Welcome to the Botanarchy Newsletter: We’ve Moved! edition. Yep, the rumors are true - we’ve risen like the Sun Gods of yore and reincarnated two shake’s of a lamb’s tail down the road in Larchmont Village. Botanarchy grew too big for the pot, and its roots needed to ramble, stretch, dig, and deepen. The new AcuTemple has two treatment rooms (which means more available appointments), and workshop space for plant salons, mushroom meditations, inspired debauchery, and elevated witchery. We are waist-deep in Wood Season, after all! Time to be brash, leap forward, stretch out our limbs, and kick it root down (as they say).
This space was finessed, like all great things, through blood, guts, and friendship. My husband Gabriel made or restored every single piece of wood furniture (and he wove the caned rocking chair himself), my friends at Kamp Studios plastered the walls by hand like old school Venetian artisans, my BFF hooked me up with his set design crew to build out the temple, m’lady Katherine Waronker cast the chicest design spells, the gallery wall was hung by the hands of an oldest friend, the signs were painted by hand by the resplendent @mollmolsmagickglass, and my mom posed as general contractor from her post in the heavens (she lived to finesse a DIY and savored a homespun renovation).
As I sit inside of a cosmic temple that we wrested from a fluorescent-lit box, I think a lot about space as altar. Who is this space dedicated to? What kind of magic are you weaving? What tools do you need to carry forth your will? How clear is your statement of intent? Are you willing to get rid of everything that does not uphold your vision?
My mission has always been to make medicine sacred and accessible, to offer a communion with your body in an approachable environment that doesn’t skimp on magic. Setting up the AcuTemple up as a place for worship has make me think about the macro and the micro, how form dictates function in the body temple and beyond. For a time this Spring, my entire office disappeared off the map and existed only in the back of a Subaru. I knew when I built it back up that a lot of those objects wouldn’t return, vestigial digits that I long ago evolved out of. Through this whole process, I returned time and time again to a piece from Kuksu: Journal Of Backcountry Writing that I first read this Christmas whilst curled up in a tiny handmade treehouse in the redwoods:
In the spirit of the moment, this newsletter will be about space as altar, body as temple. It will be guided by the seasonal graces of Emergence, Renewal, Birth, and Growth.
A message from the Wood Element:
Align with your path and go boldly forward via the cosmic map of your visions & dreams. Be assertive, wield your wand, push and strive in the ways you know best.
In health and solidarity,
By Carolyn Barron
As a Public Servant To Shadow, I tend to under-inflate the importance of happiness and focus on Poet’s Work like finding peace in discord and discomfort. But it’s Spring, the nectar is a’flowing, I’m all hopped up on dank tinctures and I want to flirt with the elusive and ungraspable.
So in the name of SCIENCE and MAGIC, I did a little research project for a hot plant called Albizia Julibrissin. I asked the Botanarchy community: What is happiness? How do you define it? How do you tend to it? When was the last time you felt it? Is happiness following a steadfast script of supplements and yoga prostrations? Or, like the tao, is it more protean, changing, evolving, spontaneous? Here’s what you had to tell me about this saucy little minx we all know and love:
“Happiness is freedom and being in the garden.”
“Happiness is riding a bicycle at top speed in a sleepy beach town.”
“Happiness is the adventure with myself… the expanded, the silly, the unknown, the thrill.”
“Happiness is contentment. Not wanting, not striving, just being there one breath at a time and fully present for it all.”
“For Tibetan Buddhists, it comes from the sanskrit word sukha. In Tibetan བདེ་བ “that feeling which, when it stops, one wishes to meet with it again.”
“Happiness is sitting and petting my cat in the hot sun while I take a break from working in my own small garden. Animals bring out unconditional love and joy for me on a regular basis.”
“Happiness is fulfillment, peace, supported, connected/interconnected, transcendent, enamored.”
“Happiness is connection and value.”
“It’s been a dream of mine to explore slot canyons so I took a trip to Utah and did it. Visually it looks like walking into a vagina, and it felt like a spiritual experience, otherworldly, and I was elated.”
“Happiness is gratitude. I think a key component of those poetic, revelatory moments of pure happiness is being overcome with gratitude for life, self, surroundings, others.”
