Artemisia absinthium

Wormwood

Silvery feather-like fingers

Soft, inviting and feminine

Steadfast, resolute and masculine

And essentially sacrosanct

Offering purification and strength

Both subtle and powerful

An enigma.

 

Ethnobotany 

Carol Fisher describes the historical purgatory relationship with Wormwood as a herb that counteracts … “the effects of poisons including hemlock and toadstools.” As far as poisons go, our atmosphere, soil and food are all subject to being contaminated with poisons. Even if you eat organic foods and live in the countryside, we are all effected by the biosphere of this earth we live on, where nothing exists in isolation. And although not acute or immediately life threatening these poisons are slowly and insidiously burdening our bodies and preventing us from being as vital as we could be. Therefore, Wormwood is an excellent ally in opening up our elimination channels in order to have a good cleanse from time to time.

As a purifying tonic, Wormwood has the following actions within human physiology:

Anthelmintic… Expelling pathogenic parasites, fungi and bacteria

Bitter… Strengthens digestion by increasing secretions of gastic acids, pancreatic enzymes and liver bile. Regulates bowel motions and aids in general removal of toxins through the bowel

Tonic… Calming and uplifting to the nervous system. Activates vagus nerve – the parasympathetic nervous system – in order to fully rest and digest

Anti-inflammatory… Reduces arthritic pain

Caution: Wormwood is powerful and contains constituents that are toxic in high doses, or when taken long term. Wormwood should only be taken for limited period of time – 3 to 6 weeks – at a safe therapeutic dose. Contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Talk to your local Herbalist for tailored advice.

 

Absinthe & Vincent Van Gogh 

Wormwood essential oil was used in the liquor absinthe, which had a narcotic and hallucinogenic effect on those who consumed it, including Vincent Van Gogh. This effect was attributed to the content of thujone, which is relaxing and restorative to the nervous system in small doses, however at high doses (or as an isolated constituent) is neurotoxic. It has been thought that Vincent Van Gogh’s psychosis was a result of over-use of absinthe. Although this may be due to thujone toxicity, it is also very likely that the combination of thujone and high strength alcohol (as well as whatever other colours and flavours were added to the recipe) were enough to damage the central nervous system.

 

 

Ironically Intoxicating

Wormwood is soft to touch and if you rub it gently in your fingers to will be left with an intoxicating, silky resinous scent. It smells like perfume and it smells like medicine. Wormwood is balsamic, sweet, woody and sharp, soothing, uplifting and invigorating. It may be used as an insect repellent. And may also be used to purify the air, or living space, by smouldering it as you would with White Sage, it even smells similar.

 

Wormwood

Powerful and humble

A brutally honest friend

Growing strong out in the wild

Blends in with a crowd

And yet shines uniquely at the same time

Embracing and embodying contradiction

 

An enigma.

 

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Holy Basil

Holy Basil | Ocimum tenuiflorum

Sacred Basil | Ocimum sanctum

Tulsi | The Incomparable One

 

Holy Basil is a highly revered Ayurvedic herb, traditionally planted around Indian temples to purify the air and create a sacred space within. It is used within herbal medicine for a similar effect. Holy Basil has a seemingly endless list of medicinal qualities, however to put it simply, it purifies, oxygenates, and invigorates the body and mind.

 

In more detail this means that Holy Basil supports the following:

 

Detoxification and protection of the liver, enhancing elimination of toxins

 

Circulation and oxygenation of the blood and tissues, enhancing cellular energy and reducing free-radical/radiation damage

 

Immunity regulation, resilience to colds and flus, and reduction in inflammatory processes

 

Decongestion of the mucous membranes including the lungs, sinuses and bowel, assisting chronic sluggish digestion or chronic respiratory congestion

 

Mental clarity by enhancing blood circulation to and from the brain, Holy Basil enhances the capacity to learn new pathways with ease and let go of old limiting ways of thinking. For this quality Holy Basil may be used to assist those who feel stagnant or stuck, heavy or held back, and need assistance in transitioning from one phase in life to the next.

 

Herbs that enhance adaptability in times of transition are called Adaptogens, this means that it supports the myriad of processes that the body performs consistently throughout the day and night in order for you to maintain equilibrium in your internal environment especially when your external environment is in constant flux.

Adaptogen herbs are invaluable for the state of flux that can occur during stressful transitions such as change in career, end of a relationship, moving house, loss of a loved one. However, in everyday life we may find that we are in constant flux and reacting with a stress response accordingly.

