Month: November 2015

Solid Foundations

solidfoundations

There are just so many levels to herbalism that is often hard to figure out what to do, where to begin your journey.  We have been working on building a solid Biblical foundation on the “Legacies of Grace” program.  If you’d like to see what we are up to, just pull up that page and scroll down to the ‘foundation’ posting.

Today we are going to look at where and how to build a solid physical foundation.  I am reminded of the teaching of Jesus where He shares the importance of building on the Rock and not the sand.  This is our example, even in herbalism.

Sand is always shifting, blowing, sinking and less then dependable, even on a good day.  It is not my intention to criticize other modes of health care but most really are not health care at all, they are sick care and they are built on sand!  You see, if you neglect to build a solid foundation, you are destined to illness, disease, injuries and a life of less then vital well-being.  I must admit that there is a mode of herbalism, becoming ever so popular since the age of internet, that uses the same foundation.  Whenever I see postings on social media that run something along the lines of: “what can I do about this or that, I am thinking maybe I should do A, B and C” and then about a hundred people pipe in with “just use D, G and Z because my cousin did and it really helped” I just want to scream!  No amount of A,B and C or D, G and Z will help if we don’t have a foundation of health and wellness to build on!  In addition to this, well educated health care practitioners, even natural ones, are posting things all over the internet giving us the idea that health can be obtained in a sum total of 4 or 5 paragraphs of their greatest wisdom, all with practically no reform or effort on our part.

Whenever we live as we choose, let our flesh dictate our lifestyle, sure and certain doom is close behind.  This has become a deep and obvious part of the American culture for some time now, though there are some gentle breezes of renewal blowing.  I don’t want to lose sight of our subject today, but you just can’t eat at Mc Dees all week, slumber your life away on the couch and slather all kinds of pretty stuff on your skin, pour in the coffee and hit the road to another day of the same.  We need to build healthy bodies and herbs have so much to offer us here!

So, our foundation will not be how to use herbs to overcome illness and disease unless and until we understand the importance of building our Terrains (or basically healthy bodies).  In saying this I want to make sure you understand, I fully believe that illness, disease, injury and so on can and do happen to healthy people and often times no amount of a rock solid foundation can overt the setback.  I do not want anyone to feel guilt over past lifestyles or decisions either, today is the day of mercy and new beginnings. For that matter, each and every day of my life I make less then ideal decisions that effect my health.   What I want to stress in this post is how important and beneficial a rock solid foundation is and not wanting to leave you on your own to figure out how to obtain that foundation, we shall see just what can be done!

So, I am hoping you all have read the post on sleep and are beginning to see the great benefit good rest has to offer us in our effort to build and maintain our foundation (or wellness).  I have not forgotten that I promised you all some concrete information on good herbs for sleep, we are getting to that right now.  There are so many wonderful herbs that offer us help when we are having a hard time obtaining good sleep!  Many people could supply you a great list and they would all be great choices I am sure.  Indeed I have shared such a list right here on this website.  But today we are going to stray away from the typical nervine/relaxant/stress reducing/etc. type of herbs and look at herbs anew.

TONIC HERBS!

Yep, this is the right and only place to start in herbalism!  So let’s define just what tonic herbs are.  A quick definition would be: Herbs considered to  be those that are nourishing and nurturing to our bodies.  It’s just about that simple, we use this herbs daily as a food, beverage, bath additions, etc. we don’t even think of them as medicine! When I have taught a similar series of classes in person I titled them “Lifestyle Herbalism” that is because herbs can and should become a total lifestyle and it all begins with Tonics!   These herbs are those which are the safest, most gentle and usually benefit us from the high level of nutrition they contain.  They have the ability to build and strengthen the body and even be specific to particular body systems.  These herbs are generally used over long time periods where as many other herbs are not.  Sometimes we can see an almost immediate effect but most often we experience a gentle, slow return to a state of health where symptoms that were very pronounced are not noticed any longer, etc.  These herbs provide the body with the needed components to naturally move us to a state of homeostasis (which is a state of balance and perfect function within the body).  There are other classifications of herbs that take us up the steps in health and healing but like a strong ladder that is mostly useless if the bottom rungs are not in place, we will have a hard time going further up the road on this journey without tonic herbs being put into place.

