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IMMUNE BUILDING HERBS

The forecast is snow in September for Taos this week. The already short summer season for garden growing has come to a halt. Harvest at a hurried pace. It’s time to unpack the sweaters and coats and prepare your pantry for the cold season ahead. With the COVID lingering, it is essential to fill your cabinets with immune building herbs, syrups, and tinctures for the winter ahead.

Even with the week-long cold front, Taos will most likely warm up again to a crisp fall temperature to enjoy the outdoors and mountainous hikes before the real snow comes in late November. The Fall season offers up a plethora of plants that are easy to harvest. So many in fact, I will cover just a few. I encourage harvesting the flowers and seeds offered from the plant without damaging the root systems. Although, the fall is the best time to harvest root herbs, such as licorice, burdock and OSHA as the energy is strong when the plants start to “root” in preparation of the cold season ahead. Osha is strong cold/flu medicine for the winter but has been over-harvested and it is a plant that our Native American neighbors have used traditionally for centuries so I leave them out of respect. Besides, you might mistake it with Hemlock root, highly poisonous, and that would be Karma.

GOLDENROD FLOWERS

There are other abundant herbs we can harvest in its place such as Goldenrod flowers. The Goldenrod flower makes a great tasting tea, to soothe a sore throat with its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. As an expectorant, goldenrod can expel mucous easily from the lungs. Try it infused with honey or as a tea with honey added.

It is highly antioxidant too to help rid the body of free radicals. Some say it is higher in antioxidants than green tea!

It is not to be mistaken for ragweed that causes fall allergies instead it is an antidote that can ease runny eyes, runny nose and sneezing.  So many benefits, the astringent and antiseptic qualities tighten and tone the urinary system and bladder making it useful for UTI infections.

The flowers and the leaves can be infused with oil or used as a poultice for wounds and burns. The infused oil combines well with plantain, yarrow, and St. John’s wort (all of which are summer/fall herbs to forage) for a nice wound healing skin salve. It also makes a nice rub for tired achy muscles and arthritis pain.

Goldenrod has a slightly bitter astringent value as well as a sweetness.  You taste the astringent bitter when it goes down. I prefer goldenrod tea mixed with some mints; recipe as follows:

Ingredients

2 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon of fresh goldenrod or 2-3 teaspoons of dried
1 Tablespoon of mint or 2-3 teaspoons of dried; add local honey to taste

Directions

  • Bring water to a boil and combine it with herbs.
  • Steep for 15 minutes then strain; add honey and serve.

My staple at home is Rosehip seed. There is abundance growing along the base of the mountain riparian and acequia’s of Taos, NM. High in Vitamin C, this red bulb filled with nourishing seeds can ward off cold/flu. Adding Hawthorn berries can be a perfect tea in the winter to calm and nourish the heart and soul. It is loaded with antioxidants that help build your immunity.

ROSEHIP

The Rosehip seed is the only vegetable oil that offers Retinal A; is collagen building and reduces inflammation. Did I mention may reverse aging skin? I infuse with olive or nourishing oils of almond or avocado and apply directly on the face and skin. It helps relieve acne, dark circles under the eyes and firms, and tightens skin.  Rosehip seed oil is expensive in the stores and Taos has it in abundance most likely in your back yard as mentioned along the acequia. Take advantage of the abundance offered this fall season. I highly value the Rosehip seed concentrate in my propriety blend for Oshara Face Care products from Desert Blends .

High in omega oils and essential fatty acids rosehips can nourish your insides too and help eradicate free radicals. Free radicals may cause cancerous cells and accelerated aging. We can get free radicals from our stressful lives, undercooked meat and unhealthy environments.

ELDERBERRY

I would be remiss in not mentioning Elderberry. Medicinally, Elderberry has immune-enhancing and antiviral properties. It is a powerful natural remedy in treating viral infections like colds, cases of flu, upper respiratory infections, and herpes outbreaks. With COVID among us, this herb can offer protection against the virus. You may find the clusters of berries at the local farmers market that have already been harvested; or I would recommend consulting with the local resident Master Herbalist, Lucy McCall, where to find the plant to harvest. There is a process to harvest and prepare medicines for tinctures and cough syrups, a must-have in your winter cabinet. I have provided a link to the methods here Foraging Elderberries.

Taos residents are blessed with the surrounding nature to explore. I encourage taking one plant at a time for study in your area and over time you too can become an expert in plant identification. Nature can provide healing for your body and soul. We are blessed indeed.

