Thoughts on going places, with photos



All Winter I have mused to myself on WHAT LASTS. What are the bits and pieces of life that endure through time? What creates cultures? And when we examine ourselves, our beliefs and our ways of being, what does that which lasts have to do with healing?

What is culture, and what is its role in shaping how we live, how we care for ourselves, how we view our health and wellness?

Going to Europe and spending time in places where the old, the super old, and the new all co-exist is something that has always turned my thinking wheels. Maybe this is where my dislike of false binaries comes from–the spectrum is very real in a place where everything is so clearly built on many pasts, figuratively and literally.



Travel is also my preferred way to stress the organism a little, take advantage of the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity. (this will be its own post!)

It gives me time for my favorite wellness-supporting outlet, wandering around noticing things.

And it’s an opportunity for me to explore my personal roots and history.



It interests me that we have cultural ideas of what history is, and often that is found in books and museums, both of which I do value. But being immersed in it, we can see history in tiny doors and old stones, torn fabric taken form a garbage pile, words and values, songs and soil, human faces and their body mechanics, cemeteries and dog breeds, bread ovens and terrine pans.  I see the history of symbols that we recognize, animals and plants represented in art of nearly every type. There is history in every atom and cell, the seed banks and Sycamores.

And each of these has a hand in it, one or many, each stone was chipped off a larger stone, moved, stacked.

When we get close we see the marks of an ancient chisel, the strokes of a now-dust paintbrush, the flakes of gold leaf.

Not only does this give us a feeling for history, but potentially points to how we ARE history. Our hands’ work is creating tomorrow’s mysterious chisel marks. It’s easy to lose touch with how tangible the world we are creating will be for our great-grandchildren.

But the stones we stack today will feel the foot of tomorrow.


Travel also makes me ask what is it that humans aspire to, what is all of this for? The timelessness of certain impulses, towards creation, towards seeking beauty, towards release, escape, praise, communication and expression makes me feel like these are an important part of human wellness.


And really, there is all of this thinking. There are all of these ideas. But why do I really travel? It’s the food.




Bt, ultimately, what I love best is getting outside of myself. Getting uncomfortable and lost. Being forced to navigate alone, from streets to language to culture. Navigate is a word that comes up for me a lot, because it connects me to my roots, generation after generation of people who literally navigated their ways across the planet and the sea, as a job or as a way to get around, and it’s a skill I hold dear.

Navigation is a skill we ignore at our own risk, as i believe it may contribute to our own wellness as  culture and as individuals.


Wherever we travel, whether it is a walk around your block or a journey to a far-off land, the spirit of travel is always available to us, if we are open. Inquiry. Appreciation. Immersion. No cathedral is more wonderful than any other, and no culture is more important than another. But the opportunities afforded by a traveler’s approach are many, and lasting.

Changing our Minds

“I regard all neurology, everything, as a sort of adventure.”-Oliver Sacks

Anxiety underlies a million un-well moments.

Feeling trapped within ourselves. Can’t sleep, can’t let go. Tension unmanaged. Easier to shut it down than explore it. Easier to build a wall than dig in. And we don’t have a shovel, anyway.

Or do we?

Can we change our minds, our selves, or are we who we are and that’s it forever?

There is great comfort and great danger in saying “this is who I am.” Self-Acceptance is a joy. And yet so is the empowered breaking down of self, the loving self-examination,  the active dissolution of our story for the purpose of seeing  another possibility.

And so it is with understanding our anxiety–how can we accept it while seeking to release it? How can we break free of it, while also seeing that we ARE and ARE NOT the feelings we have? And what IS it, anyway?

To start with, we can view our mind through the lens of neuro-plasticity. How can we use the inherent adaptability of our brain to create change for ourselves? How can we identify the connections we have made that are not working for us, the narratives that are harming us, and build new ones?

When a cart drives over the same road many, many times it makes ruts. We can change the road, we can change the cart, we can get out and walk.

How can we build the belief that we can cope with life’s stresses and act on that belief, over and over, until it becomes true? Build new paths?

And can we see this as an opportunity, rather than just one more crappy thing we have to check off our to-do list?

Years ago, I was cleaning out a shack in the woods and came across someone’s scribbled notes from a Permaculture conference. One phrase stood out to me:

“Bare soil is in agony.”

Meaning, to me,  that when we are managing land, leaving soil uncultivated is our way of inadvertently asking “weeds” to take care of the problem. We can prevent this by cover-cropping after the harvest. It gives back nutrients to the soil and prevents the “weeds” from colonizing, maybe also providing forage for pollinators too.

We are the soil, and we are the farmer. Anxiety is the weedy plants that appear in the absence of a cover crop. **Dear weed-lovers, I apologize for dissing weedy plants, allow me this metaphor please.**

I don’t believe that we will ever eliminate all anxiety, nor should we. One weed doesn’t spoil the farm. An occasional burst of worry is warranted, especially if we did indeed leave the oven on, forget to pick up cat food or fail to save the planet. Anxiety is a perfectly normal response to being an animal in this world. But, like weeds, it can quickly take over, push other things out of the way-like joy and rest- and steal all of our Nitrogen.

OK, so how do we shift this?

It is a lifelong process of unraveling and re-raveling, examining our narratives and finding our place within an admittedly f-ed up culture, and working our asses off. It’s about believing in possibility. And it’s about asking a lot of questions.

I’d like to share a few strategies that have worked for me, to get you started. I take a harm reduction approach: Every action that reduces the harm is worthwhile. Strategies are our cover crops and we cobble together those that work for us into a system of successful coping that turns into who we are.

-Use neuroplasticity. It is exciting to realize that the brain is not static, but dynamic. Your body is dynamic. Your systems are dynamic. Your stress response is dynamic. There is a lot of potential in this idea!

