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Sunday, October 26, 2008

American Herbalist Guild Symposium II

This has been a fabulous trip. I have equally enjoyed attending the American Herbalist Guild Symposium as well as spending time with friends. For the past two nights I've stayed up late talking to John and Kimberly, reconnecting with two people who have played such an integral part of my life. Because of John and Kimberly I moved out of Seattle to the countryside, my eyes were opened to the world of herbalism, and because of their daughter Hailey my husband and I fell in love. I am truly thankful and amazed at their creative contributions to the world.

I only took one class today at the American Herbalist Guild Symposium and it was stellar. Chanchal Cabrera has been my favorite part of the symposium. Today I took her demulcents class which I thoroughly enjoyed. Well, to be honest, the first part was a little too heavy in chemistry for my understanding, but the second part focusing more on the plants was very fascinating. She highlighted marshmallow root, comfrey, mullein, flax, violet, fenugreek and slippery elm.

I especially appreciated that she passed around samples of these plants for us to feel and taste (nice to have a real plant while sitting in the Marriot Hotel). The biggest Ah Hah for me was learning how mucilaginous herbs can help a cough/congestion. I've heard this explained before but never quite understood it. (not that I fully understand now, but I can say I have a clearer picture.)

When you have mucous in the lungs that is hard and not coming up easily your body wants to keep coughing in an attempt to bring up this mucous. By eating mucilaginous herbs you coat the stomach. This coating of the stomach gives a vagus nerve response which translates to the lungs and then thins the mucous in the lungs making it easier to cough up. If you tried taking a stimulating herb in this instance you would create harmful, painful, incessant coughing with no results (e.g. lobelia). If you took an anti-tussive herb in this instance you would trap mucous in the lungs creating even more problems (e.g. wild cherry bark). Cabrera recommends always starting with mucilaginous herbs when it comes to congestion/coughs because these will do no harm, where as more stimulating herbs could.

During the afternoon I felt very full of information so John and I stayed at the booth and then later packed up Wildcraft! and came home.

Besides the herbal classes being offered another highlight at the American Herbalist Guild was meeting Annie Humphrey, herbalist and musician. I traded her a quart of pickled bull whip kelp for her CD, the Sound of Ribbons. You can learn more about Annie at I highly recommend her music.

After the American Herbalist Guild Symposium I got a five element acupuncture treatment from John which left me feeling like a breath of fresh air. Later, I got a phone call from my husband who's been busy braintanning deer hides. We actually haven't had our own phone for the past month. It's my experience that living without a fridge is challenging, but living without a phone is downright painful especially when I have two businesses to run and a husband who I love, miss, and expect to talk to every day while away. Tonight he reported that we should have a phone tomorrow!

I'll wake up tomorrow, spend some quality time with Kimberly, run errands in the big city, and then make it home before dark.

If an American Herbalist Guild Symposium is in your future budget I highly recommend attending.

American Herbalist Guild Symposium I

The last two days have been absolutely full of learning on so many different levels. The best thing about the American Herbalist Guild Symposium has been being surrounded by other herbalists. So often when I say I am an herbalist, those I am talking to give the impression that herbalism is so quaint, in a "that's nice dear" kind of way.

To me, herbalism is a way of life. Connecting me to the earth and to the divine. Yesterday, Jonathon Treasure addressed the American Herbalist Guild to say that there were no healers in that room and furthermore, plants were not the healers either. Instead it is the magic of interaction between the two of them that is the healer. For me herbalism is the evidence of the divine, the magic and ultimate fulfillment of love. Herbalism is a living entity. The use of plants outside my door for food and medicine is how I worship in this incredible church we call Earth.

Which is a rather strange thing to contemplate in the Marriot Hotel of Redmond WA. We sit there surrounded by concrete and shopping malls being served Lipton tea and Starbucks Coffee.

I have so enjoyed it though. My favorite class at the American Herbalist Guild Symposium so far has to be Chanchal Cabrera's on Humoural Medicine. I've been searching and searching for a clear explanation of a western constitutional analysis and finally found it in her class. I could have spent the whole weekend learning with her on this subject, and I am sure I'll spend a lifetime attempting to understand it. I wish I could summarize this here, but that's hard to do with a 90 min lecture - especially with material so new to me. As many of you know Kiva Rose and Matt Wood are both good resources for energetic diagnosis.

Today I have another class by Cabrera on Demulcents and I am still undecided for the afternoon class.

