Holy Rolling! Facial Gua Sha for Gettin' the Glow

Facial Gua Sha

Ahhhh, the cerulean splendor of a cool slab o' seagreen jade swept sultrily across the face during a sweltery summer heatwave to soothe those lock-jawed, teeth-clenching, fever dream-drunk, heat-vexed blues. Call it what you will - beauty qigong, facial rejuvenation, holy rolling - this resplendent routine of face-melting mirth culled from the annals of traditional Chinese medicine is most certainly the manna of immortal Taoist poetry.

Gentle, upward strokes along the facial meridians performed with a jade guasha tool can help move lymphatic fluids, drain puffiness, relax tight facial muscles and fascia, and boost blood and qi flow to the skin. It also improves the skins hydration and circulation, which can glamor you with a youthful glow that betrays the reality of moon-drunk all nighters spent knocking back body shots of Reishi and bumps of cordyceps. One of the myriad things I love about the medicine I practice is the DIY ethos that permeates through it. There is so much hot tech that doesn't require the prowess of a doctor or the savvy of years spent in clinical practice. In fact, the most refined medicines are those which you can give to yourself, in heavy rotation, on the daily... gigoing, nutrition, meditation, guasha, healthy sex. For anyone interested in how to perform DIY facial guasha, I will be hosting a workshop on Taoist women's self care later this summer. Details coming soon!

Community Acupuncture 🌑 Healing Circle

Community Acupuncture

Join Carolyn Barron L.Ac of Botanarchy Herbs and Acupuncture for a community acupuncture healing circle using the power of acupuncture and the wisdom of herbs to shift minds and bodies. In this healing circle, you will receive group acupuncture tailored toward your individual needs and constitution, in a nurturing and supportive environment. We will sip healing elixirs and talk shop about how to support and empower the body using the numinous dynamism of herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine. This is an excellent opportunity to try a new healing modality, receive low-cost holistic healthcare, and to engage with community in a healing and proactive way. Please sign up in advance through the BE Hive at www.thebehive.us, and email carolyn@botanarchy.com to schedule your time slot. Let's get (meta)physical!

Community Acupuncture Healing Circle 

6/7/17 from 6:30-8:30 pm

The BE Hive

6427 W. Sunset Blvd.

Hollywood, CA 90028

$40 pre-sale, $50 at the door

Botanarchy on 'That's So Retrograde'!

Botanarchy

Thank you to the budding Botanarchist babes of @soretrograde for having me on their podcast this week!  Such a pleasure to while away the afternoon discussing Botanarchy and how to 're-wild' medicine by waking up to the wonders of internal and external nature, reminding ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and reconnecting with the seeds of our quieted magic. If you long to hear me natter on about dismantling cultural conditioning and accessing our true natures through traditional Chinese medicine, have a gander on iTunes or the That's So Retrograde website!

✊🏻

Herbal Allies: Honeysuckle + Forsythia

Honeysuckle and Forsythia

Paired together, these acrimonious accomplices coagitate and conspire to  entangle upper respiratory infections like colds, flu's, bronchitis, and sore throats in their vivacious vines. These two toxic avengers provide the brawny backbone for one of the ancestral Chinese pharmacopoeia's most judicious antibiotic herbal formulas, Yin Qiao. They release heat pathogens from the body, quell toxicity, and have been decocted by the initiated masses for thousands of years to treat wind-heat conditions, influenza, and viral infections. Recent clinical trials have shown that honeysuckle tea exhibits broad-spectrum antiviral and antibiotic activity, suppressing the effects of influenza virus in mice, effectively acting as a "virologocal penicillin". If a turn of phrase like "virological penicillin" gets you all hot and bothered in a panty drenching swoon, then boil yourself a pot of honeysuckle forsythia tea and drink it throughout the day, or decoct in a hot rice porridge or congee for a DIY flu shot. Lemon and honey will smooth over the acerbic edges, but the tea's poignant puissance will never fully acquiesce. But you want your medicine to be grizzled not chiseled - 'tis the season for prevention!

Herbal Allies: Huang Lian /// Coptis Root

Coptis Root

This golden, auric wonder glows like a honey-dipped sun, but under its florid veneer it shrouds a lethal combination of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory moxie engulfed in an acerbic matrix of bitter oomph. Coptis is, quite possibly, the bitterest herb I have ever tasted. Long enshrined in traditional medicine for its ability to treat conditions associated with excess dampness, inflammation, and heat, its bitterness is the key to its effectiveness. The bitter taste and yellow hue indicate the presence of berberine, an alkaloid with strong antibiotic effects that effectively drains excess and heat from the body. In test tube studies, berberine was shown to inhibit the growth of streptococcal bacteria responsible for some forms of pneumonia, and it exhibits broad-spectrum antibacterial and antiviral activity (take that, o meager single-minded flu shot!) that supports the use of coptis to treat skin, mouth, eye, gastrointestinal, and vaginal infections. A robust stalwart of heavy-hitter herbal prescriptions, Coptis takes on staphylococcus, strains of streptococcus, hepatitis B, salmonella, SIBO, cholera, and its motto is basically “I can handle all this jelly.” ALL HAIL.

Turmeric Orange Julius

Orange Julius

A valley girl summer cooler brought to you by winsome & woebegone memories of strolling the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Bart Simpson boxer shorts with a home perm and Orange Julius in hand. All of the nostalgia and none of the junk, with a hint of Ayurveda and a Taoist twist. ☀️

1 frozen banana, 3 knuckles freshly peeled turmeric root, 1 orange, 1 tbsp grass fed collagen protein, 1 tsp pearl powder, blended in a base of rice mylk.