“Capacities of resilience are innate in the brain, and develop in interactions with other resilient brains.”-Linda Graham

Essentially, coping with stress is something we can get better at! The stress response is like a muscle we can exercise. Our brain can forge new connections. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections throughout life. So talk to your brain. Tell it “I made this association, and I can destroy it!” Tell it “Hey, we are forming new connections! Isn’t this great?” And then do it.

-Use the pharmacy within. Remember the experiment with the rats who could press for cocaine? Your body is the rat’s cage. Press the lever and your brain will release your own innate drugs. For free! (kinda.)  The point is, Chemistry is real and can be used to our advantage. To learn abut your levers, check out the book Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning for a basic introduction, Spark by John Ratey, and/or look up neurotransmitters.

-Use mindfulness. Ah, yes. The easiest and yet the hardest. Self-awareness. Asking questions of ourselves. Who am I? Is this me? Does it matter? Does anything? Mindfulness is bringing awareness to our lives, it is meditation, moving meditation, body scans, mantras(see below).

-Breathe. It is a  bit of a cliche, but breath truly is a powerful tool for centering, for re-embodiment and for getting into the moment.  Breathe deeply, breathe consciously, breathe ecstatically. I know there is a lot of New Age writing that says “you are breathing wrong” and it’s accusatory and obnoxious. Just ignore that. You are choosing to find your best breathing because you want to, not because you”should”. You forget, and you return to it, over and over. Breath is something that is always there for us to discover.

-Use mantras. So mantras can be cheesy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make ones that work for us and use them as we see fit. It’s just self-coaching, and it’s useful. I have a few of my own, but I  also suggest generating one or a few that are specific to you and your needs. Remember it, or write it down and carry it around with you.

For me, mantras are not magical thinking. They are not the self-delusion that we create our own universe, or that we are affecting the world with our thoughts, attracting money or lovers or vibes. They are self-coaching for the purpose of shifting our perspective and getting unstuck from feedback loops.

My current favorites are:

  1. “What if there is no problem?”-from a meditation by Loch Kelly
  2. “You are letting go beautifully.” -from a class with Jill Miller
  3. “I have everything I need right now.”
  4. “Just be curious.”-from a talk by Pema Chodron
  5. “I’m plasticizing!”

-Avoid triggers. I hesitate to mention this, as I believe that ideally a resilient self can take on triggers and keep going. But while we are working on anxiety reduction, it makes sense to identify what increases our anxiety. And in the case of traumatic roots of anxiety, we need to make our own decisions about how much avoidance we need.  It’s not about hiding from our problems but from actively choosing to reject the aspect of our culture that seriously suck and contribute to  unwell states.


For me, I noticed that a lot of media was a trigger. If I watched Law and Order I was more likely to feel like a potential victim. We don’t always realize how we are internalizing messages. I try to avoid television, over-caffeination, big box stores. You might have different examples. I have been able to challenge some anxiety triggers though, and I do suggest that over a  longer term if resilience is a goal.

-Use movement as an outlet. I don’t believe that the  opposite of anxious is calm. I think calm can be over-rated in our culture. Suppression. Sit still. Don’t disturb anyone. Especially for ladies, “keep calm” seems to be this holy grail that we medicate ourselves into. We get stuck in stillness. Well, F that. What if we are too calm, too still? What if humans need to bash things, run up hills, pick up something heavy on occasion? We do. I think our bodies need a challenge and I strongly suggest we provide one. Seriously.

-And then there is the other movement. Wandering around. Time in nature! Walking meditation. Foraging. Dance. Swimming. Gardening, even. whatever helps you get into the healing “flow state”.

-Body stuff. The body and mind are connected, and can’t be looked at as 2 separate things when dealing with anxiety.  Try active release of tension via fascial release, bodywork, movement practice. (such as yoga)Try to find where you store tension and let go of it in whatever way works for you. Rolling it out, maybe. It’s about noticing. Notice what creates tension for you. Notice where it goes. Notice how you feel about it.  How about alignment? Are you in a prey posture? Are you grounded? Do you feel sturdy, connected to the ground? Expansive? Strong or weak? The body is in conversation with the mind.

-Use systems thinking. Have you ever gone to take a photo of someone or something, and realized you were cutting off the head/roof/Grandma/sunset/etc? And you took a step back, or used a wider lens, to fit more of the picture in? That.

It is gaining a wider perspective on something, consciously, in order to fit more into the frame of yourself and see things better.

-Ask questions, or Kondo yourself. Marie Kondo is an infamous organizer who wrote a book about getting rid of basically all of your stuff. Which I found a bit iffy. But her strategy of thanking an object for serving you, telling it “You don’t really serve my needs now” and letting go of it is a great metaphor here.

We can ask ourselves:  Is this narrative working for me? Is it true? Is it my baggage? How is it helping me or harming me? Can I let go of it? Can I let go of it and float, freely, off into a wonderful place? Can I keep it light enough to travel?

And we can ask what defines us, what limits us. We can ask ourselves

“What would it look like to emerge from this anxiety?”

-Build resilience into the system. Humans are adaptable, resilient, amazing beings. If our self-conception is one of resilience, we may behave differently than if we live in a frame of brittleness, brokenness, victimhood or distraction.

Resilience, in this context,  is building up our emotional immune system. A flexible, adaptable ecosystem is more able to handle the inevitable challenges and fix itself.

We can tell ourselves that an unresolved problem is just a problem waiting to be resolved. Or we can tell ourselves that we ARE our unresolved problems. See the difference? Operate from a place of flexible inner strength, and no person or event can take that away.

-Use herbs. I saved this for last on purpose. Herbal allies have a place in supporting our struggles. But the work is soooo much broader than just “taking something”. I will share my favorite herbs to help with anxiety–Milky Oats, Blue Vervain, Skullcap, Rose and Bitters. And of course we have a lot more, plus nutrition and micro-biome, to support this shift. The right herbs depend on the person, the place, the goals.  They get us through. But it’s my opinion that herbs are of limited usefulness here without a broader strategy.

