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Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Do you experience weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, hormonal imbalances, sleep problems, gut imbalances, high cholesterol and/or blood pressure, digestive problems, chronic headaches, regular illness, depression, anxiety, pain, or autoimmune conditions? Have you sought help for these issues and nothing helped, or perhaps even told you were a difficult patient or that your symptoms were “all in your head?” Chances are you are experiencing adrenal and/or thyroid challenges in what Dr. Aviva Romm calls, SOS, or Survival Overdrive Syndrome. This is a state of being in repeated or chronic stress, which puts the body into “survival mode” to protect itself. Because the brain doesn't differentiate between a perceived danger or threat (that endless to-do list and deadlines) and a real one (life-threatening situations), it instructs the body to react in the same way with both. The results are chronic inflammation, under-functioning of the internal detoxification systems, poor sleep, dietary allergies,…
Introduction from Lesley: If anyone should know how to study efficiently it is Kristi Shapla, who as a mother, teacher, product formulator and producer, and wife is also a doctoral student. She has figured out techniques to help acquire effective study skills so you not only retain information better but also cut your study time down. As well, she addresses important self care while pursuing intense or long-term studies. Studying long term, or even excess reading in general, consumes Spleen Qi and Heart Blood. To address this Chinese practitioners and scholars take herbs to nourish Spleen Qi and Heart Blood. Kristi addresses this below, but as well the traditional formula typically used by scholars in China is Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan(Ginseng and Zizyphus Formula), sometimes today called “the Students Formula.” As well, some practitioners eat a handful of longan berries (pinyin, botanical name, “dragon eyes”) after studying or at…
I always love to make gifts when I can and especially love to receive handmade ones, too, as do many people I know. If you do as well, or are wondering what to give someone, here are a couple of holiday herbal treats you can easily make that are not only tasty but also healthy – fruit leather and trail mix. Now before you turn up your nose at these seemingly prosaic ideas, read on for they are not made with “normal” ingredients and are extremely nutritious and medicinal. HERBAL TRAIL MIX What could be easier than stirring together three items and pouring into a bag? All that’s left is the wrapping! This herbal blend can be eaten anywhere, anytime, even as an afternoon office snack or a dessert. As well, you can add the mix to cereals, soups or cookies. Together this mix replenishes energy and nourishes blood. It…
There is one kitchen spice most of us could use more of in our lives: cardamom. While there are different types of cardamom (see end for details), just the plain old spice you have in your kitchen cabinet will do. It is a powerful digestive aid that comes in quite handy, for maintenance or acute distress– which of course the holidays usually generate. But it’s best as a preventative, too. Cardamom is a very ancient spice. It is the seed of the perennial tropical vine in the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is in the category of herbs called, “aromatic dispel dampness.” This means its aroma plus drying nature help to eliminate dampness in the digestive tract. Symptoms of dampness include anywhere from a feeling of heaviness or edema to loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux, abdominal distention, chest fullness or an oppressive…
Gui ling Gao jelly by Takoradee via Wikimedia Commons Gao Jelly is a black, jelly-like substance made from Chinese herbs. Sometimes called Gui Ling Gao Herbal Jelly, it was traditionally comprised of 30-50 herbs. Today it is a popular chilled dessert, obtained from Chinatown shops in cans, plastic containers, or as a powdered concentrate. Because it has a bitter flavor, sugar is often added. Legends abound around Gao Jelly, the most famous of which concerns the Qing Dynesty Emperor Tongzhi, who ascended to the throne at the age of five upon his father’s death (he reigned from 1861 to 1875). His mother, Empress Dowager Cixi, overshadowed his rule (from “behind the curtain”), and apparently all other aspects of his life as well, for when he had smallpox, he improved by taking gui ling gao but she convinced him to quit. He died soon after and she ruled as regent. (While…