Morning Congee

Heart Spirit Congee

Medicinal rice porridge, or 'congee,' is the nutritional foundation for optimal health in traditional Chinese medicine. Simple and fuss free kitchen witchery, the basis of congee is one part rice to 6 parts water simmered in a slow cooker overnight with minimal elbow grease or finessing. In 'The Book of Jook', one of my favorite repositories of congee recipes both egalitarian and exotic, Bob Flaws explains that "in Chinese medicine, the prognosis of any disease is based on three things: spirit, stomach qi, and root. Spirit refers to the heart spirit which is nourished by qi. Root refers to the kidney essence which is also nourished by qi. Once the stomach qi fails, we can no longer make qi and blood postnatally and thus must decline. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that when the vital energy of the stomach is depleted, the disease will be incurable, and that is why rice porridge is considered to be the most fundamental of dietotherapeutic foods." My favorite part about being a Chinese medical physician is that my prescription pad is not limited to pharmaceuticals, and I get to relish in the simple transformative magic of prescribing personalized congee formulas to my patients using medicinal herbs and foods. This one is comprised of mulberries, spirit Poria mushroom, Chinese dates, and goji berries, and is for supplementing the liver and boosting the kidneys, enriching yin and blood, moistening the intestines, brightening the eyes, and calming the heart. ❤️

Herbal Allies: Bai Shao / / White Peony

PCOS

Let’s talk about ovulation. 


Be it the ubiquity of endocrine disrupters in our post-koyaanisqatsi, hyper-industrialized cosmos, or a food pyramid dominated by behemoth agribusinesses pushing processed foods over ancestral diets, or perhaps even the unrelenting pressure heaped upon women by themselves and society, many of us are hard pressed for a good old fashioned regular ovulation. 
White Peony Root, also known as Bai Shao, has a bona fide plethora of clinical research backing up its ability to treat ovulatory disorders and PCOS, making it an herbal ally bar none for those seeking to regulate their cycle. White Peony Root improves aromatase activity in the ovaries, which promotes the conversion of testosterone (which is often elevated in PCOS patients) into estrogen, thus lowering those pesky testosterone levels. Clinically, it also demonstrates a significant improvement in the ratio of Luteinizing Hormone to Follicle Stimulating Hormone, two hormones that work together to encourage ovulation whose balanced ratio is paramount in producing a period. White Peony Root also significantly decreases Prolactin levels, which can be considerably raised in PCOS patients, resulting in irregular periods, breast tenderness, low sex drive, painful intercourse, vaginal dryness, acne, and excessive facial hair growth. If you’re looking to whip your menstrual cycle into submission (gently, and with a clearly defined ‘safe word’, of course), find yourself a clinical herbalist who can work White Peony into your hormonal treatment plan.

Ritual Medicine: Magically Charged Immune Tonic

If one cannot obtain medicines 

One can live still to several hundred years of age,

If one fully grasps the principles

Of cultivating Qi and practices daily.

Indeed, humans exist within the Qi

And Qi exists within humans.

From Heaven and Earth to the myriad things,

Qi is pervasive.

There is nothing that does not rely on Qi for life.

-Master Ge Hong, The Book Of The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, 4thCentury C.E

Qi Gong Immune Tonic

Ritual and Medicine were once entwined in a caduceus of consanguinity, an ouroboros of serpentine synergy. Mutually engendering one another, they coaxed forth each other’s latent powers and filled in the gaps in their respective repertoires. Most traditional medical systems still honor this alchemical marriage, but our current hegemonic medical paradigm has been ripping up the paperwork and denying them rights. As a healthcare provider, it’s fashionable and expected that I shirk away from this brouhaha and peddle the antiseptic certitude of allopathic care with sophistry & absolutism. However, indigenous medicine places the physician as a mender of chasms, honoring the prosaic prowess of each paradigm and fusing ritual and remedy as one. 

On a forced sabbatical recuperating from the pernicious three-week flu that recently swept Los Angeles, I was reminded of how important it is to fuse ritual & medicine, particularly when you’re wilted and supine, struggling to find your mojo in a disempowered mire. There’s nothing more humbling then being banished to your bed by a gruesome malady, a victim of capricious circumstance failed by your own flailing biology. It is in these ashen hours that a call to arms is ever so crucial, so that we may remind ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and re-connect with the seeds of our quieted magic. This is a simple, homespun ritual that I like to do at the advent of cold & flu season, when I feel an itchy tingle beckoning in the back of my throat, or when I’ve got tendrils of pestilence bristling within my body. The purpose of this rite is to strengthen the body’s energetic shield and first line of defense, and allow its innate curative alchemy to expel any lingering pathogens. As magic is best when it’s a prosy pastiche of incongruent passions, this ritual draws upon Traditional Chinese Medicine, kitchen witchery, and the ancient Taoist art of qigong. This can also be done as a protection rite in a circle of priests & priestesses, should you be lucky enough to have a slew of fellow witches and warlocks to bro-down with. 

BACKGROUND

Qigong is the ancient Taoist art of cultivating qi from the abundant environment, and circulating its healing helices of gossamer elixir throughout the body. Through qigong, we can tap directly into the diaphanous motive power that operates the universe, and sycophantically siphon it into our own body cauldron. Qi is everywhere…within, without, above, below, giving life to all things. Its nature is to move and change, and the root of all health problems, be it injury, illness, or aging, involve the stagnation and circulation of qi and blood. Its harmonious flow is the basis of all ancient Asian medicinal and magical practices. 

