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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.
Did you know that Arnica is prescribed by many surgeons for post surgical healing? It can also be used for swelling and bruising due to bumps and bruises. 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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!
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 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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.