Therefore, adaptogen herbs such as Holy Basil can enhance our ability to function to our best ability from day to day, and may also allow us the clarity of mind to notice what areas in our lives are not working for us any longer, giving us the energy to change it for the better.

Formidable Fennel

The fennel growing in my garden is formidable. With the early sunny summer we had the fennel had grown to be taller than me, although I am short, just over 5 feet, I was impressed by its vigor.

One day I came home to a pile of ‘weeds’ that my flat mate had so kindly, with such good intentions, culled from the garden. The entire fennel had been hacked right back to its roots! It was a sad sight seeing all of the beautiful feathery leaves and starburst flowers that were once so alive now lying dead on the foot path.

To my delight, only 2 weeks later we witnessed fresh new feathery growth from where the roots had been left. And within a month we had a lively bushy fennel plant reveling in the sun once more! Formidable.

 

 

Fennel is aromatic and spicy, it has a fresh aniseed flavour. Both the seeds and the feathery filiform leaves are used for their potent medicinal qualities, traditionally with food as a soothing digestive tonic, easing flatulence, intestinal cramps, bloating or indigestion. Fennel contains active constituents of volatile oils, flavonoids, coumarins and phenolic acids, as well as micronutrients such as potassium, calcium, sulphur and sodium. It is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial actions, easing gastro-intestinal discomfort, as mentioned above, and easing coughs by decongesting the respiratory tract. Fennel is also known to effect the hormonal system, easing menstrual pain and increasing milk flow in lactating mothers.

 

 

I caress its delicate feathery bundle of leaves and I pinch a sprig to chew on as I walk. Over half an hour, I chew piece by piece to experience the taste, the smell, the sensation in my whole body, and the effect on my mind. What qualities does fennel have to offer and what lessons fennel has to teach? Herbs are much more than simply physical plants with constituent parts. Just as humans are much more than simply physical people with constituent parts, each person is unique and has a unique quality to bring into the world. Each plant brings unique qualities into the world, a particular kind of personality which supports a particular kind of life lesson.

Fennel teaches us how to be both delicate and formidable, with particular reference to who we allow into our  lives and how we allow them to effect us. This is both a lesson in yielding to a challenge that must be faced, but also fiercely protecting yourself at the same time. Fennel counsels that life does not need to be a constant struggle, so do not let yourself become victim to every challenge that the wind blows. Choose your battles wisely and accept them into your life with courage and grace.

 

 

Plant Immersion

High summer, I found myself in what seemed like the middle of a desert. At the base of the Southern Alps near Wanaka where it had not rained for months. I was on my way to a Plant Immersion course for 5 days and 5 nights but I could not see many plants growing other than cultivated grapevines and pines.

 

I became immersed in a world that reveals that it is fully alive only when you take the time to observe it up close and personal. More than alive, the world around me that had at first seemed like a barren desert was actually a community of plants, insects and animals that were all thriving. Bell birds! Bumble bees! And billions of baby Kanuka trees!

 

What does it mean to be immersed with plants?

Open up your senses… What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you touch? How do you feel? Where do you feel it? What pictures or words come to mind?

You are connecting with the mauri, the life essence, of the plant, the land and yourself. You are accessing areas of your mind and heart that are usually shut off or shut down due to the fast paced lifestyle that we are all subject to. Being immersed is to perceive the subtleties in everything and everyone around you. It is also a technique to cultivate mindfulness.

 

Practicing plant immersion reconnects the mind with the body, and the mind and body with the earth. It helps us to recognise that separating the parts of the self causes an imbalance within our wellbeing, just as separating the self from the rest of the world causes an imbalance within our collective wellbeing. Wellness requires interconnection and balance, and this includes a balanced perception of reality. We are gifted with a body and mind to think and feel with, we are also gifted with a body and mind to sense and intuit with.

How would we perceive a plant if we allowed ourselves to think, feel, sense and intuit its existence?

My experience is that the plant takes on a whole new life, it becomes a unique creature with a personality, and not simply an object composed of constituents. Just as you are not defined, nor should you be perceived, as a body of tissue programmed by DNA, with the same function as every other human being. You are a unique creature too.

How would we perceive our world if we allowed ourselves to think, feel, sense and intuit our way through each moment of the day?

My experience is that the whole world is full of remedies… a single glance from a friend, a conversation with a stranger, a moment observing a child’s behaviour, a plant growing formidably along the pavement, or an insect that keeps reappearing in your home. Take the time to really absorb, assimilate and appreciate these experiences.

