Have you ever had menstrual cramps so harsh that it feels like your uterus is staging an insurgency?
You KNOW this isn’t normal, right?
If you take this problem to your gynecologist, you’ll end up on hormones (or in a surgery suite) faster than you can say Bob’s your Uncle. But not every woman wants to fast forward to pharmaceuticals. And some of us don’t even have that choice.
In my experience, around 50% of the women who seek alternative health care do it because they’re looking for answers to hormone-related concerns.
The Power of One…Herb
I’ve had my share of those. I used to think period pain was my personal price to pay for not tolerating the Pill.
Until one day at the clinic – one of those insanely busy days, where everyone needs their herbal formulas yesterday.
Amid the chaos at work, it felt like a rebellion was being staged in my reproductive organs. It was way beyond nuisance. My favorite go-to remedies – a heating pad, sleep, a hot cup of tea – were out of the question. These cramps were uncontrollable.
That’s the day I learned the power of a single herb. White peony root. Bai shao, the Chinese call it. Sweet relief.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
I knew white peony root was usually paired up with herbs for women’s cyclical headaches and cramps. That’s how we use it in the clinic because that’s how the Chinese discovered it works best – in a balanced blend of complimentary medicinal herbs.
But that day, I was highly motivated to find pain relief. So, I detoured through the bulk herb room for a nibble. After 10 minutes of old-school chewing through a raw, chalky-tasting, slice of dried root, my cramps disappeared. Completely. And they never came back that month.
Herbalists call this a proving. It’s an informal, time-tested way to research the medicinal properties in an herb. Apply it to the skin. Bathe in a tea made from it. Drink it. Eat it.
After proving to myself how powerful the delicate peony plant really is, it’s become one of my favorite herbs for women.
Softens and Soothes Liver Congestion
I love it because it tends to calm things down. Rina Nissim, a European herbalist, described the clues she looks for that signal a white peony situation: ‘hyperexcitability in an anxious type of person who is bothered by palpitations.’ Yeah, I’ve had days years like that.
The Chinese have known for centuries that Peony root reduces abdominal pain and relieves muscle spasms. They say it does this by ‘softening the Liver’, which easily gets congested with waste material and toxic emotions – like anger and resentment.
When the Liver begins to let go, we literally unclench. Emotions flow, blood flows, Qi flows and spasms quiet down.
The nervous system may play an important part in this release, and the smidge of magnesium in the root probably does, too.
Strong Blood Means Healthy Hormone Function
Peony is a popular blood tonic herb, among others like Dang Gui, Ligusticum and Rehmannia. Tonic is another way of saying that it provides nutrition for blood. Since blood is such a vital player in the smooth functioning of hormones in women, keeping it robust with tonic herbs can be a big factor in hormone health.
We’ve also discovered through research that peony has anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties. Lately, inflammation is being linked to everything from high cholesterol to cancer. Perhaps the Chinese understood the link long before we had studies to show it.
For most of us, peonies are colorful, fragrant blooms treasured for their association with Memorial Day.
For me, they’re all that – and a beautiful gift of pain relief growing in my neighborhood.
By the way, we’re in the Liver season during Spring, so Liver imbalances like pain and cramping tend to show up worse than ever right now, along with other symptoms that White Peony eases – night sweats, vertigo, dizziness, and irritability.
Many hormone imbalances will diminish or disappear while eating a Spring Cleanse diet designed to remove common food triggers and emphasize Liver-friendly herbs and greens.
Maybe you’d like to join me for a class that walks you through the Spring Cleanse process, with a cooking demonstration, food samples and detailed instructions. Click here for a link to the Facebook event page. Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don’t have to look far to read about the 20,000 FDA-approved and unapproved chemicals and substances circulating in our global air, food, medicine and water. (Ok, I made up that number, but try searching the FDA website – the actual numbers are really hidden).
Thanks to your Liver, a good deal of the substances you’re exposed to are neutralized, broken down and ushered out while you eat, sleep and live. Your Liver is a virtual toxin dump station where hormones, food, fat and life’s messy waste are rendered harmless. (And a nod here goes to that other heroic filter, the Kidney).
20,000 chemicals? That’s a pretty big load for any Liver. Even if the number is 10,000, that’s still a lot of potentially harmful waste that flows through you.
Below the Surface
Americans pay millions every year for cleansing products that claim to boost the body’s power to ‘de-toxify’ and purge toxic waste.
Call me a skeptic. But 3 days of juicing and pooping are a pretty inadequate attempt to fix a lifetime of bad habits and 50 years of FDA-approved chemical air, water, food, along side your own daily body waste.
