Essays

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This is the archive for my Herbal Essays that I have written for my Professional Herbalist Certification from the East West School of Planetary Herbology.  The philosophy of Planetary Herbology combines the teachings of the three major systems of herbal medicine from around the world: Western Herbalism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Ayurveda.

*There is no assignment for Lesson 1*

Lesson 2
The question of balance is one that I have pursued for many years now. Although I hesitate to label myself with any particular faith or system of belief, I often describe my beliefs as most closely aligned with Taoist philosophy. Having studied Taoist philosophy while in college, I am quite familiar with the pursuit of balance in a multitude of ways. In an effort to better understand how the application of a balanced lifestyle can positively impact ones health, I shall examine the degree of balance that currently exists in my life in the various physical, emotional, mental and spiritual arenas. I will identify that which is lacking in each of these areas, how the imbalance in these areas causes discomfort, and finally I will incorporate principles taught in Lesson 2 in order to propose ways in which balance can be achieved in my life.
When I was a child, I recall an after school experience where my mother and younger brother came home from a quick run to the grocery store and my brother had successfully finagled from her a bag of Skittles candies for himself and also a Three Musketeers candy bar for me. Normally I would happily eat my candy and think nothing of it but I suddenly realized that regularly consuming candy was bad for me! I got angry about the situation and rejected the candy out of concern that I was going to get fat. This was perhaps my first realization that the old adage “you are what you eat” is quite true.

As I grew up I made an effort to eat healthy but did not get serious about health and wellbeing until I discovered the film “The Future of Food” and learned about the problems of the industrialized system of food production as well as the dangers of genetically modified foods. Around this time I began exercising and riding a bicycle nearly everywhere I could. I found the book “The Shaolin Workout” by Sifu Shi Yan Ming and began to study the stretches and exercise techniques presented in the book. This “active meditation” was complemented when I took a class on Taoism at my college that encompassed Chu meditation, a form of Taoist meditation, as well as a bit of Tai Chi. I can say without a doubt that these practices were a huge asset to my personal development. In addition to physical exercise, I began to further developing my herbal skills and the application of herbs and supplements became a huge factor in my physical balance.

Currently, the physical degree of balance in my life is quite strong. Although I admit that I do not exercise as much as I should, I still make an effort to work out and keep active. I have a weight bench and heavy bag that I try to use a few times a week, as well as a yoga mat that I use to stretch out and meditate on. I can confidently that my eating habits are probably better now than they have ever been. I eat almost exclusively organic (other than eating out) and have been successfully applying the dietary principles of the Planetary Diet to my lifestyle. Having apprenticed with East West graduate Laurence Layne, I had already read The Way of Herbs and was somewhat familiar with the principles of energetics before starting this course. Having lived in Florida for nearly six years, I had gotten into the habit of eating abundant raw foods; such as salads, fruits, juices of all kinds, yogurt, and various other cooling foods. Now that I have relocated back to the northeast, I am actively choosing particular foods in order to maintain harmony with my cooler climate. Not only I am trying to drink more ginger tea, but I try to cook with more warming, spicy, carminative type foods. I frequently season my food with homegrown Basil, cayenne powder, black pepper, and other spices. Lately I have also been drinking Caraway seed tea after meals to promote and enhance digestion. Thanks to my job in the natural products industry I have a wide availability of supplements that I incorporate in my routine.

The emotional degree of balance in my life is fair and strong. Family is of great importance to emotional wellbeing and I am happy to be back in the northeast where I am closer to my mother and step-father, brother, uncle and friends who I have not seen for many years. However, I am no longer near my father and step-mother, and all the friends and acquaintances I made while living in north Florida. This has been somewhat disruptive to move away from the many friends I have in Florida, but it has provided me with the opportunity to make new friends and develop relationships with people in my local herbal community.

Sometimes the weight of the world is very heavy. I often think about the future of humanity. I wonder if we will continue into the future and evolve and adapt or if we will succumb to our own ignorance. However, I do have great faith in nature. For every problem that mankind has created for himself, there is an answer and it lies in nature. As tumultuous as our future might be, I believe that we shall find success through the creation of biodynamic communities and ultra-efficient buildings that implement bio-mimicry technologies. We shall reinvent healthcare with an emphasis on prevention and encourage the use of food as medicine. We shall rekindle our innate connection with nature and marvel at the respect that we have for such a perfect system. Indeed as Thomas Edison is oft-quoted: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease”. People will learn that the human body is the vessel for the brain, mind and soul, and thus must be nourished in order to grow, live and be healthy. People will learn how to eat, and not just what to eat. They will learn that poor eating is the cause of multiple problems and chemical laden foods should never be consumed. They will learn to eat what their body needs to be healthy. They will learn how to use herbs to correct imbalances or eliminate diseases. We shall achieve the future envisioned by Dr. John Christopher of an Herbalist in every home, and a Master Herbalist in every community.

The mental degree of balance in my life is exemplified by this course and by my other academic pursuits. I enjoy research immensely and have made a habit of searching the online newsfeed for anything related to herbalism or natural healing. I also stay well informed on a variety of political issues, especially those which are related to my career. I believe firmly that every human being has the right to determine the kind of medicine they use to keep well and will also take this opportunity to echo the statement in Lesson 1 that reads: “…apart from learning the rigors of practice, it is equally important to remain politically vigilant to the ever shifting tides for and against herbal medicine as it continues into the 21st century” (1-35).

The status quo argument would cry out in favor of vaccines, anti-biotic drugs, and the invasive technologies which many rely upon to keep them alive when they have not taken care of themselves. As many individuals are beginning to realize, especially in the case of chronic disease, there is always a more natural, less invasive and disruptive method of healing that is available to us. If we simply look the advent of pharmaceutical medicines, we shall see that nearly all of them are of a natural origin. This should indicate that our solution lies in nature.

A Japanese proverb goes something like “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.” I believe that this is something akin to what has become of our precious planet. Man, the would-be overseer of this planet, has allowed himself to fall into a state of atrophy where he is no longer content with the essential, the beautiful, even sacred events or rituals of life. Eating a meal, making love, drinking a cup of tea in the afternoon are all wonderful examples. So many of us do still praise these all important activities and still realize the inherent divinity in such an act. But sadly, many others have fallen victim to the animal appetites of these sacred practices. To boot, contemporary man has grown bored with these everyday occurrences and can only hunger for more. Rampant consumerism is the result of this hunger, and the solution will come in a variety of ways.
Having earned my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy/Religion, I have a deep appreciation for the spiritual and sacred things. I was not raised in a religious home (thankfully) and was allowed to come to my own conclusions about life and the mysteries of the universe. I do not subscribe to any one particular belief system; instead I study various texts and pull from them what is true for me. The teachings of Taoism and the various Earth-based religions such as Wicca or various Native American philosophies are the strongest for me, but I also have a great respect and appreciation for the teachings of Christ and the Buddha. I have also spent a great deal of time reading contemporary figures such as Thomas Merton, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. All of these traditions and philosophies essentially express the same concept of love.

I will conclude by mentioning an activity that I believe brings all of this together and promotes a balance that most of us are lacking in this age. The activity of gardening is one that has brought much happiness and balance into my life over the past several years. While I lived in Florida I took part in the Student Government of my college and was elected the First Chair of the Green Committee. I made the focus of our committee the promotion of community gardens and locally produced organic produce. During these two years that I ran the project, we had tremendous success, building gardens not only on the college campus, but also at a Jewish Temple, a Catholic Church, and two local elementary schools.

The goal of the project had many aims: to promote community gardens, educate the community about the food system, but most of all attempt to rekindle the innate connection that people have with plants. Many of my fellow students did not even know how to simply dig a hole with their hands and place a seedling in that hole, but I did what I could to teach them while I lived there.

The only gardening I have done this season was the cultivation of a small herb garden at my mother’s home in Bomoseen, Vermont. I harvested dandelion root and drank it through the summer and fall. We grew Tulsi (one of my favorite herbs) and made tea. We grew California Poppy and other decorative flowers as well. I hope by next year I will have my own property that I can garden on once again. Gardening, like herbalism, is so fundamental to what we are as human beings. Not only does it enhance our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing, but it also provides us with many important lessons. We learn the science of growing plants, we learn patients, we learn to problem solve and interact with our community. Perhaps most important of all, gardening like herbalism, is empowering. It allows us to grow the plants which will feed us when we are hungry, clothe us when we are cold, and heal us when we are sick. When we take part in this great cycle of life, we discover the magic that has been there all along and a profound respect for all of nature is reborn within our hearts.

Lesson 3
Choose three local herbs and include them as foods in your diet. Describe the recipes you used along with their effects and your experiences. {Note: this essay is a compilation of herbs gathered in late 2012 into early 2013}

1) Wild Maine Rosehip tea
One of the most beautiful places in the world has to be Acadia, Maine. This past winter, I was fortunate enough to be driving along the coast in Acadia when I pulled over to enjoy the view. Walking along the pull-off area I noticed several rosehip bushes just growing wild on the side of the road. The winter had already set in pretty well and the ripe rosehips were just hanging out waiting for someone to make use of them.

As much as I would have loved to make some sort of jam or sauce, I was staying in a hotel for the next couple days. I figured that since I really enjoy Rosehip tea, I would just gather some up and make a tea back at the hotel.
Rosehips are an amazing herb, rich in numerous anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and many other beneficial compounds. Many people liken Rosehips to a citrusy type flavor and energy, due to their Vitamin C content, and yet I personally have always thought that Rosehips have a very tomato-like taste. After a quick Google search I discovered that Rosehips contain a small amount of lycopene, the heart healthy, prostate-protecting compound in the Tomatoes we all know and love.
Dr. H. C. A. Vogel tells us that Rosehips are also rich in important minerals. In his book The Nature Doctor, Vogel explains that “They are nourishing because of their many mineral salts, such as calcium, silica, magnesium, and phosphorus”(p385). The impressive nutritional profile of Rosehips makes them an herb that should be thought of as a food. Vogel tells us “Seriously ill people who cannot take any other herbal infusion are quite safe with rosehip tea”(p387). Perhaps if all of us took Rosehip tea more often, we would be less likely to be so ill that we cannot take any other herbal infusions.
I was very fortunate to come upon these during the cold winter, especially when I am in need of Vitamin C and other related nutrients! Rosehips are one of my favorite herbs actually, and this was a great find that I will certainly be revisiting in the future.

2) Dandelion Green Salad
As soon as Spring arrived I was eager to get back outdoors. I started my garden mid-April and have been eager to walk through the woods once again. In early May, I set off on an adventure with a new friend to go camping in New Durham, NH. My friend is an eager forager and could not wait to get out into the woods and harvest baby dandelion greens for our meal. After searching the 2 acres around his cabin, we ended up collecting two baskets worth of dandelion greens and returning to incorporate them into our meal. We luckily did not have to forage for our entire meal because the fish were not biting at all. We were lucky that we were able to bring venison steak, onions and garlic. In a simple, yet delicious meal, we cooked the steaks with onion and garlic, and then poured the juice over our dandelion greens salad. Absolutely delicious. I harvested dandelion roots last year and drank them as a tea throughout fall and winter, but I have not had a dandelion green salad in many years, so this was a treat.

3) Red Clover
Recently, while riding my bicycle, I stumbled upon a large patch of Red Clover. I have eaten the Red Clover flowers by themselves, plucking and eating them right off the bush. However, I had never incorporated them into an actual recipe before.

After doing a bit of research online, I discovered that there are an abundance of tea and beverage recipes that incorporate Red Clover, but I was excited to discover some more substantial recipes on this website: http://rosesprodigalgarden.org/recipes/redcloverrecipes.html
Since I am always cooking up rice I thought it would be easy enough to add some Red Clover blossoms to my dinner. Here is the recipe that I used:
Red Clover Rice

2 cups rice, brown or wild
2 cups Red Clover flowerettes, plucked out of the flowerheads
½ cup butter
1 tsp salt
1. Cook rice in 6 cups water until done.
2. While the rice is still hot, mix in Clover flowers, butter and salt.
3. Serve hot.

This was a simple, but tasty recipe. I actually used jasmine rice which complemented the sweet and salty floral notes of the Red Clover Blossoms. I also cooked carrots, radish, onion, and garlic with this rice to add a little more Yang energy to the dish.
Although Red Clover is typically perceived as a woman’s herb, it is a fantastic blood-purifier and anti-tumor agent. I have personally received great feedback about this herb while working at Old City Remedies in St. Augustine, Florida. We had a mother come in looking for something for her son who had very swollen lymph nodes. The owner recommended that she buy several ounces of Red Clover Blossoms and give it to him as a tea. Several weeks later we received an email with another order for Red Clover, citing that his lymph nodes were visibly less swollen and he was making great progress.
Dr. Tierra discusses some of the properties of Red Clover in his book The Way of Herbs, “Red clover is effective for skin complaints, eruptions, psoriasis and eczema. Its antispasmodic and expectorant properties make the blossom useful for coughs, colds and other diseases associated with mucous congestion”(p185).
One question that seems to be debated within herbalist circles is the issue of phytoestrogens within plants like Red clover and whether or not these herbs are beneficial for a woman who has in the past been diagnosed with breast cancer or someone who is taking hormone therapy for whatever reason. I am always skeptical of synthetic hormonal treatments and believe herbs are the far safer option when it comes to addressing issues of hormonal change.

Lesson 4

After reviewing the material in Chapter 4 and reading various other sources I have to conclude that my physical constitution is predominantly Pitta. As mentioned in the text, we are all composed of all three Doshas. I do recognize the other elements that compose my constitution but in the following essay I will attempt to explain how I have come to this conclusion. In order to do this I shall examine my constitution from three perspectives: the first being the outward appearance of my physical body, the second being the biology of my body, and lastly the psychological or emotional perspective. I will then discuss the various foods, herbs and lifestyle choices that I have incorporated in order to balance my constitution.
I am 5’11” which is slightly taller than the average height for males. I have for a long time weighed in about 160 lbs. and this number very rarely fluctuates. I have brown hair with bits of red and blonde hair in my beard. As mentioned above, I do have moles and occasional pimples or skin eruptions but this has greatly been reduced through the regular consumption of Stinging Nettle tea or other alterative herbs. It is only when I neglect to drink herbal tea or eat foods that aggravate my constitution do I have problems with my skin, which is typically has a tan or reddish color and is somewhat oily.
My father is very Pitta and I share many of the same physical characteristics including heat in the body, a radiant or reddish skin color, a tendency towards pimples and skin eruptions (blood toxicity), a tendency towards baldness, and a medium/muscular build. I typically have a good appetite and digestion, although I have a bad habit of eating too quickly. When I foolishly skip meals I pay the price for it later with irritability and frustrations due to the resulting low blood sugar. I enjoy all types of foods but I do often seek out cold, sweet drinks such as juices and coconut water. Before I knew better I used to drink soda and I am sure this aggravated my constitution as it does anyone who consumes it.
I lived in Florida for about six years and was successfully able to tolerate the heat and sunlight but with the excess heat I do tend to perspire with body odor. The quality of my body odor will vary determine on the foods I have been eating. Typically I have found that eating meat slows my digestion and that I am better off consuming numerous vegetables with high protein grains such as quinoa or rice. Lately I have been getting into the habit of soaking my rice in order to remove the phytic acids in order to achieve a higher level of calcium (and various other minerals).
In regards to functional foods and herbs, I enjoy raw foods (although I have been avoiding excess raw food consumption during the cold winter months in New England). I love honey, fruits and have started cooking with ghee. I have found that ghee is excellent for cooking eggs. I try to drink a lot of herbal teas, coconut water and kombucha. I am even starting to brew my own kombucha at home. Some of the herbs that I drink often include Schizandra, Nettle, Moringa, Triphala and others. I will also incorporate sweeter adaptogens that are not heavily stimulating such as Ashwagandha, Astragalus and American Ginseng. I have been snacking on Indian Gooseberries or dried Amla berries which is an excellent medicinal food, particularly this time of year when everyone is going so crazy over the flu. I will admit that I do enjoy eating spicy foods and this can cause problems. I find that if I consume too much acidic food, i.e. coffee, alcohol, citrus juices, fatty meats or various other spicy foods that I will have canker sores in my mouth that are quite a nuisance. This improper diet can also result in occasional constipation. However, these symptoms are relieved by using the proper herbs and food.
Emotionally I feel that I am a combination of Pitta and Vata characteristics. I would assert that I am intelligent and sharp-witted, with good comprehension and communication skills. I also believe that I can be a jealous and ambitious person. I am also quite hard-headed and irrepressible in arguments. However, I also possess some Vata traits that I presume I have inherited from my mother who has more of a Vata constitutional type. These Vata characteristics include a tendency towards anxiety, nervousness, thinking or worrying too much.
After taking the What’s My Dosha? Quiz, I was surprised at how many answers I circled that were in the Pitta category. I marked 3 for Vata Dosha, 1 for Kapha Dosha, and a whopping 19 for Pitta Dosha. Of course some of these answers could vary and I might have answered a few more in the Vata or Kapha categories, but regardless of that I am still overwhelmingly Pitta. While researching online, I stumbled across the Banyan Botanicals Dosha Quiz which provided me with the following results: Pitta 48.3%, Vata 34.5%, and Kapha 17.2%. These statistics were more along the lines of my original thinking, but they still place me firmly in the Pitta camp. For good measure, I also took the Irwin Naturals Dosha quiz which I found at one of my stores in Maine. This quiz also placed me solidly in the Pitta category.
Ayurveda is a unique approach to health that requires us to expand our thought processes and think about the natural cycle of our three Doshas. I have been able to use this information to reassess my own constitution and even some of my friends and family. I have started to realize how an excess or deficiency of one Dosha can lead to an imbalance in another; for example, an individual with a Pitta constitution might have their Dosha aggravated by a deficiency of Vata Dosha. I started to think of this similar to the way that a fire burns hotter when there is air to feed it. If the fire burns too hot or too quickly, there will undoubtedly be disruptions in health. It is essential that we provide our digestive fire with the correct quality and quantity of fuel and to ensure that we do not burn up all of our fuel at once. The system of elements that occurs in all of the traditions of herbal healing is a great gift to humankind and it will be most intriguing to see how this paradigm continues to shape and evolve the medical conversation in our world.

