Herbal Gifts Kids Can Make (Adults too!)

This time of year it can be nice to take a break from the holiday craziness for a couple of hours and be creative, work with nature’s gifts, and maybe even a kid or two, to make something for yourself or others. I remember watching Little House on the Prairie and being shocked at how excited they were for their Christmas gifts which were always something like a penny and a hand-sewn apron for their one and only doll. Those days may be long gone but we can still appreciate the small things, the natural gifts that are crafted by hand that can add a sparkle of ‘special’ to a bath, a meal, or a daily routine. Kids love to be creative and make things, something that seems to happen less and less in school these days, so really if you are crafting with kids you are giving them a gift in the making as well as in the giving. Part of the fun is the labeling and packaging too, so let yourself or your young helper/s let out their inner artist. Including instructions with the gifts is also a good idea just to make sure the receiver remembers how to use the gift days later when all the chaos and hubbub of gift giving is over, plus it’s a sneaky little writing exercise for youngsters too, and can be awfully cute. It’s also a great time to share the value of reusing glass bottles and other containers, as well as why choosing ‘natural’ over ‘artificial’ is important. Some ideas to consider:

For the cook~ Bouquet Garni, Olive Oil and Vinegar infused with herbs (For the bouquet garni you will need cooking twine or muslin bags, parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf or two, plus other herbs if you want.) Use dried herbs only with the oil, but vinegar can take dry or fresh. See video below for more details.

For the homebody~ Room spray / body spray (could even be labeled car spray for the new driver or car aficionado), body oil These links take you to other posts with videos.

For the bath and spa lover~ Bath salts, Herbal bath mixtures, Bath milks,  Salt Scrub, Massage oil (can be made the same as a body oil). See video below for more details.

For the traveler~ Herbal Eye Pillow (this link takes you to Pinterest tutorials), Relaxing essential oil perfume (this link takes you another post with a how-to video).

For the yoga and/or meditation practitioner: Chakra oils (This link takes you to another post with a how-to tutorial.)

For men~ Cologne (video below but using a recipe from Wormwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy), body oil, hair growth blend (Links to other posts with the how-to info.)

 

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Bottle of 2 oz. Castor oil with 5 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil with a dropper (for hair growth)
For the cat fanatic~ Catnip pillow (you can do this for dogs too, just sick some treats in there instead of the catnip.) Link is to Pinterest how-to tutorials.

I really enjoy the labeling process (as you can clearly see by all the options I included) so here are ideas to get you started:

Chalkboard Labels or these

Apothecary Labels

Craft Labels

Japan Style Labels

Natural History Labels

Art Nouveau Labels

European Tiles Labels

In case you can’t reuse the glass bottles and jars that you already have, here are a couple of options:

Clear Vintage Bottles

Green Vintage Bottles

Vintage Apothecary Jars

Craft Jars

Enjoy being creative and fashioning nature’s gifts into self-care treats for yourself or others, and please share with anyone who might be looking for DIY ideas, especially if they have little ones they are crafting with. Kids love creating and especially love working with herbs and essential oils. They just seem to have an instinct for the ancestral authenticity of it. I hope your winter season is full of natural delights and plenty of rest and rejuvenation.

Thanksgiving in Prague

This time of year always gets me thinking about the Thanksgiving I spent in Prague, over 15 years ago. We didn’t celebrate on the day that everyone in the states celebrated, we instead had a dinner party sometime between Canadian and American Thanksgiving because my flat-mate and I were from those two countries. We had another good friend who lived with us up until about that time in November when she changed schools (we were all English teachers) which meant she also had to change flats. She was from South Africa and if I remember correctly, it was her first Thanksgiving dinner.

The evening started out well, besides the fact my Canadian flat-mate’s turkey turned out to actually be a duck. (We couldn’t read that much Czech so it was an easy mistake to make, plus neither of us ate poultry at the time so we didn’t have any clue it didn’t taste like a turkey until our guests started commenting on the delicious duck to which we replied, “It’s turkey” and they all answered, “No, it’s definitely duck.”

After the dinner party which included English teachers from various countries and backgrounds, my South African friend and I headed out to meet a sketchy guy we barely knew at a club across town because we were young and thought it would be a fun, exciting end to the evening. My Canadian friend saw that it was all folly and most likely not going to end well, so she stayed home. She was the youngest of us there, but somehow managed to be the wisest more often than not.