This simple equation, culled from the magnificent book The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke, appeases both the science nerd and wizard in me, and distills the myriad mysteries of qigong into a basic formula: 

Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are inextricably linked to qi. Doctor Shen’s Compendium of Honoring Life (Shen Shi Zunsheng Shu), a Chinese medical text from1773, states that “the lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out.” The optimal functioning of the lungs ensures vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. The Statutes of Medicine (Yimen Falü), another Chinese medical text from 1658, illuminates this relationship, stating that “all bodily qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the lung’s qi is clear and straightforward, then there is not a single type of qi in the body that will not obey and flow along smoothly. However, if the lung qi becomes obstructed and turns murky, then the qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

The lung also has the unique distinction of being the uppermost organ in the body, an envoy between the external evils and the internal sanctum, uniquely susceptible to pathogenic factors like wind and cold. The lungs control the strength and circulation of Wei Qi, the ancient Chinese medical term for the body’s defensive energy and proverbial force field. Wei Qi warms the body and protects one’s self from the rigors of the outside environment. If you catch colds easily, have low energy or require a long time recuperating from an illness, your Wei Qi may be deficient. This ritual uses qigong and kitchen alchemy to strengthen the lung energy, boost Wei Qi, and ensure the harmonious flow of qi throughout the body.

GROCERY LIST

Your ritual libation will be a magically-charged ‘Wei Qi Tonic,’ comprised of horseradish root, white onions, hot peppers, garlic, ginger root, and apple cider vinegar. In some circles, this is called ‘Fire Cider,’ though amongst my kinfolk it is lovingly referred to as ‘Plague Tonic.’ Plague Tonic is white and pungent to support the lungs, as this combination of color and taste resonates with the element metal in five element correspondences within Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find directions on how the Botanarchy test kitchen makes this infernal brew here. Priests & Priestesses could also use an immunity alembic of their choice in lieu of the Plague Tonic. A strong hot toddy, a shot of fresh pressed garlic juice, oil of oregano, cayenne & lemon water, whatever tickles your pickle. Ideally, your libation will be zesty, fiery, and entirely NOT sip-worthy. But with a dash of magical zeal, anything radiating with the harmonics of healing will do.

PROCEDURE

When you fall ill, first regulate the breath,

Ingest the Qi, and fix your attention on the afflicted area.

Practice holding the breath, 

And by means of conscious attention

Visualize the breath concentrating in the afflicted part.

Visualize the Qi attacking the illness.

When you can no longer comfortably hold the breath,

Exhale very slowly.

-The Immortal Master’s Treatise on the Absorption of Primordial Energy

1.    Prepare the space with a banishing ritual that you vibe with, and an incense or smudge wand of your choice. Ai Ye, Mugwort, would be an excellent fumigant for this rite, as it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to purify pathogens, and ‘warm’ deficient conditions within the body. 

2.    Sit your Priests & Priestesses in a circle in a comfortable seated position, each with a chalice of Wei Qi Tonic. If you are rolling solo, just plop down and have at it.

3.    Call upon a pathogenic factor you wish to expel. This could be an ‘emotional pathogen’ plaguing the body, such as lingering bad habit or traumatic event, or it could be a physical ailment, such as a runny nose or sinus headache. Attune to the physical locus of the pathogen within the body, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. Where does it linger? Is it heavy, oppressive, constricting? Does it feel hot? Sticky? Smokey? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Connect with its noxious character and feel it licking the walls of your viscera. 

4.    When the pathogen has been effectively summoned, slowly imbibe the Wei Qi Tonic, and feel its vigorous heat burning away the putrid evil of the pathogen. Sip slowly and with fierce intention until a visceral response is elicited. This could be anything from a hearty sweat, to a cough, tearing eyes, digestive noises, cathartic breath, or a sensation of lightness within the body. When you feel you have expelled your pathogen, push your ritual chalice to the center of the circle.  If you are working with a group, this will signal to the other Priests & Priestesses that it is time to move on to the Wei Qi cultivation portion of the rite.

5.    Now that you have purified your body, gather the Heavenly Qi of the universe and store it within you. Begin by standing comfortably in Horse Pose. Circle your arms over your head as you inhale Heavenly Qi through the lungs, drawing the qi down through your arms as you rest them in a circle over your umbilicus, exhaling Evil Qi out of your lungs. Visualize spirals of healing qi descending into the lungs, and disseminating protective Wei Qi over the surface of the body. Repeat at least 5 times.

6.    Electrify the Wei Qi, and increase the diameter of its energetic field by relaxing and shaking the body vigorously for at least one minute. Imagine golden white light enshrouding you with protective mojo that no ills can permeate.

7.    Give yourself a Wei Qi bath, by rubbing your hands lightly over the entire surface of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down the outer legs, and back up through the inner legs, dousing the body in energized, electric Wei Qi. 

8.    Once thoroughly exulted, close the rite by taking a few deep breaths to honor your inner physician. Whenever you feel persnickety, pestilent, or fatigued, know that qi is bounteous, free, and omnipresent, the marrow of the universe ripe for the suckling. Enjoy in robust health~! 

Herbal Allies: Pang Da Hai

Pang Da Hai Karaoke Seed

Known in Asia as ‘The Karaoke Seed’, Pang Da Hai tea has been soothing my stressed throat all week, after a ribald weekend of duetting to Kate Bush at top volume. This gem of an herb is wonderful to have on hand for singers, speakers, teachers, rabble rousers, or anyone prone to voice loss, raspiness, sore throat, and dryness. Pour hot water over the seed, and watch as a magnificent, jellyfish-esque sea creature emerges. Pinkies up!

Chinese Herbal Bone Broth

Bone Broth

Never does a week go by in our household where the scraps of our epicurean labors aren’t heaped in a giant enamelware pot and stewed for hours while we mill about the homestead. We’re fanatical about our bone-collecting, surreptitiously slipping chicken carcasses into napkins under the table, asking waiters to box up our goat bones after indulging in a hearty pot of Birria De Chivo Goat Stew. The result of our rampant scrap-mongering is a rich, profoundly nourishing bone broth, imbued with golden melted life-force, exceedingly nourishing to the illustrious Three Treasures of Chinese Medicine:

Jing, our Essence, the source of life, the basis for all growth, development, and sexuality.