What if you could dig a little deeper? Really clean house. Get into those corners that never see the light of day. Yeah, deep tissue. But even deeper than that. Clean out all that toxic emotional waste you’ve been carrying.
We’re coming into the Wood element season, according to Chinese 5-element theory. The seasonal color is green and the organs that benefit most from good health in Spring are your Liver and Gallbladder.
How do you know if your Liver or Gallbladder are out of harmony with the season?
9 Signs That You Need a Liver Cleanse:
- You feel stuck and mildly depressed – you feel the need for change, but can’t take the first step.
- You’ve lost your sense of direction or purpose in life – you’re asleep at life’s wheel.
- People you love and trust often feel the brunt of your anger and arrogance.
- You’re always making excuses for not taking steps to achieve your dream in life.
- You feel especially irritated and crabby at everyone around you right now, for no particular reason.
- It’s been years since you did something creative – write, paint, sing, act, dance.
- You’ve been stubborn, inflexible and unwilling to adapt to a new situation.
- Black, brown and gray are your main wardrobe colors.
- Resentment over old injustices keep coming between you and others.
Spring Cleaning Your Mind and Heart
It’s ok to lay some blame for your misery on pollution, toxic waste, sick water and manufactured food. But there’s so little you can do about that right now.
Instead of feeling powerless, start a gentle 2-week Liver cleanse designed to purge chemicals AND revive sluggish emotions. Follow seasonal dietary guidelines that align your body, mind and spirit with Spring.
Adopt new intentions for growth and change that mimic the plants springing up around us over the next few weeks.
Start thinking of yourself as a balanced man or woman, with all the qualities of a healthy Wood element – creative, forward-thinking, forgiving, flexible, vibrant.
Even if you’ve never thought about cleansing before, there’s a healthy plan that fits your lifestyle. Contact Natural Healing Omaha at email@example.com for a personalized, custom cleanse appointment.
Spring to a healthy start this season.
Read more about seasonal cleansing: Wake up Your Liver This Spring!
I have a secret.
I used to be ashamed of my secret, so I kept it hidden.
Especially from other herbalists.
If they discovered the source of my shame, I feared rejection, loss of respect and failure.
Now I know there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
So, I’m ready to declare the one thing I’m most afraid to admit.
I DON’T TALK TO PLANTS.
I always imagine a collective gasp among my colleagues when this kind of thing gets out there.
What kind of Herbalist doesn’t hear the plants talk?
Isn’t that how herbal healers acquire their knowledge?
Isn’t a deep, spiritual connection to plants a pre-requisite for this profession?
Hearing plants speak is probably a handy thing, but it’s not part of my toolkit.
When I was in herb school, our yearly gatherings in the redwoods of California were one big circle of plant people. People who cultivate herbs, people who wild craft and harvest them for medicine, and the ‘my grandmother was a wise woman who taught me how to heal with plants’ kind of people.
My path was a little different.
I grew up in a suburb of Omaha. We were one city block from a cornfield and a 10-minute skip to the nearest creek. There’s a Nebraska sensibility in my soul. I’m as common and native as a sunflower after 47 years on the Great Plains. Even with my prairie state roots, the healing power of prairie plants was lost on me until recently.
My first teachers, Mom and Dad, never knew there was a field bursting with medicine surrounding our growing subdivision. Their generation was lured by a siren song that promised wonder drugs from the corner pharmacy.
Nature’s own medicine chest faded from their minds like two-party phone lines and black and white TV.
The past decade of studying herbs helped me recognize a few of nature’s most common weedy healers like plantain, ground ivy, nettle leaf, motherwort, and dandelion – in the yard, the neighborhood park, practically every open space in our river city.
Until recently, I didn’t recognize native herbs that grow in carefully restored prairies a few miles from my urban home.
I’m still at a loss to identify lots of common, local plants and weeds that herbalists like me use in clinical practice every day.
So this Summer, I’m working my way backward. I’m getting out of the clinic and into the field, where the plants have a chance to tell me their story.
I’m wearing out my Android battery taking photos everywhere I go. These amateur pics tell a story of medicinal herbs pointed out to me or discovered on prairie walks from rural Kansas to just outside city limits.
Butterfly milkweed or Pleurisy root
Pleurisy root (butterfly milkweed) – What a show-off. In botanical medicine, orange signifies anti-oxidant properties, especially for the eyes (think carrots). Maybe it does strengthen the eyes, but in my practice I use it when someone with a history of respiratory problems points to a rib and says “it hurts right here when I breathe”. Native Americans, including the Omaha tribe, were known to prize the root for ceremonial use, for bronchitis and lung disorders, and swift healing of wounds and sores. Can you picture a swollen snakebite covered with a mash-up of plant roots? It sounds so intriguing! 
