I know it is not quite time yet, but with a little warm weather in the Pacific Northwest I am eager to reacquaint myself with the spirit gifts of spring. The days are lingering bit by bit, day by day. Whispers of Freya and the Green Man can be heard in the wind and seen in the courageous buds that are beginning to give everything they’ve got to spread forth toward the sky and build life giving energy once again. Nettles are starting to reveal themselves and I am thankful to be present with them several mornings a week.
This period of latent winter/early spring definitely propels me and my imagination to suddenly switch gears and dive whole heartedly into the vast beauty of the earth. This time of year one must pace thyself, ease into all the excitement of tending earth’s springtime needs.
This months teas are intended to give you just what you need as you finish tidying your inner landscape and start preparing yourself for increased energy requirements for the outer landscape that calls us home each spring. March is a dicey month in terms of weather, it can be bitterly cold at night and warm enough for bare skin in the mid-afternoon sunshine, one minute it seems clear for eons, the next a gale takes flight and we are walking head straight into a blustery wall of thick rain. March’s moods reminds us that we are in transition as well. It can be tough on the body to move from a period of reflection and stillness toward the wonderment of spring and her bright gifts.
This month you received:
Ingredients: Tulsi, Gotu Kola, Rose, Spearmint, and Cardamom
Steeping Instructions: Pour 8 oz hot water over 1 tsp tea. Steep 5-7 minutes.
This blend is created as a nutritive blend to support overall wellbeing. Rasayana is a term used in Ayurveda (traditional medicine of India) to describe rejuvenative therapies that help you achieve great health and longevity. Encouraging healthy organs, strong intelligence and memory, and maintaining youthful energy are just a few ways in which rasayana herbs can benefit us. I am constantly learning more about ayurveda, I find it to be a deep beautiful medical system that is heavily influenced by a deep knowledge of how foods and medicinal herbs effect our individual bodies, our place on earth in relation to other beings, and a vast legendary understanding of the spiritual importance of plants in our daily life. Achieving complete balance is central to Ayurveda.
In terms of resources I like to read The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by K.P. Khalsa and Michael Tierra. This books introduces three types of body constitutions called doshas which are fundamental to achieving balance in Ayurveda. There is also a great wealth of history, various ayurvedic treatments, and a good materia medica in this book. And if you are interested in ayurveda cooking, my sister loves a book called The Ayurveda Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai.
Tulsi and Gotu kola are two common rasayana herbs used in Ayurveda and the main herbs in this blend. The mint, rose, and cardamom are supporting herbs and add a really nice flavor and aromatically uplift.
Tulsi, an herb I use with great regularity in Bird’s Eye blends is a classic herb that has both physical and spiritual importance to many Hindu people. There are many legends about Tulasi, as she is venerated by the Hindu.
My favorite is that of Tulasi Vivah as she becomes a beloved wife of vishnu. Feel free to read more about the Legend of Tulsi Vivah. Another widely accepted story is that Vishnu had three wives: Sarasvati, Lakshmi, and Ganga. Once Lakshmi and Sarasvati argued and cursed each other. Sarasvati’s curse turned Lakshmi into a tulsi plant and forced her to live on earth forever. Tulsi is sacred and for some adherents daily prayers are made to Tulsi.
Also called Holy basil, tulsi is a combination of three varieties encompassing two species of basil: Ocimum sanctum ”sacred fragrant lipped basil” with two varieties called Rama (pictured below) and Krishna , and Ocimum gratissimum “very grateful basil” called Vana.
I grow all three varieties and there is nothing quite like eating tulsi fresh. Like many of the herbs I introduce to you, Tulsi is a versatile powerhouse of amazing gifts. As an adaptogen, it helps your body deal with stress and rejuvenates the nervous system. It it used in tea and culinarily to support digestion, bolster immunity, and add anti-oxidants. Tulsi is a super herb for individuals who feel they have “cloudy” thinking. Rasayana herbs works on many body systems to boost memory, intelligence, longevity and youthfulness. Both tulsi and gotu kola are regular additions to teas I have that support the mind.
Gotu Kola Centella asiatica is a type of pennywort and in many markets throughout India you can have fresh gotu kola juiced for a super energy boost. As a tonic herb it nourishes depleted systems, it is great in a nervine tea blend such as this one. Used in clinical practice for people with poor memory, anxiety, and irritability (1).