 

What sense can we make of this way of being? And how can we slow down when the pace around us is forever increasing? Retreat. Go bush. Remove yourself from your current situation, not as an escape, but as a way to gain perspective. And reconnect. Perceiving everything around us as a remedy comes quite naturally when we allow ourselves the time. Perceiving everything within us as a remedy comes quite naturally too. What are your gut feelings telling you? Take the time to listen. Reconnect with yourself, the plants around you and the land beneath your feet. It makes sense, we are an interconnected part of the natural world, made of the same stuff.

 

What does it mean to be immersed with plants? My experience is that plants have a natural affinity with our biology, our psychology and our whole being. Plants are our ancestors, they have existed on this planet that we call home long before we evolved. As our elders they have something to teach us, and they offer themselves to us as food, as medicine, as guides and as friends. More than this, they offer us an experience of a fresh and new yet ancient perspective, a way of being in the world that reinforces a sense of support, fulfilment and purpose.

 

“…pulling back is a form of disengagement and is a first important act of creating separation between ourselves and the rest of the world. With this separation the world becomes a riddle for human consciousness. We ask questions, we ponder and think about our relationships to things. These activities are both symptoms of our disconnection and at the same time ways of trying to bridge it”

– Craig Holdrege ‘Thinking Like A Plant’

 

 

 

 

Our Collective Health

I know that from here on until the end of the year things can get pretty mad, but I find this a very interesting time of year to take a step back and observe who we are collectively within our culture. At this time of year, more than any other, we become involuntary contesters in a race towards the finish line… into the sweet release of summer holidays.

 

A sweet release from what? From a socially constructed time of madness when we all race around, distracted by deadlines and consumer obligations. I call it madness because actually this is a magical time of year and it seems a shame that we miss a lot of it as we run on through to the finish line. Lets take a moment to breathe into the belly, smell the roses and wild jasmine and pohutukawa, listen to the cicadas, cultivate friendships old and new, and acknowledge our peaceful natural environment.

 

We could make an endless list of all the ways that our culture and country is prosperous, and yet we still suffer. How can we be happy if we are not healthy? What is health in our individual body and mind if we are lacking health in our collective culture?

 

“The World Health Organization (WHO) characterized health as complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and the capability to function in the face of challenging circumstances… Can people be healthy when others suffer from inequality and lack of resources? What about emotional, spiritual, moral, and metaphysical effects on one’s sense of wellbeing? What about one’s sense of ill health from environmental circumstances, war, injustice, and violence? …Others’ pain can be our own”.

Michael Winkelman – Culture and Health: Applying Medical Anthropology  

 

If you are suffering or you know of someone who is suffering, stop before you brush it off as simply a physiological imbalance that requires a pill to fix it. Stop blaming yourself for doing too much of the bad things and not enough of the good things. Your suffering is uniquely yours but it is also universal, reach out, have a conversation, be honest and be vulnerable. Make new connections, create a community that can catch you when you fall. The chances are that whoever is there will care and will be able to relate by sharing their own story. Stories dissolve barriers, breakdown walls and open up doors. Stories can lift you up and become your guiding light.

 

Underneath the madness we are all compassionate creatures simply doing our best at living our lives independently yet together. If only we would give ourselves the time to stop, step away from the cultural rip tide and simply allow ourselves to feel the precious gift of living within the small community of beautiful Aotearoa.

 

“Communal generosity might seem incompatible with the process of evolution, which invokes the imperative of individual survival. But we make a grave error if we try to separate individual well-being from the health of the whole”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.

Be Your Own Alchemist

CREATE your own skincare, knowing exactly what ingredients were in there and that you blended it with your own two hands.

 

ALTER your physiology, your habitual patterns and responses, with age-old rituals and tools provided by nature.

 

TRANSFORM your world, your thoughts and your feelings, so that you feel supported and worthy of fulfilling your deepest purpose.

 

You might think this all sounds like a bit of magic… And it is, magic happens when you become your own alchemist.

 

WHAT IS ALCHEMY?

The most basic definition is the transformation of crude metals into gold, however there is a whole philosophy and tradition that uncovers more layers of understanding to this process. A more holistic understanding encompasses the aspect of transformation that occurs in the physical realm, as a result of transformation that occurs in the mental, emotional and spiritual realms. It is not neccessarily hoodoo voodoo or hocus pocus, unless you would like to call it that! It is simply the alchemic order of creativity and connectivity. Before something exists in physical reality it goes through the process of being imagined, felt or thought into existence.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ALCHEMIST TODAY?