“A few weeks ago, I was real pandemic cranky with my house. Everything was too tiny, too messy, too old, too ugly, too falling apart and dirty. I was thinking we needed new kitchen cabinets, a new kitchen, an addition, a new house, something to take the pressure off our shambling abode. And then I was nursing (my son) at bedtime, and could see a sliver of hall and the kitchen from where I was sitting. The light was hitting my shitty kitchen cupboards and my overflowing sink, and I was hit with the body-thought that this is what happiness is. Not to be treacly, but I had my kid in my arms. I could hear my older son laughing in the kitchen where my partner was cooking dinner. We were all here. We were healthy. I wasn't anywhere near the despair I've been in other times. There was ease in the moment. And that moment was complete with shitty cupboards. Happiness is outdated and falling apart kitchen cupboards.”
In the Taoist tradition, disease is defined as that which goes against the breath of Nature. Call me an AnarchaTaoist (to my face, I’ll smile), but my experience of happiness is the flipside of this, flowing spontaneously with the breath of nature. There’s a type of happiness beyond the culturally-mandated pursuit of making money/getting turnt that those of you who shared your experiences spoke to, one that serves as a barometer of connection to source and others. This flavor of happiness hearkens to the expression of tao as it unfolds in each individual’s life, and how that is embedded in the web of life and elemental world-at-large. Happiness speaks to EASE! And there just so happens to be a plant for this pursuit & query, and her name is Albizia Julibrissin.
In Chinese, Albizia is called He Huan Pi, which translates to “collective happiness bark.” I love the monicker ‘collective happiness’… it acknowledges the place of individual responsibility within the collective that sustained happiness requires, and how happiness is enmeshed in an ecosystem of dependence and interpenetration. FOR ONE, FOR ALL. Albizia makes a firm stand that collective happiness occurs when we all fall into sync with our tao, the path that flows and unfolds in sync with nature’s mandate (and the sun, moon, stars). When everyone does the right dance moves decided upon by the intelligent rhythm of nature, then an elegant choreography emerges, ease takes precedence, and health & happiness reign for all. And Albizia does this on a cellular level. She’s referred to as Nature’s Prozac, after all.
Used in my clinic for anxiety, insomnia, depression, heartbreak, grief, and loss, Albizia is a spirit tonic for our time. Just have a look at her… enticing, flirtatious, playful, silky, and statuesque, she reminds us of the power of beauty to calm and soothe. Her silk blossoms look like fireworks exploding with a mirthful bang, her full florescence coming soon as summer crowns (there’s a hot little number on San Rafael Ave in Mount Washington if you want to go have a gander). Albizia is classified as a ‘spirit calming herb’ in East Asian Medicine, one that goes to the heart and liver, reminding us that the inner pivot of happiness results from spirit (heart) keeping us in flow (liver). We use both the bark and the flowers, who make like a Yin/Yang pair and highlight the medicine of balance: the bark is thought to anchor the spirit, while the flowers lighten it. The herbal ally to the AcuPoint Gate Of Hope (see below y'all), Albizia truly shines in abating irritability and anger due to constrained emotions, and research shows she enhances neurotransmitter secretion & regulation in all ways, shapes, forms.
To welcome collective happiness into your weary body temple, I recommend taking her daily as a tincture for at least a month’s time. I used to carry Dragon Herbs’ Albizia Drops, but I’ve always been plagued by this nattering suspicion that Ron Teeguarden is one Deer Antler Tonic away from getting me too’d, and even though I have zero evidence of this, his creephood is ubiquitous and there is suuuuuuuch a vibe amongst his employees that I simply cannot stock their products anymore (prove me wrong?). I’ve since fallen in love with Tiana Griego’s Albizia Drops (and really, her everything), as well as Planetary Herbals Albizia Calm. Albizia’s side hustle is an herbal anti-histamine, and if I am using her to treat both the spirit and the body, I prescribe Standard Process’ Albizia Complex, which adds Skullcap and Feverfew to the mix for more respiratory support (this one is available in the Botanarchy Apothecary). Suitable for most constitutions (though avoid in pregnancy), there is nothing cavalier about trying this herb under your own medical care. Start small, listen to your body, and bow down to the medicine of happiness as an act of love that we all benefit from.