I’d like to leave you with an exchange from my favorite detective, Hercule Poirot and his crime-writer friend Ariadne Oliver.

“What do you think?”

“I think, Madame, that I take the little walk.”

It’s a journey, this undoing, this rebuilding, this long letting go. It’s a lot of  little walks. We change our minds by changing our minds, every day. It is learning to balance ourselves, to hold multiple truths inside of ourselves, to forgive and to hold accountable. But believing in the possibility of a better self is the first step to achieving it. As Pema Chodron says, “The power is in the seeing”, and we start by seeing our anxiety for what it is, and seeking to dissolve it, over and over, every time it comes up on us, every time it pops up out of the dark spaces, every time it threatens to hold us hostage to ourselves. It gets raw inside the struggle. It happens to us and yet it IS us, and that is a powerful visual that leads us to seeing a path out of it, maybe the only path out of anything, which is right through it. Keep digging!

*And remember, if you are in a place where help is needed, there is never any shame in asking for it, seeking it out.

Special Social Ops


A modest proposal:

Have you ever gone to an herbalist conference? I have!

Have you ever felt lost and alone at an herbal conference? I sure have!

Have you ever wished someone would solve this problem?  I have–times 1,000.

I love events such as classes, conferences, herb swaps and community celebrations. But many times I have felt like a molecule in a sea of atoms, wandering around trying to figure out how people make friends. I have practiced and now I have the ability to randomly inflict myself on other people. But crap, it’s still hard sometimes.

I would love to help solve this problem for others!

I propose that organizers of events finagle a Special Social Operative to help bring people together and create the best possible space for events.

This person would ideally be a dialogue facilitator, an introducer, a bridger of gaps and a destroyer of social barriers. An emotional logistics coordinator who can take the social temperature of individuals as well as the group and distribute hugs, nervines and directions to the bathroom as needed.

This person (could be more than one person, actually)  could help create a space for blowing off steam in between classes, plan check-ins or movement breaks and help mediate misunderstandings.

They would ideally be armed with Very Clear Signs, a bunch of fun icebreaker-type games to help us reduce our social inhibitions and create connections and a big ol’ box of toys–for example, I have one of those big gym-class parachutes, some jump ropes, balls that bounce in all kinds of silly directions, art supplies  and some obstacle course props.

Planners may also consider adopting the system currently used at some Neurodiversity conferences where people who’d like to be approached display a green card, and those who want cheerful social coordinators to back the heck off display red.

We now generally abandon all of this to the commons, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever felt left out.

I think that by including a social operative in our event planning we can encourage some team-building and bonding, creating a more intimate event which feels even more fun than ever. It could also take some of the pressure off of organizers, who may have “actual business” to attend to.

I would love to help develop this role, putting my hard-won skills to use, and I look forward to conversations that can be created around making it happen.


Herbal formulation as a swift boat.

“To create angular momentum, you can either spin a really big flywheel with a lot of mass slowly, or a smaller one very fast.”-Michael Vatalaro

I recently received an inquiry from a client about their laundry list of inputs, with the intention of adding more. It is a frequently asked question, actually.  And my response to this is not “hey, take this!” It is actually “hey, let’s get rid of all that baggage!”

I am an herbal editor.

I think what we remove is as important as what we add.

I don’t think we are suffering, collectively, from a lack of supplements.


In this particular inquiry, the person was using/had recently used both pharmaceuticals and many popular “natural remedies” including Oil of Oregano, Grapefruit Seed extract and Colloidal Silver. These products have the power of promotion behind them, with hellish fear-based testimonials like “She was dying until she used the micro-particle colloidal silver!” and “We felt that God had led us to this information!” They are sold as forbidden cures that the government is attempting to pry from our extremely healthy hands in order to enforce BIG PHARMA HELL.

Anyway. I digress.

My suggestion is to get rid of all this crap. Forget about padding your “word count.” Like an editor, remove all the chaff and create something workable and elegant that makes sense. Because formulation is an art. Make each ingredient count.

I believe we can free the statue from the stone, if the statue is your ideal herbal protocol and the stone is an entire apothecary.

Believe me, I enjoy excess. I love a Victorian parlor filled with fainting couches, ornate gilded mirrors, murals of cherubs and mermaids, and 1,000 layers of velvet. But who is going to dust all of this crap? How can you run in that heavy dress? Some beautiful things are heavy and  can hold us back from exploration. We can love excess, yet see that we don’t want to live inside of it every day.

Simplicity in formulation is like the small boat which can change course very quickly, steer around obstacles and adapt to input. The small boat formula is adaptable. The large boat gets stuck or hits icebergs.

“We have another chance to navigate, perhaps in a slightly different way than we did yesterday.”-Jeffrey R Anderson

The great herbal formulator is an artist and a navigator.

What do these 2 paths have in common? An ability to see patterns. An ability to make connections that others are not making, to respond to your observations.  And the understanding of balance, of the aesthetics of a protocol.  When we are at sea, we must do more with less. Less but better, that is. Every drop of fresh water counts, every lime and chunk of hardtack. In design, the negative space is as important as the line. Holding back is as important as adding more.

And both are about seeing. Seeing things as they truly are. Seeing things from a different angle. Observing with your eyes, but with your whole self too.


So we can ask ourselves:

-What is the goal of this suggestion or formula or protocol?

-What are my reasons for using  a “kitchen sink” formula or protocol?

-Is this plan clear or confusing?

-is it actually realistic and achievable?

-Are we building people up or overwhelming their systems with this input?

-could we do this with less?

-is there anything I can take away?

-are my claims ethical and truthful?

-Am I selling something that replaces rest, movement, nutrition, or tension release?

-am I making the best use of my skills or relying on excess products?

-are there any ideas that I can let go of?

One can sail smart or one can sail strong, and the leakier the boat the faster we need to sail. There may be a place for the quick and dirty protocol, or the last-ditch bailout. But ultimately i think embracing simplicity, specifics, problem-solving and UN-treating may help herbalism as a whole to move forward and create exciting new paths.

