Have a stomach ache? Drink ginger tea.
Getting a cold? Eat garlic.
Anything else? Just use Tiger Balm.
I am the daughter of a Chinese immigrant mother, and I heard these phrases over and over growing up. I remember trying to choke down tea that we got at my first Chinese medicinal herb shop. It was so bitter that I decided to will myself better so I wouldn’t have to drink it! Back then I never would have imagined that I would one day become an herbalist.
I have always loved plants, and gardening was one of my favorite things to do as a lonely only child! Plants were my close friends, and still are. It was through this love of gardening that I met herbalists and began to learn about plants, as medicine, as well as food. I’ve been honored to study with many incredible herbalists over the years and continue to receive teachings from Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes at the Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine, a school in Northern California that focuses on the energetic medicine of plants and the physical healing benefits of working with plants.
In 2009, I developed an ovarian cyst, the size of a football, which resulted in my entire ovary being removed. I was very fortunate to have healthcare to afford the surgery, and through the experience I switched gears from my work as a youth educator to becoming an herbalist. I decided to commit my life to ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare.
Providing healthcare is a huge responsibility and a process I approach with deep respect. I am committed to healing justice and the right to affordable and high-quality health care. A key part of healing justice is to provide care to those who are systematically denied quality healthcare because of social and economic injustices. My practice is accessible and culturally relevant to queers, youth and communities of color. Very specific intake questions are asked, there is a sliding scale, and root stressors are taken into account: racism, homophobia, and lack of access to basic needs. It’s a lifelong journey for myself and the people I support.
One highlight of this past year was facilitating an herb walk for a group of people who were previously incarcerated and were in a re-entry program facilitated by the Asian Prisoner Support Committee. We ventured out into the Bay Area and I introduced them to local wild plants that could support their physical, emotional and spiritual healing process. We shared our personal and cultural connections to plant medicine and the knowledge of herbs to support groups who are committed to social justice and liberation.
This sense of sharing and access is part of the impetus for the monthly Medicine Corner Series! Each month a queer Asian Pacific Islander healer will be interviewed, share their experiences, and advice in different areas of medicine. We will always include a medicinal herb snippet for you to enjoy!
MEDICINE CORNER: THE CARE OF CHAMOMILE
Three stages of Chamomile. Left: flowers -- Middle: dried -- Right: Tincture (photo: Mia Nakano)
I love introducing people to new plants. Over time, we develop relationships where we care for the plants and learn the ways they can heal. Chamomile is helpful as a sleep aid, calming, anxiety relief, and, in some cases, depression. It is anti-inflammatory in the digestive system, and helps with stomach aches. Chamomile is great for irritated skin, especially when administered topically as an oil, salve or compress. Chamomile can also help with allergy relief, unless you are allergic to plants in the Ragweed family.
Know where your herbs come from!
Please be aware of where you get your herbs, make sure they are local when possible, and either grown or harvested ethically. These herbs came from Namu Farm and Oakland's SOL [Sustaining Ourselves Locally] garden.
A huge part of my practice focuses on accessibility. Chamomile is easy to grow, affordable, and accessible. It’s not a big money-maker for the Alternative Medicine industry, so those in power don’t promote Chamomile as much as other herbs. Instead they market “super herbs”, like Goldenseal, that increase their popularity and result in higher profit margins. A major downfall is that some herbs, including Goldenseal, are endangered because they are over-harvested. Equally beneficial herbs, like Chamomile, are overlooked on nature walks and in people’s backyards. It’s an easy herb to grow in a container garden or even a large pot.
Chamomile in the sun (Photo by Mia Nakano)
For more information on Elokin’s practice and to ask how you can grow Chamomile please visit her at Shooting Star Botanicals.
Elokin is an herbalist and Spiritual Massage practitioner who has studied alternative medicine for over sixteen years. She is honored to connect people with the healing nature of herbal medicine to support the healthy changes we want to see in ourselves, our communities, and the world we live in. As an queer femme Hapa, activist and youth educator she especially seeks to provide culturally relevant services to queer people of color and youth. She offers quality, accessible health care through sliding scale services locally in the Bay Area and through long distance Skype sessions.