Yellow Dock: The Herb of Understanding

Yellow Dock is a strong weed, seen through the seasons in various stages of growth. Right now in winter, the stream of red in the leaf’s center (a brilliant color for nature) calls to the passerby, hinting at the fact that the name ‘weed’ has placed a mask over its powerful virtues.

As I sit with yellow dock on an unusually warm winter day in my garden in Asheville, NC, I am impressed by its humble beauty and strength.  The plant is as common as the need for it, and proves this by growing in lawns, on streetcorners and parks in every neighborhood and in every season. If only people knew about the healing benefits of Yellow Dock! There would be a drastic decline in Tums and laxatives, and even in iron pills!

Yellow Dock, or Rumex crispus, is also known by the name curly dock due to the curling actions of the leaves.  These leaves are a cousin of sorrel, and edible as well, with a sour and astringent taste.  The root is similar in taste, althought also bitter, and pushes down into the earth as a yellow-shaped man. These particular tastes and the downward moving action signify the effects yellow dock has on moving things down and out of the digestive system. The root as a tincture or tea can help move bile, decongesting the gallbladder and liver. It also detoxifies the blood (especially in combination with burdock root) and stimulates the peristaltic action of the colon (reducing constipation.)  Certain sources and my own experience with clients is that the intelligence of the plant creates an amphoteric action for the colon, helping to bring balance no matter what the affliction.  So for example, whether one is suffering from an irritable, crampy bowel, or a sluggish, immobile digestive system–yellow dock ameliorates.

In the energetic and spiritual realm, Yellow Dock is known as ‘the Herb of Understanding.’ According to Matthew Wood, one of my mentors and author of “The Book of Herbal Wisdom,” certain Native American tribes used Yellow Dock before a sweat lodge to deepen the wisdom and discernment of the material versus the spiritual realms. In my own experience, it assists in illuminating our higher mind through the avenue of strengthening the solar plexus–the seat of our will, power and assimilation of all life’s experiences.  It helps us to flush out old emotionsthat have become stagnant and even materialized in the form of hard matter or congestion in the colon.  Its downward flowing action correlates to Yoga and Ayurveda’s concept of Apana Vayu, the energy that governs all forms of elimination such as urination, menstruation, defecation and childbirth. As a tonic in this regards it is used by women for loss of iron and digestive issues during menstruation & childbirth. It makes a wonderful iron syrup tonic with molasses!!

This assistance to the downward flowing motion of energy is probably one of the most important gifts of yellow dock.  When it is hard to let go of the past (stories, anger, guilt, pain), old emotions or trauma lingering in the conscious or subconcsious mind, yellow dock is a powerful ally. Physically it ‘cleanses our blood’ but mentally it helps cleanse our mind.

Yellow Dock is a tonic, meaning it is nourishing like food.  I suggest whoever is reading this to get to know this plant! Make a tea from the roots (found in the bulk section of most health food stores) or as a tincture, or just sit by it on a sunny day to slow down, rest a bit and take the time to let go of whatever you no longer need. When we allow ourselves the time and space…and support to LET GO, we naturally make room for something else to move into our lives…and with intention, this something can be whatever we need–the perfect medicine to any situation.

For more information on Yoga and Herbs for the Digestion please visit http://www.vitalyogi.com for workshops, herbal remedies and articles. Namaste.

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Star of Bethlehem Flower Essence

The path of life is filled with a myriad of lessons and experiences that evolve our mind and transform our consciousness.  With the Star of Bethlehem flower essence, experiences that have seeded stories of pain (whether consciously or subconsciously) that have resulted in dense patterns of ‘darkness’ (such as despair, grief, disconnect, self-hatred, self-mutilation, anger, etc…) are brought to the light.

The Soul can see from the audience’s perspective, the pain of the human story, and is given the chance to heal that condition. The flowers bloom firmly on their stalks, forming in 3 main stages: pods that appear contained, like a delicate egg with precious life energy inside, cupped as if slowly welcoming in healing life force (the Sun) or like a star, the fullest potential, uninhibited and completely open.

This flower offers stages for the human soul to digest painful experiences in a manner that is comprehensible to the human experience, healing both the heart and patching up any subtle energy wounds. This flower is both teacher and student, like a pendulum swinging back and forth until the moment of clarity births the wise elder.

“This plant prefers moist to wet habitats. It is most often seen along the banks of rivers and streams in disturbed situations.” Horticulture Society of New England

This sentence is insightful, as it reflects the plant’s ability to flourish in ‘disturbed situations’ (traumatic experiences) and along rivers and streams (water=emotion). When we calm our own inner storms, elemental water finds its place internally, and the external manifestation of water on earth may also find its place without huge waves and outbursts of destruction.