Another teacher who had attended our Thanksgiving celebration decided to go with us which was not exactly good news to us. By that time the South African and I knew each other quite well and had a mutual understanding of people and timing that makes going out to late night clubs across town to meet sketchy strangers a little less of a bad idea. If one of us sensed it was time to turn around, we trusted the other to do it. This other young woman was a wild card in that respect and we both had our reservations about her, but what could we do? She came along.

At the club we ended up splitting up right away. The South African had recently moved into a flat occupied by a British couple who were in the middle of a very long break-up, and they happened to be at the club. They immediately drew her into their issues so she found herself playing peacemaker and go-between, as much as one can anyway with ear-bursting techno music pounding through the dark rooms. The other teacher disappeared in a social frenzy of partying as though she’d just been let out of her strict family home for the first time in her life. I was being dogged by a young American boy who actually was on his own for the first time in his life and seemed to decide I could be something along the lines of a babysitter with benefits. Not surprisingly, the sketchy stranger who told us we ‘had’ to go to that club that night never showed up.

My friend and I found each other and realized we were both having a terrible time so the plan to go home was quickly made with the last reasonable tram putting a tight timer on our ability to find the third one in our group. When we managed to find her and talked her into leaving, she confessed she had lost her keys. It was hard not to panic as we frantically looked everywhere in the dark until someone asked the DJ to make an announcement at which point the music stopped, the lights came on, and the announcement was made that “the Americans” had lost their keys. Other comments were also made which had an unflattering cadence but the Czech words were a mystery to us, but it produced a sea of eye-rolling and grumbles and side-eyed snickers.

I honestly can’t remember if she found her keys or not, but we eventually all left together. It was all very embarrassing and my friend and I were annoyed, which made the flaky social-butterfly annoyed at us in return. We walked as fast as we could to the tram knowing if we didn’t make it we would have to wait an hour in the cold, dark, midnight hour of downtown Prague which was much more than our thin coats were prepared for. Luck finally shined on us and we made it, but because of the tension all around, or maybe because she was embarrassed, the teacher with us refused to get on and instead started walking towards her room along the unlit, desolate streets of the city center. We couldn’t believe it and my friend ran after her to try to talk sense but I saw the stubborn set of her chin and knew there was no reasoning with her. I stayed near the tram with pleading eyes and hand gestures, but ended up just watching it ‘ding-ding’ away and it felt like it took all the warmth in the world with it. Sure enough, the South African came back alone, unsuccessful in her quest to keep us all together, so the two of us sat on separate benches, freezing, silent, worried, and desperately watching for the next tram.

Since it was the day we were celebrating Thanksgiving, I finally broke the silence by suggesting we think of things we were grateful for about living in Prague. The black quiet was even more complete after that because we were both so cold, worried, and miserable that neither of us could think of a single thing. Not one thing. It was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever had in some ways, and yet despair so easily slipped up on us with some challenges, bad choices, and the cold that neither of us were properly prepared for that entire long, grey winter. (That is another area where the youngest of us came out on top. She was Canadian after all and had the most enviable winter wardrobe and warm accessories.)

Everyone made it home that night, and once I was in my warm bed, I’m pretty sure I was able to feel gratitude. There really was so much to be thankful that year, the friendships, the beauty of the city, the life of young twenty-somethings living abroad with basically no responsibilities. I learned so much that year, and one thing is for sure, if you want to keep your humor about you, dress well for the weather. A warm coat, or the lack of one, can make or break one’s attitude in a big way.

Here’s a recipe for Sopsky Salat (pronounced shopsky) which is found at pretty much every restaurant in the Czech Republic. There are many ways to make it, and I went with what I had on hand instead of trying to make it completely traditional. It’s like a Greek Salad without the olives and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you like it too:

Sopsky Salat

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1 pepper (red, green, orange, or yellow)

1 cucumber

2 medium tomatoes

1/2 red onion

Feta cheese (as much as you want but I used about 4.5oz, or half that package shown)

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T olive oil

salt (that is my favorite salt/herb blend ever!) as much as desired

pepper as desired

To make, simply chop and mix. Let the salad set in the fridge for at least an hour before eating for best taste. It actually is much better the second day.

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I like to spoon the salad on top of warm (gluten-free) bread and let the feta melt a tad. Delicious.

I hope all your Thanksgivings are full of warmth and gratitude. Na zdravi! (Czech for ‘Cheers!’)

 

 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos Gluten-Free and Vegan

This is a post from around this time of year three years ago from my first blog. I’m hoping to get all the relevant recipes over here now. We actually are not hosting Thanksgiving this year but I still need to bring a few dishes…tacos instead of turkey? Maybe….