Turmeric has become increasingly popular over the last decade, first for blood purification and then for joint pain. As it's hit the mainstream, its uses have narrowed at the same time. While turmeric is a fabulous herb with many beneficial applications, it's also quite powerful and can strongly imbalance the body if over-used or misused. Most people aren't aware of this and definitely should be. First, the good news. While both turmeric tuber and rhizome are considered medicinal, the rhizome specifically is both the spice used in Indian cooking and western herbalism. It has a warm energy with a spicy and bitter taste and enters the Spleen, Stomach and Liver. It invigorates the Blood and Qi and has analgesic, emmenagogue, cholagogue, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric rhizome treats amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, sports injuries, trauma pain and swelling, flank, gastric or abdominal congestion and pain, and eases painful obstruction due to…
How to use moxa: If using purchased moxa, remove its commercial paper wrapper first (but not the white inner paper) and light one end. Hold about ½” above the skin over your chosen area, the distance varying with the person’s tolerance and the amount of heat stimulation desired. There are three methods of using moxibustion: 1) Hold the stick still and move when heat tolerance is reached, returning after a few seconds and repeating the process 2) Move the stick in a circular fashion to warm larger areas – this is especially good for soft tissue injuries, skin disorders and larger areas of pain 3) Rapidly ‘peck' the moxa stick at one small area without touching the skin. This enables the heat to especially penetrate deeply, very beneficial when strong stimulation is desired. If several areas need treatment, alternate between them with one of the above methods. Continue until each…
Thunder moxa On our recent trip to China we went to Mr. Wei’s clinic in Hong Kong. There we learned of a new type of moxibustion – thunder moxa. It has many valuable uses and although it’s only available in China that I know of, you can still do it yourself. But first, what is moxa?Moxa is a shortened term for moxibustion, the method of burning herbs on or above the skin. This technique alleviates blockages and stimulates the flow of energy, blood and fluids. As well, it warms areas of coldness. Since pain usually results from some sort of blockage (stagnation) in the body such as the improper flow of energy, blood, or fluids, moxa is especially wonderful for sprains, traumas and injuries, although it treats other types of pain such as arthritis, rheumatism, sciatica, menstrual pain, and muscle aches and pains. In addition, depending on where it is…
A group of 24 East West students, graduates, teachers, and a few of their companions traveled to study herbs in China for 10 days in May. What we found there was most surprising and encouraging. Michael has written much about this in his blog on this topic, so I’ll mention other areas here. Madeline and Faith, our most senior and junior students! Firstly, TCMZone, along with Michael and I, developed the specialized herbal training program we attended. They’ve worked with Shanghai University since 2008 bringing groups of acupuncturists, herbalists, and established practitioners to train there. But ours was their first herbal training group, not to mention their largest group as well as including their oldest and youngest students (12 year-old Faith and 88 year-old Madeline Kramer). It was so successful that TCMZone is offering another Chinese herbal studies only program for advanced herbal students again next May. One of the…
This year after one of our best seminars ever (per many students and teachers), a large group of East West students and graduates traveled to China together! The bulk of our time was spent training with the TCM branch of Shanghai University, both at Longhua Hospital and in a local university classroom. It was an incredible opportunity and many of us are still getting on our feet after a recent return from this fascinating experience. TCMZone set up the training as their first herbal-only study group. As well, we were their largest group ever with 28 of us, including their oldest student, 88 year-old Madeline Kramer (Susan’s mother), and the youngest student, 12-year old Faith, the daughter of acupuncturist Bahia Ohlsen, who joined our East West tribe along with two other acupuncturists. Our mornings were spent in Longhua Hospital in split groups of 4 – 6 each under various specialty…
