Tea: Infusion Vs. Decoctions 

                          
In my early years I was never much of a tea drinker. Not that I did not enjoy a cup here and there, but when it came to choosing a warm cup of goodness I always picked coffee. I am a HUGE coffee lover. I’ve tried to kick it to the curb on more than one occaision but the smell, the taste, it entices me, and I find myself yearning for just a sip. I have accepted my love for coffee, but I have learned to keep it to one cup in the morning. My first real experience with tea was when I worked a part time second job at a tea shop called Tea Time. It was only two days a week for a handful of hours. I made sandwhiches, washed dishes, took orders, wiped tables, and prepared cups or pots with various loose teas. I enjoyed the job, mainly because it was hardly ever busy, and because I always received a free meal with a pot of tea. For the first time in my life I tried Early Grey, and thrilled at the taste when a little splash of milk was added. One day I tried the childrens tea, gobbling up the semi melted gum ball at the bottom of the cup when all the tea was gone. I found that I really enjoyed peppermint tea, and plain green tea.
Over the years I became more of a tea drinker, something I thoroughly enjoy in the evening, and even in the afternoon accompanied by a good friend. I’ve done the teavana thing, very expensive but very delicious, and my cabinet has collected quite a few boxes of randoms. It was not until I came across Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health that I discovered how truly healing herbal teas can be. I went to my local loose leaf tea shop, and blended my first herbal tea. A tea for insomnia. The act of mixing the required herbs, then brewing the tea before drinking was a beautiful, and fun experience. To say I loved it is an understatement. It revealed a hunger in me to learn all I could, and to continue making healing teas not just for me, but for others! I saw how this simple recipe worked for me, and I wanted to share it so others could benefit. 

On Valentines day I signed up for Rosemary Gladstar’s homestudy The Science and Art of Herbalism. So far I love the program. In lesson one we begin to cover the basics about determining good quality herbs, how to store your herbs to maintain quality, and where to even buy good quality herbs. When I began reading Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health I learned the difference between infusions and decoctions when it came to preparing your medicinal herbal teas. She covers this, and more, in lesson one. When I first gave someone a tea blend and told them to prepare it as an infusion their face scrunched in confusion. Not a lot of people know what that means, and I forget easily that until recently I didn’t even know what that meant. 

An infusion is when you take the fragile parts of plants and either prepare it by pouring boiling water over it, letting it steep, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes or by placing herbs in cold water, on low heat, slowly simmering, and turning it off right before the water begins to boil. 

A decoction is when you take the more tenacious parts of plants, like roots, bark, and nuts, and prepare it by either placing the herbs in already boiling water and simmering for fifteen or twenty minutes, or placing the herbs in cold water and slowly bring it to a boil for fifteen to twenty minutes. 

So what do you do when you have a premade tea that has both leafy, flowery parts as well as roots and bark? You prepare your tea as a decoction. Then when it is done you throw in a little more tea and let it infuse for ten to fifteen minutes. 
What some do not realize is that tea is the basis for most of herbal medicine. It is the primary way to enjoy herbs, and there are a variety of herbs no one has ever thought of ever drinking that could spice up a bitter, healing tea. Most medicinal herbs just do not taste good, and though you know that it is good for you, it doesn’t make it any easier to drink. Examples that Rosemary gave in lesson one for spicing up medicinal teas are chinese star anise, rosebuds, and stevia. 

Rosemary Gladstar wrote : Teas remind us to remain conscious of the primary role we each play in our personal wellbeing. By taking an active role in the process of the preparation of our medicines and foods, we participate in our wellness. Furthermore, tea is warming and soothing to the soul. 

Perhaps tonight, when you are sipping on your mug of tea, reflect on what it is you are consciously doing to better your overall wellness. Or what new step you can take for your personal wellbeing. 

With light and love I wish you a beautiful week. 

I’m not the acne monster I thought I was 

Since my post last week I have thought a lot about my past experiences and how they all led me to this point in my life in my aspiration to become an herbalist. I did a little digging and I found the two pieces of notepad paper that has all my notes from the various research I did. In my notes I wrote about the herb calendula and made a list of beneficial herbs for acne. Even then I gravitated towards herbalism. 

So let’s talk about my acne. 

     

This was not even the worst of it. It took me awhile before I found the courage to document my acne. During this time I hated going out in public and I avoided it at all costs. It’s hard not to imagine why. Looking in the mirror was torture because I was not very nice to myself. My self-esteem plummetted. 

For awhile I was lost in my own self-pity and despair. It wasn’t until a breakdown in the San Diego Airport bathroom at 2am when I realized that I really needed to take action. I could not continue to live like that, something was seriously wrong. On one of my research papers I made a notation about my progess: 

“Most of the recurring cystic acne has ceased after using liv-tox, milk thistle and dandelion. Now it seems that my primary concern is how to heal my skin from previous damage. My right cheek seems to have residual red like spots and scars from some of the more cystic acne.” 

