So what can you do on such a day? Especially when you're chained to a desk and can't just cozy up on the couch, with book, blanket, and a hot mug of something handy.
First: get outside.
"But, Crazy Lady, it's raining!," you cry.
So what? Do you think you'll melt like the Wicked Witch of the West? Get outside at high noon and get some rain on your face. The number one best thing I ever learned about indoor gardening is that even on a bad day (like today) plants get more light than they would on a sunny day in front of a window. Top-down light is good for us all.
Next is fish oil. Vitamin D has lots of effects, including mood and seasonal resilience. When the Autumnal Equinox hits, I start supplementing with fish oil. Depending on how much I'll be outside that day I take 1500-2000 IU- for me, that's 3-4 capsules. (I also have poor reactions to the season shift, so I supplement up to the full 2000 IU my Naturopath teacher recommended for daily life. Any extra from exposure or diet is a bonus.)
Now, indoor light sources. I don't have a sun lamp, but I do use salt lamps. I have 2 votive holders that grace my living room, and one larger chunk with a night light bulb inside in my bedroom. It's plugged into an IKEA timer so that I wake up to its glow every morning. In addition, I have a cute little one that plugs into a USB outlet on my computer. All these salt lamps provide a warm glow that is helping to positively ionize the air, or so I've read. They make me feel warm and happy for sure.
Now, some herbal resources.
St. John's Wort and Lemon Balm are classic remedies for seasonal funks. You can take them in many forms. My favorite is a St. John's Wort tincture made by Greenbrier Herbalist Sharon Moncrief (you can contact her directly, or visit Herbiary in Philadelphia or Asheville NC- she doesn't sell online.) It is seriously the darkest, richest SJW tincture I've ever seen, or made.
And 2 summers ago I made a Lemon Balm elixir that is just pure joy- a big jar full of Lemon Balm leaves and a big handful of Lemon Verbena for flavor, 1/4 honey and fill the rest with good brandy. Wowsers.
Dried Lemon Balm and SJW never have the same oomph as fresh, so you're better served to take or make a potion created with the fresh herb, when the sun was high and so was the temperature. In fact, I've heard that St John's Wort flowers at the height of summer to use in the depths of winter.
I also supplement with Vitamin D in Fish Oil from about September through at least April. I currently have Spectrum brand with 500 IU Vitamin D per capsule, and I'll take 3 or 4 a day. Once that bottle runs out, I'm going to try Green Pastures brand- it doesn't have standardized levels of D but it is a fermented product (i.e, good for digestion!) and my teachers have talked about it often and positively, so that's next on my list.
Sometimes dreary just means cold to me. Any tea with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom- all the good baking spices- help me too. Mulled apple cider, Chai, Tazo's Lemongrass Ginger, or a cup of dried ginger that has been simmered about 20 minutes so it's super-crazy strong are my go-to's. I just read about doing the same long simmer with a couple of cinnamon sticks instead, and I can't wait to try that.
My final suggestion is to move. Get up out of the chair, get away from the cold, blue light computer screens put out, and move around. Walk around the building, go someplace quiet with your headphones and have a little impromptu mini dance party by yourself, touch your toes and lift your knees. When the weather is stagnant, wet and torpid and miserable, the same is exacerbated in you. Shake things up and change your own personal environment!
What a month.
The first weekend was the Mid Atlantic Women's Herbal Conference. All day under tents and clearing skies in the rolling hills of Kempton PA.
The second was one of the final days with Linda Shanahan in this year's Herbs Through the Seasons class. Another day outside, sunny and breezy at the Barefoot Gardens farm.
Also in there was a very warm pre-dawn jaunt around town to watch the full moon eclipse. There's a post about that, that somehow won't copy into this here blog writer. Hopefully more on that soon, but suffice to say now that it was an opening experience.
And this weekend- Antlerstock! TWO days of outside fun. I cut down a tree (OK, not all by myself, but still. A tree!) I threw an axe and hit the target (sort of), learned how to make soap, what I had done wrong with my sourdough bread way back when I had a starter, and beekeeping and goat keeping and archery basics. We talked emergency and storm preparedness, harnessing a draft horse, pig and rabbit raising, and first aid salve making.
And those are only the goings-on I got to see. I missed out on processing wool from sheep to spindle, chainsaw basics, food preservation and frugal eating, and who knows what else. It was too much for one person, and not nearly enough! We had rain and sun and wind and mud and a Merlin cake (not the Merlin you're thinking, if you don't know Jenna!) We had great teachers and interested students and good, warm, kind people eager to share their own experiences. I came home with books and soap and new friends and new ideas.
