Sunday, October 14, 2012

Herbs for Our Elders ~ Returning Nourishment, Reclaiming Lineage

Caring for our elders is a reciprocity of life. It is a return and a gratitude of nourishment, compassion, listening, and love.

It is also a way for us to grow our hearts and become more whole as humans.

I say this as a novice really. My experience of helping those in difficulty or challenging health are not as many as a lot of people. But they are meaningful and thought provoking. And challenging as an herbalist.

I am learning as I go.

What I am noticing so far is that loved ones in a health crisis want powerful help - but deeply need comfort.

This can prove challenging for us who are bringing drastically different foods or teas to the table and expecting results and palatable joy.

Just as working with anyone who desires health and wholeness and is seeking change to get there, we have to meet the runner at the starting line, and offer compassion at each step. This can mean starting with the very simple basics - which should also be the top priorities.

One important priority for elders is that in a state of depletion, we cannot ask the body to detoxify. This is my philosophy all the way around, actually, but it's critical to remember this for our elders because making the mistake of detoxing without deep nourishment can be extremely harmful. Their bodies simply do not have the resources to support detoxification. Their bodies can decide on their own volition when to let go of old, when it is nourished deeply enough with the good stuff. Nourishment will enable natural rejuvenation.

So, my tactic is to go deep, and go simple.

My husband left this morning with a jar of bone broth and the herbs to add to a pot of simmering water.

The idea is to nourish at the deepest level: the cells. The blood and bones. And to do that we need something that is essential to the body's most native structures and delivered in a way that will be assimilated in earnest by all digestive functions (that may still be working)

This means minerals and water and it must be cooked and it must be both plant and animal.

Thus, bone broth (happy grass fed organic and local marrow bones), and herbal infusion.

No, I'm not a scientist (maybe your cringing and busting my chops for not having scientific footnotes. Please go somewhere else if that is what you want.) I'm someone who has used herbs her entire life and has never been on prescription or OTC drugs. I've never taken antibiotics. I'm 37 and comparatively I'm damn healthy, and so are my kids. I'm someone who believes in the food and medicine traditions of our lineage and puts them to good use.

This past couple generation of elders has been robbed. They've been sold wonder bread and told their homemade pickles are a nuisance. They've been given student loans from their kids that rob them of time with their family. They've been fed kool-aid instead of afternoon tea and their health is suffering for it.

This pains me. Our most valuable community members, our mentors, our wise women and wise men are stripped of their initiation rites and mentoring roles, and instead shoved into ticky tacky little boxes.
Alone, and without their food and medicine heritage. Without their gardens, without their heirs, without their health and dignity, and often times without their purpose.

Maybe offering a bowl of bone broth, a hug, and a mug of reishi-astragalus decoction won't change the world, but it might reconnect our elders with a sense of belonging, a feeling of solace, and a remembering of how the world was meant to be. It just might change their life, no matter how much of it is left.

I'm grateful for the wisdom and commitment of our teachers and elders. They know cool stuff about life if we just stop our phones and listen.

Seasoned Mineral Bone Stock {from Lady's Slipper Ring Moon 8}

Into a stock pot or crock pot, add:

~ 10 ish chicken bones, or 4-5 beef bones with marrow (approximately) or use the whole carcass of a roast chicken, skin & gelatin & giblets and all
~ 6-8 cloves fresh garlic
~ 2 Tbsp vinegar or ½ of a fresh lemon with peel
~ 2 Tbsp salt (you may desire more later)
~ 1 Tbsp black peppercorns, whole
~ 3 bay leaves
~ ½ of an onion
~ Chunks of celery & carrots as desired
~ 1 tsp each: dried thyme, basil, oregano
~ 6-10 mushrooms
~ 1 inch chunk ginger root, fresh, sliced
~ 3 slices of dried astragalus root
~ 1 Tbsp of seaweed
~ 1 beet, in chunks
~ Water, filtered or well, to fill pot ¾ way full, leaving room for later additions.

Water should be filtered or good clean well water. Gently, at barely a simmer and covered, let your bone stock cook for at least 18-24 hours.

When rich and ready, you can choose to simply add the vegetables you wish, and fish out bones/skin as you enjoy your meal (usually very easy), or you may choose to ladle it out and pour through a strainer and then make your desired soup with the strained stock, or freeze it for later use (excellent gift for an expecting mother!)

You may also wish to simply leave it as is, scooping out bowls as desired and enjoying the simplicity of it. Any which way, it’s versatile, easy, delicious, and intensely nutritive. *If you’re friendly with a farmer or butcher and you can also get chicken feet – this is traditionally used in the making of a densely nutritious stock. The gelatin rendered from the feet nourishes tendons, ligaments, nails, hair, skin, and other vital functions and structures of the body. It is also something remiss from most modern diets. You’ll also notice that the gelatin will coagulate on the top of the liquid when cooled, and help preserve the stock for longer by keeping air out. Bones and veggie scraps can easily be collected from suppers and stored in the freezer until ready to use.

Bone Deep Decoction

For a decoction, add the following herbs to a crock pot or stove pot and let cook, just below a simmer, for at least 30 minutes. Water can be added for three rounds with the same herbs within a 36 hour period.

For an infusion, add the following herbs to a half-gallon mason jar, cover with boiled water, add a lid, and let sit overnight. Strain & sip the entire contents over the course of two days, make again.

~Astragalus - 2 long strips or 4 short of dried root.
~Licorice - 2-4 medium strips
~Red Clover Blossom - 1/2 cup
~Oatstraw - 1/2 cup
~Nettle leaf - 1/2 cup
~Reishi mushroom - 4 1-2 inch chunks
~Mugwort - 1-2 Tblsp
~Linden - 1/2 cup

Since this infusion is relatively bland, you can also add it to soups and foods instead of water. You can also do that with the above bone broth.

If we can offer our sweet elders just these two bone deep offerings, we will be giving them great gifts. Simplicity, comfort, ease, and the ability to make and replicate the healthy blood cells they need.

And while you're at it ... everyone in the room should have a bowl and mug too - you can't take care of others if you're not taking care of you.



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