Summers are warm to hot and these days with climate changes they are even hotter. Gardening for almost 50 years I know it's hotter because of how it feels on my skin and the look of the plants. So air conditioning and swimming aside, how can herbs help to keep us energetic (I get so slow and tired in all the heat) and cool, comfortable and able to enjoy this exquisite fruiting and flowering season.
There are a few obvious ways like mint chopped into food, added to fruit smoothies and cool teas. The same is true for lemon and lime, even just a twist in your water bottle. Which brings up hydration as a primary way to stay functional and happy in the heat. A few quarts of water or half of your body’s weight in ounces is a rule of thumb.
People tend to go for ice, but cool probably is easier on the stomach but I do love mineral-rich Nettles and Oats tea with a spoonful or raw honey and some oat milk over ice in a bottle. I make the tea strong and as the ice melts in my car or in the garden or on a hike it adds even more water.
I find flowers quite cooling and calming in summer. My favorite drink lately cooled or room temperature is skullcap herb, a stellar nervine and so calming with rose petal extract with some glycerite. You can just add the extracts to your water bottle and you will have no trouble hydrating because it is delicious. Putting a few leaves of mint in the jar makes it my own mint julep minus the bourbon and with the extracts for the alcohol part.
Cucumbers make a refreshing drink when slices are added to a jar of water. The taste is mild but definitely cooling. A tiny pinch of sea salt or sprinkle of seaweed in the jar make this mineral-rich as well.
Vegetables are full of strengthening minerals and vitamins. This is a great time of year to juice and throwing lemon into the mix, turmeric, and few mint leaves is delicious. Then take your juice like carrot, beet, lemon, and tomato if you have them abundantly and then put it in the blender with an avocado and it is a quite nourishing source of energy that is very easy to digest and is so satisfying.
Watermelon can be blended and strained from pits, a twist of lime in the resulting juice and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt is another fun summer drink that cools the body down.
These herbal and food sources take us further than some of the typical summer choices like ice cream or even ices with sugar. Sugar is heating and it drains us no matter how delicious. But who can resist really great gelato? It’s just not my everyday go to as these options are.
Be Well, Stay Cool and enjoy the wonder of summer.
It’s nettle season! Time to add nettles to all your favorite foods like soups, grains, and for this recipe: desserts!
Enjoy and share with your friends! Make it again!
Keep the cake covered and it will last for 3-4 days on your counter. The recipe is adapted from myjewishlearning.com.
...COVID - It’s scary, it’s over, it will never be over, it might surge... And what about the planet and the politics and the violence and tick-borne illness and and and…
Who is to blame and why am I so stressed?
A long opening for a blog about our shared current reality, no matter who or where you are. Meanwhile, one cannot deny that things look sort of normal in early spring here in New England. Ukraine has no normal. And climate change is impossible to deny wherever you are.
How do we stay grounded and sane in such a soup? How can herbs help us at a time like this?
The first thing to consider is how we are affected and then, what can lessen the impact.
Even as an herbalist, the first thing I think of is breathing, deep, long, slow and fine (as in even, relaxed and continuous). But to refine it further, breath only or as much as possible through your nose, not your mouth. And if you want to take it a notch further, lengthen your exhale slightly. For instance, inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for 4-6 or even longer.
This will down-regulate the sympathetic part of the nervous system (fight and flight) and turn on the parasympathetic part (rest and digest). This breathing will impact and destimulate the adrenal glands so we secrete less cortisol and adrenaline.
Herbally, most everyone can benefit from herbs that support the nervous system like Oats, Nettles, Skullcap, and St. Johnswort (don’t take St. Johnswort if you already take an SSRI) or our Nerve tonic.
For the Adrenals, use our Adrenal Support Formula or single use of Ashwaganda, Holy Basil, or Eleuthero. These types of herbs would need to be taken for a longer period of time for effect though they could be felt immediately in some folks. And they can be taken long term.
With so many stressors flying around the immune system is down-regulated and weakened. Medicinal Mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Chaga, Maitake, and also Astragalus, and Ashwaganda are all great support for the deep immune system.
It wouldn’t be wrong or redundant to do an Immune formula AND an Adrenal tonic.
