Month: December 2016

A Kind & Gentle Way To Health

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The world can be a very harsh place and more times then not excludes true health as a consequence.  Today, we are going to start a long discussion on how to be healthy, as a whole person, using a more kind and gentle lifestyle.  As an Herbalist, I will of course, include herbs as God intended them for our help.  This discussion is going to dive even deeper then that level and will be offered in small pieces that we can all easily digest.  I hope you will be blessed as you join me, so let’s get started!

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” 

Prov. 17:22

What are the issues in our lives that cause us to suffer with less then the best for health?  Let me qualify, not just health of the physical body but also the emotional, mental, spiritual and social.  It is very hard, if not impossible, to separate out one of these components of our lives from all the others.  For our purposes, it is not even necessary to know which area of our whole self is suffering because it is not possible to separate them, in all truthfulness.  Our focus is going to be on the ‘why’ of our less then perfect overall health.  So, what are we talking about? In a word – Stress!

There is a vast amount of stressors that we are dealing with, many of them will be directly addressed.  For some people marking them off, one by one is a direct way to address the issue.  For others, they simple want to change directions and dump the whole load.  Either way, we are going to begin to resolve this giant monster, here, today – together.

The Danish people, often thought of as one of the happiest nations, have a word used to describe what we are after.  The word is ‘hygge’ pronounced ‘hooga’.  It represents the idea of coziness, joy and wellbeing.  The folks of this culture take an active role to ‘hygge’ their way through the long, bleak winter months of dark, cold and snow. Nurturing themselves with an environment of joy, relationships of meaning and health that is glowing.  I cannot presume to think they are the only group of people after this level of living because if nothing else I am!  I know that almost every person I share this with gets a twinkle in their eye and expresses their desire to have such a life.

For our purposes, the long bleak months of our cold winters can take on the picture of an entire life lived loaded down with stress and less then optimal living.  We are in deep need of dumping the extra baggage that holds us under the water and prevents us from taking those deep, cleansing breaths, both literally with clean, oxygen loaded air and spiritually by embracing the work the Holy Spirit is endeavoring to do in us.

Can we just start right here?  Let’s take in some healthy air!  Too many times we feel ‘stuck’ without any visible plan to go forward with, but we don’t have to, it’s called ‘baby-steps’.  I am going to ask you to commit to making your air healthier.  I won’t leave you wondering, keep reading and we’ll take some steps together. It does little good, though still some, if we breath deeply the less then great air that often surrounds us.  We can improve the air we are blessed with in many ways.

First off, may I suggest you add some plants to your own private world?  They don’t have to be any specific type because every green plant is producing oxygen!  They all benefit us on this level, but why stop there?  I surround my world, both inside and out with beautiful and fragrant herbs.  They provide me a sense of well-being because I know they will serve me should I need their helping medicine or foods for my table.  In my home, during the winter, I make a special point to add some aromatic herbs just for the pleasure of rubbing them through my hands and breathing deeply.  Trimming them to add to bath water, adding them to my teas and recipes, or infusing into the air for fragrance and function as our indoor air becomes dry and boring.  I have a dear friend who has found the joy of succulents and she is filling her home with the most beautiful arrangements you have ever seen!  Some plants do aid in removing bad air from our homes, beyond their gift of fresh oxygen.  Spider plants, Aloe, Peace Lily, Ivy and many others have been found to absorb chemicals commonly found in our homes.

No matter where you live, you have room for plants.  From college dorms, campers or high-rise apartments, there is always room for a pot or two to become your own healthy friends.  I live in a tiny little house but it is stuffed with my plants.  Turmeric and Ginger pots crowd the windows of my laundry room (it has the best lighting). My prized Mango tree sits in my kitchen window.  Low lighting plants fill my living room. Geraniums fill my office and bedroom during the winter and make us smile on the porch in the summer.  My Rosemary plants have become so large that it takes a team of mules to get them re-located, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thinking outside of the box is a game I love to play when it comes to indoor plants. I am privileged with large windows in my tiny little space so instead of nick-nacks, I have plants!!

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So, you get the idea – add plants and become your own oxygen producing factory! In addition to giving you better air, you can get lost in the soul satisfying work of tending and caring for these little beauties, which is another health benefit to having them.  Remember the verse quoted above?  A merry heart is very healing/healthy and is exactly what our goal is.  Too many times, we get caught up in the ‘work‘ of being a healthy person.  May I suggest that we start changing our focus to a life lived in joy?  Tend to others, embrace the acts of kindness that are extended to you, look to your Father for the peace that He offers and don’t forget – breath deeply!

Breathing deeply, with proper posture, fresh air and good technique can do amazing things for you.  Stretch your body as tall as you can, pull your shoulders back and let your head relax as you look up to the stars (hopefully).  Breathing in through your nose helps because the little hairs that live in there were meant to ‘catch’ lots of bad stuff.  It also helps to breath in through the nose during cold weather because, believe it or not, the cold air is brought up to body temperature before it hits your trachea.  So, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Hold your breath to the count of 3-5 with each breath in.  If you do this in sets of 5-10 about 3-5 times a day, I am going to bet your going to feel the difference almost immediately.