Star of Bethlehem is one of the 5 flowers in Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a flower essence that no one should be without. Nurses, Doctors, families, pet owners and even the everyday person should have a bottle handy for all emergency situations. It is grounding, calming, centering, balances breath, and helps to relieve pain..physically, emotionally & mentally. You can give it to animals, children, & plants too…so profound yet at the same time extremely gentle.

Under the last full moon glow, my husband and I meditated (and I chanted healing Vedic Mantras) with this plant in our garden in Asheville, NC. I am making the essence as I write this (the flowers basking in the sun) from our garden’s voluntary patch. Email me if you wish to purchase a stock bottle made from this beautifully potent ‘Mother’ essence.  xoxo brooke

One Anjali (food as medicine)


In yoga practice, palms are joined together at the heart, symbolizing acknowledgement of the light we carry deep inside of us, the light of the eternal flame.  In being aware of this light, and present when we hold this gesture, we both recognize the value and honor of seeing both ourselves and others as something beyond appearance & position in society.  By joining our hands at the heart we humble our egos and connect to something more intimate, our source. Many traditions join the hands at the palms to pray.  Yoga is a tradition that embraces all traditions, all people as One Human Race.

Our hands play an important role in everything we do. As extensions of ourselves, they respond to our thoughts and desires through passionate articulation (I think of my Italian Daddy here!), they physically give and receive, and frankly, do a lot of work that often goes by unnoticed.

By cupping the hands together, we can receive nourishment. Filling cupped hands with water to say..splash on the face..settles the water into a heart-shaped pond in the palms (I noticed this while pregnant with saki & happened to see hearts everywhere!).  Observing this can bring us immediately into the moment & suspend the constant stream of thoughts into gratitude for the hands, for the water, and for this life.

Cupped hands are also used as a form of measurement in many of the less industrialized countries.

Sri Swami Mayatitinanda, affectionately called Mother Maya, talks about the importance of quantity along with quality. The cupped hands, or Anjali, equal approximately 1 cup. Your cupped hands reflect the size of your stomach. This information was a profound revelation on my path to good digestion and health. Having been taught to be a ‘good girl’ and clean my plate was poison to my system. American restaurants serve twice the amount of food per plate than what we can properly digest (sometimes three times the amount!!) Too much food stops up the digestive tract creating an undo amount of stress not only on the stomach and colon, but on the liver and spleen as well. Toxins build up in the body (called Ama in Ayurveda) & as a result we feel tired, bloated, or grumpy…and get constipation or diarrhea or break out in acne. Yuck.

Every morning I prepare some lip-smacking oatmeal that if Tony the Tiger was still around (shoot maybe he still is ??), he would say THEY’RE GRRRREAT! Food as medicine is all about quality along with quantity. It is recognizing how active you are going to be and how much your body can digest per sitting. (and yes, we must sit down when we eat moms…) It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to send the info to your brain that you are full. By noticing how many handfuls of food you need to fill your belly, you can get bowls of that size and not worry about it. Eat what is in the bowl and wait that 20 minutes. If you are still hungry, eat a bit more! Ayurveda says that we should fill our bellies with 1/2 food, 1/4 liquid and leave 1/4 air for room to digest.

When I make oats for Saki & I before she goes to school I measure a handful of oats for each of us (one Anjali). Rolled oats, not the quick ones, are full of nutrition and expand when cooked. When I add the herbs and the nuts and the dried fruits this meal is a perfect size for us. We are not overstuffed and there is no waste! As a conscious mama this delicate balance is often sought after in my kitchen experiments! Cooking, like yoga, is all about practice!

Bootysattva’s Herbal Oatmeal:

Recipe soon to come 🙂 (I have run out of time & must go practice yoga…)

**Please check out Path of Practice by Bri Maya Tiwari for a wonderful book on our relationship to food, breath and sound through the Ayurvedic and Vedic tradition. (This is Sri Swamini Mayatitananda before her name changed)

A Note to Nettles

Nettles My Friend,

How are you? I have missed you all summer…although I wouldn’t quite say I was lonely. Naww.  Melissa and Sweet Annie and I became real close. I met them in my neighborhood, just hanging out by my back fence.  They were a pretty wild bunch, and very cool to be with,  just not around so much now that school is back in.

Oh but I forgot! You probably don’t know that we moved back into town. That’s why I was so surprised to see you right here on Craggy Avenue.

Do you still hang out at the Dog Park? I’ve missed you!

Remember that time when I was walking Ashay to go pick some chickweed down by the river? It felt so good to just be outside, without a thousand layers on my body.  I still feel bad that I didn’t notice you. But man! You can be a bit bitchy when you want attention! I thought you were so tough and all, but now I know you better. Yeah, you are tough–but in a good way.

