In March of this year I began a six-month introductory course in herbal medicine taught by Candis Cantin. I met Candis in December 2012 at Reverie; it was our first weekend on the property and she came to welcome us to the land. Candis was dear friends with the late Phyllis Gernes (who “owned” the property before us); as it turns out Phyllis was one of Candis’s most treasured friends and mentors. Candis often tells stories about Phyllis during class. One of my favorites is the story of Phyllis sitting in her chair talking with Candis about the circle of wisdom…knowledge comes into our lives, we embody it and when we meet the right person we pass it on.
During our first class Candis introduced us to the 6 tastes of the Ayurvedic tradition, and said that if we can learn to recognize these tastes, and understand their properties and actions, then we can know how an herb or plant will act in the body by tasting it. Our homework was to pick a few herbs and taste them…the visceral experience invites the wisdom of the plant into our bodies and helps solidify the learning experience. To taste an herb, hold it in your mouth for a moment or two, notice the flavor initially, and how it changes over time. Herbs can, and often do, have more than one taste. The six tastes are sweet, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent and sour. Recently I have been drawn to bitter and astringent herbs…bitter herbs clear heat and detoxify while astringent herbs are drying and good for wound healing.
I have enjoyed learning about the plants that are on this land, and have used several of them to create herbal remedies. There is a plant called plantain that grows all over the place; Candis calls it the “boo boo plant”—chew up a leaf or two and apply it directly to a sting or bug bite; it will help pull the stinger out and will ease the pain of the sting.
I made a remedy for poison oak by soaking mugwort, Manzanita leaves and yerba santa in vodka for several weeks. This remedy can be taken internally as a tincture or applied directly on the rash to help dry it out.
And of course…Reverie Tea, which many of our guests have enjoyed at our events. This tea combines dandelion leaves, chamomile, calendula, and spearmint for a cooling tea that is also a nice tonic for the liver.
Candis often speaks about scanning her environment to see which of her plant friends she can find. It’s a really fun thing to do, and I look forward to learning more about the plants that surround me here at Reverie.