Natural Healing Omaha Blog
100 days of breath awareness
If you’re trying to email, text, call, stop by my house, or otherwise get hold of me for the next 100 days around 8:30 in the evening, sorry, but I’ll be sitting on a pillow, wrapped in a scarf, with my cat, Toulouse, curled up on my lap, eyes closed and just….breathing. One hundred days from today, I’m celebrating my half-century mark. When I was 25, turning 50 was an age where everything important in my life was already over and the awful slide into old age started.
At 40, I was bald from chemotherapy and couldn’t think beyond the next week, let alone 10 years ahead. So, this big birthday is coming around, and the idea of taking a cruise or throwing myself a party might celebrate the struggle to get here, but I want something to be proud of when I get to 75. I want to remember 50 as the start of the best part of my life. So, inspired by a close friend, I’m committing to 100 consecutive days of meditation.
I admit right now, this feels impossible to do. I’m the squirmy type, the kind of person who’s checking email during a phone call. Doing one thing at a time just isn’t my style. Paying attention to my breath…boring.
I’ve tried this before and quit when the going got tough. My lame excuses ranged from “I have a cough” to “It’s too cold in here”, and let’s not forget the overused “I’m too tired”. Not this time. This time is for REAL. I’m putting down my evening snackfest and picking up a new habit. My meditation coach, friend Sarah, is promising to keep me accountable and provide support. So, FIFTY – here I come.
P.S. Got any helpful suggestions? Wanna join me (virtually, I mean)? Email me to share your struggles or ideas. Or leave a comment on my blog.
Every Autumn, I get a little closer to nature by eating more of the foods that are abundant in the Fall, which happen to be nutrient-dense and easy to stretch over several meals. Take butternut squash for instance. Since I rarely use a whole squash for a single recipe, sometimes, a 3-pound squash will expand to several meals, with a portion going into a breakfast egg dish, a lunch side dish, a roasted vegetable mix and served with wild rice and turkey for dinner. Give me a crockpot and a good knife and in under 20 minutes, I’ll have a delicious, budget-stretching stew assembled in the morning. A little of everything from the week’s groceries goes into a dish like this. Just thinking about how delicious a home-cooked stew will taste makes my mouth water on the drive home later that day.
The money I save by eating with the season includes the dollars I won’t spend seeing a doctor for a cold-weather sinus infection, the sick days I won’t have to take from work, and the restaurant bill I won’t have because there’s nothing fresh at home to eat. That’s the beauty of Fall menus. The foods stay fresh for weeks, without the perishable quality of tender spring greens or summer berries. Try your farmer’s market for colorful squash, root vegetables and game meats this time of year.
As seasons go, Fall is my favorite, and not just because I get to gorge myself on acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, daikon radish, apples, pears and wild game (duck, turkey, deer, quail). These colorful, vitamin-rich foods contain healing and fortifying vitamins and minerals that keep my body healthy, warm and strong as cold weather approaches. After a spicy bowl of buffalo stew or squash soup, I feel satisfied in a way that seems especially suited to a cool, blustery day.
Need help getting creative in the kitchen? Here’s a trick I’ve learned to make use of chunks of leftover vegetables and other foods: google your ingredients and see what recipes pop up. A favorite website of mine, with the tag line “every recipe in the world’, is yummly.com. It lets you search for recipes with almost any food and preference imaginable – gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, low-calorie, and just about any flavor combination you can think up. You’ve got a masterpiece waiting to prepare in the kitchen!
Still not confident you can cook your way through Fall? Schedule a visit with me to talk about healing recipes and how to include herbs that make your menu more interesting and healthy for you and your family. Call 402-933-6444.
Candleberry offers IBS sufferers relief
When I learned about bayberry bark, it was from the old Jethro Kloss herbal tome Back to Eden. J. Kloss put bayberry bark in his Composition Powder formula to help normalize the excess mucus that shows up with colds and flus and also to bring on a sweat to help cool fevers. So, it makes good sense to use it for other conditions where mucus abounds, especially where inflammation seems to be a reason and an astringent herb (one that dries, tightens or tones) might be in order. I’ve seen this in IBS sufferers. So, when a friend confirmed that it calmed the symptoms of IBS for him, it was a light bulb moment for us both.
Sure enough, I looked back through my school texts and other wise herbals and there it was. Dr. Christopher observed that bayberry was excellent at “thoroughly cleansing and restoring the mucous secretions to normal function.” [“Dr. John Christopher’s School of Natural Healing”, first printed in 1971]. Since then, I reserve this herb for people with ‘boggy’ membranes that overproduce mucus.
