The Commodification of Self Care and The Terrible Art of Relentless Self Love

 

“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.”    

-Beau Taplin

On most days, I am not sure what love is. Or if I’ve ever felt it true in my bones. I know that I have tried. And I know, that it has never been enough. In a society that preys on my unhappiness, there are days when I am just an empty gutter of knowing my oppressors have won. I am unsure of what love is, not because I have not loved immensely. Rather, how do we know what love is when there are systems that thrive off of our self love decay?

I want to make sure. Wholeheartedly sure, that I am not upholding the standard of beauty that profits off of the idea of healthy meaning “the white pure body.” I am not selling something to feed our demons of shame,  tired, and pity until we wind up empty handed. There is a debate of whether the idea of self care is a privilege. Whether it has a place in radical movements. Whether there is space for thinking of one’s needs. If it is possible for the needs of the individual to not be in opposition to the needs of the community.

I bristle when people say “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.” How dare you curse me like that. I am unlearning decades of self hate and it’s inner workings and I can not fight it without love. With every plant I meet, I learn deeper what it means to fall in love, to flirt, to ignite passion. With every failed relationship I gain more understanding of how to respect myself. As a polyamorous radical queer who transcends gender I can tell you without a doubt, my heart has the capacity for more than fixing my broken self. That I aim to love myself so ferociously it breaks open new meaning. Perhaps self love is just the consistent mending of trust and heartbreak, past and future falls, hope and abandoned cells.

There is no cure, only the radical self involvement of the demise of our failed self love. In what ways do you defy?

As someone who has been single more than coupled, consistently considered the “other person”, and fatefully intertwined with how my sadness and chronic pain affect my intimacy, I have the right to talk about love. We learn a lot from the healing of our broken hearts. I’ve mended more than my fair share. Still mending. Forever stitching. Forever a hopeless romantic. That belief in romance keeps me humbled in my political work. It gives me strength to dare to dream outside our current reality. I believe not just in the healing in our guts, but the groundbreaking knowledge that as oppressed people who hold simultaneous opportunities we need to give a damn. And manifest our perfect soul mate within ourselves. Love ourselves because and in spite of how skillful our demons show up.

Listen to me and hide under your covers. Dig deep. Be relentless. Build a blanket fort out of your unspoken desires and stay there until you have memorized every stain on those tacked up sheets. Quiet your soul when you are alone. It’s a loud world. Authenticity, though often the harder road, grips you down into always making the right decision. Plant medicine has taught me that.

The idea of self care got coopted because the institutions that profit off of us never knowing what self love is spits in the worn face of authenticity. Self care became #selfcare because the social media picture of us in the bath is easier to accept then being present in our bodies. It’s true. It’s hard. Not that it isn’t a step in the right direction. But I am wary of the way we market the journey. I am nervous for the impact this cooptation  has on our ability to connect with ourselves and with our capacity to heal. The herbalist community has a responsibility to uphold a holistic model outside of capitalism. It has the ability to be an alternative. Don’t let yourself down.

It’s intimate to ask for help when you are unwell. There is nothing wrong with you because you are a patient. We are all unwell. We are all the patient. We are all trying to take care of ourselves. We are all trying to break free.

The act of self care is different than taking care of yourself. And it is never in opposition with your core values or the values of your community. It is not ignoring your friend but it may be turning off your phone for a while. I think that when we start to see signs of  burnout, #selfcare commodity starts to show up. I wonder what would happen to our nervous systems if we got so so so quiet about the special moments that fuel our love for the work we do, the people we love, our daily moments of gratitude.

In 2006, I decided to only have dates while sober. However, I continued to put myself in dangerous positions. I threw myself into risk, and the consequences grew higher. What I learned from ending up in those bedrooms, those bars, and those lost jobs is that what becoming sober really means. It was my vitality rising up to meet with my integrity. I started to see my anxiety as in opposition to my inner knowing of what I needed to do to end that cycle of hurt. Most of the time, if I tried to have a genuine, and often painfully vulnerable response, my anxiety decreased and thus my active training in self love had begun. There will never be an end. Many roads lead me back to self hate. Redefining this journey will always be crucial in my process of learning how to forgive myself. Every night is a mirror into my morning.