Just when I thought I never wanted another corn tortilla again, I got a craving for a taco with some sort of orange veggie in it. Whenever we go out to dinner we often go to one of two places where I order a butternut squash quesadilla. I love them, but I hate dealing with squash and its hard shell that eats knives for lunch so I have never attempted to make them myself. It got me thinking though that wouldn’t a sweet potato taste just as good in that kind of meal? And if I could eliminate the cheese it’d be even better for our family, so onto the web I went and sure enough there are plenty of recipes for sweet potatoes and black beans together in all sorts of fashions~ tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I went the taco route and used several different recipes to cobble together what is written below to work with what I had in my refrigerator. My husband and oldest son loved these by the way, as did I, and my youngest who only gathered enough courage to try one black bean and one piece of sweet potato admitted the black bean wasn’t bad. That says more to me than the fact that my husband is generally not a huge sweet potato fan, nor a big black bean fan, and really he prefers flour tortillas and definitely cheese and preferably meat. This recipe outshined all that. It is a keeper. (Unfortunately, the pics I took are not very good. Next time I make this, I’ll take better ones.)

Vegan, Gluten-free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

1.5 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil and olive oil)

1/2 t salt

1 yellow or red onion (I used red b/c that is what I had and the purple hue was so pretty)

1 pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, but orange or green would work)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium-large sweet potato

1 can black beans (or 1.5 c if using dried beans)

1 t cumin

freshly ground pepper to taste

corn tortillas

guacamole (or avocados)

Preheat oven to 400. Using a large cast iron pan or some other oven-friendly pan* sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the onions are translucent in 1 T of vegetable oil. (I used sunflower oil). In a bowl coat the sweet potato which has been skinned and diced into bite size pieces with 1/2 T of oil (I used olive) and 1/2 t of sea salt. Add this into the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute before transferring into the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm up the rinsed and drained beans on medium with 1 t cumin in a small sauce pan. Also warm up some corn tortillas** until they are soft. Take the pan out of the oven and if the sweet potatoes are cooked through add the beans and stir to get everything mixed together. Load the tortillas and top with guacamole or fresh avocados. It’s a symphony of flavors played just right. If it were up to me this is what I’d make for Thanksgiving, along with kale chips and pica de gallo salsa. It’s enough to make a pilgrim say, “Ole!” but alas, we are hosting this year and I’m going to have to stick to the more traditional items I’ve already planned.

 

 

* If you don’t have an oven proof pan, use one that you can top with a lid or plate and add 2 T of water to the mixture to steam it for approximately 5-10 min.

** I use Trader Joe’s corn tortillas b/c they are thick and sturdy, plus they are remarkably clean. Their ingredient list is all of: ground white corn masa flour, water, trace of lime. That’s it. Exactly how it should be. And they taste incredibly good, much better than any other corn tortilla on the market.

 

 

Sense-ational Scents

This is a post in conjunction with another blogger’s month long celebration of the senses. I’ve chosen the sense of smell for Litebeing Chronicles’ “Sense-ational Challenge” because essential oils are a beautiful, fully positive part of my life and they fulfill the requirements of ‘joy and delight’ that are part of the criteria as we celebrate the human, earthly experience that our spirits both endure and relish in.

Scents are a positive part of my day, all day long. I start every day by diffusing essential oils into the air to wake up the brain with happy, invigorating scents~ as I said before, the usual combination is Rosemary and Orange oil. While getting dressed, I first lather up my arms and stomach with oil blends that I make which are meant to lightly perfume my personal world with intention. (I’ll show you how to make your own down below.) After I’m dressed I spray myself with blends that I make that are either calming or stimulating, depending on the time of day. My favorite daytime combination is Bergamot and Clary Sage in a 50/50 ratio. This is an anti-depressant combo that is happy, uplifting, and awakening with calm undertones. It can be hard to remember at times that calmness is an important part of ‘happy and stimulating’,  because we often equate happiness and being energetic with a kind of jumpy attribute, like an over-caffeinated cartoon, but calmness preserves energy for long term use and is the happy place for the brain and body. Calm does not mean tired, although being calm is definitely a prerequisite for a good night’s sleep. During the day I use the sprays periodically as needed on both my body and the rooms I am in, and I also diffuse essential oils throughout the day. Lately I’ve been using Fennel essential oil around meal times because it encourages proper digestion and it smells good with food.

Here’s a quick video on making your own body oil or perfume with essential oils which is healthy for the body, brain, emotions, and even the environment. Be sure to reuse your glass bottles and know you are doing beautiful goodness for yourself and others by avoiding chemical fragrances with their endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, and instead opting for the natural beauty of earthly gifts.

