Sometimes the herbal remedies we work with aren't for the physical body- the tissues, organs, and viscera that makes up our dense being. When we need the medicines to reach to the subtle level of being- the emotions, thoughts, energetic patterns, and spirit- we rely on the power of drop dosing.
What Is Drop Dosing?
Drop dosing, also known among herbalists as spirit dosing, is the practice of working with herbal remedies, usually tinctures, in doses that are a fraction of the normal 'therapeutic' standard. The idea, tested and celebrated by empirical evidence for ages, is that the more subtle, quiet, and even sneaky the dose, the more that does is able to reach the subtle levels of our being. Where a standard tincture dosage for an adult might be 30 drops 3 times per day, a drop dose may look more like 3 drops 5 times per day.
Don't try drop dosing on your own. Many herbs we spirit dose must be given in specific amounts for the individual to be used safely, and the dosage amount and schedule needs to be fine-tuned to meet the unique needs of the person taking the remedy.
How Drop Dosing Works
When we drop dose a tincture, we use that tincture in exactly the same way we normally do- drops taken under the tongue, held for 30 seconds with intention, then swallowed. The difference is that the dosage itself is a fraction of the normal. If I were giving a drop dose of Arjuna Bark, for example, I might suggest a standard dosage of 30 drops taken 3 times daily. As a spirit dose, however, I would have the individual work with just 3 drops of tincture 3 times daily.
Again, the only difference here is that the drop dose is intended to speak to the subtle levels of being and be just enough medicine that the being focuses on the inherent wisdom and energetic pattern of the remedy instead of the complex phytochemistry as per usual. Spirit doses incite a subtle reaction in the being that allows the plant medicine to touch the quietest, most mysterious aspects of our being.
As mentioned earlier, I often use drop dosing to reach the emotional, energetic, and spiritual places of being. When folks come for session who have deeply ingrained emotional patterns that are not serving their highest good we can start with drop dosing to gently unwind those toxic patterns with all the love, protection, and wisdom that the herbs bring in.
I also work with drop dosing as a fantastic 'in the moment' remedy for people who struggle with spiral-down emotions and feelings that can be gently slowed, stabilized, and eventually balanced using the spiritual dose of plant medicine taken at the moment of discomfort.
Which Herbs Are Drop Dosed?
All medicinal herbs can be worked with in spirit dose. Those I tend to work with most are the ones with an affinity for the heart such as Motherwort, Linden, Arjuna, and Hawthorn. I also work often with nervine herbs like Skullcap, Lavender, Brahmi, and Lemon Balm in the same way for much the same purpose. There are some herbalists who will also work with more toxic or heroic herbs, mostly from the Chinese materia medica, in drop dose method but again this must be supervised by an extremely qualified and experienced herbalist and should not be attempted otherwise.
Three of my favorite herbal tinctures to drop dose which work well for most people are:
Can be an incredible ally in helping to quiet the mind, balance the thoughts, and relieve the hot energy of bouts of angerm, resentment, and panic. 5 drops with diaphragmatic breathing taken intentionally up to 3 times a day is my standard use for this herb.
I love Lemon Balm drop dosed to help when we feel the pull of a negative, self-loathing, lethargic downward spiral starting to begin. We can often see our thoughts going down the rabbit hole and feel our bodies respond to the intensity of dark, negative, sad feelings. Lemon Balm spirit dosed at 3 or 5 drops as needed throughout the day can be incredible for many types of people.
When my clients are dealing with heartache, heartbreak, loss, grief, or toxic emotions in the heart center, I often turn to this celebrated Ayurvedic herb in spirit dose format. The blood-red, super astringent Arjuna Bark immediately cools the energy body, soothes reactive emotions, and shows some serious spiritual support to the heart of hearts. I generally use 3 drops up to 6 times per day or as needed up to 6 times per day with Arjuna.
