Intuition: The Sensible Sense for Herbal Self-care

Listen to the plants.

Listen, because they’re calling us, calling out to us, to join them in their revelries of wholeness. Their purpose is connection, like their roots that reach out in the humus, reaching, gathering, joining. They connect with the sun, the moon, the soil, moisture and all their myriad plant friends—human, animal and botanical—as well as the offerings they give in not just beauty in appearance and perfect purpose, but also to each of us, as the favored recipients of their medicine for body, mind and spirit.

In studying Herbalism as an art, because it is more nuance than science, a consistent occurrence joins and rejoins, and that is the remarkable versatility of a single herb and how it applies in different circumstances. Just as we’re taught that there is no one-size-fits-all in Herbalism, as it’s not allopathic medicine where the symptom is treated with a broad regimen instead of attending the root cause, one herb may be heralded for a particular quality for self-healing, and it may not offer that same attribute to another individual in the exact same way, or even to the same individual the exact same way at another time. Body constitutions, plant energetics, actions, and how they all respond to one another are to be considered. As body constitutions change during imbalances, due to illness or other, or throughout life, those same qualities of an herb may not meet all the current needs as had been done in the past. So where does that leave us? Forever on a quest for the perfect match of herb and need for ourselves? Training and study enlist their aid in this journey of self-care, but that can still leave us in need of further discernment.

What that does is that it leaves us vulnerable, and that’s okay; when we’re vulnerable we open ourselves up to consider and communicate on a different plane. When we’re sick and/or afflicted, those trials can open us up even more to allow ourselves to listen by the spirit, by consciousness—to be still. The essence of plants, if we cast aside structured science, and we peel away the preconceived notions of what plant works for which ailment, we are bare, essentially. No ornamentation. Just us and the plants looking toward the sun. Together.  It’s an unspoken conversation we’re having.

When we’re deep down in a cold or flu, for instance, the mind may race, because systems of the body are in such disarray. All extraneous plans and efforts for day-to-day living are cast aside, as comfort and relief are basic, more urgent needs. Just breathing through the nose may be the simple challenge we seek to restore, or pause an ache or calm a cough while preserving our body’s need to expel. Stress from worry about a national resurgence of influenza, or guilt from getting sick in the first place, despite proactive efforts, add to the tumult. So we serendipitously find a simple recipe in our herbal community forum for thyme, lemon and honey cough syrup, and we begin to make it, but instead of using fresh thyme, as it’s not currently in the household, we instinctively include fresh sage instead, in one fluid motion. This support quells the cough and calms the body, mind and spirit, bringing peace to heal ourselves for a time, as rest is the number one remedy for colds and flu.

Sage is known to many as an astringent, toning tissues of the throat, but in this instance, it not only suppressed the cough, but allowed the body to expel what was needed in that moment to improve and rest. The added bonus was restorative peace, perhaps from sage’s known quality as a pain reliever. Would it work the same way for another, in their own self-care? Perhaps. Did it address the need better than thyme would have? Intuition says so for this specific instance and individual, in this expansive moment of awareness. It’s not empirical evidence and can’t be quantified. It’s not science; it’s food as medicine. No two people are alike, and no two circumstances are alike. Herbs in combination with each other aren’t always alike as they are individually, either; sometimes they’re enhanced, like how pepper improves turmeric’s effectiveness. Using combinations of herbs intuitively for self-care is a worthy study.

What doesn’t change is the connection we have at-the-ready, always, with nature. That connection is there for us, and our botanical friends are always there for us as medicinal aid, if we listen for ourselves in that knowing way we’re all capable of as be-ings in harmony with the Earth and all her gifts.

