Spring cleaning is a multicultural ritual, traditional around the world as a way to refresh our homes, gardens, and bodies and prepare them for the new growth energy to come. In the case of personal cleansing, regimens can range from intensive courses of fasting and purgatives to more gentle approaches of eating lighter, fresher and simpler foods while supported by mild nutritive herbs.
We tend to favour the more gentle approach to cleansing physically, supported by subtle-level clearing, as well. Many plants offer purification of physical and energetic systems in one balanced package, and Shilajit, Tulsi, and Saffron are good examples of this.
Shilajit is not an herb, but a mineral pitch that is exuded from the rock faces of the Himalayas. It has long been valued in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as a deep nutritive tonic, carrying easily-assimilable vitamins and minerals. This is because, before Shilajit was a resinous deposit, it was plant life, growing all over the mountainsides, only to die, decompose in deposits of nutrients, and get weathered through the rocks and out their faces in a new form.
Shilajit smells and tastes like (and is used as) incense because of its high content of benzoic acid, which is also found in Frankincense, Myrrh, Benzoin, and other aromatic plant resins. Benzoic acid has been used as a preservative since at least the 16th century, and it is valuable for that use even today. It has strong anti-microbial properties, killing bacteria, fungus, and viruses and protecting from putrefaction.
In Ayurveda, Shilajit is known as a “yoga vahi”, or unifying carrier, an herb which can be directed to different organs or systems through combining it with other herbs. Used with Turmeric, it becomes an excellent digestive tonic and anti-infective, while used with Cordyceps, it is considered regenerative to the respiratory system. This synergistic effect is due in part to Shilajit’s content of fulvic acid, which balances the electrolytic properties of the mucus membranes, enhancing their openness to medicines and nutrients.
Our Shilajit Essence is deeply tonic and supportive to sustained energy, while also purifying on many levels of being. It brings a high, clear energy like being on a mountain in the fresh air, and it builds vitality over time, whether used alone or with other Spagyrics.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is well-known as an adaptogen and tonic to many systems of the body, including the respiratory, digestive, and hormonal. It is an excellent anti-oxidant, anti-viral, and anti-infective, and is one of our favourite herbs for its usefulness, gentleness, and wonderful taste.
In India, where Tulsi is from, it is planted around temples and grown near the door of the home, as it is believed that no negative influence can cross its protective path. Like all basils, Tulsi is cleansing to the air around it, removing free radicals and pollution, and so it is an excellent indoor houseplant, as well.
Tulsi’s protective properties extend well into the subtle realms of being, and it is the best Spagyric we have for removing negative or stagnant energies, influences, or mind states. Time and again in our booth, we have been approached by people asking for help with negativity from an emotional encounter, psychic attack, unfriendly person, or just a simple bad day.
Our Spiritualized Essence of Tulsi always helps, clearing out negative influences and residues of tension, worry, or dark energy and bringing back protection, cheer, and positive radiance. If Shilajit is like standing in the fresh mountain air, Tulsi is like opening a window in a stale room- suddenly, the air is clear and clean and a deep breath lifts the mind and mood to a better state.
Interestingly, a related South American species, Ocimum micranthum, is used in Ayahuasca ceremony as a protector of the space and energy of the ritual and to “unlock” the minds of the celebrants if they become stuck in negative feedback loops. Customers report success with our Tulsi in this same application, as well as with other types of meditation and ritual work.
Our next pair of herbs also comes to us from Ayurveda, and they bring our clearing efforts to even higher levels of energy. Both Saffron and Calamus are considered clearing to the nadis, or subtle channels that connect our Chakras and allow the free flow of consciousness throughout the body. Much like the meridians of TCM, when the nadis are blocked, the stagnation that results can lead to illness and dysfunction, and so it is important to keep this energy free-flowing and clear.