LGBTQQIA Resistance Potion Pic for Website 2016

Because it’s Valentine’s Day season-I am highlighting my LGBTQQIA Resistance Potion for all my powerhouses in the self love game. It’s for the dating and non-dating alike. It’s for survival in the every day. Cultivating  our romantic journey with ourselves happens whether you are single, dating, fucking, married, and some other glorious attempt at connection. We are socialized to feel shame from New Year’s Day to February 14th; perpetually stood up at the altar of a lifestyle that, perhaps, we don’t want in the first place. Anyone who buys a formula from me in the month of February who needs the “I’m single and could use a shout out” discount gets 5% off. I see you.

Some days I wake up with no way out but in. I ask the plants for help to guide us back into that sacred space within ourselves. Do you know what Rose Medicine can do? Roses are all around us. On our tables, in our songs, edging our gardens. The magic of a rose lives up to the hype.

Rosefloweressence

(Photo from my old garden in West Asheville, NC. From my second small batch of Wild Rose Flower Essence)

Rose Flower Essence: 

Helps you to emerge from the past; from grief, defeat, and suffering. This essence helps you to see the world in a new and open way. It helps you to emerge from a disheartened and dispirited state into a “willing to try” place. For those who become resigned to all that happens without any effort to improve things even during the absence of  joy. They have surrendered to the struggles in life and have no motivation to change to make things better. Rose flower essence gives support, motivation and strength to make those changes.

Rose essence increases confidence in those feeling insecure about their sexuality and who have feelings of shame or timidity about their bodies. It can enhances confident sensuality. It helps you to open up to love and bring your desires into action. There is pain in life but also pleasure and this essence softens you to still be open after painful things have happened. I find it useful for those who have experienced multiple traumas to their bodies. It can allow one to relax into the body when the body has every right not to trust touch.

Rose Tea/Tincture

The Rose petals and buds (Rosa spp) are astringent, tonifying to tissues, an antidepressant, ease digestion and soothe irritated skin. I liken it to a deep heavy grateful sigh for each cell in your body. The wilder the rose the better. Next time you see a rose (that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals) place a petal on your tongue. Watch as your tongue puckers to it’s flavor. It’s properties raise each taste bud to attention. Pulling yourself together. Leaving no more room for the heartbreak to live. Without it, you are able to make room for so much more self love than you thought possible within your lonely vessel.

Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Stay strong. Don’t feed your demons. Take out the trash. Holler at a witch.

 

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Welcome to the Sad Kids Club

Welcome to the Sad Kids Club

It’s that time. That moment when color tells it’s story. The maple leaf isn’t just red. It’s red raw; my belly waiting for a phone call. The sassafras turning a brassy yellow- the kind the tulips turn when they sit on my table too long. Brown tinged and holding my lack of upkeep paramount. I can’t just throw them away. I still enjoy them.

I’m laying in the grass for solace. It’s the hue of my grandmother’s ring; tarnished from how I ruin beautiful things.

It’s that time. When the sad kids go into hiding. We cling to the beauty because we know it will fade. Our lovers are squirrels. They gather hope for the winter. I am watching my friends dig holes. We are darting our eyes, averting the past while preparing our nests.

I bargained with my friend who is a gardener. “But can’t I just have a few flowers during the winter?” They exclaimed that I could have pansies. Perfect. Appropriate. I will love them and over water them. Will they get me through winter?

In my practice, I work a lot with folks who speak about winter in a very specific tone. As hesitant and inevitable as the quaking falling leaves. Expectation. Disappointment. Grief for all the days already lost with seemingly no way to stop them.

Let’s stop them. Let’s combat the winter.

 Don’t forget about fall. It’s root digging time.  Send back your energy into what grounds you. Do as the plants do. Show off. Display your own brightness. Do it for yourself-be blinded by your shimmer. Write down said greatness. Place them on tiny pieces of paper around your home. So when you reach into your basket full of onions, you read the words “It is brave to be sad. Sadness fades too. Thus, you are brave. And you are as sad as any bouquet.”(Or something less flowery. Make it yours.) Incorporate inspiration. Your life force shifts in winter; It does not go dormant.

What makes you smirk? Even on your worst days. Your favorite songs. Your oldest friend. Grasp at straws. Write it all down. Put it somewhere you can see. Tell all your friends. Make copies of the map through your sadness. Don’t let these be secrets. There will be times when you don’t know how to ask for help. Your friends want to help. Tell your friends how to remind you so you can hear them. What is your language?

We don’t want to lose one more person to this world.

