Updated: Feb 3, 2021
I protect you. You protect me. Together we protect our family and community.
Right now many of us who are blessed to be able to stay home as well as our relatives who are essential workers and, in the Indigenous way we are all related, have a special need for good food and teas that give us comfort – especially cultural remedios from our childhood. When we drink our tecitos (teas) of chamomile flowers or colorful bougainvillea, of cedro (cedar) or gordolobo (mullein) we renew our connection to our abuelitas and our ancestors.
Our cultural medicine is found in nourishing Mexican Indigenous food such as antioxidant-rich nopales, prickly pear cactus – some call it Micky Mouse cactus because sometimes the shape of the pads look like large mouse ears. Nopales scrambled with eggs and a side of freshly cooked frijolitos is one of my husband’s favorites for breakfast. Seeing the nopaleras, the groves of cactus, near our home, brings a deep reassurance... knowing that for over 7,000 years, its children and descendants have stood guard on hills and in gardens... feeding and healing our own children and families. Pray over it all.
Egg or Stone Cleansing. If you have been taught by your tia or an elder, use a prayed over raw egg to cleanse the worry and sadness that children are feeling but may not be articulating. Another way to cleanse yourself and your family is by using a small stone that you’ve prayed over and that you have asked its spiritual guardian for permission to take from its home for a little time. Explain why you need its help. If you intuit a “yes” then reciprocate its generosity with your own by putting down tobacco or other gift in accordance with your tradition. Gently run the stone over your body, from head to toe, front and back, over your head and hair; then sit and rub it gently over your knees, ankles and the soles of your feet. When you’re done wash the stone thoroughly accompanied by your prayers of gratitude to it and the spirit of water. Afterwards, either return it to its home outside or use the freshly washed stone to repeat the process with your children and other members of your family who live at home with you. The stone must be mindfully washed in between uses or preferably use a different stone for each person. Once you’ve completed the ritual return the stone outside so that it may replenish itself in the heart of the earth and the rays of the grandfather sun.
Meditate. Sit in front of a pillar or devotional candle, gaze into the flame and allow the flame to draw into its fire, like a vacuum draws debris, all your worry-thoughts. Once you feel done, sit quietly and focus on the in and out of your gentle breathing, then on your heart. Afterwards, extinguish the candle with an appropriate cover and not your breath.
Visualize. Use your mind and your emotions to see and feel the sacred water of the grandmother ocean cascade through the top of your head and in and all around your body; as the wave of water makes its way down to your feet it washes away fear and concerns and restores clarity to your mind and balance to your body and spirit. End with a prayer of gratitude.
Burn copal in your popoxcomitl, your sahumador, so that its holiness permeates your home. Use it to bless yourself and your family. Pray with it. Speak your prayers as you would share confidences with a wise elder who you trust with all your heart. Then with loving-compassion imagine the beautiful white smoke billowing out to the four directions to bless all beings.
Drink tea. I have heartwarming recuerdos of my sister or I feeling a little sick and my mom asking one of us to go out to the garden to gather yerba buena or manzanilla for a delicious healing tecito. Make herbal teas that bring comfort to you and your family and reconnect with the kitchen-plant medicine of your abuelitas y abuelitos. Whether you gather your own herbs or buy them, remember to thank our mother earth and the guardian spirits of the trees, plants, and water. If you are not familiar with making teas or working with herbs, take one of the several online courses that are being offered free on Facebook and other social media platforms by reputable herbalists, such as Linda Black Elk (see Herbal Guide, below) and the collaboration between Botanic Wise / Dr. Hobbs.
