Dec. Holiday Yoga begins 12/5, Group Meditation 12/11, Yoga Workshop 12/13.
Stress comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. There is physical stress, emotional stress, environmental stress, even 'good' stress and 'bad' stress. Stress simply means something that puts strain on the system. Winning an award for amazing accomplishments is a stressor. Stress can be helpful in that it gives the body an opportunity to fortify and adapt to life. They say "that which does not kill us makes us stronger".
Just as in athletic training, a period of stress must be followed by a period of rest and recuperation in order to reap the rewards such as endurance and increased tolerance. Whether you are experiencing a "good" or "bad' stressful situation, find a way to step out of the stress if only for 5 minutes a day. Find time in meditation, conscious breathing, rest, laughter, exercise, intimacy, art, friendship and nature to counter the strain and optimize the unique opportunity that stress provides us to grow stronger and more acclimated to the changing world around us.
Dr. Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902) is known as the Father of Modern Pathology. After a lifetime of study he is known to have said:
“If I could live my life over again, I would devote it to proving that germs seek their natural habitat - diseased tissue - rather than being the cause of dead tissue. In other words, mosquitoes seek the stagnant water, but do not cause the pool to become stagnant.”
The symptoms of the flu or pneumonia - fever, chills, cough, and excess mucous production - are actually secondary illnesses; the first “illness” was loss of health in the underlying tissues. All the more reason to prioritize self care and preventative medicine- clean air, clean water, whole foods, good sleep and good company!
Keeping the swelling down is one reason to ice after acute sprains and strains. But what happens after that acute phase? Did you know that the alternation of cold and hot applications on subacute and chronic injuries actually speeds up the healing process? This age old hydrotherapeutic technique manipulates blood flow in and out of the area like a pump would (think dilation vs. constriction). Warm compresses dilate, drawing in healing reinforcements (i.e. white blood cells and nutrients) to the vulnerable tissues. Once the area is sufficiently dilated and replenished (5 minutes), the application of cold (1 minute) to constrict these tissues extracts out the debris (think squeezing out a dirty sponge). Hydrotherapy is an incredible tool to speed up the healing process. The hardest part is getting yourself to do it!
INSTRUCTIONS: Begin with 1 minute of a cold application to the area. Then switch to a heat pack for 5 minutes. Alternate back and forth 3 cycles and then finish with 1 minute of cold (you would wring out a dirty sponge at the end of washing the dishes, wouldn’t you?). DO NOT USE IN ACUTE INJURY: Get the go ahead from your doctor before moving from strictly icing to adding heat.
Feeling sore or bruised from all the yardwork happening these days? Consider the homeopathic remedy arnica to relieve those aches and pains. Arnica 30c in pellet form or a topical product which contains arnica has been shown to lessen the duration and intensity of overworked muscles. Arnica is also very helpful for swelling, post workout soreness, after accidents (bumps and bruises), and is also used to ward of jet lag after a long and strenuous journey. Did you know that Arnica is even prescribed by many surgeons for post surgical healing? Best to consult with a qualified practitioner before embarking on any new therapy. You can find these remedies in your local health food store, it is the most important remedy in my first aid kit!
Have you every heard of Bach Flowers? These are 38 different different flower remedies that correspond to 38 different emotional states. I have seen profound changes in patients’ ability to handle stressful situations when custom blends are well chosen. But you don’t need to be a Bach Flower Practitioner to get your feet wet. Rescue Remedy is a great starter and is used to ease anxiety resulting from a direct or anticipatory traumatic event. It is an excellent tool for people of all ages as well as animals and plants! Many dog owners add Rescue Remedy to their dogs water dish during a thunderstorm or fireworks to successfully ease their fears. Just add 2 drops to a little water and drink (for plants, just water!). Bach Flower remedies are sold in many grocery and drug stores. And you can always contact us at Harmony to set up a visit to make your own unique custom blend.
Bach Flower Remedies are 38 different different flower remedies that correspond to 38 different emotional states. When matched to the emotional state of a human, plant, or animal, the remedies fortify our capacity to move through those states with more grace and ease. (see my post on Rescue Remedy for more on this).
Elm suits the state of overwhelm (funny…a lot of the flower names are similar to the states they reflect!). When feelings of overwhelm are present, I reach for Elm. It is a great remedy when you have so much to do you don’t know where to start. Taking 4 drops directly under the tongue or diluted in a glass of water up to 4 times daily reminds the body/mind that it is independent of the emotion thus giving your mind space to breathe, take action and move through the situation with greater clarity and ease.
Anxious about the fireworks going on around Independence Day Celebrations? Or do you have a pet that is? Rescue Remedy is a wonderful tool to help ease nerves rattled by the loud and sudden 'bombs bursting in air'... A few drops in a pet's water dish, your water glass, or even straight from the little glass dropper can help lessen the impact of these often jarring explosions. These are sold in most health food stores as well as many groceries! Look for the little brown bottle with a yellow label!
