Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Hello Plant Friends,
The following are herbal walks and talks that I will be leading throughout the remainder of this year. I hope to see you! -Holli
August 23rd, WILDERNESS WILD FEST: A celebration festival of the Wilderness Act’s 50th Anniversary
At Outdoor Chattanooga/Coolidge Park, Park 200 River Street, Chattanooga, TN
Free family event hosted by the Sierra Club and Outdoor Chattanooga
Holli will be leading an edible plant walk at 4pm. Sign up inside.
September 12-14, FALL NATIVE PLANT SALE
At Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center, 400 Garden Rd, Chattanooga, TN
Holli will be leading a Fall Foraging Event Saturday, Sept 13, from 11:30-1pm. Admission is free.
October 10-12, SOUTHEAST WISE WOMEN HERBAL CONFERENCE, 10th Anniversary
At Black Mountain, NC
Holli will be leading a Medicinal Plant Walk and a Forest Bathing Walk
Register at http://www.sewisewomen.com/
November 6-10, AMERICAN HERBALISTS GUILD SYMPOSIUM, 25th Anniversary
At Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia
Holli will be presenting two lectures:
Emotionally-Focused Herbal Therapy: An herbalist’s role in supporting people experiencing mood disorders, anxiety and trauma disorders
Integrative Medicine Clinics: Models of collaborative care
Register at http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/
In his song “Nature Boy,” Nat King Cole sings, “The greatest thing you have to learn is just to love, and be loved in return.” Nature is abundant with plants that help us learn to love and be loved in return—and not all of them are for the Viagra-kind of love.
The quest for romantic love is a part of the human condition. Daniel Moerman, author of Native American Ethnobotany, recorded over a hundred stories of Native American tribes using plants as love charms to lure a potential suitor. For instance, the Iroquois considered asters, which are daisy-like flowers, to be love medicine. Perhaps asters were used like the he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not daisy method of divining a suitor’s sincerity, or they could have been knotted into chains like dandelion-flower necklaces.
Several tribes used powdered seeds of Columbine to be sprinkled as a kind of love-dust. Other tribes marked a man’s palm with bloodroot, a native wildflower aptly named for the blood-red liquid which oozes from a cut root.
As a more drastic measure—and maybe a last resort for the desperate and restless—yellow dock root was boiled and splashed on the face and clothes to make one more appealing to a love interest. Though, anyone who has seen yellow dock root knows it makes a yellow-staining dye, and therefore, it seems the amorous seeker would be made quite obvious.
Contemporary use of aphrodisiac herbs include performance-enhancing herbs, such as yohimbe or Asian ginseng, which increase virility for men, or female tonics, which help maintain sexual function, such as an herb from India called shatavari, which means “she who has a hundred husbands.” The name conveys its efficacy.
For relaxing into a romantic relationship, damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca or Turnera diffusa) is a traditional herbal beverage, either as a tea or as a Mexican herbal liqueur. Supported by scientific studies, damiana is considered to be a mild antidepressant and nervine, which relaxes and calms the nerves so that a couple isn’t too stressed out to be interested in each other.
For marriage maintenance, old-timey Appalachian herbalists revived tired domestic partnerships with passionflower vine, appropriate for couples who’ve grown bored in a relationship, having lost the appreciation for the familiar. A recent clinical trial has proven passionflower as effective for anxiety as an anti-anxiety pharmaceutical benzodiazepine, which would likely help the relationship, as well.
More than just finding and keeping a romance, love medicine can foster a sense of togetherness, which is needed in building and maintaining all relationships. Since communication is the key to maintaining healthy relationships, kava kava, a Polynesian herb which means “talk talk,” could be of value. Kava kava has been traditionally used to ease communication and facilitate a win-win conversation when different tribes join together in conversation.
Most importantly, all love is built upon a compassionate, forgiving self-love. Cultivating self-love involves physically, spiritually and emotionally healing the wounds of the heart, so that one can be open to feeling love for others and allowing oneself to receive love. Reishi mushroom and hawthorn are used as herbal tonics to heal and support the heart on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. By nourishing the heart with antioxidants, and calming the emotional and spiritual mind which, according to Traditional Chinese medicine, resides in the heart, reishi and hawthorn prepare someone to learn to love and be loved in return.
For flu season, it’s best to have this formula on-hand so you don’t have to go outside when you’re sick.
