Getting Ready for Herbal Medicine Making

I have an herbal medicine workshop coming up at the end of next week.  So now I get to think about what we will make this time around.  It's a lovely time of year for herb lore, as we can leave the classroom and go pick plantain and mint for making a cooling liniment just in time for summer. 

My herbal workshop is always my most labor intensive and expensive workshop to prep for.  I run around town going from Asian market to Asian market, to the Chinese herb supply store (to buy herbs found in both Thai and Chinese medicine), to the company I buy oil from and a liquor store for alcohol for tincturing.  If I'm low on jars I'll find myself at the wholesale packaging supply warehouse over in the industrial side of town, watching the warehouse guys drive through the stacks putting together my order.  No other class requires so much driving, so much schlepping stuff around, so many trips between my herb room and my classroom, so much equipment dug out of closets and cupboards (bowls, hot plates, knives, cutting boards, jars, towels, strainers, mortles and pestles...), so much clean up.

So. Much. Fun.

I love my herbal medicine workshops.  I love the smells.  I love the moment a student discovers that there is something magically satisfying about crushing a whole nutmeg seed with a pestle (they crush easily, with this perfect popping crunch, releasing one of the loveliest scents on earth).  I love the inherent space these workshops give for friendly conversation as we patiently heat oils and herbs, or sit rolling herbal pills with our hands, stained yellow from turmeric.  I love going from casual conversation to chanting magical healing incantations in Pali over our accomplishments. 

Exploring Thai herbal medicine is exploring the Thai taste system, and so we get to eat things, from sweet to oh my god is that what astringent is?  We make medicinal teas and discover who has the "I can taste bitter" gene as some sip happily and others make interesting faces while setting their cups aside.  We eat durian.  Oh yes.  Which takes us to food as medicine, and discussions of how to incorporate what we are learning into how we approach basic eating. 

Everyone leaves with treasures.  Little jars of Thai herbal massage balms and liniments, bags of hand rolled pills bound with lime juice or honey, tiny vials of aromatic inhalers whose vapors will ward off a profusion of problems.  There is no promise in this paragraph for those coming to class.  What we make changes from workshop to workshop, so I do not know exactly what you will walk away with; only that it will be something delightful and beneficial. 

At the end, when the supplies are back in their cupboards, the jars of dried herbs back in their alphabetically correct position on the shelves in my herb room, and all of the twigs and dust is vacuumed from the floor, I will be exhausted.  And I probably won't have made much money, as my herbal classes tend to be a low student draw, and high supply cost.  But I will have gotten to share my passion with a little group of wonderful people (for my students tend to be wonderful people), my stock of balms and teas will be replenished, and I will have had so.  much.  fun.