Green, black, oolong, and puerh tea have also been shown in numerous reputable studies to have an excellent effect on one’s health (do not add honey or other flavorings to these specialty teas). In the interest of full disclosure Cloud Forest Tea is owned by my husband, Ken Cohen; all teas are personally selected by him and I -- although he is the expert in Chinese teas (read his bio). Right now, 10% of all sales are donated to local food banks. These teas have exquisite fragrance and taste in addition to their health benefits. Our small company is founded on trusted personal relationships we have with reputable growers in Taiwan for many years. We visit Taiwan every year or two and spend enjoyable days renewing friendships with several tea-wise multi-generational families who take great pride in their ancestral connection to this medicine plant, camelia sinensis. A 2005 study published on the website of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) discusses how green, oolong, puerh and black tea inhibit replication of the SARS-CoV in infected host cells. SARS is a type of corona virus. Puerh and black tea had the strongest inhibitory effects. Pray over it all.
Bougainvillea Tea (Té de Bugambilia). Growing up my madrecita always had colorful bougainvillea growing at our home since its both drought resistant, gorgeous, and medicine. Every time I see it, it reminds me of her and my tias. It is used for coughs and sore throats in traditional Mexican medicine.
2 bougainvillea flowers with their brackets
1 teaspoon of raw honey (may also add cinnamon)
Boil water, pour into cup and add the flowers. Allow it to steep, remove the flowers, then add honey. Some friends like to add a couple of leaves of eucalyptus to it. Here’s a slightly different version from The Other Side of the Tortilla. Important: do not use bougainvillea if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This tea is suitable only for youth and adults, not for babies or toddlers.
Cedar Face Steam. Easy to do and can help improve breathing, sinus conditions, and congestion. Gather cedar with prayers -- I like to thank the ancestors of the original people on whose land I am when I gather it. As someone who follows Indigenous protocols I like to remind young women that one should not be menstruating when gathering plants. If you need more information on Indigenous protocols, offer a gift or pouch of tobacco to a local elder and ask for their advice and guidance. You will need a large clean pot and a towel and a generous handful of cedar leaves. The pot should be large and wide enough so that you will be able to lean over it to inhale the steam. The towel should drape over your head like tent; it should cover your head and the outside of the pot.
Place a generous handful of cedar into a large empty pot. Separately, boil water enough to fill the pot a little over half way full, then pour the boiled water over the cedar leaves. First, do a quick test to make sure it's not too hot and the steam not too intense for your face -- steam can burn. If it feels comfortably warm, place your face over the pot of steaming herbs at a bit of distance so that you don't accidentally have steam that is too hot -- everyone is different so honor your own needs. Cover your head with the towel. Inhale deeply, being aware of how it feels. If it feels too hot, move your face farther away or wait until it cools a little. Take some deep breaths, smell that good cedar medicine... feel gratitude and appreciation in your heart for this medicine, for your lungs and healthy body. Try to do this for five minutes, ten is better. Add more hot water if necessary. If you have a cough or are congested, you may want to repeat this several times a day. Pray over it all.
Nurture Relationships. Stay home and practice safe physical distancing, but also call or FaceTime your parents, grandparents, elders, relatives, and friends. Do it often and reminisce and laugh together! Laughter is good for your spirit and your immune system. Above all have compassion for yourself. We are all doing the best we can and together we will get through these difficult days.
Our priorities and understandings are shifting and every day we join millions of others around the world in offering prayers for protection, strength, and good health. Although I miss seeing and apapachando my children and grandchildren, I am grateful to be able to stay home and continue to offer telephone and online pláticas as well as distance healing. If this interests you, please email me and I will send you details.
May we preserve the lessons we are being given by the earth herself as we see entire areas previously polluted now having cleaner air and our animal relations rejoicing in the quiet of less automobiles on the road. May we remember that the magic of change is within us. May the teachings of this virus help us remember that we are all related and that what befalls one befalls all; and, equally what blesses one, blesses all.
"Blessings upon all those who are running towards the fire of people with fever and lungs aflame; upon those working in the fields in the rain and cold who continue putting food on our table; upon grocery workers stocking shelves and sanitation workers cleaning hospitals and streets; upon those entrusted with authority who honorably ensure the safety of our communities; upon those who have been tasked with the sacred responsibility of burying loved ones gone too soon; and, blessings upon those staying home that the chain of illness may be broken." —Maestra Grace Sesma