Herbs For Late Summer
What a joy to live in or visit this beautiful place these days! The dry, dusty heat is making me just about ready for the rains to come again and bless us with greenery! The hills have taken on the golden hue of a classic California summer, and the contrast of the ocean and sky against the headlands as I commute along the coast is striking! The rivers are warming up to a lovely place to spend a lazy afternoon as we move into one of my favorite times of year—late summer in California! The warm days and cool nights on the ridgetops, abundant garden harvests, and overall beauty of the shortening days encourage us to play outside a bit more before we settle in for the winter.
I’ve been exploring the headlands a bit and have found some beautiful grindelia patches, late blooming yarrow and even some nettle hiding in the shade of the still flowing creek beds. The figwort has flowered and is making seed, along with the plantain. It’s always worthwhile to take a pause along the coast and scout for whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.
It’s a lovely time to go exploring, to spend time meditating on bringing the energy and warmth of summer into our fall and winter times, and to prepare our bodies and minds for all that is ahead of us. At the shop, we notice at every season change there is a rush of allergies, illnesses, and a heightened call for help with insomnia, anxiety and stress. I believe this is both energetic and physical.
Plants and planets are shifting and we are moving into a different time of the year and all that it brings with temperature changes, length of days, and moon and tide cycles, etc. Energetically, each change of season offers an opportunity to look at what we’ve learned in the months before us and what we are working towards in the months ahead. The shift of seasons from summer to fall can be draining. Folks have been putting out a lot of energy and there’s still a ways to go before the nurturing hibernation of winter. For many, summer is a very full time. There are endless adventures to be had, and plenty of work to do. The kids are out of school, there is a sense of holiday mixed with the work of the garden and homestead, and the desire to find balance with relaxing, celebrating, creating, productivitry . . . . How will we do it all? Are we working too much? Are we playing too much? Striving for health and balance, we sometimes get a bit rundown.
It’s great to have tools to reach for when you’re feeling the need. What are your tools for avoiding burnout? It’s always good to re-visit personal practice. Whether you find your joy and peace through dance, long walks, yoga, playing music, working out, making art . . . do it! Remember what you love and latch on, dive in deep and keep your practice close to you. It will always help in times of stress and low energy; doing the healthful things that we love keeps us vibrant, sleeping better and more able to cope in stressful situations (like listening to the news).
Another tool I always reach for—my herbs! I have a few herbs that I always go for. These are medicines that I have discovered over the years to be really helpful for my mind and body, work quickly, taste good to me, and that I trust. If you have some herbal allies, now’s a good time to start taking them.
Last winter we saw a lot of sickness at the shop. Folks were getting sick and having a hard time shaking it; this year I’m excited to focus on immune-building and prevention! A great way to prevent winter time illness is to start building now. To me, building means to strengthen the nervous and immune systems so we’re less likely to get run down, and more likely to fight off common viruses as they come our way.
Thankfully there is an entire classification of herbs specifically for this called ADAPTOGENS. Adaptogens are herbs that literally help your body adapt! To be classified as an adaptogen, an herb must be completely safe, able to be used long term, have broad uses for health, and specifically reduce stress, both mental and physical. Some of my favorites include Tulsi, Goji berries (pictured), Astragalus, Ashwagandha, Licorice, Eleuthero, and Maca as well as many mushrooms including Reishi and Cordyceps. There are many more and I encourage you to do some reading and tasting to find out which ones are right for you!
A great way to take your adaptogens is as a syrup. You can make this for yourself at home and enjoy it as a daily tonic. In this issue you'll find a syrup recipe (below) that I love for myself. Its main ingredient is Astragalus, which is an adaptogen with lung affinity—great for those of us who tend towards asthma, bronchial weakness, persistant cough, or pneumonia, etc. It’s sweet, neutral taste is easy to enjoy and it works over time to regulate hormones and sleep patterns. I like it as a simple or in combination—in the recipe I’ve chosen Schisandra which I love for immune and cognition stimulation, more lung strengthening and it’s intriguing taste. Licorice is a sweetener of life, used in many cultures around the world as a strengthening tonic for all ages. Licorice does have some contraindications in large doses for folks with high blood pressure, so please do your research before choosing it as a tonic for you. Goji berries are good for the eyes, heart and circulation as well as being high in antioxidants and tasting great. Enjoy!