In the world of Chinese medicine, spring is a critical time for new growth and change and expressing all the creativity that’s been bottled up in you. It’s associated with the organs, the liver and the gallbladder, sort of paired organs that act in conflict with each other. The liver needs the gallbladder, the gallbladder needs the liver. This time of year your liver and your gallbladder are the most active and they might actually be too busy and causing problems for you. So this is why this time of year we pay attention to those organs, and we give them a little extra love.
The liver is one of your major detox organs, so you know that you have to keep waste material out of your body. And where does that happen? It happens in the kidneys, in the liver and a lot of that through the skin as well. The liver is one of your major detox organs and has to handle a lot of natural substances like your hormones and let’s just say the byproducts of digestion. That’s a concise description of what the liver does. Especially in the Springtime. And the gallbladder, of course, is sort of like a holding tank for bile that needs to be secreted whenever plates are coming through the body. At the same time, we have a full moon going on. Full moons don’t last just one day. It seems like there’s a three-day transition where they’re almost full. It’s practically full for three straight days. I don’t know if you noticed but I was driving somewhere yesterday, and the moon was twice as big. When the moon’s that big, you get a lot of fire-y energy. It is adding to whatever is bothering you.
How do you know if your liver is fatigued and needs loving?
Nasty emotional PMS for women
Men and Women alike can experience an increase in anger symptoms, frustration, just sort of like acting out, it’s overexpressing feelings a little bit.
Cravings for caffeine or other things that might not be the best choices
Worsening of Anxiety/OCD symptoms
Severe digestive issues
Within a couple of weeks of the actual season change and a couple of weeks after, that’s when people start to experience the most digestive disruption that we talked about this a little bit earlier. Constipation, diarrhea, both of those things. Stomach aches, extra burping or reflex happening. You might at some point even feel twingy actual pain in the liver and gallbladder area.
Also when the gallbladder is having a little bit of squeaky problems, maybe it’s a bit sludgy, that kind of things, fat digestion will be reduced. What you’ll see is fat in your stools, like in the toilet, it’ll be floating on top, and that will tell you that you’re not having great digestion gallbladder. Here is a little fact- Your poop can tell you a lot about your digestive health! It’s very important to learn how to diagnose your stool.
The ultimate question is. What do we do about it? First off, you need to talk to somebody who really understands these transitions. Come to Prairie Star Botanicals and make an appointment. I can see you on Thursdays, and Thursday.
And then there also are a couple of quick tips.
Eat more greens. I’m talking about like dark, leafy, bitter tasting greens, like arugula, watercress, kale, chard and my dad’s favorite, mustard greens and collard greens. Just steam them and maybe sprinkle a little bit of sesame oil on them with some sesame seeds or your favorite plain nut. Sprinkle a little bit of garlic salt or regular salt, pepper, and my favorite, cayenne, just a little bit of cayenne pepper really brings up the flavor. It’s okay to add a little fire, just a little fire this time of year.
Surround yourself with wood. Liver and wood go together. Bring wood into your house, wood furniture even. And take walks in the woods, which bring me to the next point…
Get outside. The powers of getting out in the fresh air! Plant therapy can do a lot for you, and I don’t mean plant therapy as in taking your tinctures and glycerites. It’s actually getting outside, being with the plants, and just being still for a little bit. Take a walk. Take a walk out. Get some things moving. Smell the things that are coming up out of the ground right now.
Appreciate the dandelions and enjoy the sunshine. It’s beautiful! Beautiful first herbs.
Share with me what are some of your favorite things to enjoy in the Spring! I want to know! 😀
Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders. She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.
Ready? Read here for the specific tips and details of how to overcome Post-Holiday fatigue.
3 gentle and effective ways to overcome post-holiday fatigue.
This holiday season I stayed on track pretty well with my herbal regimen. But rest of my healthy lifestyle? Well, like most everyone else it went by the wayside. And I felt it. I had some back pain and plain old tiredness starting to creep up, and I knew I had to start making changes to get back on track. Here are the three things I implemented to help me overcome that post-holiday fatigue and sluggishness.
1. Reintroduce Gentle Exercise and Meditation.
First, I started by reintroducing a little yoga. I found a low back pain video by a gal named Adrian. I’ve been doing it for about 4 days. Just that short 30 minute practice has helped shake loose some tightness. Do you have a favorite gentle exercise program?