Supplements and medication get a lot of attention in the media to assist with bone health. Weight bearing exercise and dietary measures are mentioned less often. But balance is one of the most important (and most effective) ways to ward off osteoporotic fractures! Creating stability through balance exercises not only stimulates bone remodeling (via weight bearing exercise) but also trains the brain and body to work in a focused and coordinated way. Yoga balancing postures that engage the lower back and hips are excellent ways to improve bone health and prevent fractures as we age.
As the blueberries burst from their bushes and onto the grocery shelves, take advantage of their lower cost and reap incredible health benefits! Studies show blueberries help stave off cognitive decline, are one of the best foods for healthy gut flora, and upregulate glucuronidation, a very important detoxification pathway responsible for clearing plastics and car exhaust from our system. So act like a bear and gobble down a few handfuls while they are so abundant!
Eating healthy can be quite an overwhelming challenge. I often tell my patients to begin with breakfast. Carve out time in the morning to create a simple morning ritual rather than feel a complete overhaul is needed that never happens. It is a great place to start in terms of blood sugar balancing and its affects last throughout the day. Eat at the same time daily, have some kind of protein with your breakfast, and avoid coffee on an empty stomach. By simply avoiding coffee first thing on an empty stomach you make your evening better! How? Because coffee on an empty stomach will elevate cortisol levels later in the day (around dinner time). This affects blood sugar as well as your waistline. By starting your day out right you can affect how you feel at dinner and beyond!
If you are late night snacking due to hunger a few hours after eating dinner you are not alone. There is a solution. Eat the majority of your daily calories before 3pm and you will not feel that hunger later in the evening. A large dinner after a skimpy breakfast and/or lunch just doesn’t cut it. Your body still feels hungry a few hours later. This is a vicious cycle because after late night snacking you may not feel ready for breakfast the next morning. And on it goes. If you can’t follow the old adage “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” try to atleast make your lunch more nutrient and calorie dense than it already is and also avoid eating 2 hours prior to going to bed. Your blood sugar, cortisol and digestion will benefit tremendously.
Once used in battlefield hospitals and recognized in the America Pharmacopoeia of the 20th century, Calendula officinalis is one of the most powerful natural wound dressings around. It was used to clean surgical wounds and applied to fresh dressings to hasten the healing process. To this day, I use it to keep wounds clean and reduce healing time. Calendula added to creams and salves is exceptional in soothing and repairing dry, rough skin.
Looking for a ritual that decreases stress, reduces inflammation, detoxifies the liver and improves gastrointestinal function? Look no further than the castor oil pack. Regular application a castor oil infused flannel to the abdomen with heat is just the ticket to address 4 issues in one. Check out our organic and plastic-free castor oil packs in the Harmony Shoppe which come with detailed instructions for use. Makes a great gift!
Are you moving enough? Our bodies weren't designed to sit and stare at one point all day long. In this revolutionary age of multi-functional gadgets that allow us the 'freedom' to not get up and move around we must make conscious efforts to nourish the body's need for movement, rhythm, circulation and stimulation. Incorporate Taurean routine and ritual to inhabit your body, to move and engage with it. Find activities that draw your attention to the 5 senses and the material world, at least as equal (if not more) to the amount of attention directed towards a virtual one.
Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) are trained as primary care physicians in 4 year medical schools. Besides the usual class load, every year we also had classes in nutrition, botanical medicine, chinese medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine (i.e. chiropractic manipulation) and health psychology. There are many differences between MD’s and ND’s. The principles of naturopathic medicine are what philosophically differentiates us from other doctors.
1. First, Do No Harm
2. Work With the Healing Power of Nature
3. Find and Address the Root Causes of Disease
4. Treat the Whole Person
5. Focus on Prevention
6. Doctor as Teacher
The word orchestra comes from the Greek word “to dance”. I love the word “orchestra” to describe the intricate symphony performed by the millions of biochemical processes going on in every cell of our bodies at any given moment. These processes are not isolated by system (i.e. cardiovascular, nervous, etc) but rather span the boundaries of our western medical model and impact us in ways that are not always easily categorized (or acknowledged) by mainstream medicine. Holistic medicine reveals that all parts of our body are not separate but intimately connected in a dance, each part affecting the others in ways not fully understood. Environmental medicine seeks to identify the party crashers and quietly remove them from the orchestra pit so that the orchestra can continue its symphonic masterpiece unencumbered.
When a foreign substance (xenobiotic) enters the body through our food, water or air, it kicks off a cascade of reactions in the body. Even tiny amounts of an endocrine disrupting chemical can set off a chain reaction which amplifies as it travels through the body. A more holistic strategy to managing a myriad of chronic illnesses including thyroid disease is to reduce exposures to environmental stressors where possible in addition to the guidance of your primary care doctor. For instance, poor thyroid function is associated with environmental toxicants found in farmed salmon (PCBs), drinking water (perchlorate), and pesticides on fruit/veg. It may seem overwhelming at first, but by choosing wild salmon, filtered drinking water (RO or Berkey), and steering clear of non-organic food from the Dirty Dozen List (ewg.org) you can significantly reduce your exposure to these toxicants and support the body’s inherent ability to regain balance.
