Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Lesley Tierra's Blogs

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…
Most of us love some form of citrus – oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and more – yet did you know that some parts of these delicious fruits are actually quite medicinal? Interestingly, they share similar properties and yet each has a specific use as well. While the Chinese use certain fruit peels or the fruits themselves, western herbalists use citrus leaves and seed. Even one fruit can be used in different ways, for instance the tangerine. Both the ripe and green tangerine peel are used as well as the red green tangerine peel, and red tangerine peel all have slightly different uses. CITRUS PEELS Ripe tangerine peel (Citrus reticulata; Rutaceae; chen pi): In Chinese medicine the ripe tangerine peel is a major herb that is in many formulas. It has a warm energy, acrid and bitter flavor, affects the Lungs, Spleen, and Stomach, and is a Qi-regulator, carminative, stimulant,…
Too often we find Western herbs pigeon-holed into convenient commercialized boxes. While this expands people’s interest in natural healing, it also limits herbs to one particular application such as echinacea for colds, hawthorn for the heart, St. John’s wort for depression, and black cohosh for menopause. Each of these herbs has an array of other important healing uses that are overlooked at best and lost at worst. By incorporating other cultural traditions through Planetary Herbalism, we can broaden our understanding and use of commonly known western herbs. It is no different with the easily grown and majestic-looking elecampane (Inula helenium, Asteraceae family), or scabwort (so called because it healed scabs on sheep!). Known as an expectorant for coughs, bronchitis, and asthma with white phlegm, this herb also does much more as it also treats digestive ailments and alleviates pain. Used throughout the world for thousands of years, Westerners have traditionally…
It’s that season of the year again and so time to share some of my favorite herbs and therapies. The following I’ve found extremely useful over the last year. Some are herbs, others formulas, while still more are important therapies. All of these I have found to be healing clinically and helpful for many people. A few are new to my tool kit while others I have shared in some way or another in the past but are still primary in my current use. Most can be made at home or inexpensively purchased. These make great gifts for yourself or others and they’ll truly improve one’s health and life. May they help you and yours through the holiday season and beyond! Teasel If you want to give a useful homemade gift, this is the one to make. Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) treats lower back pain, joint pain, low adrenal function, stiffness…
12/1/14 Continuing the discussion of berberine-containing plants as Chinese-Western substitutes for each other, we first looked at using goldenseal in place of the Chinese herb, coptis (or vice versa if you can’t find cultivated goldenseal). Here we consider another substitution – barberry/Oregon grape for the Chinese herb phellodendron. Barberry/Oregon Grape – Phellodendron The exact substitution of barberry or Oregon grape for phellodendron is not as clear-cut as is coptis for goldenseal (or vice versa). Although all these herbs contain berberine and are cool to cold in energy and have a bitter flavor, phellodendron has a special property for which barberry or Oregon grape do not directly substitute. I’ll explain why below after I present each herb. Barberry (Berberis vulgaris; Berberidaceae family) and Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.; Berberidaceae family) are both so similar that they are discussed and used interchangeably by most herbalists. Barberry is from Europe while Oregon grape is…
Berberine In my investigation of finding western substitutes for Chinese herbs, I now turn to herbs that contain the alkaloid berberine, a chemical constituent found in many plants including goldenseal, goldthread (coptis), barberry (tree turmeric), Oregon grape, and phellodendron. Berberine accounts for the yellow color of these herbs and their bitter flavor along with many powerful effects as follows. Western herbalists generally consider berberine-containing herbs to be “bitter tonics” because they improve digestion by increasing appetite and stimulating the release of bile, which especially helps in the digestion of fats. This is a “tonic” in terms of strengthening the body’s ability to assimilate food. Not all bitter tonics contain berberine, however. According to Dr. Whitaker, berberine regulates metabolism as well as glucose production in the liver, stimulates the uptake of glucose into the cells, improves insulin sensitivity, boosts fat burning, lowers lipid levels, relaxes the arteries, increases blood flow, and…
For quite a while, I’ve been curious about Western alternatives to Chinese herbs. I’m particularly interested in creating effective alternative formulas to traditional Chinese ones (to know why, read my prior blog, Are Herbs from the West Really the Best?). As I investigate possible substitutions, I’m running into several problems. It’s possible to match an herb’s energy and flavor but that doesn’t mean it always has the same actions. Each herb is unique, just as twins have differences even though they may look and act alike. So it’s more difficult finding Western herbal substitutes for Chinese herbs than you might think. As far as I know, Michael was the first to establish Western-Chinese-Ayurvedic herb "cross-overs" when he began to identify energetics of Western herbs in the 70’s.[1] As he created substitute formulas for Chinese ones using Western herbs, he discovered that he actually ended up with something that served a…