I wish I kept a journal of my progress and everything I used on my face to help heal it. I know that I would take parts of my aloe plants and smear it on my face. I used tea tree oil as a spot treatment, and frankensence oil to help heal my scars. 

 
Here is a little video I put together to show the progress over time. Now at this point in my life I definitely am not acne free. It seems that this battle for me is constant, but I continue to listen to my body and find solutions. 

In Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health she writes: ‘When we experience menstrual irregularities, PMS, menopausal problems, fibrocystic conditions, and even erratic mood swings, special attention should be directed to the health of the liver.The liver produces the constituents needed for hormone production, and regulates hormone activity. Most Hormonal imbalances respond to a diet that support the healthy function of the liver.’ I found a great site that gives you a little Hormone 101 instead of me typing everything in, I know just about as much as you do on the subject. https://womeninbalance.org/about-hormone-imbalance/hormones-101/

Herb of the week: Vitex angus-castus or the Chaste tree berry 

This berry stimulates the pituitary gland, which regulates the menstrual cycle, and is used to balance hormone production. It is a uterine tonic (herbs that tone and strengthen the entire female reproductive system), an herbal emmenagogues (herbs that stimulate and promote normal menstrual flow), and a hormonal balancer and regulator which normalize the functions of the endocrine glands, thereby aiding the proper functioning of the reproductive system. It can be made into a tincture, or added to an herbal tea blend. I’ve even read a recipe where the dried berries are crushed into powder and mixed with other hormone supporting herbs to create a daily pill. 

I have a tincture form of vitex for personal use, and am just waiting patiently until Rose Mountain Herbs carry it in stock once more. Once I get my berries I will be adding it to my acne tea, a blend I have been using for over a week now. 

Thanks for reading. Over time I will get better at the blogging business so that I may provide for you the best of the best. 

Have a great week beautiful Dreamers. 

Who is The Yogi Herbalist? 

Hello everyone! 

My name is Sarah, and I am aspiring to become an herbalist. I was inspired to seek this path because I have been struggling with adult acne for years. As I transitioned from a teenager to a young adult it was not as noticable because I was on birth control, and it kept my hormones in control. In December 2012, at age 26, I took myself off of birth control in pursuit of living as holistically as possible. Within two months my face erupted in cystic acne. It was awful, and quickly began to tear down my self esteem. I saw a dermatologist who prescribed medication that did nothing more than make my entire body feel on fire and make me dizzy all the time. I tried different over the counter facial washes, creams, and medications but found that they either made no difference or enflamed my face further. By this point I was frustrated, and hated to go out in public because I felt like an ‘acne monster’. After reminding myself that the whole point of this was to find a holistic approach to taking care of myself, I turned to the internet to find answers. Amongst the many blogs and articles I read, I found a few solutions that began to help. One woman suggested to stop using store bought facial cleansers all together, and to make an oil face wash. An article I read explained that some adult acne in women is a sign of a hormonal imbalance, so I began to take vitex in capsule form. My post next week will explain what vitex is and how it helps female hormones. During the few months when I lived in Maui I discovered the healing properties of tea tree oil to help ease my sunburns. Over time I began to dilute tea tree oil with a small amount of coconut oil, and dabbed it on the worst parts of my erupted face. It definitely helped bring down the cystic acne. This was just the start. I kept researching, kept experimenting, and over time my face improved. The worst part of the acne began to scar parts of my face and I kept researching, kept experimenting, and over time that too improved. I have to say that I love lavender and frankinsence essential oils. 

Last year I was cruising one of the more holistic shops in downtown Fredericksburg when I came across a book that opened my world, and my heart, to a new way of living. It was Rosemary Gladstar’s  book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. At first I read it just to help me find more solutions to my unending struggle. I put together a few teas, and something in me just blossomed. It wasn’t until I shared a tea with my Momma, one to help with insomnia, when it clicked in me. I wanted to share health and happiness with as many people as I could. That feeling has always been my desire, the reason why I teach yoga, but this was the way I could truly help innovate the inner workings of the human body. Help support the internal while teaching the external to move. I never felt that teaching yoga was enough, like a part of my path was missing, and learning about what an herbalist is completed that feeling. This is what I am meant to do with my life. 

So begins this wonderous journey into learning all that I can be to become an herbalist, and provide holistic solutions to every day ailments or concerns. Combining that with my established (and growing) knowledge in yoga, I present myself to you as The yogi herbalist. Welcome to the exciting start of making my dream job reality. 

Have a happy, and blessed week beautiful dreamers.