Articles in 'Nature'
By Liz Koch – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel 2010
Why is one garden more inspiring than another?
It is not just how many flats of posies one buys that touches our hearts. Rather, it is a felt sense that can inspire and literally transform the way we feel. It is this magical quality that defines a “healing” garden.
Healing gardens have existed throughout human history as intentional spaces where the magic of healing is evoked. Sometimes called restorative gardens, they are a part of an ancient healing tradition found in almost every culture and time.
Creating intentional healing gardens, where you can touch the earth, hear the bees humming, bird singing and water flowing, and feel the sun’s warmth and the softness of air, is part of our Western history and is integral to the infirmaries that were often located within monastic communities.
By Darren Huckle L.Ac. Herbalist
1) Stinging Nettle Leaf (Urtica californica or dioica)
A potent source of bio-available minerals including Ca, Mg, and Silica. Also contains caretenoids, and vitamins. C, B group. and K. Used as a nutritive tonic, as well as for allergies, and eczema. The stingers are used externally for aches and pains.
2) Lavender Flowers (Lavendula spp.)
Lavender tea drunk internally is a great calmative, digestive, anti-nauseal agent and treatment for stress related headaches. When used externally it makes a great bath or compress for sore muscles relating to overexertion, sprain, or stress.
3) Mint Leaf (Mentha spp.)
Mint tea is useful in the early stages of cold as a diaphoretic (sweat inducer), It makes a soothing yet stimulating tea useful for tiredness due to stress. One of the best digestive remedies, it is useful for indigestion and gas due to culinary libations.
4) California Poppy Plant (Escholtzia californica)
All parts of California poppy are used as a safe and effective remedy for occasional sleeplessness or anxiety. Can be used effectively as a tea or tincture.
5) Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
As a tea or tincture, Valerian is a soothing digestive and anti-spasmodic herb. Useful for menstrual cramps, indigestion, stress related muscle tension, and sleeplessness. Especially effective for sleeplessness due to eating too late at night.
6) Thyme Herb (Thymus vulgaris)
A great digestive herb to be cooked with or drunk as tea. Due to its high thymol content,, Thyme is strongly Antimicrobial with a special ability to treat respiratory and digestive tract infections. Also useful as an antiseptic wash for wounds.
7) Sage Herb (Salvia officinalis, mellifera, clevandii)
Sage is especially useful for thin copious mucus that occurs after eating or a bout of the cold. It strengthens and tones the digestive system while eliminating excess mucus. Also useful as a gargle for sore throats, when mixed with honey and a slice of lemon.
8 ) Rosemary Herb (Rosmarinus officinalis)
An abundant and potent source of anti-oxidants Rosemary makes a great health promoting and uplifting tea. Internally it is useful for delayed menses, poor circulation, colds, indigestion, and mild bouts of depression. Externally as a soak or bath Rosemary is a great wound healer for conditions including ankle sprains and carpal tunnel syndrome.
9) Chamomile Flower (Matricaria recutita)
One of the safest and most versatile garden herbs, Chamomile is especially useful for issues of the digestive and nervous systems. Promotes a healthy digestive tract, gently cleanses the liver, and soothes frazzled nerves. Useful internally and externally for healing injuries especially when associated with trauma.
10) Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is one of the easiest grown first aid remedies. The crushed leaves applied to a bleeding wound will stop bleeding almost instantly. When applied to bug bites, bee stings and burns Yarrow will greatly reduce the associated pain and inflammation. Useful for the early stages of colds as a diaphoretic tea, as a mild substance to promote delayed menstruation, and for strengthening the digestive system.
by Liz Koch (Original article published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel 2008)
Chock full of Western and Eastern herbal specimens, Martha’s garden conveys the care of an experienced Eastern-based medical physician. Her sensibility keeps her always focused on what is necessary for restoring balance and enhancing vitality.
Walking through her garden, one is struck by the virility of every plant. Each seems to literally emanate a palatable vibration that speaks of sustenance with glowing health as the end result. One feels stronger just being in the presence of these magnificent creatures.