Qi, our energy, giving us the ability to activate and move our bodies, whilst protecting us against external and internal pathogenic factors.

Shen, our inner light, the vitality behind Jing and Qi, the mental and spiritual force that shapes our personality and spirit.

Bone Broth- or ‘stock’, depending our your particular cultural milieu- is a pan-cultural old world panacea, utilitarian kitchen alchemy transforming vegetable scraps and bones into pure nutritional gold. Heaps of vegetables, herbs, and leftover bones are pragmatically piled in a pot, and left to simmer slowly for long periods of time, extracting every morsel of function and flavor. The resulting infusion is a gently potent brew, teeming with trenchant, bio-available nutrition, easy to digest and suitable for all matter of medicine, both preventative AND curative. A complex, rich mosaic of variegated flavors, it is also an opulent addition to stews, soups, sauces, poaching liquid, grains, beans, and porridge, transforming blasé cooking water into a savory swill. It nourishes our tendons, ligaments, skin, bones, and blood, keeping us limber and spry, with an assassin-worthy immune system. As a grounding force in our otherwise hypersonic, twenty-first century lives, it forces us to spend a few hours a week at home, tending to our hearth fire. If I seem a little in love with it, it’s because I am. I get to melt bones in a giant pot, like a surly wizard necromancer.

Many moons ago, before I was religious about my bone broth, I was stricken by a persnickety set of symptoms that left me vacillating between a sprightly 20-something yoga warrior and a knobby, decrepit old crone. One day, I would be handstanding in yoga class like nobody’s business, and the next day, I could barely touch my toes, plagued with spells of tightness, pain, and numbness, accompanied by bouts of sleep seizures that made me feel ancient, neurotic, and utterly powerless. After getting diagnosed with a vague autoimmune disease, delivered with a despondent, helpless send-off from the Western Medical Hegemony, my homegrown recovery was rooted in cutting out all inflammatory foods (gluten, sugar, ungainly processed rubbish), and going the way of old man Hippocrates by using food as my medicine. Through Traditional Chinese Medicine and the wisdom of thee Weston A. Price Foundation, I discovered the ancient magic of bone broth, and have never looked back. Years later, I am symptom free (though on occasion, I go to town on Chocolate Stout and homemade bread), and enjoying all sorts of bendy melee on the regular. And really, despite seeing tons of under-the-weather patients daily, have developed a super-human resistance to colds and flu. I make my cauldron of bone broth weekly, and drink a cup a day, increasing in times of debauchery, disorder, or debilitation. I suggest this to everyone that walks through my door, as I’ve seen countless miracles in managing all matter of disease (you can check out the foxy graphic below from Vanessa Romero at Healthy Living How To for a list of its wiles and wonders).

If broth seems too good to be true, it’s because it is. Our leery, infirmed culture has taught us to be inherently disdainful of anything that seems ‘too good to be true’, a silly idiom I’ve always despised for shading the world in a Saturnine hue, thwarting the everyday magic of simple things, and propagating the ‘snake-oil’ mythos that impedes the advancement of traditional medicines. I much prefer the wisdom of wise old Yeats, who knew that “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

Why is bone broth so beautiful? The venerable Dr. Mercola at The Mercola Institute drops some science on this egregious elixir below, adding some credence to my highfalutin claims:

BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH

Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.

Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses: A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection.

Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage. (Aside: glucosamine and chondroitin are usually sold over the counter as fancy supplements for arthritis).

Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.

Promotes strong, healthy bones: As mentioned above, bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation.

Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the ample gelatin in the broth.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Large Stainless Steel Stock Pot or Crock Pot

Roughly two pounds of organic chicken, beef, lamb, or fish bones, procured from a local butcher, or culled from recent feastings and stored in the freezer until needed. We’re talkin’ carcasses, knuckles, and hooves, oh my! If you plan on making a habit out of your stock making shenanigans (which you should!), I suggest finding a sympathetic meat peddler to bro-down with in your hood. In Los Angeles, I’m sweet on J&J Grassfed Beef. You can peruse sustainably raised local livestock on LocalHarvest.org, or check out the CrossFit gyms in your area, as many CSA’s are starting to offer gym delivery.   

¼ cup vinegar: Of paramount importance, for extracting the minerals from the bones into your broth.

A Mirepoix, consisting of 1 coarsely chopped onion, 2 carrots, and 2 sticks of celery.

Other coarsely chopped vegetables and assorted kitchen detritus: Perhaps the most admiral facet of broth is its commonsensical use of otherwise discarded cooking debris, with a peasant zeal otherwise reserved for Bruce Springsteen. Yellowing parsley, disfigured carrots, celery tops, blood-red chard stalks, onion skins, the graveyard of your heroic juicing efforts, haunted specters from the crisper… they all get their day in the sun. Your ingredients will be subject to the capricious nature of your weekly eating habits, producing a protean olio that is romantically un-reproducible from one week to the next. We keep a jar in the freezer that we fill with our forsaken vegetable fragments just for this purpose. My mainstays for flavor are 1 bunch of parsley, 2 quartered potatoes, a few hearty sprigs of rosemary and thyme from the garden, and a few cloves of garlic.

1 tsp black peppercorns

Fresh, cold water

I love to add a smidgen of Chinese herbs to my brew, to enhance and direct the healing vectors of my broth. 2-3 ounces of each herb should do the trick, always being intuitive with your needs and working with what you have on hand, like the cunning egalitarian Kitchen Witch that you are. These folks are mainstays in my cabinet, and on any given Sunday, I may sprinkle a smattering of the following into my cauldron:

A handful of Dang Shen/Codonopsis Root: To help strengthen the qi, counter mental and physical fatigue, build blood, and nourish body fluids.

