I am reaching out this month to provide some support, love, and shed some of the heaviness that we all may be experiencing. As we all know and are feeling, the stress from this current situation is very real. All the emotions, as well as the physical feelings, are not only valid but they are inevitable.
I don’t know about you but the second I sneeze I think that it is more serious than it probably is. That level of stress is not healthy nor helpful. So, I hope to shed some light on how to alleviate some of that added stress.
In today’s world where we have access to news around the clock, through social media, as well as other sources, we get bombarded all day with the state of the world around us. We get inundated with flashy headlines, horrific stories, and we begin to worry about our families and friends. So how do we avoid getting overwhelmed and stressed out? How do we feel ok when there is all this uncertainty surrounding us? The truth is we cannot totally avoid this. It is natural that we get overwhelmed and feel emotional. The point is to let those emotions out. Feel them. Allow them to flow freely. However, the difference is to not allow them to take control or let them rule our decisions or our lives.
We can turn to other means to help mitigate and keep ourselves in check. We can turn inward and do some helpful and supportive activities when we start to feel overwhelmed. We can turn to herbs for stress relief and prevention. So, what are some of these practices and herbs?
When I say meditation that can feel overwhelming to some people and I want to clarify. I don’t mean you have to sit with your legs folded for an hour without moving. I simply mean finding a few moments for yourself. Just 5-10 minutes alone where you can close your eyes and repeat a helpful mantra. (I realize that if you have children this can be very difficult, but ask your significant other for help, or they can sit quietly in the room with you for as long as they can.)
The mantra can be anything you want it to be something like; “I am alive, I am breathing, I am healthy, I am grateful” can be powerful. This tapping into our own bodies, being present, not thinking about what could happen, is one of the best healing practices.
Some simple kitchen herbs can be extremely helpful, and you most likely have them on hand! Add ginger, garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and cinnamon to a pot of water, cover, and bring it to a boil. Remove the pot from heat and put a large towel over your head. Remove the lid and breathe the steam in deeply. Alternate breathing through your mouth and through the nose. This practice is extremely relaxing, as well as healing to your lungs and respiratory system. The heat and steam from the herbs will make direct contact with the mucus membranes and kill any pathogens that may be trying to take up residence there.
Boxed teas (that are anti-stress or immune-supportive) or making a mixture of your own herbs that contain antivirals, anti-microbials, and immune-enhancing constituents can all be extremely supportive during this time.
Here is a list of some herbs:
Inula helenium: (Elecampane) Helps support lung function relieves dry cough.
Gingiber officinale: (Ginger root) Fresh ginger is extremely antiviral and warming.
Sambucus nigra: (Elderberry & Flower) Elderberry has components that are anti-viral, and the flowers are helpful for stuck nonproductive cough.
Ganoderma lucidium: (Reishi mushroom) Reishi, (and other medicinal mushrooms) has renowned properties that are anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive.
Cinnamomum verum: (Cinnamon sticks) Cinnamon has very helpful antiviral qualities and is also demulcent or emollient to help soothe sore throats or dry coughs.
Matricaria recutita: (Chamomile) Chamomile is extremely relaxing and has a wonderful effect on the central nervous system.
Avena sativa: (Milky oat tops, oatstraw) Oats are one of the best nervine relaxant herbs. Meaning it has a direct effect on the central nervous system to help us calm down and reduce stress.
Doing some writing, drawing, painting, or any other creative activity can be really stress-relieving. Any activity where you are engaging your parasympathetic nervous system to be distracted from the current state of things.
These are all just some hopefully helpful tips for things to do or try while you are at home these next few weeks. I hope they are helpful and let me know if you have any questions!
Stress Management & COVID-19
Winter is a time of slowing down. Cozying up by a warm fire and eating all those comfort foods we love. However, after a long winter of being inside everything inside the body becomes more stagnant. Toxins can build up in the liver, or digestion can be a bit more difficult cause of all the heavy foods we eat. That’s why for hundreds of years people of many cultures have depended on eating bitter greens in the spring to get their bodies out of that stagnant state and get things moving again.
Plants such as dandelion root, burdock root, juniper, chamomile, ginger, and even the rind of grapefruit all provide this bitter quality that is beneficial for digestion.
How do you prepare a bitters formula? Simply take some or all the herbs listed above and place them in a jar. (1-2 tablespoons of each in a quart size jar will work great!) Pour in some cane alcohol, vodka, brandy or a mixture of each into your jar until your herbs are completely covered. Screw the lid on and shake! Leave this jar in a place away from sunlight, shake daily, and strain out the herbs in 1 month!
But why? The alkaloids, sesquiterpenes, iridoids or monoterpene lactones are the herbal constituents responsible for triggering the bitter response on the human tongue. These phytoconstituents are considered anti-inflammatory anticarcinogenic, and antiseptic.
Bitter herbs stimulate the entire digestive tract to secrete digestive juices, it is very evident because of the increase of saliva immediately after taking them. Saliva contains amylase the very first digestive enzyme to begin the breakdown of nutrients. Therefore, the best time to consume bitters is around 30 minutes prior to eating a meal. You might wonder how much do you have to take? Only a few drops of the tincture will be plenty around 10-15 drops on your tongue will be enough to stimulate all of the digestive juices you need. Taking more than this can cause digestive upset.
