September 15, 2020
Seasonal Herbs for the Autumn Equinox
By Tonja Reichley
As Autumn Equinox approaches may we connect to the ancient rhythms of Earth and Sky to restore in us a memory, a remembering, of our essence of being here to tend to the Earth, to reclaim the magic that we inherently hold and to protect our Mother the Earth and all of her children.
Autumn Equinox falls on the day that the sun moves into the sign of Libra, an air sign of balance and harmony. This year the Autumn Equinox occurs on September 22. Equinox means “equal” and is when day and night, light and dark, are of relatively equal balance. Moving forward from the Autumn Equinox the days shorten and the nights lengthen through to Winter Solstice, as the Wheel continues to turn.
A profound way to connect to these ancient rhythms is by working with herbs that will nourish us, body and spirit: herbs that will restore in us balance and harmony. The herbal action of herbs that help us come back to homeostasis or balance in the body is adaptogenic: our adaptogen herbs helps us adapt to stress and challenge, nourish our adrenals and soothe our nervous systems. The adaptogen herbs are a foundation of my herbal practice and in these times of pandemic, constant change causing chronic stress, political unrest, revolution for racial justice and climate crisis, these herbs are our allies more than ever.
I work and co-create with herbs of my ancestral lineage (of western European descent) as those are the herbs that have nourished my DNA through thousands of years and it is from these herbs that I will be optimally nourished. These are herbs that are abundantly available in most parts of the world now (due to migration and colonization) and often may be considered wild weeds which contain so much medicine for us, body and spirit. The herbs I co-create with are important in other indigenous traditions and healing as well and offer much for us all. Additionally, I consider the season and what herbs are showing up, as those are the herbs with the nourishment we need. In the autumn I love to work with root medicine as well as autumn-fresh herbs that are green and vibrant again after a waning in the summer heat.
Dandelion leaf and root are wonderful choices to create teas with during this time. The root nourishes our liver, gently detoxifying, helping to release anger and energetically reminds us to begin to spiral inward, root into the Earth. The leaf is appearing vibrant and juicy again and is a wonderful tonic for the kidneys and the adrenals, is high in essential vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, potassium, iron and zinc. It has a bitter taste which is healthful to the body, especially the endocrine system and digestion.
Licorice root is soothing and demulcent, delicious if used correctly: a very little bit added to a blend, not to be used as a simple, or single herb. Licorice root coats and soothes our mucous membranes, which for those of us who live in the western United States and effected by the fires, this herb is a powerful ally for lung health. It is also a wonderful tonic to nourish the adrenals, which are taxed after this year of our nervous systems being swung quite often into sympathetic mode (“flight or flight”).
Borage is a “herb of gladness”, as one of our ancestral herbalists said. It brings light and hope through times of challenge and grief. It nourishes our nervous system, is good for anxiety and depression and is another adrenal tonic to bring harmony into our bodies and into our lives. Borage is a warrior herb, offering courage and vitality for the journey.
As winter beckons in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us dread the lessening light. I love to work with burdock root, not only for the adaptogenic properties and the nourishment it brings to the liver and the gentle and detoxifying properties to the blood, but also for the energetic way it can remind us of the wisdom of rooting into the Earth, of finding peace in the dark, of slowing down and going inward.
Nettle leaf is the staple of my herbal apothecary in every season (and in Ireland where I live part time, it is an herb that is vibrant through almost every season!). I love nettle in the autumn because it is especially vibrant and its sting extra vital (its sting is lovely medicine too). This herb brings balance to the body by infusing it with trace vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, vitamin B and zinc, all of which are important during these times. Nettle leaf tea positively influences and nourishes every single one of our body systems.
The best way to get optimal nourishment from our herbal allies, to ease adrenal and chronic stress, is through a long-steep or overnight infusion of the herbs. Additionally, you may select one of the herbs I mentioned and create a ritual tea with the herb, to call in their wisdom to nourish your spirit and your emotions. You could also use these herbs in a bath, footbath, in a steam or as an incense to cleanse and call in. I love working with moon cycles and invite you to make a lunar infusion on an upcoming moon cycle that resonates to bring balance into your life and harmony into your spirit.
Following is a tea blend which will be delicious as an overnight infusion. In my Irish lineage, we often use charms to accompany our remedies so I have included a charm as well.
Autumn Equinox Seasonal Herbal Tea
2 part nettle leaf
2 part burdock root
1 part dandelion leaf
1 part dandelion root
½ part borage
1/8 to ¼ part licorice root
Recommended dosage: 2-4 cups of an overnight infusion, 4-5 times per week from the Autumn Equinox to Samhain, then adjust with herbs for Samhain. For an overnight infusion, make a double strength tea: use 2 tsp of herb to one cup of water off the boil. Allow it to steep all night to pull out the nutrients. Drink at room temperature throughout the day, between meals.
An Autumn Equinox charm to recite over your tea to potentize its healing (or write your own!):
Balance and harmony I so seek
With these herbs may I receive.
Ancestors guide my hands to make
A healing tonic we co-create.