There is a story about an ancient chinese herbalist that lived to be over 200 years on account of his daily use of gotu kola. It is also said to help develop the crown chakra at the top of the head and balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The doctrine of signatures supports this idea as the leaves resemble the brain.
It is commonly seen growing in highly disturbed areas such as roadside ditches throughout the tropics of the Indian subcontinent. Gotu kola loves enriched areas where industrial or development waste has created inhospitable environment for many other plants. Be thankful to gotu kola for strengthening the body, but also for its role in cleansing the earth of our mistakes. Pioneering plants that help remediate environmental damage should only be harvested with the fullest care. For this reason I recommend only buying Organic gotu kola from reputable sources.
Ingredients: Roasted barley, Chaga mushrooms, Fennel seed, Codonopsis, Astragalus, Rose hips
Steeping Instructions: Place 1 tsp tea and 1.5 cups cold water in a lidded saucepan. Bring to a low simmer for 10-30 minutes. Strain and enjoy!
Qi Vital! To help nourish your nervous system and build your vital energy! I walked into my friends house a couple days ago as they were raving about Qi Vital after their Sunday evening qigong class. Ah, it made me so happy to share the moment with them, because I felt they really embraced the tea as it was intended. If you ever get a chance to take qigong, you can’t go wrong. It is an ancient Chinese health system that integrates postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention. It is a great low impact way to let go of old bad muscular or mental habits and slowly replace them with more positive ones.
Qi Vital has a roasted and naturally sweet flavor. I must really need this tea because I find is so easy to drink and the light sweet flavor truly warms my heart. Roasted barley does contain gluten, so if you are gluten sensitive, consider yourself warned. This is probably the only tea with barley I will ever do for Bird’s Eye Tea, so I hope you are able to enjoy it. I am familiar with roasted barley tea from living in Hawaii where there is a huge population of Japanese and Chinese Americans who constantly offer you a cool cup on a hot day. Barley tea can be a great coffee substitute and is sometimes offered as a house tea at Japanese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants, where it is called mugicha, boricha, or maicha respectively. Roasted barley tea gives me a sense of complete satisfaction, partially because it is often accompanied by a delicious home cooked meal. So feel free to allow this tea to work its way into your next meal.
It has been a few months since I have used astragalus in any monthly tea blends.
Astragalus membranaceus, regular use strengthens the immune system, helps the body combat the negative effects of stress, balances blood sugar, and in my opinion it has a soft sweet character which is reflected in its mild sweet flavor (2). I often read about astragalus as a “shield” herb (3). In this way, I like to imagine my whole body projecting healthy vibrant energy out into the world in all directions. Astragalus is a good foundational herb for building energy from the inside out, giving you the strength and stamina to maintain your energy shield and prevent disease. Astragalus has a restorative effect and nutritive energy. It is cooler and much more calming than most adaptogen herbs, perfect for people who tend to feel overstimulated.
Astragalus is a gorgeous plant in the pea family (fabaceae), it grows well in most temperate climates, it is a species of milk vetch. In Chinese, the herb is called huang qi, which means “yellow leader”…a reflection of its yellow roots and being considered a leader of the tonic herbs (4).
Codonopsis pilosula (Dang shen) is commonly referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine as “poor mans ginseng.” Its effects are less pronounced than asian red or white ginseng. Codonopsis is not in the ginseng family (Araliaceae) instead it is in the Campanulaceae family, but is associated with ginseng due to its similarities in herbal action. Native to North East Asia and Korea, codonopsis is a climbing shrub with beautiful heart shaped leaves and bell shaped flowers.
The roots are harvested in the third or fourth year of cultivation. For more than two thousand years codonopsis has been used to increase energy, boost immunity, and help reduce stress and adrenal fatigue. Codonopsis can really nicely aid people who have tension headaches, weakened immunity, poor digestion, and anxiety. Fennel also supports digestion and rose hips are my all time favorite vitamin C supplement and daily anti-inflammatory. Rose hips are so abundant in my area that I just can’t help using them all the time. I love freezing my butt off after the first good freeze in the fall to harvest rose hips…tedious to process, but worth the effort.