Bitter leafy greens such as arugula, dandelion leaf, and nasturtium are also extremely helpful to move stagnant blood in our vital organs, stimulate digestion, and they invigorate our spirits with the warmth of spring. So, take some drops of your bitters formula, make yourself a healthy salad of bitter greens, and enjoy!
Happy Spring Equinox everyone.
Five Kitchen Herbs That Heal:
Did you know that your common kitchen herbs do more than just season your food? They're also used as alternative medicine!
For thousands of years cultures around the world have used plants as medicine. One of the first trades ever made across borders was for spices or herbs!
These herbs were some of the most coveted and sought-after goods. Not only for their flavor but to aid digestion, prevent bacterial infections, and many other qualities for healing.
The following herbs that I would like to discuss are some of the most common found in the kitchen for cooking. They also happen to be some of the oldest, and most widely used across the world. Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Ginger, and Cinnamon.
Thyme: Thymus vulgaris (Lamiaceae):
Thyme is an important and excellent antiseptic and tonic, and is commonly used today for the same ailments as it was when it was first used in the 1600’s. The essential oil constituents are strongly antibacterial. Thyme is indicated for spasmodic conditions of the respiratory and urinary systems. Traditionally, considered specifically for whooping cough (with Lobelia). The essential oil contains thymol – which is antispasmodic and has an antiseptic effect on respiratory system. The antiseptic and tonic qualities of thyme make it very useful for the immune system in chronic (especially fungal) infections.
Rosemary: Rosmarinus officinalis (Lamiaceae):
“Heart of the sea”-Matthew Becker
Rosemary is a well-known and greatly valued herb that is native to the Mediterranean and southern Europe, growing on the high cliffs of the coastal regions. It has been used for generations traditionally to improve memory, and invigorating a “zest for life”. Rosemary has a considerable amount of healing qualities, including being an anti-inflammatory herb, as well as a stimulant to the circulatory system. It has shown great clinical results for relief from headaches, and to improve concentration.
Oregano: Origanum vulgare (Lamiaceae):
Oregano was considered a “cure all” in medieval times, and was one of the first medicinal herbs cultivated by New England settlers. Although mostly used in the food industry as a spice and flavor enhancer, internally Oregano is helpful for spastic and inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract.
It’s use for bronchitis, laryngitis, minor bronchial asthma, and coughs are well known and utilized today.
Oregano contains Rosmarinic acid (also found in rosemary) and other phenolic acids that have been shown to inhibit the biosynthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes in the body. Thus, explaining it’s anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral effects. It is a wonderful diaphoretic hot tea for the common cold. Externally it is used as a wash for inflammations of the mouth, and throat.
Cinnamon: Cinnamomum spp (Lauraceae):
Cinnamon, although best known as a culinary flavor ingredient in food, is traditionally used as a warming herb for circulatory disorders bringing blood to cold hands and feet. It is also used internally for digestive disorders like nausea, vomiting, as well as diarrhea. This herb’s antiviral qualities (curcuminoids in particular) make it valuable for viral conditions during cold and flu, such as the aching of muscles and general malaise. In Chinese medicine it is applied to raise the over-all vitality of a person, it relieves abdominal spasms, and stimulates the vital functions of the body over all.
Ginger: Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae):
Ginger helps to aid in digestion, as a warming stimulant to the digestive tract, and works best against nausea. Ginger relieves cold cramping in the abdomen, as well as warms and soothes coughs, the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory inflammations. It is very useful for GI infections, and can relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. Ginger helps to stimulate circulation, good for chilblains (poor circulation to the extremities). In China it has been given for bacillary dysentery and the patient had a full recovery. Ginger also aids in painful menstration, relieving cramping.
So, there are some common kitchen herbs that you might have lying around the house that can be helpful. These herbs are safe, effective, and readily available. Enjoy!!
How walking in nature helps your mood:
walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way.
"Keep close to Nature’s heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." -John Muir
There is something to be said for spending time in nature. Studies have shown that the more time we spend outside connecting to nature the more room we have to relax and create ourselves.
We as human-beings are creators. We invent, we discover, we paint, draw, and share ourselves through art. Nature inspires us all to be creative. Spending just 30 minutes walking outside can improve the cardiovascular system, central nervous system, as well as our mental state.
We were born onto this Earth, our Mother, with the gift of her beauty. It is all around us everyday. In the grasses, flowers, trees, and weeds! I challenge you to stop and choose to see one beautiful thing in nature today. Is it a flower growing on the sidewalk? Or the way the wind blows the leaves on the trees? Perhaps it is a tiny stream that you never noticed before. All of these things will instantly change your mood. They will stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the state in which we can rest and digest. While in this state we have the ability to take in our surroundings, be more conscious of our breathing, and appreciate more out of life.
During our daily lives we experience so much stress and strain. Driving in traffic, dealing with bosses or pressure at work can be hard to deal with. So, it is important to shut off those receptors. I don't mean just to veg out in front of the television! I mean do something for yourself. Get outside! Sit in your back yard and watch the birds, or water your garden. Get your hands dirty improving your life. I guarantee that you will start to feel better!