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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top 3 Reasons Why Herbs Don't Work

As I'm sure you can already tell, I LOVE using herbal medicine for well...just about everything.  To me, nothing is better than being able to open up my fridge or herb cabinet and know that I am prepared to heal whatever ails my family.  I know from experience that herbs are magic.  They have every bit of the power that most drugs do and with significantly less side effects.

So why is it then, that I hear so many stories of people trying herbs that either didn't work or it made them feel worse?  What's the difference between what I do, and what everyone else is trying?

Let me explain...


The effectiveness of any herbal remedy is largely dependent on the quality of your herbs.  

Crappy herbs = Crappy result.

This is when I start bashing cheap encapsulated herbal supplements.  When I grind up herbs and put them in capsules at home, I try to consume the product within the first year. Why? Because when you grind up a dried herb you are breaking down the cell walls, releasing essential oils, and exposing them to air.  All of those things cause the medicinal quality of the herb to start deteriorating.  Here's where I get really mad.  Most of the herbal supplements you find at major grocery stores have the longest shelf lives I have ever seen (we're talking years).  Even if it does contain the herb it says it does (more on that later), what is the guarantee that it's not old and worthless?  There is none.  And all too often people are duped into buying worthless, old, powdered herbal supplements that don't do bupkiss.

#2 - It isn't what you think it is!
You would think that selling a product that contains what you say it contains, is a no brainer.  But unfortunately this is a huge problem today.  The regulation of herbal and dietary supplements is tricky business. "A manufacturer does not have to prove the safety and effectiveness of a dietary supplement before it is marketed." - FDA Which means, unless it causes harm, it doesn't get taken off the market.  Time after time, people randomly test vitamins and supplements and what they find is a shocking amount of fillers, additional ingredients and in some cases the supplements did't even contain the herb or vitamin advertised! 

So how do you not get hoodwinked?!  I highly suggest making your own supplements (get instructions here), or only buy them from a reputable source.  Avoid the vitamin/supplement isle at Walmart like the plague!

#3 - Consistency
Alright, so let's say you've found (or made) yourself some grade-A herbal supplements from a trusted source.  You take your herbs in the morning....then the next day in the afternoon....then maybe you remember to take some more on the weekend.  And you ponder to yourself, "You know what? I don't think these are working!"  You're right, it's not.  Just like any kind of medicine, you have to take it consistently.  If you took antibiotics or heart medication that way, you probably wouldn't be feeling too hot.

Some of my favorite herbs, which are also some of the most popular herbs sold today, such as Red Raspberry Leaf, Ginkgo and Hawthorn are considered 'tonic' herbs.  They promote health over time.  You are not going to pop a Ginkgo pill and suddenly remember where you left your car keys.  But if you take it everyday for a month, you might have an easier time putting that presentation together for work.

I know all of this can be quite daunting when all you want is a natural way to help yourself.  I hope that this information won't deter you, but rather give you the info you need to make herbal medicine actually work for you.  If for some reason making your own medicine just doesn't appeal to you, there are a few places that I trust to have the best quality, good agricultural practices and customer safety in mind.

First and foremost is Mountain Rose Herbs.  I live in the desert, so finding fresh herbs locally can be a seriously hard task.  I have never been disappointed by the quality of herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs. A few others I have personally used and trust are: Herb-Pharm, Oregon's Wild Harvest, and Wish Garden Herbals.

Have any more herbal questions? Want to make an appointment with a Certified Herbalist?  Look no further!  Online and in-house appointments available.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Quit Smoking

Since you're reading this post, I'll automatically assume that you or someone you love smokes.  But, before you go any further in this post, I'm going to be extremely honest with you.  Unless YOU or whomever you are sending this too, TRULY wants to quit, these tips aren't going to do much for you.  The truth is quitting smoking is hard.  This is coming from a woman who has quit smoking dozens of times since high school.   I started the Stress + Fear = Smoking cycle way early and I have to say it's one of the biggest reasons why I'm such a meditation junkie now.

