Sunday, February 5, 2012
Lately I've been thinking about the bigger picture of health and what I choose to put into my body. Along with thinking about what I eat, I've also begun to realize that it's not just food that helps my body to stay healthy, strong, and resilient -- it's also the herbs and spices that I use. I use herbs and spices not only in cooking but also in my daily care routine. Teas, tinctures, and other remedies came into my life as a way of healing when I was a teenager and was fortunate enough to work in a small health food store. There, a full supplement section beckoned for me to explore it, to soak up as much information as I could to be able to help not only myself, but others. To this day, herbs remain an integral part of my life style. I might drink some chamomile tea to help me sleep, or take some ashwaganda when feeling stressed. When I feel a cold coming on, I know I can count on certain herbs to help me stay resilient to sickness, and, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I use ginger and turmeric to keep carpal tunnel at bay. This is just a sampling of how herbs can help with daily things that come up in life.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Ethan Birch, a local herbalist who offers not only consultations but also herbs, teas, and tinctures. I thought it would be interesting to interview Ethan, and am excited to share his answers with you. You can learn more about Ethan at Under Root Healing.
1. When did you know that you wanted to pursue herbalism as a career?
When I started my first Herbal Apprenticeship at the Boston School of Herbal Studies, I was simply following my curiosity for herbs and love of the natural world. I had no idea where it was all leading me! But once I started, I just couldn't get enough! I loved studying herbs, their healing powers, their energetics, their personalities. I also loved the spiritual side, immersing myself in mother earth, listening to her plants and the healing they offer, and getting to know their spirits. When I began my second Herbal Apprenticeship, we started much more intensively studying how to be a clinician. I loved every minute of it. It started to creep into my imagination...I can do this wonderful work all the time! What I saw from my wonderful teachers was how they fashioned their work as conduits between client and the plant world. My teachers don't see themselves as being the source or provider of healing. They see themselves as being the bridge between the healing of plants and the person seeking healing. It is a beautiful way of relating to people and plants. I felt myself being called to that work and have answered by starting my own journey as a Clinical Herbalist and Holistic Wellness Counselor by starting Under Root Healing here in Portland, Maine.
2. What is one of the most powerful/meaningful moments you have experienced through your work?
When I was doing my Advanced Apprenticeship at the Boston School of Herbal studies, we had guest clients come in for all of the student herbalists to learn the process of a healing consultation. I had had my own experience as a client, but had never observed a consultation. The guest client that came in was dealing with a number of physical and psycho/spiritual/emotional imbalances. We all worked together to formulate an herbal remedy specified to the client's needs. As we did this, I witnessed how perfect the herbs were for her. I knew that the herbs addressed all of her physical imbalance, but it went much deeper than that. As she held her remedy, I saw a light in her face that had been absent before, her shoulders and spine relaxed, her voice was both lighter and more relaxed than it had been, she smiled more easily. There was an obvious, physical difference. It was clear that the herbs addressed every facet of her wellness. She was on a path that was more in balance and grounded in health. And every time I see a client, this is my favorite part and it's so exciting to witness! When I craft a formula of herbs and the client holds it and right away I can see the beginnings of health and balance. I can see lightness, releasing of tension, and ease. It is so awe inspiring to see how powerful plants are as healers of the whole person.
3. Do you have any books you would recommend to a budding herbalist?
There are so many wonderful teachers and books out there! I started with Rosemary Gladstar's "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health." It's a wonderful book and a great place to start for a budding herbalist. I also definitely recommend just getting outside. Observe the plants that are in your yard or popping up in between the cracks in the sidewalk outside your workplace. Notice any plants you feel drawn to, or have memories of from childhood. Did you used to make red clover necklaces as a child? Did you peel birch bark and pretend it was your bowl as you adventured in the forest? Look up the medicinal benefits of those plants. More than likely the plants we have childhood memories of or that pop up all over our yard are there for a reason! Most often the plants we need most as healers figure out a way to weave themselves into our lives.
4. What are your top three favorite healing plants, and why?
I have had a long time love for reishi. It has so many benefits! It's great for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthening the immune system, and nourishing burnt out adrenals. Reishi is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer. I love to add a teaspoon of reishi powder to smoothies or almond milk as a daily practice. Reishi also has a wonderful energetic quality in that it balances the heart/mind connection. So it is great for aligning your life both physically and energetically. I also love that I can find this super healing mushroom locally!
Of late, I have found myself drawn to herbs that I feel have ancient and wise spirits. Herbs such as elder, pine, and sage have been making appearances in my teas, tinctures, and other herbal remedies. These are all super healing to the physical body, but something about their ancient wisdom feels timely for the holiday season and new year.
5. Do you offer consultations online? Do you sell your tinctures, teas, and other herbal products online?
I do offer consultations via email from time to time. I definitely prefer to see a client in person so that I can do some pulse, facial, and eye diagnostics. The pulse, face, and eye all have indicators regarding the health of the deeper organ systems of the body. I get a very precise picture of what is going on for a client by observing the body. However, at times this in person consultation is not an option due to time or distance. I prefer talking to clients on the phone, but I can also use email. I simply ask clients questions about their condition that will help me gather enough information to craft a personalized herbal formula.
I am currently working on setting up a shop on line! I just launched a website (www.underroothealing.com) which is still under construction. In the future I would like to have a some tea blends, tinctures, bath salts, and salves available for sale on line. Just stay tuned! In the meantime, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and inquire about herbal goodies I have to offer. If you're looking for a calming after work tea, a good cold and flu fighter, an all purpose healing salve for bumps and bruises, etc. feel free to contact me! Also feel free to follow under root healing on facebook for news, specials, products, and blog posts.
6. What would you recommend to readers to improve their health during the winter months?
I would definitely recommend keeping reishi and astragalus close by. Both are very powerful at strengthening the immune system. A tincture of the two herbs taken two or three times a day would be wonderful at getting the immune system tuned up to fight off winter colds and flus! Just make sure not to take astragalus when you have a fever since it can make the situation worse. Astragalus root and reishi mushroom are delicious to add to soup stock, just strain out the herbs once the stock is ready.
I would recommend having elderberry syrup, tincture, or elixir on hand. It is a powerful fighter of colds and flus and is super tasty! I just prepared an elderberry/pine elixir prepared with local elderberries, pine needles and bark, spruce needles and bark, brandy, and raw local honey. Pine and spruce add vitamin C and are both very soothing to coughs and sore throats. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you'd like some!
Posted by Lauren at 9:33 AM