I Survived My First Herbal Medicine Session, Part II
To catch you up on this story about my herbal medicine experience, check out Part I, which details what an herbal medicine consultation with Karen Culpepper is like. If you are ready for the aftermath, read on.
So a few days after my session, I received an extensive email from Karen. As in 2,500+ words extensive. This was a mini-novella that restated the goals that came up when we met, provided a deep dive into how she was approaching my body’s needs. It included her recommendations for my lifestyle, diet, and herbs, as well as suggestions for what to look out for before my next visit. It was equal parts celebratory, descriptive, and hilarious, as I literally LOLed twice while reading it. She asked that I confirm her recommendations, and then she’d send the formulas to Belinda at Mortar and Pestle Apothecary in Takoma Park. (If you already have a favorite apothecary, well, how connected to plant medicine you are! You can still work with your apothecary of choice.)
I confirmed. A week later, I received a very special box in the mail. Karen and Belinda had crafted my own personalized tea. A signature tea! Tailored just to me! I know this is technically a service I’m paying for, but I feel like this is something that only happens if your name is Oprah Winfrey or Gwyneth Paltrow. The hoi polloi don’t get signature teas. Dear readers, I have arrived.
My tea was a mixture of holy basil, skullcap, calendula, and eyebright, all mixed together in order to calm me the hell down. I was instructed to infuse five grams of tea in 24 ounces of hot water every day and drink up!
I also received a tincture made of chaste tree seed, ocotillo bark, orange peel, white peonies, licorice, and mugwort. I’m supposed to take it three times a day, but heaven help me, I can only remember to take it when I get up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night (usually after turning off the light, only to bolt up exclaiming, “Crap! My tincture!”). The tincture is a lot of fun: it has a nice medicinal, whiskey-like burn to it. I feel very mature starting off my day with it, like maybe this is what my foremothers had for breakfast when they did real labor: a shot of moonshine and a mug of grainy coffee, and then they sickled the snot out of some wheat fields. Because Karen is an extremely kind and generous person, I also receive a three crystals tailored to my current situation and DandyBlend, a chicory and dandelion root mix which serves as a coffee substitute.
At first I let the herbs sit nicely on the kitchen table so I can both a) admire them and b) pretend I don’t have to change anything about my life. Then I say, “Self, what was the point of the session if you aren’t going to go for it?” and then, “Self, let’s do this.” To make the commitment official, I challenged myself to take the tea and tincture 21 days in a row.
Day 1 feels like: “Mmm, tea!” Day 4 feels like “Wow, this is a lot of one kind of tea everyday…” Day 6 feels like Jim Gaffigan singing “hot pockets,” except he’s saying “holy basil.” But by Day 10 or so, I’ve fully acclimated to the tea and start to miss it if I haven’t had any before the end of the day. Drinking the tea is a steady, soothing constant that gives me the chance to pause in my day. The taste of it becomes comforting and expected. I’ve acclimated so much that I’m convinced I’m going to make it the full three weeks.
Dear readers, I do not make it the full three weeks. I make it 19 days. What can I say – I’m human. If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you give me three weeks, do I not wipe out at 2.72 weeks? Then I do not drink the tea or the tincture for a week. You know, our relationship was great and it definitely meant something to me, but it had gotten really serious really fast, and I needed some tea perspective.
So I take a week off. Seven days after I cease my daily regimen, I found myself sitting at my desk, waiting for a call from a potential employer for a phone interview. I was super nervous – way more nervous than I needed to be. The thought occurs to me that maybe I ought to make a pot of my special, Karen Culpepper-proscribed tea. I boil the water. I steep the tea. I pour myself a cup. I take a sip.
Readers, an incredible feeling of calm washes over me. This tea is like an old friend, familiar and reassuring. Drinking this tea really does calm me the hell down. And whether it’s the world’s most effective placebo or a powerful mix of plant stuff, it doesn't matter. I am simply grateful for the opportunity to sit and sip and breathe again.