly, with gentle steps and open your peripheral vision to take in all that’s around you. Breathe in deeply and exhale fully. Take in the scents of the life around you. Take note of the air on your skin, and the thoughts in your head. Ground your feet into the earth with every step, and if you prefer, go barefoot. You can continue your forest bathing experience with a long walk through the trees, or find a spot and settle in.

I like to walk through the trees for a while before I lay a blanket and sink into a spot next to the river by my house. I lay out some seasonal fruits and berries, and bring my journal for when thoughts start to flow. I lay and rest when I’m tired, and I sit and gaze when my thoughts are calm. I’ll enjoy my Joy Tonic potions throughout the afternoon, and just sit quietly, taking in all the noises, the breeze, the heat, the smells, and the animals around me. Naturally, I leave all the electronics at home. Forest bathing, for me, is my time to connect with my world. When I enjoy herbal allies throughout that process – ingesting herbs that course through my body – that makes me feel intimately connected with this experience.

Show me your nature and herbal ally experiences with #herbalistination and share with our Urban Moonshine community! I’d love to take a peek at how you’re incorporating herbs into your daily rituals!

Photography by Renee Byrd

*The statements on this page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Friday, August 9, 2019

I’ve kept an herbal apothecary for 10 years now. My home apothecary and my professional apothecary differ slightly, but I’ve learned over the years that taking time to store my herbs properly is a game changer. People ask me all the time when they’re starting their own apothecary what are the best tips for storing herbs, and boy have I learned from experience. Especially over the past 12 months, my herbal collection has moved around quite a bit, and I’ve made extra efforts to store all of my herbs really well throughout all of the moves. Currently, this little glimpse is only about 1/4 of my total herbal apothecary, mostly the products I use on a daily basis. The rest is in more permanent storage areas before I move them into my new apothecary space next year.

Read More: Creating an herbal Apothecary At Home

Here are some of the basics when storing your herbs at home. Just a few simple tips that have made a big impact on the shelf life of my herbs. It takes a bit of investment, but will help your herbs last a good long time, and keep them fresh and aromatic even if you don’t have the best location to store them.

Five Tips for Storing Herbs

  1. Invest in jars that are dark glass, or block out light. I’ve used SKS bottles, and wide mouth amber glass jars for years to store cut and sift herbs. I’ve also used Infinity Jars for extra delicate herbs (powders especially) that I want to last a long time. I always use glass storage containers, never plastic.
  2. Keep temperature controlled and out of humidity. Moisture is the kiss of death for most herbs in storage, and you always want cut and sift, and powdered herbs to stay completely dry. I sometimes keep a dehumidifier in my herb storage space in the summer months (because I live in the south), and this makes a big difference.
  3. Always always always label your jars (and date them). I know you think you’ll remember what it all is…but you probably won’t. It will all start to smell the same after a while. When you’re re-packaging herbs into jars or bottling up your herbal creations, always label what’s in the formula, and date when you prepared it!
  4. When storing herbal powders, keep in air tight containers. Herbal powders oxidize very quickly. They need to stay extra air tight so no moisture can get in, and they are less exposed to oxidation.
  5. Timeline of expiration: Alcoholic based tinctures last the longest (about 1-3 years); Dried herbs for tea (when stored well) can last for up to 6-7 months. They should always smell aromatic!; Herbal powders have the shortest shelf life because they have been powdered. Once an herb has been processed this much, more surface area is exposed, thus leading to oxidation more quickly.

Read More: Guide to Herbal Preparations

When you’re curating your own herbal apothecary, remember to only accumulate what you need. It’s very easy to amass far too many herbs that you never end up using, so keep track of how quickly you’re going through your supplies and order sparingly. If you’re looking for a small collection of bottles, tins, labels, jars or herbal recipe cards, Herbal Academy has a beautiful collection to get you started. If you’re ordering bulk herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, in the check out section you can request they send you sticker labels for each herb ordered. These work great on large jars to label your herbs. And I always recycle my jars when I’ve emptied them. I have a large collection of empty jars that I use for pantry storage, herbs, gifting herbal blends, or travel containers.

