Wednesday, August 15, 2012

love is an ingredient

Big thanks to  Baltimore By Hand for featuring our recent interview!

This blog examines the art of making herbal teas, spirituality and herbal medicine, and highlights some of the core values that I find helpful when thinking about our relationship with plants.

*..We are all in this together..*

Click here to read!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Infusing With The Luminaries: Making Sun and Moon Infused Herbal Teas

As a child I would put anything in water.  My girlfriends and I would run around the neighborhood picking flowers and stick them in small paper dixie cups. Then, very carefully, we would add sugar, water, mix and voila!  We had our own home-made perfume!  Most often these perfumes smelled  like a disconcerting mix of lawn clippings and sour cherries.  Yet, as princesses of our own fantasy world, we would dip our q-tips into these masterful blends on don their scents on our wrists thinking them to be so 'marvelous'.

We would also make potions.  These potions consisted of anything sticky, smelly, and strange.  I remember one day we made a particularly foul mix of pine pollen, pine sap, goldenrod, holly berries, and mud.  That potion was targeted at my little brother, a very annoying creature who seemed to be too easily contented with himself and liked to bother me by being just a little too happy.  That night while he was sleeping we placed this potion between his toes.  Poor guy woke up screaming thinking his feet were sick and were falling off.  Bad herbalist. Bad sister.

Fast forward to 1999.  I was living in a farmhouse in the mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina.  My herbal interests had matured and I found myself once again in the habit of making potions and sticking plants in water.  By this time I had learned more about plants and their medicines from local herbalists from the Appalachians.  My first adult herbal potion was moon-infused nettle tea. This tasty blend soaked under the light of a July full moon and filled me with an understanding of the power of lunar light.

Many of us know about Sun Tea.  We might imagine a large glass jar on a sunny porch filled with Lipton tea bags and their stringed flag labels caught somewhere between the lid and the outside world. Sun teas draw upon the energy of the sun to heat the water to pull the medicines and essences from the plant. When we use solar rays to extract medicines, we are drawing upon the sun's yang/masculine/active energies to stimulate the water and the plant.  There is an activating quality as we heat and alchemically draw forth the essence of the plant into the water.  Therefore, a sun-tea is often more yang or activating by nature, and draws forth more of the active essences of the plant.

Moon tea is different.  The lunar rays that shine down are a reflection of the the light of the sun and have a soft, reflective, and yin energy. Women who have a lot of yang energy (yes, that definitely includes moi) can really benefit by making moon teas.  Herbs that are infused by the light of the moon are less activated, and rely on the subtle, cool, and passive energies of the lunar.  My favorite lunar infused tea for women is one that I call "Womb Love" that I make in my apothecary. It is a blend of Red Raspberry, Roses, Lady's Mantle, Marshmallow Root, Licorice, Hibiscus, Dandelion, and Stevia. These plants merge nicely with the light of the moon and bring harmony, softness, and tonify the yin organs and yin energies.

The beauty of making lunar infusions is the ability of these to capture the energy of the moon phases and their relative teachings into the tea. A full moon tea will bring more bright, illuminating, and culminating energy to a blend, while a waning moon infusion will invoke a remembrance of rest, calm, and letting go.  Herbalists pay close attention to the moon and we use the moon for harvesting. We harvest some flowers and plant tops under the light of the full moon, when the energy of the plant is lifted like the tides into the highest part of the plant. And we harvest roots and tubers under the darkness of the new moon when the energy is calm, the tides are low, and the plants have their intelligent life-force nestled deep into the earth below.

Solar Sorrel Infusion courtesy of my yard!
Today, under a waning moon, I added about 3 cups of wood-sorrel into a glass jar to make a sun tea.  I think the cooling properties of wood-sorrel matched with the slightly overcast light of the sun will make a nice blend to help me with some stomach issues I've been having.  This plant has a long use for aiding digestion, clearing obstructions, and cleansing the blood.  We will see how it turns out, but I have a feeling it will be a really nice neutral energy that will gently support my stomach and help me with some of the tension I have been holding in my abdomen.

Making these teas are easy.  You can use a dried herb blend, fresh plants, or even tea bags. I recommend using mason jars or any glass container. The herb to water ratio is very flexible.  As a general rule, I use 2 loose cups of fresh herb and 4 cups of water, for dried herbs, you will need less. Solar infusions typically need to steep for about 4 - 5 hours in the peak hours of sunlight, or if it is overcast, 7 - 9 hours.  For your lunar teas, track the light of the moon and you can place your jar outside or on a window sill that receives the glow of the moon and let your lunar tea soak overnight. For both, say a little prayer of gratitude for your luminary of choice and the plants in your blend.  Then strain and enjoy!

I am grateful to say that my brother has forgiven me for my prior sorcery and now allows me to make herbal blends for him. I thank him for being my first client, and am now committed to making all of my blends and potions as palatable and enjoyable as possible.