This month has fed my soul. If you haven't had a multitude of soul-nourishment experiences heaped at you recently, I highly recommend it. In fact, I insist on it. What a great time.
This was my second year at the MAWHC, and it was again fantastic. Last year I went by myself and didn't know a soul, and I had a wonderful time taking in my first-ever herbal conference experience. This year I carpooled with 2 friends (should have been 3, we missed you Herban Momma!!), my teacher Maia Toll was there, I ran into friends and met new ones, and had just as wonderful a time.
Red Earth Farm hosts the conference on their land in Kempton PA (and offers a rather wonderful CSA too, I might add), and this year Charis and the other helpers did a great job with the wet weather we had up until registration time Saturday morning. The chairs had clearly been put up under the tents before it started raining, and there was almost no mud to speak of. Thanks everyone!
Our keynote speaker was Rosemary Gladstar. Have you met her or worked with her yet? I hadn't, I had only used her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (affiliate link.) I've heard her described as "The Grandmother of Modern Herbalism" several times, and truly, a grandmother is what I expected. Boy was I surprised!
Rosemary is a fireball. She is full of stories, some ribald, some serious, all honest and energetic and inspiring. And her laugh! Right into the microphone, so full of joy and good humor, even when she was discussing the Fire Cider controversy. She gave us a slide show of Herbal Elders in the morning, and told so many stories about these people, demonstrating that our heritage and traditions and herbal lineage are so very important to our craft and our future. In the evening, she told us a little of her life story, how she came to her current project the United Plant Savers, and touched on the Health Freedom Movement. She invited open discussion about the issues surrounding giving herbalism a 'legal' status, she challenged us to take back the name Herbalist and not be afraid of using it, and she asked us to find out what we love and to do that. Rosemary understands that 'being an herbalist' is a narrow and limiting definition of what we do in this field, and there's room for everyone and their various skills and passions.
Rosemary also brought her mom with her to the conference. This tiny lady is 90 years old, and every time I saw her she was wreathed in smiles. It was such a joy to know that she was in our presence, and that our presence contributed to her happiness.
And Maia was there! Why don't I take pictures at these things?! I miss her hugs so much, they're not hands-on-arms, lean-in, gently-bump-a-shoulder things. A big, wrap around, squeeze is what she gives, and what I give back! Maia taught 2 workshops. She promptly threw us out of the first one- no, not really! She did strongly suggest that we already know what she's going to say, and that we should go meet other teachers too. I guess she's right... but I miss her!
So for my first workshop I started at a tent with a neat contraption that hooks to a plant and plays tones as the plant gives off energy or resonances. It was very pretty and I stayed a while to listen, then I moved over to a tent offering a talk on the Divine Feminine. Both were good times for introspection, and I enjoyed that.
The next workshop break offered a class on fermenting vegetables- sauerkraut and the like- and it was fabulous! Suzanna had us all involved, the (large) class made a huge batch of kimchi as she taught us the process, and she handled the crowd and the information very well. I mean, the woman gave complete strangers knives and no one had an accident! She was an impressive presenter, something to aspire to for sure.
During the last break I started out in the Dandelion class, and learned something new- the botanical name for Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis, translates into The Official Remedy for All Disorders. That night someone jokingly asked me, "So what would you recommend for everything that ails me?" and I had my answer ready- Dandelion! Part way through I made my way over to Maia's second class and listened in on her talking about the endings that happen at this time of year, and some of her rituals around Autumn and Winter. She ended by inviting us to write down something we'd like to release and let go of, and we gathered around the fire pit to burn them. Some people were emotional and it was so nice to be part of that healing moment.
There were also great vendors on hand. I'm in Linda Shanahan's Herbs Through the Seasons class (HIGHLY recommended!) and last month she brought in herbalist Sharon Moncrief for a very interesting talk about women's herbs. Both Linda and Sharon came as vendors, and their stuff looked great. I got a pretty ring from Sharon, who is now making jewelry in addition to the beautiful tinctures and oils and creams she has developed, and I went home with an amazing piece of baby Ginger with the greens still on it and the most fragrant Lemon Verbena ever from Linda's farm. I hope you both sold out of everything you brought!
So, go the the MAWHC next year! You will enjoy it. Unless you are a man, which is my only beef with the conference. The two men in Maia's class this past year would both have provided great things to the day, and they would have benefited just as much in return. I'm sure they're not the ONLY guys out there who would have fit in with us, either. I understand the power a group of women can have on each other, but I believe the conference I attended both last year and this was missing out on what these men offer. I wish I had convinced my classmates to come in drag!
Since I didn't take any pictures myself, here are some from the MAWHC's Facebook page.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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