Lesson 5
This is perhaps my favorite line from the Tao Te Ching. As I have mentioned in previous articles, if I had to “choose a religion” as so much of the world seems to do, I would have to choose Taoism. I choose Taoism not for any cultural reasons, but more because it is what makes the most sense to me. In my mind, the concepts of Yin and Yang are incredibly valuable concepts that help us to understand how the entire universe works. In this brief article I will attempt to describe my understanding of health by discussing Yin and Yang in Herbalism.
As I have already classified myself as predominantly Pitta, it is a fairly logical leap that I would be more Yang dominant. There are many reasons for this. First of all I am male, and masculinity naturally lends itself towards Yang. Although this is not to say that there are not females that are more constitutionally Yang than some men. There are always exceptions to every rule. This is what is so perfect about herbal medicine; it allows us to craft the exact energetic formula that we need to treat both the patient and the disease.
By employing the use of herbal medicines, we are able to approach a problem in a myriad of ways. Determining an individual constitution requires keen perception and unique inquisitiveness. Growing up as a child, I ate a Standard American Diet, which surely just inflamed my developing Pitta-Yang energetics. Because they have been stripped of all their natural life force, conventional processed foods are dangerous stagnation waiting to happen. Acne, insomnia, stress and depression all resulted from these excess Yang foods that I consumed as an adolescent.
In fact, my first question for herbal healing began with Chamomile tea that I started drinking to help me sleep at night. Looking back now I am remarkably grateful for the simple little yellow and white flowers that set me on a new course in life. Chamomile is just one simple remedy that possesses a bounty of natural chemical compounds and useful energetic properties. Chamomile is well known as a sleep-aid and helpful for tummy troubles. It provided me in digestion and detoxing some of the lower quality foods I was consuming at that point in my life. Chamomile also helped me become less anxious.
Being a flower, Chamomile is energetically more of a Yin substance. For this reason, flowers are typically employed in treating various Yang disorders. Many flowers are Yin, including Echinacea, Calendula, and St. John’s Wort. All of these herbs are different, but all are useful for various degrees and kinds of inflammation, a Yang condition. With the “dreaded” flu season now behind us for the year, we can be thankful that we have Elder flower and berries to shield us from the colds floating around. When examining flowers and then berries, I would call both of these substances more Yin, but I would say that flowers are more Yang than berries. I say this because flowers reach out to the sun, absorbing the Yang energy. Many flowers are bright yellow and resemble the sun in many ways. Mother Nature miraculously transmutes the flower into fruit. Most fruits, especially berries contain a higher concentration of water (in order to nourish the seed that will be the next generation). Both possess cooling energies overall, but this is why I describe berries as more Yin than flowers.
As I began to discover more herbs, I gradually worked my way towards more Yang substances. Ginseng is probably the most famous of Yang herbs. The iconic phallic shape that many roots take resonates with us on a subconscious level. If we look at the biologic example in the previous paragraph, while an herb is growing it is storing its energy in its taproot in order to survive the next cold spell. This is the reason that many Yang herbs are roots and have such adaptogenic properties. Ginseng must endure and adapt to the harsh, cold, dark, wet; one might say the Yin of Winter. In order to do this, these herbs must store up plenty of Yang to counter balance the Yin. While working at the Oldest Drugstore, I discovered the value of Stinging Nettles, which helped clean my blood, keep my skin clear, and gradually help me overcome my allergies. Nettle is dried leaf, so I would still call it more Yin than Yang, but it is a very mild and neutral herb also. As I said earlier, there are exceptions to every rule, but this does not change that the concepts are valuable tools.
The method by which we consume herbs will also change the energies and properties of the herbal. In fact, Yin and Yang even applies to the way in which we take or administer our herbs. As I said earlier, I developed a habit for tea. Taking herbs as a tea, infusion, or decoction are all far more Yin ways of consuming herbs than taking a tincture or smoking your herbs. The reason for this is obvious, with Yin being associated with Water and Yang being associated with fire. An alcohol tincture is obviously a more Yang substance than water. We should be mindful that how we take our herbs will change their varying degree of usefulness for particular conditions. For example, if we are trying to break up kidney stones, or prevent them for that matter, we should take Yin herbs, such as Gravel root, Uva Ursi, Dandelion leaf. Ideally one would take the herbs in a tea form, in order to enhance hydration and help with the flushing of the kidney stones. Taking these herbs as a tea, as opposed to a capsule for instance, will be more effective for the particular ailment that you are trying to treat.
Looking at current events in our country, if an individual smokes Cannabis or even Passionflower to relieve stress or pain, they should consider using a vaporizer or taking their herbs as a tincture. This is especially true if the individual already has an inflammatory condition. For instance, an elderly man with MS and emphysema, should not be smoking his Cannabis, but instead consuming it in a more cooling fashion such as vaporizing or getting the most Yin benefit as a raw supplement or juice. All of these factors should come into play when we are developing an herbal formula for ourselves or our patients.
The reason that I started with Chapter 46 is that I believe that it so accurately depicts the problem with our current society. For far too long, America has had her Galloping Steeds converted and used as War Horses. This is because many people have forgotten the land and how we must treat the Earth with a respect and reciprocity that we must also show each other. Planetary Herbalism is a part of this process and it will be a great component as we try to heal the world. One of the main reasons that I am pursuing this endeavor is so that I am better equipped to heal the world and return the War Horses to the green pastures. When we finally do this as a culture, then the people will stop fighting and return to their gardens.

Lesson 6
Five Element Theory
As we round the corner from winter into springtime, it is important that we take note of what this means for our own bodies as well as the environment. With the snow melting away and the warm days return, the old adage of ‘spring cleaning’ suggests that we open our windows to let the fresh air in and begin to welcome some of that new growth of spring energy into out days. The adage refers not only to our homes, but also our bodies. If Yin and Yang describe the ebb and flow of the universe Tao, then the Five Elements describe the cycles within the Tao. In order to explain this idea, I shall guide the reader through the Five Seasons, often discussing how our understanding the progression of the seasons reflects and is intimately connected to herbs and herbalism.
Taoism teaches that the origin of the 10,000 things is Yin. We can look to the most Yin of seasons as a starting point for our journey. Albert Camus wrote “In the depth of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer”. For myself, this idea is so very true, and especially when we all realize even in the depths of winter there is an abundance of life, potential, energy, chi, all ready to burst forth. Seeds and roots of the forest have been buried and frozen in the snow all season. As the sun and spring begin to get closer, the Water Element that has been collecting energy throughout winter is released and goes back into the soil.
The Water Element is reflected in many of our herbs and fruits. Obviously, many plants that grow in swamps, riverbanks and other water-logged areas are heavily Yin energetically and affect the corresponding organs in the body. As we learn in Chapter 6, “the time of day a person feels better or worse can also be a significant factor – each Organ/element has its major time for manifestation”. This is fascinating and provides us with a useful tool in learning our own constitution. For instance, I have realized that in the wintertime, I am more likely to have a bit of mild back pain, which I would relate to my kidneys and bladder. This seems to be related to other factors associated with the Yin of the season, such as the dryness of the air. The cold, dry air drives the body’s energies to the core of the body and slows down metabolic processes. This is why it is important to eat more cooked foods during the winter. Certain foods can irritate the specific organ of that season, for instance coffee is a beverage that will stimulate your unique metabolism, but it also taxing on the kidneys and bladder as it is a powerful diuretic as well. I am a coffee drinker as well as a tea drinker, so it is even more important that I take extra care to consume the proper foods and herbs as there is kidney disease in my family.
Now that the Water Element has been released, it begins to nourish the seeds and plants that were waiting for water. Out of the Water Element, the Wood Element is born. Seeds germinate and establish roots for the first time. The tall trees of the valley soak up the melting snow and use that energy to sprout new branches and buds as they continue their life cycle. The new growth of the forest can be associated with our bodies need to cleanse some of the waste of winter and put energy into new growth. As our metabolism picks back up and the digestive fire starts to normalize, our Liver and Gallbladder are called into action. Through the application of the proper herbs, we can assist our Liver and Gallbladder in detoxifying and excreting various waste products, while also enhancing our digestive fire.
Immediately Dandelion comes to my mind, not only as a fantastic bitter green but also the flowers can be used in delicious syrups and the roots can be dried and used throughout the summer and fall. The leaves are also a useful alterative and diuretic, making them helpful for cleansing kidney and urinary as well. According to Chapter 6, Dandelion clears Liver Heat, along with Burdock root and Yellow dock. After cleansing our blood and liver we can tonify Liver Blood by eating Lycii/Goji berries. I personally love Goji berries it is important that people know not to take Lycii berries if there is a fever, as the Yin/cold nature of the berry can drive the fever deeper. Another useful herb which can help treat a fever, but also harmonize our Liver Qi is Rose petals. I think it is especially important to drink flower teas during the Spring and Summer, both for the cooling aspect and for the alterative properties.
At this point in the spring it is essential that we are outside, re-establishing our natural rhythm with the Five Seasons. If we are inside or live in unnatural environments during the springtime, our bodies cannot recognize where we are in the cycle and the Qi of all our organs is disrupted. Spring progresses into Summer, our days get longer, and before you know it our herbs and vegetables are knee-high and we have a full garden going. The emotion of the season is happy, where we munch on bitter greens and wait patiently for the fruits of our labor. Presumably we should be outside as much as possible, breathing fresh air and circulating our blood as much as possible. Given this idea, the summer season corresponds to our Heart/Pericardium and Small Intestine.
During the Fire of the summer, it is important that we eat more Yin foods (unless Yang foods are needed), but the Standard American Diet does not accommodate this need. If we are eating a lot of meat, it is even more important that we consume the bitter flavor, in order to prevent plaque from building in the veins and “clear cholesterol from the veins and arteries”. Chapter 6 teaches that cooling herbs like gardenia and lotus are used to Clear Heart Fire, while more dense roots like Dang Gui and American Ginseng are nourishing to Heart Blood and Yin. These adaptogenic tonics are very nourishing and will help provide us with the energy we need (according to Ch. 3 Dang Gui is an herbal source of B12 which is an important vitamin in energy production) throughout the summer months. This is useful knowledge and also makes Dang Gui an important herb for Vegans and Vegetarians.
The Fire of Summer burns the woods and returns it to ash, or Earth Element. We can give our gardens a boost by applying wood ash to our gardens during Indian Summer. Indian Summer or Late Summer provides the transition to the Spleen/Stomach and is also intimately related in aspects of energy production. This season identifies with maturation as our fruits are coming in, ripening as Figure 6.3 references. It is interesting that during this season the plant is converting energy to fruit sugar through the miracle of photosynthesis because the Spleen-Pancreas is the key organ in sugar regulation and energy metabolism in the body. It is obvious why a disease like diabetes is on the rise, all we have to do is look at the high amount of sweet flavor Americans chase after constantly. It is easy enough to drink too much sweet fruit juice and sedate the Spleen, but most Americans are constantly ingesting corn syrup and severely harming themselves in the process. If too many acidic foods are consumed, this can also cause a problem in the stomach, resulting in stagnation and a variety of Yang ailments. I especially notice this with consuming too much acidy citrus juices which result in mouth sores or poor digestion.
Humankind discovered that within the Earth Element, lay the Metal Element. Metal is refined out of the minerals of the Earth and provides us with another tool along our cycle. This idea rings true for me, as we should associate the Metal Element with the harvest of Autumn. The falling fruits of the orchards show us the emotion of this season is receiving and letting go. The tree is letting go of the seed within the fruit and the earth is receiving a potential life that could arise next season.
We are now losing daylight and the cold is returning. The change in the air has a direct effect on our lungs and large intestine. Cold energy is trying to rush into our bodies and we must take the appropriate herbs to prevent getting sick. Yang energy will be helpful in combating various cold energies that might try to invade through the Lungs. If the lungs have become cold and dry from the change of air, I am likely to employ tonics such as Astragalus or Ginseng. The pungent taste is identified with the Metal Element and it just so happens that we have plenty of pungent Garlic and Ginger from our growing season. These herbs both possess amazing anti-bacterial and stimulating properties. Another important fact about Garlic is that it is rich in sulfur, an important nutrient involved in detoxification. According to Chapter 6, “The Large Intestine, pairing with the Lungs, is responsible for transporting waste products out of the body and reabsorption of fluids into the body”. Here we can see how valuable sulfur rich herbs like Garlic are during this season.
Once Indian Summer has arrived we know that the cycle is complete and we prepare to re-enter the hibernation of the Winter Season. The Metal Element is shaped and molded into a vessel that we can use to gather water next season. The cold air of the Winter also condenses on Metal Element forming Water Element. As I mentioned earlier, there is a preponderance of Kidney disease in my family, so it is important that I be especially aware of the herbs and foods I consume once Winter returns. After reading Chapter 6 I have discovered that “the kidneys rule the brain, bones (including teeth), produce bone marrow…and manifest in the head hair”. I have tried to apply some of this information by taking the proper herbs and nutrients to nourish these processes. I take Alfalfa tablets for their mineral rich content as well as Kidney Yang tonics Damiana and Ashwagandha. I enjoy both of these herbs, typically more towards the end of the day as they are both rather soothing for the nervous system. I find Damiana to be particularly valuable to the nervous and digestive systems.
I hope this essay has provided the return with a sense of how I am beginning to understand the Five Element theory and how I apply it in my own herbalism. We must be mindful of how the Five Element theory provides us with a working blueprint of the seasons. To live mindful of the Tao is to live a life of herbalism, farming, and gardening. It is merely to live with nature and recognize that our bodily health is connected to the health of the land. What we put in the earth will eventually be in our bodies. Understanding the intricacies of the Five Element theory enables Herbalists to prevent problems in our constitutions before they even occur, making this system of medicine far superior to that of allopathic/synthetic medicine.

Lesson 7
Describe your personal balance in terms of the Eight Principles. How could you bring about a greater state of health on all levels?

My personal balance is one that is always in flux it seems. Of course this fluctuation grows out of erratic diet, changing climate, or various other factors. In this essay, I will evaluate my personal constitution through the lens of the Eight Principles and try to come to a more concrete understanding of the way in which a more harmonious balance can be achieved.
The challenge of understanding External vs. Internal is not as easy as it might seem. For instance, at first glance I was going to classify back pain or neck issues as a more internal problem, but page 7-4 describes these symptoms as being External. The more obvious External symptoms which I suffer from include skin eruptions, acne, moles, dryness (especially in Winter). Our text describes “herbs with an outward and upward direction” as being the most effective in treating these sort of External symptoms. Although I am just now developing an understanding of the directional energies of herbs, I am more familiar with western terminology, such as the concept of diaphoretics, or even the idea of “releasing the exterior”. Herbs that come to mind include Yarrow, Fennel, Anise, Turmeric, Garlic, Cayenne and various other carminatives that enhance digestion, cleanse the blood, and reduce inflammation. Lately I have been taking a variety of herbals for various issues. For skin problems I have been taking Yellow Dock and Sarsaparilla, but these herbs are more of a cooling energy. I am curious as to what effect these cooling alteratives are having on my External/Internal symptomatology.
Internal symptoms include digestive problems, diarrhea or occasional constipation, and low energy levels. I attribute much of this to eating foods that are known to cause such problems (dairy, wheat, sugar). Due to the nature of my job, I travel frequently and do not always bring my meals with me. I end up eating out and the quality of restaurant food is never as good as you can create in your own home. Unfortunately, service people at restaurants will always bring ice water to the table, unless they are told otherwise, and many do not realize the aggravating nature of ice water on the digestive system. As far as low energy levels, I am fairly certain that drinking coffee is not helping my situation, as it causes stress on the adrenals and depletes stores of energy.
The connection between External/Internal symptoms and Hot/Cold symptoms cannot be overlooked. Skin eruptions are by their very nature hot in energy and I am also somewhat prone to sore throat and sinus issues, especially now that the Winter has begun to creep back into our lives. Our text describes Internal Cold disease as most likely to affect the Spleen and Kidneys. As I may have mentioned in previous essays, my family has a history of kidney problems and I have to wonder if it is not due to this relationship between Cold and Kidneys. These type of Internal Cold symptoms are once again most effectively treated with warming herbals.
The concepts of Excess and Deficiency are ones that often elude the American populace, which is strange when one considers that these ideas have been alive and well in Western philosophy since the time of Aristotle, and in the East since before that! We all struggle with the maintaining our balance between excess and deficient, in every realm of life imaginable. In the realm of Excess, my imbalances manifest through thirst, restlessness, skin issues, and possibly issues related to blood stagnation. On the Deficiency side of things, I seriously suspect that I am suffering from a Jing Deficiency, as I have to some degree or another, most of the symptoms listed on 7-15. I again suspect that coffee plays a role in depleting my Jing, and this is of most notable interest that my kidneys are once again directly involved with my disease pattern. I have consumed a fair amount of adaptogenic herbs, even the famous He Shou Wu, which actually does not agree with me. I have an Energy Tonic that consists of 2 pts Bee Pollen, 1 pt. Korean White Ginseng, 1pt. Suma root, 1 pt. Jiaogulan, and a ½ part Kola. This formula does actually work very well when taken consistently in the mornings (better than Coffee!).
Of further interest, I have spent a good number of days Wildcrafting throughout New Hampshire forests. I attended a Mushroom Walk Class with Nova Kim and Les Hook of wildgourmetfood.com and then just recently participated in a Botany ID for Herbalists Class with Botanist Arthur Haines. I have been fortunate enough to discover several of my first in the wild mushrooms: Chaga, Ganoderma, Piptoporus, Turkey Tail, and even a delicious Chicken of the Woods. Now that the cold weather is at my door step once again, I have the opportunity to focus more on restoring my Jing and maintaining my balance. I am planning to decoct the Chaga mushroom and take it throughout the Winter in one of many strategies to rebuild my Jing and nourish my immune system. I am considering blending it with other medicinal mushrooms and ginger, cardomon, anise, and maple syrup extraction- or something along these lines.

Lesson 8
Analyzing your current state of health, which approach is indicated for you at this time – eliminating, building or maintaining? Indicate any symptoms you are experiencing and recommend the flavors of herbs to be used in treating these symptoms. Be specific and concise.

