The Healing Project: A Dream Come True
~By Carolyn Jones, Coordinator
The volunteer team of healing practitioners who support this community service are also able educators who are blessed with caring, giving hearts. They have put the HWB Healing Project Mobile Clinic on the fast track!
Aromatherapist Amy Anthony is no stranger to volunteer work. After all, she has been preparing soup at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan for over 10 years. Now, I represent the HWB Healing Project Mobile Clinic with her by visiting once a month to distribute self-care items and supplements to the many people who come out to receive some neighborly love.
On my last visit, a young woman paused to thank me for “coming out to spend time with them.” Those moments remain lodged in the corners of my heart, especially when the challenges of organizing become a test of patience and finances.
Amy's alchemy talents extended beyond the church kitchen when she prepared a lentil soup seasoned with cumin and cinnamon for our Self-Love as a Daily Meditation event at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture on Tuesday, March 7. The seasonings actually matched the aromatherapy session she offered for our olfactory pleasure!
Amber Merkins, the Clinic Director for the ArborVitae School of Traditional Herbalism offered an insightful presentation on how to prepare a 2-3 day supply of herbal tea, with optimum benefits.
Our sound healers, Lloyd Leary (The Body Mechanic) and Inci Akidil (The Gong Diva) spread what Lloyd calls “love fungus” around with the didgeridoo, a drum and other percussion instruments to soothe the stress of the city right off of the spirits of our attendees, as the hot, roasted cacao I served during the session, massaged their hearts.
The ArborVitae students did not have time to fully indulge, but I always make sure that they get the opportunity to partake in the gifts we offer at the clinic. They work hard and deserve the attention. I appreciate faculty member, Sam Perry, for his patience as we share the love with each and every one of them. They loved the jasmine tea!
In my last blog, “Divine Connections,” I mentioned a Wellness Wednesday event that we were invited to host at Gaia NoMaya Salt Cave & Spa.
The HWB Healing Project Mobile Clinic practitioners made the day a complete success. Our programming included sound healing (The Body Mechanic), then aromatherapy (NYCAromatica), womb and prostate massage (Nata), holistic lifestyling (Boo Boafo), nutrition (Dynamic Growth & Wellness, LLC), holistic self-care (Reuben Finerson), and flower essences for bereavement (Carolyn Jones).
This mini-conference was beneficial to everyone who attended (ages 21-80+). Surprisingly, the elders stayed for the whole day!
Chaplain Tyheese Love did a great job with event management; and, Good Neighbors, gryn and Melissa, brought even more joy to the day!
We have been asked to return to Gaia NoMaya in April 2023. The new moon highlights will be sound, touch therapy, aromatherapy, herbalism, and flower essences.
The absolute highlight for me on Wednesday, February 22, was having the support of Wren Fialka, Founder and Executive Director of Spread the Love Commission, a nonprofit organization that offers mindful care to people who are displaced and homeless by collecting and distributing socks, gloves, backpacks, toiletries, first aid supplies, and so much more.
That is where the HWB Healing Project Mobile Clinic comes in. We are honored to be recognized as a part of the Spread the Love Commission resources team.
Spread the Love collects and distributes gloves, socks, sleeping bags, mats, backpacks, toiletries, first aid supplies, and more to people in need. By making the giving personal, Wren creates what she calls “a heart connection.”
Herbalists Without Borders International, Inc. provides our Clinic with herbs, supplements, and self-care inventory that we share with the many communities we serve.
At this time, we are gearing up to increase our services to include personal grooming and dental care for the communities we serve with two recent connections.
Last, but certainly not least, we are very fortunate to have two City University of New York (CUNY) interns: Joy Tonge (Medgar Evers College, Business Administration) and Sean Hoppie (Entertainment Technology, City Tech, who are supporting us with our outreach and media needs. Special thanks to Prof. John Acosta, (Kingsborough Community College), Johanne Brierre (NYBeauty Suite, BKLYN Commons) and Peter Holoman (Medgar Evers College), for making it all possible.
Contact: Carolyn Jones, Clinic Coordinator, email@example.com
Some photos from our event:
Meet an HWB Member: Arati Ursus
Hi there! My name is Arati Ursus and I joined the Herbalists Without Borders Board of Directors this January. I was super excited to discover their work through Carolyn Jones and the Healing Project based in Queens.