We can formulate a formula unique to you if you would like some help choosing herbs for yourself. Check out the information to schedule a consult with Bonnie or if you know what you want just use the designation for Custom Formula and send us the formula with how much of each herb, or have your practitioner do that and we will compound it and send to you.
Meditate & Move
One of the best antidotes to stress is to include people and activities that you love into your experience every day or as often as you can. Meditation can settle a wild mind and if you can’t sit, walk or follow the breath as you move around in your day.
Or watch the birds, or practice deep listening to others. There are a thousand ways to kiss the sky. Thanks Jimi!
No matter how much any of us know, we never ever know it all. We tend to only see some of the stripes on the beach ball which represents our situation.
Sometimes what to do is so clear and yet even as an experienced herbalist I still sometimes don't feel like I know what to do. Sometimes I'm unsure how can I use herbs efficiently and appropriately for the change I am trying to make or I don’t know how to use the plants to go deeper, underneath the symptoms into the underlying matrix that they arise out of.
That is when I talk to an ND (naturopathic doctor) or functional medicine MD or NP or another herbalist to get another view, more ideas, and a deeper look.
So my rule of thumb for seeking out a pro is this: If I'm not seeing enough change over a period of time or just don’t know what else to do, I get help.
There are times when the best thing to do, given the body's basic intelligence and the power of the mind, is to treat the constitution rather than the condition.
We change over time too, hopefully getting more balanced and stronger and calmer but sometimes life gives a triple whammy, the big stuff happens and we need to recalibrate.
This can be hard to figure out yourself especially if you aren't used to thinking this way and that is a good time to see someone and talk it over. Maybe it’s time for more rest or for a cleanse.
We have habits of thinking so it can be good to break the habit of being ourselves and doing things the same way. Our own go-to herbs or formulas or supplements or diet may not be helping us anymore or deeply enough.
For instance, the change of seasons (as in winter to spring or fall into winter) are great times to do a bit of a program and strengthen constitution AND work to avoid the symptoms that come up in the approaching season for instance allergies in spring or going into winter from fall various respiratory issues.
Sometimes the cost of care out of pocket feels too big a price to pay but if you prepare well and ask good questions and find someone you feel heard and seen by, the benefits can last a long time or at least get you going in a good direction.
You can learn more about how our consults work here. We are still doing zoom meetings as it is so convenient, especially for those at a distance or in a different time zone. You can call or email me here to schedule your consultations.
Together we will consider how herbs can support you. We will spend about 60 to 75 minutes in our first appointment. This gives us time to assess and make adjustments. We might also discuss diet, exercise, supplements, or other wellness practices like breath, bodywork, yoga meditation, etc.
In the meantime, we're always happy to answer your emails with questions about the plants themselves. They hold many keys to great good health.
Be Well and enjoy the coming of Spring.
The short answer is we don’t know. Most of us don’t like that answer. We don't know how long Covid will continue to dominate our lives, if it will resurge with the new subvariant or quietly become endemic like flu. We don't know, given climate change, what the garden/growing season will be like either. And let’s not talk about the political and social incoherence.
So how can plant medicine be useful to us? In shifting sands, how do we even know how to protect and resource ourselves? For me, the answer is always go local, meaning my body, my local environment and whatever issues are in my face AND strengthening my nervous system, in whatever ways I can so that the variability, and instabilities take less of a toll on me and I can be more part of the solution. So what would that look like?
Each person is different but the basics of constitutional and condition apply and they are worth thinking about. So what am I talking about?
We are all born with genetics, a body type, a background and therefore we have tendencies. Herbs are very helpful in mediating or balancing all of that. For instance, I am tall and thin and tend to be very high wired and can lean a bit toward anxiety (regardless of what triggers me). I always bit my nails and had a nervous stomach even though I sleep well but I have a lot of crazy dreams and even nightmares. I'm sensitive emotionally.
Those are all things I can work with with my mind and heart BUT I really benefit from herbs that are calming and grounding and toning to my nervous system, like Valerian, Skullcap, St. Johnswort, Hawthorne, Passionflower, etc. These herbs are always good for me.
