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Bupleurum Root

Radix Bupleurum

I find bupleurum root to be a magical herb. It has unique properties that are impossible to find elsewhere.

Bupleurum root helps to lower fever and relieve pain, which is why it is included in many anti-viral formulas [1]. That’s not what makes it so special, though.

More spectacularly, bupleurum root is used to lift and release sustained viral infection. This means that if you have been struggling with a virus for months or even years and you can’t seem to shake it, bupleurum is the herb for you [2]. I don’t know any other herb that do this as well as bupleurum does. For best effects in treating prolonged viral infection, take bupleurum in the famous TCM formula Xiao Chai Hu Tang. Trust me, it works!

At the same time that bupleurum works more superficially to release viral infection, it also works more deeply in the liver, with hepato-protective activity [3], anti-inflammatory properties [4], stimulation of bile flow [5], and an ability to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides [6]. Bupleurum has also been shown to treat infectious hepatitis [7], and to prevent liver cirrhosis [8]. If you have a problem with your liver, bupleurum root is your friend.

It’s this ability to work both superficially and more deeply that makes bupleurum root so exceptional. In Chinese medicine, it is said to work at the Shao Yang level of the body, which is neither at the exterior nor in the interior, but at the intersection of both. One of my mentors uses bupleurum root as a “revealer”. He says that by harmonizing both the exterior and the interior of the body, bupleurum can magically reveal more deep-seated problems.

In addition to its ability to balance both the exterior and the interior of the body, bupleurum can also stimulate your immune system. Studies show that bupleurum root has the ability to stimulate cellular immunity in mice [9], and also has an inhibitory effects against B-hemolytic streptococcus, Vibrio cholerae, mycobacterium tuberculosis, leptospira as well as influenza, polio and hepatitis viruses [10].

Chinese doctors found all of these wonderful properties in an herb that is not even native to their own country. The pinyin title for bupleurum root is “kindling of the barbarians”, meaning that it was brought into China thousands of years ago by invaders. Originally, it was not even a Chinese herb!

If you’re curious to see the amazing effects of bupleurum root at work, try our famous Chinese Bitters or GCG formulas. Both of them include and rely on bupleurum root and its unique properties.

  1. Sheng Yang Yi Xue Yuan Xue Bao (Journal of Shenyang University of Medicine), 1984; 1(3):214
  2. Zhong Yao Xue (Chinese Herbology), 1988; 105
  3. Zhong Yao Yao Li Yu Ying Yong (Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Herbs), 1983; 888
  4. Ibid.
  5. Zhong Yi Yao Xue Bao (Report of Chinese Medicine and Herbology), 1988; (1):45
  6. Zhong Yao Xue (Chinese Herbology), 1998; 103:106
  7. Xin Yi Yao Xue Za Zhi (New Journal of Medicine and Herbology), 1974; 2:18
  8. Ibid., 2:28
  9. Shang Hai Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao (Journal of Shanghai University of Medicine), 1986; 13(1):20
  10. Zhong Yao Xue (Chinese Herbology), 1998; 103:106


When I started my yoga teacher training more than a year ago, our instructors told us to be gentle with ourselves as we learned. They warned us not to be overly critical of ourselves if we failed to meet our goals, and to show ourselves compassion. At the time, it sounded like fluffy, airy-fairy yoga stuff to me.

I had always pushed myself very hard in school, forcing myself to give my absolute best to any assignment or project. I may not have had the highest marks in the class, but I was always up there in the Honour Roll, and I prided myself on that. If there was one thing people knew about me, it was that I did well in school.

That was just about the only part of me that most people knew, though. It was also the only part of my life where I felt I passed muster. I needed to do well in school. My fragile sense of self depended on it. Failure – even just mediocrity – was not an option.

It’s funny how strong those kind of past beliefs are. When I started my yoga teacher training, I could feel myself gearing up for the challenge just like I did when I was a teenager. I was determined to be the best in the class, and willing to put in whatever effort was required to wow my teachers.