If you don’t want to make your own body oil, Kate’s Magik makes lovely body oils that are also Reiki infused. They are labeled by intention, not scent, but the blends are all deep and decadent so you can’t go wrong by picking one out based on your intuition and intention. There’s one for Transformation and Change, one for Passion, Love and Creativity, one to Evoke Love and Trust, one for Grounding and Empowerment, and one for Clarity and Strength. These are great for both men and women by the way. I actually found these by getting one for husband’s stocking one Christmas years ago and we’ve both used them off and on every since.

When making my own perfumes and body oils I usually use Aura Cacia brand ingredients because they are readily available at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. Be sure to make certain you use reputable brands that are pure and natural because chemical fragrances are not going to give you the mental and emotional benefits that naturals give you. Have fun, be creative, and delight in your sense of smell a bit every day.

The next blogger doing a post within the blogging challenge is C at https://judahfirst.wordpress.com/ so follow along if you wish.

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Adaptogens

 

As I said in my last post, adaptogens are herbs that help our bodies respond to stress. I like to think of them as ‘slow health’ workers, akin to the slow foods movement, where you are thinking strategically about long-term health goals and supporting those goals through small daily doses of herbs that help get the body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and into a healthier zone. We want our bodies to be relaxed so imbalances can be addressed before they turn into illnesses. The demands of modern life are such that if we don’t consciously address the pace, stress, overwhelm, and information overload, we can get caught in a continuous day-in and day-out stress mode cycle, which is definitely not a thriving place for our health and well-being. We hear a lot about self care lately and that very often translates into hot baths or massages which are great things to do, but we also have herbal allies to keep it real on a daily basis, keep us healthy long-term, and remind us that there are no prizes for being the most stressed out.

You can take adaptogens in pill form, tinctures, teas (herbal infusions), or as powders. In powder form, you are getting the whole herb and nothing else, which is a nice way to do it. I like to add one of my adaptogen powder mixes into coffee or tea, and the other mix I make, which currently includes Eleuthro and Rhodiola, I put into smoothies for my family and myself. You can also mix them into juice or just water, or add them to foods such as yogurt or cereal. It’s best to start with just a 1/2 teaspoon per day of an herbal powder, then add another 1/2 teaspoon later in the day once the first half teaspoon is perfectly tolerated. More can be added in time if desired, but adding too much too fast is a recipe for digestive issues and that will only add stress, not help it. Concentrating on being consistent is more important than how much you take because only a small amount is needed if taken over a long period of time.

Switching up your adaptogens is advisable, and don’t worry, you will still get the benefits of sticking to adaptogens over time. If you are new to adaptogens, this article will introduce you to probably the best known adaptogenic herb, Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a great place to start if you are new to adaptogens, but there are plenty of others to choose from as well, from many different traditions around the world. This article gives a brief overview of a few others, and these are some of my favorites you might want to look into: Tulsi, Rhodiola, Reishi, Fo-ti, and Schisandra, and keep in mind that combining adaptogens lets them work in a synergistic way.

280F9A5A-A3EE-4CF2-9387-2AEACC88EBEE[1] Ashwagandha and other adaptogens are showing up more and more in functional foods and drinks, such as SpicePharm’s Golden Chai (pictured above) and Chocolate Elixir, and Gaia’s Golden Milk as well as Amazing Grass’s Brain Elixir. There are cold drinks by REBBL that have adaptogens in their full line of flavors which I’ve found at my local Whole Foods but not online yet. (They are tasty!)

All this is to say, that adaptogens are abundant in numbers, available in ready-made products, and easy to incorporate into daily life so there is no reason not to make a conscious choice to have them in whatever way works best for you. Don’t let stress mode become your everyday mode and if it already is, then know you can make choices to get to a healthier space. You deserve it. The holidays are fast approaching so this just might be the perfect time to start building up your body’s stress response for the better.

 

Natural Help for Thinning and Graying Hair

WP_20170605_12_43_57_Pro[1]It’s funny, now that I’ve entered my 40s a new conversation has become common among my friends~ worry about thinning hair. I’ve been dealing with grays for a couple of decades so that isn’t new, but the realization that all that ‘dealing’ with grays might cause hair thinning was partially what led me to switch to henna and other herbs instead of conventional dying. (More on that in another post.) Other friends have the same issue, and certainly hair thinning isn’t just related to heavy processing, it’s a part of aging just like wrinkles and wisdom, and it’s often men who have that issue earliest and most severe, though women suffer with hair loss too. There are things you can do, whether you want to work from the inside-out, or outside-in, or attack hair loss from both sides and hopefully stop it in its tracks or at least minimize it. Taking action sends the message to yourself that you have some control so that alone alleviates some stress over the situation, and everyone knows that stress contributes to all things bad, including hair loss and graying.