“I’m concerned with a different type of homeland security,” says Martha who will be speaking to the community at the Way of Life Lecture Series Wednesday evening, February 8th on how to maintain Lung Health – “the kind that keeps your quality of life vital.”
Martha Benedict’s approach is simple: since plants are an essential part of our life, gardening is one way to bring this relationship full circle.
“The way I understand the ancient Chinese system for health, it all begins with the Earth, and translates to our relationship with food; food sources, preparation, and consumption,” she explains.
Given the right conditions, every plant fulfills its essential potential. This approach flows from plants to human beings to herbal medicine. By embracing this wise way of living, Martha recognizes that people and plants have much in common.
Gardening deepens our understanding the use of herbs as both food and medicine. When an herb such as peppermint, for example, is thriving not just surviving, it provides a vital medicine. A cooling herb commonly used for ridding the body of excessive heat, peppermint likes to grow in—you guessed it—a cool moist climate. The quality of the soil directly affects the health and vitality of each plant and will as Martha emphasizes, be reflected in its ability to heal.
Peppermint, as just one example, flourishes when in optimal conditions and in turn provides abundant life force. Thus offering a more powerful home remedy.
Many foods and herbs provide balancing or strengthening energy for keeping lungs, skin, and kidneys vital throughout the winter flu and cold season. Martha blends her years of knowledge and practice as an Oriental Medical Physician, master gardener, and herbal formulator to create herbal products specifically to nourish health at home.
Blending herbs and plants is truly an art in synergy. Whether making soup or an herbal tea blend, proportion is just one of the aspects that make a dynamic relationship between plants, which enhances potency not available in one single plant. Complementary properties are another essential aspect of a synergistic relationship.
If Benedict were an herb, she might well be one of the venerable adaptogens; herbs best known for their rejuvenating capacity and their mysterious ability to respond according to whatever is going on and enhance balance while encouraging harmony in complex situations. She is a local treasure and an extraordinary person to meet and thoroughly enjoy.
NOTE: As with any medical condition, consult a doctor or trained professional for treatment of specific illnesses. This column contains opinion and is not meant as medical advice
by Liz Koch
Honeybees, appreciated for pollinating flowering plants and trees, play an important role in keeping the abundance of nuts, vegetables, and fruits available locally and around the globe. Cornell University estimates that one third of all the food we consume comes from crops pollinated by honeybees. Bees not only pollinate flowers, but they also produce wonderful super foods including honey and pollen that are both yummy and nutritionally rich.
“It is estimated that it takes 10,000 flowers to produce one teaspoon of honey,” says our local beekeeper Anthony Tomasso who keeps Way of Life supplied with natural remedies, such as his fabulous propolis honey syrup.
Some experts suggest that bees represent the “canary in the coalmine syndrome,” which lets us know something is not right in our neighborhoods long before we detect the problem in ourselves. The disappearance of bees is being studied across the globe and some strong indications for what may be happening include: enzyme deficiencies, mites, work related stress, electromagnetic disorientation from cell phone tower influences, and systemic pesticides.
Although there may be many reasons for the disappearance and collapse of beehives there are two important things each of us can do to help protect our local wild bees.
Tomasso suggests making your garden a safe haven for honeybees and encouraging our local parks and schools to do the same. By planting a variety of bee-loving plants, you supply food, water, and protection. This is easy to do in our Mediterranean climate where bee-loving sages and lavenders flourish. Check your local garden store for a full list of bee-loving plants and try to plant more than one type as a mono-cultured diet is considered a major stressor for bees as well as for humans.
Equally important, eliminate the use of weed and insect pesticides and encourage local parks, churches, and schools to do the same. Bees usually stay away from toxic substances; however, with the recent shift to systemic weed killers there is a growing danger that bees have no choice but to be exposed to the nerve toxins and endocrine disruptors associated with all systemic products. Rather than be directly exposed, systemic weed-killers stay inside the plant and flowers. Once considered to be a less toxic option, hormonal disruptors are proving to be even more dangerous to not only bees, but also to bats, birds, pets, and humans.