In many circles, a lack of general wellbeing without a definitive diagnosis is labeled “psychosomatic”. But science continues to discover that the mind and body are intricately connected. For example, 90% of serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter associated with well being) is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin production is inhibited when our gut microbiome is disrupted through diet, medications, toxins or antibiotics. Gut bacteria are crucial for the production of neurotransmitters, hormones, and for modulating inflammation in the body. In the holistic model, these parts are not viewed as separate but rather as part of an overarching symphony of electro and bio-chemical reactions. This is a dance that crosses the “systemic” boundaries drawn in western medicine. The next time a doctor tells you there is nothing wrong and it’s ‘all in your head’, make sure to let them know that it is probably in your gut (and consider getting a new doctor!).
More and more evidence is recognizing that chronic illness has deep roots in environmental exposures. One family of toxicants, called solvents, effect the immune, neurological, cardiovascular, endocrine, and respiratory systems. These hidden stressors from paints, carpeting, furniture and car exhaust (to name a few) continuously circulate in our homes and workplaces creating symptoms like brain fog, arrhythmias, obesity and infertility. The good news is there are many ways to reduce their impact through avoidance, air purification and fortifying the body’s ability to detoxify them through diet, supplements and lifestyle modifications such as sauna therapy. All of these powerful tools help to reduce this toxic burden and provide the opportunity for improved health and wellbeing.
We continuously strive for balance between what we consume and what we release, both physically and mental/emotionally. This is especially true in these turbulent times. Mindfulness is a fantastic way to detoxify our thoughts as well as to identify holding patterns in the body. Breathing and visual techniques can then be used to disperse and process these unnecessary stressors. On a deeper physical level, the kidneys, bowels, and skin extract and detoxify in their own unique ways. Gentle yet powerful remedies such as teas, fruits, vegetables, and broths added to your daily routine can enhance and optimize the physical body’s ability to let go of that which does not serve.
One of the principles of Naturopathic Medicine is the concept of “Doctor as Teacher”. This stems back to the root of the word doctor (docere), which in latin means “to teach”. Teaching patients how to live and care for themselves in a healthy and sustainable way is the fundamental role of Naturopathic Doctors.
Feeling helpless and hopeless are common symptoms these days. These are also the keynote signs of depression. If these feelings are creeping up it is important to address the issue. First line: stop engaging in things that increase feelings of helplessness and hopelessness (i.e. the news, toxic people, depressive thoughts, etc.) and go find something else to do, even if you are resistant to it. Connect with a friend, a good piece of music, a favorite plant. Replace a negative thought with a positive one.
When these tools don't come easy, consider gentle yet powerful aids: Bach Flower Remedies such as Gorse, Mustard, Cherry Plum, Sweet Chestnut, Wild Rose, Hornbeam and Gentian. Do some research and match the one for your particular state of mind. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I am happy to send a resource to help determine which would be best for you. They are very effective at shifting your energy out of funk and into freedom. You can buy them over the counter at any health food store and they do not interfere with any medicine or condition you may have.
Dreams are fascinating. They can be so vivid, so intense, so bizarre. Yet as we emerge back into “reality” they dissipate into faint notions. For those who do remember (however faintly), here is a fun exercise to try: before going to bed, put a notebook and pen within reach. As you drift off to sleep, set an intention to remember your dreams when you awaken. Here is the hardest part: as soon as you wake, before opening your eyes or moving too much, grab for the pen and paper and start writing. Catch the tail of the last dream you had and hold on to it! Jot down random words, people. Describe anything. You may find that this little tail connects to a lion of a dream! Connecting to our subconscious mind is a really powerful healing tool, but without conscious effort, these opportunities will likely slip away into obscurity.
Our body has the ability to conduct electricity. Think of the shocks that we unwittingly give our loved ones when we try to connect. Electricity simply means charged particles bouncing into and off of electrical fields. Many of our physiological processes utilize these particles to function (including our hearts).
We as a species harnessed electricity within the last 150 years and are often immersed in synthetic fields indefinitely. Earthing (grounding) is an easy way to re-connect to the primordial field that we are best suited for: Mother Earth. The simplest way to do this is to connect bare skin to the earth. Even a few minutes a day can bring beneficial changes. Studies have shown earthing improved blood flow, heart rate, and other electrically influenced processes that reduce inflammation, pain, improve sleep, repair tissue and lower cortisol levels. Garden! Go barefoot! Sit on the grass! A few minutes a day can make a world of difference.
