Vitex: Agnus-castus

Unbeknownst to me until 2012, there has been a Vitex Tree growing in my own backyard for over twenty-five years! I began to study urban farming at ASU’s School of Sustainability and found a tree in one of my textbooks that look strikingly like the tree in my backyard…so I looked into this Mediterranean climate-loving tree and discovered it was a Chaste tree. During this time, my mom was in the beginning stages of menopause, and I was (and still am) struggling with hormone-induced acne and also detoxing from chemical birth control.

Since beginning studies in Western Herbalism, I have been distracted by the abundance of desert plants to study, and left Vitex on the backburner. However, in September of 2014, my employee and I began a class series offered through my herbal apothecary called Wise Woman Womb Botanicals, which focuses on educating about natural contraceptives, lunar cycle tracking, herbs for menopause, and aphrodisiacs. After classes about Neem, lunaception, and Queen Anne’s Lace, we had our first class dedicated to Vitex. In this class we used Vitex from my backyard harvested on the Libra New Moon and made tinctures with Sedona Spring Water and Organic Cane Alcohol. We compiled information to hand out to the class from Susan Weed’s Books: Down There; Sexual and Reproductive Health, and New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Ways as well as Rosemary Gladstar’s, Herbal Healing for Women’s Health.

Here is the information I shared via the text of these Wise Women:

·      Most valuable function is its ability to normalize function of the female sex hormones: Balancing hormones, bodily functions and endocrine glands.

·      Excellent herb for restoring and regulating estrogen and progesterone balance.

·      Ability to assist the stimulation of the pituitary gland, which is responsible for regulating and normalizing hormonal production.

·      Although it does not contain progesterone, it has the effect of regulating and restoring progesterone production in the body.

·      If used correctly, the herb will encourage the body to set in motion a hormonal balance, whether it is a deficiency of estrogen or progesterone. This normalizing action is particularly beneficial in giving relief from irregular menstruation, infertility, endometriosis, menopausal discomfort and other hormonal imbalances.

·      Increases the production of luteinizing hormones (LH), enhancing the progesterone cycle. Inhibits FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). Normalizes estrogen. Does not actually contain direct hormones, but rather hormonal precursors.

·      Has proved to be a deliverer for many women from a life of pain and misery from PMS. Relieves uterus pain, spasms and inflammation, due to it’s content of agnoside.

·      Chaste may help with PMS symptoms such as swelling, sensitive breasts, fluid retention, bloating, lower back and abdominal pain, headaches, irritability, depression, aggression, difficulty concentrating, hot flushes, weight gain and loss of libido.

·      Calming agent in hysteria and has been historically used to treat “insanity”.

·      Has also been used in the treatment of dysmenorrhea, relief of hormonal acne (esp teenagers), painful and irregular menses, delayed menstruation, infertility, PMS, fibrocycstic breasts, breast pain, endometriosis, PCOS, vaginal dryness, uterine fibroids, menopausal symptoms and other hormonal imbalances.

·      For chronic conditions such as menstrual irregularities, endomentriosis, infertility, and delayed menstruation, take for up to 1 year or longer.

·      Emmenagogue, diuretic, liver health.

·      Helpful in normalizing the system after discontinuing birth control.

·      Known to inhibit implantation if taken in the first week of pregnancy, as it may interfere with ovulation. For best results, use berries.

·      Can trigger ovulation, even in older women. Some women are reported to release several eggs during a cycle with chaste, increasing the chances of multiple births. Has an effect of normalizing abnormal hormonal secretions for the corpus luteum, and re-establishing the luteal phase in women whose cycles are short.

·      Stimulates the production of prolactin, and is used by nursing mothers to stimulate milk flow.

·      Can bring relief to menopausal symptoms related to progesterone deficiency, and the later years of a woman’s life. Menopausal women have used it in the relief of hot flashes. Can take 2-3 months to see positive results.

·      It’s reputation as an anaphrodisiac may be a myth. Research in the last 20 years has shown it more as a body normalizer than anything. However, it should be noted in men that it can have the effect of halting sperm production, reducing testosterone production and causing atrophy.