As I write this it is mid-November and the winter is just about upon us again. Recently I have been combating minor cold and congestion so I am inclined to argue in favor of the elimination approach. Because we are headed into the cold season, I was originally going to advocate for the building approach, but after analysis of my symptoms I have decided to approach this season from a eliminating point of view. In this essay I will break down my analysis and discuss my thoughts on each of the three approaches.
Just today I was trying to be more mindful of the state of my physical constitution and was evaluating the bit of a cold that I am fighting off. The usual cold symptoms that I face are sinus and throat congestion, as well as a minor cough or sore throat. The onset of these symptoms can easily be linked back to poor energetic/dietary choices combined with the cold, damp weather of New England. Foods that give rise to this congestion include the usual suspects: dairy products, simple carbohydrates (sugar), beer and ice water are good examples of foods that I occasionally indulge in and later pay the price. Dairy products give rise to mucous in the body and the beer and ice water are both cold and damp energetically, thus diminishing the digestive fire and slowing down overall metabolic processes. The excessive mucous results in the well-known runny nose, excessive phlegm, productive cough, etc.
My usual approach when treating such a problem is to tonify digestion by increasing my intake of various digestive herbs, carminatives, spices, and various other Yang energy herbs. As of late, I have been taking Bacillus coagulans probiotic to maintain a healthy gut flora, but also trying to eat more warming foods. The other day, a friend and I prepared a homemade (mostly organic) chicken noodle soup with a large dose of vegetables such as garlic, onions, habanero pepper and spices like cayenne, black peppercorn, Balinese long pepper, basil, sage, and oregano.
In addition to trying to add these spices directly into my foods, I recently purchased a large quantity of bulk herbs and spices. In addition to those mentioned above, I also have procured a good amount of turmeric, thyme, ajwain seed, and caraway seed. Not only do I plan to cook with all of these spices throughout the winter, I am going to be making up tinctures and capsules of this spice formula. Similar to a Trikatu or Hinga Shtak sort of formula, I am going to combine this variety of spices in a formula and take them throughout the cold season in an effort to enhance my digestive fire and eliminate the excess dampness that has invaded my system.
Additionally, I believe it is not only essential to tonify my digestion with these assorted spices, but in the elimination approach it is essential to incorporate the bitter flavor into my diet as well. This is probably the most neglected of the flavors, especially here in the United States. It is to our detriment that we neglect this very important flavor, as it is well-known that the bitter flavor stimulates the secretion of gastric juices in the gall bladder and liver. The increase in digestive enzymes assists our bodies in digesting food and assimilating nutrients, as well as eliminating the excess dampness and mucous that has built up after too many cold foods.
Of course, the herbs I have listed above not only encompass the warming, spicy flavor, but many of them also provide the bitter flavor that we so desperately need. I am very blessed to be a part of the natural healing community where I live, and this provides me with access to any assortment of bitters products I might desire. I have taken the popular Swedish Bitters, as well as more custom formulas produced by local herbalists. I have a close friend who has just made a batch of Pear Bitters that I am quite anxious to try!

Lesson 9
Create three different herbal formulas from the categories below using the principles of main, assisting and conducting herbs. Use these formulas with family and friends or yourself and report on your experiences.

8) Antispasmodic/Nervine
9) Anti-inflammatory/Alterative
10) Digestive/Carminative

For my Antispasmodic/Nervine formula I have started out with a simple tincture of equal parts Tulsi basil (Ocinum sanctum) and Lion’s Tail (Leonotis leonurus). I grew both of the herbs in this extract and I am interested to try them as I do not have much experience with the Lion’s Tail. According to a recent Facebook post by Michael Tierra, the Wild Dagga “has been long used in African herbal medicine for not only the typical fevers, headaches, and flu but also worms, bad bites and stings (as in scorpion), and even type 2 diabetes. It’s a Clear Heat and Toxins herb (anti-inflammatory anti-toxin herb) that has one other very interesting use – smoking the flowers has a psychoactive action”(Sep. 17).
This other interesting use refers to the fact that smoking Wild Dagga has often been compared to smoking Cannabis, so this led me to consider the anti-anxiety qualities of this herb. Considering the herb is a direct relative of Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) I immediately assumed that it offers similar properties as it’s cousin. According to Dr. Tierra in his book The Way of Herbs, Motherwort has both antispasmodic and nervine propeties. He says that Motherwort “has nervine properties, it is good for treating various neurotic conditions as well as hysteria, convulsions and insomnia”(p158). The beneficial, calming effect on the heart makes this species an ideal choice when creating an anti-anxiety, nervine formula.
Holy Basil I am slightly more familiar with, as it is one of my favorite herbs. Tulsi is incredibly versatile, in that it can be used for a myriad of problems, but also just as a delicious, refreshing beverage. I consider Tulsi to be adaptogenic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, carminative, and much more. I have found personally as well as from experience with patients, that Holy Basil offers a wide array of stress relieving properties. In The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs, Tulsi is described as having diaphoretic, febrifuge, nervine, antispasmodic, antibacterial, and antiseptic actions. Although this herb is not recommended for individuals with a high Pitta constitution, I think that some of the more Yang elements of this herb are balanced by the addition of the Wild Dagga, which is more cooling in nature.
I think an important aspect of both of these plants in their relation to anti-anxiety is their action not only on the nervous system, but the digestive system as well. By also acting directly on the “gut-brain” these herbs are promoting digestion, absorption, and elimination which are essential to achieving overall wellness. Both Leonurus and Ocinum contain the bitter flavor, which is so essential in promoting a high-functioning digestive tract.

The Anti-inflammatory/Alterative formula that I created is a wildcrafted creation, containing herbs from the pristine forests of New Hampshire. I have combined Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) with equal parts Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). Both of these herbs have a long history with indigenous peoples, as well as European colonialists. I have known of the Wild Sarsaparilla for some time time, having first experienced it in the woods of Vermont and mistaking it for the American Ginseng. I have since learned that Wild Sarsaparilla is in fact a relative of Ginseng, being in the same family, Araliaceae. Having similar adaptogenic properties as the American Ginseng, it is surprising this plant is not more widely used. According to Anticancer Properties of Phytochemicals Present in Medicinal Plants of North America the Wild Sarsaparilla contains multiple anti-inflammatory compounds, such as steroids, sarsasapogenin, smilagenin, sitosterol, stigmasterol, pollinastrenol, glycosides, saponins, sarsasaponin, parillin, smilasaponin, smilacin, sarsaparilloside, and sitosterol glucoside. Many of these compounds are not only anti-inflammatory but described as alterative, pectoral, diaphoretic, and sudorific by Maude Grieves.
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is somewhat a companion plant to the Sarsaparilla, found growing right near one another. Most people know that Wintergreen is a delightful flavoring in gums, mints and candies, but not as many people are aware that Wintergreen is a rich source of salicylic acids in the form of Methyl salicate. These anti-inflammatory compounds are the same that are found White Willow and Meadowsweet and serve as the common aspirin. As herbalists it is important for us to teach people about the difference between using whole plant medicine and an isolated chemical constituent. Aspirin is not equivalent to any of these herbs. I would argue that the herbs provide us with a far superior medicine in their natural state. Consuming the whole plant allows the energies of the herbs to work synergistically, instead of acting in one specific, mechanically isolated manner. Sometimes this approach can be useful, however, in a chronic sense the herbal provides us a much safer, more effective option. When combining these two powerful herbs, I believe we have an excellent alterative, anti-inflammatory combination that works on multiple pathways.

The digestive/carminative formula is as follows:
King – 3 parts Thyme
Emissary- 2 parts Ajwain
Emissary- 2 parts Caraway
Emissary- 2 parts Anise
Minister- 1 part Oregano
Guiding- 1 part Rosemary
Guiding- 1 part Balinese long peppercorn

Grind into a fine powder, tamp into 00 veg caps. Take 3 caps, 3 times daily. This formula is a digestive tonic that is useful for gas, bloating, cramping, sluggish indigestion, and other digestive ailments. Considering that several of the herbs in this formula also possess warming properties, this formula is suitable for coldness in the extremities, poor circulation, impaired immune function, respiratory ailments and more.

Lesson 10 Projects
All purpose liniment:
Anise, thyme, wintergreen, self heal, rubbing alcohol
Solid anti-inflammatory topical. Next time I will add local Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Brahmi Oil:
Sesame oil, gotu kola, calamus root

I have made this oil but only used as a body oil, not in the actual practice of Shirodara.

Vegetable Plaster:
Potato/Taro, ginger, flour, water

Over the past few years I have become accustom to the occasional clay mask. I have witnessed the drawing, healing power of clay myself, so I was anxious to try this plaster in much the same fashion. I had originally wanted to make this formula for a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she was a challenge to get to try something as simple as Vitamin D, or even Essiac tea. This was kind of a situation where she wanted to try alternative therapies, but got scared very quickly when she wasn’t magically healed (a problem we as herbalists must overcome with our patients). She gave up after one round of supplements and went to chemotherapy.

Anyway I personally believe this form of treatment to be another great method of bringing medicine into the body. It is important to maximize the delivery systems we have, and even more so for a topical disease like skin cancer, breast cancer, etc. I have not personally treated cancers with this approach but I have read many accounts of tumors or masses being softened, dissolved, or eaten away with an escharotic salve. This approach should not be ruled out by healers of any trade.

Lesson 11 Projects

Garlic syrup made with local Vermont Honey. Delicious and best combo ever for a cold. Garlic syrup

Calendula, Fennel, Ginger infusion- Ginger, Calendula, Fennel INFUSION

Dandelion root decoction Dandelion root decoction

Another amazing herb that I have brewed so many times. A couple years back I harvested a huge pile of Dandelion roots from my Mother’s house in Bomoseen, VT. These were some really choice roots, as her backyard was a very clean site that had not been disturbed for some time. I sun dried them and decocted them regularly throughout the year for a delicious beverage that also nourishes the digestive system by encouraging the productiion of bile and other gastric secretions. It is for this reason that I have repeatedly tried to get my father to drink dandelion root (and leaf), as liver and gallbladder stagnation is one of his primary problems.

Lesson 12 Projects

Neti pot:
Because I didn’t already own one, I bought this “Made in the USA” Neti Pot from the Buffalo Mountain Co-op in Hardwick, VT.

Herbal First Aid Kit:
Grapefruit seed extract, Oregano oil, Arnica oil, 3 forms Iodine, Neem oil, Rosemary essential oil, Emergen-C, Multiple bandages, Scissors, Thermal blanket, Tourniquet, and adding more!

Sweating

It is an interesting concept to purposefully change the temperature that the body is experiencing in order to elicit a specific response. We can do this with both Hot temperature and Cold temperature, both Yang energy and Yin energy. For some reason this idea makes me think of what we always heard growing up, “If you’re cold, put a sweatshirt on!”. I suppose the herbal analogy for this would be, “if you’re cold, take some cayenne caps!”. It is fascinating to ponder how such a simple idea can be such a useful tool in healing.

In a bit of an experiment, I decided I would try to get myself to sweat as fast as possible. I turned the heat up to about 80 and wrapped up extra clothing, hat, hooded sweatshirt. All but my feet, which were submerged in a foot bath of hot water and added some apple cider vinegar for a detoxifying effect. Also I sipped a hot ginger tea while sitting, enjoying my induced sweating.

Lesson 13 Projects

Jade Screen:

I have found it rather difficult to acquire the ingredients to make this formula, but I have actually worked with all of these in the past, when I was working at Healing Waters Clinic in St. Augustine, FL.

Instead, I have put together the following tonic:
Tulsi 2 pts
Codonopsis 1 pt
Eleuthero 1 pt
Dandelion root 1 pt

Tierra Whooping Cough Formula
Thyme 2g
Mistletoe 5g
Possibly add Thyme? Traditionally used for whooping cough.
Incorporate other antispasmodics, prickly ash, elecampane, pleurisy root? Many options.
Important for folks to use this and discuss it openly as a remedy for Whooping Cough, especially while the Whooping Cough Issue is in the news.

Combine and infuse in one pint hot water. Strain. Take one tablespoon every hour as needed.

Tierra Antiseptic Oil:
Thyme oil ½ teaspoon
Essential oil of Thyme 1 teaspoon
Clove oil ½ teaspoon
Menthol ½ teaspoon
Eucalyptom ½ dram
Olive oil 15 ½ ounces

This formula reminds me of the Olbas oil that I have used for chest congestion, heavy breathing, asthmatic/allergic reaction, etc. This combo really breaks apart and loosens mucous in the chest. As mentioned, can also be used as a topical for any number of cuts, scrapes, abrasions, rashes, and more.

Lesson 14
Describe the difference in indications between a Wind-Heat cold or fever and a Wind-Cold cold or fever?

The common denominator between Wind-Heat cold/fever and Wind-Cold cold/fever is the Heat in the Wind-Heat combination. In this scenario the heat that is manifest in the body is likely the reaction to a bacterial infection, virus (influenza) or other pathogen that has elicited a heat response. The Wind-Heat manifests as symptoms of dry cough, raspy voice and sore throat. Difficult to breathe without coughing, and very little sputum is produced. Urine is likely dark and scanty.
This trapped heat can be treated effectively with our cooling diaphoretics. The cool, spicy energy opens the pores, i.e. “release the exterior”, and allows the heat to escape in a more efficient way. The text tells us that TCM teaches that cooling diaphoretics are also useful for rash, measles, conjunctivitis and other infections.
I can site an example when I was working at Old City Remedies in St. Augustine. We had a family on vacation come into the herb shop, a young mother and father, with a sick little boy. They were hoping that we had a tea or something, anything that would help the boy, who had been up all night before with a cough and did not sleep. It just seemed to be the usual kind of dry cough that little kids get from time to time. So I put together a very simple, very safe herbal tea for the family. I do not remember the exact formula, but it was a basic sort of cold and flu combination. This is my recollection at this point: Elder flower, Lemon balm. Anise, Catnip, Peppermint, Chamomile, Ginger. And of course a little bit of our Florida Orange Blossom Honey. I told the parents that the most important thing would be for him to drink the whole tea, not to let him only have a few sips, (for the obvious reason that you have to drink it for it to work, many people forget this). They agreed and thanked us and were on their way.
I did not work the next day, but my coworkers told me that the couple came back in the next day and were amazed at how well the tea worked, allowing the little boy to stop coughing and get through rest through the night. They purchased a large bag of the combination that I had made for them the afternoon earlier and they were continued on. This is a very fond memory of my time in the Old Drugstore, not only because I got to help someone with herbs, but because I realized that the event had opened a whole new window for this couple. They admittedly did not really know anything about herbs when they entered our shop, but like so many others who turn to herbs, “were willing to try anything”.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Wind-Cold fever or cold, and certain cooling diaphoretics could be more contracindicated than they otherwise would be. The text cites low metabolism and cold without a fever, as well as later cold and flu stages (cold, loss of body heat, shivering). These cold conditions are ideally treated with warming, building energies. Of course, ginger, clove, cardamom, rosemary and thyme are all ideal warmers that energize the core and enhance circulation. A nice cup of Chai tea sounds ideal with a Wind-Cold cold/fever.
It is fascinating that Horsetail drives out Wind and can also be used to treat eye diseases (connection to conjunctivitis perhaps). I have always just thought of it as a mineral herb, but then again, the high mineral content has a heavy, sinking, anchoring sort of energy that slows the flow of excess wind energy in the body.
Personally I enjoy using Sweet Basil tincture for both of these Wind energies in the body, primarily because Basil enjoys status as an amphoteric herb, possessing a sort of dual nature, being pungent and warm, yet cooling/diaphoretic at the same time. Basil treats all fevers and respiratory problems, is carminative, anti-mutagenic, circulatory, anti-inflammatory and more. See below, this is label I made for my Basil tincture. We grew this Basil at Nombre De Dios, the Catholic Mission in St. Augustine, Florida, so we like to joke that this is “Holy Basil” even though it’s not Holy Basil.

Lesson 15
Describe in your own words, how each of the three purgative categories does its job. Give examples of conditions treated by each category and herbs you might use.

It is becoming more widely known that proper digestion and elimination is essential for optimal health and well being. Purgatives are an essential tool for maintaining proper elimination, and understanding the three classifications of purgatives is necessary if we wish to use that tool effectively.
Attacking purgatives seem to be the most commonly used style of purgative. Detoxing or Cleansing has come into the mainstream, and these days we see our health food stores shelves are lined with every combination you might find. Senna, Buckthorn, Rhubarb, Cascara are very commonly used herbal laxatives. I found it surprising that Aloe is classed with the attacking style purgatives instead of lubricating/demulcent purgatives, but I suppose it could be considered both, depending on the form.
While these various plants are all different in their actions, they are also similar in that they contain some of the same, or similar chemicals. There are anthraquinones galore! These bitter chemicals are quite helpful in stimulating digestion, flushing of the liver and gallbladder, as well as the spleen, stomach and colon. The text explains that these chemicals “are absorbed from the small intestine and are carried by circulation to the nerves of the large intestine, stimulating peristalsis”.
I found a fascinating story that applies to this quite well. It is the story of a woman who cured her Crohn’s disease with bark. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-20178572 As an herbalist, I found this story to be very vindicating, so I put together my own “Bark Formula”- Cat’s Claw, Pau D’Arco, Buckthorn, Oak, Slippery Elm, and Prickly Ash- thoughts?
What is so remarkable that so many people are eating highly processed, chemically laden foods. This is one of the primary contributing causes to the rise of diseases like Crohn’s. People have forgotten how important that bitter flavor is to their digestion. I often remind folks that this is the reason that we eat salads before our main course, due to the bitter flavor preparing our digestive tract.
Lubricating or Demulcent Purgatives are now actually being brought into the mainstream. In the past 15 years we have seen Chia seeds go from sprouting on a little man’s head on TV into a delicious Kombucha from our local health food store. Psyllium, Hemp and Flax seed are all quite popular too for a good many reason.
The obvious mechanism for these plants is that they all provide fiber that helps absorb water and holds it in the intestine, promoting bowel elimination. These herbs/food possess dietary fiber, but also have other medicinal qualities. All the various seeds mentioned are also valuable for their Omega fatty acid content, as well as lignans, proteins and other phytochemicals.
I found it interesting that Honey would be classified as this sort of purgative, mostly because Honey as a food has a sticky, binding sort of feel to it. However, because it is such a nourishing food with Yin Tonic properties, it also is useful for moistening the digestive tract. I have never used Mirabilitum but it reminds me of the way Magnesium products (or even Vitamin C salts) that can be used for constipation.
Cathartic Purgatives are not often used due to the drastic action they possess. I have personally never used any of the Cathartics that are mentioned in Lesson 15, however in the past I have made use of Herb Pharm’s American Poke Root tincture. These Cathartics seem to possess a broad spectrum of phytochemisty, each plant with their own unique way of encouraging the body to flush out solid and liquid. Obviously the concentrations of the chemicals in these herb are rather powerful, even toxic, and one should be extremely cautious, or guided by the experience of a more experienced herbalist.
When administering such powerful herbals, it is wise to dilute the potent energy by using them in conjunction with other softer, more harmonizing energies. Of course, Licorice and Ginger always finds their way into Chinese formulas, but I always enjoy using Anise, Fennel, Caraway seeds. And of course, raw honey.