The stuff I have listed below will help you with cravings and crankiness, and should take the edge off some of the more nasty physical effects of quitting an addictive substance.  I won't go too much into the negative effects of smoking or how great your body does when you stop, because honestly you could google that topic to death.  What I do want to do, is give you some advice that has been seriously helpful for me when I FINALLY quit smoking for good.

But before we begin, I want you to do something for me.  Right now, go grab a paper and a pen (or marker, crayon...) and I want you to write yourself a promise that you are going to try as hard as you can to stop smoking.  Then list the serious reasons why you are done with it.  Sign it and post it somewhere you can see often.  When you start to feel like you can't handle it, read your note and feel the dedication you started with.  Let it follow you through the entire process.

Side Effects of Quitting Smoking and How to Deal with Them.

#1. General Attitude of Crankiness - While I don't have a cure for the idiot who takes too long at the coffee shop, there a few things you can do to avoid going agro.  Breathe Awareness is a form of meditation that I use often, whenever I'm feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or I feel like yelling at the extreme couponer in front of me at the grocery store. Ya, I have issues with lines.  Which brings me to my next point.  Avoid lines like the plague.  Drive through, self-checkout, cook your own meals, clean your own house.  I notice that quite often the source of my bitchiness has to do with impatience.  So if you don't want to yell at anyone, do it yourself to begin with.

If you have little kids, the best advice I can give you is to make sure that stuff is set out ahead of time.  Make meals ahead of time, set out clothes the night before.  Make it really easy for your kids to comply.  Also, don't avoid them.  They will come find you.  If little Rosie wants to show you her doll, make a big deal of it, give her hugs and kisses and whoops of approval.  She'll toddle away happy and you'll get peace for longer.  If you try and avoid her, she follow you around the house all day with random things to show you and then you'll get frustrated and yell.  All she wants is attention and love, try to remember that.

#2. Anxiety, even to the point of Palpitations - Withdrawals from any addictive substance can come out as extreme anxiety, panic attacks, even heart palpitations.  Of course if your experiencing chest pain, by all means see a DOCTOR. But if what you're feeling is nervous, obsessive, shaky energy, it's probably anxiety. When I quit smoking I would notice episodes of anxiety and palpitations around the first weeks of quitting smoking.  You can still get them later in the month, but I notice they are much milder and easier to deal with. 

Your best herbal friend at this point is going to be Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).  Oh how I LOVE this herb for palpitations and anxiety.  It's like a big ol Mother bear hug when I take it.  I prefer to get it in capsules, because it's easier for me to take outside of the home, but you can get it as an herbal extract or drink it as a tea (beware, it's pretty bitter).  During the first few days I took a normal dosage of 2 capsules,3 times a day.  Then I would take 1-3 capsules as needed during the rest of the month.  I found one capsules was great to take the edge off, two for more serious anxiety or panic, and three if it's right before bed and my heart is doing flip flops.  Pair it with sniffing relaxing essential oils like Lavender  or Orange to cheer you up and practice Breath Awareness until you calm down.  Motherwort is not for pregnant ladies though, so if you are trying to quit smoking because you found out you are pregnant, try to stick to really gentle relaxing herbal teas like chamomile or oatstraw.

Doesn't this look amazing?! Click to get the recipe.
#3. Cravings! Crunchy, Salty, Sweet - Before you quit smoking I highly suggest going to the grocery store and stocking up on easy to make, healthy snacks.  It'll make a big difference when you've only gained 5 lbs instead 15!  No lie, when most people quit smoking, whether they over eat or not, they tend to gain some weight.  So do yourself a favor and fill the house with good things to eat.  It's much easier to not worry so much about weight gain by eating healthy foods, than to sit and feel guilty after you've had your second candy bar of the day.  Make a list of healthy stuff you LOVE, that also contains the three different cravings: crunchy, salty, sweet. My personal list consists of: strawberries, peaches, bananas, grapes, watermelon, pistachio nuts, celery and/or apples & peanut butter, veggie chips, avocados, hard boiled eggs, Sweet & Spicy Herbal Tea and of course a little dark chocolate.  You get the point.