Prairie Phlox standing tall in a field of Summer grass
Prairie phlox – (pronounced flox) I once planted ornamental phlox in the cracks of a retaining wall, and watched it grow year-after-year until it cascaded over the rocks like a bright purple veil for just 2 weeks every summer. I can’t say for sure which phlox relative this is, but Native Americans treasured phlox as a tea for pregnant mothers to insure the birth of a female baby, as a ceremonial Love Medicine, and even as a “wash to make children grow and fatten”. 
Echinacea pallida on the Kansas plain
Echinacea – it’s a popular Top Ten remedy for cold and flu, and here’s a little-known-fact: Native Americans called it snakebite medicine. Eclectic physicians used the root topically to cleanse and remove the putrid smell of festering boils. Nice. 
Lead plant [Amorpha spp] with its pea-family leaves mingles with prairie grasses
Lead plant – seeing this plant up close taught me why it’s called bird’s wood. It’s one of the tallest and sturdiest plants on the prairie, a nice perch for wayward birds. My favorite common name is buffalo plant – smearing a plaster of the roots over the skin was said to attract buffalo and ensure for the hunter a good kill. I haven’t used it as medicine yet, but the leaf is said to close wounds and cure eczema topically, and kill parasites and worms when taken as a tea internally. 
Wild Indigo flowers in full bloom
Wild Indigo – Warning: you might want to put your lunch down before you read this. Wild indigo roots and leaves are used for conditions that have lots of ‘putrid heat’ – translation: pus-filled, decaying, infected and inflamed tissue. Gross. It must’ve been an essential herb for seriously infected wounds with the threat of gangrene. 
Wild violet hidden under towering early Summer greens
Wild violet – My Native American herb book says wild violet varieties were used for respiratory problems like cough, mucus and even asthma in children, plus hundreds of other uses. It’s in my own daily tincture because I know it keeps the lymph system functioning well, especially in the breast area or Liver meridian. Last week, a patient of mine applied a poultice of crushed violet leaves to a large, nasty-looking cyst and wouldn’t you know, it broke right open and started draining. Powerful medicine for such a delicate plant. 
Rattlesnake master stands out from the softer grasses around it
Rattlesnake master –don’t walk too close to this one, with its sword-like leaves edged with spikes. It’s not hard to spot. It looks out of place on a prairie. The common name reflects its use as a rattlesnake bite remedy, but a curious practice by 19th century medical students and doctors points to it as an emetic (induces vomiting) to purify themselves after a patient death. I wonder if today’s physicians have anything like a purification practice, other than a good hand-wash or anti-bacterial foam. 
I’ve got two good Summer months of prairie walks ahead of me. Check back every now and then for more pictures – and stories – of native herbs I’ve discovered.
Have you had a healing experience with plants that you’d like to share? Can you teach me more about native prairie plants? Do plants speak to you? Share your plant experiences and pay it forward. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Native American Medicinal Plants, Daniel E. Moerman, Timber Press, 2009.
2. Eclectic Materia Medica, Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., 1922.
Enjoy reading this popular recent blog post:
How to Choose an Herbal Remedy That Works
I have a confession to make. The last time I planted a vegetable garden, I was 10 years old. It was a little patch of lettuce on a bare spot in our suburban lawn.
Before that little backyard experiment, you probably have to go back 3 or 4 generations to find a farmer in my family. Maybe that explains why gardening isn’t something that comes ‘naturally’ to me.
Lately, something‘s been tugging on me to get my hands dirty and plant some herbs. So I called on my friend Chelsea Taxman for a little practical advice. Chelsea is the Education Director for Truck Farm, an urban agriculture education program in Omaha. Here’s a little peek into our conversation:
Mo: I’m thinking about planting a vegetable or herb garden. How many plants should I start in my first year?
Chelsea: Mo, the amount of plants you grow depends on how ambitious you are in the first year. If your schedule is busy, start small. Work with something you can check in on every day. There are salad green varieties available on the market that can be planted from seed and harvested within 20-40 days. Quick crops like lettuces, arugula or radishes provide instant gratification. Success with a few plants will help you feel more confident to try more the next year.
Mo: Are there certain plants that are especially easy for first-time gardeners to grow in our Nebraska climate?
Chelsea: Perennial plants (meaning they die back in the winter and come back up in the spring) are recommended for first-time and even old-time gardeners. Perennial plants and herbs need less attention and less water each year, but you still reap the benefits of their beauty and fragrance, and you’re creating habitat for the wild.