Lesson 16
Describe the difference between solid or excess Heat and empty or deficient Heat, including various signs of each. Which have you experienced in your life and how did it manifest for you?

Almost immediately when I picture solid or excess Heat, the word stagnation comes to mind. And although I realize that not all excess Heat conditions are a direct result of stagnation, I do believe that stagnation plays a multifaceted role in the accumulation of solid heat. Either through outright stagnation (blockages in the liver, gallbladder, intestines, colon) or indirect stagnation that is an immune response to an external pathogen, stagnation is a very important concept for western medicine to try to understand.
When we look at the symptoms that are a result of Excess heat, we see acute fevers, infections, strong pulse, a red tongue with yellow coating. Also of concern is constipation, which is stagnation in its most obvious form. These various symptoms are what we typically see manifest as the common cold and indeed they are successfully treated with cooling diaphoretics. Fever is an immune response to whatever pathogen has invaded our bodies, but it is important to point out that stagnation has likely played a role in this process.
Many have called digestion the root of all disease. If we have impaired digestion, then we will have poor assimilation and poor circulation. This results in an impaired immunity that cannot as easily defend the body from outside invaders. Once the immunity is compromised, the body will raise temperature in order to create a hostile environment for the bacterial or viral agents. So we can see the relationship between stagnation and Excess heat, even if the Heat is not directly related to stagnation.

My father is a prime example of this. His diet is not as plant focused as it should be, and he consumes too much meat and alcohol. Of course this results in very common liver-gallbladder ailments, such as headache, redness of the face, irritability, indigestion and constipation. I have had some moderate success giving him different combinations for liver function. He has told me that after taking the herbs for liver-gallbladder, that his mid-section felt lighter (i.e. not so congested), his headaches were not as intense and less frequent, and interestingly that he could breathe better out of his nose at night.
Deficient Heat is the result of Yin deficiency. The best example I can conjure relates to the onset of menopause in older women, but this empty heat can be the result of improper diet as well. If we examine the symptoms of Deficient Heat we see weakness, low afternoon fever, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, thirst, thready pulse, and a red tongue with no coating.
Like an engine that is running low on oil, we should not be surprised that a common symptom of either kind of Heat is an increased thirst. The increased friction results in a build up of empty Heat that can be treated with Cooling Alteratives as well as nourishing Yin tonics. Once again, the benefit of an herbal formula should not be lost on us. During my years at the Oldest Drugstore in St. Augustine, and my internship at Healing Waters Clinic, I was fortunate to have access to many of these Cooling Alteratives. I am stronger in Western Herbalism, but I am fortunate to have worked with many of these TCM alteratives as well. Of Western herbs that I am familiar with: Red Clover, Echinacea, Dandelion Root, Yellow Dock, Burdock, Sarsaparilla (of varying species), and White Willow Bark. I would make a variety of formulas at the Old Drugstore that used many of these energies. Most people only recognize these herbs for skin health and general blood detoxification, but time goes by I have begun to discover the mild differences between each of these herbs. We had one especially exciting day at the shop where we received a letter from a customer who had bought Red Clover and gave it to her son for very swollen lymph nodes. She was so relieved at the difference from the Red Clover tea, that she ordered all of the Red Clover we had in stock. It was really a great feeling.
Among Eastern herbs, I am also quite familiar with Honeysuckle and Gotu Kola, each with their own respective talents. I have worked with Gypsum in Chinese formula preparation but I am not as comfortable with it as I would like to be. I seem to remember an audio lecture from Dr. Tierra about the use of Gypsum and other heavy mineral herbs that possess a sinking energy in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related cognitive decline. If I recall correctly, the sinking energy brings a stability that calms Wind in the mind.
Speaking of Wind in the mind, although I have not used Pulsatilla in my training, I believe it would be a valuable herb for my own well-being. Besides being a powerful alterative, Pulsatilla also treats “nervousness, restlessness, an active imagination of fear or impending danger or diseases”, which I have dealt with in the past.
After reading about it in multiple places, I am now actively looking for Houttuynia or the “Fishy Smelling Herb” that in Chinese is known as Yu Xing Cao. I am primarily seeking the seeds of this herb in order that I might be able to cultivate it and make a tincture for individuals with Lyme, which is unfortunately so common in my part of the world. I first read of Houttuynia in Stephen Buehner’s book Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections. He describes this herb as being “antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anthelmintic, larvacidal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, immunomodulatory, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypoglycemic, laxative, depuritive, analgesic, hemostatic, antitussive, antileukemic, and ophthalmic”(171). Houttuynia is certainly an important medicine to be aware of, especially in the 21st century.
It is fascinating to ponder the different mechanisms by which these herbals do their job, and the many ways they will be utilized as we make our way into the future. We must not only embrace a western understanding of pharmacological action that is present, but also the actions and energies of these herbs should be studied with an Eastern approach as well, this way everyone will be fluent in the language of herbalism.

Lesson 17
Write a short description of the five levels for clearing Heat, describing their differences and uses clearly.

Five levels
1) Purge Fire – anti-pyretic, Gypsum breaks fever, Violas, Borage, Willow, Self Heal, Gardenia
2) Remove toxins – Blood cleansing alteratives, antibacterial and antiviral, gotu kola, burdock
3) Cool & nurture blood – fever has burnt up vital fluid, Rhino horn, Marshmallow, Honeysuckle
4) Damp Heat – Cholagogic herbs draining congested bile, Oregon Grape, Goldenseal, Coptis
5) Summer Heat– cooling, refrigerant herbs, watermelon (seed tea), cucumber, mugwort, hibiscus

Purging Fire is absolutely essential if the body begins to reach temperatures that can be permanently damaging. While I have not personally taken Gypsum myself, I have utilized it in formulas while working at the Healing Waters Clinic. I remember being surprised at this point in time, that what is essentially a rock, could be ground into powder and combined in herbal formulas. Until I began to understand the concept of energetics, I did not really grasp the usefulness of minerals as a medicinal substance. I have taken Violet of one species or another, but typically in combination.
Willow bark is a very well known anti-inflammatory that I have used in a retail and clinical setting, but also experienced it in the wild as part of a Botany for Herbalists class. In the past I have utilized Yucca root with Willow bark and other pain relieving herbs such as Jamaican Dogwood and Wild Lettuce to treat pain and arthritis. Since I had really only known it for its seed oil, Borage surprised me as being valuable for lungs. Self Heal or Heal All, Prunella vulgaris, is another local herb that I have used in a clinical atmosphere as well. When I am in need of cleansing the lymph fluid or cooling any sort of excess Heat in the blood, Prunella is often a good choice. I was able to work with Gardenia at the clinic only, and I found that this herb energetically reminds me of Hawthorn berry.
Alterative was probably one of the first herbal concepts that I learned, only at the time I was referring to them only as “blood purifiers”. This action of purification is due primarily to the strong antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory compounds that these herbs contain. My first exposure to this class of herbs probably came from learning about Essiac and the Hoxsey formula for cancer treatment. Red Clover, Burdock, Dandelion root, Sarsaparilla, Yellow dock, and others were all prominent detoxifying herbs that were part of formulas from a century ago, still on display at the Oldest Drugstore. I used to love perusing the old bottles and studying the old formulas that were a hybrid of European herbalism and local Native American herbals. As you might imagine, many of these preserved formulas come out of the Eclectic school of thought and are a rarity these days. It is so important that places like these be preserved for current and future generations to learn from. If I had millions of dollars I would have purchased the Oldest Drugstore and converted it to a modern herbal college!
When it is necessary to cool and nurture the blood, we are speaking of Yin tonics. According to the text, we must cool and nourish the blood when our vital fluid has burnt up, either due to fever or other Excess Heat. This set up herbs is beneficial for the Vata dosha because of their moistening action. Herbs like Marshmallow root and other emollient/demulcent herbs should come to mind, but I was surprised to learn of Rhino horn being classed in this category. I have written about the legality issue of Rhino horn before, I but I was under the false impression that it was more of a Yang energy, similar to Aconite perhaps. However, if it is being employed at all successfully for male virility as the media claims, then I can see how cool/nourishing action on the Kidneys would be beneficial for male virility.
I have utilized herbs like Moutan Peony, Rehmannia, Honeysuckle, and Forsythia while at the Healing Waters Clinic, and later became familiar with Japanese Knotweed. I am familiar with this plant because it is a wild invasive in my region that was originally planted to hide latrines (because it grows so fast and tall). Also as a side note, the company I work for manufactures a Resveratrol product that is primarily derived from Japanaese Knotweed root. Many folks up this way utilize this herb in their Lyme disease protocols.
Draining dampness is essential for most Americans, primarily because the most common problem in our country is poor digestion that leads to stagnation and heat blockages. It makes sense that the Chinese would consider “all supparating infectious disease as damp heat”. In our culture, this of course is because the most commonly missing flavor from the American palette is Bitter flavor, which is so necessary for healthy digestion.
People must be learning however, as we can see that herbs like Goldenseal are so incredibly popular, even if most common people do not actually recognize the actions by which it heals. I have had more people than I can remember ask me if Goldenseal will help “cleanse” them in preparation for a drug test, at which point I have to explain to them it’s not that kind of cleanse. Also incredibly common is the Echinacea/Goldenseal preparation for cold and flu that has helped spur the demand for these herbs. While I am glad that there is such a demand for these incredibly valuable medicinals, I am also concerned about the prevalence of wild species, so I am more inclined to guide people towards Coptis or Goldthread, both of which contain Berberine and similar alkaloids.
Many of these herbs seem to contain a Cold, Dry, Flushing energy that makes them useful for cleansing of the Liver and Gallbladder, as well as the colon. I did not know that long term use of Goldenseal weakens colon flora, but considering the strong action of this plant I am not surprised. I recently read an article about the use of Bear Bile in TCM and I was very conflicted. From the small amount of research I have done, it seems that Bear Bile is similar to the Blue Ox Gall that is mentioned in the text and it is very valuable in China. I have such a curiosity about the use of animal parts in herbalism, but simultaneously I have compassion for these animals and do not want to them to be caged to harmed in any way. I suppose if I had my way we would stop destroying the wilderness and allow the bears to be free, only taking one from the wild when absolutely necessary, as it used to be done. This issue of Bear Bile is similar to the issue of Rhino horn. I want people to recognize the validity of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but also that there are botanical alternatives to these substances that work just as well, if not better.

Lesson 18
In your own words, describe the various ways that herbal diuretics function, and the types of ailments they benefit.

In this lesson we look at diuretics and the various ways in which they function. In this essay I will discuss the three classifications given in the text, Stimulating, Secreting, and Dissolving. These mechanisms are the same in that they can all be used to treat symptoms of the Water system, but different in that they accomplish their task in various ways.
The first example we are given is of Stimulating Diuretics. The first herb that came to my mind was coffee, although it is not listed in this section. Raising the blood pressure, heart rate, increasing circulation and diuresis are all common with drinking coffee, so I would imagine it goes along with the other herbs listed, such as Black Cohosh. I must say I found it interesting that Black Cohosh can act as a stimulating diuretic and also a useful antispasmodic nervine. It is not surprising that this herb is so commonly used for Menopause and related issues that it is on the United Plant Savers “At Risk” list.
The way in which an herbal infusion is administered will determine how strong of an effect these Stimulating Diuretics have. It seems to me that hot liquids would be better used for diuresis than a cold liquid; cold being synonymous for slow and stagnant. Perhaps cold would be more useful if fever or Excess Heat is a problem, but this can be sorted out when building our formula as well.
Our second method of action is Secreting Diuretics. These herbs work by acting on the Kidneys themselves and encouraging proper function. Some of these herbs I find to be both nutritive and detoxifying at the same time. For instance Juniper Berry, Fennel, Parsely are all herbs that contain both antibacterial properties and nutritive properties. Nettle and dandelion fall into this category also, providing an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, while also various detoxifying properties. In this way these Secreting herbs keep the Kidneys clean from bacterial pathogens as well as providing nourishment which is essential for maintaining proper waste disposal.
Our final category is what most people first discover when it is already too late. The Dissolving Diuretics are employed to facilitate the passing of kidney stones, i.e. a buildup of Uric acid. The most important factor in these kind of ailments is to change diet immediately, no meat, no alcohol, a lot of water, Yin herbs such as the demulcents Marshmallow or Corn silk that will lessen the pain by providing a bit of cushion as the potentially jagged stones pass through the ureter.
Many of these herbs contain all three methods of action that I have mentioned, and yet some contain only one or is predominantly used for one method over another. These many factors are necessary to consider when formulating a diuretic formula, but also important to keep in mind how the diuretic action will impact the overall individuals constitution.
In my estimations, it is important to include Polypore mushrooms in our diets regularly. As I may have mentioned previously, I am also learning more about wildcrafting mushrooms in my local area and have already made a great formula that contains Chaga, Birch Polypore, Turkey Tail, and Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). Not only do these Polypore mushrooms aid in the shedding of excess fluids, they possess a diverse array of anticancer compounds that continue to gain validity in the scientific community. Considering how often our bodies are bombarded by different toxic chemicals, it wise for every individual to consume these mushrooms as part of their diet, just as our ancestors did before the advent of industrial agriculture.

Lesson 19
Anti-rheumatics

Outline the approach you would take for treating rheumatic arthritis. Include what you would tell the patient that they needed to do for successful treatment.

In order to properly treat rheumatic arthritis, it is essential that we examine the patient and determine not only their individual constitution but the types and combinations of blockages that are present. It is important to ask the patient about their diet, which is usually the primary contributing factor to the disease. More than likely the individual we are dealing with consumes a diet rich in foods that are Cold and Damp. One only needs look at the cases of Diabetes in this country to realize the excessive amount of sugar that is consumed on a daily basis. These type of foods contribute to congestion and buildup of Ama, making Triphala a perfect addition to nearly everyone’s herbal protocol. I have used Triphala very successfully to treat mild constipation and recommended it to others as well. I tend to agree with Dr. Tierra that Triphala is a superb herbal formula.
After we have learned about the foods that our patient is eating, we can begin to implement small but doable changes that should have a foundational effect. Our text suggests a simple diet whole grain foods, beans, and cooked vegetables. These type of foods could also be combined with different carminative spices to facilitate the digestion and help warm stagnant Cold in the body. I frequently recommend simple spices to be taken in the form of a tea, such as Basil (Holy or Sweet), Thyme, Oregano, Caraway, Anise, and others. Of course it will depend on the type of blockage we are dealing with; if we are working with an inflammatory blockage we should be cautious about the type of herb we are administering. For example, in the case of inflammatory blockages, it would be unwise to administer Aconite or Angelica.
As I have mentioned in a previous essay, one of the formulas that we utilized at the Oldest Drugstore was a combination of Yucca Root, Willow Bark, Jamaican Dogwood, and Wild Lettuce. While I was in Florida I became quite familiar with the Spanish Bayonet as it grows all over the place. Although it is not described as such in the text, the cut and sifted root seems to possess an emollient property that nourishes the connective tissues in the joint. This formula, which is specific for inflammation and pain, was tremendously effective and popular for a number of customers. Looking back now, this formula would probably be well served to also include a harmonizing herb such as Ginger or Licorice.
Kava Kava was also a commonplace herb to be found at the Oldest Drugstore. For a short period of time we actually had a “Kava Bar” that served up shots of Kava or fruit smoothies with Kava (for those who couldn’t handle the rich earthy flavor). As a means of preparation, we infused Kava powder with water, non-GMO soy lecithin, and coconut water in a large 5 gallon bucket. This mixture was allowed to sit and then later filtered through a paint straining bag and the remaining liquid was stored in the refrigerator. Most people we encountered at the Oldest Drugstore had never even heard of Kava Kava, so every day was an opportunity to educate people about herbalism, while also having a lot of fun in a business that was incredibly unique.
In addition to tackling the pain with internal formulas I would also recommend an external approach utilizing the approaches outlined in the text. I have a Wintergreen/Wild Sarsaparilla tincture that I might recommend for both internal and external use, considering the strong anti-inflammatory properties of the methylsalicate in Wintergreen and the saponinin content in the Wild Sarsaparilla. Recently I started using a pain cream that is made by one of my accounts in Maine. The owner Debi is an herbalist who runs the store Endless Herbs & Natural Foods and makes a very popular cream that uses St. John’s Wort, Chaga mushroom, various essential oils and carrier oils. I have been using it for stick neck and shoulder pain and I am quite impressed. Much like the formula mentioned earlier with Wild lettuce and Jamaican Dogwood, this formula is soothing for a variety of pains.
After a proper consultation and evaluation I would provide my patient with a sort of instruction manual that goes over the protocol we have discussed and hopefully I have done a quality job of educating and encouraging the patient to utilize the herbs in a safe and effective manner.

Lesson 20

What foods produce mucus in the body? Which element produces mucus in the body, why, and how does it affect the lungs?