Perhaps 5-10 slices of Huang Qi/Astragalus Root: To boost the immune system and strengthen qi, ensconcing one in protective energy that helps prevent illness due to external influences.

Certainly always a knuckle or so of Sheng Jiang/Fresh Ginger Root: To stoke the digestive fires and stimulate the circulatory system.

A pinch of Xi Yang Shen/American Ginseng Root: Boosting gentler Ginseng tendrils than the Chinese or Korean varietals, an admirable addition to combat fatigue and stress, whilst improving athletic and mental performance,

Dong Quai/Chinese Angelica Root: The ultimate femme tonic, invaluable for strengthening the blood, nourishing the reproductive organs, regulating menstruation, and alleviating period pain.

Shan Yao/Chinese Wild Yam: A lovely anti-inflammatory that tonifies qi, nourishes yin, and strengthens the spleen, lungs, and kidneys, particularly puissant after a long-term illness.

A sprinkling of Shan Zhu Yu/Dogwood Fruit: An excellent astringent herb and reproductive tonic that strengthens the liver and kidneys, while securing leakage of vital essence.

6 or so strands of dried Dong Chong Xia Cao/Cordyceps Mushroom: My most favorite herb in the Chinese pharmacopeia, Cordyceps is hailed on the street as the Himalayan Viagra for its revered ability to increase stamina, sex drive, virility, strength, brainpower, athletic prowess & focus. It’s a favorite of Chinese Olympians, so you know it’s gooch.

HOW TO

1. Break your precious bones up into smaller pieces (ideally about 3 inches long), with kitchen scissors or a fun weapon (living with a ninja has infinite perks). This will increase the surface area of bone exposed to the water, giving you a higher nutrient yield.

2. If using beef bones, you’ll want to roast your bones until browned at 400 degrees F for roughly 60-90 minutes to add richness.

3. Place the bones in your stockpot or crockpot, along with your vegetables, scraps, peppercorns, and Chinese herbs. Cover with cold water, adding a few fingers for good measure. Add your splash of vinegar and cover with a lid.

4. Slowly bring your stock to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer gently for 6-48 hours (yes, I know 48 hours is a very daunting commitment in our breakneck world). I love to use a crockpot, because you can just pile all your business in, turn on high until boiling, reduce to low, and then promptly forget about it whilst retiring to your bedchamber for the evening. It’s so egalitarian, I can hardly stand it. If using a stockpot, you can use the following guidelines (and your own pending commitments) to gauge cooking time: 6-48 hours for chicken bones, and 12-72 hours for beef and other meats.

5. Give your bone broth the occasional shout-out during simmering, checking to see that there is always a fair amount of water covering your accoutrements.

6. At some point, you will inevitably notice a thick, insalubrious scum rising to the top of your broth. Many folks will trick you into thinking you MUST skim this off routinely, to clarify the product and make a finer tasting brew. To this I say, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” The whole skimming off the top thing is sadly overrated, as testing has shown that this “scum”, while unsightly, contains nothing harmful. If you wanna be fancy, go right ahead. Otherwise, fret not!

7. When you’re ready to call it quits, remove your bones with a slotted spoon, discard, and strain the rest through a colander into a large bowl. If you’re feeling spry, you can strain again through a sieve or cheesecloth to achieve an extra-fancy, clear broth. Chill your luscious potion of collagen and gelatin in the fridge, until the fat congeals and rises to the top. If you want a liquid broth for cooking purposes, you can skim the fat off and store the remaining liquid in the fridge for roundabout a week’s time. However, if you want your broth to drink like a rich toddy of hot buttered rum, I say leave the fat on (we do), and enjoy your broth like molten velvet bone mojo. Enjoy in radiant heath, golden ones!

Drinkable Skin Care: Mung Bean Milk

Mung Bean Milk

Have you found yourself a hotsy totsy mess these dog days of endless summer, perched upon a porch whilst fanning yourself feverishly like a woebegone Southern Belle, misplaced teen angst smoldering across your face in blazing embers of pimply muck & mire?! Perhaps you feel that the wistfully winsome 1990’s renaissance happening with your footwear & Spotify playlist should stop short of a nostalgic bout of adult acne. For those kindred spirits that find themselves a sticky heap of hot & bothered ire in this oppressive swelter, here’s a quick and easy food cure to clean up your complexion, soothe the Mean Reds, and clear toxic heat from the body.

Ruled by Yang and the element Earth, late summer is marked by the union offire and damp, the sweltry dynamics of the two alembics stewing like sultry prunes in the cauldron of Earth’s atmosphere. As above so below, our ‘body cauldron’ mirrors the dank doldrums of our soggy terrain, and if our inner equilibrium is thwarted, we will internalize the pathological essence of our environment. Hot and humid climates force our pores open, weakening the body’s defensive Qi and depleting our internal Yin, making us vulnerable to pernicious pathogens. Excess heat and damp can act like a vector for disease to root in the body, and we are left with a coterie of flu-like symptoms ranging from restlessness, hot flashes, headaches, copious sweating, nausea, sluggishness, vomiting, dry mouth and throat, profuse thirst, constipation or diarrhea, muscle aches, sore joints, turbid discharge, skin eruptions, dizziness, palpitations, and fatigue.