I just wanted to write you this note to say thank you for everything you have done for me and our family. You are the best kind of friend, helping me out in so many ways I can’t even count them! But I want you to know that our friendship has made me a really good mama and a happy wife. Remember that time when I was sick and just kept trying to ignore it? Hmmm… I thought it was some bad food I ate or something. But drinking your tea until I practically turned green stopped that sneaky bladder infection from going chronic. I even stopped craving coffee for weeks after drinking your brew! And who woulda thought that could happen?!

Hanging out with you always makes me feel so comfortable, like being with my Grandma sharing crazy life stories. Even Saki loves you dearly. Traveling around so much makes it a bit challenging to keep up with our friends, but she’s got a great memory and thinks of you a lot. To be real honest, I think your vitality has really rubbed off on her. She’s quite a firecracker!

Anyway, its so good to see that you are back this fall–and in my own neighborhood! Maybe you can come over soon and have a cup of tea with me? That would be fresh.

Love, B

Stinging Nettles: Queen of the Herbs

Nettles is so filled with vitamins and minerals, that it can easily be a life long ally for healthy living.  Drinking infusions throughout pregnancy can make your whole body strong and vital, brings health and luster to your hair, and replenishes depleted kidneys and adrenals. Nettles are diuretic, (make you pee) so try not too drink too much before you go to bed or you will have to make lots of midnight trips to the bathroom. They are a boost to the respiratory system (from allergies to influenza) & can help build & bring balance to the immune system from many chronic diseases. Study this plant if you need to work on boundaries. Nettles teaches how to say ‘no’ when confronted with too many responsibilities or dominant personalities. Just check out those stingers!

Nettles tastes good too. It is a known fact in the herbal world that medicine should taste absolutely fabulous.  Try it in lasagna (my favorite!), in stew (with adzuki beans and coconut milk!) or cook in the crock pot with black beans. When you cook it or infuse in water, the sting disappears. You can harvest some wild (first timers may wanna use gloves), throw fresh in a pillow case…then take a bath with it! Autumn nettles are ready for harvest now.

 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)                        Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua)

Juniper

A funny thing about Plant medicine, is that as you delve into the world of the green allies, they begin to shout out to you to offer assistance. All ya gotta do is listen to hear whose calling and be discriminative with who you choose. Juniper was the loud one this morning, and I had such a great experience with it that I thought to share…Ahhh, Juniper.

This morning I woke up to a cold, dreary autumn day….feeling cold and dreary deep down into my bones. My sinuses have been congested for days & I know my body has been fighting off the many viruses that have been flying around our little Asheville community. So in my morning practice  I realized what a pain in the butt a stuffed up nose was going to be. But I was determined.

So I put 8 drops of Juniper into an aromatherapy diffuser and began meditating.  The past 5 days have been varied & intense with hosting herbal medicine making parties to performing with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo to shamanic breathwork to teaching advanced yoga practices with the Shanti collective…whew! and my body & nervous system was vibrating. Smelling Juniper and taking in its plant spirit, I felt an immediate sense of calm tranquility claim my spine. It carried me into realms of sensual earthiness, relaxing both my body and nervous system in a manner that was clarifying and stimulating. It helped me to assimilate the busyness and transformative energies of the past few days while clearing up my senses so that I could truly ‘see’. What an amazing plant to bring into meditation.

Juniperus communis, or Juniper, is a native to our big island America &  is a relative of the cypress family. It can be taken as a tincture or in tea (you would use the berries).  Since it is a native here, it is practically everywhere, often used as a plant to prevent erosion on the edges of properties and as a trustworthy ornamental in commercial landscaping. So if you happen to see some beautiful purple berries growing on your local juniper bush, grab a few and throw them into your tea! (make sure its not dog territory though!) They are warming and aromatic, and extremely useful for the kidneys-specifically water retention such as edema & uric acid buildup. They are also wonderful with uva ursi & marshmallow root for bladder infections after the heat of the initial infection is past. *Times to avoid this plant is when suffering from an acute inflammation because the plant is stimulating with its pungent & warming oils.**

Cascade Anderson Geller, at one of our local Gaia conferences claimed that sprigs of Juniper commonly used to be thrown into meat dishes to help with digestion. So not only does this awesome plant dry up mucus in the lungs and support exhausted kidneys, but it helps prevent (or dispel) gas.

On a side note, Monica Furlong wrote a series of books about a wise herbal woman named Juniper. These books have been my daughter’s and my favorite’s for years….we have read them over and over. So if you are interested in witchy ways & powerful herbal women..check them out! (I would read them even if I didn’t have a child!)