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Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Lesley Tierra's Blogs

We have now moved into the "Heart time" of the year. It runs from about mid-April through June and encompasses the traditional Chinese medical concept of the fire element and the organs of Heart and Small Intestine. At this time of year everything is surging upward and outward. This includes not only our own outdoor activities, but the body's energy as well. The Heart time of year is represented by the energy of summer, even though it may not correspond to what we think of as summer calendar-wise. Summer is the essence of life, growth, heat and activity. Not surprisingly, the fire element and its organs, Heart and Small Intestine, correlate with summer. With the sun at its zenith, nights are short and days are long. Our energy is expansive now, flowing outward to act on the plans and seeds sowed in spring. Similarly, the body's heat, or 'inner fire,'…
There is so much focus on what one should do in order to stay well that I sometimes find switching the tables helps people gain a different perspective of how their habits invite sickness into their lives. Thus, I offer here the easiest ways to get sick. Have fun! Eat all the ice cream, candy, pastries, desserts, caffeine and chocolate that you want, whenever you want. Drink all the iced cold drinks that you desire. Work all the time and definitely don't stop to rest or eat. Or if you must eat, be sure to do so while working, doing business, at your desk, standing up, or on the run. Drink caffeine to wake up in the morning and to keep you going throughout the day. Drink alcohol to relax every night. Don''t rest when you feel the need but use sugar, caffeine or chocolate to get through the day.…
Horsetail photo by Lesley Tierra Horsetail Equisetum spp. Energies and flavors: Cool, astringent Uses: Hemostatic, astringent, vulnerary With the advent of Spring comes horsetail, a type of shave-grass that grows in watery places. I've been studying several stands of these interesting plants for a few weeks now, watching them pop through the earth, shoot upward and sprout into feathery and bottlebrush-like 'leaves.' My walks take me past a stream where they love to flourish, offering me some interesting photo ops. Horsetail's fresh, barren stems have long been used medicinally. Older herbalists used it for consumption, dropsy and dysentery. Horsetail decoction has also been used as a vulnerary, stopping bleeding, healing wounds and reducing eyelid swelling when applied externally. High in silica, they are often included in mineral-rich formulas or herbal combinations for strengthening bones. Horsetail's main use, however, is as a diuretic to increase the flow of urine. Thus, is…
No matter where you live '" snowy Michigan or sunny Florida '" Spring is upon us. In nature, this energy is represented by sap rising and buds bursting. Likewise, these same energies stir within as we feel drawn outdoors and into more activities. While it is nearly time to enjoy warmer weather, it is also one of the two most susceptible times of the year to catch colds and flu. Although your internal body heat is rising toward the surface (like the trees' sap), the air is still cool and it's important to remain warmly dressed outdoors. The shining sun and hint of warmth encourage us to shed heavy clothes and act like it's summer. Yet, this is exactly how those spring colds and flu begin. This is also the windy season and exposed necks invite pathogens to invade the body. Foil that flu bug by wearing a scarf outdoors…
Students and clients often ask me, "When the best time is to take my herbs?" This is a very good question, and there are several different answers. (However, in truth, the best time to take herbs is when you remember to take them.) Often, when people try to follow rules, they invariably can't comply, or they forget, or some other thing happens and then before you know it, the time has passed and the time to take the herbs was missed. Then it's on to the next required time and if this is also missed, the day soon passes and the herbs are never taken at all. Taking herbs this way can be hit or miss. With such infrequent ingestion, they help very little or are entirely ineffective. This is why I say, take the herbs when you remember them! But if you want to know the real 'rules' for…
The cold and flu season is still upon us. Michael wrote about treating flu last fall, especially the swine flu, but I want to address a different approach here. Cold/flu treatment usually falls into two main categories: wind-chill and wind-heat. Most flu formulas commonly available, western and Chinese, address wind-heat conditions as their symptoms are the most common: slight chills, stronger fever, thirst, sweating, restless, desire for cool drinks, mucus and phlegm that's yellow and a yellow-coated tongue with a redder body, especially the front third. Wind-chill has different symptoms: stronger chills and little to no fever, no thirst or sweating, dull headaches, body aches, tight neck and shoulders, desire to be covered and still can't get warm, mucus and phlegm that's copious, runny and white to clear-colored and a white-coated tongue with a paler body. To treat wind-chill, one uses warming and pungent herbs. Samuel Thomson's notorious Composition Powder…