I recommend herbs in the Lamiaceae (mint) family if you have space. These plants smell and taste delicious, their flowers attract pollinators, but they do spread throughout the garden if not controlled. I personally like when they spread in between my other plants, but my garden isn’t the most tamed.
– Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis); especially good as a tea to calm nervous tension, promote restful sleep and relieve mild seasonal affective depression
– Catnip (Nepeta cataria); fussy babies and adults feel relief with catnip tea
– Mint (Mentha species); summertime is great for this cool, digestive herb that tastes sweet and mildly spicy
– Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium); avoid internal use without some herb knowledge, but it’s a great ground cover
First time vegetables that are “easy” include radishes, spring greens, lettuces, beans, spinach and other cooler season crops. First-timers might want to stay away from midsummer plants that need a lot of attention, a lot of heat and even more water. This includes melons, corn, tomatoes and peppers, to name a few.
Mo: Is it ok to start with seeds outside? And what’s the best time to plant my seeds?
Chelsea: This again depends on the crops you want to plant. Yes, you can start root crops like carrots, radishes and beets in the spring when the soil is thawed. Also, lettuces, salad greens, arugula and spinach can all go straight in the ground as seed. Most seeds can start outside except longer season crops that need more attention and heat like tomatoes and peppers. Most people start these ahead of time as well as some herbs, kale and Brussels sprouts. There are just so many options, Mo!
Mo: Can you explain a simple, 3 or 4-step process for preparing the ground for planting?
Chelsea: I am still a young gardener, but this is my process the past few years. I start preparing my beds in the fall by layering fallen leaves and compost (grass clippings, coffee grounds, etc.) all over the area of my future garden site. This can be referred to as Sheet Mulching. Then the material will sit all winter long under the snow and decompose adding more life to the soil.
In the spring when the ground is thawed enough to dig, I turn the leaves and compost under the top layer of soil. Some people call this Double Digging. I use hand tools and elbow grease instead of machinery like a tiller. This year I will be adding more cover crops to my garden in the fall and spring like Buckwheat. A cover crop will cover the soil that I’m not currently cultivating and keep the top soil from blowing away in the wind. Cover crops can also add nutrition like nitrogen into the ground when I turn it under.
Mo: For gardeners who have limited yard space, what herbs or vegetables are easy to grow in pots?
Chelsea: There is often the option to join a neighborhood garden or community garden for more space and support your first year. I have heard of neighbors sharing their backyard and space, too. As far as pots go, there are many plants that can be grown in pots. Herbs and flowers are generally easiest. I wouldn’t start these from seed, but I would support a local grower and purchase plant starts. You can find local growers at Farmer’s Markets in Omaha and sometimes during garage sales. Nursery plants are locally owned, but sometimes they tend to use more harmful chemicals than a local organic grower.
I know many people who have success with tomatoes and peppers in pots. The most important thing is space. Make sure your pot is large enough for the root systems. There is even a corn variety called Blue Jade that can be grown in a pot! (seedsavers.org) I wouldn’t recommend root vegetables, but you can always try.
Mo: Where can I look for help if I have a bug problem or general questions about how to water, fertilize, grow or harvest my plants?
Chelsea: I recommend you contact the Master Gardeners in Omaha. You can reach these experts through the Douglas Country Extension. The Common Soil Seed Library (inside the Omaha Public Library’s Benson Branch) offers ongoing free classes about seed starting, germination, seed saving and more. The listings are online at the OPL website.
Mo: What if my garden grows like crazy and I have baskets of extra food or herbs?
Chelsea: There are many places that accept donations or might even purchase your extra production. Or get to know your neighbors, let them know what you’re doing in your yard and share the abundance. You can share your surplus online through websites like Small Potatoes, NextDoor, Facebook, etc.
Table Grace Café at 16th and Farnam Streets is a donation-based restaurant that sources locally grown food. The owner and chef, Matt Weber, will happily take your donations. Call ahead or stop by.
A native of Omaha, aspiring herbalist, permaculturist and home gardener, Chelsea travels to Omaha Public Schools offering education to youth about where our food comes from today. Chelsea incorporates lessons of healthy eating, movement and sustainability into the Truck Farm curriculum. She is a Registered Yoga Teacher and co-founder of Black Iris Botanicals, a wild-crafted and locally-sourced herbal beauty product line.
Yesterday, I felt like I was gonna burst out of my jeans. I’ve never felt so bloated and miserable without actually being sick. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about here – it was a fat pants day, all the way!
And you know what?
LOTS of people are having these kinds of problems right now. This week.