But almost as soon as those thoughts crossed my mind, I could feel the fatigue welling up behind my eyes. I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had already spent all my available energy more than a decade ago. I didn’t have it in me to keep pushing myself so hard. If I did, I knew I would collapse from exhaustion before the program was even finished.

Why did I think I needed to do that? I guess you could say I was never told – or at least I never believed – that I was good enough on my own. I thought that if I didn’t stand out in some way, if I wasn’t special in some way, then I would never be loved. Certainly, I would never succeed.

That appears to be what our culture teaches us. If you aren’t exceptional in some way, you’re not wanted. Our children have to prove their excellence just to earn entry into schools and land low-paying jobs that we could have fallen into when we were young. As a result, they are developing physical and mental health problems that we previously didn’t see until middle age. I may have grown up a generation earlier, but I was still negatively affected by it.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? How can we change?

Well, I don’t know how to change a culture, but we can at least change our own attitude. Studies show that being critical with yourself actually makes you work less effectively. It makes you so afraid of failure that you stop trying.

On the other hand, when you can show yourself some compassion and forgiveness, it actually helps you to relax so you can perform better. You aren’t so stressed and afraid that you view every failure as the end of the road. Instead, you’re able to see it as an opportunity for growth.

It seems counter-intuitive. Many people think that if they aren’t strict enough with themselves, they’ll just lie back and never achieve anything. But in the long run, pushing yourself too hard doesn’t make you do better. It only makes you sick. Like me.

I want you to put your hands over your heart right now and think back to a time when you felt loved, by a friend, or a relative, or even just a pet. Breathe deeply now and allow the remembrance of that love to enter your heart. Breathe it in and really feel it. Know that you are a good person. Know that you are lovable and worthy just as you are.

Somehow, we have to learn to soften towards ourselves a little more. To give ourselves a little more space, to breathe and to just be. To show ourselves a little more compassion. Maybe that is the only way we can begin to turn this world around. Because if we can learn to treat ourselves better, then maybe we’ll start to treat everyone else better too.

Embracing Fragility

Kintsugi: the art that embraces imperfection

A number of years ago, I took this short, half-day mosaic course. In the course, we were shown how to glue multiple pieces of coloured glass onto a wooden slate, in a variety of suggested patterns, in order to create a beautiful piece of artwork.

We seven students sat together at the back of the store, at a cozy wooden table covered in tiny glass shards in a rainbow of different shades. It was so satisfying to pluck colours out of the pile, one by one, and arrange them, just so, into a completely new form. I still have the picture frames I made that day.

I was very drawn to mosaic building during those initial years of my illness because I felt so broken myself. My life, which had seemed full and vibrant until then, had collapsed so suddenly and completely that it took me years to adjust. I just didn’t know how to make myself whole again, either physically or psychologically. By gluing coloured pieces of glass, side by side, on a piece of wood, I felt I could somehow put all the broken pieces of myself back together again too.

At that time, all kinds of broken things began to fascinate me. Broken shells on the beach, broken and discarded plastic cups in the park, trees with their branches broken off, broken sidewalks. When I discovered Kintsugi, the Japanese practice of piecing together broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, I felt the hand of God pointing at me. Brokenness began to seem sacred.

There’s that famous poem by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Life is so fragile, and humans are such delicate creatures. Things can break in an instant. We have all lost things we can never recover, and broken things that can never be put back together again. Bodies get sick, milk spills, people mistreat you, relationships fade. The trick is learning how to be okay with all that brokenness. In being able to see the beauty behind it and within it.

I always hoped I’d find a cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I never really did. But what I did learn, was how to love myself despite my brokenness. I learned to become more present, since the present is all we really have. I learned how to sit with the inevitable pain of existence and not run away. I learned to love, fiercely, with the deep knowing that it will end. I learned how to show myself, and others, compassion.

Finally, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be fixed. I can be fragile and still have value. I can be broken and still be loved. In fact, I now see my fragility and brokenness as a strength. Unlike the selfish and brittle hardness of power, a whole lot of softness and love can come out of fragility. And by accepting my own fragility, I can teach others to love and accept theirs as well. That is truly a gift.