By Carolyn Barron
Twist away the gates of steel
Unlock the secret voice
Give into ancient noise
Take a chance, a brand new dance
Twist away the gates of steel
Gate Of Hope's benediction is blessed renewal. We invoke her medicine for the courage to take a chance, a brand new dance, for hers is a hopeful strut. With a wave of her wand, she pries open the rusty gates of the diaphragm, purging stasis and stuckness, those somatic sweethearts of gloom and doom. Gate Of Hope is the very last point that qi flows through in the entire meridian system, where the qi cycle moves from deep within the interior to begin again at our very first acupoint, Lung 1 - Middle Palace. There’s a leap of faith the qi endures stepping through this gateway. It takes courage, swagger, and a bit of faith to break up with the gloomy depths and decide you will move upwards and outwards towards the light. This point carries with it the reminder that endings engender beginnings: Rip it up and start again.
Liver 14 - known as the underboob on the streets - is located directly below the nipple in the 6th intercostal space. To find this point, slide a finger downwards from your nipple until it falls into the tiny divot where hope springs eternal, right betwixt your riblettes. If you wear bras (which I don’t, because bondage), this is typically where the bra line rests. If your nipples stare in two different directions which nipples are want to do, imagine them staring straight ahead, and plot your line from there. No need to be dainty or precise, you will certainly know when you’re in the right spot, because fuck it HURTS. No one ever massages the space in betwixt your ribs, and we are all the worse for it.
When the qi becomes blocked here, you might sigh frequently or be prone to hiccoughs or a knot in your throat. You might yawn a lot, and not just because you have sexy ennui. There may be pain and fullness in the diaphragm, palpitations or gas bubbles harassing your chest, frustration, rage, PMS, and digestive woes like nausea, reflux, burping, and IBS. On a psycho-emotional level, if the gate here is shut the liver looses its swagger and sense of direction, and can’t ramble, reform, implement and envision. Trauma narrows our perception so we feel like a butterfly pinned to a display, resigned to feeling like we are fixed in one place permanently and there’s no way forward. This, my dudes, is the pathogenesis of depression. All that stagnation suppresses the motive force of hope, locking our motivation and aliveness behind gates of steel.
Opening Liver 14 has a brazen, stepping out kinda energy, the confident emergence into the unknown. This is where the woody boughs of liver qi rise up to meet the qi of the lungs and heart with a strong salute. BREATH = INSPIRATION. The ability to expand and contract in divine timing. Hope is nature gradually coming back to life, pessimism dissolving in cadence with a bourgeoning jacaranda bough. Things may have become rusted shut, cosmically cock-blocking our plans and thwarting our optimism, but there is a way forward and the soma can lead the psyche there hand-in-hand. If we embody the strength and flexibility of the Wood element in balance and cast open the garden gates like a discarded corset, anything is truly possible.
Are you ready to meet the world with unabashed ardor? I certainly am not (gonna stay a buried seed until they yank me outta the ground). But you, YOU, MY STARRY EYED FRIEND, might be feeling the feels of flight and fancy. This is a spell to open the Gate of Hope, and cast off the cosmic corset bracket by bracket. Undress for your lover, THE WORLD. She is ready to receive you.
The Botanarchy Coven is comprised of gnostic naturalists both living and deceased who shepherd the spirit of Botanarchy. This is a treasure box of discoveries and cultural ephemera culled from excavations of inner and outer worlds.
The chlorophyll-laden mead of inspiration springs forth from Green-House’s beak, coaxing visions of cloverleaf & clubmoss darting across the living room floor. Their Music For Living Spaces dropped this month, and it’s a paean to plants and those who carry their green banner. “Designed as a communication with both plant life and the people who care for them,” they craft soundscapes for the botany set, with titles like “Top Soil” “Nocturnal Bloom,” and “Sunflower Dance” that tangle leaf and limb together in a symbiotic ouroboros of mutual aid. Soothing whilst simultaneously not succumbing to sappy spa jamz, it’s the after-hours playlist at Botanarchy AcuTemple, for when I get down with my Pothos and party like an autotrophic angiosperm.
You can hear the Giant Colocasias bending to the beat, and the Daffodil petals unfurling with a flutter. There’s a freakbeat for the Freesias and birdsounds for the Icelandic bird shaman ancestors who require sonic tithing (praise you). These ecosensual jams make me feel like a drunk honeybee high on the perfume of Nefertum romping in a boudoir of budding lotus blossoms. I want to touch plants (with their consent)! I want to tipple with the tracheophytes! I want to exchange cryptocurrency through cell walls! I want to plant a big kiss on the Jasmine boughs asserting themselves through the AcuTemple window. Green-House is a non-binary artist who’s music defies categorization, reminding me that Nature is queer, hearkening to a favorite quote from Evolution’s Rainbow that spouses “organisms flow across the bounds of any category we construct.” Most plants are intersex (hello, roses, petunias, lillies and hibiscus, I SEE YOU self-pollinating hermaphroditic alchemists!). “Nature offers a smorgasbord of possibilities for how to live!” sighs Evolution’s Rainbow yet again, and whether you’re a houseplant or a wild lettuce, this swathe of sonic seduction is here for you.