·      Dosage:       

Tincture: 1-2ml, 3x/day

Tea: 1tsp berries infused in 1 cup boiling water for 10-15 min, taken 3x/day

Emmenagogue: 200-350mg berries, taken 2-3x/day for up to 6 days.

Food:  Use as a peppercorn substitute

·      Caution:

Use caution if you are weak or anaemic.

Minor gastrointestinal upset and itchiness has been reported in about 2% of users

Beware of dopamine receptor antagonist medications, or if you have parkinson’s disease.

Avoid if you are taking contraceptive medications, or if you are susceptible to estrogen related cancers of the breasts or uterus.

Ode to Creosote..mi amor

Creosote: Larrea tridentata

The strikingly unique and potent aroma in the post-monsoon Sonoran Desert is attributed to the sacred, medicinal plant of Creosote, also known as Chapparal (Larrea tridentata). This shrubby desert plant clones itself to reproduce, has been used for thousands of years by Native Americans, grows in valleys and basins as well as rocky desert plateaus, and can be found only in the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Mojave deserts of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. 

The bond I have formed with Creosote is deep, meaningful, medicinal, emotional, and spiritual. All my childhood, I played in washes and basins covered in this resinous, ancient plant and have used it on many occasions for healing and guidance. An effective way to understand the essence of this shrub is to do an overnight cold infusion into fresh spring water. Simply chop a fresh branch of creosote (from private land as a lot of creosote in the southwest is protected), and place it in a French press with cool spring water at night, and enjoy the next day. This can be done in just an hour as well because the resins on the creosote branches and fresh leaves are strong enough to create a potent and quick cold-water infusion as well. This infusion mimics the energetics of creosote after a desert rain and also carries medicine and hydration into the body. In Kane’s writings of Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest he states, “The wonderful smell is purifying to the spirit and has the ability to cut through the deepest states of emotional self-absorption.”

On the note of absorption, another beautiful way to experience creosote is to bath with the branches or place fresh cute branches into a hot spring while soaking. This generates a magical aromatic cleansing, opens the spirit for purification, soothes the skin, and draws toxins out of the body. Personally, I have creosote on my dashboard, in my shower, and in my windowsill because it reminds me that the Earth provides, that I am a creature of the desert, that I can adapt to extreme heat and dance in the rain. 

Other ways to enjoy and utilize creosote as medicine is to make tinctures and salves!

Here are some recipes I use in my Rainbow Bliss Botanicals product line that accentuate Creosote as a healing panacea:

1.     Monsoon Medicine: Chop fresh creosote leaf and branches finely, pack into a jar with 95% organic cane alcohol and 5% Arizona desert mesquite honey. Shake everyday for 4-6 weeks, strain, bottle, enjoy. I personally find immense value in the fresh tincture of creosote, because I struggle with Epstein-barr and auto-immune deficiency. Creosote is known to inhibit viruses and reduce the heat of autoimmune responses…all around reducing inflammation in the body. Internally, it is also used as an antimicrobial agent, anti-oxidant, and for rheumatism in assisting the reduction of swelling and pain. 

2.     Desert Goddess Healing  Salve: Infuse fresh, wild-harvested, chopped creosote leaves and branches into organic olive oil and let it marry for 4-6 weeks. This oil can be strained and applied directly onto skin to quicken the healing of wounds, skin punctures, and skin eruptions, or it can be made into a salve! Here’s a recipe for my salve:

1 cup calendula petal infused organic olive oil

2/3 cup creosote infused organic olive oil

1.5 oz Arizona beeswax beads

2 oz African Shea butter

1 tsp vitamin E oil

20 drops Morrocan Rose essential oil

20 drops White Sage essential oil (Salvia apiana) 

·      Melt beeswax and shea butter into infused oils with a double boiler or pyrex bowl over a pot of boiling water, stir in Vitamin E once wax and butter are melted, add essential oils last and pour into jars. 