Mung Beans, humble verdigris pellets of puissance, have been used by the Chinese for ages to battle summer heat and damp heat conditions. They reduce pathological heat lodged in the body, and dissolve accumulated toxins, leaving us with a lustrous, clear complexion. Skin care from the inside out, Mung Beans address the internal environment that engenders breakouts, gently coaxing the body to a state of balanced bravado. Li Shizhen, the Grandpappy of Chinese Herbalism, wrote of them in his cherished herbal materia medica Ben Cao Gang Mu, proclaiming that “Mung Beans are highly recommended not only as a rich source of nutrients, but also as medication.“

Whether plaguing the skin in a pestilence of pimples & purulent eruptions, or cursing the innards with turbid discharge from the respiratory, genitourinary, or digestive system, damp heat is a lingering, loathsome pest. However, with a daily dose of the right food medicine, dynamic equilibrium is maintained within the body cauldron, letting the body heal itself. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing, and Long Life has a slew of inspired recipes featuring the cooling mojo of Mung Beans. However, my favorite is a simple, egalitarian milk made from the boiled beans, drunk daily as a skin tonic.

MUNG BEAN MILK INGREDIENTS

2 Handfuls of Dried Mung Beans/Lu Dou
4 Cups of Purified Water

Mung Beans

METHOD

Rinse your Mung Beans in a jacuzzi, holy well, or kitchen sink, removing any grit & grizzle. Boil the beans in four cups of water for roughly three minutes, remove from heat, and cover with a snug-fitting lid.  Let the beans stew for thirty minutes, strain, and chill your brew in a sacred vessel in the ice box until needed. Repeat the whole rigamarole once over with fresh water, to milk the most mojo from your batch of beans.

To clear up break-outs, drink one cup of milk daily for DIY skin care. Also suitable for porch-sippin’ like a Whiskey Cordial during Indian Summer in the City, for those days when all around, people looking half dead, walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head!

Soup Cure: Four Deities Soup

Preventative medicine in a porcelain pot, Si Shen Tang 四神汤, ‘Four Deities Soup’, is an old school tonic remedy for all matter of melee thwarting zest & zing. I have been all sorts of obsessed with this soup since introduced to it by my Chinese Nutrition teacher, who’s hot-blooded zeal for food as medicine is unparalleled. Slurp by slurp, I noticed near immediate relief from digestive doldrums, and felt palpable rays of puissance wash over my seriously taxed bag o’ bones. This gentle soup can be utilized in a myriad of ways, from strengthening the digestive system, increasing appetite after illness or chemotherapy, battling fatigue, boosting the immunity, and calming a jostled nervous system. Because it’s taste is placid & mild, Si Shen Tang is the perfect source of nutrition for finicky kids with digestive distress. Though I find juice fasts to be haughty, ill-informed, & positively superfluous (life is entirely too vivacious to camp out on top of a Vitamix for weeks on end, eschewing commitments, kettlebells, and spontaneity), I CAN get down with a soup detox, which grounds, nourishes, and warms the body. Where juice lacks fiber & protein, shuts down the thyroid, dampens the digestive system, and contributes to wild fluctuations in blood sugar, tonic soups are PERFECT for a midsummer cleanse. They will sustain and simplify, supporting your organ systems without dampening and depleting your inner fire.
Soup cures are this bruja’s medicine of choice, nonpareil. Though you must be proactive, prudent, and vigilant in your preemptive preparation, using soup as medicine is an infinitely rewarding and deliciously empowering alternative to medication and surly interludes at urgent care. A dash of fastidiousness in the kitchen goes a long way in the gallant fight against acute ailments, chronic fatigue, and recovery from illness, by maintaining a buoyant & valorous flow of qi throughout the body.

INGREDIENTS

Though their pedigree may seem glamorously avant garde, Chinese herbs are a hoary banality, and customary staple in most Asian pantries for both healing and grubbing. All of the herbs below can be easily procured in your local Chinatown apothecary, should you have a local Chinatown apothecary. If Los Angeles happens to be your halcyon homestead, hustle on over to Tin Bo or Wing Hop Fung for a crash course in Chinese herbalism, and a fanciful frolic amongst shelves of dried fish maw, beetle skeletons, powdered horns, seahorses, and musty mystical mushrooms. Fresh fare- such as Sake and Chinese Yam- will be readily available at any Asian market, where you can also try your luck at finding rogue Chinese herbs to flesh out your budding collection.

1 Cup Job’s Tears Barley/Yi Yi Ren

Yi Yi Ren

A gluten-free barley (be still my heart!) that adds burly nourishment to even the most tedious soups, stews, and brews, Yi Yi Ren is a gloriously gratifying grain. Excellent for eliminating dampness, heat, and toxicity, it goes to the spleen, stomach, and lungs, aiding in digestive troubles, swelling, fatigue, urinary difficulty, abscesses, and joint pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Yi Yi Ren is being used intravenously in China to shrink cancer cells, and has been exhibiting hefty anti-tumoral powers. It is, unfortunately, not suitable for pregnant women, though it’s wondrous in soups for conjuring postpartum joie de vivre.

1 Cup Lotus Seed/Lian Zi

Lian Zi Lotus Seed

A dapper bedfellow to Yi Yi Ren, Lian Zi is a meaty lil’ seed that nourishes the heart, spleen, kidneys, and vital essence. Another darling of the pantry, Lotus Seed is mild enough to beef up any feastly fête, excellent for cases of chronic diarrhea, urinary and reproductive disorders, low appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations.

1 Cup Fox Nut/Qian Shi

Fox Nut Qian Shi

Completing the trifecta of tonics, Qian Shi gently supports the spleen and kidneys, for frequent urination, diarrhea, diabetes, chronic discharge, and sore low back from stress and over-taxation.

A Few Pieces of Fu Shen/Spirit Poria Mushroom, Broken Up

Fu Ling Spirit Poria Mushroom

One of the most poetic medicinal mushrooms of the Chinese canon, Fu Shen is both a mushroom AND a morsel of host wood from the pine tree upon which she feasts. Thus she contains the rootsy, arboreal energetics of the tree, and the otherworldly, decaying detritus of the fungus. Spirit Poria nourishes the heart spirit, and the ancient Taoists believed that consuming this famed fungi 'leads to a long and happy life.’ It is used by those wishing to overcome anxiety, palpitations due to heart deficiency, insomnia, poor memory, worry, fear, edema, and urinary difficulties.