The first and most basic thing is to make sure you are getting enough B vitamins. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning they don’t accumulate in your body like vitamins A and E, so it’s important to get Bs everyday. Vegetarians and vegans especially need to supplement with B12, and I’d say a total B with added B12 because all the Bs are together under “B” because they need each other to work together. That’s why there is B1, Folic Acid, B12, niacin, etc in a total B supplement. B vitamins are also essential in stress and anxiety regulation, as well as energy production, so they are pretty important in how you feel on a day to day basis. There is sound science around B12 and graying hair and hair loss, but I’ll let you read about that elsewhere and just continue on here with some other things you can do for prevention and recovery.

Collagen has become an important ingredient lately in the beauty nutrients arena. Collagen, which you can read much more about by clicking that link, not only is important for healthy hair, it’s important for healthy skin, nails, and bones. There are quite a few products that incorporate collagen into their recipes so it’s easy to find something that works for you. Neocell makes these delicious chews which is a nice way to take a supplement if you are sick of pillsBiosil is a popular supplement that is a collagen booster, and you can read about the difference on their website. It comes in caps or powder, has great reviews, and has been featured in Vogue recently in an article on growing out hair.

Hair, Skin, and Nails is a classic beauty multivitamin which has been around for ages. If you want to just know that your multi is helping you achieve your beauty goals, Futurebiotics has you covered. I love that they have one specifically for men too. That might be a nice stocking stuffer for anyone trying to get their guy to take a daily vitamin for his New Year’s resolution. There are good formulas from other reputable brands as well, like Megafood’s.

Still working from the inside out, there are herbs that are traditionally known to help hair stay vibrant, thick, youthful, and even to prevent graying and reverse graying. I can’t guarantee results with the gray reversal because it seems to really depend on the person, but two things can be said about these herbs in regards to that~ 1. it takes time to work. Don’t expect results for months, possibly even 6 months, and 2. even if they don’t reverse graying, they will make your hair healthier, thicker, and more youthful and help to prevent more grays. Not bad side effects, eh? If you know anything about herbs you probably already know one of them which I’m referencing: Fo ti. This herb comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is an adaptogen with anti-aging effects on the entire body. It is traditionally used for longevity, disease prevention, and beauty, including beautiful hair. Also known as He/ho Shou Wu, which means roughly ‘Mr. Ho’s black hair’ because of the legend of a weak man (Mr. Ho or He) returning to vitality with the help of the herb, including his hair going back to black. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that not only all have wide reaching positive benefits including stress management and overall system balancing, they are also in that category because they are generally beneficial for all people without a great risk of harm. That said, they are also herbs to be taken in small doses over a long period of time, and as I’ve said before, keep in mind that herbs have fiber and adding them into your daily diet is something to be done with a light hand, else you might encounter digestive issues. Our bodies get used to the amount of fiber they generally have, and will get used to having more daily fiber, but it needs to be done slowly, especially in the case of Fo-ti. I’ll tell you how I take it below, after I introduce the other hair herb.

The Ayurvedic tradition gives us another herb known to reverse graying or at the very least, provide it with nutrients to increase its youthful thickness and luster. Amla is also an adaptogen with wide-ranging benefits, but specifically for hair, you can not only take it internally, you can also make a hair mask of the powdered Amla to invigorate your hair externally. It’s especially good on curls and texture, which is something I like to do when I henna my roots because it revitalizes the curl while henna can somewhat relax it. Internally, I take it by making a blend of Amla powder and Fo-ti powder and put a 1/2 teaspoon into my coffee in the morning and another 1/2 teaspoon in tea or coffee in the afternoon. I barely taste it and enjoy the earthiness, but if it bothers you, milk and/or a sweetener can be added, or throw it in a smoothie or mix it with juice. This is important: more does not make it work faster so start with just a 1/2 teaspoon and work up to two 1/2 teaspoons per day if you desire.

Working externally, a lot has been said about castor oil. If you want to fiddle with ingredients and concoct something more or less complicated, pinterest has you covered. If simple is more your style, put some castor oil in a dropper bottle and make your way around your head, rubbing it in gently, sleep with it and in the morning wash it out. Once or twice a week seems to be the recommended amount of doing this, with again, more not being better, but honestly I haven’t tried it yet because it also makes your hair grow faster and that’s not something I’m currently desiring.

