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Lesley Tierra's Blogs

Lesley Tierra's Blogs

While summer is one of my favorite times of year, I could do without mosquito bites, scraped shins and bee stings. That's why I usually carry a tin of herbal salve with me wherever I hike (or travel, for that matter). A salve is a thick herbal oil applied to the skin for reducing pain, stopping itch and quickly healing such conditions as bites, stings, cuts, sores, scrapes, burns, and other skin problems. Salves are made with fresh, dried, whole, or powdered herbs. To use it, you simply scoop out a dab of the salve and spread on the desired area. You can make a salve to address a single condition, such as itching, dryness, cuts and so on, or create a general all-purpose one for many situations. Oils that readily absorb into the skin are used, such as sesame and olive oil. Non-drying oils are best for dry skin…
Summer is the essence of life, growth, heat and activity. 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," starts rising close to the surface, cooling us inside. We are motivated now to pursue sports, gardening, yard work, hiking or other outdoor activities. We feel compelled to get things done, to work and to socialize. Not surprisingly, in traditional Chinese medicine, the fire element and its corresponding Organs, the Heart and Small Intestine, correlate with summer. With increased heat, circulation and joy (the Heart's emotion), we generally feel more optimistic, find it easier to work on relationship issues, and experience increased sex drive. Summer Ailments and Diet Tips Because our fires are closer to the surface, we can easily overheat through over-exposure…
I recently heard a teleconference on mitochondrial DNA, which got me to thinking about a study I had read years ago and the subsequent article I wrote comparing the spleen in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with that in Western medicine. Because both directly relate to the mitochondria, I am including a very shortened version of this here. (Students coming to the seminar this next week will find it particularly useful for their studies and review!) A combined Western medicine/TCM study that was done in China yielded surprising results in the connection between the spleen in both medicines. In the study, a tiny camera was introduced into the mucosal lining of the stomach in both normal patients and those with the TCM symptoms of deficient Spleen Qi (the organ name will be captilized when referring to its broader TCM function so as to differentiate it from the purely physiological Western organ).…
Call it a woman's prerogative if you like, but I have a newfavorite herb! Now, I'm not fickle with my herbs, just adventurous, exploratory and passionate. So when a new herb grabs my attention I have to shout it from the rooftops. And cordyceps makes me want to do just that. Cordyceps looks similar to grass, but in fact it belongs to the family of parasitic mushrooms growing on caterpillars in the high plateaus of China, Nepal and Tibet. This is why it has so many colorful names -- Winter Worm-Summer Grass, Deep Fungus, Caterpillar Fungus, and Vegetable Caterpillar -- along with all of its pinyin names of Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao and Hsia Ts'Ao Tung Ch'Ung. Botanically it is Cordyceps sinensis in the Ascomycetes, or Clavicipitaceae family. How cordyceps infects a host caterpillar isn't entirely clear, but the caterpillars susceptible to the medicinal form of…
Spring is the beginning of the year, when the earth awakens and new life bursts forth. It's a time of planting seeds, physically and mentally. This season stirs the uprising of vital energy; just as sap begins to rise in trees, so our inner fire stirs and ascends in spring. The hint of new growth surges through us, moving us out of winter's cocoon with renewed vitality. It's time now to shake off any excess or sluggishness developed during winter. This is the key to spring: cleansing. The Chinese associate spring with the wood element and its Organs, the Liver and Gallbladder. A healthy Liver is like a young sapling growing strong, yet flexible, flowing and rooted. Thus, the Liver controls the smooth and even flow of Energy and Blood. This is nurtured by the trust fund energies in the Kidneys, just as a tree (the wood element and Liver)…
Ophiopogon is a true blessing to those with Yin deficiency. Sweet, cooling and moistening, it nourishes Yin and clears deficient heat while at the same time expectorating phlegm for the lungs. Those who have ever experienced Yin deficient heat (a dry condition) concurrent with phlegm (a wet condition) know how tricky treatment of this combined pattern can be. To have an herb that clears phlegm while moistening Yin is a gift indeed. I first learned of the powers of ophiopogon years ago when I had a patient with a dry, non-productive cough (before I knew of Li Fei, which I wrote about in my last blog entry). She had heat in the Lungs but dryness, too, along with low energy and spirits. I gave her Ophiopogon Combination (Mai Men Dong Tang) and within a day, her cough had become productive. Several days later, her phlegm cleared, energy returned and spirits…