I first learned about William’s Padilla-Brown’s work whilst in the throes of my perpetual love affair with the zombie fungus Cordyceps, my #1 YouTube search query for 5 years running. A shepherd of its obscure parasitic poetry, he has been working intimately with Cordyceps Militaris for years, and is the first person I’ve ever found that is teaching the public about cultivating Cordyceps in the English language. Here I thought that I needed an oak, a hemlock, and an enchanted moth in order to grow these guys, but NAW DUDE, that stuff is for the forest, you can breed Cordyceps in your basement like rare show dogs for pennies on the dollar! Case in point: his company MycoSymbiotics has a Cordyceps Cultivation Handbook that teaches you all the freaky deaky ins & outs, which I am excited to tackle despite all of my previous mushroom cultivation endeavors ending in a dung heap.
William is actively researching in multidisciplinary fields of science with a focus on Mycology, Phycology, Entomology, Bioremediation, Recycling Systems, Home-Scale Energy Production, Whole Systems Design, and more. The girth of his work is focused on learning how to cultivate novel mushroom species, and he does this with wonder, humor, panache, and utilitarian brawn. Like all the best folks, he has forged his own spiral path through the forest floor, an autodidact who transcends elitist academia to live the battle cry ‘bioremediation through decentralization!’ Beyond providing a perpetual spring of Cordyceps fan-girl fodder, William’s YouTube channel Apex Grower is my favorite thing on the internet. It’s like Julia Child for low tek mycophiles who get hot for citizen science and regenerative farming. He has a Cordyceps playlist! A home laboratory! A ‘HOW TO GROW MYCELIUM ON POPSICLE STICKS’ tutorial vid! Peep his super fly mushroom grow-rooms! Just basically marvel at someone living their tao with ardent gusto, and the whole world being better for it.
It’s a cordyceps cake! C U T E !
Reader queries into the mystic wilds of the body can be submitted to email@example.com. Time permits but one answer a month at this juncture.
Earlier this month, the Botanarchy passenger pigeons dropped this photoelectronic scroll into my inbox:
Nature is a mercurial minx, and we should all respond accordingly to her queenly demands for waxing and waning. Nothing like a giant, cyclical ball of gas to remind us of the power of periodicity and the verisimilitude of variation. How the five elements interact within her reflects the interconnectedness and symbiotic flow of energy as it flows through the universe, showing us how nature transforms itself over and over again, be it within the macrocosm of the Earth or the microcosm of the body. ‘As above so below’, declares the sacred maxim of alchemy, reminding us that the cycles of birth, death, regeneration, and renewal follow a particular cadence that unfolds itself across the entirety of creation season-by-season. Which is to say… nothing lasts forever, and same goes for my herbal regimen.
Spring kicks up the dust literally and metaphorically, reminding us for better or worse that the world is full of spirited motion and fickle flights of fancy. It’s 99 degrees with a windchill factor of -72°! I want to stay inside forever ignoring the world whilst Ghosteen turns relentlessly on the record player, I WANT TO MAKE OUT IN THE PARK WITH 56 OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS & LOVERS! It’s no surprise that in the five element tradition, Spring is the season with the most movement, more yang than Summer with its quicksilver quickening. It’s sprightly, pioneering, bumbling, and full of paradox, and if you can’t vibe with this dance you’ll be left feeling irritable, impatient, and easily frustrated.
These are the herbs I have on rotation in the Botanarchy homestead for all the Spring feels, plant kin that soothe the season and smooth out its capricious curves:
SPRING FEEL: Cleansing, Rejuvenation, Renewal
HERB KIN: Milk Thistle!