When Spring starts, all hell breaks loose in stomachs everywhere.
I see it every season, especially at the start of Spring and Fall. Patients who normally don’t experience digestion problems will start reporting heartburn, headaches, indigestion, constipation, irritability, and the queen of digestive distress – BLOATING.
Why is this so common this week? We can turn to Chinese Medicine for some wisdom on this weird seasonal phenomenon.
The Chinese tell us that the short two-week period between seasons is when the Earth Element is most active. Of the 5 Elements, Earth is the one that regulates digestion, keeps us rooted and stable, and makes sure we crave tonifying foods.
Maybe you’ve noticed you’re more hungry the past week or so? That’s your Earth element saying ‘feed me so I can keep you going’. Springtime demands nourishment for new growth. Not the kind of growth that puts on pounds or sprouts leaves.
You’re coming out of a dark, cold, inactive season into one that’s sunny, warmer and allows more movement and waking time. You’ll need more fuel for those more physical, energy-burning activities. A healthy digestive system will signal you to ‘load up’ for the work ahead.
The trouble starts as you give in to your bigger appetite. Your digestion says ‘whoa, hold on there, pal, I need to catch up’. Next thing you know, you end up bloated and stuck very quickly.
What’s the remedy for this temporary backup? Probably not extreme dieting or over-the-counter anti-gas products, which can throw a delicate system into even more imbalance.
Instead, try one or more of these Spring Bloat Busters:
- Fennel seed tea – boil 1 Tbsp of fennel seed (yep, you’ve probably got this in your spice cabinet) in 1-2 cups water for 15 minutes. Strain the fennel seeds and drink the ‘decoction’ (tea). By morning, most of the bloating should be relieved.
- Epsom salts – Run a bathtub full of warm water or fill a shallow bucket with warm water and add 1-2 cups Epsom salts (if you like essential oils, you can find lavender or eucalyptus scented salts in any pharmacy). Soak yourself or just your feet for up to 30 minutes, enjoy a good night’s sleep and feel relief when you wake up.
- Digestive Teas – one of my all-time favorite teas is Eater’s Digest, created by a company called Traditional Medicinals and formulated by herbalists. This blend isn’t just delicious – it’s medicinal. With peppermint, fennel, ginger and other ‘carminative’ herbs [a fancy term for digestion-mover] this is the tea for ‘fussy’ tasters. My kids instinctively choose this tea in the evening, probably because it helps soothe their stomachs after a big meal.
- Go Chinese – for stubborn digestive systems that don’t respond to simple remedies, Chinese herbal formulas will gently strengthen the Earth element while stimulating ‘chi’, blood and fluid to move. Many people feel a gentle bump in energy when they take the formula that’s right for their constitution. Ask an herbalist what formula is for you.
- Eat green and bitter – pucker up baby, ‘cuz bitter, leafy greens like kale, beet greens, mustard greens, chard, spinach, dark salad lettuces contain digestion-stimulating elements that increase bile production. Bile breaks down stubborn food congestion, unclogs you and gets your gut moving again.
- Hold your horses – pull back the reins on those heavy, winter-style meals. Load up instead on vegetables, berries and lighter fare like chicken, fish and meatless meals.
- Move it – Expansion and contraction of muscle is a natural way to squeeze out gas and relieve bloating. Yoga, walking and simple stretching work equally well. I remember giggling in a yoga class when the ‘wind-relieving pose’ did exactly that for the guy on the mat next to me!
Without doing something radical, my jeans fit more like normal today. A few simple practices like the ones listed here, and a good walk this morning straightened me right out.
There’s no need to suffer with abdominal bloating and indigestion. Try a simple, natural remedy first. If the problem persists, get ahold of me and we’ll talk it through until we discover what’s best for you.
Find answers to more of your digestion questions in this related blog – Has Your Digestion Taken a Vacation?
On my morning walk today, the street was littered with little and big branches from a wild snow tornado thing that blew through the city the day before. Every few steps I was kicking away or stepping around fallen pieces of the trees, garbage can lids and stray yard stuff that was swept up and dropped off in the vortex of air.
Then it hit me. The trees were just fine. As far as I know, very little damage was done to the city’s bare, brown maple, ash, apple and every other species of Midwest tree. Those winds were up to 60 miles per hour, and still, the trees looked like they always do this time of year. Stark. Tall. Braced for winter but undamaged by it.
If trees are made to withstand freak ‘snow tornados’ and windy squalls, the weight of a heavy snow, and wide temperature variations (sometimes up to 60 degrees in one day around here), then aren’t we?
Yes. And no.
