Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get out of the cave

Today I found myself sitting at an ancient desk with a small dog trying to leap onto my lap reading from a book from 1793. The book was hand bound with leather and handmade marbled paper. I felt a little like I had just crawled through a time portal with my north face jacket swishing awkwardly in this other dimension. The book was by an M.D. called Dr. Willis, entitled "The Art of Preventing Disease", with appropriately archaic language, and 's' looking like 'f'. It struck me that what this guy knew was totally legitimate, and quite genius. How did we forget all of this? How did it end up in this antiquarian bookstore waiting for some crusty collector to snatch it up?

It's easy to a get caught up in the newness of technology, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The old ways get forgotten in an instant; outlawed, books burned, people hung or lynched, politically undermined, ostracized--all in the name of "progress". Whatever "progress" is, it has certainly seduced many humans into crazed actions here and there that have steered the course of history.

As I have delved deeper into studying plant medicine, I have continuously been appalled that ours is the first generation since forever to which a basic and fundamental canon of knowledge will not be passed down for this very reason. This canon involves healing traditions that are quickly seeping through the cracks of our "new way". Up until now, that didn't seem like a huge deal. I was young, and with that came a certain arrogant assumption that whatever society was running forward with must be a hundred percent right. Of course, anyone who has contemplated history can see it riddled with mistakes-we are human, after all.

So why is it so important to keep the old information? We are standing on the shoulders of giants, which implies that new stuff is only as great as that which came before, and in fact fully supported by it. Our medical system is heavily influenced by our past, and it would be folly to think of modern medicine as secular from this long history, which seems to be a common illusion these days.

Getting swept away by all the seductive magic pills we have leaves a lot of gaps in information. I have heard this story over and over; the doctor says nothing can be done, when there is a perfectly effective folk remedy for it. Whatever the remedy is, it doesn't exist in that universe. This denial seems sloppy for someone you're supposed to entrust to heal you.

What I'm getting at is that we aren't really considering all of our resources for healing. We may have invented all this new fangled stuff to avoid this fatal bacteria or oust that terrible parasite, but that doesn't make the traditional knowledge set void. On the contrary, a synthesis seems the most effective, and these dogmatic perspectives increasingly totally ridiculous. A mutual acknowledgement of modern medicine and folk medicine to create the most effective system- not the most profitable or most historic. Healing is the real goal here, so let us fish all this out of the egos that have claimed it and and reclaim it for ourselves.

Stay tuned if that's what you're interested in.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We know where we've been, but where are we going?

A great quote to start us out on this one: "When you're going through hell... keep going."

We know so well how we don't want to feel, and it seems that a lot of medicine is based on not wanting to feel a certain way. I don't want to feel fatigue, I don't want to have headaches, I don't want to have indigestion, I don't want acne... In the map of life metaphor, we know that town we're leaving, but we don't know where we're going. We end up drifting through various states of health, none of which we were necessarily intending.

This brings up the importance of planning your trip to health. How are you getting there? What is the final destination? Is it a one way ticket? With clear intentions, your journey could be totally blissful, and then you end up in a magical wonderland. This plays into the idea that you create your own reality. This really beats leaving hell and wandering around to who knows where. Let's fly out of the problem-based reality and into the solution-based reality.

Spend a moment thinking about how you really want to feel. What kind of things are you doing? How does your body feel? What are your relationships like? What are you eating? What are your emotions? Visualize it in your mind and get down to the details. Writing it down or making a collage is a great way to keep it going.

Here is an example: 
I have smooth digestion, assimilating nutrients efficiently and use them for the greatest integrity in my body. I eat when and how much I need, and process my emotions around food in a creative and nurturing way. I appreciate my food fully and chew thoroughly. I am grateful to have such amazing food. My skin, as a reflection of these harmonic inner workings, is smooth and bright. I feel open and able to relate to people on many levels. I practice excellent hygiene. I exercise regularly doing things that nourish me on many levels. I give myself time to relax and take care of myself. Moving is like dancing- I feel light and flexible.

Notice the specifics. There is a suggestion here of ways I don't want to feel, but I don't mention it. I use all positive statements, and all in simple present tense, as if the state it already upon me. You can even include really specific things like medicines you might take and how you'll feel when you take them. For example "I will take digestive bitters before meals which will help me digest my proteins and fats well. This will give me more energy and brighten my skin." 

The final step is appreciating your good health and staying on the boat. You may come across some guilt about feeling great- like you're not allowed to feel great or that you must suffer. These are total illusions, based on vestiges of the Puritan paradigm and original sin. You have a right to be here, and you have a right to enjoy it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system runs alongside the circulatory system and carries waste products and various types of immune cells. You can imagine it as somewhat of a residence and launching pad for your immune system. For something that's not mentioned much- it's rather important. Congested lymph can cause headaches, skin problems, joint stiffness and pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms and other places, sinus congestion, high cholesterol and eventually can lead to cancer and other serious diseases.