I recently stopped drinking (and then started again). Periodicity, bro! In that nether region betwixt ‘imbibing’ and ‘not imbibing’, I did the liver a favor and knocked back a few shots of Milk Thistle on the daily. Liver energy is at its peak in Spring, and the energy of the liver is to keep things moving freely and sprightly, detoxifying that which doesn’t serve, coursing the flow of qi and the flow of our lives via the blueprint of our unconscious minds. Milk Thistle gently supports the detoxification pathways of the liver, like an enchanted broom that sweeps away the accumulations of Winter by increasing the secretion & flow of bile. SWIFT EFFICIENCY be thy name! This prickly daisy truly lives up to its colloquial appellation ‘holy thistle’, supporting the virtues of renewal and radiance like the blessed virgin herself, making me feel less cranky which is truly a holy endeavor.
SPRING FEEL: Planning
MUSHROOM KIN: Lion’s Mane!
Our embodied Wood element craves vision, plans, direction, and a gentle nudge showing where to grow. I have had no less than three tête-à-têtes this past month involving lists & conjurings, communions that tramp into the unknown and back again with those rare and beautiful 6 hour conversations that birth new realities. It takes an epic amount of qi to stretch, grow, and ramble in worlds both psychical and corporeal, and at the end of most days my brain feels like a Maple Tree in mid-February, aka ALL TAPPED OUT. I think too much in Spring, and you might too. Spring has a kind of pressure to it - feels like IF I DON’T USE THIS LIFE FORCE, I AM SQUANDERING A GIFT FROM THE UNIVERSE (it’s okay you guys, it comes back next year). But if you’re really into just going for it, I’ve been using Lion’s Mane Mushroom to help with focus and mental fatigue. Lion’s Mane may improve the development and function of nerves, particularly puissant for stimulating the growth of brain cells and protecting them from damage caused by free radicals & stress. STIMULATING GROWTH. See the symmetry? I gave Lion’s Mane center stage in my Muse Potion. Prescient, penetrating, and perceptive, this mushroom coaxes forth your inner muse, tickling the neurons with a radiant sparkle. If taken with quiet reverence, Lion’s Mane helps you access the realm of the collective and personal unconscious, giving breath to creative endeavors and helping you express yourself through your logical and intuitive minds.
SPRING FEEL: Allergies
HERB KIN: Albizia & Skullcap!
I recently asked a facialist what I should be doing to protect my skin from aging, and she answered “getting preventative Botox in your 20’s” (I’m 40). After mentally firing her, I remembered this is basically what I say to patients balls-deep in allergy season looking for help. “Allergy prevention begins in Winter!” Which is true, albeit harsh. For chronic sufferers, it’s important to build up resilience in the off season with herbs that strengthen wei qi like Astragalus, Schisandra, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Bai Zhu. Fret not though, it’s never too late! In Spring, I cycle in herbal antihistamines like Albizia & Skullcap because my eyes are so chronically red, I look like I am doing bong rips to Tibetan gongs in the bathroom between patients (relax, its just allergies you guys). Used for clearing excesses in the upper body, Skullcap prevents histamine release and helps runny noses, sinus headaches, skin problems, and respiratory infections, as well as heat-induced irritability for those of us kinda vexed about everything. Used with Albizia (scroll up!), I can usually get a handle on most of my seasonal woes within a few days of taking.
SPRING FEEL: Sunburns
HERB KIN: Astaxanthin!
On a recent picnic in Wattles Park, I was on a mission to cultivate cute freckles that looked like a field of poppies dancing across my face, so I eschewed sunscreen and a straw hat and went au naturel in what felt like a low-key amount of sun. Needless to say, I went from sultrily pale Nature Goth to Floridian Rock Lobster in under three hours, and was wincing at the feel of denim on my skin for most of the week. A tender intimation, dear reader: I don’t care how tan you got in Baja in 1993, one should be gently induced into Springtime sun like a groundhog gingerly poking his visage above ground on a February morning. After I slathered In Fiore’s Comfrey Solution across my burnished Celtic countenance, I popped a handful of Astaxanthin like there was no tomorrow, but if there was, I was going to arrive there tan. Full disclosure; Astaxanthin is not a plant, it’s an antioxidant carotenoid that comes from freshwater microalgae. An ‘internal sunscreen’ if there ever was such a thing, Astaxanthin reduces damage caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. You can use it prophylactically to strengthen your skin’s barrier system against UV rays, but it will reduce the inflammation from a bad burn if you only had the druthers to remember this after the fact. Astaxanthin can actually penetrate the skin cells and reduce UVA damage, is super-handy for redheads with a deathwish (aka me in lifeguard training in Junior High), and has a side gig slowing cancer growth, cardiovascular disease, age-related macular degeneration, and cataract formation.