Rooty herbs like Dandelion and Burdock, Astragalus and Shatavari work well too as does Marshmallow because it is so moistening and my airy nature and outdoor life in sun and wind make me very dry. Licorice is moistening and it also helps my easily agitated stomach. These are just a few examples of herbs I use often.
In the summer when we farm herbs and grow flowers and vegetables I work the hardest of all year. I need herbs that are strengthening like Eleuthero, Ashwaganda, Astragalus, Saw Palmetto, Schizandra and He Shou Wu. I find these to augment my energy and support the extra physical demand while keeping me calm and happy.
Also, if it is very hot as our summers have been, I might use Peppermint, Spearmint, Hibiscus and Holy Basil.
After the heavier food of winter as the days lengthen and spring emerges, the classical Liver season in Chinese Medicine, I might take a spring tonic of Burdock, Yellow Dock, Artichoke, and/or Dandelion for a month, just to help my body relinquish and clear its accumulations. This often makes me feel lighter and brighter.
We often associate herbs with conditions but we can start to use them to balance our energy and our well-being as we change, the seasons change and our world goes on its wild way.
One can always check in with an herbalist or practitioner to refine the picture but it is often a great learning experience to just meet the herbs by trying them and seeing how they feel whether its with a tea blend or an extract.
I invite you to make some new friends in the herbal community.
We are grateful for the longer days, the birdsong and the emergence of Spring. May we all know a peaceful, abundant, adventure and health in 2022.
Have you ever wondered…..They say herbs have been used by humans for thousands of years….BUT how can I use them, now, in my life in these times? And then the thought trails off into a google search or a book or magazine or instagram looking for information.
Maybe you go to a naturopath or herb-literate doctor or nurse and they tell you what you can do but they don't have time to answer your questions.
Before the farm season opens, I'm making myself available to answer your questions via the contact form here. Please reach out if you have questions about the plants themselves, how to use them, or how to make your own medicine, one of my favorite topics. (Please note, this is not for a personal healthcare consult regarding a specific current illness.)
I'm happy to share what I know and help you feel more confident in using plants as a support for a healthy happy life.
Let’s talk about a few plants that mid pandemic, mid winter, mid planetary crisis might be useful to us and WHY that would or could be true.
Immune Health, Sleep and Staying Calm in wild times.
Aside from the obvious of eating well, complete deep breathing, exercise, hydration, healthy and supportive relationships, how can herbs help us support a healthy immune response.
Restful sleep is an area that isn’t easy to support with just herbs, we need to do at least most of the above mentioned healthy habits BUT Ashwaganda is a stellar herb to support good sleep as well as give us strong, even energy throughout the day by helping us stay centered and calm. Herbs like Hops, Passionflower, Valerian, St. John's Wort (if you aren't taking SSRI’s), and California Poppy, are plants that may be an ally for us, together in our Sweet Dreams Formula or separately. *Use code SUPPORT22 for 10% off Sweet Dreams Formula through 2/11/22*
Hops are bitter, sleep encouraging plants. Passionflower is generally soft and gently relaxing. Valerian is like a warm quilt or a weighted blanket, it quiets the heart and relaxes muscles. If your energy tends to go up and get agitated, Valerian may counterbalance.
St. Johnswort is like the sun coming out. It lifts the spirit but without stimulation and soothes the nervous system. For me and my constitution I use Valerian and St. Johnswort together and it is a perfect combo for occasional inability to fall into sleep and stay deep.
California Poppy is like Dorothy and friends on the yellow brick road to Oz. They were lulled into sleep in the field of poppies. California Poppy is a very mild version of the famous poppies and for some people it is a great ally.
Don’t forget the medicinal mushrooms combined in our Immune Tonic: Reishi, Maitake, Chaga, Turkey Tail and Astragalus. These are deep immune supports that can be cooked into soups, taken as extracts or used as powders added to warm drinks. They are fortifying and protective and nourishing. *Use code SUPPORT22 for 10% off Immune Tonic through 2/11/22*
Just as everyone you meet won't become a close friend, you must try the herbs and combinations of herbs until you find your friends, your allies, your support for both everyday tonics and acute or occasional use.
Medicinal plants, in fact all plants, are a whole universe of actions and chemistry and qualities all in the services of healing and balancing us and our planet. I am so grateful for their generosity.