We don’t want to lose you to winter.

Know your allies. There are so many mood uplifting plants. There are excellent books and zines and herbalist friends (hi! wave.) who can point you in the right direction of which herbs are appropriate for you.

The last step is to start and join projects that inspire and connect you before the winter starts.

In preparation, I am starting a new project. A combat winter project.

Welcome to the Sad Kids Club.

Wanna be in it? Everyone who needs it is invited. The trick to surviving the winter is not isolating. Let’s be on this bandwagon together.

What gets you through? Share your ideas, find out more and join by emailing: takecareherbals@gmail.com

Include your name, email, if you use facebook and what you are specifically excited about as a Sad Kids Club member.

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And remember, healing is not a train that you get on and you are well forever. It is a wagon that you jump on and off of. Ride the rails of. Fall asleep in the back while watching the sunset. The goal is not to be cured. The goal is to know what helps and to teach yourself how to thrive.

*To start off this year’s workshop series I am offering:

Moving Through Our Mental Health Workshop 2015 ONLINE

Moving Through Our Mental Health 

5:30pm to 8:30pm     November 18th, 2015     Firestorm Cafe

Suggested Donation: $20 (no one turned away for lack of funds)

In this class, we will focus on managing depression, anxiety and mental health through a clinical community herbalist’s perspective. We ‘ll discuss food as medicine, supplements and herbal recommendations. Every workshop is from a 
radical healing justice foundation.

*In conjunction with the Sad Kids Club, I am discounting my Fight The Sadness Potion with a 10% discount. Tried and true.

2oz: $18 now $16.

4oz: $36 now $32.40

Buy one with an initial consultation and get 10%off your first visit!

Happy fall. Mean it. Kick up some leaves for me.

Hope y’all join me in the fight and the soar this winter,

Rae

Visibility and Our Health

As social workers, organizers and healers, the nature of confidentiality and disclosure implies that we are not supposed to be seen. However, as hedge witches and community workers know, sometimes those lines blur. Part of the work I do lies in the want to meet my community’s needs. And in order for that to happen, I have to be seen. Today is Transgender Visibility Day, and I am going to talk about the most invisible part of myself in my daily life and work. This is in hopes to connect with you from a part of myself and my community, that I believe, desperately needs a voice. It is also because I can no longer watch the narrative that is forming around gender. I think the mainstream culture has a lot to learn from us.

 

May this be a letter. Let this be a letter to the invisible parts inside all of us. What makes you feel seen? What makes you feel like you can fill up the entire seat you sit in? May this be a letter. To every single version of conversations on gender involving gender-neutral pronouns and transgender identity.

 

As gender queer, gender-variant, androgynous people, we are invisible. When we state our identity, we are met with the faces of decipher. We gently watch the wrinkles morph and change as they try and figure us out. We are invisible because you look to the bookends of gender. Immediately clinging to the sides of what is familiar before the discussion of who we are can even form. We are invisible because we talk about grammar before we even begin to talk about ourselves.

 

You never ask who we are, so you never know.

 

Being androgynous is not a questioning. It is a solid feeling of knowing yourself. The cisgender and transgender communities define us as “not-like” something, but we are, in fact, something. We are breaking confounds by our nature and rallying the troupes of bravery in our hearts to be that something. We are invisible because the conversation relates back to how we are, in relation to you. I am not your gateway from one sexuality to another. If you see us as stepping stones, you do not see us.

 

And trust me, when I say, our bodies show the remarks. When you treat the conversation of who we are like a hassle, we hide ourselves. We are invisible because we learn how to disappear.

 

How does invisibility effect the body? Our shoulders cave in. Our heads point down towards the ground. We stand in corners. We live in the sidelines and after thoughts. We are in the parentheses of gender conversations. Included but never solely about. We are not a public dialogue, because our gender does not match each other. My identity is not like every genderqueer person I have met. In fact, it is here where the damage lies. I am not like others, but that does not make me alone.

 

Think of a moment where someone told you something about your gender you didn’t agree with? Think what it felt like to defend that about yourself? Think about a lifetime of defense.

 

That’s why we don’t look you in the eye. Wearing knives on our belts and swords around our hearts. We protect against you and then we protect against each other. Never connecting and so we prove the world correct. We are alone and we are invisible, right?