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Bottle of 2 oz. Castor oil with 5 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil with a dropper
If I were to use castor oil for thickness, the only thing I’d add into it is Rosemary essential oil. Rosemary is of course a stimulant oil so I wouldn’t add more than a drop in if I intended to sleep with it, but it’s the best known essential oil for stimulating hair growth. There are many ways to incorporate Rosemary into your hair routine, including Rosemary hydrosol which can just be sprayed on your hair (aim for the roots) or adding Rosemary essential oil to your (all natural) shampoo, conditioner, and gel or mousse. Rosemary boosts memory and helps with brain fog as well, so don’t be surprised if your brain gets a boost along with your hair. I actually start every day with diffusing Rosemary and Orange essential oils to wake my sons’ brains up for school (and my own brain too!) with happy stimulation.

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As mentioned above, stress also plays a role in hair health just as it plays a role in overall health, so in the next post there will be more ways to combat stress and a little hint, you’ll be hearing more about adaptogens. In the meantime, why not make yourself some chakra oils and spend a few moments every day putting energy back into yourself. You deserve to be your healthiest self. Please share this with anyone you know who might be looking for some help with thinning and/or graying hair because we need to feel confident about taking action for our own best selves~ body, and mind, and to know we have options. I’ve read that November is men’s health month so especially pass this along to your favorite guys if it might be something that would interest them. The truth is, hair is important to how we feel, our self-esteem, and our self-concept, so let’s give it some love and care.

 

Healing from Food Intolerances

2730B37F-B732-45B4-8C22-BD6DD51DD537[1]Food intolerances are rampant these days, and it’s no surprise once you understand the relationship between optimal digestive processes and our modern world’s challenges to that system. First there’s the fact that our food is mostly not what our ancestors would have recognized as food. Unless you are eating heritage grains, organic, non-gmo produce, meat and dairy products, and very little processed food (canned food, frozen foods, boxed products you just stick in a microwave) then you are taxing your body’s digestive system. Many people blame Monsanto alone for the extreme rise in gluten intolerance, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that. Despite the challenges to keep your gut healthy, as promised in my last post about managing food intolerances, there are ways to heal and kick intolerances to the curb.

Antibiotics are also a major player in the weakening of our digestive systems, because they inevitably kill off the beneficial bacteria in our intestines while doing their rightful work on the bad bacteria they are supposed to be targeting. Practically no one has escaped a round of antibiotics in their life, and some people have taken them every year of their life, even multiple times. Antibiotics are necessary, but so are the probiotics that they are known to destroy, which leads to an imbalanced ecosystem in the gut. If you don’t make a conscious effort to reestablish the beneficial bacteria environment in your gut, then the bad bacteria, and especially candida, gain momentum and the ecosystem spirals downward. We’ve all heard a lot about probiotics lately and they are in fact major players in more than just digestion. They are a huge part of your immune system and studies show a major link to mental issues and what’s happening in the intestines, so much so that the gut is often called ‘the body’s second brain’. So, probiotics are really important all the time, but when you take a round of antibiotics they are even more important, and if you have food intolerances they are essential in recovery. My all time favorite probiotic is VSL3 which is the highest potency probiotic that I’ve found, but I linked to a couple of other good ones above. My sons love Rainbow Light’s gummy version which doesn’t require refrigeration which is a bonus for traveling.

But there’s more you can do to beat food intolerances and eat freely once again. First of all, just taking steps to curing yourself instead of only avoiding trigger foods sends a message to your brain that you are on the mend. This is important because it relieves feelings of hopelessness and that horrible feeling of being out of control which leads to stress. You are in control and you can get over food intolerances and in fact be healthier than ever so phew, less stress already, right? One thing you will want to figure out is if you have a candida overgrowth. This can be tested at a doctor’s or naturopath’s office, or you can self diagnose through questionnaires found on the web (there are quite a few!) and if you think you have an issues with it, get on a candida cleanse. Now some people do a cleanse that is quite restrictive in food choices which is great if you want to go that route, but personally I’ve always liked taking a candida cleanse supplement, and there are several good ones to choose from but the one I linked to is my favorite. Some doctors or naturopaths will prescribe medicine for candida, so if you are getting diagnosed that way then you can discuss options at that time with them, as well as the possibility of a prescription probiotic. If you have no idea if you might have candida then I’ll give you three clues to consider~ Have you had two or more rounds of antibiotics in your life and did you replenish your system with probiotics afterwards? Have you have ever had a yeast infection or jock itch? Are your cravings mostly the dairy and sugar kind? If you answered yes to any of those, it’s time to start seriously looking into candida cleansing. The good news is that once you kick candida then you are well on your way to recovery, the bad news is that candida really messes up your intestines so you’ve got some repairing to do.