In my search for western substitutions for Chinese herbs, it’s hard to ignore the easy ones. Since we’re at the end of the Spleen time of the Spleen time of year – deficient Spleen symptoms being poor digestion, difficulty losing weight, diarrhea, low appetite, fatigue, and slow metabolism – choosing hawthorn seems a perfect start to my herbal substitution blogs. Technically, this is not really an herbal substitution but rather teaching Western herbalists to use an old favorite in a new way, although this is a type of substitute of sorts, isn’t it? The question is, can an old herb (or herbalist) learn new tricks? I hope so, because this one is really worth it! Western hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), the herb much beloved for treating heart conditions, is cherished indeed because cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death not only in the US but also the entire world. Hawthorn…
Many people in the West eschew herbs from other countries because they only want to use western herbs. While local herbs are the easiest and most convenient choice, they’re not necessarily the best and even more so, not always possible. Even if you’re an avid gardener who cultivates a large variety of herbs, you still won’t have all you may want, if for no other reason than your local ecosystem limits what’s available to you. Further, the herbs you need might not even grow in the West (or at least haven’t been discovered or harvested yet). That means most people at some point will have to buy the herbs they need. You probably look for organic herbs, like I do, but not every western herb may be found in organic form. And an herb is not necessarily non-organic just because it’s from another country. Ultimately, the question all this raises…
Recently, Michael and I taught in England, and as we generally do when teaching there we also traveled to other countries. And of course we just had to investigate the herbal scene wherever we went, too. This month we are both blogging about different aspects of what we found about the general state of herbal medicine in Europe. Older generations of most cultures have long complained how their youth detach from traditional ways in favor of modern Western living. The same can be said of herbalism. In Russia, we learned that herbalism is alive and well, although mainly with the elderly population. Unfortunately, this is also the case in Mexico (as we learned while there earlier this year) as well as in other countries. Ever since Western conventional medicine came to the forefront in the early 20th century, it has swept the world as the only medicine to use. The…
With an overly stuffed plateful of responsibilities sandwiched between a week-long seminar of East West students and a month-long trip for which to prepare, I had no business reading a book. But when Becky Lerner, one of our East West students at the seminar, mailed me a copy of her first book, Dandelion Hunter, I opened the cover to read: The Stranger walked across her front lawn to meet me at dusk. She waded through a wall of weeds as high as her hips, parting the sea of greens like a post-modern Moses. "Hi," I said, standing on her driveway. "I'm your neighbor, and I’d like to eat your weeds." I was hooked. I just had to read her book! So stealing time from myself to do other needed things, I dived into Becky’s book with gusto and was absolutely delighted. Ironically, this came on the heels of my previous…
Along with its typical purposes in Western herbalism, the Chinese use dandelion as a cold, anti-toxic herb to drain downward and disperse energy (Qi) stagnation and clumping. They’ve traditionally employed it to treat breast abscesses, boils and other toxic swellings as well as burning urination (cystitis), diarrhea, hepatitis and jaundice (its energy goes to the Liver, Stomach and Heart and from the latter, to the Small Intestines and then Urinary Bladder). It may be used alone for these purposes, but is often combined in the formulas below. An added benefit of dandelion is that although it is bitter, it also has a sweet flavor, which means that those with deficient Blood and Yin may safely use it if combined with a cooling moistening herb such as marshmallow root, which is also anti-inflammatory. The Chinese use the entire herb of dandelion, root and leaves together. They consider that the fresh leaves…
I first learned about dandelion by reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury many decades ago, a book not really about dandelions but so fully infused with the spirit of summer that it may as well have been. After finishing it, I proceeded to actually make dandelion wine with a friend and we found it quite refreshing and surprisingly good. I even won a prize in a photo contest with my dandelion shot. At that point, I was hooked on dandelions and proceeded to learn much more about them. That’s when I discovered that dandelions truly are Spring’s blessing, despite being cursed by many people for making a mess of their lawns. Yet, these same folks who hate dandelions could benefit from this weed most as it clears the liver congestion that causes that fiery, angry energy. One of the best liver herbs around, dandelion root treats cirrhosis and jaundice. I…
So many of us are removed from our herbs these days since we generally choose faster methods of consumption such as pills, capsules, tablets, powdered extracts, and tinctures since they fit our busy lifestyles. Because of this, many have lost connection with the art of tea making and the relaxing, conversational and meditative ways this preparation provides. But no longer! Brigitte Mars has brought us back to the garden with her book, Healing Herbal Teas, A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages, (Basic Health Publications, Laguna Beach, California, 2006). If you haven’t yet read this book, it’s a good one to peruse as you concoct an experimental infusion in a jar, French press, or refrigerator. Healing Herbal Teas reminds us what the Chinese have said for thousands of years: that taking herbs in tea form assimilates very efficiently and so is the most effective method of administration. This book…