Waayyy Behind Book Club – February 2023

Welcome to the February 2023 edition of The Waayyy Behind Book Club, where I talk about the books I’ve read this month. Hello, fellow readers! Come along and see if any of these books pique your interest.

The first book I read this month was Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment. Those in the know may already be familiar with Elena Ferrante from her celebrated Neopolitan series of books, now dramatized on HBO. The TV show is named My Brilliant Friend, after the first book in the series, and has been described as “a modern masterpiece” and also “what Jane Austen would write if she got angry”. Both the books and the TV show are fantastic.

The Days of Abandonment was written years before that, and is searing reading. It’s about a woman whose husband leaves her for another woman after 15 years of marriage. We watch as she goes through all the stages of grief, from denial, to anger, to hysteria, to numbness, until finally she finds acceptance and is able to move on with her life. It’s so raw and honest, you’ll swear she must be writing from her own personal experience. That’s what Ferrante’s writing is like. She knows your heart and is unafraid of speaking exactly what it feels.

The next book I read this month was just as gripping. Memorial Drive is poet Natasha Trethewey’s gut wrenching attempt to come to terms with the murder of her mother thirty years before. Trethewey was only 19 years old when her stepfather shot her mother in the head and killed her. This is devastating reading. You can feel Trethewey’s pain as she memorializes her beautiful mother, but you can also sense the relief as she unburdens herself. You can tell that this is a story that needed to be told.

I also read The Dude and the Zen Master this month. In it, Jeff Bridges and reknowned Zen teacher Bernie Glassman sit down and talk about life. If you love the movie The Big Lebowski, as I do, you can get drawn in by chapter titles like, “Sometimes You Eat the Bear, and Sometimes, Well, He Eats You”, and “Yeah, Well, You Know, That’s Just Like, Uh, Your Opinion, Man”, but I actually didn’t find much of substance here. You learn about some of Jeff Bridges’ experiences on movie sets, but other than that, nothing really revelatory. Unless you’re a big Jeff Bridges fan, I’d give this book a pass.

When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History by Matthew Restall was an intriguing read. Essentially, it’s a book about history and how it’s recorded. We all know that the victor gets to tell the tale, while the loser’s story gets left on the editor’s floor. Well, Montezuma was definitely the loser in this sad piece of history. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Cortes’ story is mostly self-aggrandising and is littered with plot holes. For 500 years, no one thought much to question it. But after Restall sifts through all the old documents and letters, we find a tale that’s far more interesting and compelling than the one you were told in school. Personally, I love this kind of stuff and couldn’t put the book down.

The final book for this month is The Road Less Traveled by M Scott Peck. It’s a famous book. I had to wait months before I could get a copy through the library. Yet, when I first began to read it, I could not understand why it has remained so popular. The book was written 45 years ago, and while the advice Peck gives may have been instructive back then, it’s mostly old news. I kept wanting to put the book down and walk away, but I was determined to give it a chance. I’m glad I did. The last third of the book was a masterful blending of psychology, religion and spirituality that could only come from someone really knowledgeable and wise. If you’re a searcher trying to find your path in life, this book still has a lot to offer. I know I learned a few things.

So, that’s it for this month. Until next time, keep on reading. 🙂

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Truce

This week marks the 18th anniversary of my relationship with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s been a contentious relationship to say the least, and one I would rather not have had. During those years, I alternately wrestled with CFS, pleaded with it, cursed it, cried until my tears ran dry, and then, exhausted and depleted by all my efforts, finally began to soften towards it.

I had to. Because with a condition like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, what you eventually realize is that you are essentially fighting with yourself. It took me a long time to realize that. To really internalize it.

I heard someone say recently that if you want to heal one thing, you have to heal all the things. Man, hearing something like that would have really depressed me back when I first became sick. Back then, I was exhausted, confused, and overwhelmed. I wanted a quick, clear answer to my health problems and I wanted it fast. I wanted a pill. A tincture. Something – anything – that would get me back on my feet and back in the game as soon as possible.

What I had to come to terms with, was how much that attitude was hurting me. Unless I was achieving something, I felt like I was useless and unlovable. I was always pushing myself to accomplish more, and faster, fearing that, unless I did something impressive, I wouldn’t earn my keep. That attitude was slowly killing me.

