food as medicine

herbal tinctures and mental wellness

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Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional or medical practitioner.  I speak only of my personal experience and do not attempt to make any recommendations for tincture usage by anyone else.  Please use caution when using herbal tinctures.  Use at your own risk.

I’m no where near being able to talk myself out of the dark place.  It’s not unlike arriving at your destination and having no memory of having driven there, like sleepwalking.  Like the general routine of taking medication, opening windows around the house in the early morning.  Your day – your life – will be affected by these things, but the small actions of doing them are seemingly inconsequential.  Living at a low vibration is cumulative and one day you realize you’re not where you want to be.

I’ve never been known to self-medicate.  I rarely remember self-care.  Something I have returned to again and again, however, is a home remedy using herbal tinctures.  Tinctures, like essential oils, are powerful vehicles in that they squeeze many essential benefits out of a few potent drops.  I don’t have to spend hours grooming or bathing or brewing elixirs or whatever else we’re often encouraged to do to make special time for ourselves.  Too much time to myself is quite likely what has been driving me mad.  I can instantly (and discreetly) imbibe a few drops of tincture onto my tongue or into my water glass and carry on.

I have made a few of my own tinctures and sought out others, and through a bit of personal experimentation have figured out the right dosage for my needs.  I wanted to share with you here the ones I have turned to again and again.

The process for making tinctures is very simple.  It requires about 4-6 weeks of soaking time for potency.  Typically, I fill a mason jar three quarters of the way full with herbs, and pour in soaking alcohol to cover.  It is recommended to use 80 proof or higher.  I then cover with a piece of parchment paper and seal with the outside ring of the lid.  Brew at room temperature in a dark cupboard.  

Dosage: Theoretically, everyone should consult their healthcare practitioner when taking any substances, and a naturopathic doctor can help determine the proper dosage for your needs.  If you are interested in supplementing with herbs and other natural substances, find a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner that will support your quest for holistic health.

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CAYENNE – I made this one myself using whole dried cayenne peppers and organic vodka.  I like this one for a burst of energy or focus.  I’ve also used it after a dehydration hangover or during a tension headache because cayenne can increase blood flow to an area and works as an anti-inflammatory.  Additionally, the rumor mill speaks of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne and other peppers, as being mood-boosting.  A typical dose is one drop on the tip of my tongue or a few drops in warm lemon water.

PASSION FLOWER – I purchased this from a natural foods market as I was having trouble sourcing the herb and didn’t want to wait an additional month to brew.  Anxiety will do that to you.  This tincture is recommended for social anxiety, and I have been using it a lot recently while starting a new job.  I’ve also taken this right before I go into therapy because I tend to constrict my muscles and get the shakes when I’m emotional.  I generally find that a half of a dropper-full in a glass of water is a decent dose for this store-bought version.

CHAMOMILE – Homemade with organic dried chamomile from an apothecary shoppe, soaked in rum.  I use this in a similar way to passion flower, but mostly I use it to wind down before bed and for a good night’s sleep, especially if the events of the day have been particularly emotional.  Mine is full-strength, so I only need about five drops on the tip of my tongue to feel its effects.

KAVA KAVA – This is a half-strength brew with leaves from an apothecary shoppe mulled with brandy.  Kava is known as the “social” herb, in that it loosens inhibitions similar to alcohol.  When I take a higher dose, I have noticed similar effects to marijuana; particularly a relaxing of the muscles, drowsy eyes and loss of mental focus.  I only use this tincture in the comfort of my own home at the end of the day, typically to prepare for social interaction or to take an “emotional chill pill” (so to speak) before bed.  Because of the weakness of this brew, five drops will just begin to elicit its effects, and I generally take 10 drops on the tongue, though occasionally I will take more.  I do not take this tincture very often as Kava has been implicated in some kidney distress.  However, as I do not regularly tax my kidneys by alcohol consumption or other means, I figure I’m not at high risk.

MARSHMALLOW ROOT – This was gifted to me by a friend in a sort of “hippie trade” (I think I gave her some homemade salve…).  Marshmallow has a soothing effect inside the body (much like ghee, coconut oil, chia, and slippery elm) in that it coats our innards so things pass through more efficiently and resists bacteria growth and infection.  Because of this, it is great for cough and respiratory issues as well as digestive and stomach issues.  I take it when I start to feel pain in my “lady area” to prevent UTI and other infections.  I have found that five drops in a glass of water gives me results by the end of the day.