If you're interested in working with herbal allies in spirit dose, please come in anytime and we'll help find the right dose and schedule for you and your unique needs. Again, spirit dosing is far more powerful in far more ways than we are likely to give it credit for given the small amount being consumed. Make sure to work with a qualified spiritual herbalist before working with any herbs on this level.
Linden Tree (Tilia europaea)
Before we begin our adventure into Salt Lake's medicinal herbs- here are a few things to keep in mind:
We're pretty lucky here in the land of salt. We've got a plethora of medicinal herbs and trees to work with throughout the growing season that can help support us in wellness and peace. One of our favorites is Linden. This big tree seems to show up pretty much everywhere around the valley and can be found lining streets and providing shade in front and back yards as well as many of our public parks.
Linden, known also as Tila and Lime Flower Tree, is not native to our area but does very well here. In fact, it's easily one of the most prolific and healthy trees you'll find here.
We love Linden as a celebrated nervine and heart medicine. We use it to help with general anxiety and stress that seems to root or center in the heart. Traditionally, it's been a celebrated nervine that can help unwind tension from the heart center and make it easier for us to feel our way through stressful situations. It also has an incredibly honey-floral flavor that can be enjoyed hot or iced all day long.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
If you've come along one one of our medicinal herb walks, chances are you met this majestic desert plant ally- one of Josh's favorites! Mullein does very well in the Salt Lake Valley and it can be seen poking its torch-like flower stalks up in curated gardens and abandoned lots alike.
Mullein is a biennial plant. That means its life cycle is just two years! On the first year it grows as a basal rosette in a spiral shape along the earth; dense, furry leaves spiraling out into a whorl. On the second year, it send a stalk up to 8 feet into the sky and blooms throughout the summer with popcorn-like neon yellow flowers.
Mullein is an incredible wellness ally in our area, one of the reasons it grows so well here. It helps to soothe, nourish, lubricate, and cleanse the respiratory system so that in our dry summers and winters we can breathe easier. Mullein leaves need to be brewed as a tea in cloth or paper tea bags to strain out the often irritating little hairs that help them collect water.
Plantain (Plantago major)
Of all the weeds in Salt Lake City, Plantain is one of our favorites. You can find little stands of Plantain growing in sidewalk cracks, over-watered lawns, and anywhere it can get a lot of sun and regular drinks. Plantain has a distinctive flower stalk that rises up out of the spinach-like leaves.
We love using Plantain to remove built-up toxins from the lungs and to cleanse and detoxify the whole body system. It's a leafy green powerhouse that soothes, nourishes, and scrubs gently.
See if you can find any of these medicinal herbs as you're wandering around the city!
*The information provided here is intended to be education in nature only and does not replace that medical advice given by a qualified professional. Talk to your doctor before working with herbs.
Chances are, for good or bad, you've experienced fragrant incense before. In the West, we tend to think og incense as a way to cover up bad smells or bring perfume-like fragrance into a space; but that's just one small part of the big blessing that is incense!
Who doesn't love a good Nag Champa, Sandalwood, or Cedar incense? While burning these classic fragrances can change the whole feel of a space, they're just the tip of the incense cone. The oldest uses of incense are actually medicinal and spiritual in nature, and that's what I'd like to explore with you here today.
When pure herbs are burnt, their many active constituents, oils, and energies are released into the atmosphere as smoke. This smoke is inhaled by us and works directly on the brain and heart center before working on the whole body system. One of the reasons why incense is such a popular addition to meditation, spiritual work, and mental balance work is that it tends to affect these areas of the being first and most strongly.
Scent in and of itself is medicinal. The right fragrance can calm the limbic system of the brain bringing emotional calm and harmony. Scents can often call up pleasant memories that help us immerse ourselves in the good feelings of those associations. They also cause active cascades of change in the body system which can affect emotions, mental state, immunity, digestion, stress response, mental clarity, and more. The whole art and science of aromatherapy is built on the power of scent, and it has its own roots in the raw burning of plant materials.