It is the space in-between, and allowing for that, which creates the room for bodies to fill in the gaps. And that is what herbalism means to me–the body healing itself, supported by plants. Light enough to travel.

“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.”-Webb Chiles

And I believe a formulator is an artist whose medium is the plants.



My philosophy of blending

On a long walk in the cool, misty December morning I fully composed the elixir that has been slowly taking shape in my mind. I am always gathering inspiration from my surroundings…this thrift store find, that pile of roots, this bakery case or that passage in a book.

I build my elixirs like a little nest, picking up shiny things with my beak, layering them with Birch sticks and  fluffy feathers.


Today’s elixir is called The Stormy Beaver and it is made of: Pond Lily rhizome, Alder twigs, Calamus and Angelica with Date molasses. I wanted to evoke the darkness of these very short days and to make a meditation elixir which says Nor’Easter, swamp water and furry, snuggly rebuilding times.

I am 100% pro-Science and pro-Serious Herbalism,using simples and blends for medicinal purposes. But then, and not mutually exclusive,  there is art. I’m often putting together some kind of blend in my head or in my basket  or in my hands and people ask me “What is it for?”….here is my answer.

Warning: it’s my philosophy.

I see herbal elixirs as both a symbol, an idea, and the exact opposite–the symbol made tangible. It is the physical manifestation of the intention. Stay with me here. Symbols are one of the oldest forms of human communication. They are everywhere, from a cobbler’s sign shaped like a shoe to a cross necklace to a flag waving in the wind. It’s how we create our identity, individually and collectively. Letters are symbols. Metallica patches are symbols. There are symbols in ancient caves, on the ladies’ room door, the Ikea instructions, the Facebook post.

Some resonate with us more than others.


We can use symbols to bring something that interests us into our lives. We can use symbols to create a meditative experience, to honor a person, a place, a moment in time. We can use symbols to communicate–with parts of ourselves, with others.

We can use these plants symbolically to evoke something, to bring about a taste, a feeling, an idea. It’s not a New Age concept for me at all, it’s very straightforward. It’s just creating a connection. It’s basic mind-body medicine, our senses as the road to our subconscious. It is pleasure.

The main way I’ll use this type of medicine is during meditation, during a long think-y walk, at the end of the day or at the start of or throughout conversation with people I like.  One  might also use it during sex, prayer, a creative pursuit such as writing or dancing…. I think of most of my personal elixirs as idea-generating, mood-enhancing, stimulating to my imagination or creativity, grounding or moving, calming. Celebratory.

And it sounds a little wacky to tell people that I made this elixir as a celebration but that is at the root of my process. Blending elixirs is an artistic outlet in which I express my nature and that of the plants around me by combining them in ways that please me. Each one is a little poem and can be used as you would use poetry, to create a feeling, to spark a lust for life, to understand something better.

To balance out a darkness or ground an exuberance.

To move stuck feelings or to invite inspiration.

To help us finally  just let go of something.

I encourage others to experiment with this art, too. Don’t overthink it, just have fun. There is no right way to do it, no recipe, no Elixir Overlord. Just choose a theme, paint a picture with plants, and let it sit for a few weeks. Voila! You’re an artist.


An herbalists’ toolkit for Crisis


Suicide. It is not something I see a lot of talks about at herbalist gatherings and events. But it is one of the top causes of death amongst our fellow Americans right now. Yes. And most of us know, in the back of our minds, that it is something we need to grapple with but it’s just so damn upsetting and confusing that it’s not being widely discussed right now.

So let’s start.

What can we, as herbalists, educators or other providers of healthcare in our community do to help? Where can we get more information to support our friends, family, students, clients and–even ourselves? It is a big subject which has no one easy answer, but let’s work together to learn more and shed some light into this darkness.


So first, herbalists cannot “cure’ suicide. I am NOT alleging that we use herbs to fix this, though I do see herbal allies as one of many potential long-term supportive strategies. I’d also like to see us in discussion around the tension between privacy issues and crisis intervention-the whens, whys and hows.

What I would like to see is the development of 2 main strategies:

  1. Have a plan before the crisis.
  2. Know where to refer to for more help.

So, having a plan means asking ourselves what we will do when someone comes to us in a deep depression, with suicidal thoughts or exhibiting signs of risk factors for a suicide attempt. Learning what these signs are is a good start. Some examples here are serious PTSD, veteran status, serious head trauma, use of certain drugs, both prescribed and illicitly obtained,  history of or current severe depression, past history or past family history of suicide attempts. Check out some of the resources here for more information on risk.

And knowing where to refer means asking some basic questions such as: Do you know a trusted mental health-care practitioner to refer to? Do you have the phone number of a crisis hotline handy? Are you willing to call for emergency services if needed? And who can YOU ask for help if you need support or backup?

I’d love to propose that practitioners and educators who feel comfortable discussing crisis can display a hotline number in the office, facility or place of business. I’d love to see Icarus Projects’ books prominently displayed on our shelves and “You are not alone” stickers and posters in bathrooms.


I’d love to see us use art, poetry, words and actions to communicate our openness to listening and helping to support people in crisis. And for us to just simply say “Hey, YOU can talk to me about this!”

I’d like to see us foster connections that build trust around mental health discussions. I’d like to see check-ins, mutual aid and people just generally giving a shit whether or not others in our community are OK.

I’d like to see acknowledgement that life itself  IS both dark and light, as well as all shades in-between. That some degree of depression is normal, and that you are not broken if you are not 100% happy. I’d like to talk back to the people who blame others for having “negative” thoughts, which are actually normal up to a point, and who seek to gloss over and dismiss the reality of life’s cycles and the systemic issues that help create feelings of isolation and helplessness.