As discussed in a prior post, we are electrical beings. Every cell of our body relies on electrical impulses to function. Our heart cells use electricity to sync in a rhythmic pulse. All cells allow things in and out by using voltage-gated channels. It is truly amazing to learn about our electro-physiology. Studies are showing that our bodily functions can be disrupted by outside electrical influences and create oxidative stress in the tissues. Grounding is a great way of rebalancing our energy fields. Another is to create a sleep sanctuary by turning off cell phones or keeping them out of the bedroom while you sleep. Use an alarm clock or keep your phone in the next room. Better yet, also turn off your wifi router and printer at night, this greatly reduces the amount of EMF exposure for 6-8 hours a night! Our body has the ability to heal itself if given the right conditions, and a sleep sanctuary is a wonderful way to do just that.
Did you know that matter (i.e. our bodies, the earth, our food) is actually energy in condensed form? Even though we perceive the world we live in as material, it is composed entirely of energy. Einstein's famous equation E = mc2 explains that energy and matter are two interchangeable forms of the same substance! As we catch up with the spiritual sages and recognize that matter and energy are one and the same, we can appreciate the impact of words (energy), thoughts (energy), traumas (energy) can have on the physical body. As energy is neither created nor destroyed it must be transmuted healthfully by the body so that it does not get stored in our tissues and cells. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Homeopathy are both forms of energetic medicine that when applied correctly, inform and stimulate the body to liberate itself from these disrupting stuck energies.
“The only difference between a weed and a flower is judgement”. I love this quote that I once found on the paper tab of my herbal tea bag. As I reacquaint with the flora and fauna of this region after 20 years away, I struggle to pull some of the so-called weeds in my garden. Dandelion, red clover, stinging nettle, jewelweed, mullein, pokeberry…these are the same plants that I spent hours studying in school, learning about their medicinal properties (all scientifically confirmed and evidence-based). These little gems reverse illness, support our vital organs, and restore function to diseased tissue. All for free. I allow them to have their own little pockets of the garden to thrive, and always have a supply to carry me throughout the seasons…you never know when they may come in handy!
Jewelweed gets its name from the vibrant orange gems that dangle down from green, watery stalks that have grown tall and plump through the summer months. The stems and leaves can be rubbed on our skin after an unwelcome encounter with poison ivy. Plants are amazing in how they seek each other out and provide for us in the process. It really is miraculous when you stop and think about it. Soaps and salves made with this priceless medicine are lovingly grown and made by local herbalist Lori Diver and sold here at Harmony in Life. A great insurance policy for gardeners!
It is important to properly digest protein to make neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, hemoglobin and antibodies. Proper protein digestion requires sufficient stomach acid (HCL). We often think that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the result of too much HCL production. While it can be a culprit, often it is actually an insufficiency of HCL that is the real root cause. HCL breaks down proteins and triggers the gastro-esophageal sphincter to shut, keeping food and acid from rising up into the throat after eating. If there is not enough HCL to trigger the reflex, then regurgitation becomes a problem. It is important to find out what the real root cause of reflux is instead of just masking the symptoms with antacids, not only for your throat, but for all the key compounds made through the digestion of protein!
The fig tree is a major keystone species of our ecosystem and has a lot to offer us. On the nutritional level, figs are a great source of calcium and also an important source of fiber, and vitamins C and E. There are so many fun recipes online to serve at parties as well as when dining alone. In addition, they are an excellent healthy snack substitute when you are craving something sweet and substantial.
When we get used to cooking a lot on our own it can be a great challenge to walk into a holiday party and not pile our plate full of the various delights on display at the holiday table. This can lead to gut shock if we are not careful! Thanksgiving week is a great time to remember the 80/20 rule: stop when you feel you are about 80% full and wait 20 minutes before attempting to go back for seconds. Make sure to remind yourself you can go back in 20 minutes for more if you still want to (as you will not be feeling ready to stop). You will likely find after that 20 minutes you are quite satiated and wonder how you ever thought you could think of another bite! The brain takes a bit of time to notify the hunger reflex to say "when". Happy Holidays!
Health is freedom. Freedom from pain, fear, and dis-ease. It is the body’s ability to function in a way that allows it to thrive and reach its fullest potential. Health is influenced by external factors and pathological circumstances must be considered when making efforts to restore wellbeing. Symptoms are merely the body’s adaptive response, the body’s way of responding to the problem.
To suppress (non life-threatening) symptoms is to further weaken the body’s ability to heal itself. Instead of suppressing these symptoms, homeopathy acts to support these attempts by using remedies that have a similar mechanism of action to assist the body in throwing off the dis-ease gently, effectively, and permanently. Hence it is called “Homeo-pathy” or “same disease.”