Toni Leigh
Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

Written for TaoStyle, September 8, 2020

IMMUNE BUILDING HERBS2020-09-11T22:08:35+00:00

SECRETS OF THE ASPEN GROVE

Struggling to find your inner guidance? Feeling disconnected?

During these challenging times it’s easy to feel that way. I’ve come to understand that when the deep well of my heart runs dry, it must be cared for right away. I have found life-sustaining nourishment and the mending of my heart, deep in the forests. This is an invitation to walk among the Quaking Aspens.

You can find such a grove on Italianos Canyon Trail #59, on the way to Taos Ski Valley, north of Taos, New Mexico. The trail follows through beautiful aspen groves and meadows and tops out on a breathtaking ridge.

The “Quaking” Aspen name refers to the leaves, which tremble in the slightest breeze. Aspens pioneer on burned areas and serve as a nurse crop to conifers that eventually replace them. And because their roots are well underground, they are protected; safe from fires – and usually fires do not destroy the grove because of this. This connection also makes them a single organism; connected at a soul level – and because of these ways of growth and connection, Aspen trees are strong and often live to be about 100 years. A grove can live and propagate for thousands of years. The Aspen tree has much to teach us and has strong spiritual roots. Listen.

Aspen leaves make a beautiful noise in the breeze and can soothe all who listen. Native cultures thought that the wind was the messenger of God and thought of the Aspen leaves as sacred whisperers of spiritual messages; messages of peace and calm. Are you listening to your soul? Are you allowing yourself to tune into what soothes you?

When we walk in nature, in order to take in its beauty, we cannot see with our minds eye, we must drop into our five senses, and into our hearts. We begin to feel the aliveness of all living trees, plants and the earth herself. We realize we are not separate. That we, like the Aspen, are all one living organism. WE are all part of the soul community. We do not have to go it alone. The Aspen tree can teach us of community, family and connection to others–and mostly to ourselves.

Are you feeling unique and different, like you are not included? This is a message to find your “grove”. Our gifts are hiding behind our fears. Do we dare to be seen and let them shine? The Aspen is the teacher of fearlessness and brings a message of strength in facing that which is unknown. This shimmering beauty is asking us to tap into our own beauty and overcome our fears and doubts.

As I write this, I am thinking of the loss of those young people in Taos recently, how terribly tragic and sad. It affects us all because we are a soul community. If you listen carefully, you can hear the messages of the Aspen tree, “come closer”, she says. “Connect. Root. Find strength. How are you feeding your community soul?”

Remember, you can only find the connection thru the heart, drop into the five senses and listen.

Toni Leigh
Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

Written for TaoStyle, July 2020

SECRETS OF THE ASPEN GROVE2020-07-30T11:37:33+00:00

SACRED SELF CARE AND AYURVEDA: SERIES 4, 5

Sacred Self Care and Ayurveda
Series 4: The Three Treasures

As we find ourselves in uncertain times we remember to rest in our hearts. It is more important now to practice sacred self-care.

I mentioned in Series 2 and 3, that we are in the collective Vata imbalance during this pandemic that is effecting our heart health and activating anxiety and fear.

Chinese Medicine holds that the Heart is the residence of the Mind (Shen). Shen is used to indicate that the whole sphere of emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of a human being are at play. The mental activity and consciousness reside in the Heart. This means that the state of the Heart will affect the mental thought process including the emotional state of fear and anxiety.

This is far from what we are taught in our modern world. We are conditioned to believe that the mind has the intelligence when in fact it is the Shen from the Heart where infinite intelligence resides.

We need to trust our Heart. To be still and listen to the wisdom it offers.

Essence (Heart) and Qi form the physical basis of the Mind. If the Essence is flourishing and Qi is vital, then the Mind will be happy and peaceful. If it is weak the mind will suffer. For this reason, the glitter of the eyes shows both the state of Essence and the Mind. Essence, Qi and the Mind are called the “Three Treasures”. Here we find our most virtuous attributes of compassion, tenderness, love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, and benevolence. Just what the world needs now.

Practice good Heart health by:

Resting in Stillness
Meditating
Eating good nourishing foods
Allowing love in
Loving others
Be tender to oneself
Take a ritual bath with candles
Pray
Take a walk
Be in sunlight
Practice Yoga
Laugh
Trust
Honor the virtues of the Three Treasures

– Toni Leigh, Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

Sacred Self Care and Ayurveda
Series 5: It’s Time for Pitta

The summer months are approaching otherwise known as a Pitta climate. The Pitta dosha derives from the elements of Fire and Water and translates as “that which cooks”.