Now, to repair the gut you want to obviously stay away from the trigger foods, but you also want to eat foods that will be easy to digest and provide the most nutrition for rebuilding a strong intestinal lining. Can you guess what is the best macro-nutrient for rebuilding? If you guessed protein, you’re right! Make sure you are getting plenty of protein in your healthy diet, and supplementing with extra L-glutamine is one way to give your healing an extra boost. There are products containing L-glutamine specifically for rebuilding your intestines so it’s easy to add to your daily routine, plus most of the products come with herbs and other nutrients that add extra support to the healing. My favorite is by Renew Life. I put it in a jar of water first thing in the morning and let it settle for a couple of minutes so I can easily shake it, then drink it. If I don’t let it sit and settle first, it is clumpy.

BittersBack to that easy to digest part I mentioned above, in order to get the nutrients out of the foods we eat and also to make digestion optimal, we rely on our bodies’ enzymes to break down that food into bits small enough for the body to assimilate in a healthy way. For many reasons, people can lack the ability to make sufficient enzymes in order to start that whole digestive process off right. If it doesn’t have the right start, things can only go (ahem) down from there. Seriously though, enzymes are important and there are two ways you can supplement in this case. You can take enzymes when you eat, or you can take bitters before you eat (about 15 minutes) to stimulate the pancreas to start pumping out enzymes. Bitters are a classification of herbs that are usually taken in tincture form so that you add a dropper of the liquid herbs to a couple of ounces of water, hold them in your mouth for a few seconds because it is the taste that stimulates the action, then swallow. If you know you are not digesting your food well to begin with, you can actually take both bitters and enzymes, then slowly decrease your enzyme usage as your pancreas gets more efficient.

These will help get you over your food intolerances and onto your best health. I’ll post an article about other herbs for the digestive system as well because there is a lot more healing that can be accomplished with herbs, but I wanted to just get the basics out there first and let you ‘digest’ them. And if nothing else, at the very least take a high potency probiotic supplement. That’s going to give you the most bang for your buck and treat the issue where it most likely started~ in an unbalanced intestinal ecosystem. Fermented foods like yogurt and drinks like Kombucha are fabulous additions too, but a high potency probiotic is truly essential in turning a food intolerance situation around.

The links above are for ease of shopping. You can check out my affiliation policy on my page dedicated to that information. Keep in mind that herbs and supplements are not something to buy based solely on price point. Use trusted brands from known stores and assume that for any natural product it will probably take 6-8 weeks before you see a difference, although sometimes it happens much faster. Also, if you are adding herbs into your healing mix, be aware that herbs have fiber and if you add more than your body is used to then you might get diarrhea. Your body can adjust to more fiber intake but it has to be done slowly so dial back your new herbs if that happens, and of course discontinue if you have a severe reaction.

Also, I have a background in herbs and also of working in the natural foods/products industry, which led to me figuring some of this out, but the whole picture came about from seeing a physician, Gastroenterology doctors, a naturopath, and a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, plus loads of reading. I strongly suggest you also consult the medical professionals in your life because we are all unique in our bodily needs and healing.

Best health to you and yours! Always remember, you deserve to be optimally healthy to live your best life.

Managing Food Intolerances

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I’m happy to share this e-guide from Enjoy Life Foods and Delicious Living about living with food intolerances or allergies. Just follow the above link and you can download the free guide right to your device/computer from Delicious Living’s website. If you have food allergies or intolerances you most likely are already very familiar with Enjoy Life’s products which are free from the most common food allergens and sure make life a lot easier, especially if you are new to avoiding certain foods.

This free eGuide will help you: 

  • Identify food allergies and sensitivities
  • Eliminate problem foods
  • Stock a Free-From pantry
  • Make great-tasting allergen-friendly recipes

My next post will help you actually overcome your food intolerances by building your digestive system up into its healthiest form, but while you are rebuilding that system you will definitely need to avoid the trigger foods, and that takes time. This e-guide can help, especially as we move towards the holidays. Please share this with anyone you know who has food intolerances or allergies~ it’s free and can only help.

Best health to you and yours!