And where are the mucus membranes in your body? In the eyes, nose, mouth, lungs, and digestive tract, including the large intestine (bowel). People with IBS often complain of mucus discharge in their stools and alternating constipation and diarrhea, not to mention a good deal of pain. And, surprise, many of them have similar ‘gooey’ problems in their respiratory tracts and noses! Usually, the excess watery secretions are a response to some kind of stress, whether that’s a specific food or drink, emotional episode or even environmental change. In fact, it’s well-known, but not well-understood, that depression and anxiety often co-exist with irritable bowel symptoms, and that improving one condition improves the other.
Scientists don’t know why IBS symptoms exist, and medications merely control episodes. Stop the medicine and symptoms often return. Not so with herbal remedies. Used over a few months or longer, tonic herbs like bayberry can actually help tone up the overproducing mucus membranes, restoring strength and ‘collecting’ tissue together.
Bayberry bark (actually the root bark, to be specific) isn’t a remedy for everyone with a runny nose or extra phlegm. Those can be signs that call for different herbal properties with less astringing action or a gentler touch. Taking it as a ‘simple’ remedy, by itself, can be tricky business for the unschooled. Dosing is everything in herbal medicine. Herbalist Matthew Wood is well-known for his very effective use of 3 drops of herb several times a day. And that’s a good place to start with any unknown herb. Or better yet, see a qualified professional herbalist for a combination of plant medicines best suited for you.
Making a tonic syrup with an old favorite - blackstrap molasses
Lately, I’ve been putting in long hours growing my herb practice, taking an Anatomy and Physiology class and visiting my mom, who’s been in and out of so many nursing homes and hospitals over the past 10 weeks, I’ve lost count. I finally had to admit to a close friend that it’s been exhausting and I’m just plain tired. “Well, what would you tell a client who felt like you do?” she asked.
“Take tonic herbs!” The concept of tonic herbs is virtually unknown to Western herbalists, but it’s common in Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]. The idea that the body recovers not only from rest, good food and good air, but also by taking in strengthening and nourishing herbs over an extended period of time, say 3-6 months or more, is central to TCM healing practices. I should know, since I’ve benefitted from tonics during other stressful, depleting times in my life. So, I spent practically the whole day making a wonderful tonic syrup out of Chinese herbs and one of my favorite old-fashioned syrup bases – blackstrap molasses.
I love the rich, earthy taste of blackstrap, but I learned to really appreciate it a few years ago when I discovered it has a significant iron content but doesn’t create the constipation that iron supplements can. It also has healthy levels of minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium and is known to help normalize blood sugar levels. Just what the doctor ordered for the marathon that is my life lately.
So, I cooked and cooked those Chinese roots and barks and healing herbs in a pot of water on the stovetop until the liquid was reduced by three-fourths, added the blackstrap in and cooked it down a bit further. I bottled the strained liquid and I’ll be adding a tablespoon to my morning and evening tea every day for the next few months. Just the process of slowly cooking this brew over several hours was a relaxing way to begin settling my life down a bit.
I’ll check back over the next few weeks, but what I’m prepared to feel is an energy lift, better focus and concentration at the office, and more sound, restful sleep. Stay tuned…
The Summer dry heat that parched your yellow lawn and left your flowers wilting may have had a similar effect on your body. When moisture is lacking in your environment, it’s also drying your skin, eyes, the mucus membranes along your respiratory tract, and other areas that are open directly or indirectly to the air.
Help your body quell the summer heat
A windy, dry Fall can complicate all that and more. Dryness isn’t just irritating; it makes your body’s surfaces more vulnerable to allergens, unfriendly bacteria and viruses. The mucus in your body and moisture in your skin is there for a reason. It lubricates surfaces and provides a protective barrier for your immune system.
How do you re-hydrate your Lungs, skin and whole body and avoid the hazard of a windy, dry Fall? DRINK MORE WATER.
It’s almost too obvious, but keep a bottle handy throughout the day and get in the habit of staying hydrated. You’ll be surprised how much this can help your vitality.
- SLIPPERY ELM LOZENGES are delicious and do a great job of lubricating a ticklish throat and irritated respiratory tract. Cherokee herbalist David Winston says that slippery elm lozenges can even stimulate the lungs to produce more healthy mucus.
- Herbalist Amanda McQuade Crawford, in her book “Herbal Remedies for Women”, suggests MARSHMALLOW ROOT (not the puffy, sugary confection in your cupboard] as a wonderful demulcent (aka gooey herb) for a dry cough.
- THROAT COAT tea from Traditional Medicinals is one of my favorite soothers for a scratchy throat. If your cough hangs on for more than a couple weeks, consider a visit to your physician or herbalist.
- EAT MORE SWEET POTATOES! These delicious super tubers have a nourishing, moistening effect on the lungs.
- Other cool tips for Fall? Sit in a steamy sauna a couple times a week….apply sesame oil inside the opening of your dry, itchy nose….dig out your pretty scarves and get your neck wrapped nice ‘n snug before heading out to the hayrack ride.