Back then, I was always caring for others and really didn’t think of myself at all. Certainly, I didn’t think about my body and its problems. As far as I was concerned, my body was supposed to come along and do whatever my brain wanted it to do. I was furious that it was no longer co-operating.

And therein lies the rub. In order to heal my body, I needed do that one thing I didn’t want to do. The one thing I didn’t even know how to do: listen to my body. For someone who had been steadfastly ignoring her body’s needs for more than three decades, it was a steep learning curve.

It’s been a long journey, filled with many ups and downs. But over the course of the last 18 years, I have finally learned to listen. I now listen closely to my physical symptoms, taking the time every morning to jot down every little, subtle fluctuation so I can better treat myself with herbs. I listen to my heart, making sure I take the time to feel my emotions and show myself compassion – an essential step for healing your nervous system. I’ve stopped putting other people’s needs above my own – a lot easier now that my kids have grown up. And I now surround myself with people who are kind to me, who actually like me, rather than putting up with people whose only interest is in tearing me down.

In short, I did all the things. I did all the things I had previously told myself were not important. The things that I thought were secondary at best, as I searched for that elusive miracle cure. And finally, after years of isolation and despondency, I slowly began to re-discover myself and regain my lost energy.

For those who are struggling with CFS right now, who are right in the thick of it, in the middle of the worst symptoms, my heart goes out to you. I know how you feel. I’ve been there. Dear one, please put down your sword. Listen to me.

Fighting with this illness will not get you anywhere. Whatever poison you throw at CFS you also throw at yourself. What you need to do is soften. You must learn to be gentle with yourself. If you are a hard-charging people pleaser like I was, I know how incredibly hard this is to do.

In a few months, I hope to have some free yoga classes you can attend that will help you to get back in touch with yourself and develop some self-compassion.

In the meantime, I’m here to tell you that you are beautiful just as you are, even in the midst of all your brokenness. That you are worthy and lovable, even though you can’t get out of bed. Even with all your imperfections, know that you are important. Please know that you still belong.

Zizyphus Seeds

Seeds of Ziziphus spina-christi, the Christ’s Thorn Jujube. Medicinal plant, chinese medicine. (Photo by: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Julia never liked tonic herbs. She had a bad experience with them when she was younger, and refused to take them forever afterwards. Julia was like that. Reflexive and stubborn. Hurt her just once, and a wall would come down that she would never raise again.

I say this not to diminish her experience. Julia suffered from endometriosis, which is widely agreed to be both confounding and shockingly painful. Even now, decades after Julia’s struggle with it, doctors provide few helpful options. If Julia found tonic herbs like peony root and licorice root to aggravate it, I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her about it.

Nevertheless, despite her Chinese heritage, I believe Julia didn’t quite understand how tonic herbs should be used. She described taking peony root and licorice root (in the traditional Chinese formula Si Ni San) daily for many months. You don’t usually take tonic herbs steadily for months at a time, especially for a stagnant condition like endometriosis. Her experience confirmed that: although the herbs initially helped her, they eventually caused her pain to worsen.

Worsening pain is a sign. It’s not necessarily a sign that the formula she was taking was wrong, or that it was harmful. It may have been just what she needed at the time it was prescribed. However the worsening of her pain was a sign that her body had adapted to the formula and it was now creating another imbalance. It needed to be changed.

Tonic herbs can create congestion in the body when taken for long periods of time. Julia was right about that. So, when you start to see signs of congestion, such as pain, you stop the tonic herbs and start taking herbs that will move the congestion. Once the congestion is gone, you can proceed to take the tonic herbs again for another little while. For women with signs of deficiency, the occasional use of tonic herbs is important.

Banning their use is an over-reaction. That’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, to use a common phrase. But then, Julia was a reactive person. This doesn’t detract from the fact that she could also be wise and generous and kind. It was just another facet of her personality, and an unfortunate one.