I’d like to see classes, discussions and/or roundtable workshops on suicide prevention included in our education and our events. Both discussion of long-term mental wellness for prevention and discussion of identifying and taking action  in the crisis moment. We may also want to create a safe practitioner space to talk about our own fears, judgement or triggers about suicide so that we can be our best as listeners.  Let’s work together to shed some light into this subject, to come out (if applicable) as survivors or mourners, to continue to dismantle the shame around the subject and help to build and promote  both new and existing  support structures. This is everyone’s problem. We aren’t well-rounded as healthcare practitioners if we aren’t discussing one of the top cases of death. Let’s not wait until we are in the midst of a crisis to put these numbers in our phone, or these resources  into our practice.

__Important: I am not necesarily in 100% agreement with all of the politics or details within these resources. Hopefully this list will evolve. I merely present this list as a starting point. Thanks for understanding that.___

  1. This is my personal favorite resource for  mental health related information. I love and trust the Icarus Project and I strongly suggest their books, pamphlets, and resources. They have a Crisis Toolkit available and they host supportive groups all over the country. Queer/trans friendly and anti-oppressive.
  2. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, put it in your phone, hang it up in your office. This is staffed 24 hours a day, every day. Often someone in crisis may just need to talk, safely, to sort things out, to get through a crisis, and this is one way to do so.
  3., episode with Jennifer Michael Hecht on suicide and discussion of her book Stay, episode includes list of resources.
  5. Suicide prevention resource center. seems rather mainstream to me  but of course not everyone is a raging anarchist with soil under their fingernails so check it out and decide for yourself.
  6., specifically focused on LGBTQ youth, 866-488-7386, and they have chat and text options
  7. , American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  8. this seems to be resources for everyone to learn more, rather than just a focus on people in crisis.
  9. has some resources, including stats and reports, search for the NSSP, National Society for Suicide prevention
  10. Crisis: Journal of Crisis intervention and Suicide Prevention, this is a scholarly journal with research and articles.
  11. is the National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide, for those who may feel more comfortable with this identity
  12., 800-273-8255, specific to veterans

And finally, I want to say this. Wherever you are in your journey of life, whether you have lost someone, have made an attempt yourself or are considering it, or are grappling with this issue in some way, YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. You are important, you are resilient and we are connected. There is always a way, and we will find this way. I am open to this discussion, let’s move forward together.





Anti-aging politics, self-care and almost a recipe.

“I was just starved, though, to be visible to anybody.”-Joy Ladin, Gender and the Syntax of Being

Oh, my head. Or more specifically, my face. And all of our faces. Here they are, representing us.
How much of our culture is based on faces? Head shots, mug shots, swipe right for the hottie. Profile pictures on everything, from Facebook to Twitter to my “About Me” e-mail. Buy this thing to get a better face. Cut it, love it, hate it, inject it with botulinum. It’s too dark, too light, “uneven”, never good enough.
It is a source of so much of our personal anxiety.
I have one, too. A face, that is. And I think about it, and want it to be lovely.
I want to be seen, but not too seen. Or, seen for all the “right” reasons.
I’ve been thinking about faces and aging, lately. A lot. And how age can, potentially free us from this obsession with how we look, and how that sounds kinda great. Or it can do the opposite.
I looked up herbs for anti-aging, and you know, it seems to be a big industry. And it seems to be mostly full of crap. But it’s not just that a lot of the treatments don’t work as promised but that it is based on a false concept.
The anti concept.
Aging is not, by definition, a battle. It’s not something being done to us, independent of us. It IS us, cells plus time.
But one can find a lot of articles on “___ # of herbs for anti-aging”. A LOT.
When we, as herbalists and healers, promote anti-aging as an entire category of herbal products what are we saying about time? What are we saying about age? What are we saying about our face?
Aging is not an abstraction. It is just a process. A natural cycle. It is many things to many people.
Some degree of observation (aka people-watching) does tell me, though, that there are a lot of different ways to age. There is the way in which we basically give up and wait to die. There is the way in which we attempt, at all costs, to be seen as something else, to hide, to battle the process. And there is the way in which we wrap ourselves in sensual pleasures, dive into the process, put aside our self-limiting fears of doing it wrong and finally just be who we are, wrinkles and all.
We can’t actually age well if we were not living well before aging became a concern. It is deliciously radical, punk even, to see oneself as whole and worthy, to identify as a process, to live in the culture without internalizing the constant messages that we need to battle our own bodies, not just today but throughout our entire lives.
“The average woman is so beat down and besieged [by images of youth].” -Iris Apfel

And what is REALLY “anti-aging”? What keeps us from giving up? It’s not just what you apply to your skin. It is not a list of the top 10 spices you can take. It is a steadfast refusal to lose our sense of ourselves, our curiosity, our participation in the world around us. It is refusing to (figuratively) cut our genitals off from the rest of our bodies, or to dis-embody and float off into a world of caring more about The Price is Right or “kids these days” than we do about feeding our own senses.
It is the self-care we do out of love, not fear. The movement that keeps us strong and well. And the connections we have built up and maintained-with friends, lovers, our passions, the Earth and our own rich inner lives.
Oh, and it’s fiber.
It is indeed a paradox that I want to balance total self-acceptance with constant self-improvement, but they don’t have to be in opposition with each other. I’d love to hear how others are balancing this within their own lives, now and moving forward through age and time.
Ah, the ephemeral nature of life.
Ok, so there is the dramatic stuff. Now let’s get to the juicy bits: my current favorite skincare product. Want to know how to make it? I am a huge fan of very straightforward, stripped-down products which are also luxurious and delightful. I like to do more with less, I like that which does “double-duty”, I like to pack light.
My personal skin-care story is that I have both super-sensitive skin and jumpy hormones, and therefore I am often trying to soothe the angry skin beast. I have tried many things and I do believe that most skincare should be internal–hydration, nutrition, supportive bitters, movement, laughter, sleep and stress management are the ideal long-term plan for most of us.
But anyway, I still wanted the perfect face wash.
I had tried straight coconut oil, straight honey and straight clay powder, all of which worked fine alone, but not amazing and not super user-friendly. Then I discovered something called “The Honey Mud” which combines all 3 and looks amazing…for 80-something dollars a jar. It’s a nice jar, but that’s more than I personally budget for such things.
I’ve now messed around with creating my own, and it’s so luxurious, so delightful and so easy to use that I’m moved to share the “recipe”. ( I use that word very loosely, but I know that recipe = clickbait so here it is.) It is in “parts” which means that YOU tailor that concept to the amount of product you’d like to make.
1 part each of:
raw coconut oil (yes, you can use a different high-quality oil or combo if desired.)
raw honey–(yes, it has to be raw if you want the enzymes and such, don’t ask if it doesn’t, just try it.)
clay-dry powder-I used 1/2 pink Rhassoul and 1/2 bentonite. There is a lot of info available about types of clay, basically some are more or less drying. Use your favorite or get a few and experiment. It’s cheap.

