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As I come to the bottom of this year, it does feel like some dark depths from which to push upward, back toward the light. So much change to be absorbed in a few short months. I have been thinking especially about my close friend Kintree Whitecloud, who died a year ago at this time from complications of diabetes. We graduated together from the masters program at Southwestern College in Santa Fe in the late 1980s. Kintree was a godmother to our only child, present at her birth. She and another dear friend officiated at the wedding of my husband and I in a summer meadow, walking us in a circumnambulation of the altar. She became a stalwart and inspired counselor to hundreds of clients in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many came to her memorial to speak about the difference she had made in their lives, her presence and caring, her astute perceptions. I could appreciate this, because this was how Kintree and I had first met, too, as temporary “clients” of one another in a counseling class “fishbowl” exercise. It was one of the first days of class in the graduate program. Our professor had us stand up in two lines facing each other. “Pick the person with whom you will counsel in front of all of us for a half hour,”were the directions. I looked across the line to this tall solidly built woman with the very steady gaze and the quirky smile. I thought, I can work with her. She looked back at me and must have thought the same thing. I was surprised how much could come up in 30 minutes of talking with a stranger in front of a bunch of other people. We became close friends, taking many classes together. We loved collaborating in dream groups as part of our training and beyond.

So many different sorts of people came to Kintree’s memorial, all different sizes and shapes and family combinations. What we all had in common was our appreciation for her warmth and insight, her willingness to be present with us no matter what was going on, professionally and personally. Her willingness to push the envelope. While Kintree was a lesbian with a wide extended family, and strong ties in the LGBT community, she worked with many clients who had no connections to that particular cultural world at all. She had nurtured everybody with the utmost professionalism. I don’t know what Kintree would say at this point in the world process, yet I suspect she would urge us to keep a sense of openness and humor, no matter what.

Many of us reading this, have lost loved ones this year. My teacher Garchen Rinpoche has said the best thing we can do for someone who has died is to send love to them. So I invite you to join with me in sending love to all those who have passed this year, the counselors and the poets, the musicians and the politicians, the citizens in Aleppo, and all the ones in India who died of shock after the R 500 and 1000 notes were taken out of circulation suddenly last month. Changes are coming on us fast, sometimes with no preparation whatsoever. May we remember each other with love and respect, whoever we are and wherever we live.

In a previous blog, Life Changes, I promised to discuss Ayurveda herbal formulation in relationship to healing teas. If you read that blog, you’ll recall that in this classical approach to combining spices, the plants can take any of five roles: leader, complement, digestive, cleanser, and rejuvenative or tonic. Here is a riff on traditional cumin-coriander-fennel tea that can be especially useful in warding off post-holiday health challenges, or in winter weather. Let’s look at it.


Time: 15 minutes

Makes 12 cups – enough for a party

3 quarts (12 cups) water

1 Tbsp. each:  

whole cumin seeds

whole coriander seeds

whole fennel seeds

fenugreek (digestives and detoxers)

1 teaspoon turmeric (leader)

1 cinnamon stick or 3 whole cardamom pods (rejuvenatives)

1 stick of astragalus root (complement) (optional)

½  – 1 inch slice of ginger, chopped (less if you are calming Pitta) (rejuvenative)

Bring the water to a boil. Add all the spices. Simmer ten minutes or more, strain. Drink 1 – 2 cups/per day as needed.

Effects: calms Vata and Kapha, neutral for Pitta

Supports: digestion, plasma, blood, female reproduction, and ojas! Ojas is our vital immunity. Protecting it and building it is a wise plan.

In this tea formula, the roles could be assigned as follows. Turmeric as the leader is an excellent antibiotic. It could be used in larger amounts or as the fresh rhizome (1 – 2 inches) as well tolerated. Astragalus as the complement acts as a potent immune tonic used to prevent cold, flus, and bacterial or viral infections. Note: While astragalus is used to prevent illness, and is also used at the tail end of an infection to help clear it up, in traditional Chinese medicine it would not be given to someone at the onset of an acute infection. Hence, it’s optional. The digestives and detoxers are the ever-able cumin, coriander, fennel, and fenugreek. While both cinnamon and cardamom can also be used to support digestion and detoxification, here they play the roles of mild rejuvenatives. They are also included for their pleasant flavor. While ginger offers excellent support of digestive fire as well, and has generous antioxidants, and cleansing action, here it acts as a rasayana, rejuvenative.

In some ways this recipe is unusual or not typical of classic formulation in its amounts and proportions. Most often the leader herb will be the spice that is used in the largest amounts. Generally the digestive spices will be given in smaller amounts. Yet here, the roles are reversed, it is the digestive herbs that make up the bulk of this formula. Why? In Ayurveda the digestive tract is the gateway for health and disease. After the holidays, with their abundant supplies of food (if we are fortunate), the gut needs some rest and clearing. This formula gently offers that. It helps re-establish harmony within the digestive organs, clearing wastes that may have accumulated with our excesses. This keeps the wastes, ama, from moving deeper into the body or blocking the channels. It is easier then to resist infection.

Here’s another tea to explore:


Time: 15 minutes

Makes 1 quart

1 quart water

1 Tablespoon ashwagandha (leader)

2 teaspoons shatavari (complement)

1 teaspoon raspberry leaf (cleanser)

1 thin slice fresh ginger (warm) or 1 teaspoon mint (cool), depending on what action is needed (digestive)

½ teaspoon licorice root (rejuvenative)

Boil the water, add the herbs, simmer 10 minutes or more, strain and serve, 1 cup/day.

Effects: neutral to tridoshic for all doshas, depending on the digestive herb used.

Supports: overall strength, respiratory system, nervous system, female reproductive system, immunity and ojas. This tea would be appropriate for a woman with amenorrhea, in perimenopause, menopause, or post-menopause.

As you start to create herbal tea formulas for yourself, think about your intention. First decide what the purpose of the tea is. Pick an excellent leader. If you like, give it a support, a complement, an herb similar in function to the leader that will help its function. Next add one or more digestive herbs, so that the tea can be received into the tissues well. Then add a detoxifying herb, to clear waste. Finally add a rejuvenative, to bring light and support to the deeper tissues.

Wishing us all a year of clarity, strength, wisdom, and love.


Image: Immune Boosting CCF Tea, with appreciation to photographer Renee Lynn