Safekeeping bees not only helps protect all backyard wildlife but helps maintain an abundant supply of bee products for your benefit. Super food bee pollen for example is a rich source of amino acids, providing the raw materials required for normal neurotransmitter production. Easy to store in your freezer, a pinch a day offers a super nutritious supplement. Bee products also provide natural remedies for common colds, allergies, skin rashes, and burns. Those busy bees give us so much and now it’s time for us to give back.
Hot and steamy, summer is a time for fun! Whether it’s lazing in a hammock, hanging by the pool, or enjoying the night sky, summer tonics add a healthy twist of fun. Easy to make, herbal tonics are cheap and nourishing! What goes into making a tonic can be as experimental as you are. Way of Life carries a great selection of tonic herbs for your picking!
Try adding dried western and/or eastern herbs, fresh garden herbs, fresh picked fruit, and H2O or your favorite spirit.
“Simple tonics can be found throughout your back yard garden,” urges master herbal wizard formulator Paul Gaylon “these simple herbs act to help modulate the body’s natural immune system, cleanse, enhance memory, increase energy, and simply nourish health”. Gaylon uses both local and global herbs to make synergetic tonics. Each herb offers healthy properties, but when combined, the synergy of interaction propels individual herbs into a powerhouse for enhancing wellness. Try his liver tonic in a capsule or special order his tonic tinctures.
Summer Herbal Tonic Recipes:
Sun Tea Tonics are non-alcoholic and are ready to use in 1-2 hours. Elixirs include alcohol and are more powerful when ages for 2-4 weeks.
1) NOURISHING SYNERGY: Lemon Balm (nourishes the immune, stomach and nervous system), Mint (refreshing to digestion) and Rosemary (tonic for nerves & brain) (When making an Elixir use vodka or gin).
2) STRENGTHING SYNERGY: Lemon Verbena (uplifting & cooling), Apple Geranium (strengthening), and Fresh Limes (digestion) (When making an Elixir use vodka & tequila).
3) OPENING SYNERGY: Hawthorne Leaves & Flowers (cadiotonic for strengthening cardiovascular system), Hibiscus and/or Rose hips (immune boosting), Fresh Orange Slices (high intake of flavonoids & vitamin C supports arteries), (When making an Elixir use vodka or brandy).
4) LONGEVITY SYNERGY ELIXIR: The following Chinese herbs are from the Global market and can be purchased at Way of Life. Make this an Elixir (not a sun tea): Schizandra Fruit (enhances & nourishes all fluids), Lycium/Goji Berries (longevity), Longan Fruit (strengthens endurance), fresh tree ripened plums, vanilla bean. The Elixir Spirit to use is Brandy.
MAKING SUN TONICS: Use fresh or dried leaf, flower, berries. Cut or crush herbs in a large open mouth ball jar (be sure to write the amounts if you want to repeat). Pour to cover with fresh filtered water. To release the herbal properties, place the jar for a few hours in the full sun. Strain liquid, dilute to taste or drink as a potent “green” beverage. Refrigerate extra or until ready to serve. Serve with a sprig of rosemary, strawberry, or lemon slice.
MAKING ELIXER TONICS: Chop fresh or dried herbs ( leaf, roots, flower or berries may be used), fresh fruit such as berries, plums, figs, etc. and place in wide-mouth glass jar. Cover with 3 times as much Spirit. Store in cool dark place for 2-4 weeks. Check once a week, turning upside down a couple of time to stir up the herbal elixir and top off if liquid evaporates. When ready, strain and store in cool liquor colored bottle. Serve over crushed or cubed ice or dilute with H2O gassed mineral water, or fresh juice. Add a sprig of mint, rose petals, or lemon peel.