#4. Constipation - The other great benefit of eating tons of fruits and veggies and healthy things, is it'll help you with the evil constipation that come with quitting smoking.  FACT: Smoking makes you poop. Why? The chemicals in cigarettes, mainly the nicotine, act as a stimulant to the body (which is why coffee also makes you poop). Once nicotine hits your system it increases activity in the intestines, increases saliva, and increases bronchial activity. In other words, it stimulates your entire digestive system to the point where you have to poo.  Now if you are one of those unfortunate souls to get a serious bout of constipation, I would consider going the herbal route rather than the fiber route.  What you need is something to stimulate peristalsis, the wavy contraction of your soft muscle that pushes stuff through your digestive tract, not fill it with more stuff.  There are tons of herbal laxatives out there, but the most pleasant one (physically and taste wise) that I've found is Chocolate Smooth Move tea by Traditional Medicinals.  But, if you are quitting smoking because you found out you are pregnant ( I am SO freaking proud of you!!!), steer clear of most herbal laxatives because they can cause contractions, take Yellow Dock extract instead.

#5. Depression - The downer about quitting smoking after the first week or so is that now your body isn't getting a constant stream of endorphins. Which is what your brain does in response to nicotine.  Another reason why smoking is so damn addictive.  Endorphins are hormones that give you the sense of well-being and happiness. They are naturally made in the brain when we are excited, have orgasms, eat spicy food or exercise (like a runners high).  This can leave you seriously blue.  The best way to battle it, is to make it easier for your brain to produce endorphins.  Which means...have orgasms, eat lots of dark chocolate and spicy food, exercise, get some sunshine, do things that really make you happy.

If you get to the point where you are weepy, drink some Kava Kava tea, sit down with your journal and get all of those thoughts down on paper.  When you feel better, rip that sucker out of your journal and burn it in the fireplace.  I'm willing to bet most, if not all of those negative self-thoughts you wrote down on that paper have nothing to do with reality.  It's best to get it all out, and release it into the ether.

In closing, please know that you CAN DO IT!  It's hard and it sucks I know, but it's totally worth it and totally possible to do.  I also want you to remember every time you struggle and feel like running into the backyard and lighting a cig, that the fantasy is always better than the reality.  In our minds we can visualize that cigarette and feelings of euphoria when we take that first drag.  But when you actually do cave and try to take a few puffs.  It's GROSS! You get light-headed, you stink, you may get shaky, you may get nauseas, you might get a headache.  Smoking is seriously bad for you. You wouldn't be getting all of those horrible side effects if it wasn't.  You are taking a ginormous step in improving your health.  Be proud of yourself!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

{Valentine's Day} Love Treats Extravaganza!

Want to hear a little secret? I LOVE Valentine's Day! It's the one time a year you can cut out little tissue paper hearts, unapologetically decorate your house with glittery reds and pinks, gussy up, eat chocolate and have great sex.  What's not to like?? Okay you hate the hallmark cards, you hate the date night obligations, sometimes you can't find a sitter.  I get it.  But I also think none of that matters unless you allow it to.  To me, Valentine's Day is a day I get to celebrate love. It's not about cards or flowers or diamonds, it's about what and who you love.  Sometimes that's flowers, sometimes its just snuggling on the sofa with family.  It does not have to be a crappy card, bouquet of red roses and a heart box of chocolates followed by dinner and a movie.  Sure that can be nice.  But does that really celebrate your love?  

Okay, stepping off my extra mushy love pedestal now.

I know you are here for some rockin valentine's day goodies so let's get to it!

First and foremost, you need some valentine's day cards.  Make em, paint em, craft em, whatever you feel like doing.  If you want a cute printable that you can cut out and give to as many people as your heart desires, I highly suggest hopping over to the Blessing Manifesting blog and check out her printable valentine cards.  Friends and Family beware, you'll be seeing these little gems popping up everywhere!