The first ingredient is wild elder berry (Sambucus nigra), which is well-known for its antiviral properties. The elder tree is considered a medicine chest in itself. The leaf is used topically for injuries. Elder flower is useful for colds, fevers, flu. The berry of Elder has been shown to be effective against numerous strains of the influenza virus. It’s also been proven to reduce the duration of flu symptoms in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study.
The next ingredient is boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), which gets its name from its reputation in alleviating the flu-symptom of achiness that feels like your bones are breaking, which to me is the worst part about having the flu. Boneset quickly deals with fever, reduces body aches, and clears up mucus congestion that might be present with the flu. Studies also show that boneset is an immunostimulant.
Usnea, a greyish-green lichen that grows on trees, is considered a respiratory phyto-biotic—that means it has some antibiotic properties. Although influenza is a virus, usnea might be helpful to prevent opportunistic upper-respiratory infections. Usnea is effective against gram-positive bacterial strains, such as Staphlycoccus aureus (staph), Streptococcus spp. (strep), Pneumonococcus spp. (pneumonia), Enterococcus spp., and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (tuberculosis).
All flu formulas need to contain yarrow because of its fabulous diaphoretic properties. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is one of those plants I would want if I were stranded on a deserted island, so I won’t be able to list all of its uses, but just know that its uses are versatile. In the flu formula, yarrow helps in the acute stage of influenza to cause a sweat. Also, yarrow has antimicrobial properties to help battle with the germs.
Finally, a little ginger goes a long way to add some warmth and flavor, but that’s not all. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is also helpful for sore throats, nausea, and muscle aches.
If you are looking for herbs to prevent the cold and flu, Astragalus can keep your immune boosted throughout the cold and flu season. Make an herbal appointment for a complete work-up and individualized herbal formula that can support your health through the season.
The old African-American spiritual hymn was playing in my head, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” and I stopped to listen. My friend, Honor Woodard, once told me of her practice to notice the songs that pop into her head. Since then, I, too, have paid attention, and instead of the song being background noise, it takes on great meaning like exploring a dream as a gift from the subconscious.
It was a lovely day in December with a clear, Robin-egg blue sky, and a breeze with a tint of warm. I had a to-do list, and mid-way through, I decided to surprise my trusted 4-legged companion, Fay, with a visit to The Pocket. The winter-scape provides a beautiful time to be in nature and to listen.
The Pocket Trail is a sacred and protected place for life to live. It’s one of those places whose air emanates a refuge like a great sigh of relief. Throughout the seasons, I’ve been to this place with Fay, with companions, and while leading large groups. Each time, I’m enchanted by the sound of the water and birds; I’m held in the womb of the rock; I’m seen by the trees and herbs; and I’m healed by breathing in the enriched air.
Sitting on a rock by the waterfall, Fay leaning against my side, I noticed that old spiritual hymn in my mind. By paying attention to the lyrics, I heard this deeply felt connection of healing I had with this place through words sung in suffering. I sat until the song played out, my mind went still and the silent mind could receive the place. The sun had lowered, and December’s chilled air motivated me to say good-bye for now; I’ll carry the healing with me.
Fay and I started our slow walk back along the creek, but before we left, I stopped to hear the song of the beech trees rustling in the breeze.
This winter, my hope for all folks is to find a moment of quiet stillness, to be silent enough to deeply listen. Peace be with you.
Ethnomusicology sources helped me to see layers of meaning in this beautiful song. *Thank you Honor Woodard
Lotsa Hoop-La happening on Main Street, Chattanooga, TN this Saturday, Dec 7th. Including the GRAND OPENING of Center on Main, a healing center for Center of Integrative Medicine, Center MedSpa and Center Physical Therapy. The ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Andy Berke is at 12:30. Events at Center on Main include: Ask the Experts Panels, Tai Chi, Zumba, and talks on Acupuncture, Herbs, Spa Treatments, and Gluten-Free Living. Events coincide with the annual festivities of MainX24 Event, which has hundreds of fun experiences all along Main Street for 24 hours.
There will be teas to sample for colds, coughs, and holiday stress relief. Also, you may stock up on liquid extracts for dealing with allergies, cold, flu and coughs. All will be available this weekend.
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. – John Burroughs
Friday, 6pm-8:30pm; Saturday, 7:30am-11:30am *
(6am-7:15am optional start for sitting in meditation at the pavilion.)
Chattanooga Arboretum & Nature Center (Reflection Riding)
Forest Bathing is a Japanese concept of immersing oneself in the sensory experience of the forest with open awareness and no expectations. Studies in Japan have proven that opening one’s senses to the forest will reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, boost the immune system, and reduce the heart rate.