I’d love to see your home apothecary too! Share by using #curatingmyapothecary <3

Read More: Intuitive Tea Blending 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

High summer gatherings are oh my gosh so magical. Everything is bursting outside and laden with the heaviness that late summer brings. The air is heavy, the heat is intense, but the opportunity for gathering is incredibly high vibe. Late summer, that is, early August and September, is this in-between season that feels like the deep, deep sleep of summer before the slow and gradual awakening into Fall. The delicate in-between sleepy feeling where you think yourself awake, but you’re not quite on the cusp of reality. That’s what high summer feels like to me. And it’s a glorious time to throw an herbal tea party.

Sustainably Sourced Herbal Tea

The late summer season is the best time to play with your tea blends for iced and overnight infusions, making them cool and refreshing to take the edge off the oppressive heat. So many tea blends are ideal for a summer tea party, especially the fruity, floral and delicate varieties. These infuse sweetly and with a burst of color! My top three favorite teas for a high vibe summer tea party all come from Mountain Rose Herbs, each one sourced organically and sustainably.

I keep a collection of about a dozen herbal tea blends from Mountain Rose Herbs, including green teas, black teas, flowering teas and herbal teas. There’s one for literally any occasion. Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite place to stock my tea apothecary because they’re committed to sustainable sourcing for every single herb, and they never stock conventionally grown botanicals – only organically grown. When certified organic materials are not available, they opt for those cultivated without chemicals or synthetic inputs.  And their formulas are some of the best I’ve ever had –  absolutely delicious! Here’s what I’m serving at my high vibe summer tea parties:

Herbal Tea For a Summer Tea Party

Love Tea – The gorgeous tea blend that’s the showstopper of your tea party table. With a floral, sweet flavor and earthy undertones, it’s my favorite to offer upon one’s arrival to my home. A combination of organic damiana leaf, organic roasted cacao nibs, organic roasted carob, organic orange peel, organic rose petals, organic cassia cinnamon chips, and organic French vanilla tea flavoring, it does contain a small amount of caffeine. Brew this up for 3-5 minutes in hot water, and enjoy it’s incredibly delicious aroma and it’s golden yellow color. I find this the best tea to serve to an intimate gathering, to open the heart, and encourage vibrant, connected conversation.

Honeyroo – A most playful summer tea! A combination of Red Rooibos and Honeybush, it’s a sweetly flavored, and gorgeous brick orange color. Brewing up a pot of this aromatic tea conjures the heady aromas of late summer berries, roses, and honey. This is my absolute favorite tea to make a big jug in the morning, and place in the refrigerator or serve iced on the hottest summer days.

Flowering Teas – Organic flowering teas are treasures to keep in your tea cupboard. These are just a total gem of a gift for someone, to serve them a teapot of a floating, budding flower, rich in floral aromas and delicate in sweetness. This is what I serve to someone who needs extra love and emotional support. Dawn’s Delight features choice organic green tea buds blissfully combined with fragrant organic Jasmine flowers. Evening Star contains the same delightful combination of herbs, but sewn in a more traditional “loop” pattern. Marigold Embrace features organic green tea sewn around a stunningly bright organic Marigold flower. Rosebud Revealed tea encompasses the remarkable trifecta of organic green tea, jasmine and rose. You need a glass teapot to watch these botanical beauties slowly uncurl upon! Just add hot water to these tightly woven bundles, and watch them infuse into golden shades. You can try each individually, too!

Read More: Intuitive Tea Blending

Tea Party Accessories

Making herbal teas for a gathering, especially a tea party, can be a visual spectacle. Teas can be your table centerpieces if you let them! Use glass teapots to show off the flowering tea! And sweet celestial tea strainers for the floral infusions. I also keep a variety of mesh teaspoons on hand for quick, one cup infusions. I’m a mug collector, and my cupboards are way too full with mugs and tumblers and ceramics. Everyone get’s to chose their own mug (it’s like a funky personality test if you’re an herbal nerd like me). Pretty colorful plates, fresh seasonal fruits, and your favorite local honey will make your high vibe summer tea party exquisite. I’d love to see what you’re creating this summer with your tea gatherings, too! Tag your photos with #curatingmyapothecary and let’s take a peek!

Read More: Creating an Herbal Apothecary At Home

Photography by Renee Byrd