 

As an herbalist, I look to the plant profile of Creosote Bush. It’s flower essence is specific for the ancient sense of being forever alone. Self isolation is an epidemic in the genderqueer community. This reality we tell ourselves;  we are alone because we are too different for others to understand, is bare witness by this yellow desert flower. Creosote takes the skin cells and heals them while the damage is happening. It promotes the sense of lightness emerging so that you can manifest into the reality of connectedness.

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(photo credit to Deon Reynolds)

But, for every time I sigh and you know what I mean, the breath is seen.

For every moment you ask me first how I would like to be referred to, we create a new feedback loop for the gender oppressed. Please note: This is only how I like to be referred to, and not who I am.

 

For every moment two androgynous people walk down the street and you do not assume their genders, in your mind, we make waves. For every restaurant interaction that does not end in “Thanks ladies”, we leave our braced selves at the table.

 

We are the air bubbles coming up from the bottom of the conversations on gender. Today on Transgender Visibility Day, I am not interested in what people think I should show them.

 

As a healer, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to hold space for my clients. I want you to feel like whoever you are, you can be that, in my presence. I want the whole of your self to be visible, and the health concern you came in for a small part of how you feel seen. This interaction also means that I have to learn to not hide myself. This isn’t to say that being a practitioner is about me. It’s not. But, I believe that the more genderqueer people that see each other, the more we see ourselves. And the more the transgender community asks us to join conversations without assuming that we water down your struggles, the more we become something other than air bubbles. We become part of the waves that crash down on the confines of oppression.

 

I have had this idea swirling around for years now. Unable to bow my head to the suggestions that people make on the subject. It’s time to connect the dots on how we take up space and how it takes hold of our health.

 

Let this be a letter to my genderqueer comrades.

Take herbs that ground you. Put the hatred you have for yourself on a shelf. Bottle it. Label it. You can revisit it in a moment. But for now, take in 5% of your body being your body. And treat it well. Drink your tea with friends. Hear them laugh at your jokes. Fall asleep with your pinky wrapped around someone else’s pinky. Remember that you are not a sum of how others see you. You even hold hands different. Each special moment makes us more alive. That’s a treasure not a curse.

 

Change the narrative. There is a lot the world can learn from the spaces between. There is a lot the world can learn from settling into the variance.

 

What can the world learn from the gender variant community?

1. At any point in your life, you can re-invent yourself.

2. At any point in your life, you can become more of the self you want to be.

3. At any point you can show the world a different side of yourself then you normally share.

4. By transcending the options we are taught to have, we will find a more true version of ourselves. At any point we can live outside the confines of conformity.

5. How to embody change in the wake of a stagnant culture.

6. When you realize something about yourself that is different, and you are brave enough to tell the world, it makes the world an easier place for everyone to be their unique selves.

 

This is terrible bitter work.

 

Hey progressive and radical folks, we need your help. This work isn’t a hassle, it’s necessary to transform what is already happening in the right direction. Let it be intentional. Let it rise out of your chests like a song.

 

Grab your yarrow, feel safe within your boundaries. Stick your mugwort under your pillow and dream big. Take the mint in your yard and stare at it’s hairs under a microscope. We are all bristly and refreshing. Drink your nettles, your hawthorn, your motherwort and imbibe this notion:

 

Everything in this world has a sharp thorn and a nutritive vein. The only thing that will stop the sting is to be yourself so fiercely it bends to the touch of your tongue.

 

It’s time to make ourselves visible. So that the rest of our lives aren’t spent thinking we aren’t enough.

 

Don’t tell yourself the lies you have been told. That is the pressure that causes us to be at the bottom of the ocean floor, getting only bubbles to the top. We could be feasting on the oxygen above. You too. You are not the exception. The whole of yourself is still a self.

 

For every person who has said that “they/them” is not correct grammar. Pick a different battle. Join your friend as they fight to be seen. That is what that act means to us. You could be that friend. It is a careful moment, don’t meet us with disgust, distaste or fear. Meet us in the work. Don’t help us settle.

 

When genderqueer folks come into my office, we don’t talk about being genderqueer. I mean, we can if it’s needed. But instead, we talk about their health. We talk about their bodies as whole bodies. I ask them what language they use to refer to body systems and parts. Not assuming is a radical health care act. What we don’t have to talk about, is a radical act too. Because the visibility is not in the avoidance of a topic. It is in the, “I don’t know you, so I will ask” conversation. The back and forth.  