Another example of that connection is that plants are there where we need them. Sage was present when thyme was not, for instance, yet relief was still served. Perhaps visiting a special place we’ve frequented before, we now notice an abundance of herbal goodness had been within reach for many seasons, with realization that several wild herbs had joined the fold over the years that hadn’t been there before. Adaptation? Evolution? An awakening? These are all explanations that cause us to consider that all the senses come into play. Tasting. Smelling. Seeing, Feeling and Hearing—including from an inner sense or intrinsic knowing, which is intuition. It too, is a gift, one to be cultivated and nourished, just like the plants we hold in such high regard, so very near and dear to our hearts. Just like sage is wisdom, so too do our herbal allies impart that very thing, if we listen.

Disclaimer: Always seek Herbal education from a qualified source. The author is not a medical professional, nutritionist or dietician. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal advice, medical treatment or diagnosis and is not monitored or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration/FDA. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

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The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist/Wildcrafter, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature and wonder manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. A daily meditator and career Journalist, Author, Artist and Poet, she creates as Loretta Boyer McClellan. Her works as a publisher and writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite. 

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Fire Cider® and the Art of Branding

 

©2017 Loretta McClellan; all rights reserved. First-ever homemade batch of a “Fire Cider”-like product for family wellness support. May it bask in the simplicity of its existence, unaware of the infamy of its commercialized or marginalized cousins.

“As a side note, stumbling upon a genuine retail bottle of Fire Cider® from Shire City Herbals recently in a rural, Downeast Maine hardware and sundries store, was, in a way, like coming face to face with a fabled, mythical beast—a real, live, elephant in the room.”

IN MASTERING THE ART OF WAITING, which is not a game, but a rather remarkable and introspective part of the Herbalism process, we learn by doing and multitasking. We succeed by remembering that, just as it takes time for a plant to grow from a seed and yield its goodness as plant medicine, just as it takes time for a bee to do its equally miraculous industry regionally in the pollination process, making herbal products to promote self-healing is a mindful and reflective practice, one that should not, and often cannot, be rushed.

With winter approaching and cold season looming, “Fire Cider,” the beautiful herbal vinegar and recipe that Rosemary Gladstar prominently taught and made famous decades ago and forever since, moved to the top of the must-make-first list for the homemade family apothecary. Making this product, considered a tonic by some, was a lesson in partnering intuition with purpose and productivity.

Following Rosemary’s recipe on page 74 of her book, Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, a fork in the road appeared, offering an Eastern route, heading to Japan for herbal inspiration. Instead of three tablespoons horseradish, as called for in the recipe, one tablespoon of fresh wasabi (Wasabia japonica or Eutrema japonica) was substituted (fresh from the stem, not paste or powder; beware, real wasabi is much more expensive than horseradish, and packs a powerful punch). Additionally, burdock root (Arctium lappa), known as gobo in Japan, was included. It just felt right. As it turned out, it was an ideal complement to the other Japanese ingredient of wasabi, along with the magnificence of fresh garlic, ginger, onions and warmed organic apple cider vinegar—the original ingredients. The signature addition of gobo’s brilliance in cooling, grounding, and as an immune system strengthener also provided an anticipated balance for the mix for those family members with dry constitutions.

From start to finish, the homemade process took three weeks. The aroma from the ingredients was instantly mouth-watering; it was difficult to say farewell for a time. They were placed in a quart jar and enjoyed a sunny staycation on a windowsill for 21 days.

When the time came, it was as if the stars aligned and the angels rejoiced, especially when the sampling began. To the two-cup yield after straining the herbs, two tablespoons of honey were added for taste; however, no cayenne was added to this batch, despite the recipe calling for it. The powerful energetics of this wisdom in a jar were undeniable.

As a side note, stumbling upon a genuine retail bottle of Fire Cider® from Shire City Herbals recently in a rural, Downeast Maine hardware and sundries store, was, in a way, like coming face to face with a fabled, mythical beast—a real, live, elephant in the room. The proprietor was asked if he knew about the media and legal issues surrounding the single little bottle, displayed all by its lonesome on the shelf. He said that he knew. Then silence. And that was the end of that subject.