Chocolate Cake Body Scrub
No, I'm totally not kidding! With the exception of the soap (which is optional), this scrub is completely edible and fan-freaking-tastic for your senses and your skin.  It smells exactly like chocolate cake and your skin will be glowing.  I highly suggest you use regular table sugar for this recipe, because of the size of the grain.  Raw sugar while healthier is also a larger grain and would be pretty abrasive to use on your skin.

1 and 2/3 cup white sugar
5 Tbsp Oatmeal, ground
5 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
1 cup Grapeseed Oil

With a wire whisk, mix all the powders and sugar together in a large ceramic bowl.  Then get out a large spoon and pour in the oil, extract and liquid soap. Mix it well and scoop into a glass container with a lid for storage.  When you are ready to use it, scoop a little out with a spoon (so you don’t get water in it, it’ll grow nasties).  Massage it onto your entire body, focusing on dry spots like elbows and heels.  I don’t suggest scrubbing your entire foot as it can get a bit slippery! Rinse well, pat dry, and massage any excess oil into your skin.

Herbal Bath Tea

These are incredibly easy to make and they create such a luxurious feeling in the bath tub.  I really encourage you to play around with this to see what your favorite combination is. I like to add a few herbs for smell and one for healing.   Blend up your dried herb mixes in a bowl and then add about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mix to an extra large tea bag or muslin bag.  You can find extra large tea bags at most herb shops and online.  To use them, fill your bath with hot water, toss the bag in and let it steep for 5 minutes.  Then indulge.  Here are a few ideas to start with:

Floral mix
1 part rose petals
1/4 part lavender
1 part chamomile
1 part calendula flowers.   

My absolute favorite is this floral + earthy mix of:
1 part Rose Petals
2 parts Green Tea
1/2 part Comfrey Leaf 
Mixed with 5 or 6 drops of  Patchouli Essential Oil.

A more manly blend could be one of:
1 part Bay Leaves
1/2 part Lemon Peel
1 part Lemon Balm 
1/8 part Lavender.

Spicy Chocolate
Heaven!!!  I wish I could say I came up with this myself, but it's actually a recipe from the Bulk Herb Store.  Who would like a chocolate recipe that's good for your body and your libido?? I do! I do!  Easy to make and she even has a video to show how it's done.  This recipe turns out tasting like creamy, slightly spicy dark chocolate.  The kick is conservative in this recipe, so if you want a spicy bite, go ahead and add more.  My only complaint is that since you depend on the coconut oil to make them hard like a normal chocolate, you can't keep these at room temp for long or else they'll melt. So keep them in the fridge.  Also, they aren't very sweet, like dark chocolate.  So if you have more of a sweet tooth, sprinkle some powdered sugar over the top

Warming Massage Oil
The fine lady from Vintage Remedies has a recipe for a massage oil that's fantastic for aches and pains, or... when you want a nice warm massage to get you in the mood.  Most herbal oils require infusing for weeks, so this is a nice quick recipe when you only want a few applications.  Whatever you do, do not get this oil in cuts, scrapes, or in your eyes or private parts.  Have your honey rub this into your shoulder and neck muscles and you'll be purring in no time. ;-)

Natural Lubricants
Let's be real a moment, yes? Sex (or self love) will probably be involved in your Valentine's Day festivity.  So, lets talk about natural lubricants.  Many people aren't aware that most lubricants have some pretty nasty chemicals in them and promote the growth of yeast. Nice huh?  Feeling romantic now? Luckily we have alternatives that are much healthier for our lady parts.  The best lubricant I've used so far and liked, was coconut oil.  Coconut oil is a great anti-fungal and moisturizing alternative to store brand lubricants.  To use it, add some to a separate small jar that you can use specifically for hanky panky.  Make sure hands are always clean and never ever double dip into the container (EW!).  Another alternative is to use an herbal healing salve.  These are great if you have problems with dryness, are prone to bruising, or you're still recovering after childbirth (make sure your caregiver has given you the ok first).  And finally, if you want a good quality organic water-based lubricant that still has the slippery feel (which oils and salves do not), I highly suggest Yes, Organic Personal Lubricant.

I hope you all enjoy the hell out of these recipes!  Hug your honeys and babies! 
Happy Valentine's Day!!!

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