 

We could be having so many conversations with each other. Don’t ask how to not get caught in your belief in the binary. That’s not being a good friend. That is being afraid of what you do not know. Get to know us. Because when we are seen, we are beautiful. And then, we can take better care of ourselves and each other. Like a community being written.

A Seriously Good Deal

Hey friends,

   This time of year seems to be a specific time of transition. It is the ending of cycles. The beginning of our rest. It can also be the time where we could use a little help. That is just the right time to take your tinctures.

These are the potions that I am choosing to highlight. They are the ones that I have given most to clients this year. They are the herbs that I have gotten to know better and seen how they shine when paired with each other.

Cheers to noticing the beautiful things about the beginning of winter. I hope you all bring in 2014 by taking care.

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Image from:http://sharonmcconnel.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/vintage-moon.jpg

To challenge the notions of abundance in our culture, especially this time of year,

Here is a seriously good deal.

Each of these potion formulas will be 15% off from December 17th until January 16th.

From the last full moon this year to the first full moon in the next.

That means:

1 oz=$5.95, 2 oz=$11.90, 4oz=$23.80

Pain Potion: For achey muscles, joint pain and to ease the mind during bouts of discomfort.

Grief/Heartbreak Potion: Giving your heart hands to hold it. During times of grief, transition, heartbreak,

and/or feeling the heavy weight of the world.

Sleep Tuff/ Dream Big Potion: To help you fall asleep and dream big.

Allergies Potion: The dust, must, cat, and dog dander buster.

Anxiety Potion: Helps calm your nervous system when you need a little extra help.

         Helpful for panic attacks or during times of extra stress.

Headache potion: For when heat helps your headaches and you want to stop the headache in it’s tracks.

Nip it in the bud: Quitting Smoking blend. To assist you in the process of cutting down or quitting.

To Order:

If you live in the Asheville area I have office hours by appointment all day Saturday and Weekdays after 5pm.

If not, I can ship to you or your friends.

Take Care,                          

Rae                           

Healing is Hard

Healing is Hard (chair pic)

Healing is Hard.

Today I want to offer hope to those who are in the trenches of deep work. Now may be the time for fighting, but you are not alone in the war. Who’s with you? Make a list.

Part of our jobs as healers is to recognize our client’s ability to heal themselves. This is often, the hardest part for a person to see. Herbalists have to believe it for them. I like to break it down, organize it, wrap a nice a bow around it, and then hand it to my client like a present. Like an illustrated book on their vital selves. I do all that before I even think about herbs. Because first, we find the vital (chi/qi) seed and water it. Then we find the hope seed and plant it. Then we find the mirror seed and point it towards the sun. And lastly, we find the plants that have also been through the water, planting and sunlight, to match-make the work to be done. Herbalists are not only healers, but we are dreamers, believers, and organizers.

This month my body has remembered that it is fighting a war. It had forgotten for a while, having not seen the enemy or it’s repercussions in a while. Those of us that are survivors don’t need an explanation. It’s just life. And honestly, i wasn’t taught how to see beauty. And yet, I see it now. That we have more tools then we are taught. Unearth the trowels and dig deep. Break a sweat. Smell yourself standing in your visceral truth. Mine, is that I am not only fighting for life, I am fighting for so much more.

So, this month, I am offering you the tools that have helped me, my clients, my friends, and comrades. What I am going to focus on today is the concept of safety.

Identify your resources and use them:

1. Make as long a list as you can of every resource you can think of. Start with the simple stuff. And then go deeper. Don’t stop until you have a clear understanding that you have more then you realized.

For example, instead of writing “friends”, name that friend, and write down why they feel safe or helpful to you. Make it nice. Add some glitter. HANG IT UP.

2. Take 5 minutes and go for a walk or sit outside. Contemplate what makes you feel Safe. If you hit road blocks and start thinking about how not safe you feel. That’s ok. Let it out of your mind…and then keep going until you find at least 1 way and/or in 1 time in your life you have felt safe. Focus on how your body and mind felt in that moment. Try and hold on to that feeling for as long as you can. Remember that we are not made up of only our worst moments.

3. Flower Essences. Being able to feel our boundaries as we walk through the world as permeable people is essential. Maybe today your boundaries feel like iron. Maybe tomorrow you allow a window inside that iron wall to let some light in. You decide the materials, the structure, the look. Here are some flowers that help us feel safe in quiet strength.