It's time to get to know your lymph glands. Right now, put your fingers on your neck and feel around for them. They are right beneath your jaw bones. How do they feel? Can you feel little nuggets there? Do they hurt? Are they seemingly non-existent? Is the whole area lacking in feeling but a little tight? This is a great place to check in with yourself, and notice how it changes. Even if you're not yet in a full blown cold, you can check out the subtle happenings in your lymphatic system. Look for more of these tricks on tuning in.

You'll notice when you get sick, the lymph nodes in your neck will often become swollen and sore. They are processing all of the waste created by the battle your immune system is waging against whatever villainous pathogen has proliferated in there. This includes dead immune cells, chemicals made by immune cells to kill off invaders, chemicals from invaders, dead pathogens. Then you add all the other things that end up in there on a regular basis like environmental toxins, unused fats and so on... it makes for a Tijuana river kind of situation. Serious bioremediation needed.

I know its time to cleanse my lymph when I get cloudy, the lymph nodes in my neck feel like balls of yarn, my joints feel like I'm 100 and my face is suddenly full of active volcanoes. Perhaps I've been eating nothing but beans, potatoes and cookies and laying around on my computer.

My Cold and Flu Formula has red root (Ceanothus americana) in it, a powerful lymphatic mobilizer, which means it gets things moving. It's great for a cold and flu formula because when fighting a cod, waste products end up in the lymph, and if not cleaned out properly can hold back the whole setup. I get out my red root (also incredible in tea form) in these situations of lymph stagnation whether I have a cold or not.

Another lymph cleanser are cleavers (Galium aparine), which is the weed that always sticks to you when you're walking through a meadow. The seeds are little balls that are impossible to get rid of on your socks. Cleavers are best fresh. This is something you can juice in the spring before they flower, or add to smoothies. I made a cleavers tincture this spring that I have been using to keep that congested feeling out of my neck that seems to be prevalent as we fight the mold battle in our house. From my experience, if mold is a problem (which it invariably is if you live in the NW this time of year) it's incredibly important to be supporting your immune system and lymph in some way with herbs. You'll feel way less tired and achy.

Drinking a lot of water is a great way to cleanse lymph. Also, massaging your body towards your heart helps get it moving (there are no muscles that push your lymph along, so giving it outside help is great). Finally, when in the shower, alternating between hot and cold water is great for circulation of blood and lymph.

Pay close attention to how you're feeling this time of year. The less you let things stagnate, the better you'll feel throughout the winter. Stay active and positive rather than letting yourself sit for long periods. Invest in good winter clothing and go outside even though its frosty or pouring. Then, come home to a warming cup of tea. Even drinking just hot water in the morning can get your body moving in the cold.

Happy December!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Glass Rules, Plastic Drools

Plastics are derived from oil and don’t biodegrade that we know of. Even for these two reasons, plastics are clearly not on the superhero spectrum. Furthermore, scientists don’t fully understand the health risks associated with constant exposure to plastic, but it’s clear there are some sketchy chemicals that do weird things to our bodies.

One specific risk of plastics is that they contain xenoestrogens, which can alter the female hormonal system to create imbalance and disease. Especially if you are a young woman, avoid eating from plastic dishes and storing your food in plastic containers. Most food is packaged in plastic- but remember the bulk section and the fruits in veggies! There are also some foods in glass containers like juices and sauces.

The harmful chemicals in plastics are leached out especially when you heat the plastic up. So, avoid adding hot liquids to plastic bowls or cups, and never heat up food in plastic containers. Instead, use glass or ceramic bowls and storage containers. Used glass jars or mason jars are an ally here. Pyrex makes glass storage containers with plastic lids, which work great and come in all sizes. I bought two of them at the Goodwill today. The bulk section is also an ally in the noble quest of plastic avoidance. Remember to use paper bags (which you can save and reuse), or glass jars. When using your own jars, weigh it first and write down weight on jars to report to checkout so they can take that amount off the total weight. Check in with the store about setting up a system to use reusable containers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Binge on Ginger in Winter

Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is one of the top super-hero foods/herbs in my life right now. Take a bite of fresh ginger and the effect is pretty obvious. You begin to sweat and get a little hot. Ginger gets your blood pumping (stimulates your circulatory system, if you're into medical lingo), much like cayenne or other hot chilis. Especially in the time of year when the temperature starts to drop, ginger can help keep our circulation up and our bodies warm.

Good blood flow is totally key to feeling good. Blood carries important stuff to and from all parts of our bodies. If your blood is stagnant and your hands are purple, that can indicate that waste products and oxygenated blood are not moving with enough vigor. When you get cold it can be difficult to move for this reason- all the great oxygenated blood is slowed which makes it tough to use your muscles. Equally, when you're tired, motionless or asleep your pulse slows. In these situations, ginger is the name of the game.

When I get sleepy, stiff or drowsy I take a small nibble of fresh ginger and chew it up. It starts by totally waking up my head, and follows with the rest of my body. In seconds I'm jumping around- way better than coffee! (Ginger tea also works- directions to follow for that).