BENEFITS OF MEDICINAL INCENSE
NOT SO SWEET
Did you know what most commercial incense varieties include materials like glue, rubber, saltpeter, charcoal, chemical combustibles, and industrial adhesives? Not to mention the fragrance more often than not is not plant derives but comes from complex chemicals that give incense its strong, sometimes overwhelming scent profile.
When working with incense for wellness, or just when you want to enjoy something that's doing more good than harm, it's important to choose blends that are made only from plant materials and have been formulated for balance and ease on the body system. There's such a thing as too much smoke and a suffocating level of scent. Gentleness, balance, and ease are hallmarks of a good medicinal incense.
In our housemade medicinal incenses, we use only whole plant materials. We start by grinding the herbal blend down to a fine powder, then add gums and resins like copal, myrrh, and dragon's blood. Next up we mix in organic hydrosols and spring water. We blend each small batch by hands following lunar tides, and work only with organic herbs. Enjoy!
LEARN INCENSE CRAFTING
Join us at this year's DIY Festival for an immersive workshop on incense making with Herbalist Josh Williams.
Sunday August 11, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is in full bloom all around Salt Lake City right now- well, the second-year plants are, anyway. This is easily one of my favorite medicinal and magical herbs and I'd like to share some of my favorite aspects of this plant with you here.
GROWTH & IDENTIFICATION
Mullein is a biennial plant which means that it takes two years for it to complete its full life cycle. On the first year during growing season, Mullein appears as a whorl of velvety-soft leaves that spiral along the ground. The leaves are larger than those of another common local plant, Lamb's Ear, and don't attach to a long stem the way Lamb's Ear does. On the second year of growth, Mullein sends up an eye-catching stalk that tapers up with more fuzzy leaves and ends with a burst of popcorn-shaped yellow blossoms. We use every part of the Mullein plant for medicine, but the leaves and flowers are the most common and most used. At the end of the second year's growing season, the plant dies back and relies on tiny black seeds to rest over winter and sprout up for a new tw0-part cycle next year.
Here in Salt Lake City we've all experienced the after-effects of inversion season; and of hot, dry summers. Many of us are left with dry, sore, inflamed lungs that feel as though they need a good slathering of lotion. We also experience lingering coughs and respiratory soreness after seasonal colds and flu which can be incredibly annoying. You feel that you've recovered only to have your lungs continue to give you trouble for weeks on end.
Mullein is my trusted go-to to help with these respiratory situations and many others. Mullein falls into a category of medicinal herbs called demulcent. Demulcent herbs, when steeped as a tea, release a mucilage that soothes, coats, cools, and protects the delicate linings of both the respiratory system and the digestive tract. This soothing, coating effect can create just the right environment for the lungs to do some deep repairative healing while being supported in getting all the gunk out through the coughing process.
In addition to drinking Mullein leaves and flowers as a tea with other lung-loving herbs like Elecampane Root, Hyssop, Holy Basil, and Elder Flowers, it can also be used in medicinal smoking blends and steams as it has for ages.
Mullein can be a good healing ally when the lungs feel dry, stuck, hot, irritated, or weak. For lungs that feel damp, phlegmy/mucousy, wet, rattly, or cold we use other herbs to help balance that situation, often adding a bit of Mullein just to keep things in harmony.
As mentioned above, the first year of Mullein's growth creates a whorl of giant, flannely leaves that rest on the earth. What tends to happen is that the leaves grow in circles of 8 with a leaf pointing at each of the 8 cardinal and intercardinal directions. I often find first-year Mullein with leaves aimed perfectly to the North, East, South, and West and Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest. For this reason, I love working with Mullein to help find direction, get bearing, and decide what the next step in life might be. This is a fantastic plant ally to help us when we aren't sure where to go next- or even where we're at right now in life.