This salve has anti-fungal properties, aids in reducing redness and inflammation of acne eruptions and scars, and can be used for venomous and non-venomous insect bites. There is evidence that the external application of a creosote salve is useful in, “resolving a particular form of premalignant squamous cell carcinoma, called actinic keratosis,” which are scaly patches that arise on sun-damaged skin (Kane, 2006). Being born and raised in a 4th Generation Phoenix family, many cases of melanoma and skin cancer have occurred and I support the science that this plant has the medicine we desert beings need to heal the skin and fight free radicals!

There is much more to learn and experience with Creosote, but after being alongside this plant for over 20 years, I can claim I’m beginning to understand it. I’ve noticed the patterns that it grows in as well and have learned that creosote sends out bio-kryptic/toxic information to surrounding plants to eliminate resource/ water competition. For example, there’s a highway near my house where the surroundings are completely dominated by creosote, but on the median soil there’s Ocotillo and bursage growing. This is a prime example of how Creosote dominates an area and is one of the oldest surviving plants in the harshest of climates. When hiking around Arizona, I rub the leaves between my fingers and say a prayer of gratitude for this strong, healing, ancient, free-radical scavenger. 

 

Guardian Spirit

Guardian:

Sweet guardian spirit paths cosmically collide,

access to see myself more clear and affirmation not to hide.

Boundaries, veils, and demons steer away from by my side,

heart blasting open soul protection through and wide.

Banshees and vampires couldn’t touch this Celestine,

words of understanding and freedom to stray away from war machines.

Ground your wisdom treefrog keep nourishment in mind,

bee kind fresh ancient being for meaning you will find.

Look within your expansive spectrum for the catalyst at the core,

plants speaking with intention to cease the never-ending wanting more.

Guardian tell me why this heavy why?

and why do the stars shine?

and why does greed mine?

and where do they draw the line?

and why exploit the vine?

and why this pain in my spine?

and why do ghouls lie?

Because polarity exists in a living planet of beasts,

and lightness will prevail, prepare for the feasts.

We will all raise the vibration with respect to wisdom keepers,

seeing all as equal humans and elevation of the reaper.

Don’t be afraid young star seed, the answers are all around you,

in the seashells and the mountains and in what you know if true.

Learn to be graceful and steady like the movement of rivers,

learn to be keen and agile balancing the love of the givers.

Walk a good path, ground curiosity with creation,

take action in your worth and imagine no lines between nations.

Be seen in your dance and the way you speak to father sky,

recognize what feeds you, there is only doing, no try.

There will be aggressive doubters, but they’re vexations to the soul,

stay true to those that love you: unconditional, honest, and full.

Time continues to move, lava continues to flow,

water will erode and hearts will grow and glow.

Change is fleeting and constant but don’t fear this loss of control,

minerals, animals, and plants: this Earth will swallow you whole.

But walk it with integrity, see and learn infinity,

we are all a part of the tribe, each containing sweet divinity.

 

Lucido

Between waking and slumber, a lucid realm awaits. 

Of blue electric winds and fires out of place.

Astrology speaks the diviner is divine,

What you choose to remember is the key to blast past find.

Mayan serpents and yellow Eagles, the dragons have lessons too,

Don't leap before you fly, or the roof may come crashing through.

Astral waves and half moon haze are undulating without sound,

But practice wisdom deeply before departing the ground.

Running Jaguars, Gila monsters, and packs of wolfs have arrived,

Listen a la abejas, they have earthen honesty inside the hive.

Lapis. dolphins iguanas accentuate this azul wonderland,

Choose to channel mythology, reality, and jade turned into sand.

Everyday with open eyes verde vividness surrounds,

Bamboo turns to didgeridoos and tribal tambors pound.

Travel if you wish while curiosity fills the membranes,

Protect la huevo cosmico and record what you deem insane.

Espacio is no place for four or five elements,

These foster life and generate rainbows for teepees and tents.

Hace frio sin hermanas de la tierra,

Pozas turquesa and volcanic heat melt us como cera.

Falling in dreams assists in sensory expansion,

Disfruta templos y selvas And visions of monos in mansions..

Lucidity is a constant when we heal our conditioned view,

Equilibrio in consciousness, our dreams are potent too..