What does this have to do with zizyphus seeds? Well, zizyphus seeds are a tonic herb. They are known in Chinese medicine to “nourish the heart and liver”. And Julia liked herbs that helped the heart and the liver. The heart and the liver were her two favourite organs, since she suffered from both liver congestion and heart palpitations in the past. Back when she first started her business, Julia put zizyphus seeds in some of her tinctures. I can still remember her talking about how wonderful they were.

So, what happened? I’m not sure. There is no indication that zizyphus seeds have estrogenic activity, which is the typical reason Julia would give to discard an herb. However, they do have a stimulating effect on the uterus, meaning that they cause uterine muscles to contract. (Pregnant women should avoid taking zizyphus seeds for this reason).

Julia may have misunderstood that information to mean that zizyphus seeds have estrogenic activity, and that by “stimulating the uterus” they stimulated cell proliferation in the uterine lining. That interpretation would be incorrect, but Julia may have jumped to that conclusion. There was a time when the mere mention of an herb affecting the female reproductive area would cause Julia to discard it. She wouldn’t have been interested in investigating any further.

That is a shame, though, because as Julia well knew, zizyphus seeds have a lot to offer us. They’re great for insomnia [1][2]. They have a real calming effect on the nervous system [3]. They quell anxiety, agitation and fidgeting [4]. They can be used to treat arrythmia and palpitations [5][6]. And they are often used to lower body temperature and stop hot flashes in menopausal women [7]. This is not due to any hormonal effect, but just to the anti-pyretic nature of the herb.

We have since brought zizyphus seeds back into the fold, and now sell a tincture containing them, as well as some other heart nourishing herbs. We call that tincture “Tranquil Heart” for its ability to calm anxiety, help sleep, and relieve heart palpitations. If you’re interested in trying some, just let us know. It’s only available in our store at the moment, but we can add it to your on-line order if you’d like to give it a try. I’ve already heard some good feedback about it.

  1. Xin Zhong Yi (New Chinese Medicine), 1982; (11):35
  2. Shang Hai Zhong Yi Yao Za Zhi (Shanghai Journal of Chinese Medicine and Herbology), 1984; (10)30
  3. Chang Yong Zhong Yao Xian Dai Yan Jiu Yu Lin Chuan (Recent Study and Clinical Application of Common Traditional Chinese Medicine), 1995; 489:491
  4. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi (Journal of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine), 1982; 2:97
  5. Zhong Guo Shou Yi Za Zhi (Chinese Journal of Husbandry), 198814(6):44.
  6. Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao (Journal of First Military University of Medicine), 1985; 5(1):31
  7. Chang Yong Zhong Yao Xian Dai Yan Jiu Yu Lin Chuan (Recent Study and Clinical Application of Common Traditional Chinese Medicine), 1995; 489:491


My mother died this past November. She’s still here, though. I can feel her all around me. She sits beside me as I work. She watches over me while I sleep. Now that she’s gone, she flits through the air around me and watches over me 24 hours a day. She says to me “Ah! So that’s how it is! I can see now. I didn’t understand before.” And finally, after all these years, after all of our many strained and painful conversations, I feel like I am seen.

It was never like that when she was alive. Back then, no matter how clearly I tried to speak, no matter how closely she tried to listen, it always seemed that we just couldn’t understand one another. There was always a wall between us that prevented full comprehension.

And yet, we were close. I think you could say that. We certainly tried. For many years, I called her every week and we would talk for hours. Even when she moved into a nursing home, we still talked every week, or emailed one another, or both.

I always knew what my mother really wanted of me, though. She wanted me to pay her a nice long visit. Not one of those short, little weekend visits that we often did. She wanted me to sleep over and spend an entire week with her. Just the two of us; her and me. She wanted me to play piano duets with her. She wanted me to sit in the dining room and keep her company while she ate. She wanted to show me off to the nurses. Would that really have been so bad?

Somehow, the very idea of spending a full week with my mother completely exhausted me. I knew what she wanted. Just like when I was a child, she would want me to be her little helper, listen to her, and fetch things for her. She would want me to sit there quietly while she talked about her life. Then, once she had finished venting all of her feelings, she would want to pry into my life, asking me all sorts of uncomfortable questions about the particular things I did each day. There always seemed to be something about me that she didn’t quite understand, something that she wasn’t quite happy with. It was dispiriting. I always left my mother feeling more exhausted than when I came.

