CVF: In times past, the new generations of healers were identified and singled out by the elders of their communities, for most of us living in the US today, that is not the case. In your opinion, how might one know that their life path is to be one of healing, and how would you suggest that they begin to prepare themselves for that journey?
MEM: The first step [is] to go into nature and state your intention and desire to be of service to the planet and all living things. You set and intention and it will be fulfilled. after my first journey with the drum I knew that.
The Sonoran desert may be most well known to outsiders by our cactus and other injurious species of plant life, rattlesnakes, tumbleweeds, and the powerful unrelenting sun which shines about 290 days a year. In other words, a sun-soaked landscape of briary natural beauty.
But not to be reduced to the sum of its most severe parts - as many herbalists will repeat, “the medicine that is needed is growing nearby.”In the desert, remedies for the the zealous sunshine and triple digit temperatures are slimy, cooling, and emollient and they are in great abundance right here in one of the driest and hottest regions in the US.
Cactus and aloe, of course, are the most well known, with innards all slippery and slimy and perfectly suited for burns caused by overexposure to our most bountiful natural resource, the sun. The fruits of the Opuntia cactus, popularly known as prickly pear, even exhibit a refrigerant effect, helping to lower the body’s temperature so much so that over-consumption may even cause flu-like chills and residual body aches in some individuals.
But let's not stop there, lots of other plants are treasures to the dry and irritated individual in mid July….one way to determine which plant allies are there to help at this particular time of year is to look around and see who seems to be thriving in the harsh summer conditions. Hollyhocks, Palo Verdes, Desert Willows and Bouganvilleas are putting off radiant blossoms in the spring and summer. Not be outdone, of course, cacti and certain trees begin putting off fruits! If it wasn’t so familiar it would seem counter intuitive that at the most brutal time of year, so many of our luscious plant species would be flourishing!
The result is a proper cornucopia of summer vegetation to complement our most sizzling season.
This summer, I collected a few of my favorite summer allies and mixed up one of the most sumptuous syrups that I’ve tasted for Nomadica's BOTÁNICA SONORA SHARE. Our new Bouganvillea Cordial is an opulent companion to helados, respados, cocktails sipped on warm breezy nights, and even pancakes! This blend includes bougainvillea flowers to sooth throats and dry coughs, juicy apricots, tart lime and spicy chiltipín peppers to help to release heat, and extracts of Passionflower and Motherwort to calm the spirit and pacify the heart (the organ associated with summer according to traditional Chinese medicine, and easily over stimulated at this time of year).
I encourage anyone in search of a sweet respite to make the recipe at home and find your own favorite ways to enjoy the desert’s own Bouganvillea Cordial - and if locally crafted Sonoran remedies like this one peak your interest, treat yourself to our Botánica Sonora subscription.
Fall season is now available for purchase on our Remedios page, but only a fixed number of subscriptions are available, so don’t delay if you’d like to receive one of our folk-inspired single run botanical remedies each month at your door!
The following recipe makes about a quart of syrup - plenty to share with friends!
2 hand fulls of fresh bouganvillea flower
1 cup of pitted and fresh apricots
1 fresh lime
3 cups water
1 cups local honey or organic sugar
4-6 (or more, if you like heat) chiltepín peppers
1 cup Brandy (less if you like, more will help preserve the syrup and prolong the shelf life)
Optional: your favorite nervines and heart appeasing herbal extracts (ie passionflower, motherwort, desert lavender, hawthorn berry or Mimosa bark. *Up to 1 ml of total extracts per serving depending on the suggested dosage of the herb)
Pulp the apricots by hand or in a blender and simmer with bouganvillea blossoms on low heat until the water is reduced to a third.
While the botanicals decoct, blend the chiltepíns into the brandy (you can do this in the blender for a couple seconds - OR - grind dry peppers in a coffee grinder, add to brandy in a sealed glass jar and shake well), let sit for 10 minutes and strain out particulate.
Separate the flowers and fruit from the liquid infusion and, while still warm, dissolve the sugar or honey into the mixture.
Stir in the brandy and add fresh squeezed lime juice
…refrigerate & enjoy!
