Friday, August 31, 2012

Salvia hispanica, AKA Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Yesterday my childhood amiga posted an herb question on La Yerberia's facebook page:
"Okay my friend, can you tell me 
                           about Salvia hispanica?"
And so it came to pass, I was inspired to create a graphic all about the mighty Chia.

Which in my opinion is way better than this one:

Yes, it's the same plant.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

of mp3 players and memories

Prepping for next week's trip. Teaching my husband to water the herb garden. I flipped out on him because he referred to the Parsley as Cilantro, citing this slip as evidence that he has no intention of harvesting Calendula every other day. After we watered the back yard, he started to go inside, further proof that he would forget to water the back-back-yard and the Motherwort and Marshmallow would fare poorly.

I was unable to make it to the Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine this year, so I purchased the lectures to listen to during my journey. My mp3 player died and via a long series of events I will not bore you with, I inherited my daughter's Zune player, the one that accompanied her through high school. "I haven't turned it on in years. There's probably a ton of crappy music on it. It's confusing at first, but you'll figure it out," was all she said. Such faith in my technological abilities!

I'm on day 2 of "figuring it out". I've managed to unlock it, charge it, and make it play. Hopefully before Tuesday I will load it with herbal lectures.

Interesting though, scrolling through her high school music, listening to what she sang along to back then. Time machine mp3 player. It reminds me that everybody's going through something. And that everything actually does pass with time, no matter how large it looms in your head and heart as you pass through it.

As we move from infant to toddler, pre-schooler to kid, the upgrades are joyful. Then at puberty we're outfitted with the tools for adulthood. From then on out, the transitions can be confusing, heart-wrenching, life-altering. I don't want to go to the cancer center next week. I don't want to drive home with my aunt in stitches, in pain, or quite possibly without surgery, hospice-bound. I don't want to go, but I will.

Soon enough I'll be home from this trip, harvesting Calendula blossoms and eating nachos with my generous daughter. But today I'm sharing some teenage angst, unloading the dishwasher, and listening to The Mountain Goats.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Adios La Yerberia, for now

I'm going on another one of my geriatric support gigs. Rather than deal with the intricacies of long-distance order fulfillment, I'm shutting down the website for a few weeks. But I know it will be longer than that.

Driving the land yacht to Houston again, ferrying my plane-phobic aunt to her medical treatment, 6 hours away. I'll load the CD player with Rocio Dúrcal, Dean Martin, and Johnny Cash and soak up the stories that the music coaxes from the old ladies. It'll be 3 of them and me. I'm no spring chicken, but in their eyes I'm always a kid. A kid who can now make their hotel reservations, order their Whataburgers, pilot the Lincoln, and interpret the medical-speak. 

That's my aunt Lucha in the picture. Bet you know which one is her. That's Gustavo in the hat, my grandfather, her dad. This photo's been tucked in a pocket of her dayplanner for years. Well, I call it "her dayplanner", but it's not hers. It's where I keep her numbers, pins, and paperwork. 

I stare at it from time to time, but I've got no insights. For me it is a meditation on the passage of time and it's interaction with a life, with relationship, with choices, and with debt.

Anyhow. I'm shutting down the website. Here's a little Rocio Dúrcal for you, Amor Eterno.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Herbal Roach Evictor

Working with plants on a daily basis, you end up learning things by accident. Here's how I learned to kill cockroaches with herbs.

My husband had an earache. So I prepped my standard ear pain remedy: 1 clove garlic, crushed, and allowed to steep for 15 minutes in about a 1/4 cup of olive oil. Careful not to suck any garlic into the dropper (raw garlic can destroy sensitive ear innards) I applied 3 drops of oil to the opening of the ear canal, and the pain subsided.

It was late at night, the house was dark, and I was lazy. Rather than returning the garlic & olive oil jar to the kitchen, I set it on the bathroom counter. Next morning, there was a dead roach at the bottom of the jar. ewwww!