Here’s a little bonus for you, take some fresh Rosemary and rub it roughly in your hands (if you don’t own such a lovely plant then a trip to your nearest garden center/greenhouse is in order!).  Now, take your deep breaths with your hands cupped to your face, taking in the aromatic fragrance of the Rosemary.  Rosemary is known to enhance oxygen levels in the head and brain which we can all use, right?

I will leave you with this little homework assignment.  I’ll be back for more great ways to hygge our way back to true health.  We’ll talk a little more about stress, where it comes from, what it does to us and how to get rid of it.  For now, may you be blessed with some true, deep, life- giving air as well as they joy and health from adding some oxygen makers to your little world.

The Dainty Daisy

daisy_close_upHave you ever wondered at all the beauty of the simple daisy?  Our Creator has laced this little lovely with so much grace.  I have found, in my time as a gardener, that there is so much more then what lays upon the surface of creation.

Before I share the gems I have un-earthed, let me share a bit of my life in the garden.  You see, I have always thought of myself as an organized, efficient person.  My life has been one of “you have to get this done”, with very little room for much else.  Let me tell you right now how inefficient this attitude is for the garden.

I’ve had an ‘organized’ lay out of food, herbs, flowers, orchards style of, everyone in their place, gardens for years – and for years I have struggled!  I have herbs that double over from culinary to medicine to just plain ole yummy tea.  I have ‘herbs’ that are more beautiful then the most prized flowers.  I have herbs that refuse to accept my most logical home in the garden.  Instead, they run out to the rocky soil of the pathway to the chicken co-op where I will have to step on or over them multiple times a day.  They do this, it seems, as if to laugh at me and my ‘management’ style of gardening. We cannot take the time here to discuss the ‘food’ gardens and the cross over they play out with medicine or how they feed so many more then just the humans here. Then there are those ‘flowers’ which most of us think of as nothing more then beauty but really, they grace my life with untold benefits!  This is the place that the simple, graceful daisy fills.

Daisy, Bellis perennis to be exact.  Childhood memories are filled with sunny afternoons spent playing with the daisies, making doll dresses from them, daisy chains for our heads.  Playing out the age old saying of “he loves me, he loves me not” while removing one petal at a time and watching them fall to the ground with grace and dignity.  All the while, dreaming of the young man of our imaginations that may soon come into our lives to fulfill the ‘he loves me’ hope.

There is a Christian legend that says as Mary, the mother of our Lord, was escaping Egypt with the young child, everywhere a tear from her eyes landing on the ground, a daisy was sure to appear.

While many of us in the United States have been quietly overlooking the lovely little Daisy, Europe has for ages seen beyond the little flower in the cottage garden to the potential of real medicine it holds.  Best used as a tea, but also tincture of the blossom and leaves, it serves both young and old.

It’s very name means ‘everlasting beauty’ and the beauty it holds, it is happy to share.  Loaded with nutrition, it boasts a hefty profile of essential vitamins and minerals, the highest of these are Vit. K, Calcium, Carotene and Chlorophyll.  These nutrients are complimented with many others and serve to stimulate metabolism.  Being anti-inflammatory, expectorant and having a slight laxative and blood cleansing effect, it becomes potent but gentle at clearing all sorts of problems and diseases.  From eczema and psoriasis (which are almost always from congestive issues) to herpes and neurodermatitis. Having been used on young children as a pain reliever against growing pains it follows to a great ally for young women dealing with painful menstruation.  Into childbearing where it serves as a wonderful, safe herb for  post-delivery care to tighten the conjunctive tissue after birth, returning a woman’s body to the form and tightness of pre-pregnancy with gentle nourishment.  It can, of course serve the same function in us elder folks as we need the toning and nourishing benefits to our aging bodies.

While most think in terms of tea or perhaps tinctures (which I personally prefer to save for acute issues), daisy is a wonderful compliment to our tables at meal time.  They are beautiful additions to our salads and pestos and are very graceful to hug up to the other ingredients of our soups and stews.  I have included it in an infused oil which I use to coat my skin after my baths, especially in the drying days of winter.

So, here we are, at the end of our story and I leave you with some ideas of how life is changing me.

I am going to stop thinking in terms of ‘sections’ in my gardening efforts.  I am going to allow my ‘flowers’ to flow into my ‘herbs’ to flow into my ‘food’ to flow into the wild places of my life as well as the organized, neat rows of my best efforts.  I am going to embrace all the beauty that grows at my feet and count my blessings that so many lovely plants have been given for my healing (both of mind and body).  I will continue to grow, expand and enjoy to the fullest these wonders and stop attempting to place nice, neat little labels on everyone.  I hope you can join me in this great adventure!