"What makes your heart sing?" I often ask my patients this and it is so rewarding to watch their eyes light up when they think of the answer. Some people, however, stare at me blankly and I have to say, "what did you love to do as a kid?" Then there goes the eyes, the smile, the reminiscing. When we name and connect to something that has given us pure joy, just by thought and then feeling, our tired, lonely hearts are lovingly soothed by this healing balm that penetrates through to the soul. What makes your heart sing? Apply daily!
Homeopathy is the 2nd largest form of medicine in the world with over 200 years of clinical evidence under its belt. The more I learn about this art and science the more I fall in love with its grace, power and beauty. With a well chosen remedy, I witness magic in action. Here are a few others who agree: A quote by MARK TWAIN: “The introduction of homeopathy forced the old school doctor to stir around and learn something of a rational nature about his business.” A quote by MAHATMA GANDHI regarding homeopathy: "It cures a greater percentage of cases than any other method of treatment. It is the latest and most refined method of treating patients economically and nonviolently”
Homeopathic remedies have fundamental indications they are prescribed for, and are chosen particularly because of their similarity in character to the dis-ease a patient is experiencing. There are 1000’s of remedies, and studying them is as important to a homeopath as studying her patients. When the root cause is identified and the remedy that best matches the pattern of dis-ease is applied, the vital force that governs the body is stimulated towards a healing response. A well chosen remedy is where this art and science gets its name…’Homeo’ (same) ‘pathy’ (disease).
Homeopathy is useful in so many situations. Bee and Wasp stings are no exception. While there are several more remedies to consider for bites and stings, Apis is at the top of my list, especially when stings produce rapid and intense redness and swelling. They are highly sensitive to touch and feel they will burst with even slight pressure. Another great bite remedy is Staphysagria, especially when the victim is the feeling tormented, vulnerable and/or invaded (also useful after catheters and in UTIs). The area is often highly sensitive and itchy. There are so many others to great remedies to consider, but trying a 30c dose of either of these is a great place to start experimenting. Obviously, these are not to be used instead of medical care but as a supportive measure in acute situations.
Homeopaths recommend remedies that most similarly suit the individual EXPERIENCE of discomfort. There are several remedies indicated for teething babies, the one that works the best is always the one that best matches the baby’s state of being while EXPERIENCING the discomfort. Most babies respond similarly in such a universal situation. A classic “chammomilla” baby response is angry and wants to be carried. They are often sleepless yet tired, worse at night, worse when overheated, and often have greenish diarrhea.
There are several OTHER REMEDIES used for teething pain based on the behavior and symptoms exhibited by the child. Examples include calc carb, belladonna and bryonia. It is not hard to learn these differences and start experimenting with homeopathy for yourself.
I often describe the body as an orchestra and one that operates on so many levels. Biochemical reactions, cellular communications, and organ function are a few examples of this miracle Each 'instrument' performs incredibly complex and individualized tasks for the benefit of the whole! So what orchestrates and unites all these parts into one unified thriving organism? What is it that stops working when illness, disease, and death occur? A string of brilliant physicians down through the ages have come to identify this governing CEO as the ‘Vital Force’. German Physician and father of homeopathy Dr. Samuel Hahnemann defined the Vital Force as the spirited entity that resides in each organism which holds all parts in harmonious relationship.
Any disturbance in the Vital Force leads to discord, dysfunction, disruption, illness, disease and death. Identifying and treating disturbances in the vital force is crucial to addressing the root causes of chronic dis-ease and that is the primary aim of Homeopathy.
Hypericum perforatum is the latin name for the plant St. John's Wort. It has anti-depressant effects when taken herbally. It also has tremendous value in homeopathic medicine. Hypericum is an essential first aid remedy in the same class as Arnica. While bumps and bruises call for arnica, hypericum is indicated for many kinds of nerve pains. Crush wounds (think finger in a car door), dental pain, tailbone injuries and lacerations call for this homeopathic gem. Another useful indication is for ailments from old head injuries. While it is wise to seek professional homeopathic help when addressing chronic conditions, acute first aid is a fantastic opportunity to dabble in homeopathy. Kits can be purchased online or through Harmony in Life and contain the most universally used first aid remedies that I carry everywhere I go. There are numerous books on the market to help break down the basics of using First Aid homeopathy.
Before the advent of electricity, it was the moon we relied upon to light up our nights. Our health, agriculture, and ceremonies were designed to harness the push and pull of this incredibly reflective celestial body. Slowly, the moon grows fuller and brighter the first half of the month. So do plants, animals and people. It peaks at the bright full moon lighting the night skies for gatherings and celebrations. Then, it slowly grows dimmer until the dark, quiet new moon 2 weeks later. Many use this time to clear and let go of the fullness we have accumulated. Do you know what moon phase is happening now?
When we sync our natural rhythms to the phases of the moon, amazing things can happen. Many years ago I was given a book on how to garden by the moon phases. At the very least I thought it would give me structure and a schedule for tending to my garden. What really struck me was how amazingly lush and fruitful my garden was when it came time to harvesting. I received many compliments from experienced gardeners on what an incredibly lovely garden it was. Harnessing the ebb and flow of the lunar energies increased yield and potency of my herbs, fruits, and vegetables. All while providing me with great ease and flow in my gardening endeavors. Try it for yourself!