Put these things in a Cusinart or blender and add liquid to thin. Just, you know, blend, check, add a little liquid, repeat. You’re going for a consistency that is goopy and perfectly apply-able.
I used hydrosols as my liquid here-rose, and some cucumber. I love yarrow hydrosol if you can find it. Chamomile, maybe. Use what YOU like, and what you have. You could use nearly any herbal infusion as the liquid, or buttermilk if you will keep it cold.
I also added Cacao essential oil because I find it very pleasurable. Add whichever EO or combo you like, if desired. Or not.
I do not believe that external applications of Eos or herbs are necessary for daily skin care, or that they will magically fix your skin, contrary to marketing copy. But delicious smell is a thing people like.
And, at the risk of stating the obvious, put it in a jar and use it 1-2 times a day to wash your face. Can be left on as a “treatment”, I guess to increase general loveliness, and can be eaten in case of apocalypse scenarios.
Make it, love it, give it, sell it, just don’t tell yourself that it will fix you. Cause you’re great and don’t need to be fixed, and a product isn’t actually going to do it anyway.
Oh–and go watch Advanced Style, an amazing movie about fabulous women over 60 with a wonderful companion book by Ari Seth Cohen.



Stop sharing!


I think it is time to stop sharing alternative health memes from evil gurus, once and for all.

Yes, that’s right: stop clicking SHARE on all of the links, photos and videos that seem to flow daily from the big bad websites of alternative health. Just stop.

If you want to tell the world how amazing Calendula is, why not tell it from your own point of view, eh?

Because this practice of click-and-share is doing a disservice to herbalism by perpetuating false claims. It’s not just “sharing information”, it is providing free advertising to a bunch of assholes who are actively manipulating us.

These people, such as Dr. Mercola, Dr. Oz, Natural News, Raw for Beauty, Green Med info, Collective Evolution and David “Avocado” Wolfe are making it much easier to discredit all of alternative medicine, by pointing to the massive quantities of crud they generate.

What is so bad about them, you ask?

-They vastly overstate research outcomes such as  “Frankincense EO can get rid of cancer”, “Ginger is 10,000 times stronger than chemo”. (Perhaps a grain of truth, perhaps not, but turned into an absurd overstatement)

“The healing powers of Cabbage!”

-They blatantly make things up: “Homeopathy cures Ebola”, “Chocolate is an octave of sun energy”. “Deer antler is not a product, it is a cosmic substance.”

-They shame us. If it’s  not working, we just didn’t try hard enough. We are too negative, we just didn’t believe in it enough. Our  very ways of being are wrong, we are too fat and too gay and too  godless and too autistic and we need to cure this NOW.

–And cure this with the ONE TRUE WAY.

-They act like it’s all a big secret, and they are giving it to you! “Why do you think this information is being kept from the public?”. “top 10 natural cancer treatments and forbidden cures.” Ooh, forbidden!

-Oh, and conspiracies. Coverups! Homeopaths worldwide are “under attack by the FDA” because they know too much.

–They seem to constantly have a new miracle cure.  “Just one teaspoon of this spice boosts weight loss by 50%!” Hey! What happened to last week’s miracle? Hmm?

-They use weasel words like poisoned and toxic which have no clear meaning and induce fear. This is not accidental, they know it prompts you to buy their stuff.

-They sell the things they promote without clear disclosures.

-They use faux Science. “The frequency of essential oils are actually one of the highest frequencies known to man.”, “Holding a cup of coffee dropped one man’s frequency from 66MHz to 58 MHz in just 3 seconds.” OMG! Coffee! Thank you so much for saving me from the perils of 58 MHz frequency, whatever the hell that is. But I’m sure it’s bad. Because coffee is bad. Right?

-They feature lots and lots of testimonials that couldn’t possibly be made up, because they have a FIRST NAME attached! It’s proof! “My brother’s son was taking EOs as well as chemo and he got better!” “I would recommend this book to those interested in drawing out all the cancer!” Thanks, Marcia in Grand Rapids!

-They don’t seem to understand that they are replacing one product or dogma with another. “”Now we grab the oils instead of meds” “The body can heal itself, if you know what to give it!”

So….The oils ARE meds of a type and if you are giving the body  something, it is not exactly healing ITSELF.

-They promote the idea that we should always feel perfect, brimming with energy and lightness. “It is possible to never feel bad ever.”

-Guru paradigms. This idea that there are some special magical people in this culture, leading the “sheeple” out of their darkness is actively bullshit. David Wolfe is not going to save you. Dr. Oz, Dr. Mercola, Food Babe…..they are salespeople. Yes, we have thought leaders in our community, people who are innovating or researching or writing with flair. But gurus are people who use the words miracle cure, evolutionary, frequency, natural, awakening in ways that manipulate our emotions for their own purposes.

