Sharon Watts Writes

when pictures fail me…

YogaCityNYC ~ interview with Herbalist Brad Teasdale


When a twinge in your vinyasa is enough to send you to the medicine cabinet for the ibuprofen, maybe it’s time to consider a more natural alternative. Herbalist Brad Teasdale, who gives workshops on the healing arts at Virayoga, is intent on spreading the ancient practice and art of healing the body with nutrition and herbs – using local flora found in the New York City area. YogaCity NYC’s Sharon Watts sat down with him to hear more about comfrey poultices for pain, horsetail tea for strength, and how to reconnect our tissue as well as our ties to natureʼs way.

Sharon Watts: What exactly do you do?

Brad Teasdale: I am a licensed massage therapist and I have studied plant medicine for the past seven years both here and in South America. I offer workshops on herbal medicine, herbal first aid, as well as certification courses in Ayurvedic Yoga Massage.

SW: What common ailments and afflictions are yoga practitioners susceptible to that can be treated with plants?

BT: In the world of yoga, we may sustain joint injuries, strains, sprains, even broken bones. And as one ages, arthritis and osteoporosis may be encountered. When addressing a specific physical injury such as a torn ligament, or chronic ailment like osteoporosis, it is important to supply our bodies with sufficient calcium, magnesium, silica, vitamin D, and chlorophyll – the building blocks of our structures. Food is still the best medicine, and a well balanced whole-food diet usually supplies all of our mineral requirements. But at times when we’re dealing with an injury or nagging ailment, it is helpful to supplement our diet with specific foods and herbs. All the essential minerals for supporting our structural health are found in horsetail tea, made of horsetail, oatstraw, and kelp. It is a wonderful tonic for strengthening teeth, bones, joint structures, arteries, and connective tissue.

SW: Even if we aren’t in pain, is there anything you would suggest to get us ready for this new season?

BT: Absolutely. Eat lots of fresh greens, green juices, and chlorophyll-rich foods. Dandelion greens are a spectacular spring tonic; they help detoxify the liver & support the sinews. Dandelion greens can be sauteed, steamed, or eaten raw. A colander full of rinsed leaves can be sent through the juicer with a half an apple.  If picking your own, go for the young, tender leaves and make sure that no fertilizer or pesticides have been used on the land.

SW: We often tend to eat on the go – as well as we can.  Are supplements enough to counteract a less than nutritionally- stellar diet?

BT: It is best to get the nutrients from a whole foods source. Sea vegetables such as hijiki, wakame, and kelp have the highest concentration of calcium and magnesium, with various nuts, whole grains, and dairy products weighing in as well. These are the foods that yogis need for strength, endurance, and flexibility.

SW: Can a chocolate-lover or coffee drinker work this regime into her life as one of moderation and still benefit from it?

BT: Most definitely! I have coffee in the morning – the most important thing is to balance it with fresh food, plenty of greens and lots and lots of water.

SW: What cautions should a beginner exercise most when embarking on a natural healing program?

BT: Start off slowly and tune into your body – don’t force it. Be thankful for the plants, foods and herbs that give us strength and health. Taking a moment of meditative gratitude connects us spiritually to a greater energy.

SW: You recommend local healing plants. Can you give an example of one that we could gather in Central Park; how do you prepare it and what does it do?

BT: Plantain, also known as white man’s footprint, is an amazing little plant that draws out toxins from the body. It can be picked fresh, chewed lightly and applied directly to stings and bites.

SW: This sounds like knowledge passed down by oral tradition. How have you learned this?

BT: I travel to South America once a year to study with native Peruvians who share their knowledge traditionally, one-on-one. In this tradition we learn from direct experience with the plants themselves. And despite the tumult of the centuries, many cultures have managed to preserve their ancient plant-knowledge.

SW: Since I have sensitive teeth, I would like to try a natural way to address the issue. But it might be a bit challenging to switch from lattes to horsetail tea. Do you have advice for a beginner who finds the taste strange or even bitter?  And any suggestions on where to get it, if I can’t go wild crafting?

BT: Take it easy and slow. It is a new experience, so it might seem distasteful at first. If you have a strong aversion to seaweed, raspberry leaves can be substituted for kelp as the calcium source in horsetail tea. A little bitter is good. If you can’t find the plants yourself in the wild, a good source is Mountainrose Herbs.

SW: We are so accustomed to turning to doctors and pills for our ailments, and seem to have strayed off the natural path of healing. What do you think?

BT: Many folks have given responsibility for their health to the doctors but Mother Nature provides all that we need with astonishing abundance. It is said that the cure for any ailment grows in our backyard. Health and vitality is simple: eat good clean local food, drink plenty of water, breathe deep, and spend time outside. Connect and give thanks to Mother Earth. It is very empowering.

Before parting, Brad gave me a bag of pre-mixed horsetail tea. I brew it on my stove top and strain it into a cup.  The kelp flavor makes me think of broth rather than a tea. I sniff, then take a sip, and it actually isn’t bad. No, not bad at all. In fact, I think I can get used to this horsetail tea. But you won’t find me dunking biscotti into it.

Recipe for Horsetail Tea (for strengthening teeth, bones, arteries, and connective tissue): 1 part horsetail /1 part oat straw /1 part kelp powder (alternate: replace kelp with raspberry)Simmer 1 oz. of formula in 1 pint water for 25 minutes: drink 1/2 cup 3 times a day for  3 weeks.
Recipe for Comfrey Poultice (for bruises, contusions, broken bones, and sprains):  Mash comfrey leaf and root with apple cider vinegar–best applied warm. Use daily for at least 3 hours. Not to be used until bones are set; not for internal use.

Editor’s note: Please check with your medical practitioner before trying any new herbs or treatments to insure that they work with your medical program and history – and use caution. Not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.

(published 4/2011)

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