Saffron has been known as a decadent and expensive spice, a stunning golden dye, and a powerful medicine since ancient times, and it is all of these things. Warming and rich, it enlivens foods and aids digestion, while the golden aura it gives fabric is often reserved for the holiest members of society. It is the most expensive spice in the world, but it is also powerful and need only be used in small amounts.
In Ayurveda, Saffron (along with honey) is considered purely Sattvic, that is, ruled by only the element of spirit, rather than by the more gross earth, water, fire, or air. This Sattvic quality can be felt in our Saffron Initiatic, as it moves through the subtle body, clearing blockages and moving energy everywhere, but especially upwards into the crown. That upward movement, along with Saffron’s initiatic chemistry, brings a sensation of peace, detachment, perspective, and deep contemplation, free from the mental clutter of worldly worries.
Calamus is another nadi-clearing herb, often used or mentioned in conjunction with Saffron for healing and ritual work. Calamus oil is used in Ayurvedic massage for cleansing, as part of the detoxifying practice of panchakarma, and it acts to purify the secretions that other practices of the detoxification stimulate, such as sweating.
Calamus is called vacha in Ayurveda, meaning both truth and speech, and it is considered the plant most supportive of the mind’s communication as it manifests through sound. Many of you may know this aspect of Calamus as one of our favourite plants, Micah having been friends with it since her teenage years.
In the Americas, our native Calamus was much beloved by Walt Whitman, who was poetically inspired by its taste and effects. Interestingly, American Calamus was also used to support the singer in Native sweat lodges, protecting the vocal cords, increasing range, and focusing the spiritual energy so that it can be sent out as sound to support the ceremony.
Our Calamus Initiatic is made from wildcrafted American Calamus, which we feel is the most balanced type for internal use. It has the energy-moving and purifying effects expected from the raw plant, while as a Spagyric, it also facilitates an unhindered connection to higher energies.
That connection can support “speaking your Truth” from a more clear, higher, and wise perspective, linking the heart’s wisdom to that of the head and communicating that to the world around. This purified flow state is also popular with energy healers, as it helps the subtle force of healing flow more effectively through the healer, rather than from them. Practices like Reiki are especially enhanced this way, while also protecting the healer’s own vitality from depletion.
Moving out of specifically Ayurvedic herbs and into our last, more worldwide plant, we encounter Mugwort and its relatives as cleansing and protective plants wherever they grow.
In both Tibetan and Native American ceremony, Artemesias are burned as smudge and fumigation against physical and spiritual disease, malevolent influence, negative spirits, and as part of regular prayer practice. In TCM, mugwort is used in moxibustion, being burned to warm acupuncture points and clear stagnant meridians. Also in China, Mugwort (and Calamus) are hung by the door of the house each year at the Dragon Boat Festival, purifying the air and protecting the occupants.
European use of Mugwort is similar- as a protector of the home, it is hung around doorways and entrances, and when traveling, this traveler’s herb is carried to protect the person until the return home.
Mugwort grows in disturbed places, such as along roadsides, and its silvery leaves shine and create a path in the light of the Moon, whose goddess Artemis gives this family its botanical name. This effect connects to the idea of the “silver cord” connecting the spirit and body during sleep, when the spirit roams, but can be drawn back along that tether. Mugwort is used in dream pillows and charms to facilitate this open, free, yet protected state, allowing spiritual travel at night and the return to safety in the morning.
Mugwort is also cleansing physically, although not as strongly as its relative, Wormwood. Our Mugwort Essence carries gentle detoxification properties, moving sluggish digestion, relaxing cramps so that the body’s processes run smoothly, and especially helping with poor digestion of fats.
On the more subtle levels, our Mugwort Initiatic is the classic traveler’s herb, whether the journey is a lucid one in meditation, or the sleeping wandering of dreams. It is sedative to a point, bringing you into the dream state, but going no deeper, so that you remain in the more active realms of REM sleep, rather than going deeper into mindless rest. As you travel, Mugwort’s silver aura protects you from darker influences and negativity, so that the benefits of the open dreamstate can be worked with, while avoiding the dangers of vulnerability.