In the late 1980s, I attended the first International Congress of Healing in India and met Sai Baba. He spoke to a group of us about helping people heal and of all the things he said a practitioner could do, the most important one was to give people hope. This message stuck with me the last 25-plus years and now there’s growing scientific evidence behind the power of this statement. You may think that giving people hope is nice and even obvious, but it actually has more import than that. New findings are pointing to the possibility that the "ritual" of medicine itself has a strong influence on a client’s healing outcome. This is fascinating to me as it illuminates the power of the body-mind complex in health and healing. The ritual of medicine was highlighted in a study done by Ted Kaptchuk when he split 262 adults with IBS…
There’s a fabulous kidney tonic that I want to tell you about if you don’t already know it – shilajit. Sometimes spelled silajit, shilajeeta, or shilajeet, it is also called ashmaja, black bitumen E, "seat of the rock," mineral pitch, mineral wax, mineral resin, herbo-mineral compound, vegetable asphalt, moomiyo, mumijo, momia sharga, shilajit mumiyo, black asphaltum, barahshin, dorobi, baraga shun, brag-shun, chao-tong, and wu ling zhi (which usually refers flying squirrel feces). Shilajit is not a plant but an excretion from rocks found in the mountains, mainly the Himalayas near the northern region of the Ganges River, although it has been found all over the mountains of Asia and Europe, and possibly the Rockies of North America. As such, it is considered a mineral medicine in Ayurveda. In Sanskrit, shilajit means "rock-invincible." Although its origins aren’t known for certain, many speculate the source of this "tar" is from a prehistoric…
There are many herbal approaches to supporting Shen depending on the imbalance affecting it: Nourish the Shen through Heart Qi, Blood, or Yin tonics: fu shen, zizyphus, biota, asparagus root, reishi, rhodiola, hawthorn Astringe the Shen: schisandra, cornus Clear Heart Heat or Fire: scute, coptis Sedate the Heart and settle the Shen: dragon bone, oyster shell, magnetite Open the Heart orifices: borneol, musk, acorus Transform Damp and calm the Heart: fu ling, atractylodes (bai zhu), cinnamon twig, akebia Generally, herbs that nourish the Shen are employed when the Shen is low. These include such herbs as zizyphus seeds, biota seeds, polygala, longan berries, hawthorn berries, albizzia, rhodiola (hong jing tian), reishi (ling zhi), polygala, wild asparagus root (tian men dong), ginseng (ren shen), fu ling cortex, schisandra (wu wei zi), oyster shell and dragon bone. Albizzia [Albizzia julibrissin; he huan pi (bark); he huan hua (flower)]: Having a neutral energy,…
Do you love life? Do you enjoy people? Are you enthusiastic about what you do? Do you wake up excited for your new day? Do your eyes sparkle? Are you playful? Then you've got Shen. If you currently don’t feel eager, excited, or joyful but you normally do, then this is natural. We all can swing into periodic contemplative, confused or unhappy states, for living in the world of polarity means we experience both ups and down. But if you feel a lack of will, dullness in life, have no sheen to your face, or spring to your step, then you lack Shen. Shen reflects the entire physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of your body. It includes the capacity to think and act coherently and appropriately, your personality’s magnetic force and the joy to live life. It is distinguished by the sparkle in your eyes, an overall vivaciousness and…
HERBS – FOUR FAVORITES! While I’ve had many favorite herbs over the years with which I’ve experienced many wonderful healings, these four are my current favorites. Teasel (Dipsacus) I’ve long used the Japanese variety of teasel (Dipsacus asperoides; xu duan), however one of my new favorite herbs is the Western variety (Dipsacus fullonum). Even the latest AHG Journal highlighted this herb on its cover! I first learned of western Dipsacus in the early '90s while traveling through Scotland. There I witnessed huge machines combing wool that were comprised of hundreds of dried teasel heads on a giant spinning drum. (Dried teasel flowerheads are very hard and bristly.) Although this herb originated in Europe, this invasive weed now grows in many places. Today, teasel has made a wildly popular resurgence as an herb to treat joint, muscle and bone injuries and pain, symptoms associated with Lyme disease, and (from what I…
I decided it was high time again to introduce you to a few of my favorite things (I can’t believe it’s been five years since the last time I did this!). As I tend to focus on healing and not just herbs, you’ll find all sorts of items here, however tune in on Dec. 15 for my latest four favorite herbs. Enjoy! Drinks by Zenergy Naturals Someone really got the right idea going when they created these drinks. Made of both Western and Chinese herbs, these products are tasty substitutes for coffee and caffeine in general. The best way to purchase them is via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This is a small company, so give them time to respond! You can set up automatic monthly delivery as well. For more information go to: http://www.zenergynaturals.com/Home.html Original Zen My favorite, Original Zen, is not only good for you, but delicious as well. It…
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