Resource for more Tonic making ideas: Healing Tonics 101 Herbal Concoctions by Jeanine Pollak.
by Liz Koch
Summer is here and all around are signs of abundant life. In back yards, fields and mountains there are wild plants paying homage to the sun. Vibrant and strong these wild plants offer life sustaining energy, medicinal support, and tasty enhancements to our daily fare.
Medicinal plants from many parts of the globe have found their way into Santa Cruz county landscapes. Although the word medicinal may conjure up medicine and illness, many herbs are traditionally used simply to nourish, ward off, and protect. They are best thought of as prevention foods. Our ancestors used these medicinal plants as a primary form of maintaining health. Eating “wild” takes us back to our primal roots and reconnects us to the earth’s essential energy.
In the Secret Teachings of Plants, author Stephen Harrod Buhner writes “for most of our million years on this planet human beings have daily eaten the wild.”
Domesticated store bought foods are raised for other properties such as long distance travel, visual appearance, and shelf life. These “foods” may not offer vigor, nutrients, or even much taste. Much of the flavor and bold character of vegetable plants have been bred out over the centuries. Herbalist believe that because medicinal plants are in a sense less tame and more wild they offer a stronger influence per serving than store bought foods.
Medicinal herbs are best looked at as “special foods” that have a more pronounced influence on our body systems than the normal foods in our diet. When used with balance, conservation, and sensitivity they offer a powerful energetic nutrition.
Fear of mistaken identity, being poisoned or sickened often keeps us from experiencing the wildness of our own back yards. We may have lost touch with our senses so we simply do not know one plant from another. However master gardeners such as local herbalist Darren Huckle, nationally recognized Christopher Hobbs, or author Herbalist Michael Tierra assures us that harvesting herbs from our gardens is not only a great way to increase our connection to nature but that many wild plants are not only very safe but are simply unmistakable.
Santa Cruz County is a great place for taking wild crafting classes and herb walks that help you recognize herbal medicine.
Huckle for example comes to people’s home to help them learn about the wild plants in your yard. He encourages everyone to begin connecting with the plant world by learning about the medicinal plants growing right around us. Doing so he says is a step towards re-establishing a deep relationship between plants and humans.
Stephen Buhner couldn’t agree more. He assures and invites us to Mother Natures table “Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken.”
by Liz Koch
Why is one garden more inspiring than another? It is not just how many flats of posies one purchases that touches our hearts, rather it is a felt sense that can inspire and literally transform the way we feel. It is this magical quality that defines a “healing” garden.
Healing gardens have existed throughout human history as intentional spaces where the magic of healing is evoked. Sometimes called restorative gardens, they are apart of an ancient healing tradition found in almost every culture and time. Creating intentional healing gardens where one touches the earth, hearing the bees humming, birds singing and water flowing, while also feeling the sun’s warmth and the softness of air, is part of our western history and is integral to the infirmaries that were often located within monastic communities.
“Many hospitals have reintroduced healing gardens” explains local master gardener and energy healer Patty Dunks, “because these gardens have the incredible potential for supporting and speeding up the healing process.”
Speaking for the Way of Life health lecture series that was held on Tuesday April 20th, Dunks attributes the ability for a garden to provide a “field of healing” to a variety of qualities. Qualities such as the flow of energy, or what is commonly known as Feng Shui, the balancing of the 5 essential elements of earth, air, fire, water and sky, which is literally the composition of the garden’s ecosystem; and the personal resonance with individual plants. “ Each person resonates with different plants” explains Dunks, “so it is important when creating a personal healing garden to include the plants that you feel a particular kinship with.”
To gain a sensitivity to plants, author Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book The Secret Teachings Of Plants: The Intelligence Of The Heart In The Direct Perception Of Nature, eloquently leads the reader through a series of mental, emotional, and sensory explorations meant to help recognize how limited and cut-off we are in the modern world to varied modes of perception. These subtle modes of perception, although not easily tangible, are called Biognosis, which means direct “knowledge from life.”