Please email questions and thoughts this month via our contact page and let me know what is on your mind. Be well and (if you are in the northeast) stay warm.
We tend to think of using herbs when we are ill, afraid of becoming ill (as in a pandemic or wintertime or when exposed to germs). When we think of a long, healthy, vibrantly energetic life, we think of luck, genetics or advantageous external circumstances. BUT this is also a good opportunity for using herbs but with different herbs and/or in a different way.
These herbs are mostly what we call Tonic Herbs. They are herbs that improve the structure and function of our bodily systems. They can be nutritious, strengthening, and restorative.
We dose them differently. Compared to herbs taken in acute situations which are usually taken in higher doses and more frequently, tonic herbs are usually taken only once or twice a day in lower doses for longer periods of time.
For example: There was a time in my life when I was under a lot of stress, had just moved, separated from my partner, was working a lot and I knew that I was feeling anything but energetic or vibrant. To give myself support and to return to my best self, I started to take an Immune Tonic and an Adrenal Tonic, both taken 1 time per day in the morning. I did this for about 1 year.
By then I felt that I was really doing well and had energy to do what I wanted and loved, fully and with enjoyment. The return to vitality was gradual, I certainly didn’t feel it in just a few weeks, but I knew I was on the right track and persevered. At the same time, I took other herbs here and there to treat immediate issues or weaknesses. There wasn’t a conflict in doing this, but you can allows check in with an herbalist or naturopath or other practitioner with herbal experience to see if what you are doing is right for you.
The two formulas that I mentioned have herbs that restored me like Astragalus, Eleuthero, Holy Basil, medicinal mushrooms and Ashwaganda. They gave me support and I could feel them strengthening me but when I began to feel better, I also knew I needed to persevere until I felt that I didn’t need them at all anymore. As my strength and mood stabilized and I felt enthusiastic about my life again I tapered by taking them even less frequently and then stopped.
Another situation where one might use a tonic herb of formula is if you have a tendency towards weakness in a certain area or you have a history of certain issues. Then you can use herbs that will help to make that system stronger and function more efficiently so that you aren’t as easily or likely to fall into challenges there.
Perhaps you are a farmer working hard every day, and your back tends to easily feel the stresses and strains of that very physical life. Or you are a singer living a city with less than mountain or sea fresh air and being indoors late at night working. Then, in either case you can use tonifying herbs to strengthen your muscles, ligaments or joints for the farmer or strengthen your respiratory system in the case of the singer.
In the first case, Solomon's Seal, Gotu Kola, Saw Palmetto, Valerian, Crampbark as well as some fish oil and magnesium and hydrating well every day might keep those tissues healthier and less likely to tighten up and strain. For the singer, Cordyceps might be very important. Also, Codonopsis, American Ginseng, Elecampane, Mullien are herbs that can support the lungs well and keep you in the game. Blue Crow Botanicals has a Lung Tonic formula that a man from New York took once a day almost everyday as he navigated his in New York as well as being a singer.
There are so many herbs and each one has chemistry and energy to help us. It takes some time to find out which single herbs or formulas are your personal allies at any given time or your friends for life. When you do find what can be helpful, remember to take them even a few days per week or in the particular season or situation that you need them. Increase or decrease dosage and frequency as you move through your life.
The plants are here for us like good friends. Try them and see which ones you really benefit from over time or return when you need them.
Here in the northeast we are heading into winter, with colder days, heated houses, coats, hats and gloves. This is the time of year we so much want to preserve our respiratory health. Winter is or can be a time of going more inward (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years aside) hopefully resting more, sleeping more because of the delicious darkness and warmth.
That said, I wanted to share a few of our Blue Crow formulas that support respiratory health and to encourage you to try herbal support this winter.
Because of the way we breathe through our nose and mouth, our lungs, noses and throats are open to the outside so they can easily get permeated with pathogens, particulate matter from wood stoves, dry noses from forced hot air or dry, dry indoor spaces.
My first favorite respiratory formula is a tonic, meaning that it will improve the function of that organ. Lung Tonic can be used starting in the fall with a lower dose and taken through the winter if you have the tendency for your lungs to fall prey to winter illnesses.