Building on our foundation of rock rather then sand, can you see how this class of herbs plays such an important role?  Back to our study of sleep, now I will provide you with some “tonic” herbs for your consideration:  Top of my list for the nervous system would be Oats Avena sativa, also to consider are Mugwort  Artemisia vulgaris, Wood Betony Stachys officinalis, Vervain Verbena officinalis, Chamomile German Matricaria recutita (although caution should be taken to assure no allergic reaction is present as this plant comes from the Asteraceae family), Skullcap Scuterllaria lateriflora (although caution should be taken to assure it is not combined with sedative medications).

So here is a bit of information for your consideration!  In the days to follow I will be placing a page on this site, specifically as a Materia Medica.  This will provide detailed information on each of these plants as well as many others, as we meet them.

Thank you for your patience with me, this would be my first and foremost occupation if it were not for reality and bills!

Sleep Sweet Sleep

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Fall is my very favorite season. Taking those brisk morning walks, enjoying the brilliant colors on the trees. Soon they will all be on the ground, giving it a covering of protection and nourishment for the coming growing season. The ground has been given a great task of bringing forth wholesome food and other foliage. If not cared for (which is our job) it will be void to do this great work. This is the Creator’s design. The leaves that fall and cover the ground are full of both the ability to insulate the ground from the brutal effects of winter and the vital nourishment to replenish the soil of needed minerals as well as the micro biotical world within the soil to feed the plants. It’s a cycle that works brilliantly!

So the gardener in me says; “gather those leaves and mulch everything, deep, deep, deep”. In the spring they will all be turned back into rich, nourishing soil and your gardens will be amazing. The world tells us to take them to the dump but that is not God’s economy. He gave us everything we need for a flourishing life and that includes an awesome way to feed ourselves both body and soul while we tend the earth. So how does this fit into an article about Sleep and Rest? Well, let’s see!

We too need to be nourished in order to do the work that is assigned us. It is no small feat to realize the need of rest and sleep, a chance to be replenished and restored to the state we perform best at. While we often think of food as our nourishment, this is a chance to look at the benefits from another sort of nourishment. Our culture is very impressed with those that push and push, those that never take the time to rest and obtain health building sleep. We are rewarded for this driving of ourselves, often time with great riches and fame but is that really satisfying and how long will it last before we have a total crash? I present to you that by taking in a good night’s sleep we will be much better suited for the abundant work the Lord has assigned to us. So let’s look at this a little deeper and see what you think.

So many of us remember well our mothers telling us that we needed our sleep so we could grow big and strong. This was no happenstance, the body does much of its growing and repair work while we are sleeping sound. Without the other demands placed upon the body and mind, we are free to do the work of sleep. Now if you knew you were at work while sleeping, would that make it easier to head to bed without guilt? What if you knew that just adding 1 to 2 hours to our sleep schedule could greatly increase our productivity and creativity, making us able to concentrate better and thus be much more successful in our awake hours? Many feel they are being lazy by taking in an eight hour nights worth of sleep but did you know it is easier to stay active the other sixteen hours of the day by giving into sleep?

While we sleep growth hormones secretions are heightened and this is important to even those of us who are no longer growing. Why? Well those hormones are the ones known as our ‘anti-aging’ hormones so now you can see why sleep is important – more sleep equals more anti-aging activity and more free-radical scavenging of our brains which also leads to younger, healthier and more active brains! These same growth hormones also stimulate tissue and liver regeneration. We will also see better normalization of blood sugar levels.

In the reverse, just one hour lost in our sleeping or low quality sleep can vastly impair our cognition and immune systems. Because unhealthy immune systems lead to more frequent illness you should be able to quickly see that neglecting the ‘indulgence’ of extra sleep is actually counterproductive. Autoimmune diseases are also increased as are their effects on our health. Heart and blood pressure issues are increased as are hormonal imbalances.