I constructed the following scenario. Attracted by the yummy garlic aroma, the roach crawls in. Greasy feet prevent escape, or possibly, the oil clogs the spiracles, holes in the exoskeleton through which insects breath. Either way, dead as a door nail. So of course, next night, I tried it again.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like we're overrun with roaches! We live in the desert and it is just too dry to support a big population of roaches in the house. In the desert, the roaches come from the sewer. They crawl out of the shower drain and snoop around in your towels and Q-tips. Nasty! Sometimes one will take up residence under the sink. You know it's the same guy each time you see him, because no roach has ever been so big, or so defiant. Well, say hello to the evictor:  mason jar + garlicky oil.

Archimylacris eggintoni,  310 million-year-old ancestral cockroach fossil
I've read that garlic and other herbs can be used as a repellent, but my experience with the garlic oil is that roaches will jump in with six feet. Roaches are smart, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 nights to succumb to the intoxicating scent of garlic oil. Hasn't failed me yet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Things Get Ugly

Yesterday, things got ugly. My aunt Lucha has always been a handful and as she's gotten older, symptoms have intensified. It'd been a while since she'd given us a go. But like the rut of an allergy, we took our places and reprised our roles.

The onset of dementia has been somewhat of a blessing. That sounds harsh. But with the disappearance of nouns and storylines we've also lost petty grievances, grudges, and long-standing feuds. Where once she'd leave the room when a certain someone was mentioned, she now asks after them, concerned for their well-being, unaware they've passed on.

Yesterday she received an ultrasound of the masses in her neck. The cancer-center doctors are not sure what the lumps are composed of, but have three guesses: escaped thyroid cancer, escaped upper lip cancer, or swelling and inflammation stemming from treatment of those two. The south-south-Texas doctors however, assume cancer (sans biopsy) beyond their treatment capabilities, and suggested hospice. So here we are, 10th floor cancer-megacenter, Lucha's wearing the gown, lying on the table, and the sweet twentysomething tech applies goo to the ultrasound wand.

Fifteen seconds into it, Lucha's grabbing at our wrists, eyes filled with terror. Now her arms are flailing, she's trying to sit up. Relax, lay back, breathe deep -- no, breathe through your nose -- deeper. I can't, I can't, I have to go, Let Me Go.

"Lucha, why did you agree to travel here if you were unwilling to undergo the testing?"

"I don't know. I didn't know. No one told me we were coming here."

Thank goodness the radiologist is a man. The presence of this man in the room elicits a docility from Lucha. And (thank you Jesus!) our next appointment included a male nurse *and* a male doctor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I'm far from home. My mother is trekking to a modern-day Lourdes, hoping that this cancer center will offer up a cure for her sister's illness, and I'm helping out. We join other seekers at this econo-suite-inn we're holed up in, it's teeming with other patients; there's a sort of dorm atmosphere to the place. All those hallway seating areas that usually remain empty in other hotels are occupied by people on laptops and cell phones. It seems everyone's carrying a pillow and blanket. You can borrow DVDs, games and puzzles at the front desk and there's even a free shuttle to the medical center.

Yesterday was new patient registration and the cars streamed into the valet parking, unloading the ill, and those helping their ill. The medical center is a marvel of people management. Ten stories, lettered elevator banks, medical record numbers, online patient communities, emails, and queues work in an intricate, brilliant manner to move 'em in and get 'um done with a minimum of waiting and inconvenience. It really is amazing.

One thing that struck me yesterday (and oh so very much struck me yesterday) was the framed photography at the center. Flowers. Medicinal herbs, many of them. The first one I saw was aloe and I thought, huh, Aloe. But then we were directed to a waiting area called "Elderberry". All the waiting areas were named after plants, medicinal herbs, trees. Our examining room had a huge photo of California Poppies.

I've heard it said that nothing of value is ever truly lost. I guess sometimes it watches from a portrait on the wall.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunshine and the desert air

A family friend is ill, home now, but unable to eat or drink. Even still, he asked to accompany me to the farmer's market today. We walked a short distance. Bought some vegetables. I could tell he was tired.

I asked if he was up for a drive and unveiled my plan for a scenic loop. We headed east, and I confessed I'd gotten the idea from Heidi. "The movie?" he asked.

"Yeah. As a kid I always wondered: how's that possible, how does a summer in the Alps heal the cousin's illness?"

We drove with the windows down, and inhaled the desert air. A crafty herbalist will use what's at hand.

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