Many of the foods we enjoy regularly contribute to the formation of mucus in the body. Particularly the foods that are Cold, Damp, and Congesting are going to contribute to excess mucus in the body. Those foods which we should be aware of include: fruit and vegetables (especially raw), dairy, eggs, and meat. While several of these foods contribute to the production of mucus, it is important to point out that mucus is important does serve a function in the body. However, like so many other things in life, it is important to maintain a healthy balance.
The kind of foods we eat is important, but another important point to consider is how the preparation of foods will influence the energy and action of these foods in the body. For instance, raw fruits and vegetables are going to exert a more cold/damp energy than cooked fruits or vegetables. This is why, as our text explains, so many cultures from around the world integrate warming, carminative herbs and spices into their cuisine. By cooking colder foods, and adding warm energy herbs, we are balancing the energy of the food that we are consuming. The warming carminatives will aid in digestion and assimilation, and the less mucus will be left over.
The energy of the Phlegm in the body is also going to determine the sorts of foods and herbs one should consume to counteract those energies. Since the Earth element is responsible for production of mucus in the body with its damp, cold, sinking energy; it stands to reason that our Fire element herbs will prove to be effective in counteracting some formation of mucus. Similar to how a brush fire can help clear a path in an overgrown thicket, so too can our Fire herbals aid in digestion and elimination of mucus.
While the Earth element produces dampness in the Stomach/Spleen, the Metal Element stores it in the Lungs. As mentioned in the text, these areas of the body that are in need of some mucus as a lubricating agent, are also the first to fall victim to an imbalanced Earth element. When the lungs begin to take on an excessive amount of mucus, the body will manifest these symptoms in different ways, depending upon the nature of the Wind invasion. Wind Phlegm can be either Hot energy, which will produce a thick, drier, yellow mucus that is associated with other Hot/Yang conditions. Cold energy Phlegm is more common with the production of clear/white mucus, cold in the body, and is typically the result of lower digestive metabolism.
Being more familiar with Western herbs, I have successfully used cool expectorants like Coltsfoot, Mullein, and Horehound to combat Hot Phlehm in the lungs. If the cough is dry, it is always good to add a soothing demulcent such as Licorice, Anise or Slippery Elm. Many individuals at the Oldest Drugstore were amazed at what just a pinch of Coltsfoot and Mullein in their tea could do for their lungs. If the cough is present with fever, it is ideal to add some cooling, bitter herbs to the mix, such as Loquat leaf, Red Clover, Honeysuckle, Forsythia, or another herb with Yin properties.
As far as treating Cold Phlegm I have utilized various warming herbs like Ginger, Cinnamon, Thyme, Yerba Santa, and even Pinellia. These herbs would also work well with harmonizing herbs like Licorice or Fennel. The company that I work for makes a Wild Cherry Bark Syrup that is not only delicious but also a great formula. It contains: Raw Honey, Apple Cider Vinegar, Elecampane, Platycodon, Propolis, Usnea, Wild Cherry Bark, Ginger, Licorice, Essential oils from Lemon, Peppermint and Eucalyptus as well as a small amount of water and grain alcohol. I have used this product many times and made similar formulas that were also quite effective.

Lesson 21:

Make and use the following and report on your results.

  1. Slipper Elm gruel
  2. Mullein Flower Oil
  3. Electric Nerve Stimulant
  4. Thyme and Slippery Elm pills.

I have never made Slippery Elm gruel, but I was not surprised to find out that is not great tasting, and not too horrible either. It has very demulcent properties which make me understand why it is beneficial for hot inflamed tissue surfaces, such as sore throat or dry cough (Hot Wind type symptoms). I can also see how this simple preparation could be effective in delivering nutrients when a person cannot consume hardly any other foods. Often when my digestion is stagnating due to eating the wrong foods, I will employ simple foods, like oatmeal or rice with steamed vegetables, and now I am happy that I can add this Slipper Elm preparation to my combination of simple healing foods.

Although I live in an area where wild herbal medicines are plentiful, I was surprised at the difficulty of finding higher quality Mullein flowers in the wild! There were plenty of flower cones to be found but many of the flowers were too small, inferior in shape or not yet ready to be taken. The small amount that I was satisfied with were added to a small glass jar with extra virgin olive oil and some thinly sliced Garlic.

The name Electric Nerve Stimulant struck me as one of the more creative names for an herbal formula. I must admit that I was so struck by this unique formula that I thought I would make my own unique variation with the ingredients I had. See in the photo my first try at an electric stimulant. This combination mimics the original trio of Irish Moss, Bayberry Bark, and Prickly Ash Bark, but also includes spicy Rosemary and warming White Pine Bark. I do believe I used too much Irish Moss in my formulation because the end product came out too gelatinized. I did not take into account the weight to density ratio of the herbs I was using. Nevertheless, I love the electric nerve stimulant for stimulating digestion, circulation, blood flow, and a variety of other Cold/Damp conditions.

Thyme and Slipper Elm pills was a very enjoyable exercise, as I have wanted to try my hand at making teapills for awhile and had not gotten around to it. I made a variety of teapills and also included Rosemary, Turmeric, and Tulsi powders in these formulations as well. It is important to keep a good balance of dry powder to liquid when trying to obtain the the perfect size and shape of your teapills. After rolling them I put in the open oven and dried them so that they would easier to manage. I was rather pleased with how they turned out and took them all 16 test pills in a short amount of time. Not only has this project has encouraged me to make teapills, but it has led me to wanting to build my own primitive tablet press in the future!

 

Lesson 22

In general, what are the Rose family herbs used for? How does the astringent action help these uses? Compare the Rose family herbs in this lesson.

Many of the herbs in the Rose family possess nutritive qualities and can be used not only as medicines but as functional foods as well. Here is a brief list of the Rose family herbs that are mentioned in Lesson 22: Chinese Raspberry, Black Mume Plum, Chinese Rose hips, American Rose hips, Blackberry, Lady’s Mantle, Potentilla, and Raspberry. In this essay I will compare and contrast these herbs, and discuss how their astringency effects the uses of each.

Immediately we notice that the energetics of these herbs are all very similar. Many are fruit bearing and the fruits possess a sweet and sour combination that is both nutritive and astringent. The slight bitterness that is more prevalent in herbs like Lady’s Mantle and Potentilla (which I have always known as Cinquefoil) also has a beneficial effect on the digestive system by stimulating gastric juices and tightening the tissues in the digestive tract, preventing a buildup of damp, stagnant energy.

These Rose family herbs, besides being used as nutritive tonics, should be employed for their astringency, more specifically for diseases where tissues are low functioning or sluggish. Many are beneficial for ailments of the genito-urinary tract. Lady’s Mantle and Raspberry leaf are very well known, especially in the midwifery community, for menstrual problem related to a lack of tone in the uterus and surrounding organ systems.

From a Chinese perspective, these herbs are addressing symptoms of deficient Kidney Qi or Kidney Yang deficiency, both of which can result in poor fluid transport within the water pathways of the body. For men, these problems might manifest as frequent urination, spermatorrhea, premature ejaculation, or impotence. For women, the problem could manifest itself as leukorrhea, vaginal discharge, excessive menstruation, or the inability to maintain pregnancy to term.

This deficiency of Kidney Qi can result in problems that are related to the inability of the tissue to maintain tone. These various Rose family herbs offer a mild tissue-tightening energy that can be used to restore tone to the various organs that are suffering from Deficient Qi. Ideal treatment will incorporate these and other herbs both internally and externally as a douche or poultice, depending upon the area that is in need of tightening/tonification.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, the problem is the result of an imbalanced Kapha dosha. The excess water element is too much for the organ systems to manage and they begin to slow in function and the resulting symptoms are of a watery nature also (discharge, etc). Depending upon the nature of the disease and the constitution of the individual we are treating, we could counteract this excess dampness with a warming formula such as Samuel Thompson’s Composition powder, or a variation of this formula. The heating herbs in this formula should enhance digestive fire and help break up the damp blockages that are creating a problem, while the bitter astringents will aid in tissue tightening and organ tonification. It should be noted that if the patient is showing signs of Yang symptoms or excessive heat, these type of hot herbs that retain fluid should not be administered.

 

Lesson 23

  1. Give some reasons why a nervine might not work?
  2. What is the difference between a nervine and antispasmodic. Give some examples when you would use one over another.

Many people seek out an herbal alternative after mainstream pharmaceutical drugs have failed them. Unfortunately most individuals do not recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy nervous system so that they do not find themselves so stressed that they cannot live without a drug or herb to calm them down. Of course food is the best medicine as far as prevention goes but even someone with a near perfect diet is bound to experience stress and anxiety from time to time.

Nervines are the herbal solution to our stress and anxiety, and they have been used effectively for centuries. It is important to remember that since many of our herbs are also foods that we can incorporate them into our every day diet in order to prevent the onset of serious nervous disorder. Nervines are typically the first class of herb that most westerners are exposed to, usually seeking out an herb with a drug-like effect, with little regard for the energetic action behind the herb they are employing. This is one reason that a nervine may not work for an individual. This is the importance of individuals working with a trained herbalist, someone who can accurately identify the source of stress, and suggest the proper herbs for the underlying condition.

An individual who is simply choosing nervines for their pain relieving effect may be choosing the wrong nervine and not addressing the problem. Perhaps they are choosing a suitable pain relieving herb, but they are not incorporating the proper conducting herbs. For example, if the pain is a result of hyperactive Liver Yang, we will see symptoms hypertension, nervous anxiety and irritability (23-3). In this case it would be wise to use cooling, Yin-nourishing herbs with heat-clearing, alterative and cholagogue herbs. If there is excess fluid, it is prudent to use diuretics as well. It all depends on the symptoms that the patient is displaying. On the other hand, if the patient is displaying symptoms of anxiety or stress along with excessive Cold, it is improper to use more cooling nervines, but instead one should utilize warming nervines like Valerian, Cactus grandiflorus, or Polygala in order to offset the Cold. As Dr. Tierra writes on page 23-4, “This is a clear example of the necessity of prescribing herbs energetically rather than purely symptomatically”.

Nervines vary slightly from Antispasmodics, although some herbs crossover into both categories. From examining the text, I have noted that all of the antispasmodics act upon the Liver (Wind element), but only some of the nervines work in this manner. Opium Poppy for example, is a powerful nervine that strictly offers pain relief without acting on the liver at all. This makes Opium suitable for temporary pain relief that is not the result of hyperactive Liver Yang.

Antispasmodics action on the liver is directly relational to the metabolism and distribution of minerals that we absorb from our food. The nutritive element of these herbs offers the body the minerals that are needed for proper conductivity of nervous energy. When we eat foods or herbs that are rich in specific minerals or phytochemicals that are pacifying to the Liver, we are subduing the Wind Element. A variety of minerals possess a heavy sinking energy that calms Excess Wind generated in the Liver, as well as providing the body with the nutritive minerals that are needed for maintaining optimal function of the nervous system.

 

Lesson 24:

What is the relationship between stimulants and the functions of Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang?

Everyone uses stimulants, whether they realize it or not. For most Americans, myself included, one of the most common stimulants employed is the coffee bean. This is of course, what Dr. Tierra describes as an “empty stimulant”, meaning it provides an quick boost, but also a very quick depletion. Empty stimulants like coffee do not have any nourishing or tonic qualities, making it an inferior for use in a medicinal fashion. The opposite of such “empty stimulants” are of course “full stimulants” which are more desired because they do provide us with nourishment and long term benefit. Full stimulants are much more useful if our goal is maintaining balance between our Kidney Yin and Yang.

In The Way of Chinese Herbs, Dr. Tierra explains that “the kidneys are considered to be the root of yin and yang for the entire body”(76). This is because the Kidneys store our jing, or essence, which through the adrenals are transformed into Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang. Although they are different energies, they are of the same source and are therefore subject to disruptions in one another. Through careful examination of symptoms we can determine the cause of the disruption and utilize the proper herbs in order to counterbalance the disruption. This is where our various stimulants come into play.

If we imagine our essence as a reserve that is stored in the Kidneys, we can also conceive of the way in which the adrenals will transform jing into the corresponding energy that is needed. So for instance, we may have an instance where it is valuable to call on empty stimulants like coffee. We need (or at least we think we need) to summon that extra Kidney Yang in order to achieve our specific goal. And sometimes this can be a useful tool. But more often than not it becomes habitual. It becomes problematic because it drains us of our vital jing, and creates imbalance between Kidney Yin and Yang. When we become deficient in Kidney Yang, we can start showing symptoms of coldness in the extremities, coldness or pain in the lower back and waist, importance, frigidity, and sterility. These are symptoms which we would all hope to avoid. Our Kidney Yang provides the heat and movement for Kidney Yin, the excessive depletion of our Kidney Yang will also render our Kidney Yin stagnant, without the ability to go where it is needed in the body. This Yin deficiency can result in a variety of symptoms including but not limited to: emaciation (lack of nourishment), night sweats, hot palms, forgetfulness, constipation, dry throat, dark yellow urine, rapid pulse and ringing in the ears (76).

It is valuable in understanding this concept to imagine the structure and operation of the cell, which is described on page 24-2. If we think of the Kidneys in the same way that we are thinking of the cell, in the sense that they are a fluid management system, it becomes easier to comprehend how we should approach balancing Kidney Yin and Yang. We can employ certain stimulant herbs in a way that provides our cells (and our various organ systems) with the necessary nutrients needed to facilitate the three functions: attraction, storage and radiation. Especially if we are experiencing Yang deficiency, we can utilize many of the full stimulants in order to revitalize our Kindey Qi and Yang.

I think a perfect example of how this translates from traditional knowledge to a contemporary scientific understanding is Black Pepper aka Piper nigrum. I love this herb because it can easily be used to teach people how ordinary kitchen spices are also powerful herbal medicines. What most people do not understand is the stimulant, carminative and stomachic properties of the Black Pepper. This herb activates digestion, warms the Middle Warmer and Stomach and can be used in a number of different formulas to enhance absorption and utilization of other herbs in the formula. Modern science is now understanding this to be true, as we are seeing many supplement companies incorporate Black Pepper extract into their formulas, simply because of the dramatically increased absorption that takes place when it is added. Commonly you will see this as the trademarked product “Bioperine”, but many different companies are now recognizing the usefulness of these types of stimulant herbals. Some will add Cayenne, Turmeric, Ginger, and Rosemary in addition to the Black Pepper for the benefit of increased absorption.

 

Lesson 25

For what symptoms and conditions would you use herbs from each of these categories?

  1. Qi regulation
  2. Aromatic Dampness-dispelling
  3. Digestants (herbs to treat food stagnation)

Being the vital force that invigorates all living beings, Qi is so important to be aware of and understand how to regulate it within the body. Many of the herbs covered in this lesson are use in specific ways to calm or promote the flow of Qi, reverse or correct the direction of the Qi, or just maintain an already healthy flow of Qi. Certain herbs are used for specific organ Qi and the nature of the symptoms will determine which herbs we should employ.

The common kitchen spices always seem to possess so many uses and in the case of Qi regulation, they are no different. Rosemary has always been a favorite of mine, not only for it’s carminative and circulatory effects, but also the antioxidant and antiinflammtory properties it can be used for. In the case of Qi regulation, Rosemary is useful because it “stimulates bile production and helps promote liver function, therefore aiding digestion”(25-10). A healthy liver is critical for a healthy digestion and a healthy immune system.

The most common cause of impaired digestion is stagnant food that has not been properly digested and assimilated. Much to my surprise, the Hawthorn berry is “considered by the Chinese to be one of the best herbs for food stagnation”(25-6). I have worked with the Chinese Hawthorn before, but I am for the most part used to the Western variety that is typically pigeonholed as an heart for heart-health and blood pressure. We can thank the sweet and sour taste combination in this berry for its usefulness as digestive herb.

In contrast to the Hawthorn berry, many of the herbs that regulate Qi possess a spicy or bitter flavor. We see this present in many of the aromatic herbs that are discussed in the text. In Planetary Herbology, Dr. Tierra describes how these herbs work. He writes: “While aromatic herbs that resolve dampness work more on the pancreatic enzymes, herbs in this category that enter the liver meridian work more on aiding liver enzyme secretions, which are important for digestion and assimilation”(253). Of course we have already mentioned the importance of proper digestion and assimilation, but it should also be noted that it is important to understand the pathways that these herbs work on. To put it another way, it is important to understand the way that each herb regulate Qi.

For example, the discussion on The Three Citrus breaks down how “Lemon peel moves both liver and spleen Qi; lime is specific for the liver and grapefruit peel is more for the spleen”(254). We as herbalists have to be able to gauge the strength of the herb we are using, to determine whether or not we need a spicy, bitter warm Aromatic Stomachic like Chen pi (Mandarin Orange peel) or something a bit stronger like the slightly cold Bitter Orange which is “considered to be one of the strongest chi-moving herbs, with the power to break tumors and accumulated masses”(255).

It is incredibly important for us to understand how specific herbs will function in our formulas, this way we can better customize per the individual. When meeting with a patient, it is essential to ask them not only about their physical symptoms but also their emotional and psychological state. It is interesting to note the way in which Traditional Chinese Herbs are being studied and applied in a more western fashion. For example, Magnolia Bark, which is a bitter pungent that is described as “one of the very best substances to use for chronic digestive disturbances” is now being marketed in the west as a remedy for anxiety, stress, or depression. Could it be that the ancient Chinese had a solid understanding of the relationship between the Gut and the Brain that is now just coming to light in modern biomedical science? Could it be that impaired Qi flow, will result in sluggishness and therefore have a negative impact upon our mood as well? The answer is becoming more clear every day.

Let’s examine each form of improper Qi flow and how they manifest in the body.

Qi stagnation can be a problem for any system in the body. If our Qi is not flowing properly then many of our vital organs will cease to function at their optimum level. Qi stagnation is related to Food stagnation and seems to originate in the Stomach-Spleen, where food is broken down and transported throughout the body and energy is derived. Improper digestion can and will result in food stagnation and improper Qi flow.

According to our text, “Weakness, tiredness, anemia, excessive mucus and increased vulnerability to disease result from a weak digestion and deficient Spleen Yang”(25-1). Many digestive herbs can be used to relieve Food and Qi stagnation, including Hawthorn, Chicken Gizzard, Rice sprout, and numerous spices which possess carminative properties. Carminatives help to regulate our Qi by warming, activating and moving. Symptoms of Qi disorders are pains that come and go or move to different locations, and lumps and swollen nodules (goiter, breast lumps, abdominal masses). This makes perfect sense because lumps and masses are the result of stagnation.