Join Yong Oh, mindfulness teacher, Dr. Jean Lomino, director of CANC and outdoor educator, and Holli Richey, therapist and herbalist, for this Solstice retreat into the woods where we will experience the life-changing practice of mindfulness in nature. Experience how to be present with the body and senses, and learn how to work with difficult thoughts and feelings which generate greater stress and anxiety. Experience what it is to rest in natural awareness. This is the first of more Mindfulness in Nature retreats to come. Toe first, then full immersion.
Register with Chattanooga Arboretum by Monday, June 17th. Donation, $25 suggested.
*This is not an overnight retreat.
It’s so interesting how context changes our value of something. Today on a bird walk with David Haskell, he mentioned how the beautiful blue jay would be a focus of ecotourism in Costa Rica, but here in the eastern US, it’s a common bird, and thus we often don’t marvel quite so much. Though, Haskell says, its habits are still quite a mystery because its call is usually only far from its nest. When it’s near its nest, the blue jay is silent. Knowing that extra insight–or acknowledged lack of insight–into blue jay behavior, starts to change our perspective of the bird, and how we value it. Now, the blue jay is mysterious.
A similar phenomenon happens with plants. Our value of it can change based on the context. In 2007 when I was with my grandma and aunt in Wheeling, WV, we visited the river park at the Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River. I saw this darling blue and white flower, that at the time I considered some type of violet. It doesn’t grow in GA, where I have mostly lived, and so the beauty drew my attention, and the newness beckoned me to take time to photograph it.
My grandma and aunt patiently waited for me to take pictures, and chuckled at my rear-end sticking up in the air as I knelt down on the ground in this public place.
Later, after I moved to Tennessee, I learned that this is blue-eyed mary, Collinsia verna, not the Viola genus. It’s in the figwort family, or snapdragon family. To Tennesseans and the USDA Plants Database, it’s an endangered plant, which increases it’s sense of value. http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch
The habitat of the blue-eyed mary is moist woods, though the blue-eyed marys I saw in Wheeling, West Virginia were coming up like flowering weeds in a frequently mowed, downtown park lawn in bright sunlight with few trees. Had I been from Tennessee, I might have jumped around a bit, excited and baffled to see this endangered flower in this uncommonly common spot. So, in hindsight I’m jumping around.
I think about how else my perspective influences my value or appraisal of something. Why does scarcity have to often occur for value to be perceived? We value aspects of nature or life when we finally understand that it could and will be otherwise.
Between the sensory awareness of something and the response, is a filter of meaning based on habits of expectation which colors our perspective. The blue jays and blue-eyed marys are only two examples of illustrating the process, but it’s happening every moment. In terms of plants and animals our perception can boil our choices of responses into three options: should I revere and protect this; should I dislike and destroy this, ie mow, herbicide, shoot, trap, etc; or do I ignore and overlook it. These are sometimes necessary assessments for survival, and sometimes our assessment isn’t based on all the information, ending in unintended consequences. Many times, though, it’s not about survival; it’s simply about habit. And our habits place limitations on our experience. We may neglect to see, hear, smell, taste, touch much of our life fully because of how we categorized our experience.
Being an observer of nature is a gentle way to open our awareness and recognize the automatic associations we attach to our experiences. This is a mindfulness practice that might be more accessible to people rather than jumping into interpersonal and intrapersonal inquisitive awareness. Give it a try in your own backyard. Sit with a dandelion, or an ant, or a blue jay and see what comes up.
I love language expressions that convey a deep intuitive knowing using human anatomy, blending body and mind. Two of my favorites are “to know by heart” and “it’s in your blood”. Within these expressions are a poetic understanding of life’s phenomena.
“To know something by heart” is to say that one has learned something to the degree that she no longer has to think about it. It becomes a different quality of memory, which seems to bypass conscious striving for recall, and emanates from a place other than the brain, a place where Taoist acupuncturists say a powerful source of the human spirit resides, the heart.
When we say we know something by heart, the context is usually within the recitation of something that has been memorized. I played the piano years ago and memorized many pieces, playing them by heart at recitals and for the Guild. I’ve also memorized Shakespearean monologues and soliloquies and recited them by heart for teachers, students, friends and for my dog.
My knowledge of plants is in this heart realm of knowing. When I’m with a plant that I don’t see very often, and I stop to greet it, it’s name comes to me from another place where there is no effort. It’s a different place of knowing.