And so, I put off that much-wanted visit for years. And when I finally acquiesced, it was really too late. By that time, she was already dying. In earnest.

For the first couple of days that I was there, I was still able to speak with her. In between nurse check-ins, and the administering of medications, she would ask me to play piano for her. Once, she asked me to sit closer, and then even closer, until my face was so close to hers we could bump noses with one another. With her piercing blue-green eyes, she looked at me fixedly for a long moment, as if she was memorizing my face. And then, just a suddenly, she broke contact and laid back in her bed without saying a word.

I think that was the last time she was able to truly look at me. After that, she quietly slipped under the veil. Suddenly, she was too weak to remain conscious. She would still move her head to look up at me, smile, and say “hello” each morning, but there would often be no other response from her for the rest of the day.

I stayed by her side and tried to communicate with her as best I could, just as I have always done throughout my life. I sang to her, and read to her. On some days, either my brother or my father would be there too, and we would all talk together. And even though she couldn’t speak, it always felt like my mother was right there, listening, just waiting to jump into the conversation. Just waiting to put in her two cents worth.

My mother loved me. I know she loved me. She loved me beyond measure. I was her daughter. Her only daughter. And she wanted me so badly. There was a primal hunger there, a hunger I never seemed able to fill. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to please her, she always seemed to want more. It was as if I could never really satisfy her. I could never be the daughter, the person, she truly wanted me to be. I could only be myself, and somehow, that never seemed to be enough.

There was a period there when my mother’s Parkinson’s was worsening, but she was still able to walk around. This was years before she entered the nursing home. She had started to have problems with her vision, and would see double most of the time. “I know you’re not here, but I can see you out of the corner of my eye,” she would say to me over the phone, “It’s like you’re sitting right next to me, yet when I turn my head, you’re gone”. It both pained and pleased me that I was the one she was trying to see. That it was me she so desperately wanted to catch hold of. It meant I was important to her. It meant that, even though I may have failed her in many and varied ways, I still meant a lot to her.

It’s funny how things change. Because that’s the way I feel about her now. If I look around quickly, it’s like she’s right there and I just missed her. Like I couldn’t quite catch her out of the corner of my eye. Mostly though, I just feel her presence all around me. Like she’s sitting next to me, watching me with interest, keeping me company, offering guidance and love. Tragically, it’s only through her death, that I finally feel heard and understood. It’s only through her death that I fully feel the power of her love.

The Waayyy Behind Book Club – January 2023

It’s a brand new year! Welcome to the January 2023 edition of The Waayyy Behind Book Club, where I talk about the books I’ve read this month.

There were no entries in The Waayyy Behind Book Club for the last couple of months because my mother died, and I found it difficult to post anything during that time. I didn’t stop reading though! Reading was the way that I coped.

Here are the five books I read this past month. The first being Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize back in the year 2000 for her book, The Interpreter of Maladies. I remember reading that book many years ago, but I no longer remember what it was about! More recently, I read The Namesake, which was about a child of immigrants trying to assimilate into a new culture, while still holding true to himself.

Whereabouts is a bit different. Here, Lahiri is still exploring the themes of loneliness and belonging, but this time as a single, older woman. Childless and husband-less in middle age, she is beginning to question her life choices. Ultimately, she is happy with where she is, as an immigrant living on the periphery of a culture and a country. She gets along well with her neighbours and colleagues, but she also knows full well that she is at odds with the stereotype of what a woman should be. Her parents feel let down and her neighbours don’t know quite what to make of her, even as she follows her own heart. It’s a thoughtful book.

The second book I read this month was Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women by Kate Manne. I have never really considered myself a feminist. That doesn’t mean I disagree with the idea that women should be treated equally to men, or that they shouldn’t be able to make their own life choices. But, perhaps because my own choices have tended to line up with societal norms, I have never been able to work up much of a passion for their mission.