The next 2 formulas Lung Acute and Lung Clear are used when you have succumbed to something going around and it has settled in your chest. If the lungs seem dry, add a little honey to your dose to moisten tissues. Lung clear has a somewhat more expectorant action.
If you have mostly recovered BUT aren't fully back to yourself after a respiratory event, I have seen great results with using Cordyceps. It has a powerful strengthening effect on the lungs and a few weeks worth should bring them fully back online.
If while you are sick and cough is the biggest difficulty then try our Cough Ease. It can help soothe and quiet the body’s natural impulse to get rid of the mucus that is also a natural function of soothing tissue and surrounding pathogens so they can be coughed out. The body is so intelligent and some of our symptoms when ill are actually helping us to heal, but when they are too pronounced we can intercede.
If your throat is an issue, try our Propolis Throat Spray to soothe and heal tissues.
Of course all the great self care practices are important this winter too, especially rest and hydration.
Relax as much as possible, do what you love, have fun and take time for self reflection. It’s hard in our world but are both powerful tools for resilience.
It seems that building strong immunity is front and center these days. We have a pandemic that probably will be with us as a regular player, increase in stress which lowers immunity, erratic weather and storms, and the general instability of life.
In light of all this and as I turn 71 in a few weeks, I am returning to an old standard of herbal self care that has served me well in the past. I am adding Adrenal Support Formula and Immune Tonic to my morning routine at least 5 days a week. The key word here is Tonic. I am not treating an illness or weakness but rather nourishing, fortifying my Adrenals that help me deal with stress and my Immune system which deals with everything from covid to colds. The goal here is Vitality and tonics help us create that.
It's not herbal, but sleep is one of my new favorite medicines. This is because the nervous system is so overstimulated with our busyness, world news availability, responsibilities and the complexities of modern life (we drive rather than walk to work).
At night our nervous system and our back brain, our limbic brain can unwind itself as the neocortex and all the stim shuts down. Our brain waves slow as we do. This gives our cells a chance to recover and restore. One of my qi gong teachers, Bingkun Hu, who worked a lot with people with all kinds of illness would recommend sleep as a healing modality when ill.
My latest favorite herb for good sound sleep is Reishi, Ganoderma lucidum or tsugai. This herb helps quiet the spirit which in China is called the Shen. Reishi nourishes the heart and mind, is great for the liver and slows allergic hyper activity mediated by its work on the deep immune system. Taking 2-4 droppers before bed can help us fall asleep and stay asleep and have a more peaceful night.
Often a particular system gets impacted in a certain season, like the respiratory system in the winter with all the pathogens circling around. Say that you know you get a few colds or even always get bronchitis in winter. If that's the case, it is wise to start the season before with a Lung Tonic so that even if you do get a cold it will be less symptomatic and clear faster. The idea here is to pre treat the body so the illness doesn’t arise or is less impactful if it does.
When winter comes around I remember the Chinese habit of cooking nourishing restorative qi building herbs in a soup with bones for three days!!! nIt is called Fu Zheng Soup. The name means 'restorative soup' as best as I can understand it.
It can be made in a slow cooker with a lid, an Instapot (pressure cooker), or on a wood stove if attended. I have given this soup to people recovering from illness that has weakened them, postpartum, or just as a winter source of vitality. It is really easy to make, herbs, bones and water. In the last hour you can add vegetables as well. Then everything is removed and the soup is cooled and strained and put into ice cube trays and frozen. Then each day pop out 1-2 of these and heat in a pot and drink. It feels like herbal vitamins. You can really feel an energy pick up (without any caffeine or stimulant).
We will be selling packets of herbs as soon as we gather them all up this month. Probably by end of October. Complete with instructions.
You can buy bones, beef or poultry. I think fish bones might not work for this.