On the second year of growth, that giant stalk shoots skyward and lights up with vibrant yellow flowers. From a distance the stalk can look like a torch set ablaze with yellow blossoms. In ancient days, Mullein was known as Torch Weed, Witch's Torch, and much later on, Jacob's Rod. These folk names all point at the deeper energy of Mullein- that it acts like a torch and helps us find out way in the dark times, when we're lost, or when we simply aren't sure where things are at the moment in any aspect of our lives. At one time in Europe, dried Mullein stalks were dipped in tallow and actually used as flaming torches!
Sitting with Mullein and asking for guidance, carrying Mullein Flowers with you, or taking in Mullein as a tea or smoke with intention are all great ways to receive the medicinal and magical benefits of Great Mullein!
It Began In The Beginning
I'm often asked to define what Spiritual Herbalism really means. It's one of those elusive definitions that is probably a little bit different for each person who practices it- so here I'll share my definition and my approach to this work and it's magic.
For me, Spiritual Herbalism is rooted in the world's oldest and most essential spiritual perspective- animism. As Graham Harvey defines it, Animism is the belief that the world is filled with people, only some of which are human but all of which deserve respect. Animism allows us to see plants not just as things, but as beings with their own inherent spirit, consciousness, power, and wisdom. Sure, they aren't wise and powerful or even communicative in the same way we humans are- but that doesn't mean they aren't all of those things in their own incredibly important way.
In order to learn and practice spiritual herbalism, we have to understand that herbs have spirit. This means that while the chemistry and compounds are all important- it's the spirit of the plant we're really trying to connect with; that's where the deep medicine is.
Energy + Application
In spiritual herbalism, we shy away from the common practice of Western allopathic herbalism as much as we can. In that school of thought, an herb that has the medicinal effects of relieving a migraine is good for the migraine of all humans. No way. In spiritual herbalism, we recognize that each person's cause, manifestation, and experience of migraine is completely unique and that we must find the plant or plants that best speak to their unique experience. White Willow Bark might be great for your migraine, but Vervain might be the proper ally for someone else's.
We are challenged in spiritual herbalism to see people. We can't just look up the properties of an herb in a book and roll with it. Instead, we have to know the personality of the human and of the plant and play matchmaker. We have to intuit how the balanced energies of the plant can help the imbalanced energies of the human.
Medicine + Magic
Spiritual Herbalism doesn't stop at migraines or even mood swings. It goes all the way in. It speaks to the full narrative of the human experience in every single way from every single angle. We can work with the plants in this practice for the physical, mental, and emotional imbalances and also for the spiritual and energetic ones. In fact, they're usually all wrapped up together in a surprisingly neat little package.
The herbs can speak to the level of self-worth, abundance, calling, love, romance, protection, and intuition just as much as they can provide essential nutrients and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. The can help us sleep and dream, relax and learn to receive, digest better and process more efficiently, clarify our vision and find our way.
We call this process magic, but that word has a lot of misunderstandings these days. Essentially, it's the process of working with the natural energies of plants and other beings to effect needed change in our lives. It's not about rabbits being pulled out of hats or sleight of hand card tricks- it's about changing us deeply from within so that we can live and be the way we want.
The Power of Personhood
Have you ever had a relationship with a plant? Spoken to your Aloe Vera while you watered it, taken refuge under a giant Oak tree, or found emotional balance in a blooming and fragrant Rose bush? Allowing plants to have personhood means that we get to have relationship with them. We get to talk to them, vent to them even. Greater than this we get to learn from them. They are wise. They've been here a lot longer than we have- and in fact plants are very much our deepest ancestors. By opening up to the wisdom they bring we are connecting with intention and receptivity to the whole stream of human existence and we're tapping in to the code that shows how we can be our very best selves.
Play lightly with the idea of plants as people and see how it unfolds for you. Have a conversation, touch a plant with intention and kindness, explore aromas and textures with fresh senses, and most importantly quiet and still enough that you can perceive the stream of quiet but strong impressions they send into your thinking heart.
We're so excited to launch our brand new website! With the new portal you'll be able to sign up for workshops, purchase our handmade herbal products from anywhere in the country, and stay up to date with shop happenings. We look forward to connecting with you here.