I've always used Li Fei Pian, or "Benefit Lung Pills," for Lung Yin-deficient cough (a dry, nonproductive cough with other possible symptoms of low grade fever in the afternoon and/or evening and malar flush). However, I've recently discovered several other valuable uses for this incredible formula. I first tried Li Fei just to clear phlegm in Lung Yin deficiency without cough or acute lung symptoms. Since it moistens and expectorates Yin-deficient type of phlegm, why not try it with those who have chronic phlegm from Spleen Qi deficiency with concurrent Yin deficiency? It worked! Next I had a patient with slightly hard swellings on her ankles and wrists. A chronically Yin-deficient person with several autoimmune disorders, only acupuncture had helped somewhat in slightly reducing these lumps. However, when she traveled for several months and missed her treatments, upon her return I found the lumps had grown considerably, one even the…
I have loved Mary Oliver’s poems ever since Michael introduced me to them. Provocative, sensual and rich in nature, they easily pull my mind back to the earth and so to endless nourishment. Last year Michael and I went to L.A. to hear Mary Oliver speak at UCLA. The auditorium spilled into the aisles, complete with students, business people and even some movie stars. Together we entered an alternate realm, woven by Mary Oliver’s magic and mystery. Every move was deliberate – from her slow entry to the podium, her choice of poems, her comments to the audience. She was stillness in action, like the hummingbird, and we responded as one, in sighs, laughter or utter silence. Today, almost a year later, I still remember the lilt of her voice and the depth of her poems. So now I offer two of them to you. May they fill your soul…
With the big hype surrounding St. Valentine's Day already in full swing, many of us turn our thoughts to romance and, perhaps, aphrodisiacs. Now, I don't tend to work with the western concept of aphrodisiacs -- i.e., "Take this herb and you'll have a good sex drive." Rather, I approach the topic energetically -- i.e., "What imbalance needs correcting in the body so the sex drive can increase?" Come On Baby, Light My Fire: The Role of Kidney Yang in Libido In most cases of flagging sex drive, the imbalance is what traditional Chinese medicine calls "Kidney Yang deficiency." Kidney Yang is the heating/energizing aspect of the body. It encompasses both Qi -- the circulating, transforming, holding, sustaining, enduring power -- along with dryness, warmth and stimulation, as in the spark that "lights your fires," if you will. Physiologically speaking, Yang represents the body's functions and organic processes such as…
I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear Of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, To make me less afraid, More accessible; To loosen my heart Until it becomes wing, A torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance, To live so that which came to me as Seed – goes to the next as blossom, And that which came to me as Blossom, goes on as fruit. – by Dawna Markova
Caught your attention with that one, didn't I? Why give yourself permission to do nothing these days, especially at a time of year when most are busily making New Year's resolutions? Winter: Time of the Kidney, Energy Replenishment and Storage According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this is the Kidney time of year: the two- to three-month period when the Kidneys naturally want to store energy and replenish reserves so we have energy for the rest of the year. Whether you live in tropical Hawaii or frosty Minnesota, the body's objective during winter is the same: storage. The TCM Water element rules winter, associated with the Kidneys, Adrenals and Bladder. These regulate fluid metabolism, bone health, reproduction, and the endocrine system. They also store the deep inherited constitutional energies of the body. Thus, strengthening the Kidneys helps maintain and protect a healthy trust fund of energy. The Kidney is a…
I once had to introduce myself as a teacher at an American Herbalists Guild conference by identifying my favorite herb. Now, I have to say that I hate this type of public pop quiz where I have to make a split decision, but even more, how could I name just one favorite herb? I finally settled on three herbs. "Really good," I thought before I took to the podium, "to name only three." Originally dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) was my favorite herb. In my youth I just couldn't resist those beautiful seed blossoms. For me, dandelion is an herb of transformation: the yellow flower shifting to a white puff of seeds that blow to other places and plant anew. It's such a wonderful metaphor for how each of us changes and grows and how our choices, decisions and actions spread afar to influence others (whether we know it or not). I…