Another powerful immune support is the Breath. Nothing feeds us more than healthy breathing. Even if it is a short practice of conscious breathing before sleep or upon waking one can learn a lot about their own body and state of mind just by observing the breath. You might find your shoulders are up or the ribs or diaphragm aren’t moving or the breath is very shallow which actually can produce anxiety. Attention to the breath can reset our nervous system which will improve immunity. If you have difficulty breathing because of sinus blockage chronically try a rosemary steam with a few drops of essential oils or a handful of sprigs of fresh Rosemary simmered in a pot for ten minutes. Let it permeate your whole house or use a humidifier with the essential oil. Try our Breathe Deep Chest Rub that can be rubbed in front and back for clearing the respiratory system
Most people love elderberry syrup and it can be easily made at home or purchased. If you don’t want to purchase the syrup you can use our elder berry extract and even add ginger propolis, echinacea, or elder flowers to make your own special personal version. This is so supportive to maintaining healthy immunity.
Lastly, a healthy amount of exercise and getting outside is important. Yes, we get tired after work and all the busyness, but Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, American Ginseng, and Licorice can all keep your vitality up. These are non-stimulating tonics that feed and nourish our energy stores. They can be used as singles or in combination (as the Adrenal Tonic mentioned above).
Take care of your precious self.
The most critical guideline for dosing herbs is to listen to your body, feel how herbs interact and how they make you feel, and observe what is happening. There should be a general dosage guideline on the bottle or from your clinical practitioner.
If you know you are very sensitive OR are unfamiliar with the herbs OR you are new to herbal medicine, it is good to start slow and observe.
Herbs do work well and have been used for thousands of years BUT they do not work if we take the wrong herb, don’t get the correct dosage (though the range and timing is not as narrow as with pharmaceuticals) or don’t take them long enough to do their work, or lastly but very importantly if we don’t support the herbs with a healthy mind set, good nutrition and lifestyle like sleep, hydration and movement, for example.
A general rule of thumb for dosing is LOW DOSE is 1-2 droppers 2-3 times per day. A MEDIUM DOSE is 3 droppers 3 times per day and a LARGE DOSE is 4-5 droppers 3 times per day.
To avoid uncomfortable reactions, I often tell people to start with 1/3 of the recommended dose for 24-48 hours and see that there is no reaction, then go up a bit from there and then to full dose.
One idea for those with a sensitive stomach or digestion is to dilute the extract in twice the water or take sips over a time period. If the alcohol causes a reaction then pour just boiled water over the dose in a cup and let it sit till it has cooled sufficiently. This will evaporate off much of the alcohol that was used to extract the medicinal chemistry from the plant.
You can divide up your total dose throughout the day. If smaller doses work better do it more frequently. I see some very busy people who simply cannot disengage to take herbs 3 times per day. That middle dose gets lost in the middle of the day, so I tell them to split the total daily dose into 2 doses. Herbs are very generous and for the most part this works well. The caveat for this method is if you are working with a cold, you do want to dose quite frequently to stay on top of the pathogen that is trying to take
I have seen robust, active people with strong constitutions be very sensitive to herbs and absolutely need to take half of recommended dosage. The opposite is true as well. We must listen to the body’s response rather than a general recommendation. If the herbs make you feel nauseous or headachy or bring out a rash, stop, normalize and if you want to start again do so at 1/3 or ¼ the dose.
On the other hand, if it makes you feel very well or you are noticing signs of improvement, have patience so the body can make the changes and adjust in its own time. Many people quit too soon and then think herbs don’t work. You could try a lower dose or skip a dose and see if the body is holding the change. If it is continue to step it down, but if not then return to the dose and frequency you were doing and continue for awhile, then try doing a little less again. It took me a lot longer than necessary to get over Lyme because I kept stopping my herbs every time I felt somewhat better. I wasn’t really listening to my body and I let myself get busy and did not check in with how I really felt. One of the best reasons to sit with a clinician is to take the time to spotlight yourself and how you feel out of the busyness of life.
Some people take the same herbs, eat the same diet, do the same exercise regimen etc for years and years. The human nervous system loves safety and adventure. At least take breaks if you are planning on using a formula for a long time as in 6 months to 18 months. Also if you are taking larger doses or very strong herbs do take breaks of 1-3 weeks before continuing so you can see how the body respond.
The most important piece is listening to your body. It is innately intelligent and communicates to us through the body’s responses. Sit quietly with your body and let it guide you or at least be heard.
Of course sometimes we don’t really get the message and that’s where the general guidelines and experience of a clinician or others that have used the herbs can help show the way.
If you're struggling with dosing, reach out for a consultation! We're here to help!
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.