A. Yarrow: Used for thousands of years for protection. You can also take the tincture in drop doses or dry the flowers and hang around your house.

B. Solomon’s Plume (aka False Solomon’s Seal): To clearly see one’s boundaries so they can exert themselves with confidence. To trust that you will not cross those boundaries and that no one else will without your permission.

Solomon’s Seal Flower and Berries from saunteringoregon.com

C. Vervain and/or Rose can be used for those that feel inflexible when it is necessary to be slightly more open.

D. Centaury: For those with a recurrent theme of personal boundaries being overstepped, because the will to create and enforce those boundaries is wavering. Encourages one to find it’s own power by respecting and supporting oneself.

E. Gentian: For those discouraged by setbacks.

4. Herbs: Plants know the hard work of growth.

*Note: All the flower essences can be taken as tinctures as well.

A. Wild Lettuce Tincture: For those that feel disorganized, scattered and easily agitated during times of feeling unsafe, triggered, or vividly remembering unsafe times. For those that are walking through the world assuming this will be each experience.

B. Motherwort: Protects while nurtures. Relaxes the nervous system. Can give a message of “Things are going to be alright.” and “You are not alone”.

5. Small daily/weekly/monthly practices. Reinforcing and reminding myself of my strength and ability to do hard work has been one of my biggest allies. It can be as easy as writing one sentence down before going to bed at night. It can be as elaborate as taking yourself out on a date to the coffee house to journal. A dear friend and amazing herbalist once suggested that I take new moon and full moon baths. On the new moon, I release everything I want to get rid of. On the full moon, I take in the abundance as I submerse in water. It has helped me feel grounded, centered and focused on my wants and needs so they don’t take over my thoughts or interactions.

A note on “Self Care”: I’m not talking about creating a “self care” routine. I am talking about taking care of yourself as a way of life. The distinction makes all the difference.

A note on Organizer Burn out: It’s real. It happens to every social worker, every healer, every person who has stepped foot in a grassroots field. It makes sense. The world is not set up to support the supporters. While I am in full support of changing these models, we need help presently. Here is my general activist burn-out formula. It resets and recharges the nervous system. For those who have bottomed out energy levels due to pushing too hard. For those who need an herbal hand holding in their work. I would add some sort of intention statement on the bottle that you can say as you take it. It may seem cheesy to some. In that case, glue stick on an image that reminds you of hope. My last one said: “You are doing the best you can. You are enough.”

Activist Burn-out Formula: Milky Oats, Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, Motherwort, Rose.     (Go ahead, add some of those boundary flower essence suggestions in there!)

When the work gets too hard. Stop. I give you permission. Every small drop you take to becoming who you want, is a drop worth taking. The rests are just as important. You will get there. As herbalists we can believe it for you. We’ve seen whole nervous systems change and passionflowers bloom from seed.

What I wish for you, is for the work to not feel like work. What I hope is that you see the change as it’s happening before you move onto the next thing. What I believe in, is a community that supports you during your worst moments. What I strive for is an easier world. Like a Smilax tendril reaching for the sun, only to find another plant to embrace, and build a new world with.

In solidarity. Take care. Stay Strong.

*If you would like to have any of these herbs, flower essences, or formulas. Please feel free to contact me. I have them for sliding scale donation. I am also available if you would like a consultation or brainstorming session.

Anger Is A Seed

Anger is a seed.
As is grows, it rips through our insides, taking root in vulnerable places.
Where do you experience your anger?
For me, I feel it like a jittery bug inside, stemming from my chest. It wants to cover my body and mind in it’s poison.

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Photo from Corinna Dross’s Portable Fortitude Card Deck

As an herbalist, when I am asked what I suggest for anger, I never quite know how to give the small, conversational answer. My knowledge base is in Western Herbalism and Vitalism. But I am also a social worker. So, when someone wants to work with anger, I start with the seed.

Think of how strong an emotional response it is. Anger is an important vital sign. In other words, it takes a lot of energy to be mad. I like to visualize both the anger seed and the vitality seed growing side by side. Anger grows into fire, which can show up as heat conditions in the body, most commonly in your digestion, liver and skin. I wonder if vitality growing, in this case, is why we can  “live off of hate”.

To battle fire with fire, I would pull out all the ammo. Start with cooling herbs that calm the nervous system, ease digestion, and cleanse the liver. Vervain and Dandelion Root are special enough to meet all three criteria.