Chakra Balancing Essential Oil Set

Yogis, healers, Reiki masters, and those who meditate agree, chakras are the keys to our body’s health on all different levels. Actually, they might be better described as keyholes, and essential oils are the keys to opening blocked ones and balancing out others. If you feel unbalanced or stuck in some area of your life, it just might be worth it to look into what chakra that stuck pattern might fall under, and administer some healing. Self-care is as simple as taking a moment to put essential oils around your chakras which will show intention of healing, and the essential oils will do their part in opening and balancing out the chakras deep through the body and in the aura.

There are fabulous articles on chakras out there, including this one which is intended for beginners. I’ve been reading up on using essential oils specifically for certain chakras for a while now with the intent of making a complete set and thought I’d share the process here. It’d make a fabulous gift for anyone who meditates or does yoga or Reiki, or is just interested in optimal health and well-being, or perhaps someone who obviously needs a bit of balance in an area (or two or seven) in his/her life.

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All you need are seven bottles, essential oils that correspond to the different chakras, a base oil or two, labels of some sort and of course a notebook to write down what you have concocted. I personally like the idea of presenting these in a lovely box so they are kept together safely and in a dark place. Above are some of my ingredients, but not all of them. If you don’t feel like you have a range of essential oils, don’t worry, I’ve actually read that in a pinch, lavender works to open and balance all the chakras, and if someone only has one essential oil in their possession, it’s most likely lavender, am I right?

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For the base I’m using sweet almond and jojoba oil combined. The base oil goes into the little bottles first, filling them up most of the way, but leaving room for the essential oils. For this size bottle (.33 oz), plan for 4-6 drops essential oil. (A little goes a long way!) Ideally, reuse your old bottles, or find new ones here, then reuse them.

InstagramCapture_0d7cf70b-5d22-4e4a-a917-e2e4f3a1fea4[1]That’s my son’s little finger helping there. He helped me out the day I made these~ you’ll see more of his fingers later.

Adding the essential oils to the base oil is the fun part! I have saved several charts on my pinterest page dedicated to pairing chakras and essential oils but I encourage you to get creative, use your intuition, use the many resources online, or you can just use my combinations below:

Root Chakra: 3 drops Frankincense and 3 drops Cedarwood

Sacral Chakra: 2 drops each Jasmine (absolute), Bergamot, and Sandalwood (absolute)

Solar Plexus: 2 drops each Frankincense, Rosemary, and Basil

Heart: 2 drops each Rose (absolute), Neroli (absolute), and Geranium

Throat: 2 drops each Jasmine (absolute), Clary Sage, and Sandalwood (absolute)

Third Eye: 5 drops of Lavender

Crown Chakra: 2 drops each of Frankincense, Ylang Ylang, and Clary Sage

In the above I’ve linked to absolutes instead of the pure essential oil in cases where the pure oil is very expensive. If you prefer not to use absolutes (which means the essential oil is already blended with a base oil, such as jojoba), then by all means, use the pure essential oil. If you can’t find them on amazon, try Mountain Rose Herbs. Aura Cacia and Mountain Rose Herbs are both reputable brands and their sites are worth checking out for recipes and information regarding their products.

Be sure to label them right away and don’t forget to mix them by rolling them back and forth in your hands. There are my youngest son’s fingers again! InstagramCapture_cfd82edb-914f-4b56-b6f8-b2d849a9346d[1]

Great times to use these oils include right before meditating, yoga, or when feeling ‘off’ in any way. They can be used one at a time or all at once. You just need a couple of drops to rub in a clockwise circle where the corresponding chakra is. If you are unsure on where the chakras are there are many images online. Here is one, but a simple search will turn up many more. The root oil can be added to your feet instead of trying to find that chakra since the important part for the root is to be grounded anyway. The others are fairly straightforward and easy to access.

Another idea for gift giving, since we are rapidly approaching that time of year, is to add a stone dedicated to each chakra along with the oils. Or if you know someone who is working on a certain chakra, such as the heart due to heartbreak or heart health problems, then make a larger bottle of just that particular chakra oil along with a dedicated crystal or two. To find out which stones go along with which chakras, I’ve posted some on my pinterest board.

I’ll be using these myself, but if I were to give them as a gift I’d put some pretty material in the box to keep the glass bottles safe, and maybe some  instructions for use, depending on the person.

Poor Bailey thinks these are for her. Sorry B, you can sniff but you can’t touch.

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This an updated piece on making your essential oil chakra set for yourself or to gift someone. I originally wrote this for MindBodyGreen.com and also posted it on my first blog. This version includes basic editing plus links to my pinterest boards with saved pins on essential oils, crystals/stones, and the chakras they correspond with. I’ve also included links to ingredients for easy shopping. For more info on that, check out my affiliation policy.  Happy creating and healing!

 

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