These people are filling a vacuum of despair. They are promoting the idea that everyone is a huge mess and we are all in need of a cleaner, more light-filled body NOW. They ignore the realities of life, that we all have “good” and “bad” days, a variety of feelings and thoughts and THAT IS OK.  Not everything has an easy answer or explanation and THAT IS OK.  Ask yourself–are they providing a real alternative or just selling you more proverbial  fat-melting ass oil? Their articles and products are unethical. Manipulation is unethical. False claims are unethical.

And  many of us do suffer, but it takes a commitment to work things out, it takes connections and action and discussion to reach wellness. Human bodies and minds and cultures are complex, and can’t just be fixed up with memes and zappers and angel cards and alkaline water. There’s no reason to aspire to a perfection that doesn’t exist for 4 low payments of $9.99.

So please, herbal community, stop sharing these things. Stop linking to them. Ask yourself: who am I actually helping? You are essentially working for them for free, helping them get clicks and likes and page views, driving up their value and spreading misinformation. And it’s lazy–speak for yourself! Create your own content! What do YOU think?

It is time to actively rebel against this guru paradigm.

It’s so easy to take leave of our reason just because we want it to be true…I do it myself. The will is there, but the reality is not. Their content-generation machines make it all too easy to just click share- it’s time that we rebel against this. They are abusing the trust and goodwill of the herbal community. When you share their articles you are supporting them. We might not see it that way, but they do…and so do their advertisers and investors. Read the fine print. Think about it. Find out what they are selling.  Know what you are promoting.


Vote for Turmeric!

Sometimes I think we want to solve our complex health problems like we want to solve our complex political problems.

Just vote for Turmeric!

Vote your meds out of office!

We have gotten accustomed to these absurd binary messages because they come to us each day, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, on radio talk shows and through internet memes and water-cooler conversations.

Choose a side.

I’l fix EVERYthing!


And it’s based on the idea that what is happening  right now is soooo bad. The whole system is broken. We need big changes. And there is a bit of truth in there, our system of health is letting a lot of people through the cracks. Our political system has some major flaws. I’d love to see shifts towards making both better.

I wonder, though, if we are living within cultural narratives, subcultural narratives, common myths, if we’ve been in them for so long that we don’t even see them. I wonder if we actually think bouncing back and forth between these binaries of Paleo/vegan, binge and purge, right and left will fix things. Perhaps in a paradigm built squarely on good and evil, on heaven and hell, devils and angels this doesn’t seem suspicious….

But the claims are often based on this idea that there was a time, somewhere in the past, when everything was great. Everyone was happy and religious–the RIGHT one, of course– and healthy and had all of their needs met. Everything was pure and easy. People knew their place. And we need to return to that time again. Before we had all these problems.


And electing this politician, enacting this law, taking this supplement, or bringing this green drink into your life will restore that great time and destroy these modern problems.


Well guess what– there was no perfect time of human health. Never. And there was no perfect time of America, no perfect time of humanity. Some of our problems are just part of the human condition.

And both healthy humans and healthy communities require our participation.  They require connection to each other and to the Earth, they require innovative problem-solving. It’s work to manage our bodies and our systems.

I’d love to see both healthcare and politics move away from a catchphrase model and towards an acknowledgment of that work. It’s good work, worthwhile work. And move towards a big-picture long-term view, and a realistic understanding of the cycles of history.

Perhaps grasping these similarities could help to bring about that big picture view.


So how is the current election cycle like the current health cycle?

-“You can’t trust the media!” Politicians and conspiracy-theory-based herbalists both seem to claim that the media is biased towards their opponent and against them. Every news outlet is in the pocket of the other side! You can’t trust anyone. But you can trust me!

Bias does exist, but it exists FOR us and our cause as well as for the other sides.

-We get attached to our pet issues, be it godlessness or gluten. They are the ONE big problem. They are DESTROYING America. This paradigm gives a lot of power to these issues. And  to our pet solution. Build a wall! Alkalinize your water! I have saved you! You’re welcome.

-We demand reams of evidence form the other side while embracing faith in our own. Pro tip: An advertorial is not an article. We can hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold our “opponents”.

-Fear-based methods of manipulation. “I am running for president to destroy radical Islam, to win the war on terror and to protect you and your family.” -Linsey Graham

“Immediately start eating clean, eliminate all animal products and stop drinking tap water.”-person on Facebook.

(A little rant: Tap water is probably one of the most useful changes to human health ever. It is such a huge privilege. So many health issues have been fixed by having a mostly-safe water and waste management system that we might not grasp what life was like without it. Shit everywhere. Hauling water all day. YES, there are problems with the water system. But buying bottled water isn’t better–actually it’s ridiculous. So try living in a place without access to mostly-safe tap water and let me know after a year or so how that’s working out for you.)

So yeah, the other side is unclean and you are clean, you represent what is safe, and you can make us all clean and safe  if only we vote for you or buy your stuff.

-I’m an outsider! From Chris Christie, “I’m an outsider in New Jersey” to herbalists who claim their idea is so radical that it’s waaaayyy ahead of Science. From dissing the “career politicians” to embrace carpenters to dissing doctors as we embrace renegade parasite zappers we love a good American-bootstraps story. And I do love outsiders, freaky little witches who live in cabins full of roots and ideas. But. Whenever a REAL outsider comes along, someone who actually challenges us, who doesn’t present their ideas “nicely” and doesn’t play by the rules we actually freak out.  So fake outsiders are super appealing, true outsiders are dangerous and scary.

And ultimately, we judge our opponents, whether they are political opponents or health-care opponents, by their worst moments. Pharmaceuticals kill millions of people! Well, yeah, but they help a lot of people too. Herbs are bullshit and don’t work! Well yeah, but some (most) are actually really wonderful. And we look at those on our “team” with rose-colored glasses. “That politician or Dr. or herbalist has harmed a bunch of people, talks shit about everyone else and doesn’t seem to know where a human spleen or the state of  Rhode Island is but gosh-darn-it I can’t actually say that publicly because he is on my team!”