Vervain  (Verbena officianalis) an herb that is often known in the Asheville neck of the woods for helping those that judge ourselves too harshly and thusly also judge others. This cooling, pungent bitter is indicated specifically for dispelling fears, clearing out old patterns of behavior and aiding in new encoding. I like to think of it like petting an agitated cat.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalus) is a commonly talked about herb. I will add to this dialogue by saying that there is a power in weeds that as humans we need to be humbled by. They understand rocky places, the parts inside of ourselves where we believe nothing can grow…dandelion takes root and heals. As much as we can physiologically understand the properties of dandelion, it’s energetics are inexplicably helpful. As a flower essence, Dandelion is used for physical problems with your liver or gallbladder, or for experiencing old anger and rage turner either inward, outward, or both.

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Dandelion Flower picture from http://wallpaperscraft.com

Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis) is an often under appreciated herb in western herbalism. I came to fall in love with it’s mildy nutty flavor and soothing nature while in Colorado living at 7200 ft. Or as I liked to call it, a dehydration field day where even biscuits couldn’t rise. It helps your body to absorb water and other nutrients in part by healing the gut lining and allowing maximum hydration. However, it also has a nervine action to it. Although slight, this makes it a key player in formulas that effect digestion and nerves. If you are “too upset to eat” or your stomach matches your emotions, try making a cold infusion of Marshmallow Root (cut and sifted works best).

We couldn’t talk about an emotional response without mentioning the heart. Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), intuitively comes to mind. It is bitter so it will influence the liver to work more effectively and cleansing out excess hormones. It is also known for possessing a nurturing energetic quality to the heart.

An extra herb in your formula that is going to relax the nerve cells seems critical here. Whether you are building an everyday formula or for acute situations, you want one that addresses the individual’s nervous system picture. For a burnt out person, try Milky Oats (Avena sativa). For a grief stricken picture try Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha) (and read my article on the Dark magic of grief). For a person who wants to fight try Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). For the person who wants to leave their body, try Kava Kava Root (Piper methysticum).  For the irritated person, a vulnerary herb comes to mind. Perhaps Marshmallow Root (mentioned above) or a Violet leaf (Viola).

Incorporating daily herbs into what we eat can be a great way to take our medicine. Grinding up Milk Thistle seeds and adding it to your food is a great way to boost your liver’s functioning. For someone experiencing the Fight response on the regular, I would suggest 2 Tablespoons daily.

If you experience out-of-body anger include herbs that are grounding and nutritive. The Doctrine of Signatures suggests roots and rhizomes as grounding medicine. Anenome (Anenome quinquefolia) an inconspicuous small white flower in the Appalachian mountains ( in drop doses) is known for bringing people down from extreme highs.

Getting the energy moving and out is also a powerful part of the process. Never underestimate the power of a good long walk. Keep moving until you are coming back into yourself. Or write it out, with out judgement, and then throw out or bury the piece of paper. Do any rituals that you find helpful to letting go.

I wonder how age plays a difference in how we experience emotions. With a hoarse throat and a thin voice, screaming sometimes is the only thing that makes you feel heard. Taking the flowers of a nervine, perhaps Pedicularis and Lavender and infusing them in honey are a nurturing and sweet counteractive spell for the pain in a young one’s heart.

Anger is a seed. Our deepest emotions are often our most powerful teaching tools. I don’t believe we shouldn’t be angry. There is much injustice in this world, and anger is an understandable response. But it likes to linger in a damaging way. So, when it’s time to move forward, there are plants ready to help. What grows in it’s place is still unwritten.

The Dark Magic of Grief

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Photo by Paul Kirtley of http://paulkirtley.co.uk

Everyone talks about grieving in terms of a science of stages. There is also a period of dark magic. Of being connected to the cycles of the earth, to our own mortality, and to our life’s path. This is one of the many reasons herbal medicine can be so helpful during a time of loss. The plants nurture, in part, because they are connecting to the part of you that is connected to the whole.

Pick up a violet (Viola spp). Notice the heart shape of the leaf. Is it broken, torn, bruised? Does it still maintain it’s wholeness within that state? Place it into your mouth and chew. Visualize the fleshy stem sliding down your throat, past your tonsils, and stopping at your heart. In what ways is it speaking to you? Access the part of yourself that understands what it feels to be grounded. Feel your feet on the floor and then alternate between the sensation in your heart. Picture the leaf regaining it’s original form and healing your cells and your hurt. Let it travel farther down now into your stomach. If there is unease, notice how Violet has a mucilaginous texture. It coats the digestive tract and soothes cell walls. Take in all the Violet has to offer. Thank the plant for offering it’s gift of healing and continue to come back to this healing place as needed.