I am passionate about improving accessibility to herbal wisdom in conjunction with the herbs themselves. If you have information without the actual herbs, you are kind of out of luck! Herbalists Without Borders is so empowering, offering herb lovers support for creating their dream projects and supplying herbs. Right now my focus is on learning more about the different members and chapters and hopefully sharing their journeys through Instagram and the blog. If you have a story you would like to share, to help inspire others, or get the word out, please connect with me directly. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
The herbs themselves ignited my passion for them. When I was in my master's program in nursing, herbs started communicating with me. I was on a gynecological oncology rotation, and I was having a very hard time with the energy. I am way more comfortable working on a mental health inpatient unit. After another day feeling overwhelmed by my empathic experience of the cancer, I found myself in front of a table of scapes (garlic shoots) that were glowing with light. They told me I didn't have to be good at everything, and that they were great with cancer. I loved this new concept. I didn't have to do it all, and there is a world of helpers out there ready to collaborate and share their healing medicine. I started doing plant meditations to learn directly from the plants. I typically take the plants as tea and ask them to tell me about how they work. I also offer to share anything they want to learn from me. Who knows what it is like to be a plant, right? They might want to learn from us wandering creatures as well or ask for preservation help. They always seem to appreciate meditation time and are good communicators.
I love cooking with herbs. My favorite springtime recipe is Martha Stewart's Nettles Soup. Oh my goodness! Just writing about it is making me rearrange my schedule to find harvesting time. I absolutely love talking to nettles, it is the chattiest plant ever! They love meditation before harvesting, and I love how I have to carefully harvest to avoid getting too many stings. They have this underground network that reminds me of neurons connecting and are alive with the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This plant is so magic! The soup connects me with my Irish roots where the plant was not a gourmet treat but a helpful, nutritious food. It is the most protein-rich land plant and is full of minerals. If you do get stings you know the medicine is working...but, you can also grab a dock leaf or plantain to ease the ow.
If you want to do a fun plant meditation experiment try first offering nettles tea, observe how it is feeling and how people are acting, and then offer catnip tea. See the shift! This works great for a group; kids love this! Nettles is soooo stimulating...many will admit they have ADHD. Catnip is so relaxing...you won't even believe it's the same people. Seeing is believing.
I hope you are enjoying the excitement of Spring coming around again. Now is the time I remember the Earth was only sleeping. Each bud and shoot coming up from the ground brings new cheer.
I am looking forward to connecting with you! Please remember I am in your network and reach out. I love to share and would like to learn from you.
Image credit: Nettles by Maksym Kozlenko
Spring is a time for renewal, as the snows give way to muddy patches of grass and the emergence of flowers such as crocus and snow drops, it is a time for hope and happiness as the restorative change of the seasons come upon us. There is a resilience of nature that can be seen and not ignored as everything begins to bloom and change, the flowers are opening, the trees are giving life to new leaves, and the birds are eagerly singing in the early morning.
In many places in the world this is also a time when the emergence of pollen from those beautiful blooming things give rise to seasonal allergies. I know that during this time of year I can look outside and see a soft green/gold sheen of tree pollen covering the cars. This is also the time of season when stuffy nosed clients are calling to ask if there is anything they can do naturally to relieve their discomfort. As with so many things, nature seems to have a plant (or many) for every malady.
I think it is so important to know not only what herbs are available to us, but also to know what an allergy is, how the body responds to it systemically, and what we can do to better assist ourselves. In this article, I have discussed allergies beyond seasonal discomfort and have instead tried to give a broader understanding to this very large topic.
A Brief Summary on Allergies:
In medical texts, an allergy is described as an immune response to a foreign antigen that results in inflammation and/or organ dysfunction. Allergies can range from life threatening to annoying and include systemic anaphylaxis (life threatening), laryngeal edema (swelling of the throat), transfusion reactions, bronchospasm (cough or swelling/spasms of the respiratory tract), vasculitis (swelling of the blood vessels when the body’s immune system attacks the blood vessels by mistake), angioedema (swelling of the lower layer of skin and tissue just under the skin – often occurs in the face, tongue, larynx, abdomen, or arms and legs), urticaria (hives), eczematous dermatitis (type of eczema), hay fever (generally an itchy/runny nose), rhinitis (stuffed nose), and conjunctivitis (itchy/watery eyes, can also be an infection).