Mark Blumenthal and Michael Tierra Thursday evening, March 10, 2016, Michael was given the Mark Blumenthal Community Builder Award by the American Botanical Council (ABC). Mark (Founder and Executive Director of ABC and Editor of HerbalGram) announced the award during a lively evening for the 11th annual ABC Botanical Celebration and Awards Ceremony, held before the opening of the Natural Products Expo West convention in Anaheim, California. As Mark said, “He is one of North America’s most venerated herbalists, and his many writings, teachings, and activities have resulted in creating a growing community of professional herbal practitioners throughout the United States and beyond.” Giving the award, Mark listed Michael’s numerous contributions to the herbal field: author of nine books, teacher of well over 9,000 students worldwide, mentor to multiple others, founder of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG) and founder of the Santa Cruz Free Clinics. He also reminded everyone of…
It’s that season when many pin a bouquet of mistletoe in their doorway for that magical ritual of kissing underneath its bounty. While there’s wonderful lore behind this annual tradition, mistletoe is also a very useful medicinal herb. Lore Dating back to 16th century England, kissing under the mistletoe was probably an custom adopted by the Christians from other earlier rituals that honored this plant, although it was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Customarily, a man and a woman who meet under the hanging mistletoe were obliged to kiss – and still are today. Shakespeare called it “the baleful mistletoe” because in a Scandinavian legend, Balder, the god of peace, was slain with an arrow made of mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses and after mistletoe was given to Freya, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility, who proclaimed…
CLOVE (Eugenia caryophyllata, E. aromaticum, Syzygium aromaticum) Family: Myrtaceae Also called: caryophylli or ding xian (Chinese) Parts used: flower bud Energy and flavors: warm, acrid, aromoatic Organs and channels affected: Stomach, Spleen, Kidney Chemical constituents: essential oils, especially eugenol, tannins, phenolic acids, methyl salicylate (painkiller), the flavonoids eugenin, kaempferol, rhamnetin, and eugenitin, triterpenoids such as oleanolic acid, stigmasterol, and campesterol, and several sesquiterpenes Properties: stimulant, carminative, antiemetic, anthelmintic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, analgesic Dosage: 1-3g Contraindications for clove: Do not use if there’s Internal heat; caution with Deficient Yin, hypertension, or pregnancy; do not give the essential oil internally to children or pregnancy women as eugenol is toxic in relatively small quantities. When many people think of cloves, they might remember it in sachets to scent closets or drawers, or stuck in hams and baked to imbue flavor. Today, clove is mainly used as a spice, especially for holiday meals. Still, it…
The famous Angostura bitters, first made in Venezuela in the early 19th century. "Photo by Clément Bucco-Lechat - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 At this time of year – deep into summer heat and humidity – plus during the Spleen time ruling digestion, there’s a wonderful beverage you can make to help you now: Bitters! The bitter flavor is cooling and dispersing, but it stimulates the release of bile, aiding digestion and elimination. All of these functions are especially perfect for August and September. So roll up your sleeves, pick your herbs, and make some bitters. But first, what is a bitters drink? Bitters refers to an alcoholic beverage that’s flavored with herbal essences with a bitter or bittersweet flavor. Bitters were supposedly first compounded in Venezuela in 1824 by German physician, Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, as a cure for sea sickness and stomach maladies. Historically, monasteries…
"Tanacetum parthenium-Stueber0". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons When most people hear of the herb feverfew, they think migraines. While feverfew became popular in Great Britain in the ‘80s for treating this, it has been used far longer and for many more purposes than this. In fact, this herb is quite similar to the Chinese herb, wild chrysanthemum, and their common uses may make them somewhat interchangeable. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium, Chrysanthemum parthenium, Pyrethrum parthenium; Asteraceae family) has a cool energy, bitter flavor and enters the Lungs, Liver, and Stomach. While the entire above-ground portion may be used, typically the leaves and flowers are given, especially the leaves for migraines. It has antipyretic, diaphoretic, carminative, purgative, bitter tonic, and anti-inflammatory properties. In terms of treating migraines, the first feverfew treatment was chewing 2-3 of the fresh leaves daily. However, some reacted by developing mouth sores, or swelling of the…