Yes, you have the capability to bend without breaking against the forces of cold and flu viruses, bacterial infections, mild stresses and life’s unexpected events.
But you aren’t built to withstand the chronic levels of 21st century stress, with attention-draining electronic devices, ever-greater demands on time and an environmental load of ‘approved’ chemicals that kills off several species a day*!
At least not without some serious damage.
Trees and plants handle the stress of a strong wind gust by bending their flexible extremities. They might shake loose a weakened branch or a few leaves, but 50 or 100 feet of roots anchor them solidly for survival.
It’s also in your nature to have a strong foundation, so, when stress happens, you bounce back. When a loved one dies, when you lose your job, your marriage or a beloved pet, you grieve and feel the hurt and loss, but after a while you’re on your feet again, wounded but alive.
There’s no denying that some people get an unfair load of stress dumped on them, and who wouldn’t crumble a little under that weight? That’s when you call in extra support, sort of how you’d brace a tree with rope and a stake until it can stand on its own again. You get more rest, nourishing foods, ask family and friends for help.
This is where herbs really shine. They take the load off by calming down the nervous system, helping you sleep more soundly and lifting the fog of fatigue, even in the midst of the hell swirling around you.
Herbs called ‘nervines’ help dial back your anxious energy and feed the nervous system. Passionflower, for instance, puts you to sleep when your head is spinning with repetitive thoughts. Motherwort regulates a heartbeat that’s racing from nervousness, and Lavender soothes the mind and calms an upset stomach.
Wood betony loosens tension in the neck and shoulders, where we hold so much of our stress. These are just a few of the many herbs that lend their gentle nature to our over-stimulated lives.
Like a tree under the constant stress of poor soil, drought or injury, stress leads to disease. If you’re planted where you can’t thrive, your foundation weakens and you’re vulnerable to disease.
Practice a little self-care right now. Make yourself a cup of tea, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, close your eyes and rest your mind for 3 minutes. You just gave your mind a mini spa treatment!
Can you learn to bend and relax when life throws a snow tornado in your path? You can start by bringing some gentle natural healing into your day with calming herbs.
Below is an article I wrote that was recently published in our local Complete Transformation Magazine. You’ll find more of my herbal and natural tips in quarterly issues of this free publication found in area grocery stores.
One of the biggest factors threatening your immune health this time of year is fatigue.
Do you ever have that dream where you’re running as fast as you can but you’re getting nowhere? Your legs are dragging like cement and every step is a ridiculous effort. When you wake up, you’re exhausted and frustrated. THAT dream.
When you get rundown, and ordinary tasks begin to seem disproportionately hard, like in THAT dream, you could benefit from a group of herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogens provide immune support by gently, steadily enhancing your feeling of well-being and energy.
Russian scientists discovered that adaptogenic herbs boosted the performance of Olympic athletes and astronauts, who were subjected to constant, extreme levels of pressure to excel under stressful conditions. Does that sound like your life sometimes? American lives mimic an athlete’s extraordinary level of work and worry, with long office hours, financial pressures and poor eating habits.
Months or years of high-stress living is a major drain on your kidney/adrenal organ system. And that’s exactly where adaptogens have a magic that no other substance can match.
By helping you ‘adapt’ to your very own, personal life stressors, like your mother-in-law’s voice or the boss’s deadline demands, your nervous system can shift into neutral, allowing you to keep your cool more easily.
With these herbs, your body begins to recognize the difference between ordinary and extraordinary stress, and avoids firing up adrenaline when it isn’t needed. In effect, adaptogens act as a supreme regulator of your fight-or-flight response.
Adaptogenic herbs allow your body to stand down and get out of security guard mode, into bystander mode, without losing the ability to respond quickly and effectively to REAL, life-threatening situations, like when a deer suddenly appears out of nowhere on a dark highway.
Not all adaptogens are created equal. Some are better for high-energy, Type A personalities that deal with stress by getting busier, while others are more effective for people who turn to food, sleep and reclusiveness when life gets overwhelming.
Adaptogenic herbs like ashwaganda, eleuthero, rhodiola and ginseng (in medicinal doses), are deeply nourishing to over-stimulated nervous systems. Taken in appropriate doses with the guidance of a trained and experienced Herbalist, these healing plants can buffer the effect of stress on your immune system and protect you from colds and flu all year long.
Have you had the flu or a nasty cold yet this season? How did you treat the symptoms – rest, supplements, herbs, antibiotics? Share your experience with Natural Healing Omaha readers in the comments below.
Staying healthy through a season of cold, flus and stubborn respiratory viruses doesn’t have to mean staying isolated from people or taking a handful of supplements every day with a wish and a prayer. It can be as simple as pausing throughout the day for a cup of tea.