Recently, I listened to a program by an agency who works with people with Alzheimer’s disease. The presenter described how the mystery of memory presents in people who seem to have lost crucial aspects of their memory, though other memories still remain. The challenge is in discovering what these memories are for each person with Alzheimer’s.
The agency presenter described a case of a caregiver who met with a male patient with Alzheimer’s who had grown quite despondent. The agency learned that this man had been an artist, a painter. The agency suggested that the caregiver get some paints, brushes, canvas, and an easel. Then the agency said to the caregiver to set up the easel in the patient’s room and begin to paint even though she didn’t know how.
The caregiver painted every day in the patient’s room, while he sat in his chair disinterested. One day, the patient got up from the chair and walked behind the caregiver to look at what was on the canvas. The patient grew angry, and said to the caregiver, “No, no, no. You’re doing this wrong.” (That’s my paraphrase.) He took the paintbrush out of her hands, sat down, and began to correct her painting. The agency said that he continued to produce many paintings on his own after that. This was something that he knew by heart.
I wonder if knowing things by heart strengthens that spiritual aspect of the heart which Taoists describe, and if that is the strongest, longest-lasting place of our memory. Perhaps memorization of poetry and music does something for our hearts and our spirits in addition to strengthening our memories. What do you know by heart? It’s likely to be something even more special than that which you could do in your sleep, or know like the back of your hand.
My other favorite expression, “it’s in your blood”, also has a connotation of the type of knowing that avoids the brain; it has a meaning that says we come to something more from a genetic fate, than from learned reason. When something is in one’s blood, it also joins a person to a host of people, the individual merges into a pool of ancestral genes.
We can easily get into the question of nature and nurture here. What about the stories, though, of people who weren’t conditioned by their immediate caregivers to do what they feel led to do?
I was born in West Virginia near my grandparents, but moved to suburban Atlanta when I was a small child. Though we visited the WV family farm annually, I was raised far from the farm-life of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Natural areas and going home to the farm were always special to me. When I discovered from a local herbalist in college how to make medicine from plants, I fell in love. Although it might have looked like lunacy in my suburban upbringing to pursue becoming an herbalist, I knew that it was what I needed to do. While on this path, and visiting with grandmother Ruby, I learned that my great-grandfather James Dovenor (he never knew how to spell his middle name, so I don’t know either), a fur-trapper, carpenter, farmer, and fiddler, also grew ginseng. Knowing that made sense, somehow, of my mysterious longing to work with the healing properties of plants.
Since then, I’ve learned much more from my father and grandmother of how they harvested and used local plants. It was knowledge almost forgotten except that it’s life was in my blood, latent, waiting for a sign.
What is in your blood? What do you know by heart? I would love to know.
Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott, 1986
Beauty is a word for the ineffable. It is a word to describe vast feelings that arise within us when we’re in a meaningful relationship with an experience. Birth and death can be beautiful. A bright moon, a child’s laughter, a shared meal, so much in our day can be beautiful when we’re present to it. When we call something beautiful, we are stating that we are aware of being called to a higher place as a witness in this life.
A flower called me to this highest of places. Though it is not a striking flower, something about its rarity, its subtlety, its survival in adversity gives this Southern Appalachian flower the beauty of empowered presence.
The Oconee bell (Shortia galacifolia), or in Gillian Welch’s song Acony Bell, grows in the mountains near the wild and scenic Chattooga River. It can be found in Oconee County, South Carolina, where it gets its name, and also near Highlands, NC, northeast GA, east TN and western VA.
When I saw this plant bloom for the first time on a sunny day in March, I got down on my knees and knelt with it. Another life was here before me. It was a life I wanted to know more deeply. Time passed, yet it didn’t. I continue to call upon the Oconee Bell in my mind’s eye when I need to be reminded of the message of its life and existence.
This flower led me to my favorite Gillian Welch song describing the beauty of its life. This time of year I find myself humming this tune. Hopefully I’ll learn to play it on my hammered dulcimer one day.
The fairest bloom the mountain knows
Is not an iris or a wild rose
But the little flower of which I’ll tell
Known as the brave Acony Bell
Just a simple flower so small and plain
With a pearly hue and a little known name
But the yellow birds sing when they see it bloom
For they know that spring is coming soon
Well it makes its home mid the rocks and the rills
Where the snow lies deep on the windy hills
And it tells the world “Why should I wait
This ice and snow is gonna melt away”
And so I’ll sing that yellow bird’s song
For the troubled times will soon be gone