A couple of weeks ago I had an idea for a new blog post: a gift-giving list of some of my favorite herbal things. I wanted to publish it in early December so everyone would have time before Christmas to look into some of these ideas for their friends and loved ones. Then, before I got a chance to put together my list, along comes Michael’s blog post of his favorite herbal things. Great minds think alike, I guess! Read on for a few of my favorite herbal gift ideas for 2008: CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Wildcraft!, $34.95 from Learningherbs.com I first learned about this game last June and immediately ordered it. The game is fabulous – fun, cooperative, beautiful to look at, and a great way to learn herbs for health and healing. Our 7 year old grandson took to the game like a duck to water and immediately began to…
How wonderful it is that our country has one day a year dedicated to giving thanks! Do other cultures have such a day? Of course our Thanksgiving day started on "shaky ground" what with the pilgrims taking land from the Native Americans after thanking them. But that was then. What about now? Thankfully, Thanksgiving is one of the least commercial holidays (except for all those turkeys giving their lives so we can enjoy traditional meals with our families and loved ones). But how many Thanksgiving cards do you send? How many Thanksgiving presents do you receive? How many Thanksgiving trinkets do you strew about your house, hang over your door or tack on your mantle? Little to none, I'll bet. When our extended family gathers about the dining table before our Thanksgiving meal and shares what each of us is thankful for, I am most touched by this. Such an…
Anyone know this wonderful little song, great for both healing and when you feel like celebrating? It's great to have running in our mental backgrounds rather than the obsessive thoughts our monkey minds so love to dwell on! It's sung to the traditional nursery folk tune of: "mama's little baby loves short' nin', short' nin', mama's little baby loves short' nin' bread." Try it, you'll like it! "Every little cell in my body is happy, every little cell in my body is well. Every little cell in my body is happy, every little cell in m body is well. I can tell, every little cell, in my body is happy and well. I can tell, every little cell, in my body is happy and well. Every little cell in my body is happy, every little cell in my body is well. Every little cell in my body is happy, every…
When I think of bones I think of animal parts or anatomy or even the state of my on bones, but I definitely don't think of ghosts. Yet, in my bones some ghosts do live '" as in the Chinese version of ancestors. This thought makes me wonder where my paternal grandfather is. In my wrist? My knee? My toe? Hopefully not in my tailbone! (I do know where my father lives, though '" in my nose: we have the same sense of keen smell that can be so easily irritated). Recently Michael and I saw an original new opera called, 'The Bonesetter's Daughter,' crafted by Amy Tan after her book by the same title. This modern opera was complete with Chinese funeral horns and an aerial singing ghost carrying her ancestral dragon bone. That ghost was the dead Aunt who haunted not only her sister, but her niece as…
Radiance Energy Medicine for a healthy body, mind and soul In the past I separated out my sessions of acupuncture, herbs, food therapy and shamanic practices. Now I have incorporated them all together under their true heading: energy medicine. To many, "energy medicine" is a woo-woo phrase, but in actuality, "energy medicine" is a more accurate description of most healing processes and their effects on the total body/mind/soul complex. People tend to think of energy medicine as using strange devices or techniques that are non-measurable biophysically. Yet acupressure, Qi Gong and intercessory prayer are all accepted forms of energy medicine, as are, of course, acupuncture, herbs and food therapy. Each of these modalities affects the various energies in the body in one way or another and so are truly energy medicines. I have also stayed away from the word "healing" in my new practice – a term frequently used to…
A SPECIAL OFFERto our students already enrolledin the East West Professional Herb Course: MEET OUR NEW EAST WEST HERB COURSE! WE HAVE FINALLY DONE IT! We have completed ALL NEW Section I, Lessons 1-12, and Section III, Lessons 31-36! Three people and thirteen months of intense, diligent work have yielded the most comprehensive herb course yet -- not only for East West, but for any herb course now available. WE HAVE ACTUALLY OUTDONE OURSELVES! We took half of the professional course, Lessons 1-12 and 31-36 (all but the materia medica) and revised, reformatted and edited the material and added lots of new information. Sections I and III are now highly accessible, incredibly well-organized and laid-out, and its material is more thoroughly explained than ever before. The last edit of the course was in 2004 and not nearly so extensive. Now everything you've ever wanted, wished for and moreis included in…
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