If we do not digest properly then we cannot derive Qi from our food. Qi deficiency will quickly result from the poor assimilation that comes from this improper digestion. Qi deficiency is characterized by low energy, weakness, shortness of breath, pale complexion, dizziness, palpitations and easy perspiration. We should utilize tonics to rebuild our Qi, but only once we have resolved the stagnation, otherwise Qi tonics may actually increase the stagnation. This is why it is important to utilize Qi regulation herbs alongside our Qi tonics.

Rebellious Qi occurs when Qi flow is reversed. According to The Way of Chinese Herbs, it is typically the lungs and the stomach that are affected by Rebellious Qi. Symptoms of reversed Lung Qi include shortness of breath and cough. Symptoms of Rebellious Stomach Qi can include belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. Essentially energy flow has reversed and instead of flowing inward and downward, the flow is now moving upward and outward. Pinellia is one herb suggested for Rebellious Lung Qi, while Rebellious Stomach Qi can be treated with Radish seed, Magnolia bark, Citrus peel, Persimmon Calyx, and other herbs that possess a downward or sinking energy.

Of course these sort of herbs that possess a downward/sinking energy are contraindicated when there is Sinking or Collapsed Qi. Symptoms of a Collapsed Qi include loose stools or diarrhea, frequently urinating, and prolapse of the stomach, intenstines or uterus. The Way of Chinese Herbs suggests Qi tonics, Immature Bitter Orange, and other herbs with an upward energy such as Astragalus and Bupleurum.

According to our text, the Spleen is a Yin organ that likes to be kept warm and dry. Cold energy in the Spleen can lead to excessive mucus, cold hands and feet, lack of energy, anemia and appetite disorders. This excess Cold energy makes it more likely that Dampness will build up and this can result in edema. Medicinal mushrooms like Poria cocoa and polyporus can be useful in draining dampness, as well as the liberal use of warm, spicy and acrid herbs like Black Atractylodes, Cardamom, Tsaoko fruit, Magnolia Bark, Saussurea and Pagoda tree fruit.

 

Lesson 26:

Create and report your own herbal liniment for injuries and blows. Describe your experience making it, the reason for each herb and any response you received from its use.

Formula:

Add equal parts Agrimony, Safflower, Mugwort, Frankincense, Myrrh, Chaga to Mason jar.

Pour in 1 cup of my wildcrafted Wintergreen & Wild Sarsaparilla tincture (made with 40% vodka)

Fill remainder of mason jar with 1 pt. rubbing alcohol, leaving about 2 inches empty space.

Label jar with ingredients and “External Use Only”.

This herbal formula is definitely a combination of East meets West. I used roughly ½ ounce of each herb in the formula and moistened the marc by adding 1 cup of a tincture that I have had prepared since last season. This tincture is wildcrafted Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens and Wild Sarsaparilla Aralia nudicaulis. I have written about this combo in past essays but I thought it would be an interesting addition to this formula as part of this topical liniment for bruises. Both Wintergreen and Wild Sarsaparilla contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds so it just seemed natural to add them to this formula, at least in some small amount.

The rest of the herbs in the formula revolve around this idea of combating inflammation but also the idea that it is necessary to move the blood through the traumatized area and the need for pain relieving qualities. Let’s assess the formula herb by herb.

I was intrigued with Agrimony as a selection because of the way it was described in Chapter 27, describing the herb as having “significant analgesic (pain relieving) properties that work directly on the central nervous system”(27-2). Considering that Agrimony has Astrigent, Hemostatic, Antibiotic, and Anti-inflammatory properties along with the warming and Analgesic properties, this herb seemed like a natural for this formula.

Mugwort has always been a useful nervine in my mind, but it’s also valuable because of it’s slightly warm energy that helps move the blood. This Emmenagogue property is useful in this liniment, but I also found great value in the Hemostatic, Antispasmodic, and mild narcotic effect of this herb.

Safflower was an ideal choice for this liniment as many Chinese formulas incorporate the warm energy of this herb into combinations with Tao Ren in order to break blood stasis and treat traumatic injury. (Originally I wanted to use both Safflower and Persica, but was unable to find any Peach seeds) The Way of Chinese Herbs describes Safflower as a Circulatory stimulant, as well as an emmenagogue and analgesic agent, making it perfect for this liniment.

Frankincense and Myrrh are useful for so many things, it is no wonder they are two of the three gifts of the Biblical Magi. Both of these remarkable resins have a spicy taste that stimulates circulation and moves the blood. According to The Way of Chinese Herbs, “Myrrh resin works excellently when used for blood stasis and swelling when there is pain caused by traumatic injury…It is also very good for wound and sores that are not healing”(233). The Myrrh resin is also analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, and it promotes the healing of wounds, which is perfect for our goal here.

Frankincense is similar to Myrrh, but also different and unique, making it a complementary agent in this formula. Our text specifically recommends Frankincense as an addition to liniments, citing it’s antiseptic and vulnerary properties. The antispasmodic and nervine qualities of this resin also make it a useful herb to treat rheumatism, perfect for this formula.

Returning to my cabinet of wildcrafted herbs, I took a cue from an herbalist friend of mine who makes a salve specifically for pain. One of the ingredients she uses is Chaga mushroom, so I couldn’t help but add a little bit of this renowned mushroom. In the book MycoMedicinals, Paul Stamets teaches us that Chaga “has enjoyed the reputation as an analgesic with anti-inflammatory properties”(34). Modern science now deems this to be true so I completed the liniment with a small addition of the heroic Chaga mushroom.

Results:

Luckily I have not injured myself in any great manner, so I have only used this concoction experimentally after working out. It definitely possesses strong anti-inflammatory action and I imagine it will come very handy when hiking season starts up again in the spring!

 

Lesson 27:

Choose four herbs from this lesson and, in your own words, compare their uses and effects, making note of their similarities and differences.

For this essay I chose 4 herbs that I have experience working with and those that I consider to be very valuable. First on the list is Agrimony, which I thought of primarily as an herb to be employed for liver complaints, as the text does describe it as a “Digestive Bitter Tonic” (27-2) and it does that quite well.

The question of use during pregnancy always sticks in my mind and it seems that Agrimony is safe to use while pregnant. It is not listed as having Emmenagogue qualities and the Botanical Safety Handbook lists this herb as a Class 1, or “Herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately”(5). Unlike the other herbs in this essay, I was unable to find any other literature stating that this herb cannot be used during pregnancy.

Our workbook indicates that Agrimony affects the Lung, Liver and Spleen, and its properties are Astringent, Hemostatic, Antibiotic, Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, and Diuretic. From this we can tell immediately that Agrimony has a wide variety of application, but specifically what caught my attention was the description that Agrimony “has significant analgesic (pain relieving) properties that work directly on the central nervous system” (27-2). This was an important revelation for me as it is not common to associate Agrimony with pain relieving qualities. Thanks to the analgesic properties as well as its antibiotic qualities, Agrimony is also tremendously useful in external applications, making it an ideal choice for poultices, salves, oils, or liniments.

Mugwort is known for its external application, but not in the same way as Agrimony. Mugwort is better known by those in the Acupuncture community as Moxa, or the burning of plant matter near the surface of the skin in order to promote blood movement and wound healing. I have experience burning Moxa while at the Healing Waters Clinic and I have also made my own Moxa “tabs” by pressing ground Mugwort into a coin shaped tabs that can be bagged and used at a later date.

Somewhat similar to Agrimony, our friend Mugwort impacts the Spleen, Liver, Kidney and Lungs while possessing properties that are Emmenagogue, Hemostatic, Antispasmodic, Mild narcotic, Bitter tonic, and Antibiotic. These properties also present us with a wide variety of applications.

On the question of use during pregnancy I am confused and would like to ask for clarification. Since one of the properties of this herb is Emmenagogue, one would think that it should be avoided during pregnancy. However, the text explains it in a way that seems to suggest it is safe to use, saying that Mugwort “promotes circulation in the womb, and stops uterine and prolonged menstrual bleeding caused by Cold deficiency. It is good for restless fetus, threatened miscarriage, lower abdominal pain, and infertility caused by a Cold uterus”(27-3). This description leads me to believe that Mugwort is safe in specific applications during pregnancy, but then I check the Botanical Safety Handbook which lists Mugwort in the 2b category, or “Not to be used during pregnancy”(16). Further clarification would be appreciated.

Mugwort is also known for its nervine properties, or as it listed in the text, “mild narcotic” and “antispasmodic” properties. Also of importance are its antibiotic and antimalarial properties which the text describes as having a near 90 percent success rate treating malaria.

Thuja or Cedar is a local to my area, growing in northeastern parts of North America. Our text describes the plant as having slightly cold, bitter, spicy, and astringent energies, while affecting the Lungs, Liver and Colon. The properties of this herb are astringent, hemostatic, antipyretic, and emmenagogue.

I have also learned a great deal about this herb from Arthur Haines, a plant taxonomist from Maine. In his book Ancestral Plants he describes Thuja: “The leaves and young shoots are edible and considered to be high in vitamin C…as well as flavonoid glycosides, tannins, and mucilage. These phytochemicals work in concert to provide antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, immune-stimulating, expectorant, and counterirritant actions”(Haines, 61). This description reflects the same properties that we find in our exploration of Plantary Herbology.

The blood circulating property of this plant suggests it should not be used during pregnancy, however Haines provides a deeper insight into this: “it is further states to be an abortifacient (i.e. the premature expulsion of the fetus”. However, recent studies show some of the toxicity claims of this plant to be exaggerated. Commercial prepartions of Thuja occidentalis containing thujone have shown very limited adverse reactions and no abortive effect”(Haines, 62). Similarly to Mugwort, we find that there is conflicting information about this herb when it comes to usage during pregnancy.

Thuja occidentalis also can be used for external applications, Our text explains that Thuja can be used “to promote the healing of burns. It is also used externally for rheumatic pains and psoriasis”(27-4). This holds true now as it did in the past: “The Menominee and Penobscot Indians used the dried, powdered leaves as a poultice”(Haines, 62). This herb is clearly an ideal herbal medicine for anyone in the northeastern United States and I plan to incorporate it more into my formulations.

Dragon’s Blood is perhaps one of the most exotic sounding herbal medicines, and rightly so. This tree resin strongly effects the Heart and Liver, while providing the following important properties: emmenagogue, astringent, hemostatic, vulnerary, alterative and antifungal. All of the herbs I have chosen in this essay impact the Liver and offer some sort of alterative or blood cleansing property to go along with their hemostatic value. Why not cleanse the blood while we staunch the flow of blood?

Besides possessing a delightful aroma, Dragon’s Blood powder can be used like Cayenne in the sense that it stems blood flow, interestingly thought the “granulation of flesh”(27-7). One could easily build a regenerative salve or liniment using Dragon’s Blood, perhaps with a little Comfrey as well? All of these herbs could be employed successfully for swelling, pain, hemorrhage or other conditions associated with Blood stasis. Interestingly enough, the Botanical Safety Handbook lists Dragon’s Blood as class 1, with no warning alluding to pregnant women, but it would seem that this would be unwise, not only due to the emmenagogue properties but also because of its resinous quality that can negatively impact renal function.

 

Lesson 28

  1. What are some of the differences between Qi and Blood deficiencies?
  2. The concept of tonification in Traditional Chinese Medicine is more developed than that of Western Herbalism. In your own words, describe why and how this is therapeutically important.

Many herbs and foods could be considered to have tonic properties, but how do we know which herbs are used to tonify which parts of the body? We can look to TCM for guidance in how we should classify various tonic herbs. Let us first examine two important category of tonics: Qi and Blood tonics. Qi is the vital “ancestral energy” that is stored in the Kidney-Adrenals and derived from food through the Spleen-Stomach. It stands to reason that because of this relationship to Spleen-Stomach, that our Qi tonics will stimulate critical digestive secretions, enabling our bodies to utilize more essential nutrients from the herbs and foods we consume. In the western view of tonics, certain bitter plants are considered to be tonic, and many Chinese tonics do have a bitter flavor. These nutrients are essential in protein synthesis and lipid metabolism which increases our numbers of intracellular mitochondria. Mitochondria are known as the “power plants” of our cells, producing ATP (adeonsine triphosphate) which is used as a chemical energy. If we do not properly feed our Mitochondria, the result is a lack of energy, or a lack of vital Qi. It is essential to consume a wide variety of whole foods and herbal tonics that themselves contain a broad spectrum of vitamins,minerals and phytonutrients that are critical for a healthy flow of Qi.

According to The Way of Chines Herbs, Deficiency of Qi is “accompanied with such symptoms as low energy, weakness, prolapse, shallow breath, timidity, and soft-spokeness”(137). Recommended single Chinese herbs include Ginseng, Astragalus, and Atractlyodes. A common Chinese formula is Four Major Herb Combination aka Four Gentlemen Decoction, which is a combination of Codonopsis, Bai Zhu Atractylodes, Fu Ling aka Poria Cocos (medicinal mushroom), and Licorice root.

This formula is really impressive when you look at the independent action of each herb. The Way of Chinese Herbs describes Ginseng / Codonopsis as the emperor or sovereign herb, it is the primary Qi tonic. Atractylodes is described as the deputy herb, complimenting the Qi tonic effect. Poria is the assistant herb, clearing dampness and helping tonify Qi. Finally Licorice is the messenger herb, it harmonizes the formula. We can also look at this same formula from a pharmacological standpoint- Ginseng and Codonopsis provides a variety of polysaccharide compounds that are immunomodulatory and essential for building healthy levels of Qi. Atractylodes possess a warm, sweet, bitter energy that stimulates the Spleen and Stomach, enhancing digestion and facilitating necessary functions. The medicinal mushroom Poria is a source of polysaccharides as well as Beta Glucans, now gaining notoriety for their anti-cancer effects. Licorice is a source of polysaccharides as well as saponins which help to regulate inflammation. In his book The Wild Medicine Solution, Guido Mase explains that Chinese tonics are “sweet, nourishing, rich in polysaccharides and saponins that both stimulate innate immunity (nonspecific resistance) and balance acquired immunity (helping to coordinate resolution of inflammation)”(316).

Similarly, if our diet does not contain enough of the proper foods and herbal tonics, our Blood will begin to suffer as well. This can also result in decreased energy levels, but also a variety of other health problems including anemia, excess postpartum bleeding, paleness, tiredness, dizziness, blurred vision, palpitations, anxiety and emotional hypersensitivity. For Blood deficiencies, The Way of Chinese Herbs recommends a formula such as Dang Gui Four combination which contains Dang Gui (a powerful blood builder) as the sovereign herb, Ligusticum as assistant to promote circulation, White Peony root to aid in tonification of blood, and Rehmannia to nourish both Blood and Yin.

Many Blood tonics are also Yin tonics, and vice versa, due to the inverse relationship that Blood and Yin have with one another. The Way of Herbs tells us that “the Chinese describe Blood as the mother of Qi and Qi as the mother of Blood”(246). Of course this idea does not make much sense if we are approaching herbs from a mechanistic, westernized view of the world. This is why it is so essential that we take the time to understand the Chinese concept of tonification and not only view these herbs in a pharmacological manner.

From a therapeutic standpoint, this is important because as herbalists we do not always have access to the most advanced 21st century medical technology. We are unable to send our clients blood away to be analyzed in order to discover specific nutrient deficiencies that might be contributing to any symptoms of underlying Blood or Qi deficiencies. Instead, it is much more effective to assess a client using a TCM based differential diagnosis, which is lacking in western herbalism.

Western Herbalism certainly has its tonics, but this understanding of herbs is limited. In my experience the view of the western herbalist sees the word ‘tonic’ as synonymous with the word ‘strengthen’ and that is all. For example, western herbalism has bitter tonics that can be used to strengthen digestion, but it doesn’t look at how the energy of a given herb will affect each particular organ and the body as a whole. This is a good place to start, but it does not address all the complexities that the Chinese have been working with for thousands of years. It is only logical to learn what the Chinese have already given us and adapt it to our current understanding, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

 

Lesson 29

  1. Describe an individual with Qi deficiency – an actual person or a created one. Point out how they talk, dress and move, their attitudes, physical and emotional symptoms. Describe how their pulse would feel and how their tongue might appear.Next describe how such an individual would be both similar and different from a person who is Yang deficient.
  2. Describe the similarities and differences of an individual who is Blood deficient compared to one who is Yin deficient.
  3. Describe the meaning of Yin deficiency and how this condition is different from Yang excess. If possible, describe a person you know.

Symptoms of Qi Deficiency

General weakness, lethargy

low, soft voice

tiredness, listlessness

dislike of talking

spontaneous sweating

frequent colds and flu

daytime sweating

frequent urination

shallow respiration

palpitations

pale bright face that is puffy or bloated

weak cough

prolonged menses with a very light flow

amenorrhea

excessive bleeding with light blood

dislike of movement

shortness of breath

spermatorrhea

loose stools

Symptoms of Yang Deficiency

Lack of motivation

Coldness

Aching lower back, leg, knee pain

Lack of libido, infertility

Pale complexion & tongue

Deep, weak pulse

Thin, watery vaginal discharge

frequent, clear urination

shortness of breath, wheezing

daybreak diarrhea

I have listed the symptoms of both Qi Deficiencies and Yang Deficiencies simply for the sake of comparison. I find it interesting that the symptoms are similar but not quite identical and it is important that we learn to identify the subtle differences between the two. An individual suffering from Deficient Qi might not suffer from all of these symptoms and may even suffer from a combination of both.

I believe we all suffer some of these issues from time to time, but when these symptoms of Deficiency begin to occur regularly as a pattern, it is essential that we step in and augment our diet and introduce specific herbs in order to adjust the function and flow of Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang. When we correct the imbalance, the symptoms should dissipate and the pattern should be resolved.

An individual suffering from Qi deficiency is likely to appear very low energy, with very little interest in daily life. They may appear pale and take very little interest in their outward appearance. Western medicine might describe this person’s problem as depression but this attitude may actually be a result of this deficient Qi. This person may experience a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart but typically the pulse will be empty, frail and weak. Their tongue will be pale with a few red spots and thin, white coating. It is possible there will be teeth marks along the edges of the tongue as well.