1 Raw Chinese Yam/Shan Yao, Grated and Sliced

Chinese Yam

Another boon for boosting spleen and stomach qi, Shan Yao is excellent for diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Also admirable for tonifying lung and kidney qi, it is an delightful herb for diabetics and those with chronic cough and wheezing.

3 Cups Sake or Mirin 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice wine invigorates and warms the channels of the body, quickening the flow of qi and enhancing the potency of herbs.

3 Liters Purified Water or Homemade Bone Broth

Should you be hoarding any homemade Botanarchy Bone Broth, this would add luscious flair to your brew. If water seems entirely too ho-hum for your tastes (which it won’t be, I promise), you can find my broth recipe here. I recommend a lighter broth, such as chicken, tempered with purified water.

A Heavy-Handed Sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Oil and Sea Salt, To Taste

Optional: Chicken or Pork

METHOD

First, sanctify your herbal assemblage by bathing it in water, and grate the scrappy skin off your Chinese Yam before slicing. Once your herbs have been happily hallowed, grab yourself a hefty stock pot, and throw in the Job’s Tears, Lotus Seed, Fox Nut, and Fu Shen with wild abandon. Cover with a liter of purified water, boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer with lid on for about 2 hours, until your herbs have sweetly softened. Pop on over about two shakes of a lamb’s tail short of two hours, and add the Sake and Chinese Yam. Once the yam is soft, season to taste with Sesame Oil and Sea Salt. Enjoy in robust health, surreptitiously slurping your bowl of medicine daily, until you have thoroughly coaxed your mojo back to life and hoisted the heebie jeebies right outta dodge.

The Tao of Tincture: Shou Wu Chih Longevity Tonic

Shou Wu Chih

“The root of the 50-year-old plant is called “mountain slave:” taken for a year, it will preserve the black color of the hair. The root of the 100-year-old plant is called “mountain brother:” taken for a year, it will bring a glowing complexion and a cheerful disposition. The root of the 150-year-old plant is called “mountain uncle:” taken for a year, it will rejuvenate the teeth. The root of the 200-year-old plant is called “mountain father:” taken for a year it will banish old age and give the power to run like a deer. The root of the 300-year-old plant is called “mountain spirit:” taken for a year, one becomes an earthly immortal”

- Li Shizhen’s famous Materia Medica of 1578, Bencao Gang Mu

Shou Wu Chih is the classic longevity tonic of Chinatown apothecaries, a murky, amber elixir sitting soddenly on dusty old shelves, winking at ya coyly with esoteric splendor.  Anchored by the magnanimous moxie of He Shou Wu (Chinese Fleeceflower Root), it finesses one’s savoir-faire by nourishing the blood and essence, warming the stomach, boosting the spleen and strengthening the tendons and bones. One could use this medicinally for anemia, poor digestion, arthritic aches & pains, sexual joie de vivre, and increasing sperm count. One could also knock a few back before meals as an aromatic aperitif.

There’s a fabulously gallant fable culled from the annals of Chinese esoterica that immortalizes the braggadocio of He Shou Wu. Its history dates back to 800 AD, and it has still remained a colloquial anecdote in both Chinese households and herbal circles.

Old Mr. He was an impotent curmudgeon (I’ve always thought of him as a grizzled Chinese Kris Kristofferson), a dastardly drunk who honky-tonked all night and slept alone under the stars. One portentous Sunday-morning-coming-down, he found himself nursing a Haggard-sized hangover in the fields, staring up at a bodacious vine twisting and twining itself into the cursed heavens. Its bedeviled root reminded Mr. He of two lovers intertwined, and sensing a message from Lady Nature, he decided he would grind the root into a powder so that he could sustain himself while he rotted in the woods. Within months, Mr. He had a raging libido and the vim & vinegar of a teenager. Within a year, his snow-white hair turned back to pitch-black, earning He Shou Wu its name: ‘Mr. He’s Black Hair.’

Shou Wu Chih

Raw herbs for Shou Wu Chih can be procured at your local Chinatown Apothecary – I love the chaotic sprawl and epic tea selection at Wing Hop Fung in downtown Los Angeles. If you prefer to peruse the ether, you’d be much obliged to check out Spring Wind DispensaryFat Turtle HerbsNuHerbs and Mayway.

For this tincture, you will need the following accoutrements:

He Shou Wu/Fleeceflower (Rx. Polygoni Multiflori) 50 g
Dang Gui (Rx. Angelicae Sinensis) 50 g
Huang Jing (Rhz. Polygonati) 40 g
Sheng Di Huang (Rx. Rehmanniae) 20 g
Chuan Xiong (Rhz. Chuanxiong) 15 g
Bai Zhi (Rx. Angelicae Dahurica) 14 g
Sha Ren/Cardamom Pods (Fr. Amomi) 4 g
Fo Shou (Fr. Citri Sacrodactyli) 5 g
Ding Xiang/Cloves (Fl. Caryophylli) 2 g

1 Liter Prairie Organic Vodka

1 gallon glass jar, for infusing your medicinals

Muddle your medicinals with your vodka in a sterilized glass vessel with a secure lid. Age for at least one month in a deliciously dingy crevasse of your liking. Take one shot of this affable alembic daily, or mix with warm water, freshly squeezed lemon and raw honey for a Taoist Toddy.