A great way to prime your digestion for the day is to drink a glass of room temperature water with lemon first thing on waking. The lemon stimulates the liver and gets the whole system going. Another fun way to care for your GI tract is through herbs known as demulcents. Demulcents hydrate and soothe inflamed tissue from the throat onwards. Marshmallow Root is one of my favorite herbs for this use. Make a cold infusion by putting 1 tsp of dried root in 1 cup water. Cover and infuse for 6-12 hours and then strain. Drink this daily. If you have underlying medical conditions or are pregnant consult with a professional before using. As with everything, if it doesn’t sit right, stop doing it!
You know when you bring your potted plants in for the winter and they start to lose their leaves? They turn a less vibrant green and eventually fade to yellow and brown. The same thing happens to us when we come in for the winter! Our sun soaked skin slowly fades from dark to drab, turning sallow and pale. Light therapy is a great way to help counter this, for both plants and people! While I don't suggest you take your plants outside in the winter, you can invest in some nice winter gear and be outside for 30 minutes daily to boost your mind, body, and spirit!
It is worth stepping out on a sunny winter's day to soak up the light of the sun at every opportunity. Why? To reduce any symptoms you may have associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). These include a change in appetite (craving more sweet or starchy foods), weight gain, heaviness in arms and the legs, fatigue, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and/or aversion to social situations.
Sound familiar? Just 30 minutes of outdoor activity daily is a foundational recommendation in Naturopathic Medicine for good reason! Invest in some good outdoor gear and enjoy the beauty of the season.
We pay a lot of money to ease ourselves of our aches and pains. Symptoms are regarded as nagging inconveniences at best. But if we ignore what they are trying to tell us and opt for suppressive therapies that make them “go away,” we are missing opportunities to move in the direction of better health and wellbeing. Harmony in Life Center has a multitude of caring practitioners trained in the healing arts who can help interpret this mysterious language and assist you in coming up with solutions that are more productive then palliation. By really listening to what our body is telling us we can usher in deeper and more meaningful change in our lives.
We can’t control most of the stress in our lives, especially these days…but one very important thing you CAN do is to cultivate some kind of routine or ritual into your life. Something solid that doesn’t change. Something your body can rely on as a daily touchstone. Your bedtime, wake time, meditation/yoga practice, breakfast, whatever. Synchronize your day in any way you can regularly, routinely, respectfully. By committing time daily to yourself you provide your body with a a beat, a rhythm which can be relied on in times of turbulence.
Did you know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is associated with the emotion of anger? When our liver is overwhelmed we tend to become irritable and "liverish". Fluctuating hormones, alcohol, heavy meals, sweets and environmental toxins such as car exhaust can all contribute to this burden. Gentle exercise including yogic twists, plenty of fresh clean water, belly breathing, and gentle liver herbs such as dandelion and turmeric can help unburden the liver and restore peace of mind. Check with your doctor and monitor medications, you may not need as much when the liver is working so well!
The skin is one of the largest organs of our detoxification system. It is often the first to show signs of illness and the last to heal. Dry skin brushing encourages detoxification by stimulating blood and lymph circulation, increasing the removal of waste to improve overall wellness. Check out our brushes in the Harmony Shoppe which include instructions for optimal use.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is one of my favorite medicinal herbs. Not only is it calming and nourishing to both the digestive tract and the nervous system, but it also is anti-viral, tonifies the heart and circulatory systems, helps with headache, neuralgias, insomnia and tension. Lemon Balm is also hormone balancing. Infuse dry or fresh leaves and make a lovely light mint tea used for dyspepsia (stomach discomfort) associated with anxiety and depression. Talk to your doctor first if you are taking thyroid medications.
The survival of the human species is built on a solid foundation of community and co-operation. It is important to remember this as we as a society feel so fragmented and divided. Our commonalities (i.e love of family, fear of poverty, protection of freedoms and disdain of tyranny) are greater than our differences. When we fully acknowledge and learn to love and accept the things that we don’t “love” about ourselves (our weaknesses, jealousies, fears, judgements and misbehaviors) we begin to see how these shadow feelings are projected onto others that we deem “the enemy”.
By letting our guard down to ourselves, becoming vulnerable and graceful to our own shortcomings, we are in a better position to disarm the tension we feel in others. Einstein said “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” When we honor and recognize the light in others and in ourselves we are rising to another level and solving differences from a higher level of consciousness. Namaste.