Chaga mushroom is controversial because they have been marketed recently as a “miracle herb” that can treat just about everything. Chaga is much milder in action than what is being promoted. As an herbalist, negotiating the traditional uses of herbs and the science can be tricky, especially since I like it all. On top of that there are huge neutrceutical companies that are promoting and marketing herbs in ways that can be misleading. I tend to believe that there are incredibly powerful herbs that can be seen as “miracles” at any given time for the right person, but not for everyone all the time. Herbs, like the foods we eat, also need support from us through maintaing positive energy and a healthy lifestyle.
Chaga mushrooms Inonotus obliquus are so super weird and cool. They are a polypore (conk). This particular species parasitizes birch and other hardwood trees in northern boreal forests. Strangely the fertile fruiting body (mushroom), which is normally what we use for medicine or food is not the part of this species that we use. In fact, what we use from the chaga is a very bazaar looking black crusty conk-like mass that bursts from the side of living birch tree (photo above), a bold indicator that the tree is in serious trouble. This hyphae mass is a sterile conk that looks like it has been charred. Chaga grow really slow, so this is one of those species we should be respectful of its sensitive ecology and only source from cultivated chaga and avoid using chaga that has been wild harvested.
According to Paul Stamets in Mycelium Running and newspaper articles, Chagas have been shown to have anti-oxidant properties and be a DNA protective ally (5). They also have been used in treatment of many types of cancer and have been show to be anti-viral. Ethnobotanical uses for chaga date back more than 3000 years. Chaga has been used for millenia by pre modern peoples for anti-biotic properties and as an easy portable fire starter material. It is considered a folk anti-cancer and wound healing herb in many Slavic cultures. Currently there is a bustle of research going into this species and I look forward to what comes of it.
Ingredients: Earl Grey Tea, Lemonbalm, Honeybush
Steeping Instructions: Pour 8 oz hot water over 1 tsp tea. Steep 3-5 minutes.
This blend is a sweet blend of earl grey, lemonbalm, and honeybush. The lemonbalm adds a touch of lemon flavor to the tea and the honeybush adds sweetness.
I do not drink much black tea, but I do have a soft spot for bergamot. Black teas have the same amount of caffeine as green tea. They support digestion with their bitter compounds. Commonly black teas are drank with or after a meal to increase digestive fire and energy.
Black teas for earl grey teas are primarily cultivated in India and bergamot essential oil is added later by individual tea distributers. Earl grey dates back to the 1820’s where bergamot essential oil was added to black tea to mask the inferior quality of English teas being grown throughout colonial India, as compared with expensive chinese black teas.
Citrus bergamia is a citrus fruit that grows typically in three regions: Calabria region in southern Italy, Southern France, and Southern Turkey. 80% of the worlds bergamot essential oil needs are supplied by southern Italy. Southern turkey grows bergamot to make a very special marmalade from the peel of the bergamot fruit, I have tried it, it is excellent! The fruit itself is very bitter and more acidic than lemon. The peel of the fruit is pressed for its essential oil. The small tree flowers in the winter.
In aromatherapy, bergamot is used for its uplifting and refreshing aroma. Uses include relieving depression or indigestion brought on by anxiety. Also used in the treatment of urinary tract infections.
ingredients: Apple cider vinegar, Ginger, Turmeric, Garlic, Horseradish, Cayenne, Mustard seed, and Honey.
Shake before consuming!
Fire cider is really fun to make and an excellent remedy for colds and flus. It also can be taken before a meal to stimulate digestion or as a warming circulatory stimulant on a cold day.
- 32 oz raw apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 heads of garlic grated
-1/2-3/4 lb fresh ginger grated
- 1/2-3/4 lb fresh turmeric grated
- 1/4-1/2 lb fresh horseradish grated
- 1 tbsp cayenne powder or 4-6 fresh cayenne peppers chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons raw honey
-1-2 large onions grated
-1-2 tbsp mustard seeds ground
Directions: in large bell jar combine all ingredients except honey. cover with wax paper before putting lid on. wax paper is important because apple cider vinegar will quickly rust metal lids. Place in a cool dark spot for 1 month. Shake every day! After a month strain liquid and stir in honey. store in small jars with wax paper liner under lid.
1. Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes. Pages 226-227.
2. Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes. Pages 147-148
3. The way of Chinese Herbs by K.p. Khalsa and Michael Tierra.
4. Adaptogent by David Winston and Steven Maimes. Pages 147-148.
5. Mycellium Running and Article in Huffington Post by Paul Stamets