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.
For those of you contemplating change in 2014, here’s a little food for thought from my guest blogger, Flame Schoeder. She reminds us that what we call ourselves becomes our truth. So, choosing your names carefully is naturally good medicine for the mind.
A friend of mine once told me there is a Native American belief that if you have ‘K’ in your name, you’ll always be confused. I’ve heard stuff like that before, haven’t you? I’ve heard stuff like that about my name, my personality, my body type, and on and on, ad nauseum.
We take this stuff to the bank, don’t we? “You’re right! I WILL ALWAYS be confused.” Then, when confusing situations came up we throw our hands up and say, “See… there it is… my confusion. No way around it. It simply cannot be helped.” And plunk ourselves down, frozen in despair.
These ideas that we take to the bank are called “Structures of Knowing.” We all have them and they’re not all bad. A structure of knowing that the glowing red metal is hot keeps us safe from being burned by it. The problem comes when we solidify these structures of knowing into the truth without occasionally checking their validity. “Am I always confused?”
I’d hazard a guess that, even if you have a ‘K’ in your name, you have clarity at least once in a while. If left un-checked, though, this structure of knowing might wreak havoc on your life.
It lets you off the hook, for one thing. “I AM confused,” you say, as if in physical reality someone could reach out and pinch your confusion. You are not confused. You experience confusion sometimes (and when you’re in it, it seems like you experience it all the time). Positing that you are the very being of confusion, though, isn’t very empowering.
So your goals? Your dreams? All that stuff you want written in your obituary? It doesn’t happen. That “I’m confused” structure of knowing quickly becomes a self-limiting conversation. You were more interested in proving yourself confused than you were in achieving your goals and dreams. (Take heart. You’re not alone, that kind of self-limiting thinking happens to all of us.)
What if it we frame it differently, though? What if the wisdom in the Native American tradition was accurate but it wasn’t the final word? After years of introspection, spiritual work and coaching, I see the bigger container that holds statements like “if you have a ‘K’ in your name you’ll always be confused.”
Instead of a ‘K’ meaning you’ll ALWAYS be confused, it may simply point to your capacity to be confused, which may be more than average. I maintain that if your capacity for confusion is great, then so is your capacity for clarity—more than average! You can only have confusion as a counterpoint to its opposite. Confusion in and of itself doesn’t exist (or at the very least it is incredibly hard to conceptualize and understand). So if you can master confusion, then you will, by default, become a master of clarity.
Having clarity, and the skills to find it, IS empowering. That’s a toolkit you can take with you anywhere and it will serve you well. When the exact same situation that sent you into despair before comes up anew, you handle it. You use these skills to get through it. At the end you experience yourself as being powerful, capable, and ultimately, confident.
The next time you hear yourself solidifying an idea into “who you are” give it the physical reality test. Is this the truth? Can someone reach out and touch my:
If not, look at where you have a choice over your behavior. Am I more interested in perfectionism or being a loving mom? Am I more interested in procrastinating or being a published author? Lazy bum or creator of beauty? Shopaholic or financially successful? You get the gist. These antidotes to our structures of knowing are called our ‘intentions.’ Intentions are one of the things we can always be clear about and when we’re demonstrating them, life is sweet.
With any luck, as you ask these questions, you will also see pretty clearly what the next step to take is, too. What do loving moms do? They let the dishes sit sometimes so that they can snuggle a sick kiddo. What do published authors do? They schedule time to do their writing and then they actually write. What do confused people do? They consult their trusted confidantes until the answer becomes clear.
That structure of knowing that used to keep you from your goals and dreams will become less and less powerful as you stay focused on your intention. As you focus on your intentions, people around you will notice some sweet changes in you, and you’ll notice them in yourself. So, go ahead, question your structures of knowing; everyone in your tribe will thank you for it.
Flame Schoeder is Vice President of the Nebraska Heartland Coaches’ Association and has been coaching since 2004, focusing on personal development. Follow her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how she can help you learn to shine.
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
Something special happens in the first few minutes after I close my office door to talk privately with a patient. Something very personal and comfortable is exchanged in those quiet conversations.
For centuries, women have been the family healers, applying herbs to aches and pains with only the knowledge passed down from our own mothers and grandmothers.
Google tells me it was Ben Franklin who coined the phrase ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. I think it’s time to add ‘a pinch of attention’ to that old saying.
The common pickle is a naturally healthy probiotic
Have you ever had a food craving for something so strange that you almost can’t admit it?
I have a secret like that.
I love pickled food, and the more sour and vinegar-y, the better. I’m one of those people who puts pickled beets on salad and eats them right from the jar. Sauerkraut? Love it. Especially with a meaty sausage and tangy mustard. Pickled herring was a favorite of my dad’s growing up, so I learned to appreciate that early on.
These days, everyone is talking about yeast and candida and all sorts of bothersome digestion problems. Most of these problems occur because stress, antibiotics or a diet of processed foods upset the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies.
Eating a small portion of some sort of pickled or fermented food every day helps repopulate the ‘beneficial’ bacteria so normal digestive functions have a fighting chance.
Eating that pickle next to your restaurant hamburger could help you avoid an upset stomach, gas, bloating, diarrhea, reflux or heartburn later tonite.
The reason I’m coming out with my secret is I know now there’s no shame in craving pickled food. I have to thank Jennifer Wilford, the self-described ‘real food advocate’, who taught me 8 great reasons to eat fermented foods during a class last weekend.
Jennifer explained that pickling is not only coming back into vogue, it’s also an old-fashioned way to introduce natural probiotics into the diet. A couple generations ago, this was common knowledge.
I won’t share all Jennifer’s secrets, but she did share that the process of pickling, which is pretty darn easy by the way, encourages the growth of a plethora of gut-friendly bacteria – especially lactobacillus. Try saying that three times fast!
And get this: because a huge majority of immune system action happens in the gut, a larger colony of friendly bacteria down there can even improve your protection from illnesses going around this winter. How ’bout that?
Guess what else happens in the gut? Most of your body’s seratonin – a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation – is made there. Improve your mood just by eating a little condiment-sized serving of sauerkraut. If you’re salt sensitive, try kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sourdough bread, or sour cream. Read more about this in my November 2012 newsletter.
Holistic health doesn’t have to be complicated. It can even save you money when you replace expensive bottled digestive enzymes and probiotics with natural ones made from whole foods like cabbage and beets.
Want to know how to ferment your own foods at home? Jennifer recommended Fermented by Jill Ciciarelli [here’s a link – http://amzn.to/1auQOaF].
As an herbalist, I like to pair probiotics with herbs for patients suffering from chronic yeast and urinary tract infections. Tasty natural probiotic foods can help you avoid the side effects of antibiotic use, such as loose stools and yeast infections.
I told you my secret craving. What’s yours? Leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.