Allergies can be trigged by many things and include inhalation (pollen, dust mites etc.), direct contact (think of poison ivy), ingestion (eating or drinking), or injection (bee sting, drugs).
Most commonly, allergic responses may be caused and sustained by occupational exposures to allergens, and by foods, animals, fungal spores, metals, rubber products, and other allergy causing agents. The most severe types of allergic reactions are often associated with bee stings, penicillin products, radiological contrast media (the contrast ingested or injected for radiological imaging) and latex.
Since everyone is different it is always wise to find out what your allergy triggers are, this can be done with help from your Medical Doctor and Allergist.
The general cause of allergies is not entirely known, however the incidence of allergic diseases is increasing. This trend, though not fully understood is partially explained by one widely held theory called the “Hygiene hypothesis”. This theory proposes that infections in early life are critically important in maturation of the immune response and bias the immune system against the development of allergies. It is suggested that the high prevalence of allergic disease is the penalty for the decreased exposure to infection that has resulted from improvements in sanitation and health care.
In my own opinion, I feel that the common western lifestyle is another contributor to allergies. Generally, it is very common to have a diet rich in processed foods that have been exposed to chemicals from mechanical processing and other chemicals such as the presence of xeno-estrogens caused by the storage of foods in plastic. I feel that the majority of these chemicals build up in the liver (our body’s main detoxification organ) and cause liver sluggishness and the buildup of toxins which contribute to an over-active immune system.
Normally, the immune system does not make detectable responses to the many environmental substances to which it is exposed to daily. Many of us do not have to concern ourselves when we come into contact with a dog or cat, or if we are stung by a bee. However, in an allergic reaction, initial exposure to an otherwise harmless substance triggers a rapid immune reaction.
The immune system has two main functions: first, to identify germs and parasites that may cause damage to the body; and second, to repel attacks by these organisms with appropriate defense mechanisms.
Allergic reactions can occur when immune functions are turned on by any agent whether it is infection, pollen, pet dander, and so forth- that is rich with allergy causing antigens. Once the immune system has been sensitized, repeat exposures result in the binding of specific immunoglobulins (antibodies) or the activation of immunologically active cells (these can be mast cells, basophils, or killer T-cells).
The unfortunate reaction to all of this is that these can release inflammatory chemicals such as histamines, kinins, leukotrienes, and interleukins that, acting locally or systemically, create various allergic symptoms.
In addition, when we consider food allergies or other environmental sensitivities, if long term exposure to mild allergies continue, then the body’s inflammatory cycle may be triggered, and when the body is in a state of inflammation for an extended period of time, chronic inflammation may lead to systemic complications or disease.
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
Symptoms may vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with the allergen.
Natural Suggestions for Allergies:
Since allergic reactions come from the immune system, there are a few crucial herbal actions that one needs in any formula for acute or chronic allergies. Some of these include adaptogens, immuno-modulators, immune tonics, histamine balancers, liver tonics, bitters, astringents, and anti-inflammatories are all crucial foundational actions in any herbal formulation for allergies.
Before trying any herbal formula, keep in mind that herbs can also cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Be certain to introduce the herbs slowly and please see an appropriate practitioner before using herbal remedies. Do not self dose.
Commonly Used Herbs:
Commonly Used Supplements:
This is a brief introduction on natural support for allergies - this is a great launching point for you to work with a clinical practitioner or do some additional research to support your own home response to your allergies or, to bring up with your Doctor.
I am not a Medical Doctor (MD), nor are any of the suggestions or recommendations are meant to be a substitute for advice from your MD, or as a substitute for any prescriptions you may be taking. Any suggestions followed will be the responsibility of the reader, and are stated with the intention of interest and education. If you have a health issue, please see an appropriate practitioner.
Auric Healing Herbs for Healers, with Arati Ursus.
Contributor: Arati Ursus
Arati Ursus is a member of Herbalists Without Borders’ Board of Directors. She has been practicing Traditional Western Herbalism for about 15 years and does individual herbal consultations. Arati (pronounced Ahr uh tee) is most known for her work with tobacco cessation through her company Brown Bear Herbs.
HWB manages an annual US Seed Grant Program, where we work to intake donations of food and medicinal seeds and share them out to HWB US groups. Since 2017, HWB has been supporting getting HWB Chapters, Clinics, and Projects, to grow gardens, and we have supported hundreds of grassroots gardens. HWB groups grow gardens that:
First, can you tell us a little bit more about Earthbeat Seeds?