Manne helped me to see how much work is yet to be done. Statistics show that women still don’t earn as much as men (even when doing the same job), they still don’t advance into the top positions in their line of work (even with equal or superior qualifications), they don’t receive equal justice when facing the law (particularly those of racial minority), or equal medical care (most scientific studies still exclude women), and they still do more than their fair share of domestic, non-paid work (even though male participation has ticked up in recent decades).

Manne perceives that the problem is less that women are thought of as inferior to men, as might have been the case in the past. Rather, it’s more that men have learned to expect superior treatment, or superior consideration, and then get upset if they don’t receive it. If this comment has raised your hackles, I suggest you give Manne’s book a read. It’s well well-written and she’s quite persuasive. I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down.

The third book I read this month was The Plague by Albert Camus. This book was on my reading list because of the recent pandemic, but it’s really not about a pandemic at all. It was written in the aftermath of World War Two, and here the plague is used as a metaphor for feverish idealism, or dogmatic thinking. When enough people think they have the right to enforce their opinions onto others, even to subject people to cruelty in order to get their way, the world has gone horribly wrong. Camus speaks through the voice of the doctor here, and he appears to be saying that our only true goal in life should be to help others survive and endure. It’s not about forcing others into our own point of view. And if killing is involved, we’ve definitely lost our way. I found it a profound read.

The fourth book I read this month was Watership Down by Richard Adams. It’s a classic book that has been on my reading list for years, and I have to say, I absolutely loved it! This is a wonderful book! The premise seems a bit silly: a group of rabbits leave their home warren and, after surviving many trials and hardships, aspires to set up a new one. Why should we care about a group of rabbits? It’s why I put off reading this book for so long. However, it turns out to be a novel that is not so much about rabbits as it is a thoughtful story about good leaders, and bad ones. And about how each of us has our own special skill, and when we find the courage to use that skill for the benefit of the entire community, we all become stronger. What’s not to love about that?

The final book for this month is Falling Upwards by Richard Rohr. It’s another book I would highly recommend, particularly for the middle-aged and older. Do you ever wonder about how you’ve lived your life? Could you have done it better? How can you even tell? Well, Rohr has some pointers for you, and I found them both thought-provoking and reassuring. ( Hint: if you’ve failed a lot, you’re doing better than you think!) It turns out that success in the second half of life requires turning the first half of life completely on its head. Rohr uses stories from ancient Rome, the Middle East, and the Bible to make his points, and he is persuasive – and encouraging.

So, there you have it! My list of books for this month. If you are interested in any of them, check them out at your local library. Until next month, happy reading!

Honeysuckle Flowers

My neighbour is an avid gardener. I envy his green thumb. All spring and summer long, his garden is filled with flowering bushes and perennials. It looks like a paradise compared to mine.

Along the fence between our two properties, and supported by a trellis, there grows a honeysuckle vine. I love to watch its delicate pink and yellow blooms in the summertime as they wave in the wind, surrounded by the lush green leaves. It makes me feel all soft and warm and relaxed inside, like I’m living in Italy, or somewhere else along the Mediterranean and couldn’t be luckier.

The thing that astounds me about those delicate pink flowers is just how tiny they are. We used to sell pounds and pounds of honeysuckle flowers in our store, and it blows my mind how many bushes must have been needed in order to produce a single pound of this strong anti-viral herb. The acreage of honeysuckle fields in China must be enormous.

Since the advent of COVID 19, honeysuckle flowers have been hard to source because they are considered among the most potent of anti-viral herbs, and are the chief ingredient in many Chinese medicinal formulas for colds, flus and viral infections. Production has had difficulty keeping up with the immense demand. It’s no wonder that the price per pound has skyrocketed.

Why are honeysuckle flowers so popular and valued? Well, they are used for both the prevention and treatment of all sorts of infections. Scientific studies of honeysuckle flowers have found them to have broad spectrum inhibitory actions against staphylococcus aureus, B-hemolytic streptococcus, E. coli, bacillus dysenteriae, Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella typhi, Diplococcus pneumoniae, Diplococcus meningitidis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis [1,2].