Pitta rules over small intestine, stomach, liver and spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes, and sweat. Pitta provides the body with heat and energy through the breakdown of complex food molecules. It governs all processes related to conversion and transformation throughout the mind and body. Psychologically, Pitta governs joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy and mental perception. It also provides radiant light of the intellect.

When Pitta is in an imbalanced state, the water and fire elements can turn to smoldering coal and ash of anger, rage and ego. Pitta imbalances commonly manifest in the body with a heat condition, such as infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn and fever.

The Vedic Sanskrit knowledge tells us to pacify Pitta with cooling, calming and moderation. While that is all true, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we need to ignite the “FIRE IN THE BELLY” by fanning the embers to cleanse the anger and bitterness and mental constructs.

By igniting the “fire in the belly” we are awakening our passion, courage, our creativity and transforming the mind from bitterness to clear thinking with a new perspective on hope, compassion and joy. In contrast, Vata is ethereal and is the inventor, the dreamer while Pitta is the dosha to implement into action. The third dosha, Kapha, is one who sustains; the strengths are going the long haul and seeing it through. We will go into Kapha dosha in the coming months as its elements are in the Fall season. Watch for more to come on that.

In these Pitta times, we are too quick to anger and hold on to resentment. We have strong opinions and we lock in the need to be right. It is a consequence of feeling powerless during the pandemic. I am encouraging transformation by looking within instead of looking outside of the situation and trying to control what we cannot. We will be better able to cope and handle our affairs and challenges as they come up with a calm steady mind with eagerness and courage. Our “opinions” only suffocate the fire and our wellbeing. Let each of us take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. I invite us all to step back and see what is working and how we can better the situation. Use that sharp wit and mind to be creative and take appropriate action. Never mind what is causing frustration and anger. Let go. Neutrality is the key to life’s balance.

Here are a few ideas to be in neutrality:

Fan the Flames by taking sacred care of your body, mind and spirit.

1. Eat cooling foods such as salads, raw foods, eating veg/fruits in season vs cooked, spicy foods. Follow a Pitta-balancing diet.
2. Make sure you eat in a peaceful environment. Take space to really give thanks for the food you’re about to eat.
3. Spend time in nature. This may be #1. Nature has a way to balance us by calming our thoughts and fostering inspiration.
4. Meditate. That’s right. Sit, be calm. Be in stillness.
5. Do calming exercise, such as yoga, swimming, tai chi or walking.

– Toni Leigh, Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

SACRED SELF CARE AND AYURVEDA: SERIES 4, 52020-07-30T11:16:04+00:00

SACRED SELF CARE AND AYURVEDA: SERIES 1, 2, 3

Sacred Self Care and Ayurveda
Series 1

Integrating Ayurveda (Science of Life) into your lifestyle can heal your gut, make your skin glow, help you shed unwanted fat, and provide radiant energy!

Let’s intentionally put the “sacred” into self-care! This is the perfect time to attain mind-body balance!

During these challenging times, I’m inspired to share simple tips of mind-body-spirit Ayurveda practices. I will keep it simple because this 5,000-year-old medicine system can get a bit complex.

I am certified in Ayurveda Study and Western Herbology, but not a practitioner who is steeped in tradition. I don’t recommend the old practices that take hours of preparation or to eat solely Indian foods. Instead, I encourage eating locally grown foods and simple daily applications that help strengthen your Dosha type.

As I said, keeping it simple, I’ll start here: The Ayurvedic route to great health involves two steps: 1. Doing less; 2. Being more.

Be well. Be love. Be better.

-Toni Leigh, Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

 

Sacred Self Care and Ayurveda
Series 2

Self-care is the best health care.

The most sacred relationship is the one we share with our true Self. May we all practice yoga, live Ayurveda, and let the Divine take care of the rest.

Yoga is the sister science to Ayurveda and both are considered sacred. Ayurveda teaches us how to live in accordance with nature; and Yoga helps us to develop the right attitude with nature as Divine.

Do you know your Dosha type? Dosha means energy in Sanskrit. A mind-body type is like an archetype. In Ayurveda, different body types are referred to as “Doshas”. The Doshas are based on the natural elements; fire, water, earth, air and space. There are three Doshas types:

  • Vata = Air + Space
  • Pitta = Fire + Water
  • Kapha = Earth + Water

WHAT ARE THESE ELEMENTS LIKE?

Fire is hot and powerful.

Water is fluid and cool.

Earth is dense and grounding.

Air is light and moving.