Earthbeat Seeds is a Vermont based seed company that specializes in sustainably grown medicinal herb and wildflower seed. We utilize growing practices that encourage soil and ecosystem health, promote biodiversity, and do not synthetic fertilizers or pesticides as well as collaborate with several small scale herb seed growers that align with our values. The sustainability of our packaging is also very important, so we source 100% recycled, unbleached, and compostable packaging and shipping materials.
What drew you to seed saving and herbal seeds?
Seeds have always been magical to me. Some of the seed I save is so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see each individual seed. Every time I see the tiniest of plants break out of those impossibly small seeds it feels like a miracle. Honestly all life is a miracle and being able to witness the creative forces behind life and tend to living creatures is such an honor. Sharing herbal seeds is particularly special to me because it empowers people to take their health into their own hands and really connect with nature as an abundant provider.
How long have you been saving seeds?
Nine years ago I applied for a job at High Mowing Organic Seeds and that began my journey with seed saving and growing. I worked on the production and trials crew there for two years while teaching myself how to start, grow and save seeds from perennial herbs. Two years later I launched a fundraising campaign where I offered my first collection of herbal seeds to the public.
Tell us more about your gardens and how you choose which plants to grow.
My current gardens are the first opportunity I’ve had to tend a garden for more than one season. I have a small 1/2 acre yard that was mostly ledge, tree roots and fill when I moved here. After 5 years of building soil, the yard has transformed from overgrown wild raspberry patches and weedy subsoil to raised beds of rich mycellinated soil that are home to over 100 species of herbs, wildflowers, edible weeds and berry bushes. My approach is pretty simple, I buy as much hay, wood chips and composted manure as I can afford every year and layer, layer, layer along with raked leaves every fall. Then I just let the microbes do their magic. I build my beds on contour in free flow designs, for water retention but also because I like aesthetics of curved and meandering beds. I also collect any mushrooms I find in the woods throw them around the garden to spread spores. It’s fun to see flushes of mushrooms pop up through the year without much effort! As for plant selection, besides planting seed crops that I need for my business, there's not a lot of planning that goes into it. If I see something in a seed catalog that makes me go ooooooooh! Then I buy it and plant it! I have to allow space for things to be spontaneous and fun or it all starts to feel like work.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that the work cycles with the seasons. There's the typical cycles of the farming season, seeds starting, planting, tending, and harvesting. But then as the work moves indoors, there’s seed cleaning, inventorying, seed packing, website maintenance/marketing and finally order fulfillment. Then it starts all over again. The work is constantly changing so it’s hard to get bored, and every year there’s a chance to reflect on the previous year and evolve. I find being able to step away from a specific process for a full year to let it all sink in, allows me to come back to it with a fresh perspective and new ideas.
What is your favorite medicinal herb?
That’s a hard one but arnica comes to mind as an all around favorite. It’s so easy to grow and establish a patch that needs very little tending. Harvesting the flowers is a joy and making a very useful oil is incredibly simple. I guess being a gardener and very active person, I have an affinity for a herb that helps with all the aches and bruises that come with the work!
What is your favorite pollinator/native?
My favorite plant is Milkweed. I have fond memories as a kid of the sweet nectar like smell, running around with the pom pom like bursts of tiny star flowers, watching the wind blow the silky seed parachutes into the wind and wondering where they would land, and being covered in the sticky latex after playing with the seed pods. Milkweed is my favorite seed harvest for sure, I still love breaking open pods to release the seeds.
Any tips for people growing medicinals and native plants?
All of the plants are so different that I would have to say that keeping an adventurous mindset is the best advice I can give. There is definitely much more of a learning curve when it comes to growing perennials and wild plants. The seeds need more specific conditions to germinate compared to vegetables which have been bred to germinate easily and quickly. I find growing these plants from seed really helps cultivate a closer relationship with them. You have to consider and understand their wild nature and environment a bit in order to tend to them properly and to mimic the conditions they would be exposed to that trigger germination. But the benefit is that perennials come back every year, so while the initial time investment may be greater than an annual plant, you will get to enjoy, work with and harvest from that plant for a very long time.
Thank you so much, Jessica, for giving us a peek into your life and seed business with your words and photos. Your space is beautiful, and we are so grateful for your support!
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