Tag Archives: herbs

Clever Cleavers

Cleavers, Galium Aparine

At this time of year, just before the winter sets in, I like to ally with an herb called Cleavers for a 2 week period to prepare my body for the warrior season of winter. Cleavers, botanically named Galium aparine, are also called Everlasting Friendship, Grip Grass, Sweethearts, Love-man, and Sweethearts. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? While it’s not an aphrodisiac herb per se, there is a lot to love about this clingy little plant friend.

The cleaver plant is found in hedgerows and fields where there are bushes, with tiny flowers and small prickly green fruits. The stems are “hairy,” and stick to animals, other plants, and people passing by it. It is one of the first wild plants to sprout as early as January.

Cleavers is an excellent tonic for the Lymph System.

When we think of winter, we usually think about building up and strengthening our immune systems for potential dangers such as colds, flus, and viruses. That is true. We must also be aware of the importance of the health of our lymph system in building our immunity. The lymph system, part of the circulatory system, “provides a vehicle for the elements of the immune system to travel about monitoring the body’s internal environment and maintaining the stability of the body functions.” (Rosemary Gladstar) Different parts of our bodies are protected by groups of lymph nodes. For example, nodes on the neck protect the head, nodes under the arms protect the chest, and so on. Often the first indication of an infection in the throat is that swollen feeling in the glands (which are really clusters of immune system cells), an indication that the body is waging war on a foreign invader, and healing itself.

A clear, flowing lymph system is pivotal in our overall health and wellness, though it can be prone to toxic buildup or stagnancy. That is because another function of the lymph is to carry various wastes from the liver and cellular metabolism. When the lymph system is overburdened with wastes, it is unable to filter and neutralize waste properly, resulting in inflammation, chronic fatigue, and reduced immune response. Cysts, tumors, prostate infections, urinary infections, and even pimples are also caused by buildup of lymph toxins. When the lymph system is weakened or backed up, the immune system cannot function optimally by any means.

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Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture, with Cleavers & Milk Thistle

That is why cleavers are such a treasured ally at this time – before winter comes, and also in the Spring, to cleanse the body once more. Cleavers are Nature’s gift to us in relieving lymph buildup. They actually help the lymph system in its job of neutralizing metabolic wastes! Oftentimes, chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and eruptive infections are lymph-related and can be improved with lymph-cleansing. Other conditions related to the lymph are ear-infections, swollen adenoids, glands, and tonsillitis.

Last year, I allied with Cleavers and Milk Thistle for a 2 week period. I made a delicious tincture that I called “Celebration of the Changing Seasons tincture,” featuring these two herbs. Cleavers for the lymph and Milk Thistle for the liver. I felt great, did not have a flu shot, nor did I get sick once throughout the winter. This 2 week Cleaver cleanse in conjunction with exercise, eating seasonally, dressing warm, and allying with other herbs for warmth and nourishment in the winter are all you need to build a fortress of wellness around yourself for winter.

Try cleavers :tea, tincture, infused in vinegar or honey, or fresh in salads.

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Summer of Herbs: Seize the Season

Now, we are in the deep midst of summertime, when it’s brighter out the window than I ever remembered it being, when the Imagecicadas’ crescendoing hymns rise and fall to a rhythm of their own, when the gentle breeze on my second floor apartment permeates the heady scents of the spearmint, lemon balm, sage, and lavender bushels hanging from every which hook I could find to dry them, in the effort to store them and all these things, for the Autumn and Winter. I love infusing herbs in oils, water, alcohol, and vinegar in the sunshine, under the moon, out in the open air, the rain, the dew, the birdsongs, the cicada chorus, because it allows nature to be infused into them. Later on, in a few months when all these intricacies of summer will have passed and I’ll have forgotten how bright it can be outside, I’ll be able to access the energy of summer through these herbal infusions in the forms of teas, tinctures, oils, vinegars, and balms. Their scent will remain secured in glass jars; and scent being the most poignant sense, with the greatest power to evoke memory, will momentarily transport me, calm me, instill hope in me, for a future time and place. I recently learned that the sense of smell is intrinsically linked to the future, redemption, and to the next world, and that is why in the Jewish Havdalah ceremony that is made after the Sabbath, a second blessing for the spices is not made, because scents are already completely elevated and of another realm and plane of existence. Summer’s gift is one of bright light, openness, and carefree joy. A wild, uninhibited bounty of plants and flowers burst from the Earth, offering us more than we can even imagine having. My own tiny garden plot at my parent’s home is no larger than a few square feet, yet the bounty seems to be endless. I believe this is nature’s way of helping us get through the future seasons, by harvesting, drying, and storing herbs and other gifts. Autumn, Winter, and Spring have their own gifts that are each so beautiful and perfect – each so vital. It’s a blessing to live in tune with the seasons, to look into the eyes and heart of each one and determine what is its essence, its teaching. Summer is generous and full. Today, driving with my husband down the bright road, planning a trip out on Long Island to harvest more wild plants, I realized we must seize the seasons.