A plant that is highly regarded as a meddlesome weed is in fact one of the most nutritive and valuable tonics for the body. Nettle nourishes skin, lungs, liver and blood (relieving fatigue and regulating metabolism) and provides chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals. It detoxifies, dissolves deposits and stones, relieves edema, resolves inflammation and eczema (especially in children). When I lived on a farm, my friend came to visit and when her allergies acted up (asthma and congestion), I gave her a cup to drink. It helped her symptoms so much that several years later she told me she keeps a box of nettle tea in her medicine cabinet and brews a cup whenever she is feeling bothered.
If symptoms are the body’s way of telling us there is a problem, obstacles to cure are those often hidden conditions that must be identified and addressed in order to successfully unleash the innate healing wisdom that is contained in all organisms.
One of the 5 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine is that the body can heal itself if given the right conditions. However, when obstacles to cure are present healing can not occur. A wound that is continuously being exposed to dirt and dings is a classic example. If not kept clean and dry it will continue to fester. Whether it be psychological, environmental, relational, dietary or economical, obstacles prevent the body’s ability to heal and must be addressed for healing to occur.
If you are fortunate to be familiar with the relaxing sigh that sets in a few minutes into a good massage, you are privvy to the moment your nervous system switches from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (repair and rejuvenation) mode. It is important for our bodies to regularly visit this incredibly healing state of body/mind. The nervous system regulates the signals coming from the outside world and influences physiological function. Living in constant fight or flight cheats the body of healing down to the cellular level. If a massage isn't your thing, it is also achievable through reiki, yoga and simply sitting quietly for 5 minutes.
The rhythm of nature sways between two poles: Yin/Yang (aka darkness/light, cold/hot, rest/growth, inhale/exhale). It is important that we observe these two states in our daily lives to keep our bodies in tune with the divine flow of the universe. For instance, the weekdays are a time of growth and expansion and the weekends are a time of rest and recovery. Another example is sleeping at night and being active during the day. I often recommend my patients to "pulse" their supplements, herbs and homeopathy to allow their body a rest from the information received. Pulsing simply means taking breaks instead of just taking supplements indefinitely. A good way to do this (with your doctor's approval of course!) is to take supplements 5 days during the week and then take a break on the weekend. Another is 3 weeks on 1 week off. It depends on the supplement and why you are taking it, but it is good practice if you can do this...especially with adaptogens. Not only does it create a rhythm but it also allows the body to integrate the information during the times of abstinence and help determine if what you are taking is still supporting you!
Did you know that by inhaling an essential oil such as lavender right before entering a stressful situation the body will actually reduce it's cortisol response, allowing you to feel more calm and relaxed? Another way to reduce stressful feelings is to make sure you are keeping your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Make sure to always pair a protein and carb when eating, especially at breakfast!
I first discovered Cryoderm Cold at the Detroit Airport before a long flight overseas. My neck was in serious spasm and I was not looking forward to the 6 hour red-eye flight I was about to embark on. I stopped into the massage place to see if they could help and that is where I discovered the roll on pain reliever that makes the world a better place. It is my favorite product to recommend for all kinds of musculoskeletal pain. But my favorite point to make about Cryoderm Cold is how valuable it is in the elderly population. Chronic pain is no fun and Cryoderm not only provides immediate relief but also seems to improve tissue healing with ingredients like arnica, boswellia, eucalyptus and MSM. Cryoderm travels with me everywhere I go. Now sold at Harmony!
Did you know that 15 minutes in an infrared sauna has an effect similar to moderate exercise? That it increases endurance in athletes by 60%? It also provides tremendous benefits in chronic diseases by detoxifying heavy metals and many solvents. Perhaps the biggest benefit from sauna therapy is cardiovascular. Frequent sauna use lowered the risk of sudden cardiac death by nearly 50% in patients who suffered heart attacks previously. It also decreased episodes of angina. The risk of Alzheimer’s was lowered by 66% in people who use a sauna 4x a week. (References available on request.) Make sure the temperature is between 125F and 140F. 15-20 minutes 2-4 times weekly followed by a soapy shower. Make sure to wait at least 7 weeks after a heart attack prior to starting. Avoid in high risk pregnancy, aortic stenosis and unstable angina. Otherwise get sweating!
Homeopathy is my favorite tool to help restore wellness to the dis-eased. I mentioned Arnica for bumps and bruises in an earlier post and now I want to mention a lesser-known remedy: Silica. Silica 30c (found at most health food stores) is an excellent way to help the body rid itself of foreign objects such as splinters. Just dissolve 1 pillule in a clean mouth (away from food and drinks-water is ok) 1-3 times the first day and daily for the next few. One major contraindication: do not use if you have implants of any kind, as silica does not discern between wanted and unwanted foreign objects!
One of the best things you can do to improve your indoor air quality at home is to get your ducts cleaned at least once every 5 years and change your furnace filter regularly with a filter rated at Merv 7 or higher. This can significantly reduce the amount of particulate matter floating around in your home. When we inhale this dust we also inhale the semi-volatile solvents (sVOC's) that bind to dust. sVOC's come from pesticides, flame retardants, molds, plastics and other materials that offgas into the air. Elevated exposure is associated with numerous neurological and immunological conditions. Between duct cleanings and filter changes, keep your home well ventilated by cracking a window and letting Mother Nature in on a regular basis and dust regularly with a microcloth.