When your co-workers are sneezing, coughing and calling in sick, and the kids are home from school with the flu, you can stay well just by enjoying your own blends of gentle herbal tea.
Herbal teas can keep your digestion on track, even out the stresses of the day and help you get better sleep, all of which have a major impact on optimal immune health.
The rhythm of taking herbs throughout the day is a practice that smoothes out the edges of structured, over-scheduled lives, releases tension, introduces subtle flavor and gently heals you before you’ve gotten too far out of balance.
Start your morning with a fermented tea like pu erh, with it’s rich, earthy scent that clears the morning’s mental fog, stimulates metabolism and gets a sluggish gut gently moving. It’s a nudge to the digestive system to wake up, stretch out and get moving.
Late morning, when you’re well into the day’s projects, steep some holy basil (you might know this one as tulsi) or green tea to keep your thinking clear and the mind alert to new ideas. Green tea has hundreds of health benefits, one of which is the ability to gently energize without over-stimulating. Treat yourself to a high-quality tea that’s organically grown and ethically harvested.
A second cup of green tea is a mild mid-afternoon pick-me-up, especially when it shares a saucer with a snack of nuts or dried fruit, just enough to hold you to dinner and not enough to spoil it.
When you’re home and settling in after dinner, encourage good digestion with chamomile, orange peel, fennel, ginger or peppermint teas. Later, whether it’s time for a favorite hobby, catching up with a friend, or supervising homework, make a family tea to wind down the mind with linden, lemon balm or lavender.
There’s an herbal tea for any time of day, all year long. Winter is the ideal time to add warm herbs like sage, cinnamon and thyme to any blend you’re infusing. Keeping your body warm protects against the chill that makes you vulnerable to fatigue and illness.
Directions: To make a healing cup of herbal tea any time of day, scoop 1 tsp. of a single herb or your favorite blend into a tea infuser, pour hot water to cover, let it steep 4-5 minutes, then remove the herbs and slowly sip, sniff and close your eyes for a moment.
If you’d like to try your hand at blending your own teas, start by ordering ¼ lb. of a few herbs that sound appealing to you. If you click on the Mountain Rose Herbs icon to the right of this blog, you can visit the place where I order loose teas and tea supplies, and shop for a few of your own.
My favorite infuser is the Celestial Tea Strainer. It nestles snuggly inside my favorite tea mug and lifts out easily without dripping or leaving loose herbs floating – though I really don’t mind floaty herbs – watching the leaves swirl in my cup is kinda Zen….
The blend I’m sipping one or two times a day right now is a mix of red clover, oat straw, lemon balm, lavender, motherwort, hawthorn leaf and rose petal. My favorite packaged tea blends come from Good Earth, Yogi, Numi and Pukka.
What’s your favorite herbal tea blend? What time of day do you drink tea? Who taught you about the joy of drinking herbal tea? Share your comments below.
Ok, go get your tea on! And have a very Herbal Holiday!
Related Post: An Ounce of Prevention and a Pinch of Attention
When Jill Lemen started creating her organic fruit and nut bars, she wasn’t the most healthy eater on the planet. But as caregiver to a wheelchair-bound health nut, she was challenged to come up with a grab-n-go organic food bar that was tasty AND gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.
What started as a healthy snack for a clean-eating friend surprised and inspired Jill to create Noshsense. I met Jill at a women’s small business gathering, where she brought samples of her tasty treats. It was love at first taste.
Every time I turn around, there’s a locally owned business getting started by a woman with a great story. Everything from yoga and massage to specialty baked goods and handmade body butters are being crafted by local businesswomen with a mission.
I thought you should know about these local products and services I’ve discovered, so I put them all into one big Gift Basket. And I’m giving it away.
How can you WIN this?
If you’ve signed up for my monthly newsletter or offered a comment on one of my blogs, then you’ve already entered the drawing. If not, leave a comment below this blog. The drawing to WIN the Healthy Holiday Gift Basket, compliments of Natural Healing Omaha, is December 2nd.
Even if your name isn’t drawn, you still win! These are some great gift ideas for the upcoming holidays.
Give something local, handmade, herbal, natural, organic (and all that good stuff ) and feel good about holiday spending.
But let me get back to the drawing. Look at all these items you could WIN:
- Rose Water Toner – ‘Mildly Astringent — Mighty Refreshing.’ That’s how SeaRose describes her Rose Facial toner, a product of her local small business, Black Iris Botanicals – https://www.facebook.com/blackirisbotanicals.