An individual who is Yang deficient will display many of the same symptoms and may be mistaken for being Qi deficient. Similarly to Qi deficiency, there will be a lack of motivation, breathing problems, loose stools/diarrhea and other similar deficiencies. An individual may display a similar attitude if they are Yang deficient, but most likely they will exhibit symptoms of Coldness which has arisen from the lack of Yang energy. Their pulse will be slow, deep, feeble, weak and empty. Their tongue will appear pale, swollen, moist, possibly with a white coating.

A reason that these two conditions are so similar is because insufficient Yang can result in stagnation of Blood and Qi. This happens because without a proper level of Yang energy, the body is less able to metabolize and process fluids; this can result in edema and puffiness. This excess fluid buildup can result in a buildup of damp and cold, further diminishing the presence of Yang energy. Theoretically if we treat the deficient Yang, then we can directly address the Blood or Qi deficiency by using Qi and Blood tonics like Ginseng, Astragalus, or Dang Gui.

Blood deficiency may also share similarities to Yin deficiency but it is important to understand the differences. According to Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine Vol I, “A Deficiency of Blood occurs when the entire body or a particular Organ or other body part is insufficiently nourished by Blood. This can be caused by a loss of blood, insufficient Spleen Qi to produce Blood, or congealed Blood which prevents new Blood from forming”(229). While Blood or Qi deficiency may result in coldness, Yin deficiency “must include some type of Heat…known as ’empty Heat’”(29-10). This occurs because the lack of Yin is not available to counteract the heat of Yang. So it is not true inflammation that is causing this “empty heat”, but instead the problem is a lack of moist, nourishing, Yin energy to counterbalance Yang energy. I think of it much like an engine that is not properly lubricated and begins to overheat. The key to properly treating a Yin deficiency is to introduce Yin tonic herbs and foods which bring a moistening, demulcent, and nourishing quality to the body. However, a true Yin deficiency can manifest in a variety of organs and for this reason it is relatively hard to diagnose. We must identify and utilize the proper Yin tonic for the particular organ that is suffering from the deficiencies.

In contrast to Yin deficiency, a condition caused by Yang excess will exhibit symptoms that are associated with Heat, activity and dryness. According to Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, the symptoms will vary based on the organs involved, but can include: fever, thirst, red face, aversion to heat, restlessness, delirium, burning sensations, constipation, red eyes, dark urine, large loss of bright-red blood, irritability, yellow discharge, thick and hot excretions, and pain which is made worse with pressure and relieved by cold. The pulse will be rapid, full and strong. The tongue will be red, dry, rough and yellowish thick tongue fur.

These symptoms are the result of an actual abundance of Heat and not just a lack of Cool, which is the case in Yin deficiency. The solution is to incorporate Heat clearing herbs, cooling alteratives, and other herbs that will help diminish the excess Heat. It is interesting that “over time the presence of excessive Yang ‘burns off’ the Fluids in the body, resulting in a Deficient Yin”(241) and also the fact that insufficient Yang can lead to fluid stagnation, which in turn can result in Qi and Blood stagnation, which can again contribute to Excess Yang. This is a somewhat difficult concept to grasp at first, but it plays into the idea that if one goes far enough into Yin, then you will eventually come into Yang, and the opposite is just as true.

 

Lesson 30 –

Describe conditions in which you might or might not use anthelmintics to eliminate parasites.

When evaluating whether or not a client is an appropriate candidate for anthelmintics to eliminate parasites, it is important to determine whether the constitution of the client is strong enough to endure the detoxification process. Individuals who present a weak or malnourished constitution should first be built up with nutritive tonics and proper foods. Those who are Vata dominant are also at risk and should take care to balance their doshas before incorporating anthelmintics into their herbal approach.

Individuals with cold feet or hands, pale skin, watery fluids, and other excessive Yin symptoms may not be strong enough to take anthelmintics. Since it is advisable that the client partake of a light fast for 2 – 3 days before starting treatment with anthelmintics, it would be unwise to start someone on a fast if they are already weak to begin with. Instead, for the person who is weak or malnourished, it is first ideal to build them up.

It is particularly important for the individual to avoid eating sugar, fruit, juices, rich foods, greasy foods, fatty foods, or white flour products. These foods should generally be avoided anyway, but specifically in the case of parasites. Proper foods include rice, kicharee, oatmeal, sauteed vegetables, perhaps some light protein, and the like. In addition to these simple, wholesome foods, it is recommended that the individual take tonic teas to assist in the process of building themselves up.

Many different Qi and Blood tonics would be suitable choices for building: Dong Quai, Ginseng, Astragalus, Codonopsis, Jiaogulan, Reishi and several others. I found it interesting that TCM has somewhat solved the issue of needing to build the client before using anthelmintics by utilizing a formula like Six Major Herbs Combination. This formula (Liu Jun Zi Tang) contains the following herbs: Poria, Pinellia, Tangerine peel, Ginseng root, Bai Zhu Atractlyodes, and Licorice root. This formula is ideal for strengthening the constitution before entering into an anthelmintic protocol.

Once entering into this protocol, it would be advisable to start with a small amount of strong bitter decoctions (wormwood, mugwort, sage, oregon grape root, coptis, goldenseal, and more) one cup a day for three days, then two caps a day for three days, and then a day off. Then if the problem persists, continue with 2 cups a day for 3 days, and then drink 3 cups a day for 3 days and take a day off. Of course it is ideal to be eating the proper foods listed above during this time, and it would also be a good idea to be taking a probiotic on your day off from the protocol.

In addition to regular teas, it is ideal to supplement the diet with foods like mango, garlic, onions, and pumpkin seeds which are all nourishing and naturally antihelmintic. Wild carrot is another wild food/medicine that we should not forget about up here in the Northeast Kindgom. Arthur Haines describes some of the unique properties of the plant in his book Ancestral Plants: “The leaves of Daucus carota…contain flavonoids (type of polyphenols), daucine (an alkaloid), petroselinic acid, volatile oils, and tannins. They are diuretic, antilithic, carminative, and antispasmodic. Infusions of the leaves can be used in the treatment of kidney stones”(119). These simple plants are abundant and powerful allies that can be used multiple ways.

Finally, it would be wise to utilize certain purgative herbs like Triphala, Buckthorn, Cascara, or Senna. However, it is advisable to incorporate some of the harsher laxative herbs as one part of an overal formula that also includes carminatives and harmonizers like Licorice, Anise, Fennel, and others. This will ensure that the formula will not be harsh and actually help these more powerful purgatives to do their job.

 

Lesson 31:

Analyze and Recreate 5 Chinese formulas:

1) Xiao Qing Long Tang (Minor Blue Green Dragon)

Ephedra 6 – 9 grams Possible replacement- Sida cordifolia, Mormon tea

Cinnamon twigs 9 – 12 grams Possible replacement- Nutmeg

Dried Ginger 9 – 12 grams Possible replacement- Coriander spicy warm / Long pepper?

Wild Ginger 9 – 12 grams Possible replacement- Cardamom

Schisandra 3 – 6 grams Possible replacement- Rose hips sour, neutral

White Peony 9 – 12 grams Possible replacement- Bilberry

Pinellia 9 – 12 grams Possible replacement- Nigella, Prickly Ash

Prepared Licorice 3 – 6 grams Possible replacement- Anise, Fennel, Tulsi

Immediately I found this to be a challenging and enjoyable exercise. I thought of a few Chinese formulas that I have worked with in the past, but the Minor Blue Green Dragon (Xiao Qing Long Tang) stands out as one of the most remarkable Chinese formulas I have ever used. First, a quick story to help explain where I am coming from.

Once a year I will visit my father and his wife in Central Florida, where they live in a medium sized house, with two large dogs and easily more than a dozen indoor cats. I am allergic to animal dander, so whenever I visit them I would begrudgingly ingest a large amount of Sudfed (or similar knockoff brand) because the pseudoephedrine was the only thing that would stop me from wheezing and having the most difficult time breathing. I do not enjoy taking pharmaceutical drugs, but for awhile I was unable to come up with an herbal solution, so I was forced to take the synthetic. That is however, until I learned of the formula Minor Blue Green Dragon from my employer at the time.

The original reason I thought to try this formula was because it contains natural ephedrine and I hoped it would have a similar pharmacological effect on my body as the synthetic drug I had been taking. Of course when I first started taking the formula, I only noticed a small difference in my ability to breathe better. However, I kept taking the formula and as the days went by I found myself better able to breathe, not congested or wheezing like I had before. Even better, I realized that after a period of time taking the formula, that I no longer needed to take as much and I could still breathe inside the house. This was amazing to me!

Looking back I can see that the variety of spicy, warming stimulant herbs in this formula helped to resolve underlying stagnation and mucus caused by dampness throughout my body, probably residing mostly in my kidneys. The benefit of enhanced digestion was likely also a boon to my immune system, helping me better cope with the allergic environment that I was sleeping in.

Formulating

Immediately I thought of using either Bala (Sida cordifolia) or Brigham tea (Ephedra nevadensis) for the obvious reason that both of these herbs contain ephedrine-like compounds, albeit in smaller concentrations. Although Bala is energetically dissimilar from actual Ephedra sinica, I still believe it is important to incorporate an herb that contains this important constituent into the combination.

Next, I look to a variety of spices that could potentially replace Cinnamon twig. I was excited to find a passage in The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs that reads: “As a carminative, Ayurveda considers nutmeg to be similar in action to cinnamon and clove”(167). This seemed like an ideal choice, but I might scale back the ratio because Nutmeg is such a powerful herb.

Dried Ginger and Wild Ginger both present a similar energy, but the Wild Ginger is a bit more acrid perhaps. Originally I considered using Yarrow as a western alternative to Dried Ginger, but then changed my mind after reading about Cardamom in Planetary Herbology: “This herb is an excellent warming, antimucus stimulant to add to lung tonics”(250). Yarrow might even be a possible alternative to the Wild Ginger, but I am typically more drawn to spices that are easily available for the common person, so I decided to go with Coriander and/or Long pepper.

Schisandra was probably the most difficult herb on this list to think of an alternative for. After all, how likely are we to find another berry that presents a similar energetic profile as well as all five flavors! I focused more on the sour taste and warm energy, and ended up choosing Rose hips as a sour/neutral Western alternative. I also considered Hibiscus, but believe Rose hips to be a better choice.

White peony was also somewhat difficult to think of an alternative for, but I decided to select Bilberry as my replacement. I chose Bilberry because of the similar energetic profile as well as the fact that it could also be considered a Blood and Yin tonic. Also, I am fond of Bilberry because it is something that can be wildcrafted in my area (the same can be said for Rosehips).

Pinellia was a choice between Nigella sativa or Prickly Ash, and it would probably not hurt the formula to use a half part of each. The bitter/acrid combination of Nigella in concert with the spicy/warm and circulating energy of Prickly Ash makes both of these herbs ideal replacements.

Finally, prepared Licorice acting as a harmonizer does not really have many equals, but I was drawn to the sweeter herbs that I could think of: Anise, Fennel, and even Tulsi as a possibility. I would consider these herbs to be comparable to Licorice as harmonizers and perhaps superior as digestive tonics and circulatory stimulants.

This formula offers many of the same benefits as Minor Blue Green Dragon, and perhaps even reduces some of the potential complications that could be brought on by Ephedra sinica. It would be a more suitable option for someone who is dealing with hypertension of similar excess Yang type condition.

2) An Shen Bu Xin Wan (Spirit Calm)

Salvia Root Possible replacement- Arjuna

He Shou Wu Possible replacement- Saw Palmetto

Rehmannia Possible replacement- Alfalfa

Schisandra Possible replacement- Bilberry

Cuscuta seed Possible replacement- Ajwain seed

Privet fruit Possible replacement- Mulberry

Eclipta Possible replacement- Tribulus

Calamus Possible replacement- Chamomile

Pearl shell Possible replacement- Oyster shell from NH seacoast

Albizzia bark Possible replacement- Sandalwood

An Shen Bu Xin Wan is another formula that was frequently recommended at the Healing Waters Clinic. To replace the Red Sage I looked almost immediately to Arjuna. Both have cooling energy and both have a tonic effect on the heart. Considering The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs describes the bark as being “probably the most widely used cardiac herbal medicine”(93) this is a wise choice to start off with.

Looking at He Shou Wu, I considered a variety of Yin tonics, but ended up leaning toward Saw Palmetto. Both possess a sweet taste, indicating the nutritive quality of both, and each herb has a similar affect on the liver. Saw Palmetto is an ideal choice because it can be used to help build and nourish one’s constitution, similar to He Shou Wu. Saw Palmetto may also aid in any sort of hormonal issues that are contributing to upset Shen.

I chose Alfalfa as a western replacement to Rehmannia because it has similar qualities as a restorative Yin tonic. Both herbs possess a sweet taste, and Alfalfa is only slightly cooler in energy than Rehmannia. Similar to Rehmannia, Alfalfa nourishes the blood by providing various minerals and vitamins. Schisandra berries will again be replaced by Rose hips for the reasons listed above.

I thought of Celery Seed as a replacement to Cuscuta seed, but because I have a jar full in my pantry I decided to list Ajwain seed instead. All these seeds possess similar energies and act as Kidney Yang tonics for individuals that are deficient. The hot, pungent energy of Ajwain will treat cold and wind damp energy, very much like Cuscuta seed. Many other seeds (Anise, Fennel, Wild Carrot, etc) would also be appropriate replacements.

Privet fruit presents a sweet, bitter, neutral flavor, making Mulberry fruit an ideal candidate to replace it in this formula. Mulberry fruit presents a sweet, cool energy that Liver and Kidney, the same as Privet fruit. Mulberry is also a Blood and Yin tonic, similar to Privet.

I chose Tribulus (Gokshura) as the replacement for Eclipta primarily because of the numerous ways that Tribulus impacts the spirit. The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs tells us that Tribulus: “promotes mental clarity, and…[has an] exceptional clinical effect in depression”(139). Both herbs are sweet and cool Yin tonics, as well as having an effect on Kidneys. Considering the goal of this formula, Tribulus makes for an ideal addition.

Calamus was somewhat difficult to find an alternative for, but in the end I thought a simple Chamomile would be helpful to this combination. Both have a calming effect and possess aromatic qualities that improve digestion.

I first considered Nettle or other mineral rich herbs to replace Mother of Pearl, but then I realized that Oyster shell (very similar to Pearl shell) can be wildcrafted right from my own shores here on the East Coast.

Finally, Sandalwood replaces Albizzia bark. Both herbs possess a sweet flavor. Sandalwood is cooling, whereas Albizzia is neutral, but both maintain similar actions on the body. Specifically pertaining to this formula, the Chinese translation of Albizzia is “happiness bark” and the Ayurvedic word “Chandana” means “gladdening”. According to The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs, It has a prabhava for giving happiness”(179). This combination of replacement herbs makes for a useful combination that will calm the spirit and gladden the heart.

3) Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentiana combination)
Gentiana 3 – 6g Possible replacement- Goldenseal

Scute 9 – 12g Possible replacement- Oregon Grape root

Gardenia 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Amla

Alisma 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Plaintain

Akebia 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Motherwort

Raw Rehmannia 9 – 12g Possible replacement- Burdock root

Dang Gui 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Turmeric

Bupleurum 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Boldo

Licorice 1 -3g Possible replacement- Anise/Fennel

Considering the purpose of this formula is to drain the Liver, it should not be surprising that we frequently recommended Long Dan Xie Gan Tang at the Healing Waters Clinic. Many people, especially individuals who regularly eat the Standard American Diet, will end up having problems that stem from Liver stagnation.

The replacements in this formula were chosen primarily by comparison of energetic properties and flavors of the herbs. Gentiana is so characteristically bitter that Goldenseal seems like a natural fit for this cold, bitter herb.

Similarly the Oregon Grape root offers cool energy and bitter flavor that is comparable to the cool, bitter properties of Scutellaria while impacting Liver and Gallbladder. Both herbs are excellent for dispelling Damp Heat that could manifest into a variety of symptoms.

Like Gardenia, Amla is both bitter and cooling in energy. Amla acts upon all tissues, but has marked effects on the Blood, Liver and Heart. It is useful for many of the same types of problems as Gardenia, such as Heat in the Blood, and Damp-Heat affecting Liver-Gallbladder.

Plaintain replaces Alisma for the simple fact that they are the same Genus and are similar energetically.

Akebia brings another Bitter, Cold profile to the table, so I have chosen Motherwort with its Bitter, spicy, slightly cold profile. In the book Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Akebia is described as being indicated “for Heart Fire with symptoms of irritability”(103). As Motherwort is also a nervine, it can provide relief for irritability in the same way that Akebia does.

Burdock root offers a very similar energetic profile as Raw Rehmannia. Each herb is bitter, sweet, and cool in energy. Each herb acts upon Liver and Kidney. Burdock and Raw Rehmannia each are valuable for issues with blood. The cooling detoxifying nature of both herbs make them ideal in alterative, detoxifying formulas.

Dang Gui was a bit difficult to come up with a suitable replacement but I think Turmeric makes a fitting replacement. Both herbs are Blood moving, and although Turmeric is more drying than Dang Gui, (Dang Gui presents a Yin nourishing element due to its sweetness) both herbs possess the essential Bitter flavor. Turmeric is listed as Hot, while Dang Gui is only Warm, but I think the innumerable benefits of having Turmeric in this formula outweigh the slight differences. Abundant research shows Turmeric as being a powerful anti-inflammatory, but also a myriad of other uses. In her book Curcumin: The 21st Century Cure, Dr. Jan McBarron writes about the many uses of Turmeric for cancer, depression and dementia, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

Bupleurum was another herb that was at first difficult to conceive of an alternative, but after I found Boldo it seemed like a natural fit. For starters, Bupleurum and Boldo are in the same family, Umbelliferae. They are both Cold, Bitter energetically and each act on Liver-Gallbladder.

And finally, I once again chose either Fennel or Anise as a replacement harmonizer due to the sweetness and beneficial carminative properties present in each of these herbs.

