March is the month of the vernal equinox (first day of spring) and that means that it is time for the Herb Festival/Tomatomania to take place at San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas.(www. sdbgarden.org) It will take place on Saturday and Sunday of March 17 and 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In herbal terms, the festival offers one of the best local opportunities to get an introduction to the use of plants. You will find soap-makers, aroma therapists, foods, crafts, and vendors who are willing and eager to explain their use of herbs. In addition, there is a full schedule of presenters and workshops featuring speakers on topics ranging from edible landscaping, plants for pet health, native plant culinary recipes, paleo diets and more.
I will be there doing the second episode of the faux radio talk show “Get Over It!” from the fictional radio station, Radio HERB. My partner, Cindy Christ, and I will camp it up as we deliver information on what herbs actually DO in your body. Instead of memorizing a list of “take this herb for that condition,” you can gain a quick understanding of the changes that herbs and foods make in body function. This allows you to make choices that fit your needs, based on classifications of plants.
When you take herbs to support your health, it helps to know what you are trying to accomplish by taking them. There are five simple pairs of actions that we can consider. The first is whether a plant will heat or cool your body. As you might expect, fiery spices like cayenne and ginger will heat up the system, stimulate the digestion, increase the blood flow and step up the metabolism. Plants with starches and sugars will also tend to warm you up. Parsley and astragalus are also warmer-uppers. So, if you are feeling cold, with poor circulation and sluggish digestion, consider adding these herbs to your diet or supplement regimen. Conversely, if you are already running too hot, with flushed reddish complexion, and tending toward irritable temperament, then you will want to take advantage of some cooling herbs. Sour and bitter flavors of lemon juice, pomegranate, arugula and dandelion greens, artichoke leaf and gentian root will bring you back to neutral.
Another pair of actions is moisten or dry. If you have edema or a wet cough, if you have bags under your eyes and feel lethargic with dampened spirits, you may need something to help dry up the excess secretions. Sage tea is a classic, as are plants high in mineral salts, such as Stinging Nettle, horsetail and parsley (yes, parsley, again). If, on the other hand, your stools are hard and difficult to move out, if your eyelids stick and won’t slide up and down, if your skin is withering, it might be time to indulge in some moistening. The sour flavors work for this, as well as plants that create a mucilage gel, like slippery elm, linden leaf tea, cinnamon, marshmallow root and aloe.
Then, there are the pairs of tone and relax, and nourish and cleanse. If your muscles are too tense, they won’t let blood flow and this often results in cramping. Stomach and menstrual cramps, as well as headaches and charlie horses are examples. Peppermint tea and cramp bark are useful here, as well as chamomile and ginger. If your inner muscles are too flaccid to perform and need some tone, yellow dock, and cascara sagrada are classic treatments for the digestive tract. If you are weak and depleted from a long illness, then nourishing is in order. Find the plants with starches, sugars and proteins. Quinoa, stinging nettle and ashwaganda are examples. However, if you have been over-indulging in the good life and have accumulated a load of toxins from too much fun, then cleansing with bitter-tasting plants that include salad greens, dandelion root, nettles and those high in fiber like aloe gel, and apple is what you need.
Come discover your own entry point into the world of useful plants at the Herb Festival. There is an opportunity to learn something about what makes you work best and how plants can be a natural part of your health maintenance efforts. Drop by on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Ecke building to catch our “radio talk show” and have some fun. Plants are part of enjoying life and can be entertaining.
Category: Life Style