The cold and flu season is still upon us. While Michael wrote about treating flu last fall, especially the swine flu, I want to address a different approach here. Cold/flu treatment usually falls into two main categories: wind-chill and wind-heat. Most flu formulas commonly available, western and Chinese, address wind-heat conditions as their symptoms are the most common: slight chills, stronger fever, thirst, sweating, restless, desire for cool drinks, mucus and phlegm that's yellow and a yellow-coated tongue with a redder body, especially the front third. A great Chinese patent equivalent that clears the chill but also treats the wind component beautifully (manifesting in the stuffy nose, tight neck and shoulders and body aches) is Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao Wan. It contains, mint (bo he), ligusticum (chuan xiong), schizonepeta (jing jie), notopterygium (qiang huo), licorice (gan cao), angelica (bai zhi), ledebourilla (fang feng) and asarum (xi xin). If taken at…
A libido as unwavering as the Himalayas? With the help of shilajit, perhaps! Let's face it, when people think about Valentine's Day they think of sex. But rather than write about aphrodisiacs, I want to discuss a fabulous herb to nourish the kidneys, the root of sexual energy and power '" shilajit (pronounced, she-la-jeet). Shilajit isn't actually a single herb; it's actually a medicinal organic substance. Composed of humus and organic plant material, shilajit is an exudate that's pressed out of layers of rock in Nepal and other high mountains. Think of India as an island millions of years ago as it bumps into the Eurasian continent to form the Himalalyan mountains. As the land collides and the seabed pushes upward, it produces lush jungles that become trapped by layers of rock and soil. Gradually this transforms into humus, a dense, viscous and mineral-rich organic mass that becomes food for…
At the recent American Herbalists Guild conference, I met various people who felt inadequate about their herbal knowledge '"- that they were somehow inferior to teachers or to other AHG professional members -- and so wondered if they'd ever learn enough about herbs to 'get there.' I guess I felt that once, when I just opened the door to the huge world of herbal medicine. But that quickly evaporated in the process of learning, studying and experimenting. And 30 years after opening that door one of the main things I've learned is that 'the more I know, the more I know I don't know.' To me this is one of the attractions of herbalism: there is so much to learn, so many different possibilities and avenues to explore, that I can study my whole life and never get bored, never be done; there is always more to learn. As a…
Start the new year by cleansing old energies! One of the best ways I know to release the past is through Ho'Oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian cleansing technique used to release unwanted memories, thoughts and beliefs. While traditionally this technique is done in a group under the guidance of a Kahuna healer, it may also be done alone. Visit my new website, Radiance Energy Medicine, to read more about this incredibly simple but amazingly effective practice that brings us back into harmony with ourselves and those around us. P.S. My next Radiance Quest series of classes starts on Feb. 6, 2010! Find out more about these life-changing classes here!
Although I've already done blogs this last year on how to stay in harmony with each season, I can't help but give another reminder today since we've just started the winter season. This is perhaps one of the most important times of the year to pay attention to what you eat, wear and do since the energy you store now will affect your entire year ahead. Interestingly, I am in Hawaii as I write this, but this information pertains to us here just as aptly as it does someone in snowy Montana. Winter is the time to stoke you inner furnace '" to rest, nourish and replenish your reserve energies spent throughout the prior year. Follow the sun, going to bed early and getting up late. Since the outside cold drives the body's heat deep inside, choose foods and herbs to reinforce and support this. Diet Suggestions for Winter Eat…
I recently stated using a macro lens on my camera and it has changed my world -- not just in getting greater close-up shots, but also in bringing the "micro" universe better into view (for a similar experience try looking at nature through strong reading glasses). Yesterday on a photo outing I focused on flowers and was amazed to find insects I hadn't seen. In fact, without the lens I would have completely missed them. Here's one: I also saw "landing strips" for bees: a threatening face on a spider's back: and water drops on the intricate texturing of leaves: The possibilities seemed endless! Just as swimming under water opens up another world to me (especially snorkeling and diving), so does the miniature view. It is truly another "cosmos" co-existing within ours. These little things in life so often go unseen -- and unappreciated. The more I relax into the…
We've got two fig trees: one a black mission and one a green fig. The black mission we call, "Walking Fig," because it's been transplanted so many places and seems to like it. Both are prolific, although this year the weather caused late development of the fruit. The black ones are mostly either gone, or are still hanging on the tree, too small and hard they are my favorites, though. The best recipe I've ever tasted for black figs was one I discovered this summer from a caterer at a music festival event. Here it is: Quarter the fig from the top down to nearly the bottom and stuff with blue cheese (try gorgonzola!) and a walnut (pecans work well, too). Simple, elegant, delicious. As for green figs, there only seem to be a few, traditional recipes -- either in sauce for meat, or wrapped with proscuitto. However, I recently…