Ginger is also a strong anti-inflammatory. Attention athletes, people with inflammatory conditions (eg. asthma, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, celiac, inflammatory bowel diseases, some cancers etc), and everyone else that's ever eaten a hamburger- ginger is one of your sidekicks. Combine it with turmeric and a touch of cayenne for a super powerful anti-inflammatory trio. The most potent way to take these is to juice the ginger and turmeric (or puree in blender with water and strain) and add a pinch of cayenne. Take it like a shot and hold on for a wild ride. If you're averse to spice, this might not be the best for you. I'll talk about more subtle ways of imbibing this sacred rhizome.

A short note on inflammation: Inflammation is more than just what happens when you sprain your ankle. In a positive light, it helps heal injuries. Inflammation is an immune response to harmful substances in the body in an attempt to remove the yucky stuff and get you back on track. The problem here is that the response often gets left on, much like a stove. In a time where we put a lot of suspect things in our surprisingly tolerant bodies, it makes sense that our bodies are constantly inflamed trying to get rid of the villainous materials. Chronic inflammation (the bad kind) is caused by food sensitivities, stress, consumption of inflammatory foods (refined sugar and flour, trans fats and damaged fats, dairy, low quality meat, preservatives like sodium benzoate). Herbs (reduces inflammation), diet (removes causes of inflammation) and meditation activities (reduces stress) used in combination form a powerful trifecta to calm the storm.

Ginger has one more bit of magic to it, which is its amazing ability to calm an upset stomach. Its an old remedy for nausea, and thus a great thing to take on the plane or when traveling (fresh or syrup works for this). It's great to drink ginger tea before or after a meal to help with digestion.

Ginger is a universal herb that helps a variety of people, though keep in mind that all herbs do not work for all people. If you're not feeling good using it- stop. Using herbs is all about using your intuition. Your body's message always comes before intellectual information. If something is making you feel worse- even if the whole world has told you how good it is for you- skip it.

Ginger Tea
Sliced piece of fresh ginger (1-2 inches)
2 cups of water

Simmer the ginger in the water for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink. Add honey if you want to!

Ginger Puree
Ginger puree can be used in salad dressings, drinks (like hot cocoa or cocktails), smoothies etc.

One large piece of fresh ginger
enough pure, filtered water to blend

Slice ginger and put it with the water in the blender. Blend until it is completely liquid, and there are as few chunks as possible. Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth (squeezing). If it's blended finely enough, I often don't strain it because its more potent without. I put it in a jar and put it in the refrigerator, using it within a week.

Ginger Syrup
Ginger syrup can be used in beverages (like hot cocoa!), eaten off a spoon for digestion or nausea, put in smoothies and sauces, drizzled on raw or gluten free desserts, put on hot cereal or cold cereal etc.

One piece of ginger (about 4 inches)
Two cups of pure, filtered water
About two cups of raw honey (preferable) or raw organic cane sugar

Chop ginger into small pieces and add to water in a saucepan. bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by about one half. Liquid should equal one cup. The result will be an incredibly strong tea (decoction). Strain the ginger chunks out using a fine metal strainer or cheesecloth
ginger tea. Measure the liquid and put it back in the saucepan. Add twice the amount of sugar or honey (one part liquid, two parts sweetener is the syrup ratio) on low heat. Dissolve the sugar or honey into the liquid by stirring. If using raw honey- be conscious not to boil or bring above 110ยบ F, as this will kill the enzymes- a double boil might be useful in that case). Once it is thoroughly dissolved, remove from stove and pour into small dry, sterilized containers. These can be stored in a dark, dry, cool place until they are opened, when they should be refrigerated. Add alcohol so that the solution contains at least 20% alcohol (if using 40% vodka, keep this in mind) to preserve without refrigeration, though this is not ideal, as it adds alcohol and can dilute it. If you find mold growing inside one of these containers, you need to throw it out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I am a super-hero, and so are you.

Being a super-hero is about being the healthiest most vibrant being you can be. It's about listening to your body, taking action on things you care about, loving yourself, gratefulness, integrity, clarity and living your highest potential as a super-being on this planet. When we liberate our deepest self, we become super-heroes.

What if everyone in the entire world were super-heroes dedicated to righting wrongs and holding the world to the highest vision of integrity that we can conceive of and then some? That will actualize in the glorious moment when every human metaphorically rips off their shirt and their super-hero outfit that was there all along will be exposed to the world. Everyone will have superpowers (super-strength, super-vision, super-hearing etc) fly, save the world and wear wonderful costumes.

My part in this is fully delivering my piece of the puzzle of the map to super-herodom. A big portion of this righteous path is easing out of dis-ease. I will do my best to empower you with the knowledge to bring the best plant medicines and foods into your life, and in so doing helping to create a lifestyle that is nurturing and enlivening.

I am totally passionate about plant medicine, and nerdiness is too good of a gift not to share. I am by no means an expert, but I am all about including you on my journey for knowledge.