Being a branding professional, having designed numerous logos and corporate identity over the years, trademarked design is as common as breathing; however, just as Band-aid® is a registered trademark and common identifier for an adhesive bandage, it is part of the lexicon of American English. Got a cut? Go grab a Band-aid/bandaid! An item of note is that Johnson & Johnson trademarked the name of basically a new invention, in adhesive strips. While only herbalists know what “Fire Cider,” the homemade herbal vinegar, is, it too is part of a lexicon, an international and historic one, in that the tonic and its variant recipes have been used for decades, perhaps centuries in some form, improved upon, and has become mainstream with its benefits duly promoted, by a beloved Herbal Sensei named Rosemary Gladstar. This healthful, liquid herbal goodness is as synonymous with Rosemary Gladstar and integral to the herbal community as first aid is with the Red Cross—and the Red Cross is grateful for the invention of adhesive bandages (and Herbalists consider “Fire Cider” a reputable remedy for first aid, a first responder for colds!).

In branding and marketing a product line, you’re either first or best, preferably both.  Brands are protected, as generally, much thought and ownership goes into the design and concept; for those who don’t know a brilliant, yet affordable design expert, the process can be costly. Trademarking a legacy, a piece of shared history in an herbal remedy, seems preposterous to some, but in reality, it can and has been done (view the Fire Cider® trademark records by a query in the registry at USPTO.gov, including Fire Cider Sauerkraut®). Honoring the trademark ownership, no matter how incongruent it is with the general consensus, is bought and paid for. A clerk, somewhere deep in the recesses of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the registration.

To receive a request to cease and desist the manufacturing and sale of a “fire cider”-like product of a competitor of Shire City Herbals, using their now-trademarked name is warranted in the eyes of U.S. trademark law; however, use of the common moniker of “Fire Cider” by those making their own homemade product, not for sale, but using the name in print or attributing the name with its legacy holder in Rosemary Gladstar should receive a gracious ignore by the trademark owner.

The light at the end of the fire-y tunnel is that registered trademarks need to be regularly renewed with USPTO.gov, which cost money. Moreover, the trademark owner may choose of their own volition to not renew, perhaps selecting another name to herald their new and improved recipe (Shire Fire™, perhaps? Contact the author for terms and ownership transfer, as well as professional re-branding, should you so desire.), so that the masses can enjoy what is indelibly part of their culture and shared history, celebrating it more fully. Everyone wins.

©2017 Loretta McClellan; all rights reserved. The elusive gallon size mason jar next to a quart of CiderCare™, waiting to be filled with the next batch.

There are so many product and business names to choose from, even names that are made up, that become not just lexicon, but verbs (Google, anyone?). That’s the fun of branding. Invention. Innovation. Inspiration. Creation. Why call your cutting-edge product a common, household, home remedy name? The reasons may never be known. In the meantime, this author is celebrating, in being part of a shared community and treasured history of herbal goodness for everyone is right in our cupboards, manifested most tangibly in her not-for-sale and not-at-all-famous, CiderCare™ (you read it here first!). Next time, gallon size, to share!

Author’s Note: Just a shout-out to the herbal goodness and prompt support of “Fire Cider.” Started getting what would have been a wicked cold. Enjoyed some of my first batch of CiderCare™ and BAM! Next morning, I’m a new woman.

Disclaimer: The author is not an attorney, medical professional, nutritionist or dietician. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal advice, medical treatment or diagnosis and is not monitored or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration/FDA. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product. Whenever wildcrafting or foraging in the wild for herbs, be accompanied by an expert and always confirm plant identity with absolute certainty before using or consuming them. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

____________________________________________

The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist/Wildcrafter, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature and wonder manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. A daily meditator and career Journalist, Author, Artist and Poet, she creates as Loretta Boyer McClellan. Her works as a publisher and writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite. 