See Part 1 here. "Actaea racemosa 002" by H. Zell - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Black cohosh has long been used throughout the world, but today its many uses have been mostly forgotten in the face of its powerful effects on menopause. Here are many more of its traditional uses that expand its effectiveness far beyond menopause. Native American women have long used black cohosh to relieve childbirth pains (it stimulates uterine contractions during labor), afterbirth pains and menstrual pain. To facilitate childbirth, combine with raspberry leaves and blue cohosh, and take daily for the last two weeks of pregnancy. If needed, it may be used in the last trimester of pregnancy to relax spasmodic uterine activity (combine with black haw and wild yam). The Native Americans also used black cohosh for rheumatism and arthritis. According to Steven Foster, the Oklahoma Delaware used black cohosh with elecampane…
When you hear of the herb black cohosh, what do you think it treats? Today most people say, "Menopause," as it has been shown to stop hot flashes. However, this herb does far more than that and is a prime example of a plant that’s been limited by commercialization. Chinese medicine also uses black cohosh; although it uses a different species, there are still many similarities. Overall, this herb is an excellent example of how we can combine Western tradition, Chinese medicine, and modern research to widen an herb’s usage. Black cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa, Actaea racemosa (Western), C. foetida (sheng ma, Chinese), is in the Ranunculaceae family and the rhizome is used. It has a cool energy, has acrid, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter flavors, and enters the Liver, Spleen, Stomach, Large Intestine, and Uterus. C. racemosa is antispasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue, alterative, parturient, nervine, uterine tonic, diaphoretic and antirheumatic, while…
Sweet flag (Acorus calamus; A. americanus) has been one of those on-again/off-again herbs where it’s safe to use it, then it’s not, and then it is again. Well good news for North Americans – its native calamus is safe and very effective for many conditions. While known by many names – acorus, calamus, sweet flag, sweet sedge, bitterroot, myrtle grass, and grassleaf – the root is used in Western, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines. In the West its strongly scented rhizomes have traditionally been used to make fragrances and as a spice, particularly to substitute for ginger and cinnamon. It is eaten candied, and is also used for thatching and strewing (as in on the floor). Bitter, spicy, and aromatic, calamus is a warming carminative, antimicrobial, Phlegm-dissolving herb that also opens the mental and sensory orifices. Because of these qualities, it’s long been used medicinally for digestive problems such as dyspepsia,…
There’s another great Western substitute for a Chinese herb: Calendula officinalis can stand in for safflower (hong hua, Carthamus tinctorius). The two are flowers, one being deep gold to orange in color and the other red respectively, but both are light in weight so they quickly spread throughout the body. Unfortunately, calendula is not fully used internally anymore, which means it misses many treatments that its counterpart safflower treats, and vice versa. This means both can have new applications – here’s how: Calendula, By Wildfeuer (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons Calendula flower (Calendula officinalis; Asteraceae) has a neutral energy, is slightly acrid and bitter, and enters the Liver, Heart, and Lungs. It has emmenagogue, diaphoretic, alterative, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, analgesic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and astringent properties. In today’s commercialized herbal world, calendula is mainly known for granulating flesh and healing…
After writing about the various types of citrus and their uses I thought about using other fruits as medicine. My mind turned to quince, since our wild lemon tree looks very similar to it. However, quince is not in the same family as citrus, Rutaceae (the rue family), but in Rosaceae, shared with apples and pears. The raw fruit is hard and unpalatable, but when cooked the flesh turns a brownish pink and has a pleasant flavor. There are lots of recipes using it throughout the ages and its typical use is as a food. I knew the Chinese used quince medicinally but what about Western quince? Western Quince Native not only to rocky slopes and woodland margins in Southwest Asia, quince (Cydonia vulgaris) is also indigenous to Turkey and Iran (as far back as Persia and Anatolia). Later it spread to Greece and of course from there to Europe…
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