Sweet Nettle: My Darling Finnish Elf From the North Country

It's been a few weeks now since I received a surprise package in the mail from Milla.

It was just the kind of surprise I like to get- full of good books! And two perfect handmade cloth bags that I have used a thousand times since.

Ella and Mycelia were very excited about all the items there were to remove from the box and peruse.

This beautiful coloring book was one of my favorite things included in the package.

And the girls got right to work coloring in it and reading through the sweetest li'l book, Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow. If you've never seen her books, I highly recommend them as the perfect vintagey woodsy gifts for the children in your life.

I can't wait until Mycie is old enough to read the Narnia series. Thank you so much for these Milla! I have begun reading The Golden Spruce, and I love how it transports me to a misty, numinous Northern land where boundaries are shifty and unusual events take place (it's a true story!).

Milla also included two of the most darling mugs I have ever seen (and I'm a girl who loves and collects darling mugs). Both whale themed, I've used them every day since their arrival.

Check out the little whale tail INSIDE the mug on the right. I love that the one on the left has an image of the great white whale (okay, it could be a beluga, but since its baby is dark I'm saying it's a sperm whale).

And what do your eyes see here?

Delicious dried stinging nettles that Milla hand picked up on her lush island last season! Nettles are extremely nutritious and make a soothing, grounding tea. I've only ever found one patch around here that I am loathe to pick from and thereby diminish, so all of the many nettle infusions I have drunk over the years have been store bought. I can't tell you enough how much it means to me to receive such a gift. For more on the many, many benefits of nettles, check out Sasha's post from her one time blog Kitchen Witch.

I got right to work filling those whale mugs up with nettle infusions. I had been having sinus issues- I think due mostly to the extremely dry atmosphere that permeated Nevada City before we finally got some rain (and would you believe that we have one of the worst air qualities of any place in California? It's true, due to the fact that pollution from the nearby great central valley pools up here in the foothills), and perhaps from some early pollination thanks to all the sunny weather- and was using the Neti pot every few days. I was grateful to have gleaned this one bit of information from my herb teacher Kami McBride that I have never read in any herb book: If you are using nettles to help with mucus membrane issues (which it does), make a cold infusion instead of the usual hot infusion, or it will kill the components in the herb that soothe the membranes (though the vitamins and minerals will be retained). For more on making infusions (which are simply long-steeped herbal teas) see Sasha's post linked to above.

"Nettle makes us open up to life and our senses, but because she doesn't take any crap, she also imparts a vital sense of self-protection." My goodness, re-reading Sasha's words is really making me  miss her herb blog!

Cheers with mugfulls of nourishing herbal brews to all of the amazing women in my life whose friendships fill my heart with love and my mind with fresh ideas and my body with strength and healing.

(Oh! Be sure to check out my current **$50 vintage gift certificate Giveaway!**)

Taking Care Of Me, So I Can Take Care Of Everything Else

Putting it out to the public holds me to it and allows me to share information I've been lucky enough to come across with other people. So, here are the things I've committed to do every day in order to get my body and spirit to a healthier place this spring and summer (so that my immunity and mental health are as strong as they can be in the coming fall, winter, and beyond...).

The links will take you to websites and articles (some written by me and Sasha) relevant to the subject at hand.

Let's do this in chronological order, from morning to evening:

Oil pulling with coconut oil first thing in the morning. I learned about this ancient Ayurvedic technique last year at the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium from the lovely and amazing Rupam Henry. I do it 1) because I have an unfilled cavity and I want to keep the space around it as clean as possible and 2) because it is a gentle cleansing technique. I tend to agree with Susan Weed and most other herbalists that harsh cleanses- like fasts and intense purgatory herbs- are not good for the body in most cases.

After oil pulling, and while breakfast is being prepared, I strain out the two separate quarts of nourishing herbal infusions I started the night before. One infusion is always stinging nettle, which I use for so many reasons, but mostly as an iron supplement for my borderline anemic condition, and the second alternates between peppermint, comfrey, red clover, catnip, and seaweed, depending on what I feel my needs are that day.

Seaweed you ask? Why yes, I decided a few weeks ago to make seaweed a daily part of my diet for at least three months to see if it can help me clear up some health issues (namely an underactive thyroid, but also to boost overall energy levels and to nourish my digestive tract and womanly organs). Sea vegetables are a seemingly endless source of good stuff for humans, and I highly recommend reading some of Dr. Ryan Drum's articles, as well as Susan Weed's seaweed chapter (there is also a chapter on nettles) in her classic Healing Wise. On the days I don't make a seaweed infusion I either munch on seaweed fronds (bought at my local Co-op) which are super tasty and kids love 'em, or I add some ground up dulse to my food.

After breakfast (which is usually local rye or sourdough bread with local chicken or goose eggs), while my belly is still full, I take Vitamin D. There has been a lot of media attention paid to this important nutrient lately, so the resources for learning about it are endless. But I have learned the most from The Weston A. Price Foundation.

After using half the water in my cup to take the Vitamin D pills, I add some dandelion tincture that I made last year to the rest of the cup and drink that. It is a combination of dandelion root, leaf, and flower, and I use it to support my liver (the root is supremely helpful at this and  really everyone needs to be giving their liver some love in today's toxic, stressed out world), aid digestion (the leaf is a bitter and helps especially with the digestion of fats- and I eat a whole lot of good, traditional animal fats), and to break up stagnant energy patterns (which is where the whole plant, even the flower, comes in. I have also made a dandelion flower body oil to help break up muscular tension). Susan Weed's book also has a chapter on dandelion!

Whew. So, sometime during the day I also eat some raw sauerkraut for its probiotic building capacity. We buy the Cultured brand out of Berkeley, CA (and then reuse the glass jars to hold our herbs and spices! Helps make the $10 price tag seem worth it). This company makes many different flavors, all of them with different herbs and therefore medicinal functions. There is even one with nettles, and one with seaweed. (Apparently they don't have a website).

So not onto the tough part- exercise. I am such a sedentary person by nature. My parents say that when I was little they could put me down anywhere and I'd just sit there and observe. I am still the same way. But I am making an effort to do yoga at home- at least some basic unwinding stretches- every evening. And I plan on going to some free classes too. But what I am really excited about is starting to go to Tai Chi next week! I have always been interested in it, and lately (after reading the awesome book The Multi Orgasmic Woman and after receiving acupuncture from a friend that immediately cleared up an ear infection and tinnitus that I had been experiencing) I have been reading a lot about Chinese medicine. I majored in Religious Studies in college and have always loved Taoism, though I have never felt attracted to Chinese medicine despite years of immersion in "alternative healing". It's interesting how things come to us, and come back to us. And Chinese and Taoist principles of health are feeling so right on to me right now. I know that Tai Chi is exactly what I need.

One last thing I do every day (after making tomorrow's infusions) is Maya Abdominal Massage. I first heard about this at the Women's Herbal Symposium last spring and then took a three day course in the Bay Area last summer. There is a great article in the current issue of Mothering magazine about MAM as well.

Oh and there is one more thing that I am attempting to remember to do throughout my day- breathe! Deeply. I can't even tell you how often I find myself taking shallow breaths. The act of breathing deeply alone is probably more beneficial than everything I've listed here. Ahhhhhh...