The relationship with plants, Buhner suggests, goes far beyond our dependency on using them for food and medicine; there is a vibrational relationship to the plant kingdom inherent in our physical bodies. Buhner urges us to come to our senses and develop our heart-felt perception as a means of communing directly with the plant world. Learning directly from plants is an ancient indigenous way of learning he expounds, which did not rely on either the analytical capacity of the brain or used the techniques of trial and error, but happened because our ancestors received information directly through the heart of the world. In other words, we can receive directly from and be informed by the plants themselves. “The plants can speak to human beings” clarifies Buhner, “only if human beings will listen and respond to them in the proper state of mind. “ This “state of mind” is currently recognized in cutting edge research as electrical (i.e. vibrational) or neurological coherency. Research shows that simply viewing nature provides benefits to our health. Dunks concurs, being in a healing garden lowers our blood pressure, our pulse rate, our respiratory rate, and slows our body’s output of the stress hormone cortisol.
Just being in a garden is a step towards health. Embarking upon growing a healing garden can not only create beauty and a delightful space for family and friends to gather, but it can also provide the perfect conditions for fostering vitality and good health.
With years of plant wisdom and extensive energetic healing skills, Patty will help you to create your own powerful healing garden. All plants are healers and you can enhance your garden space with conscious attunement to their vibration using the 5 Elements, Feng Shui principles, and being sensitive to energetic flows.
Patty Dunks, creator of Healing Environments, is an energy healer and Feng Shui consultant. Patty was a landscape contractor and designer for over 30 years, the past President of the California Horticulture Therapy Association, and has taught at both UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College in the Horticulture and Horticulture Therapy Departments
by Grace Wilkins
Walk the Labyrinth with Mindfulness and Gratitude in your heart
for the Earth Mother.
Blessing the land as you walk, giving Thanks for the Beauty
that surrounds and nourishes you.
Walk Honoring the Mother, send Healing and Love where it is needed.
The labyrinth has been found in many cultures around the world, dating back 3,500 years. It is a symbol of wholeness. Following the unicursal path into the center of the labyrinth represents a journey to our own center, accessing our inner wisdom. It reminds us we are all on the same path, just at different places along the path. This walking meditation invites us to be in this present moment. Any mind chatter or excess energy stored in the body can be released while walking, bringing with it peace of mind. It is a wonderful way to release stress, and to access your intuition and creativity.
As you walk, the Labyrinth can signify:
Release – Letting go of worries or concerns.
Illumination – Receiving energy, new insight, serenity.
Integration – Walking out empowered from your experience.
Making what was received manifest in the world.
Grace Wilkins has been interested in labyrinths for the past 16 years. Grace is an Energy Medicine practitioner, Sacred Circle Dance facilitator; she also shares her love of Wellsprings, a program incorporating creative movement and expressive arts to nurture ones creativity and well being. www.sacredwisdom.org
How bees and honey help us thrive
The deep bond between honeybees and human beings has been an incredible journey. Bees hold a special place in human history. The pollination of plants aided by bees helped to provide humans abundant sources of food. Fruits, nuts and vegetables, as do all seed-producing plants, benefit from the interconnecting relationship of bees.
Local beekeepers, Anthony Tomasso and his wife Anna Keck-Tomasso, will speak on healing honeybee products and their benefits and traditional uses for colds, allergies, lung congestion and prevention.
The important relationship between bees and humans often reveals a precious and special affection. Folklore tells us that it was vital to keep bees informed of family matters such as births, marriages and deaths.
Telling the hive of an impending wedding was considered necessary to ensure a long and happy marriage, and a piece of wedding cake was often left at the hive entrance. Many beekeepers today still have a close relationship with their bees. Some say that their bees recognize them both by voice and smell, and that soothing words can calm them when they’re angry or disturbed.
This high regard for bees unifies disparate cultures. Reay Tannahill writes in the book “Food in History” that humans began beekeeping in Central Asia thousands of years ago.
The word for honey appears in many languages, reflecting a worldwide connection. In Sanskrit, it is madu; Chinese myit; Slavic medhu; French mile. Europeans brought the honeybee to America in the 16th century.