No matter what name you give it (or what animal you name it after), we're now full swing into the flu season. Michael's written on the great benefits of onion poultice; how can I pass up touting one of my favorite flu/lung/cough herbs '" garlic? So while you're plastering your chest with an onion poultice, eat or drink some form of garlic as well. Garlic is said to be a cure for every ailment but the one it causes: bad breath! Its delightful fragrance comes from the presence of sulfur compounds, nature's own antibiotic (but if you eat parsley after the garlic, much of its undesirable odor is eliminated). Garlic is a rejuvenating herb because it both stimulates metabolism and detoxifies. In fact, the body absorbs it so quickly that if you were to rub a clove on your feet, you would be able to taste it within seconds! Garlic…
Recently I was sitting in my garden one late afternoon trying to pull myself together after a very scattering day. (You know those days, the ones when you plan to do certain things, but instead, everyone and everything else draws your attention away?) I happened to look down and see the great Puller-Together herself, comfrey. But I didn't see the normal comfrey plant I usually find. Instead, late afternoon sunlight shone through the side of the leaves revealing one of the most incredible patterns I've ever seen. It looked like a garden of emerald crystals tightly woven together. And each of these encased multiple smaller crystals and so on down. It was amazing. The pattern in each leaf seemed to tell me comfrey is used for '" knitting together, not only skin, muscle and bone, but also the very network of the plant itself. What a great demonstration of the…
In Fall we harvest the fruits and labors of Spring's planting and planning. Shorter days and cooler nights send the surface fires into the body. Just as many people harvest bounty from their gardens to stock up for Winter, now it's time now to pull back from multiple summer activities and store energy in your trust fund reserves. This is the time to discriminate and separate out what is needed from what isn't. Change and old age represent this, and when we don't release the old or accept changes, we experience grief and sadness. Fall Correspondences in Traditional Chinese Medicine The ability to receive, or take in, and to release the unnecessary, is attributed to the traditional Chinese Metal element ruling the Fall, with its corresponding Organs, the Lungs and Large Intestine. The Lungs open to the nose and control breathing and the skin, including the opening and closing of…
Our Mulberry Tree! Early this morning I trudged out under the foggy sky and picked all I could from our one mulberry tree. Last week I had only gotten two handfuls; now I filled a small bucket. As juice dripped down my arm I realized how the darkest berries were hidden behind and between the leaves, best found by standing under them. (So often the best things in life are right under our noses but take a shift of perspective to see!) So I put my back to the trunk, stuck my head between the branches and happily picked away. The berries practically fell into my can with the touch of a finger. I had thought of baking a pie but couldn't wait -- they just had to go into my breakfast bowl. Yum. Mulberry trees provide amazing herbal medicine. All parts are used and they host mistletoe, too (Loranthus…
Many climates throughout the world have five seasons; late summer, or Indian Summer, is usually the fifth. Associated with the Earth Element in traditional Chinese medicine, late summer is a time of stability and rootedness, qualities that nourish and balance so we can withstand the changes of upcoming Fall. At this time we are fully assimilating our year's experience from the initial planting to its full growth, associated with the Spleen and Stomach, which rule digestion and assimilation. The quality of late summer is transformation, symbolic of digestive functions and our shift from warming spring and summer into cooling fall and winter. Late Summer Ailments: Ailments associated with Dampness easily occurs now (as seen externally in monsoons or heavy late summer rains), causing digestive problems, diarrhea, fluid retention, lethargy, gas, bloatedness, cough, allergies, poor appetite, malnutrition or weight gain in late summer and mucus in fall. If the Spleen isn't…
Recently I reviewed some of the wonderful DVDs that David LaLuzerne of Green Earth Herbs' HerbTV made of several teachers at our 2008 East West Herb Course seminar. On one of these videos, I was the featured lecturer. Now I've never really watched myself before, except on some very old home movies. I mean, who wants to watch themselves anyway? But I have to say, I found it fascinating. Luckily, I had my critical eye (the "Why did I wear that?" kind of critical eye) turned off and instead, fell into an "other person's perspective" mode. What I learned from doing this was quite eye-opening. I had no idea I swallowed so much nor that I shifted my legs or talked with my hands (in slow motion -- I looked like I was dancing, which I liked). I could also observe my facial color, body movements, speech patterns and so…
The Chinese drink chrysanthemum as a summer beverage for its refreshing taste and cooling properties. It clears heat from the Liver and Lungs and indirectly, the Stomach and Kidneys, thus making it a perfect beverage during hot months. Specifically, it cools eyes that are red, painful, dry, or have excessive tearing, also alleviating blurry vision, dizziness or spots in front of the eyes. It also calms the Liver and extinguishes Wind, treating anger, irritability, dizziness, headaches, hypertension and deafness. The yellow chrysanthemum flowers are included in many cold and flu formulas, including the well-known Yin Chiao (Qiao) Chieh Tu Pien formula, which treats fevers, headache, colds, flu, and pneumonia. For an even better summer drink, add lycii berries (gou ji berries) so easily found in health food stores now. Their warming energy balance the coolness of chrysanthemum and support Liver Blood and Kidney functions. As well, they add sweetness and…
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