In addition to their potent anti-viral [3] and anti-bacterial ability, honeysuckle flowers also have marked anti-inflammatory and anti-pyretic properties, which means they bring down fever and help to combat inflammation everywhere in the body [4]. They are particularly effective for heat and inflammation in the upper chest and lung area [5], helping to soothe sore throat and thirst, as well as heat stroke, irritability, and insomnia.

In addition to that, they are also known to be particularly effective for all sorts of skin issues, including lung abscesses, skin sores, lesions, ulcerations, warts, and furuncles, and can be used both internally and externally for those problems.

It’s because of these potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-pyretic, anti-inflammatory, and skin soothing properties that honeysuckle flowers are featured in a number of our products. They are a prime ingredient in our Chrysanthemum tincture, as well as in our Prime Herbal Mouthwash and our Mu Shang herbal deodorant.

In doing research for this blog post, I’ve also discovered that honeysuckle flowers have been shown to benefit digestion! Studies show that honeysuckle flowers decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the gastrointestinal tract of rats, thus lowering cholesterol levels.[6] They also increase the excretion of bile acid and gastric acid, thus improving motility in the stomach and intestines.[7] They’re pretty amazing flowers!

I often think of honeysuckle flowers as being like echinacea root in Western herbalism. It’s often the first herb TCM practitioners reach for whenever they have an infection, or feel an onset of viral symptoms. I miss the days when honeysuckle flowers were cheaper and more readily available. Hopefully, once COVID 19 infections start to recede worldwide, we’ll have an easier time finding this delicate, beautiful, yet powerful herb.

  1. Xin Yi Xue (New Medicine), 1975; 6(3):155
  2. Jiang Xi Xin Yi Yao (Jiangxi New Medicine and Herbology); 1960;(1):34
  3. Guang Dong Zhong Yi (Guangdong Chinese Medicine), 1962; 5:25
  4. Shan Xi Yi Kan (Shangxi Journal of Medicine), 1960;(10):22
  5. Shang Hai Zhong Yi Yao Za Zhi (Shanghai Journal of Chinese Medicine and Herbology), 1983; 9:27
  6. Ke Xue Chu Ban She (Scientific Press), 1963:387
  7. Jiang Xi Xin Yi Yao (Jiangxi New Medicine and Herbology); 1960;(1):34

Listen: A New Year’s Resolution for 2023

We are now a couple of weeks into the year 2023, and I’m feeling the pressure to create a New Year’s Resolution, as I always do. It happens every January. Our success-oriented culture encourages us to take stock of our lives, and implement changes to improve who we are. To become more accomplished. To become more successful. To create superior versions of ourselves.

Except that this year, I’ve decided to sit that whole thing out. I’m weary of trying to improve myself and become a better ‘me’. I’m tired to trying to be fitter, or happier, or healthier. At the age of 52, I am finally starting to accept myself for the way I am, deficiencies and all. So, instead of trying to fit into someone else’s cookie cutter version of how they think I should be, or look, or act, I have decided to stick with what I’ve got and be happy as I am. It just feels right to me right now.

My mother died 7 weeks ago. This has no doubt affected my thinking. At the time of her passing, I thought I was handling it well. I was supported by kind family and friends who checked in on me constantly to see how I was doing. I spilled out my heart to them and was pleased that I was able to let it all go. I was living in the moment, feeling all the emotions and not holding anything back, just letting it all pass through me. I was fully present and felt completely alive.

But over the last number of weeks, my grief has become heavier. No longer the sharp pain I felt at her passing, it is now more of sadness, a weariness. More worrisome, I’ve been feeling numb and fatigued, a sure sign of nervous exhaustion. I know all the characteristics now. I’ve been down this road before. I know that if I don’t stop and take care of myself, worse symptoms will arrive before long.

And so, feeling the full weight of all that stress, and grief, and sadness, I’ve decided that this year, I will not try to become a better ‘me’. I will not push myself into exhaustion. I will not become more pleasing to others at the expense of myself.

This year, I want sit still enough to hear the deep whisperings of my own heart. I want to hear my own breathing and watch what is going on in my own mind. I want to sit still enough, with openness, curiosity and kindness, until I can hear my own voice. This year, I will listen.