- Gift Certificate for 1 dozen gluten-free and vegan muffins from Two Birds Bakery www.twobirdsbakeryomaha.com.
- Hyp-Yoga weight loss CD’s and green “Peace” t-shirt, for the cool person in your life. See what it’s all about at Hyp Yoga Omaha.
- One dozen gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free organic fruit and nut bars made by their local creator Jill Lemen and her small business http://www.Noshsense.net.
- A signed copy of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, A coming-of-age tale of fanfiction, family and first love. It’s local, it’s handmade (ok, not so much) and it’s juicy, good reading!
- One hour massage from Summer Schwery, one of our very talented massage therapists at the Four Winds Natural Healing Center. She’ll melt your mind into a state of bliss.
- Sample handmade soaps in four ‘flavors’ – Lemon Poppyseed, Calendula Olive Oil, Avocado Shea Butter and Rose & Lavender – from Metta Handmade, the brainchild of local owner Stacia Hoover. More soapy love at http://www.MettaHandmade.com.
- Personal notecards created with artful calligraphy designs by Jen Waltemath of Omaha. Check her stuff out at http://www.jafix.info/!
- Generously large planter full of greenery, perfect for a corner of your sunny room, from The Potting Shed Garden and Gift Center, compliments of owner Amy Weir.
- A selection of gluten-free, organic, handmade veggie wraps from April’s Wraps. These babies are to-die-for delicious, smeared with your favorite spread and loaded up with veggies.
Need a gift item for a birthday or graduation? Find links to most of these items all year long on my ‘Resources and Affiliates’ page.
This drawing is my way of supporting local small businesses and connecting you with unique, local, quality products and services you can’t get just anywhere.
Do these businesses a favor and Share this blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, or wherever you do your socializing on line!
Happy, Healthy holiday season to everyone from Natural Healing Omaha. Remember, leave a comment on this blog or sign up for my herbal newsletter to enter.
Are you guilty of being this kind of friend? Sadly, it’s so common that you might not notice the problem at first. You ask someone ‘How’s it going?’ and the conversation goes like this:
Friend: I’m annoyed because I feel like I’m giving my all at work, but no one recognizes the effort.
You: Yeah, I know how that feels. My boss sucks in that department.
Friend: Right. The boss just walks right by without ever asking how I’m doing or to say ‘good job’.
You: I know how you feel. Sometimes I just wanna scream. One time, I worked overtime on this big project for two weeks and nobody even said ‘thanks, good job.’
Friend: Geez, that sucks. I hate my job. I wish I could quit.
This conversation is going nowhere fast, and both of you are bound to end up resentful and bitter. Neither one of you is really hearing the other person. You’re both waiting your turn to tell your own sad tale of woe.
What if you stopped to really listen to your friend? You could change the whole direction of the conversation.
In this next scenario, you’ll see how the dynamic changes when you stop to hear the words. See if you can figure out what’s different about this:
Friend: I’m annoyed because I feel like I’m giving my all at work, but no one recognizes my efforts.
You: It sounds like you don’t feel appreciated.
Friend: Right. The boss just walks right by without ever asking how I’m doing or to say ‘good job’.
You: Hmm. I’m guessing there’s something you’re especially proud of that you’d like your boss to notice.
Friend: Actually, there is. I just finished a project in record time and the client was so happy because she saved quite a few dollars in the process.
You: So, your client took the time to say how great your work was? That’s cool.
Friend: Hey, you know, that is cool. I’m feeling pretty good about that.
You: Way to go. How about we celebrate over coffee?
What’s different about this exchange? The focus is not on you.
Instead of offering an example of how lousy your life is, too, you can turn it around. Demonstrate that you hear what was said by saying it back in a different way.
Let your friend be heard.
You’ll get your turn another time. This is her moment. Make an effort to listen. Don’t expect the favor to be returned. Give without asking for anything back.
It’s the holidays and lots of us start feeling stressed right about now. Stress is a major cause of health problems. Being heard is a simple, powerful, natural remedy for stress.
Like most natural healing, the effects are subtle but profound. Relationships start to heal. Anxiety and depression lessen. Stomach aches and headaches and body pain ease up. I’ve seen it hundreds of times.
When you use a simple tool like this to shift the course of a conversation, you raise the vibe of your relationships. Step by tiny step, resentment, helplessness and that ‘poor me’ attitude dissolve. A problem becomes a celebration.
Can you do it? Can you offer your generous, complete, undistracted, attention to someone?
It’s not necessary to completely understand and share in their feelings. It’s only necessary to listen. Try it.
What better gift can you give this season?
Related Post: A Naturally Healing Tea for This Time of Year