4) Gui Pi Tang/Wan (Ginseng and Longan Combination)

Ginseng 6 – 9g Possible replacement- American Ginseng

Astragalus 9 – 12g Possible replacement- Alfalfa

Dang Gui 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Turmeric

Longan Berries 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Blackstrap Molasses

White Atractylodes 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Suma root, sweet, warm, acrid, spleen tonic

Saussurea 3 – 6g Possible replacement- Citrus peel*

Poria 9 – 12g Possible replacement- Birch polypore (wildcrafted locally)

Polygala 3 – 6g Possible replacement- Ganoderma tsugae (wildcrafted locally)

Zizyphus seed 9 – 12g Possible replacement- Cherry same energetically

Fresh Ginger 1 – 3g Possible replacement- Coriander / Long Pepper

Jujube dates 3 – 6g Possible replacement- Sea Buckthorn (same family)

Gui Pi Wan was regularly recommended at the Healing Waters Clinic for folks who were just starting to come down with common cold. In the first stages of a cold, this combination would be very useful in tonifying the Qi and boosting the immune system. The formula I have created is also a useful combination to nourish the immunity and battle the first signs of illness.

If it is not considered too much of a cop out to replace Chinese Ginseng with American Ginseng, then how could I resist? Both of these Ginsengs are remarkable and the American Ginseng is even considered by some to be the superior Ginseng because it is more Yin nourishing.

At first, Alfalfa may seem as an unlikely candidate to replace Astragalus, but both herbs present a sweet, flavor that indicated their Yin nourishing qualities. Alfafa also brings such an excellent nutritional profile into the formula that it is hard to ignore. The Way of Herbs also tells us that Alfalfa can be used “whenever there is a need to increase flesh and generally to build and regenerate normal strength and vitality. In this, its indications are not at all dissimilar to its immune-potentiating Chinese relative Astragalus membranaceus”(84).

For Dang Gui I will remain consistent and again utilize the blood moving energy of Turmeric in this formula.

At first I was only considering other berries to replace Longan Berry, but then I decided the sweet Yin nourishing properties of Blackstrap Molasses were an alternative that could use exploring. Both herbs are Sweet, Warm energy and impact the Spleen directly. The nutritive content of Blackstrap Molasses makes it ideal for nourishing Qi and Blood.

White Atractlylodes is described as being “one of the most revered tonic herbs of Chinese medicine, so I figured I could replace it with another revered tonic, the South American Suma root. Both herbs are sweet, warm, and affect Spleen. The Suma is a valuable tonic that strengthens immunity, making it an ideal choice for this formula.

*Although not typically found in the Western Materia Medica, I will make an argument for Citrus peel as the replacement for Saussurea in this formula, considering we have had Citrus on this continent for a long time, and it is readily available for most Western people. Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine describes Citrus peel and Saussurea as being two of “the most commonly indicated herb[s] for Stomach and Spleen Qi stagnation, which would involve digestion”(146).

To replace the wonderul Fu Ling, I will incorporate the local Birch polypore, Piptoporus betulinis, which is found growing on Birch trees. I have used this mushroom in formulation and it has many of the useful qualities you would find with Poria.

I am somewhat unfamiliar with Polygala, but reading about its tonic properties led me to consider my local Ganoderma tsuage. With properties very similar to the Chinese Reishi Ganoderma lucidum, this medicinal mushroom can be helpful for disturbances of Shen and issues with the heart. Polygala expels phlegm from the heart and lungs, while Ganoderma is dampness dispelling.

Zizyphus seed and Cherry fruit have similar tastes and energetic properties, but I thought of particular interest is the nervine benefit found in Zizyphus that is mimicked by Cherry in two ways: the antiinflammatory polyphenols in the fruit are excellent for pain relief and physical tension, and also: eating cherries is purported to be a good food to boost melatonin production, thus aiding in the nervous system rebuilding itself.

When I discovered Jujube Dates are in the same family as Sea Buckthorn and the tastes so similar, I realized I had to use this amazing fruit. Not just because of the familial connection, but their pharmacological energies are very similar also. Sea Buckthorn is could easily be described as a Yin nourishing fruit that is beneficial to the entire system. In his book The Nature Doctor, Dr. H. C. A. Vogel writes about Sea Buckthorn’s impressive resume: “Sea Buckthorn berries being rich in many vitamins and trace elements, it is obvious that the product based on them are recommended for children and adults alike as food supplements and a tonic”(388).

Finally I will again rely on Coriander and Long pepper as a suitable carminative / harmonizer instead of fresh ginger.

5) Xiao Yao San/Wan (Free and Easy Wanderer aka Rambling powder)

Bupleurum 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Boldo

Dang Gui 6 – 9g Possible replacement- Turmeric

White Peony 8 – 12g Possible replacement- Bilberry

Poria 9 – 15g Possible replacement- Birch polypore (locally wildcrafted)

Mentha 1 – 3g Possible replacement- Catnip

Fresh Ginger 1 – 3g Possible replacement- Coriander and Long Pepper

Baked Licorice 3 – 6g Possible replacement- Anise/Fennel

Xiao Yao Wan was also frequently recommended at the Healing Waters Clinic. For a time, I was taking the formula to reduce stress and anxiety and the results were noticeable. Most likely I was deriving benefit from the improved digestion.

The replacements in this combination are simple yet effective. I will again go with Boldo as a Bupleurm replacement for the reasons mentioned above.

I think Turmeric makes an ideal choice to replace Dang Gui in this formula, not to mention all the other benefits from Turmeric mentioned above.

Bilberry for White Peony because of the Blood and Yin tonification. Birch Polypore as an alternative to Poria. The cooling, nutritive qualities of Bilberry make it a great selection in this formula.

Catnip serves as an alternative to Chinese Mentha from the mint family. Offering spicy, bitter, cool energy and effecting the lungs, liver and nerves, this herb offers similar warming and carminative properties to the Chinese Mentha. The herb is ideal for this formula because of its profound effect on the nervous system and how it “gently relieves congestion affecting the nerves as a result of built-up emotional tensions”(114) The Way of Herbs.

Coriander and Black Pepper will again serve as an alternative to the fresh ginger for reasons listed above. Likewise with the anise/fennel combination for Licorice. I find that either of these sweet, warm spices make a suitable harmonizer that can replace Licorice.

Final Thoughts

This exercise has been extremely useful in helping me to better understand the energies of Chinese herbs. The taste-flavor-energy principle is so valuable in understanding how different plants work on a physiological level. I am going to continue looking at various TCM formulas and searching for alternative herbs from around the world.

 

Lesson 32:

Write a short essay (no more than one page) comparing and contrasting the three assessment strategies of The Three Aspects, Six Stages, and Four Levels.

The Thee Aspects approach is the most simple, focusing on the “tangible” mechanics of the body’s workings. The Three Aspects examines Blood, Qi, and Body Fluids and makes determinations about the necessary herbs based on how the Blood, Qi, and Fluids are working and acting within the body. What is each of them doing in the body? Is the Blood stagnant or Cold? Is the Qi rising or collapsing? Are specific organs lacking in any of the Three Aspects? These are a few of the questions we must ask when utilizing the Three Aspects.

Slightly more complicated is the Six Stages, which could be described as a progression theory of disease. Yin and Yang are divided into 3 parts each, and each part has a specific organ group.

If we examine the figure we can see how the evolution of Yin blends into Yang and Yang into Yin, each stage of the disease affecting specific organs and manifesting as various patterns. Here, when using herbs it is important to contemplate the Yin and Yang energies of the patterns being exhibited.

The Four Levels is the most contemporary approach. Instead of thinking with patterns of progressions, this approach looks at disease from a western immunological point of view, but with elements of the Traditional Chinese foundation this perspective has been built upon. Instead of fluids becoming congested or Yin and Yang being depleted, the Four Levels refers to the systems of defense that our bodies use to keep illness at bay. Similar to the multiple lined hulls of the Titanic, the ship could only sink if all the hulls were punctured. So too with our immune system, if the disease is able to bore deep into our systems, we may not be able to recover and could possibly “sink” ourselves.

These Assessment Strategies are ancient knowledge that seems confusing at first, but as times goes on it becomes to read and understand the ideas that are being expressed from an Eastern perspective. I am a Westerner by birth and my mind works largely as a Westerners mind would, but luckily I have studied Taoist philosophy which is very helpful in trying to comprehend these different strategies and exactly what the authors were trying to convey.

 

Lesson 33: Client Assessments

I have opted not to post Lesson 33 publically because this lesson contains client information that is private.

 

Lesson 34

List and describe the difference between the ten different pattern discrimination methods, giving an example of when to use each one. Keep to no more than two pages.

When beginning an assessment with a client, it is ideal to start with the Eight Principles. From this little information we can discern so much. Hot or Cold, Excess or Deficient, Internal or External, and Yin or Yang are the eight principles which guide our questioning. We can understand symptoms using these parameters; for instance, a client with a fever would be Hot, Excess, External, and Yang. We should be utilizing the Eight Principles every time we meet with anyone, whether we are assessing them on a professional level or not.
The Six Stages allow us to understand the progress, evolution, or perhaps life cycle of a Wind Cold disease (this includes Yang deficiency). Using this methodology helps us in our understanding of how a Cold disease invades the body, and it allows us to use countervailing measures against the disease. Depending on which area of the body is effected by the Cold will determine which herbs and how we are utilizing them. The Six Stages are:

      1. Greater Yang (Bladder and Small Intestine)
      2. Bright Yang (Stomach and Large Intestine)
      3. Lesser Yang (Gall Bladder and Triple Warmer)
      4. Greater Yin (Lung and Spleen)
      5. Lesser Yin (Kidneys and Heart)
      6. Terminal Yin (Pericardium and Liver)

I have color coded the different levels so we can see how the Cold disease progresses from the stage of Great Yang and then diminishes in vitality as we reach the stage of Terminal Yin. We must understand where the client is in this progression and which herbs and foods that will reverse course.

Five Element theory is perhaps the most ingenious way to link the processes of nature with the processes of the human body. It is critical for an herbalist to understand how we are connected to the seasons and we must change our lifestyle accordingly. We can use this methodology when studying the way a disease manifests in a client. If a client is presenting signs of Liver stagnation (Wood element), we can attempt to prevent this disease from progressing into the Fire element stage by utilizing Metal element herbs, such as Garlic and Onions which will help transform fluids and nourish Earth-Spleen. If the disorder has already progressed into the Fire element, then we should utilize cooling Water element herbs to help extinguish the inflammation.

The Four Levels is a method for analyzing and treating infectious and feverish diseases caused by Heat. This includes but is not limited to a variety of Internal diseases, most often relating to digestion. They are manifestations of Heat throughout the body, often caused by various reasons, either as a result of stagnation, or possibly inflammation due to some outside trauma. The Four Levels include:

      1. Wei Fen – superficial defensive energy, aka the immunity, the first line of defense that our bodies have available to them.
      2. Qi Fen – is a secondary defensive mechanism, the internal working that involves the Lungs, Spleen, Stomach, Gallbladder, and Intestines.
      3. Ying Fen – is the third level defense, which is related to nutrient levels in the body the the function of the central nervous system.
      4. Xue Fen – is the fourth level defensive mechanism, this represents serious damage to Blood and Essence.

These four levels identify different levels of warm, infectious diseases that begin as Wind Heat but can quickly develop into Internal Heat disorders. By asking our clients as many intelligent questions as possible, we can determine at which level we should approach a given disease.

Qi, Blood and Fluids is a nice crossover theory that can be understood in both TCM energetic terms as well as modern scientific terminology. Of course science might quibble over the idea of what Qi really is, but this is no reason to dismiss what we do know about energy in the body. Our text makes it clear that the interrelationship of Qi and Blood is an important one. We learn that “to increase Qi, one may have to simultaneously tonify Blood, and to increase Blood, one may have to simultaneously tonify Qi”(32-8). This highlights the importance of building a well rounded herbal formula which works synergistically to build Blood and Qi.

Body fluids themselves are subject to their own imbalances as well, they can either be excess, deficient, or stagnant. A deficiency of body fluids may reveal the need for Yin herbs, whereas excessive or stagnant fluids may indicate the need for water expelling diuretics.

The Triple Warmer refers not so much to a specific organ, but rather to the function of some of our most important organs. According to this theory, the Triple Warmer is broken into three parts:

      1. The Upper Warmer (Heart and Lung)
      2. The Middle Warmer (Spleen and Stomach)
      3. The Lower Warmer (Kidney, Bladder, Liver and Intestines

The Triple Warmer is an important concept because these three warmers govern so much activity in the body. If we must raise an immunological defense, the Upper Warmer disperses Defensive Qi through the Lungs. In everyday digestion (so critical to good health) the Middle Warmer discharges Nutritive Qi through the Spleen (we can think of this like ATP being produced as a source of metabolic energy). The Lower Warmer discharges the metabolic waste that is produced through everyday function via our Kidneys, Bladder, Liver and Intestines. According to our text “any combination of symptoms in one particular area involving those associated Organs is considered an imbalance of that Warmer.(33-39)” Understanding where the imbalance is and how it has manfested will help us better assess which herbs to utilize. The Triple Warmer is truly a fascinating concept.

The Viscera and Bowels are also bound by the immutable laws of Yin and Yang. The intestines and bowels can both become Yin deficient, dried out, without the proper energetics and nourishment. In Planetary Herbology, we read: “The colon is the Yang of Metal and counterbalances the Lungs (36)”. Then it stands to reason that if our Lungs are dried out, lacking Yin, then it is probable that our Viscera and Bowels are also lacking Yin. We can find relief in cooling Yin tonics and demulcent herbs that soothe mucous membranes. Likewise, if the Viscera and Bowels are lacking Tonic, have too much Yin and not enough Yang, then the issue is one of dampness and stagnation. We must incorporate astringent herbs that will help tighten and tonify these important tissues.

Pathogenic factors, also known as “Pernicious Influences” include everything in our environments that we are unable to control. Such factors include the effects of our climate, whether there is Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, Dry, or Summer Heat. If our bodies are continually exposed to Cold, Damp energy, (in the winter for example), it is more likely we will develop a Cold, Damp illness. If we utilize herbs that warm the body and dispel dampness, we are more likely to keep well and stay strong. This highlights why it is important to have a solid understanding of the local herbs in your area. Since our local herbs are adapted to the climate in which they grow, it only makes sense that they could help us adapt to the same pernicious influences that we are exposed to.

Channels run throughout the body, connecting our superficial layers with our internal organs According to the text, “An issue with a Channel can affect its associated internal Organ and vice versa” (33-38). We can have problems with our Channels from the aforementioned Pernicious Influences, or from the overuse or repetitive action of a particular body part. If we think of our Channels as communication pathways, it makes sense that a repetitive action or atrophy of a certain body part would result in less or improper information being communicated. Depending on how illness is manifested will determine which energy of herbs to use, but a stretching regimen goes a long way in preventing Channel disorders.

Disease Cause pattern is the most detailed of all the pattern discrimination methods. Bian Yin i Bian Bing should be utilized in all diseases, other than those who do not have an immediately discernable disease or who want a constitutional, preventative or wellness treatment, in which case it is ideal to proceed to the Bian Zheng patterns. This approach utilizes multiple methods, starting with the Eight Principles and further using Zang-Fu diagnosis to assess internal organs, five elements, channels, and the Qi, Blood and Fluids.

 

Lesson 35
The famous American herbalist, Dr. Christopher, once stated, “There are no incurable diseases, only incurable patients.” Describe briefly what he might have meant by this statement.

Unfortunately I have already become too familiar with what Dr. Christopher meant by this statement. I can recall when I worked in the Oldest Drugstore in St. Augustine. People from all over the world used to come into our little herb shop. Many people would ask us to prepare them a tea for high blood pressure – and then they would go next door to the cafe and order a cheeseburger with french fries and a soda. This is the definition of insanity.

It is difficult to understand why some people continue to engage in a behavior that is causing them bodily harm. It is even more difficult to understand why they continue after they have been presented with information that shows how their behavior is jeopardizing their health. Many people ignore their doctors, herbalists, even family members, when they try to explain that their behavior is contributing to their disease. It is astonishing.

I have seen this in people many times, but recently I had an experience with a friend of a friend which provided me with a little more insight into why people behave in this manner. This person was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has thus far been unable to change his harmful lifestyle. He drinks, smokes, eats processed foods, sweets, etc. This lifestyle has of course contributed to the onset of his disease, but after observing him and thinking about the situation, I had a realization as to why he would continue his detrimental behavior.

Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating junk foods, these are all poor habits that are developed early in life. Many people lean on these habits as they are a source of stress relief. Imagine the level of stress that one undergoes after discovering that you are sick with one of the most deadly diseases possible. Imagine the stress people he goes through thinking about his child growing up without a father, his wife having to pay the staggering hospital bills because he can no longer work. This stress is unbearable for most everyone and they give in to their usual stress relief mechanisms.

The solution is twofold. First, when clients are facing illness in the moment, it is essential that they do whatever they can to alter their behavior in whatever way will be most beneficial to their condition. In order to achieve this, it is critical that they have a solid support network of family members, friends, and healers. From the perspective of the herbalist, we can be all three of these. We provide guidance as far as nutritional support, we can aid the client in preparing their herbal formulas. Even though making a tea is quite simple, many people lack the initiative to do so, simply because it is unfamiliar territory for them. If we help them learn to make their herbal preparations, they are more likely to continue using these formulas on their own, especially if the formula is helpful.

The second element of this solution is to teach children as early as possible the right way to eat and the correct way to relieve stress. Proper eating habits are so critical and yet so ignored in this country. Children are fed a rich diet of sugar, salt, and fat from an early age, and then they are introduced to smoking and drinking as a sort of “right of passage”. The problem is that they become reliant on these substances as stress relieving mechanisms and refuse to change their behavior. Perhaps it is time to teach children and teenagers that it is not immoral to smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, but it is detrimental, especially when they continue to engage in this behavior over the long term.

There is no doubt in my mind that many people could be cured of their illness if only they would change their lifestyles. Our job as herbalists is to teach people that they do have the power to change their lives and help them reveal to themselves the innate healing power of their own bodies.

 

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