When I first moved to Asheville, I was living in a community house with 9 people in it. It was that time of year where heartbreak and lust were both very catching. All at once we had three heartbroken friends living under the same roof. At any given time you could hear the sounds of the riffs that were being made and repaired in their hearts. Tears staining cheeks. The downfall of romance was like our puppy being crate-trained. I quickly left, for a walk in the woods.

As I trailed, I thought about my friends. I collected every Violet heart leaf I could find. I made sure it was the ones that were ripped, torn, abused heart shapes of all sizes. The ones I normally would overlook for medicine. I took them home and made this syrup. The molasses providing vitamins, minerals and nourishment to those whose appetite was lost. The sweet and the bitter of this syrup matching that of the complexity of love. We can only hope to take in all that love has to offer, knowing that it won’t always leave us whole. And that, in truth, it usually will leave us. I served it up with almond milk and hugs that last a little too long.

Broken Hearts Violet Syrup

Molasses

Yellow Dock

Broken Violet Leaves

Almond Milk (Or milk of your choice)

For instructions on how to make a medicinal syrup preparation go here:

http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/newsletter/07/november/extractsnovember.html

With heartbreak, there is a loss accompanied with a lack of hope. That you won’t find the fleeting feelings again. Cherishing those attributes you never noticed while they were in the present. Like gifts we open too quickly.

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photo found in the “la tres sainte trinosophie”

Grief also opens up the can of worms we know as boundaries. There is a formula of David Winston’s my health collective likes to use. It is a perfect example of synergy in a formula. Mimosa is for understanding your boundaries clearly, the Hawthorn is good for putting up those boundaries, and the Rose is for keeping yourself open while those boundaries are being tested and navigated. When passed around my Advanced Herbalism class at NAIMH, one very attuned student said that it made her feel like her heart was being held for her, so that she could let go of the holding and just feel safe. I have seen it work specifically during times where heartbreak,grief or emotions were taking over. It has also proven itself useful when working with unresolved PTSD and trauma.

The Heart of the Matter

Hawthorn (berry and flower) (1 part)

Mimosa (dried bark) (1 part)

Rose (preferably percolation of petals) (1/2 part)

1-3 Dropper-fulls 3 times per day or as needed (do not exceed 11 dropper-fulls per day)

*NOTE: a Dropper-full is when you squeeze the dropper of a tincture bottle one time. (Approx 30 drops) You do not have to make sure the entire dropper is full; one squeeze is the measured amount.

Death is a different kind of grief. There is an emptiness that tragedy digs as it’s special kind of hole. Our town, community, and world lost a dear friend recently to suicide. It has me thinking a lot about grief as a process. Hearing the many complexities of my friends words, all wishing with every part of them that their will was able to enact magic. Go back in time, extend the love that they feel, and ultimately, get her back. I don’t think herbs are meant to be used during a necessary process of healing such as this. However, they can help us handle it better. Navigate the hurt like the sailors in the dark storm that we are. Like a prayer in saddest of times we ask the plants. Give me courage of Osha roots, cleanse me with Sweet birch bark, Help me handle this harsh world with Milky Oats, and quiet my nerves with Lavender. Give me hope that we can learn to be good to each other. Better then good, to hold each other during times of grief no matter what emotions show up.

The discussion for herbalists and grief is ongoing. When I asked friends about their use of plants in this way, I got some wonderful suggestions including these two below.

1. Black Birch Ritual Bath: Cleanses the smell of death off of you. Add lavender for cleansing, quieting the rushing of tears and relaxing the nervous system.

2. Traditionally, Thyme was used for grief. Place around your house, drink in a tea, cook in food, or diffuse the essential oil (small amounts and use as directed!)

This article is also being posted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. While this storm devastated a town I consider a part of my home, I have seen the healing that is stirring from the bay to the ocean. In all that we loose, we gain gratitude. Humbled, we proceed in a parade of solemn horns and a debris cacophony. On the other side, is strength.

 Do you have any ideas or experience using the suggestions above? Post in the comments and let’s continue the conversation.