Dia De Los Muertos Cordyceps Congee

Goji, Chinese Dates, Cordyceps, Ginger

Goji, Chinese Dates, Cordyceps, Ginger

Mushrooms are biology’s continuum between birth and decay, teetering presumptuously on the precipice between life and death, one foot always in the grave. Ushering one poor soul across the River Styx while sowing the seeds for another sap’s claim on some prime terrestrial real estate, fungi are the entire life cycle manifest. In the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, I celebrate the shapeshifting shenanigans of the mushroom with a savory Cordyceps soup, based on a medicinal congee recipe from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Cordyceps is a gloriously macabre mélange of science fiction & Greek myth. Its delicately deceitful spores coyly infect its arthropod prey, killing them softly and re-animating itself within their corpse. When the fungus parasitizes the larva, its mycelia spread through the larva’s body, hijacking its nutrients and sapping all of its succulent Qi. The Cordyceps then springs forth from the larvae’s head, birthed from the brains of its prey like Athena erupting from the head of her father Zeus (oh, the poetry of it all!).

“Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed, with a shout— and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war!”

“Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed, with a shout— and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war!”

All guts, glory and folklore aside, these lil’ fungi are truly mythical in scope. Is it really a coincidence that the Cordyceps mushroom - hailed on the street as the Himalayan Viagra- is revered for its ability to increase stamina, sex drive, virility, strength, brainpower, athletic prowess & focus?  If you’d like to harness the power of the Huntress Athena, boot-up for an all-night Bacchanal, or carouse with the saints of caterpillars past, here’s a recipe for medicinal Cordyceps congee.

For one serving you will need the following accoutrements. Adjust amounts for serving sizes as needed. Cordyceps can stimulate testosterone production, so you don’t want to exceed 2-3 strands a day (I’ve been told by a fellow herbalist that Cordyceps in excess can make you feel all hotsy totsy):

2-3 organic chicken thighs, parbroiled for 2 minutes and cut into pieces

2-3 strands of dried Cordyceps Sinensis (Dong Chong Xia Cao)

I am epically stoked to dig into the bag of Munchable Cordyceps that I procured at Dragon Herbs. You could just as well pick up a few ounces of these at your local Chinatown apothecary. I have been assured that these lil’ guys are the real McCoy, bona fide fungi foraged from caterpillar craniums, nourished in the rustic bosom of Lady Nature (not cultivated in a humdrum lab). No disrespect - many fine mushies are farmed vs. foraged, and I consume them with gabs of gusto on a regular basis. Just let it be known that the wilder the berry, the wiser the Qi.

6 Red Jujube Dates (Hong Zao), rinsed

I love buying these ‘Chinese apples’ at the Hollywood farmer’s market from the sweet ole chap that encloses his hand-written tea recipe with every bag. You can buy them fresh in late summer, dry what you don’t eat, and plop these little ruffians in teas, oatmeal and broth all winter. In addition to being a great harmonizer that mellows the harsh properties of other herbs, it also provides excellent energy and is a powerful Qi tonic, replenishing spleen & stomach Qi, nourishing blood, and soothing the woes of the mind.

A handful of Goji Berries (Gou Qi Zhi)

Goji is the de rigueur antioxidant of the hipsterati elite, but please don’t let that deter you from hopping on its proverbial bandwagon. It is one of the premier anti-aging herbs of ancient Asian herbalism, and is believed to tonify the entire system against disease, improve vision (both literally and metaphorically), and provide the energy to overcome the most difficult of obstacles.

1 nice & thick knuckle of ginger

4 1/2 cups of chicken broth

Place your chicken & medicinals in a large stock pot, covering with stock. Put a lid on it and simmer for 1½ hours. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle some sea salt, and drink to your newfound pomp & circumstance!

Reishi Bears

Botanarchy Test Kitchen

Botanarchy Test Kitchen

Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Bears, oh my!

These lil’ grizzlies are choc full o’ qi-tonifying, jing-boosting goodness. Handmade with love and chocolate-stained fingers in the Botanarchy kitchen with raw cacao, coconut palm sugar, Balinese vanilla beans, sea salt and a smattering of potent tonic mushrooms- Reishi, Shitake, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake and Fu Ling. Hubba hubba! This is my secret formula based on sacred longevity tonics of yore.

Medicinal mushrooms have a bona fide arsenal of legend and lore surrounding them, inspiring tales of immortality, thousand-year-old Taoist sages, ancient Emperors combing remote forests and spiritual seekers attaining enlightenment at their behest. Referred to as ‘the food of the Gods’ by the Romans, 'a gift from Osiris’ by the ancient Egyptians, and 'the elixir of life’ by the Chinese, they are a pan-cultural panacea of epic proportions. The ravishing red Reishi mushroom in all its waxy crimson glory has the esteemed honor of being the most researched herb in history (!!!), and has been one of the most sought-after substances known to man. She’s a rare and elusive bird that grows on hardwood trunks & roots in wily remote forests (a true mountain hermit if there ever was one), inspiring clandestine mushroom-foraging expeditions the world over. 

Without waxing poetic on these waxy bulbs for pages, I will simply say that these adaptogenic fungi possess an innate intelligence that re-calibrates the body, bringing balance and urging forth our latent potentials. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tonic mushrooms have the unique ability to preserve the body’s three treasures: Jing, Qi and Shen. Jing stokes your primal power, and replenishes energy spent handling stressful situations & livin’ La Vida Loca. Qi improves your resistance to disease, and recent studies have proven that tonic mushrooms are nature’s most powerful known anti-oxidant, packing major blood-cleansing, anti-aging, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer heat. Shen is the energy of the heart, and on the allopathic plane these fastidious fungi function as a cardiac and brain tonic, sharpening concentration & focus, helping calm the mind, taming anxiety, strengthening the nerves and improving memory. On a more profound plane, Shen tonics are the elixirs of Spirit, uplifting and unearthing the heart’s true potential, asking what the seeds of your soul wish to manifest, feeding them with their rich & ruddy sod, and spreading the seeds of your consciousness in all directions. As my main squeeze Terence McKenna would say, the mushroom wants you to evolve!