Space, or Ether is the one you can’t see but can feel. It’s the vastness of looking up at the stars on a clear day. It’s your intuition.

Ayurveda uses these elements as references to explain all aspects of your physical and mental well-being.

Vata is the predominant Dosha that may be affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Vata rules the lungs and respiratory systems and where I’ll focus in order to provide tips for self-care during the pandemic.

Vata is in charge of movement in the body. The bodily movements that may be affected by the COVID-19 are the heartbeat, lung; respiration; communication; heart function; creativity; emotions; the nervous system; respiratory issues, heart palpitations; gastrointestinal.

Vata in the mind may include insomnia, anxiety, flakiness, indecisiveness, moodiness, lack of creativity, nervous impulses, mental instability, fatigue, and restlessness.

When we experience an excess of Vata our fears, anxiety and nervous system are exacerbated. We want to pacify the dosha to create balance and peace of mind.

TIPS:

  • Begin a practice of trust between you and your body.
  • Use anchor points to ground yourself with a daily routine. Consistency to bring about an element of safety and ease. Meditation and Yoga are good practices. Start small narrowing down to one or two practices that calm the mind.
  • Don’t forget to Breathe! Breath is vital for healthy lungs.
  • Drink nourishing calming teas that soothe and calm the lungs like chamomile, peppermint, licorice.
  • Use this time to pamper yourself!
  • Nourish, nature and harmony are the elements of health and wellbeing.

Be well. Be love. Be better.

-Toni Leigh, Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

 

Sacred Self Care and Ayurveda
Series 3

Where does beauty dwell? The sacred space of the heart. There are some dark and very ancient caves in the deeper and most sacred space of the heart.

Close your eyes. Walk toward them and once you find them, turn on the light. Yes. You, my love

In darkness, beauty will find the way to your heart.

In Series 2, I mentioned that Vata rules over the heart and intuition.

During these stressful uncertain times, it is wise to anchor into your heart space and “listen” to your true Self and what it has to offer. In our heart space, there is no conflict, stress or fear. The higher intelligence knows all things and takes a birds-eye view. We find joy and happiness in that space. A deep knowing that we are taken care of.

Rest in the heart space and find peace, feel the expansion. All is well.

Be well. Be love. Be better.

-Toni Leigh, Western and Ayurvedic Herbalist
Chief Formulator of Desert Blends

SACRED SELF CARE AND AYURVEDA: SERIES 1, 2, 32020-06-01T21:16:08+00:00

FOLLOW THE COYOTE

I first moved to Taos, New Mexico, in 1998 out on the mesa, B007 Road, on the brim of the gorge.

I lived in suburbia most of my life and taking in the vastness of the view, as far as the eye can see, was an expansion I had to get used to. It took my breath away.

My address was “house by the windmill” off the grid. A crash course in chop wood carry water lifestyle. No TV. What does a girl do out on the mesa? I walk. I follow the trail. The coyote trail. Looking through the lens as a Western and Ayurveda Herbalist, I am aware that the desert is alive! The desert flora is lush with tiny flowers of yellow and purple in May, pre-summer, struggling to claim space among the thick sagebrush. The smell of the sage is both bewitching and enchanting! I notice too, how the pine and the pinon trees grow in plats, mostly in the arroyos (small canyons), surviving from what little catchment of rainfall in the high desert.

The sage, pinon, and pine on the mesa are hardy and tough, exposed to the elements, high wind, cold and arid conditions. You can’t deny the camphorous scent. It is pungent, sharp, a disinfecting type smell that is also invigorating and uplifting. The medicinal qualities from my years of herbal studies, I recalled, is also purifying, cleansing and boosts energy; antiseptic and anti-viral. Plants take on the constituents of their environment. I remember that in Northern California where I’m from, manzanita (also hardy and highly medicinal) grows in once devastated lands. Could the sage also grow in devastated lands? I was told that the mesa was covered in prairie grass in the Anasazi era. Mother Nature has its intelligence and typically, will grow plants that protect the land that has been disrupted in some way. These plants have healing powers.

If you stay long enough in the land of enchantment you hear stories. A Native American friend said the spirit of the sage offers healing for modern times. Certainly now, with the viral epidemic, it is useful with its anti-viral properties. And what of the virus itself? Is Mother Nature protecting herself? Whatever the cause, the remedy is in nature and her plants.