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fluff free: wellness trends that should stay

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It’s no secret that I’m a leeeeetle bit skeptical of the trendy wellness world. Even still, I’m a card-carrying member for a reason: wellness matters to me. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it looks different for everyone, and that’s how it should be. I do tend to avoid anyone that’s trying to sell me a better life, so a lot of the emerging health craze has me doing a constant eye roll. There are, however, trends that I can get behind whole-heartedly. Want to know what they are?

MINIMALISM

Minimalism is having a moment. For some, minimalism is an inherent part of their nature; like a nervous tick, an inability to function unless everything is just right. For others, it’s more of a learned skill: consciously looking around the room and noticing when something is out of place or in excess. There’s an aesthetic minimalism, often meaning clean lines, muted tones, and just a few perfectly placed pieces of furniture. In that kind of setting, it’s highly noticeable if a pillow falls a little too far to the right, or if the dog left his toys in the middle of the floor again (savage!). Minimalism is also about keeping only what is necessary and serves an immediate purpose, and having a spot for everything – and I mean EVERYTHING. Never fear! That kind of minimalism can most definitely exist in a home with busier décor.

To me, minimalism just makes good sense. When I have clutter of any kind (even Monica Geller and I have junk drawers), I’m exponentially frazzled. It often means being unable to find what you need, especially during higher-stress moments like trying to leave the house on time.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there for how to get better at minimalism, and I’ll do a more in-depth post someday. For today, I’ll leave you with these tips that may not be as obvious:

  1. The best way to fight clutter is to stop it before it ever enters your home. Only buy items you need right away and when you get home, put everything away.
  2. When you leave a room, quick glance around and see if anything is there that doesn’t belong. Pick it up and walk it to its rightful home.
  3. When it comes to things that seem to pile up to no end (like flower vases, shopping totes, markers, notepads, undergarments), have a few high-quality items on hand that you really like and toss or donate anything of low-quality every time it comes into the house. No need to wait until the clutter builds up!
  4. Purge fridge and pantry often (weekly if possible) and get rid of things you don’t use or like. Also use this time to keep it organized (fruit on one shelf, leftovers on another, etc).
  5. Never leave anything in your car that does not have a specific function within your car. Tidy up your car every time you arrive home.

HOLISTIC HEALING

You know what else is having a moment? Alternative medicine. The US is finally embracing ancient medicinal practices like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (India’s medical practice), 5000+ years later. This is a very good thing! It means we are stepping away from our typical toolkit of popping acetaminophen every day and racing to urgent care whenever we feel a head cold coming on. Instead, we’re brewing ginger tea, imbibing probiotics, and trying to breathe more deeply. The modern medical world has developed in large part to deal with modern issues, like migraines and obesity. And I must note that US doctors saved my life when I contracted a life-threatening illness at age eleven. However, I cannot deny that humans have lived a looooong time before modern medicine, and they must have developed some pretty rad tools to evolve this far. Seeking nature as my day-to-day healer has helped keep me healthy and asks me to consider my physical relationship to the energetic world whenever I feel dis-ease coming into my body. Whether one is turning to elderberry syrup to soothe a cough or receiving weekly acupuncture treatments or meeting with a psychic healer, there are a number of things people are doing to tackle challenges of having a human body (and mind!) and I hope this awakening can continue to be there for people when they seek it.

HOME COOKING

Two things:

It is so neat to me when people know how to cook. It tells me you are intelligent and ambitious, conscientious and self-reliant. Your stomach rumbles don’t send you straight to the drive-thru. You’ve thought enough in advance to know that you’re going to be hungry later, and you might like an avocado with spinach and chicken. And you can keep your kitchen stocked with whole foods ingredients and make these things for yourself! Don’t get me wrong: I love a fancy dinner out. I’m a foodie first, remember? On a day-to-day basis, however, I like to keep it simple and mega-tasty in the comfort of my own home. And I love that so many people – especially younger folks – are into this, too.

The other thing is that I am proud of womankind for taking back this domestic task and propelling themselves to the forefront of creativity and innovation when it comes to food. It may be true that most restaurant-employed chefs are male, but just look at the internet food scene and you’ll know that women are neck-and-neck with the big boys. If I google a recipe, I want to know how it comes out for home cooks, so I skip over food network websites and the like, and find blogs written by women who have dreamt up and created and artfully shared flavorful and nourishing meals.

And because primates are food-oriented, I believe, for this trend, there’s no end in sight!