ImageHow to Dry Herbs:

My favorite way of drying herbs (and the most practical for apartment living) is to gather bushels of herbs from the garden or the wild and tie a string around the stems. Separate the sprigs a bit so that there is room for air to circulate. I then hang these beautiful bouquets upside down from hooks, strings, or even cabinets in the kitchen. They should be kept out of direct sunlight, close to a window where air circulates. If you want to preserve the color of the herbs more, or protect them from light or dust, you can cover the bushel with a brown paper bag, with the stems at the opening of the bag. Then, cut open the bottom of the bag, and cut slits in the sides for more air ventilation. Check if the herbs are ready by feeling if they are crunchy and completely dry. When they are, take them down and pull off leaves into a bowl. Preserve the leaves in a air-tight jar in a dark, cool spot.

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New Moon in Aquarius: BE TRUE TO YOU

via original art studio

For this new moon, I’ve decided to compile quotations from free-spirited, innovative, and fiercely individualistic Aquarians to inspire, empower, and perhaps even emancipate you – body, mind, and spirit. With both the Sun and Moon in Aquarius, tonight’s beautiful Uranus energy offers us the power and courage to make the changes in our lives and our realities that have been brewing for some time now…to celebrate, honor, and share our completely unique and individual spirits and gifts in this world. Themes of freedom, revolution, novelty, and individualism are at the heart of Aquarian energy. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the brilliant unwavering Water-Bearers. Share your own if you have them!

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”― Anaïs Nin
“I disregard the proportions, the measures, the tempo of the ordinary world. I refuse to live in the ordinary world as ordinary women. To enter ordinary relationships. I want ecstasy. I am a neurotic — in the sense that I live in my world. I will not adjust myself to the world. I am adjusted to myself.” ―Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”— Bob Marley
“Bob Marley isn’t my name. I don’t even know my name yet.”— Bob Marley
“Man is a universe within himself.”— Bob Marley
“You say you love rain, but you use an umbrella to walk under it. You say you love sun, but you seek shelter when it is shining. You say you love wind, but when it comes you close your windows. So that’s why I’m scared when you say you love me.”— Bob Marley
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”— Virginia Woolf
“I am rooted, but I flow.”— Virginia Woolf
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”— Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, aquarius, quote

“The most important thing in life is to stop saying ‘I wish’ and start saying ‘I will.’ Consider nothing impossible, then treat possiblities as probabilities.”— Charles Dickens
“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.”— Ayn Rand
“It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.”— Ayn Rand
“Always we’re our Brother’s teacher of hardworking full-truth, uniting All-one-G0d-Fatih, or we decay being his Keeper by unworkable half-true intolerant hate! We’re all-one or none! Exceptions eternally? Absolute none!”Dr. E.H. Bronner
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. “ — Rosa Parks
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
Rituals for the New Moon in Aquarius
Aquarius is all about defying convention and honoring the unusual, so I am not going to give any specific suggestions for herbs or teas, rather it would be most suitable to make something using your own intuition and taste as your guide! My tea tonight is going to be blended based on vibrancy color – a rainbow tea if you will! Red hibiscus petals, orange calendula flowers, yellow chamomile, bright green alfalfa leaf, indigo lavender, and light pink roses!!!