To the Tune of Life: Avena Botanical’s Music for the Soul

©2017 Loretta McClellan. A treasured gift: Lori McClellan, author of Botaniscape.com meets Deb Soule, herbalist, teacher and founder of Avena Botanicals
©2017 Loretta McClellan
Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary and Biodynamic Garden Entrance

“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet,” Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Author and Peace Activist, Thich Nhat Hanh, has said. I did just that, with intention to move like a gardener, at Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary and Biodynamic Garden in Rockport, Maine. The Avena Team, some fellow visitors, and even Herbalist Deb Soule herself, welcomed me to their oasis of peace and purpose.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Avena’s greenhouse and herbal goodness

On the fringes of autumn, the garden beckoned from the moment of arrival. Whimsical signs greet you, their partnered stars of the garden themselves—the plants—swaying gently, as if to sing,” Hello! We are Abundance!” enchanting in unison. The introduction would not be complete without meeting the pollinators, however, contributors to this bountiful harvest. Bees, bumblebees and butterflies were everywhere, presenting a buzz of contentment that rivaled any monk’s chanting (see video).

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Avena’s apothecary and shop

A budding herbalist, this visit was part of my Maine Sabbatical, to immerse myself in herbal wisdom and creative expression, in being true to living my true nature, of Nature being my steadfast companion and inspiration. I corresponded with the lovely Erda at Avena, to confirm they would still be open to the public the week of Labor Day. Her energy and genuine kindness were tangible through the emails. The journey was indeed a “go,” and I was off on my nearly three-hour trek from Downeast Maine, the eastern-most point of the U.S., to the Rockport region.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Herbal-infused water at Avena

At Avena Botanicals, the outbuildings and the shop and apothecary are shingle style, with most trimmed in a beautiful lilac. Buddhist touches are evident, as are herbal examples to live by, such as the giant, aqua, antique-style water dispenser, filled with colorful herbal goodness to hydrate and thrive with.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Avena gardens

The formal garden is where mindful intention is organized into a circular study of herbsong. It was as if the “alto section” of Tulsi was harmonizing with the “soprano section” of Arnica for the prelude, then the entire chorus of all the herbs holistically crescendoed. The Maestro of this epic concert? Many might honor the pollinators with that title, deservedly so, but we would all agree that music has many musicians, coming together in orchestration, which would include the soil, the compost, the seeds, the sun, the moon, the rain, the gardeners and harvesters, as well as the pollinators. In Deb Soule’s book, How to Move Like a Gardener: Planting and Preparing Medicines from Plants, each of these aspects are blended together into the most nourishing tonic for the soul.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Chinese Lanterns at Avena

While the “plant music” elevated and resonated, their existence and surrounding paths of gravel, grounded me. Even the grassy path to the compost privy was an adventure in life on an herbal farm. The meandering walkways circumventing the pond were enriched with a lightness in surprise, “lighting my way,” such as the vibrant orange Chinese Lantern, which reminded me of tomatillos. Plants reached out to me to shake my hand in encouragement, even pat me on the back, as if to say, “You’re on the right path, Lori,” in Herbalism being a fruitful one. I also found not one, but two different caterpillars had affixed themselves onto my shirt and arm, another loving welcome to this clarity in living.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Gathering place at Avena

Despite a very busy schedule preparing for her Biodynamic Training Program and several other engagements, plus working the farm itself, Deb Soule graciously took time to sit and be with me, Stephanie and Zoe (members of her staff), and two other visitors to Avena. We talked about herbal education, particularly with children, as myself, and several others are working to promote that awareness. We spoke of the upcoming Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine, put on year after year by volunteers and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association/MOFGA, with Avena Staff’s invitation to visit their booth. Music, including acoustic accompaniment on the Handpan by a talented man named Shoe, visiting from the South, as well as my recent visit to Japan and its herbal wonders were shared, among much more.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Abundance at Avena