As much as I have loved the American Herbalist Guild Symposium I am, of course, already looking forward to returning home to my loving husband and to our little cabin in the woods far away from shopping malls and Lipton Tea.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

American Herbalist Guild Symposium (Pre-intensives)

Yesterday I traveled over the Cascadian Mountains to attend the American Herbalist Guild Symposium. I've been looking forward to this event all year, not only because of the event itself, but also to be able to spend time with my friends the Gallaghers.

The ride over was spectacularly colored with rich reds, yellows and oranges. The summit even had a good dusting of snow - a hint of what's to come.

As soon as I got to town however, everything seemed to go disastrously wrong. I made it to Redmond and was here about all of 30 secs. before I was pulled over for speeding. I have never ever ever in my life been pulled over because I am so meticulous about speeding. It was just a crazy moment where I was lost and trying to follow directions, and having just been in a 40 mph speed zone that had switched to a 25. The cop (and I have good friends who are cops) was a complete $%#&$, with no consideration for me as a person. But I guess that's his life and his problem. Of course the $160 ticket is my problem.

Then, immediately following this incident I spilled gas all over me while trying to fill up. So, you can imagine my relief at finally making it to the Gallagher's house, safe and sound. (although smelling horribly)

The drama wasn't over for the day however. All the stress had me breaking out in cold sores and then to top it off, my alarm clock was dysfunctioning, waking me up at 5:30 am (instead of 6:30 am) and then later not going off at all.

Of course in the grand scheme of things, life was still filled with so many blessings, especially safe travel and time with friends. (I would think that one moment, and then remember the ticket tarnishing my record the next moment, and then get a good whiff of myself the next moment.)

After everything that went wrong yesterday I woke this morning trying to be positive while also holding my breath.

John and I arrived at the American Herbalist Guild Symposium to attend the first day of pre-intensives. My first intensive was an indepth class on Fibromyaglia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrom.

I have to give a full round of applause to this wonderful class. Khalsa was very clear, organized, witty, and engaging in this very informative talk. Obviously I am not going to type out all that was discussed in those three hours, but I'd love to give highlights.

First and foremost I thought it was incredibly interesting to hear his perspective that the list of symptoms that people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia experience could quite possibly be caused by chronic sleep deprivation. It would be too simplified to say that he primarily works with people to get restful sleep, but this did seem to be a big part of his treatment plan. I also appreciated his outlook on vitamin D and the role this important vitamin plays in chronic pain issues. His basic protocol for fibromyalgia was:
T -touch (massage twice a week can be helpful if possible for the patient)
H - herbs (for pain, restful sleep, depression)
R - Rest (12 - 14 restful hours of sleep per day is ideal)
I - Immune Support (Could be caused by underlying chronic infections)
V - Vitamins and Nutrition (Besides vitamin D, he also spoke highly of magnesium)
E - Exercise (Very light exercise - not overdoing it)

Having works with hundreds of "fibromites", he had very practical assessments of the reality of what people can and can't do when faced with this debilitating "syndrome." He also spent considerable time discussing the importance of treating a person and not the "Fibromyalgia" - which of course is always appreciated.

So that was three hours of my morning.

The afternoon John and I took a class from Michael Tierra entitled, "the many external uses of herbs." This fascinating class that gave me a whole new perspective on herbal usage. Countless times Tierra discussed the importance of working with herbs outside your front door. Something I didn't think I would hear from Tierra, the "Chinese Herbs Herbalist."

In this class he gave a short history of naturopathic medicine, and then discussed the work of Massague, a French herbalist who used herbal foot and hand baths as a primary means of treatment. In these baths he used a variety of common herbs - several of them poisonous when taken internally. (Scotch broom and Ivy for example.)

I found this to be an interesting method of dispensing herbs to complicated cases that are on multiple prescription drugs, and may be sensitive to taking things internally.

Today were the pre-intensives for the American Herbalist Guild Symposium, with the actual symposium starting tomorrow. It was a full day and I'll be processing all that I've learned for weeks if not years to come. I can hardly believe that there are still three more days to go!

After the classes today, John and I came home to a lovely meal prepared by Kimberly. There was a delicious souffle, salmon, a yummy squash soup, and cooked greens. It was so nice to sit with friends and enjoy such a good meal.

I am so thankful that things not only didn't go wrong today, but that it actually went quite well. Tomorrow I have two classes at the American Herbalist Guild Symposium, and if I get home early enough I'll post about those tomorrow night.