I continue to walk the land in and around Taos; the mountains, the alfalfa fields with running acequias, the age-old orange groves bordering latia fencing. Every nook and cranny of this magnificent land. I have come to understand that plants with a symbiotic relationship are the most powerful. They have a higher life force that offer immune building properties. I use these plants in my formulations; I infuse the sage, pinon and juniper and the gentler flowering plants of rosehip, primrose, licorice root and burdock that grow in a matrix along the riparian – high in vitamin C, also a powerful healing agent. I purpose all of these antiviral botanicals of the high desert and nourishing seed oils to make up the proprietary blend for my skincare lines, Desert Blends, db Taos body and Oshara face products. I use the whole plant, no compound, fillers or synthetics. I believe that you must maintain the symbiosis and potency of the plant in its wholeness to offer its healing properties.

As the world looks for answers, look to Mother Nature and her intelligence. Take a walk. Become aware of your surroundings. Notice the plants, the texture, the taste, the smell. What are they telling you? Plants are adapters. What are they adapting to? What is your environment? Often the remedy is within a ten foot reach.

Humans have used plants as medicine for as long as we’ve existed. Restoring balance to our world, we need only look to our sacred Mother Earth for healing. Follow the coyote. She knows.

Written for TaoStyle – April 2020

FOLLOW THE COYOTE2020-05-05T16:32:58+00:00

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS SKIN DEEP

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS SKIN DEEP2019-09-25T23:47:34+00:00

I WILL RAISE YOU TWO SEEDS AND A ROOT

db Taos, formerly Desert Blends of Taos, is the same quality product. We added more beneficial and nourishing seed extracts and roots to promote healthy skin and hair.

Two sages bring substance – featuring the desert sage packed with vitamins and minerals that help to promote hair growth and vibrancy; the clary sage has antioxidants to reverse the signs of ageing; protects against the assault of free radicals and aids in daily cell regeneration, keeping your skin and hair nourished and glowing.

The root of the matter is that the two sages protect against free radicals. What exactly is free radicals? Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to living cells and tissues in a process called “oxidative stress.” The vitamins and minerals the body uses to counteract oxidative stress are called antioxidants.

Free radicals may include fried foods, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides, air pollutants, and many more. Free radicals can cause damage to parts of cells such as proteins, DNA, and cell membranes by stealing their electrons through a process called oxidation and the root cause of aging.

Antioxidants are nutrients that donate electrons to free radicals. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and assist in returning your body to a balanced state. Antioxidants are found in our two sages and our seven seeds (and roots) organic plant extracts and oils that help to restore, revitalize, moisturize skin; nourish the body; and promotes balance pH levels.

Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals, the principle micronutrient (vitamin) antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, selenium, a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body’s antioxidant enzyme systems. We have carefully selected our botanical extracts, packed with micronutrients based on the antioxidant enzyme systems to promote healthier glowing skin and anti-aging. The added benefit of using botanicals that have high Vitamin C content such as our: rosehip seed, evening primrose, calendula, licorice root, burdock root/seed, chamomile, and desert sage is that they also offer UV/UA protection from harmful sun damage. dB Taos why would you gamble on anything else?

If you need help with your skin, contact Toni.

I WILL RAISE YOU TWO SEEDS AND A ROOT2018-02-01T23:59:54+00:00

WHY TAOS?

A customer remarked on my Facebook page why Taos? I have spent many years wild gathering the botanicals in the high desert mountains of Taos NM. I have been inspired and in awe of its beauty and became the seed for my business. I wanted to bottle up the scent of the fresh sage and flora of the mesa after a summer rain.

Walking along the acequias, the water flowing fresh from the mountains that fed into age old citrus orchards and alfalfa fields that spanned the course of time well over 500 years. I discovered the native plants that grew together were a remedy for dry skin that resulted from the high dry climates. The rosehip seed, primrose seed, burdock seed, sage, licorice root, and burdock seed and roots and sunflowers were high in Vitamin C and antioxidants that nourish and repair skin and hair.

Nature has its intelligence. It is often the case that there is a remedy for every ailment within 10 feet. The botanicals offer minerals and vitamins that combat the dry elements. Particularly the sun. High in Vitamin C, the plants heal and protect from sun damage and harmful UA rays. I couldn’t come up with a better proprietary blend than from the offering of botanicals along the riparian. I believe that plants that grow in a matrix offer more healing power and life force.

Taos has a unique climate of sage desert mesas and mountain ranges that provide a floracopeia of the highest quality botanical treasures. I did in fact bottle the essence of Taos and its magic and healing properties. I have come to love Taos, it will always be my home.

Photo of Taos by Geraint Smith, Taos

WHY TAOS?2018-02-13T16:36:53+00:00