my aquarius tea blend by gem

quartz crystals and my aquarius tea blend

Gemstones that are associated with Aquarius (Uranus) are any “glow in the dark” minerals such as uranium; as well as peridot – helping to clear any nervous energy, quartz crystal – helping to bring our ideas down to earth and to manifest them, and garnet – a protective red stone that promotes courage and confidence. Opal is a stone that fosters uniqueness and originality. You can wear any of these stones, just gaze at them nearby, make an elixir with them, place them on top of your brewing tea pot or tinctures in the moonlight, or even bathe or sleep with them nearby. Tonight is full of Aquarian energy, but you can take the energy with you anytime this way.
Let your creativity and your passions flow. Speak your mind. Share your heart. Make music. Throw a dance party by yourself under the stars. Paint a self-portrait. Cut up old clothes and make new ones. Make a collage. Write a manifesto. Experiment with new foods. Bake a crazy cake. Join a political organization that speaks to you. Let go of your fears. Do something unexpected. Send a message to outer space. Trust your intuition. Quote yourself. Do that one thing you have been putting off for way too long. Wear that one outfit you think is too crazy. Read that book that’s been sitting on the shelf. Dare to embark upon uncharted territories of the heart, mind, body, soul, home, yard, neighborhood, world! Make plans to do something you really want to do, and do it! Stand up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to shine. The world needs you to be you. Think about the pure magic and rarity of the chances that you exist and are an irreplaceable part of this crazy, unpredictable, beautiful, and ever-changing universe.
“When I reach the gates of heaven, the heavenly judges will not ask me, ‘why weren’t you Moses?’ They will ask me, ‘why weren’t you Zusha?” – Rabbi Zusha of Anipol.
With many blessings for a night (and month, and year, and life…) full of originality and new energy,
xoxo
Gem
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Down to Earth before We Fly: New Moon in Capricorn 1/11/13

Capricorn by Josephine Wall

It seems so fitting that just as we are about to leave the strong-willed, determined sign of Capricorn, the year’s first new moon is in Capricorn — perhaps a cosmic expression of the Goat’s perseverance and staying power. Tomorrow night the moon will be new and will reside in Capricorn, and according to the Jewish Lunar zodiac, we will already be entering Aquarius’ month — though in Western Astrology, the time of Aquarius won’t begin until January 21. (These are the two systems I have studied, but I am curious to know about any others with regards to these dates. Please comment if you know of any other systems’ dates for Capricorn/Aquarius). Whichever approach one takes, most agree that after Capricorn follows Aquarius and both are ruled by Saturn. Some sages teach that Capricorn and Aquarius are akin to the eyes, attributing a special connection and almost unity between these two signs. Indeed, being both ruled by the powerful planet Saturn, there is a clear thread that runs through the two.

My feeling is that we have to take a last serious, very methodical approach to heart in order to ground ourselves before we enter Aquarius. I think of Capricorn and Aquarius as twins separated at birth; Capricorn, an Earth sign, being raised in a down-to-earth family that values an unbending commitment to hard work, while Aquarius, a sign of Air, was brought up in a family much less physically oriented, more theoretical and universally-minded.  Both have the same blood running through them; the Saturnian imprint that bestows an unshakable core, which allows both these signs to achieve great heights and make powerful impressions in the world.

In general, the New Moon is always a time for new beginnings, like a blank page, and the sign in which the moon resides gives a direction and a teaching about the coming energies and thus teaches us how to be prepared for them. This particular New Moon is a time of locking down and making practical, dedicated, and real-life commitments and evaluations. Capricorn urges us to access that part of us that needs and thrives on working hard towards our goals. Aquarius is a time for fruition and creatively acting out on those goals, but without a solid plan we can get lost in all that air energy. I think the cosmos are doing us a little favor with the new moon in Capricorn, sort of a last chance to buckle down and make some meaningful goals or even resolutions before they flutter away in the wind. In life, we must balance the forces of free-flowing creativity and methodical, practical approaches to living- both are essential to reach our highest selves.

Reflections for the New Moon:

~Where would you realistically like to see yourself by the end of this new year?
~What practical, realistic steps will you need to take to achieve those goals?
~Are you as responsible as you would like to be with your money, your relationships, friendships, wellness?
~Do you tend to try to escape or run away from the more practical aspects of life too often?
~Is your approach in life more pro-active or passive?
~Do you have tangible, realistic plans for your future that provide you with security?