This saying was very familiar to me as a little girl. It was the way I was trained to approach a crosswalk. The saying is meant to focus us, to put us into high alert and avoid danger. We are to stop, look and listen for cars before continuing our way across the street.
We can use this same cue not for safety but for sanity. This same fight or flight-provoking phrase can be used for an opposite purpose. When we encounter something that reminds us of the beauty and magic of life, a beautiful sunrise, or a flower bursting with vitality, a cup of tea with an old friend, stop, look and listen to the gem of a moment and feel the reverence of your journey.
As we head into the change of seasons, it is important to take extra care of ourselves. The flux from hot and moist to dry and cold is a stressor for the body, and many healing traditions have special rituals and foods to help support the immune system through these transition periods.
As the light slowly grows darker each night, we are reminded of an important daily ritual to double down on: sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown in clinical studies to increases the risk of colds by 350%! If sleep is an issue for you, know that this is an important symptoms to address for overall health and wellbeing. And don’t forget to provide space in your busy schedule to acknowledge and reflect at this subtle yet profound transition.
The homeopathic process is very different from the conventional model of medicine. Instead of treating symptoms as individual problems, homeopathy examines the totality of symptoms a patient is experiencing and traces them down to their common denominator. It is at this level where the attention is focused. Many seemingly unrelated symptoms converge down into this root.
Feeling like you are coming down with a cold or headache? Here is an old fashioned hydrotherapy technique that is one of my personal favorites. You will need a pair of 100% cotton socks and either wool or fleece socks to go on top. Wet the cotton socks with cold water and wring them out very, VERY WELL. Put them on (weird, I know!) followed by the dry wool or fleece socks. Get into bed, under warm covers and go to sleep, making sure you are well covered and warm in bed (your feet not so much at first!). Within a few minutes, the body is stimulated to warm up your feet and in the process produces a 'fake' fever. For colds and flu it will help "cook" pathogens that are brewing and often nip things in the bud. For headaches, it draws the congestion out of the head and redistributes it to the feet, alleviating the pain and pressure in the head. In the morning the socks should be dry, your feet cozy and warm and you should feel alot better. The key is to wring out the 100% cotton socks really well before putting them on your feet.
Health is a result of the free flow of energy. It is called ‘qi’ in Chinese medicine, ‘prana’ in Ayurvedic medicine, and is managed by the vital force in homeopathy. Disease results from the disruption of this flow. Energy stagnates and affects vulnerable tissues and organs creating dysfunction and decay. We often suppress the flow of energy in order to avoid the consequences of expression which can feel uncomfortable to us both physically and emotionally. Finding guides to assist you in supporting healthy expression of stagnant energies rather than suppressing the symptoms is the foundation of sustainable wellness.
My empathic boss Dan once said to me while I was having a really bad day: “it takes a bad one to really appreciate a good one.“ His words have stayed with me through the years. Such a good example of the Law of Opposites, Polarities, and Yin/Yang theory. Without the dark there can be no light and without the light there can be no dark. They are opposites of the same force, shifting their balance yet always coexisting. When the dark (Yin) feels overwhelming there always remains a speck of light in the sea of darkness that surrounds us. We must not forget that the light is always accessible. And equally, when things feel bright and intense, there is always a speck of black to retreat to. When we are able to access and appreciate the polarity of what we may be overcome by, we can balance and fortify ourselves as we weather the storms of life with grace and reverence.
As the accumulation of winter snow melts into streams and eventually rivers, now is the perfect time for us humans to promote the release of our own winter-accumulated contents. Early spring plants such as nettle, dandelion and parsley catch our eyes growing fresh and green after a long and dormant winter. Amazingly these little guys are full of minerals, vitamins, and plant based nutrients to support the liver and kidneys to clean out the blood of waste materials. Gentle detoxification through these herbs is one of the most important things one can do on a yearly basis to reset your physiology as it enters into the spring and summer months.
Our bodies have been finely tuned through dozens of generations with adaptations allowing us to survive and thrive upon our earthly environment. Adaptations throughout the ages are ongoing. Changes in food supply, climate and technology since the dawn of humankind have kept us evolving with the times. But never in the history of the world has the human body been so challenged due to the mammoth industrial and technological revolutions of the past 6 or 7 generations. Electricity, chemicals, sedentary lifestyles, information overload…we are really being put to the test physiologically!
Returning to a whole foods diet is one foundational way to allow the body to reallocate its adaptive energies towards things that are not as much in our control. Nurturing our bodies through whole, organic foods reinforces our detoxification pathways and provides the raw materials we need to maintain homeostasis in an ever-changing world.