And it’s always the intruders. Your problems are coming from the immigrants and the parasites which exist mainly to invade the pure and the good. There are no symbiotic relationships, and we aren’t just a bunch of hairless apes living under a system of made-up borders. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we need walls and purges and raw food diets and more prisons.

And Donald Trump is the Coffee Enema we’ve all been waiting for.

Ultimately, I think that there is great value in debate. Real debate, not that bullshit talking-points pageant we call “the debates”.  Discussion with people we disagree with can generate a lot of interesting new ways forward if our minds and hearts are open, if we examine and maybe even discard our talking points.  I believe firmly in third parties, integrative care, in bridging our many divides, and in teamwork. None of the political parties are right, none of the religions or identities or systems of healthcare have all of the answers. Do we want to move forward as a people, or do we want to get the votes?

A healthy person and a healthy community cannot be the result of an occasional vote, anyway. Wellness is the result of the majority of good or best-possible-at-the-moment choices over the majority of an entire lifetime, with an occasional mistake and a forgiving anti-fragile attitude, grounded in love, mutual aid, human and non-human webs of connection and healthy soil.


This Idea Must Die: herbalism edition

IMG_2490I just devoured a book called This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That are Blocking Progress, an anthology of essays from It’s great. The concept of an idea that must die is very appealing to me, as I think that nearly every area of life harbors little nuggets of bullshit that cloud our ability to innovate and explore new ways.

I see the world of herbalism as one that balances-or attempts to–some of our most ancient, primal connections and some of our most cutting-edge explorations. But the reality is that a chunk of herbalism is stale 70s and 80s marketing, internet memes and some quasi-religious fear-based concepts of how the body works.

Life has a cycle and ideas have a cycle, and I’d like to invite herbalism to be a little more pro-active about  slaying the sacred cows, starting with one’s own. Noticing that we harbor an idea that must die does not make us a bad person, it makes us normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being wrong. The problem is with a refusal to admit it, or a refusal to let it go and, my personal nemesis, a refusal to stop promoting or teaching or marketing an idea that needs to die.

And merely embracing every new and next is not the answer, as we’ve seen reductionist blurbs about herbs splashed all over Dr. Oz and crappy magazines, giant displays of “Superfoods” in big box stores and endless herbal energy drinks which promise to FINALLY solve our problems.


But let’s be sure to ask ourselves and each other, in ways that are helpful and not douche-y, where we can be better about letting go. Where has Science made useful advances, where has a concept or a product failed to deliver and what is standing in the way of our process and our unfolding?

Where can we be more curious? Where can we explore?

Where has an idea become a dogma, and where have we fought so hard to escape rejected hierarchies and cultural structures and narrow models that we somehow missed the dogmatic structures of alternative medicine that we ourselves are stuck in?

In that spirit, I present several of the ideas that I’d like to see float off into space. I’d love to hear yours, and if you disagree with me–keep it to yourself.

Just kidding. Write me an email. Discuss.


  1. Standardized (sometimes called allopathic, I think incorrectly) medicine and herbal medicine are opposites and are in opposition to each other. I absolutely see mutually respectful integration between these 2 models as the way forward.
  2. There’s a “type” of person who takes care of theirself. No. Self-care is for everyone. You don’t get out of it because you aren’t the “type”. It’s your right and it’s your responsibility.
  3. All disease is caused by ______. All disease is cured by ______. No. Just no.
  4. It’s “just” a placebo”…. It’s like saying “I’ll ‘just’ have water.”  Try not having water! One of the most exciting and useful tools in human wellness is the mind-body connection. When your mind helps you heal that is not JUST anything. It’s f-ing amazing.
  5. ______is not fixable, so don’t bother. Hmmm. Maybe so, maybe not. Perhaps we can’t go from wherever we are right now to perfectly well. No magical thinking. But shifts are possible, always always always. Harm reduction is possible. Even as we approach the end of our lives, release is possible. Comforting is possible.
  6. Detox. You are not toxic, and old food is not stuck to your colon. Gently supporting the body’s natural pathways of detoxification is great. Go for a walk. Have some bitters. But beware of the punishment paradigm. EDIT: There seems to be some confusion here. I am not saying that “toxins do not exist”. I am saying that the concept of DETOX is overused, used manipulatively, and used incorrectly to create fear. We may be “dealing with an environmental toxin” but I refuse to label a person “toxic”. Words matter.
  7. America-centric studies and information. The whole world uses healthcare. Our model is not the only one, and not necessarily the best-(though we do excel at certain technologies). Let’s expand the ol’ horizons, eh?
  8. We have to save everyone. Death is not always a failure. Sometimes it is the natural course.
  9. There is a “women’s herb” or a “men’s herb”. It’s just a lazy way to speak about plant medicine. And it is not correct.
  10. Herbs will fix you all by themselves. Herbs can’t fix you unless you totally change your lifestyle. Both are false. Goldenrod will thin your mucus whether you give up grains or not. Oregon Grape will clean your wound even if you don’t exercise. Acute care does not require massive life changes, and these changes, while helpful, are not needed for Valerian to make you sleepy. However, for long-term lasting wellness, for addressing underlying causes, herbs go a heck of a lot further in the context of a self-care model, where we chill on fast food and go to therapy, or whatever needs to happen. Herbs may be magical, but they don’t usually defy basic laws of nature or common sense.

A few bonus ideas to counter mainstream ideas that must die: You don’t need to take Echinacea/Goldenseal all the time to prevent colds, Oatstraw is NOT Milky Oats, homeopathic Arnica is not Arnica and a few drops won’t kill you, Cannabis doesn’t cure everything and Mullein is not a good toilet paper.

So go forth, explore, seek and destroy, rebuild and do it all over again. Someday my kids and grandkids will be tearing this blog apart and I can’t wait. Prove me wrong, people. Tell me why my ideas must die. Bring it.