I also returned to a short daily meditation, a healthy lifestyle practice for anyone and everyone. I set aside a specific time of day – for me its usually after dinner. I find a cozy, private spot, light a candle, put on calming music, and sit for about 30 mins. I make sure to set a timer so I don’t get antsy. I reset and remind myself to have gratitude. We all need gratitude, don’t we? Gratitude is essential in recovering from post-holiday fatigue.
I also had a session with a friend of mine that I trust. This friend keeps me on task with my promises. We sat down and talked about our goals and visions for the next five years. What do we see our work and personal lives looking like in five years? That really put some things in perspective for me. Do you have a friend you can call and sit down with to review your life and talk about what you want?
2. Start Gentle: Cut Back on Negative Habits
Talking with my friend was another baby step to recovery. Next, I began to slowly cut back on the kind of heavy sweets and foods I was eating over the holidays. I ate a little less each meal and stopped the snacking, which can really get out of hand during the holidays, can’t it? I also started rethinking my coffee habit and returned to green tea. Not every day. Tiny changes are the trick. Allow yourself some wiggle room so you don’t feel deprived.
One thing people do at this time of year is go whole-hog and decide to do a cleanse or fast. They throw themselves into it, and then at the end of the fast they return to the habits that got them there in the first place! Winter is the Kidney season, associated with the Water element in Chinese medicine. In this dark season, we’re meant to go inward and power down a smidge. When we fast, it tends to lower our body temperature just a little, and cold weather isn’t the time of year for that.
I recommend fasting as form of cleansing during the warmer season, so as Spring comes up, it’s a better time to think about a healthy cleanse plan. I love to guide people through cleanses so ask me!
3. Begin Gently Adding In Healthy Foods
Adding in the healthful foods for your organs and for the winter season will help you overcome post-holiday fatigue. Below are some foods I recommend for just about every constitution this time of year.
Replace heavier root vegetables with steamed greens (collards, mustards). The longer you cook greens in water the more heavy minerals you get. If you’re trying to increase your minerals for your bone, skin, nails and hair, keep this in mind! Try sprinkling a little vinegar on for a zippy taste!
Replace heavier meats with lighter, free-range poultry, and fish. If you’re going more meat-less, try tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that provides the protein you crave when you’re cutting back. You can use it in lots of ways. I like it seasoned and as a meat replacement in tacos, or crumbled up with my eggs. It has a nice crunch to it that I crave.
Add one type of food for each element in Chinese medicine. Each element represents one of these five important organs – Liver, Spleen, Kidney, Lungs, and Heart.
Liver- Beets are a super food for your liver. Next time you’re at the store, grab a bundle of this wonderful purple veggie that often gets neglected. Broil the beets and steam the tops for a colorful side dish or add cooked beets to salad.
Spleen- did you know Sweet Potatoes are chock full of beta carotene? Good for the eyes and great for breakfast! (Check out my Instagram to see the sweet potato pics I’ve been posting lately)
Lungs- Garlic, onion and shallots are your best Lung-protective foods. They’re naturally antiviral and keep the mucus loose and smooth. If you’re squeamish about mucus, keep plenty of garlic in your dishes.
Kidney- Celery, seaweeds, and kidney beans benefit the Kidney element. Seaweed keeps the thyroid healthy, and is a great internal moisturizer for that winter dryness.
Heart- Bitter-tasting foods benefit the heart. See if you can find a bitter food in your cupboard that you can sneak into your daily diet. Food aside, the Number One practice for a healthy heart is practicing gratitude. Daily reminders of the blessings in your life, even the simplest ones, are my top recommendation for health health!
Schedule regular down time. A 10-minute meditation in the morning or before bed helps to trigger the neurotransmitters that down-regulate anxiety. Science says so!
Turn off phone ringers and social media notifications, setting some discipline around answering emails, and respond less often to needy friends, family and co-workers.
By implementing these gentle changes one at a time, you can get yourself back on track. If you need help or guidance with overcoming your post-holiday fatigue and sluggishness, I would love to help you out. Contact me and let’s talk a bit!
Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders. She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a personalized, custom cleanse appointment.
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 email@example.com.
1. Native American Medicinal Plants, Daniel E. Moerman, Timber Press, 2009. 2. Eclectic Materia Medica, Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., 1922. 3. http://www.wildones.org/download/people/stiefel/stiefel2.html
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.
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!