…if these questions are making you anxious or uncomfortable, you might be an Air sign or Fire sign like me – or just human! Don’t be overwhelmed, you can pick and choose one or two – you get the picture! The important thing is to not neglect the value of time, the power in planning and being proactive about your goals and dreams. And don’t fret, here are some ideas to help even the most nonchalant, non-Saturnian of us to bring ourselves down to earth:

creative journal by marcia beckett

~Make yourself a Saturn-Twin Journal. It should include both the very down-to-earth, practical approach of Capricorn as well as the creative, expressive, and free-flowing nature of Aquarius. I met a woman in college who had a beautiful moleskin journal with blank pages that she herself divided up into weekly calendars. In each “day” she wrote her goals, dreams, inspirations, and also very practical information. What struck me was that she invested so much energy and made the journal so alive with color, writings, drawings; it was the best of both worlds – artistic and also very useful and helpful for organizing her life. I have done this and it always helps to have that book with you at all times – a place to be expressive and to keep track of things, both equally important.

~Look back at 2012 as objectively as you can by speaking with a close friend about each other’s experiences, actions, decisions, and where it all led to. We sometimes tend to forget things (me especially), but the beauty of friendship is that we see one another from the outside but with loving hearts. My friends (and my journals) are usually the ones who remind me gently of the truths that I would rather forget or run away from, and in my life their guidance has been invaluable. You can make a new moon ritual to support and uplift each other while talking out some of the good, bad, and wonderful parts of your year – thereby making space for new and wiser decisions in your future.

~Choose one part of your life that you feel you have neglected or been passive about and make a change – massive or tiny. Whether it is managing your finances, talking to your boss, addressing a health concern, or even facing your own feelings or emotions towards something, this New Moon is a good time to be proactive and take things head on. The best advice I ever got was from my Uncle who told me to always be proactive in life. It’s so simple, but so profound when actually put into practice. So often we just get carried away with the tide and we lose ourselves amidst the many demands of life. We say yes when we mean no, we give when we feel we have nothing left to offer, and we do things without our heart being in it. But choosing to be more proactive about the choices, decisions, and actions we take is vital for our well-being, self-respect, and peace. It also has a snowball effect. If there is something you believe in or want to do, take that first step towards achieving it. You will be amazed at how the universe conspires to help you once you open that door.

~Read a biography about a person you feel a strong connection to/respect for. Autobiographies are amazing teachers because they remind us that each life is a complex story with many ups, downs, and all arounds. No person got to the top of Mt. Everest without first having to struggle and fall. No person achieved their greatest dreams without endless interesting, unexpected, crazy, magical, and unique experiences. I find so much inspiration and guidance in autobiographies and I think this is a great time to start to read one, partnering with the spirit of that person as you embark on your own adventure. Check out Nelly Odessa’s awesome collection of success stories for practical advice from people who made their dreams their reality.

Herbal Ritual for the New Moon

Shepherd’s Purse has heart shaped seed pods, giving it the folk name of Mother Heart.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is a Saturnian herb that has both grounding, rooting energy as well as a magical, deep, and other-worldly quality to it. This herb helps us to develop our inner will and to develop healthy, practical boundaries to stay true to our true will. Burn dried Shepherd’s Purse with a favorite magical herb such as Mugwort (for dreams, intuition, lunar connection) or White Sage (for cleansing, purifying, banishing negative energies and inviting good energy in) over charcoal and try to listen as your inner-most will and desires arise to the surface.

Try a nourishing Comfrey infusion (Symphytum officinale) taught by Susun Weed and take comfort in this Saturnian herb’s ability to mend and heal broken bones and maybe also broken hearts, helping to strengthen the skeletal system and giving a strong foundation upon which to build the future.

Meditate on the Mountain Goat Totem – the way it unhesitatingly climbs the most jagged cliffs and raises its kids to be unafraid of the mountain’s edge. Balance, patience, keeping their eye on their ultimate destination. How can you adapt these teachings in your life?

Looking ahead…..Aquarius is just around the bend, it’s a new moon, a new year, a new energy…may all your plans, goals, and investments be fruitful and expressed beautifully, creatively, with heart and soul in the coming year. May this month and year be a blessed one – one of physical and spiritual abundance and success. xox gem

For exact rising time of the new moon in your hometown, click here.

Interested in Astrology & Herbs? Check out my quarterly journal called the Starry Eyed Herbalist – Winter Issue is out now!

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