I am typing this post while feeling totally relaxed, in a great mood, and quite a bit altered, because I just smoked Indian tobacco, Lobelia inflata, and passionflower. I’m the only person I’ve ever heard of who smoked passionflower, let alone those two blended together. And you know what? I highly recommend it. Passionflower is a pleasant-tasting hypnotic (sedative) and a relaxing nervine, and lobelia is relaxing and uplifting, and the two together are pretty fantastic. It’s the best combination I’ve tried thus far.
A “nervine,” by the way, is herbal jargon for a plant that has a beneficial effect on the nervous system. I’ve been reading about them in the textbook Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman, a great read for anyone curious about the scientific end of how herbs work.
I got the idea to smoke lobelia and passionflower together as research for a new workshop I’m excited to be offering: DIY Smoking Blends on Thursday, November 8, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., in which we’ll experiment with an array of nervines and hypnotics and learn about the plants, too. It’ll be at Clary Sage Herbarium at NE 28th and Alberta Street, a very cool little apothecary run by Laurie Lava, a local herbalist committed to carrying high quality, sustainably collected plants and selling them at very affordable prices. She uses all biodegradable packaging too. If you come, you get to go home with your own unique blend and, most likely, some new adventurous friends. I do like to wildcraft whenever possible, but some plants, like lobelia, do not grow wild around Portland.
Smoking herbs can even be beneficial under some circumstances. Lobelia, for example, is an anti-spasmodic that’s helpful for treating asthma, and what better way to get it to the lungs directly? Mullein, verbascum thapsus, is a wonderful, soft base layer for smoke blends. It’s also an expectorant. Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis, has antimicrobial properties. That combination can be useful when fighting off a lung infection.I recommend checking out this informative web page on herbal smoking blends by the Eugene-based herbalist Howie Brounstein of the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. Howie suggests smoking medicinal herbs as alternatives to marijuana and tobacco. In particular, he recommends pedicularis, a muscle relaxer. I like pedicularis very much and I’ve been fortunate to be able to wildcraft it, but it’s fairly scarce and difficult to get, making it expensive to buy, and there are many more affordable and more available alternatives you can find at your local herb shop or in the wild. If you’ve come to my Urban Foraging 101 class, then you know that one very common and abundant wild nervine herb is none other than the mint plant, lemon balm, Melissa officinalis.
Another class I’ll be offering at Clary Sage this fall is Make Your Own Dreamcatcher on Thursday, December 6, also from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. In this one, you get to weave your own dreamcatcher using artificial sinew, willow branches, leather, feathers, and beautiful gemstones. All materials will be provided except the feathers. I suggest setting an intention to discover your own wild-gathered feathers — crow feathers abound in Portland, and sometimes woodpecker feathers — or you can buy pheasant feathers at Clary Sage. And, I’ll gladly infuse your handiwork with reiki for free at the class. I recently got my first attunement and am having a blast using my healing superpowers. (Eventually, I look forward to offering sessions.)
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