Encouraged by Deb to articulate how I came upon my herbal journey, I referenced my inaugural article on Botaniscape.com, where I had recently rediscovered I was a budding herbalist as a young child, and this re-blossoming. When Deb, author of Healing Herbs for Women: A Guide to Natural Remedies and How to Move Like a Gardener, asked about my books, I related what inspires me as an author and artist.  I can only imagine how inspirational walking the Avena Garden on a daily basis can be for a creative.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Footpath along the gardens at Avena

With farm life and Maine as subjects I was fully immersed in and enthralled with, the conversation led to E.B. White, famed author of the book-for-the-ages, Charlotte’s Web, and how his farm in Brooklin, Maine, is recently on the market. I had posted an article about the property on my author Facebook.com/LorettaBoyerMcClellan page, mostly because for me as an avid reader and as an author, that real-life property was substantial. It lent itself as a primary character in Charlotte’s Web, right down to the barn doorway where Charlotte herself spun intricate conversations about a beloved pig named Wilbur, who was most notably, “Some Pig” to readers everywhere. Maine was his refuge, as well as his muse. I can relate.

This conversation led Deb to share about a celebrated author who, according to Deb, was a friend of E.B. White, namely Rachel Carson. “Rachel is my heroine,” Deb said, which made me take pause, because when an esteemed Herbal Teacher speaks of her heroine, you listen.

I was not familiar with Rachel Carson, but I took notes to learn more about this Marine Biologist, Conservationist and Author of several books, including Silent Spring, about harmful pesticides, more accurately termed, “biocides,” such as DDT, wreaking havoc on the environment. Carson, who lived in Maine, is credited with initiating the environmental movement.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Avena gathering space, apothecary and shop

During this visit, after purchasing some herbal supplements, I was asked in the shop if I was studying to become a clinical herbalist. I was quite frankly, surprised, and honored to be considered in a future role such as that. As a budding herbalist, my studies are centered currently on self-healing and family support, as well as community herbal awareness. As the afternoon waned at Avena, there were comments, observations and moments that reminded me how I facilitate care in-the-now most deeply: with my voice, in being a herald—a messenger not a marketer—for good.

©2017 Loretta McClellan. Avena’s Herbal Classroom

The entire afternoon’s experience, in the cradle of nurturing herbs dancing with bees and butterflies along Maine’s coast, reminded me of my own commitment to recognizing the role of pollinators, of the all-encompassing importance in moving like a gardener—mindfully, with intention, while honoring the earthly gifts—and learning more about these vital contributions in being a purposeful person. It also solidified in my heart that expression, which is part of my three-word mantra as a human BE-ing, of Expression, Connection, Inspiration, is my most useful extension in helping the world BEE a better place. The connection and inspiration I received at Avena will be indelibly etched upon my heart, to the tune of life!

Avena Botanicals Herbal Apothecary and Biodynamic Garden is open to the public at 219 Mill St, Rockport, ME 04856. As of September 2017, their schedule is, Gardens: Open to the public May – September, Monday – Friday, 12 – 5 pm. Closed Weekends. Shop: Monday – Friday, 12 – 5 pm. Closed Weekends. If you’re lucky, you’ll see Deb and her team out and about, tending to their fellow musicians in this grand scape of a resonant masterpiece!

 


The heart of Botaniscape™ and budding Herbalist/Wildcrafter, Lori McClellan sees the Art of Herbalism as her lifelong connection to Nature and wonder manifested most fully—another exciting medium and source of abundant joy. A daily meditator, Lori is a career Journalist, Author, Artist and Poet, creating as Loretta Boyer McClellan. Her works as a writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry; conscious PR, brand, graphic design, and communications; and as an Arts instructor, journalist and artist, “sized the canvas,” so to speak, for a fruitful life of expression, connection and inspiration. Author of The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, The Misthaven of Maine Series, and Dodging Raindrops: Poems and Prose of Beauty, Peace and Healing, Lori creates from a place of Oneness. Writing, meditating, painting, and her relationship with Nature and all beings, most tangibly through Herbalism, are her connection to the Infinite.