The following are the key aspects of the Hermetic philosophy that enables one to be an agent of transformation on the physical, mental, emotional and subtle planes of existence…

 

Amalgamation of mind, body & spirit. Honouring your body, your gut instincts and sensory perceptions will give you a perspective that is truer to your heart. And therefore not all tangled up in the chaos and control of the mind alone. When you move your attention into your body, gut instincts and your sensory perception, you naturally experience less mind chatter and less anxiety. Decisions become clearer to make, actions become grounded in purpose, and your mind has more space to be adaptable, creative and free.

 

Adaptability. Seeking order in the chaos. Life is in constant movement, motion and vibration. What are radiowaves other than ubiquitous invisible vibrations that connect everything to everything? Finding balance between the ebbs and flows, like the tide, like the rhythm of the seasons. Adaptability is to be at peace with constant change, however subtle or sudden.

 

Everything is connected. Opposites are not separate but are the two extremes of the same thing, with the whole spectrum linked inbetween. You cannot change one aspect of something without altering the whole of it. Your mind is not separate from your body; your thoughts and emotions effect your physiology. Your actions and words alter others more than you know; your intentions are felt by others even if you are not aware of it.

 

Masculine and feminine. Sun and moon. Yang and yin. Dark and light. Day and night. Summer and winter. Hot and cold. Yound and old. Life is not black and white. It is both simple and complex, both clear and contradictory, both easy and challenging. The trick is to not get stuck… Not get stuck in thinking that life is meant to be one way and not another. How could we appreciate one without the other?

 

Comfortable with contradiction. Mysticism and riddles. To learn through mysticism and riddle is not to mystify and confuse but to allow each to come to their own experiential understanding. Embracing contradiction is to embrace a new dimension of knowing, seeing the world from a new perspective, understanding the unity in diversity. A riddle opens up new pathways in the mind where doors were previously closed. Even if the door is locked, you hold the key.

 

THE ORIGINS OF ALCHEMY…

Alchemy – Al Khemia

Egyptian Black Earth | Egyptian Dark Art

Thoth

Alchemist | Egyptian God of language, math, science, medicine & magic

Hermes Trismegistus

Incarnation of Thoth | Alchemist | Greek pagan | Founder of Hermeticism

 

HEALING BALM RECIPE

8g organic nz beeswax

4g organic fair-trade cacao butter

50mL organic golden jojoba oil

20 drops essential oil blend… Your choice!

 

METHOD

Gently melt the beeswax and cacao butter over a double boiler on a low heat.

Stir in the jojoba oil until the mixture is completely melted and remove from the heat.

Add your essential oils last. Gently stir to combine and pour into your clean glass jar.

Set aside to cool before putting on the lid.

Store in a cool dark place and use within six months.

 

R E V E L    I N    T H E    T R A N S F O R M A T I O N

Aroma & Affection ~ The Forgotten Senses

We are sensuous creatures, our innate ability to sense our environment enhances our ability to survive and thrive. And we thrive on taste, sight and sound. Our culture is pretty much sustained by an abundant variety of food; visual beauty and bright lights; and constant noise, music or conversation. So what about our sense of smell and touch? It would seem that these are just secondary senses, a luxury but not essential to our health and wellbeing. Well this is not true at all, it is simply that these senses are more subtle and yet are essential for our emotional and behavioural development and wellbeing.

 

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.” 
― Patrick Süskind, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

 

Touch is a basic behavioural need, with it we thrive and without it we suffer. Deprevation of affection leads to depression and or aggression, particlarly in the developmental stages as an infant or child. We know as adults how good it feels to receive an affectionate touch, and how it can alleviate stress and anxiety. The ability to receive a caring touch from a virtual stranger and not feel uncomfortable is the wonderful blessing that a massage can provide. Massage physically improves circulation, lymphatic detoxification, reduces musculoskeletal pain and tension, stimulates the immune system and lowers high blood pressure. However, it is does more than that, particularly when combined with the aroma of essential oils.

 

Aromas and our sense of smell influences our mood and evokes emotion, in ways that either open us up with pleasure or force us to recoil with repulsion. For now we are looking into pleasurable aromas that effect our mood in ways that uplift, open, comfort, strengthen, invigorate, or relax. The combination of aroma & affection allows an incredibly deep sense of calmness, contentment, and I would even say a magical sense of awe. We are complex human beings, able to experience a plethora of emotions or states of mind, and yet we tend to get bogged down in a particular routine, a daily habitual groove, a familiar and perhaps mundane funk. If only, every now and then, we could step outside the normal time and space continium, and allow ourselves to open up to a new way of seeing. And smelling and feeling for that matter. If only we could be inspired to rediscover the world the way a child does over and over again… Well we can.