*The syrup will thicken-up considerably once it is sufficiently cooled.
How would you love to enjoy this summer time syrup? Share your favorites in the comments below!
Desert Dream Flower Salve is a homage to that distinct smell of the monsoons
as they roll over the desert - from el Día de San Juan
and in ceasing, signals the end of summer.
With this offering, I honor the visions and ghosts that made themselves
so readily accessible to me while living in that quietly commanding landscape.
The recipe is a special blend of herbs that through plant spirit, constituent, and lore
recalls the enchantment
unique to that golden corner of the universe
Creasote Bush, Chaparral
THE smell of the desert. Give a sprig of its small resinous leaves to any native of the Sonoran desert and watch their eyes close & their chest raise in bliss as they take in profound lung-fulls of its unmistakable fragrance. It smells like home, like renewal, and patient strength. Creasote is among one of the longest living individual plants on earth, and it carries init the wisdom and patience relative to its longevity. It is, in a word, ancestry, and holds all the memory allocated to such in its oily foliage and relentless roots.
I wasn’t formally introduced to Passiflora until I moved to central Texas.
Its elaborate blossom mirrors the worried, and circularly active mind that its medicine seems to tame. It has been a wonderful ally to me in my self-management of anxiety, which is complementary to facilitating deep sleep and dream work. It is reportedly one of the plants able to cross the blood brain barrier, and, in that way I feel “activates” the other herbs in the formula.
Mugwort >>Artemesia Vulgaris<<
The famous catalyst for dreaming and dream work! Mugwort is associated with the moon & feminine energy, as is Artemis, the moon goddess from whom mugwort gets its name. Its silvery foliage is renowned for encouraging lucid dreaming and unlocking the subconscious mind. All members of this family are regarded as magical if not divinatory including the independently illustrious Artemesia absinthium the key ingredient in Absinthe.
Sage essential oil is added for its prominent use in prayer, protection, and for clearing energy. Rose essential oil is included for its uplifting and heart softening qualities and finally, a single Jasmine blossom for psychic awareness and lunar prophecy.
Nomadica Apothecary is Chicana Herbalism in both philosophy and practice.
The natural healing traditions of the land were an early presence in my childhood. My first memories of herbs consisted of my great grandmother, Lupe, simmering fresh Yerba Buena, from our back yard in Phoenix, for tea – and of her son, my grandpa Angel Antonio Vargas, offering my cousins and I the mucilaginous innards of a barrel cactus while hiking through the mountains of the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona.
My most magical memories consist of running through the fields of our family’s original homestead in Sycamore Canyon, Arizona,while our parents yelled after us to watch for the snakes that hid the high grass. There was a bucket on a pulley that scooped fresh water from the river far below, freely roaming peacocks, and the one hundred year old adobe house that now still stands more firmly than the newer construction which housed my tío Mingo and tía Leonor.
Those are the summers that I remember best; where brown half naked children littered the fields – posing for a photograph by the well, slipping colorful beads onto the razor sharp horns of a devils claw (Proboscidea sp.), or resting under the shade of a pomegranate tree.
For me, Chicanismo carries with it an aspect of the Mestizo/a; mixed blood, intertwined histories, displacement.I embody both the conqueror and the conquerored.
...and yet, I find a home within it and despite of it. It is a sense of historical identity and the mindful adaptation of tradition. I give my friends a limpia from time to time, when they have left an insensitive lover or moved into a heavy house. I greet the day with white sage and blue cornmeal.
I call down the moon with song and a rattle.
I prefer fresh preparations of herbs because I can feel their life and vitality buzzing within. I consider the creasote and the saguaro, who shared the same upbringing of galloping dust storms and electrifying monsoons, as family of my own.
And still, I incorporate aspects of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine into my practice because their ancient wisdom also resonates with me. I recognize Vata/Pitta/Kapha in others and cross reference by checking pulse and tongue for indications of imbalance.
My Chicana herbalism is an inclusive and dynamic practice, rooted in my own understanding of my raíces, and connecting with others’ to make the whole stronger.
Still, nothing can stir me quite like the cry of a hawk above a lonely high-desert canyon, or the sound of cumbia from a passing car.