Some estimates as high as 50% of all people with sleep issues also have psychological factors at play. This can be like living on a non-stop merry-go-round, the more you lack sleep, the more your emotional/mental issues are increased and the more your emotional/mental factors increase the harder it is to obtain restful sleep!   Many with rollercoaster emotional issues find a great improvement with some high quality sleep and those with moderate to severe depression are almost always seen to be sleep deprived. By making some serious changes in your life this merry-go-round can be halted and we shall soon explore some of those changes.

Weight gain is a common side effect of sleep deprivation! The natural process of muscle building and the breakdown and flushing of fat stores is heightened during our sound sleep hours. There are those that will tell you ‘sleep is a better workout then jogging’ and there is a healthy dose of truth in that. Hormonal balance is critical for our over all health, yet sleep deprivation can send our hormone levels into a crazy frenzy, leading to any number of disease/illness issues. In children with ADHD issues we often see an extreme level of hyperactivity with a lower level of sleep as any parent will testify to.

Let’s look at what a good night’s sleep is and then think a bit about how to obtain that quality sleep. After that we will take a peek into some other forms of rest and how they help us go forward.

Good quality sleep, by my own definition would be that which allows us to drift off into a deep slumber with ease and stay sleeping for a full night and finally waking up with equal ease, feeling fully refreshed and ready for our work. Now, how in the world can that happen? Well, as always, it is best to start at the beginning and work our way through. First things first!

Let’s look into our environmental issues first. Our bedrooms should be such as to allow for the most peaceful and restful place in our homes. So, obviously let’s make sure they are clean and uncluttered. When I say clean I mean free from dust, molds, spills, etc. Have you ever smelled dust, it stinks and that’s because it is in total, a lot of unhealthy components – so get rid of it! Mold and mildew are present in a surprising number of homes and often times cannot be seen or smelled but non-the-less are very dangerous. Keep your sleeping area in a tidy, clean state and you are well on your way to a peaceful night’s sleep. Clutter in your room and storage of non-essential bedroom items can make it hard to keep the room clean but more important is the chaos they create for us mentally and emotionally. When this happens we have a very hard time getting into the right frame for sound sleep. So clear out the room and create a restful, beautiful paradise to slumber in.

Next on the list is the removal of all chemical, plastic and otherwise toxic substances that may be hiding there. Air fresheners are at the top of the list. Cleaning items should be carefully selected or homemade to contain only health promoting ingredients. Include in this consideration your laundry cleaning agents. Be watching for some homemade recipes to appear here soon! If you burn candles in your room please make sure they are beeswax or other natural substances from a good supplier, or make your own, it’s easier than you think. Also consider your sleepwear. I am probable OSD about this but our sleepwear is ONLY organic, natural fiber clothing, never ever synthetic, your skin needs to breath! Keeping in mind that you spend about one third of your life in bed wearing those clothes, it only makes sense to select the most health promoting clothing you can find. And while we are at it, consider your bed sheets and blankets – we use the same rule here. I know that these items can cost a pretty penny but sometimes, they are an almost one time purchase. I purchased an organic mattress pad many years ago and honestly I still cannot see any wear on it. This step is especially important if you have a conventional mattress as they are full of chemicals you don’t want to be breathing. I still do not have enough pennies saved for an organic mattress (it is on my wish list) so I pile a thick feather bed and several nice wool blankets between the mattress and the pad to buffer the effects of a poor mattress and say my prayers each night.

What’s next on the environment list? Those electronics, they must go! Unplug and remove every single thing you can, they don’t belong in your health picture. If they cannot be removed then make sure they are not just turned off but unplugged during your sleep hours. Also make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, cooler rather than too warm. Add extra coverings before you turn up the heat. Make sure you have a plentiful supply of fresh air to the room. A perfectly dark room is the best as any light is registered by our brains and can keep deep sleep away. There are those that say it is very healthy to sleep in the natural light of the moon and stars with their monthly cycles of ebb and flow. This would be a wonderful truth if you had a way to block out all other light sources but few of us live in a place without street lights or cars, neighbor’s homes, etc. So the next best thing is to make your room dark to keep the damaging light sources from entering. And it should go without saying that absolute quiet is also best!

So here are some foundational issues for a great night’s sleep.  Next article we will be looking at some herbs that may prove very helpful in our efforts to get a good night’s sleep, until then – sleep tight!