 

AROMATHERAPY & THE OLFACTORY SYSTEM

Olfactory sensory neurons within the nasal cavity are in direct contact with the outside world, therefore when a scent enters the nose it binds to the scent receptors of the olfactory neurons and activates emotions and behaviours associated with previously experienced smells.

 

HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS

“Aromatherapy is an art and a science which is a skill… The art part is the fun scent crafting where you train your nose to create multi-level aroma profiles for different ailments. Before you get to the fun part… you have to think of the science and the for bioavailability of the different oils, as well as the best method of application for the ailment.” Lauryn Johnston – Aromatherapist & Massage therapist

 

MASSAGE

For muscle tension, joint aches, skin conditions, stress and anxiety. Essential oils must be mixed into a carrier oil which ensure the bioavailability of the essentials oils and lessens the risk of skin irritation. Some essential oils are extremely strong and are know to be skin irritants, such as lemon and clove. There are also many essential oils that are too strong to use in pregnancy, these are often decongestant essential oils such as black pepper, pine, rosemary, wintergreen, thyme, clary sage, clove and cinnamon. To dilute essential oils into a carrier oil you need to use the following guide:

GENERAL maximum 2mL per 100mL

PREGNANCY & CHILDREN maximum 0.5mL per 100mL

 

INHALATION

The lungs are extremely efficient at transporting small molecules, such as essential oils into the bloodstream and general circulation. Diffusing a few drops of essential oil in a basin of steamy hot water with a towel over the head for 5 minutes is a very effective way to ease coughs and congestion from colds or flu, or to calm the nerves and ease anxiety.

 

Do no harm…

“I get asked nearly everyday in clinic ‘Is it safe to put a few drops of ‘X’ essential oil in water and drink it? As my essential oil supplier said its food grade’. The short answers is NO it is not safe practice”. Essential oils do not have the same chemical structure as the whole leaf as we would infuse it as a tea, or the juice of a whole fruit that could be diluted into water. “Aromatic medicine [is an] extremely potent tool for treating infection but needs an accurate dose, and to prevent your esophagus being harmed they need to be placed in enteric coated capsules.” Lauryn Johnston – Aromatherapist & Massage therapist

 

Oral Administration is for trained professionals only. Aromatic medicine is a branch of complementary internal medicine, an aromatic medicine doctor makes capsules and prescribes the internal taking of essential oils. It is important to not get carried away by the latest fad that sweeps over social media – be curious, do your own research and trust your intuition, but when in doubt seek out a trained professional. The only oral administration that we would recommend is as a mouthwash or toothpaste.

 

Safety first please people.

 

Now that you have a good grounding in what essential oils are about we can get to the fun part, creating your own alchemic blends! You can visit us at Wellington Apothecary to create your own roll-on perfume blend or simply have a whiff to find out what essential oils tickle your fancy. Here are ten of our favourites…

 

ORANGE

Open / Fresh / Cheerful

For those who take life too seriously and have forgotten how to laugh.

 

CARDAMOM

Strong / Capable / Enthusiastic

For those who tend to worry and feel burdened by the weight of responsibility.

 

BERGAMOT

Fresh / Energetic / Youthful

For those who feel heavy with grief or lack of self-confidence.

 

VETIVER

Grounded / Centered / Strong

For those who spend too much time in their head and are out of touch with their physical needs.

 

FRANKINCENSE

Mature / Confident / Efficient

For those who feel restless, irritable or emotionally hypersensitive.

 

LEMONGRASS

Invigorate / Refresh / Uplift

For those who feel stagnant, slow or sluggish.

 

JUNIPER

Ease / Confidence / Joy

For those who feel bogged down by negativity, pressures, or unpleasant memories.

 

PATCHOULI

Soothe / Stable / Sensual

For those who over-think everything and become detached from their body.

 

PALMAROSA

Adapt / Strengthen / Uplift

For those who feel insecure and anxious due to change or lack of encouragement.

 

YLANG YLANG

Radiant / Confident / Balanced

For those who hide themselves from the world, deny themselves pleasure, or feel extremely frustrated and tense.

Let us remember the otherworldliness of the forgotten senses.

Let us play with alchemic aromas and get lost in time as we take the time to stop and smell the roses.

Let us unfold into the experience of respectful affection and be embraced by the healing hands of another.

 

* A big THANK YOU to our friends Lauryn Johnston who is an expert aromatherapist, Grace Tully who is a mind-blowing massage therapist, and Stephanie Malcolm who is a deeply healing holistic facialist, all here in Wellington.