Natural Support in a Classroom Setting

My friend suggested I write about what, if anything, a teacher could do in his or her classroom to help students learn. There are definitely things one can do in a classroom, but what exactly can be done has a lot to do with who and where you are teaching. This friend of mine is actually in her home country of South Africa right now but we lived in Prague together as English teachers many moons ago, so that got me thinking about the differences in cultural classrooms and also the differences in ages being taught. We taught adults in Prague but we both have experience with kids too, both as teachers and parents.

DB4A47C5-BB47-4296-ACC9-D268FC499839[1]One thing just about anyone can do is to bring in fresh plants. This is something parents or students themselves can actually take the initiative on to freshen up the air in a classroom and depending on the plant, actually have added benefits. There are certain plants that cleanse the space of specific toxins, and the fragrance of herbs and flowers can actually benefit the moods and brain functioning of people. One year when my two kids were still in elementary school, I gave their classroom teachers each a pot of Rosemary before the state testing began, thinking the teachers would already know that Rosemary is great for brains, benefiting focus, clarity, and memory.  The teachers were surprised to hear that Rosemary was traditionally used in such a way and I’m not really sure if they believed me or not, but the plants stayed in my boys’ classrooms for the rest of that year.

If you travel from classroom to classroom, then plants might not be practical. Luckily, essential oils are portable and can be used in a couple of different ways. Diffusing essential oils in the classroom can help promote positive mental and emotional health. There are different options when it comes to diffusing, including plug-in ones, light bulbA59AF0A5-9A2C-4D76-B61A-3D62814D9DC0[1] rings, ceramic discs, and candle fueled ceramics. Orange or Bergamot essential oils would be good uplifting choices for returning to school after a long break. When it might be necessary to keep a class calm, Lavender is the obvious choice. When taking a big test, nothing beats Rosemary essential oil for clarity, focus, and memory help. When going through a study guide, if you have any essential oil scenting the room, it will help to have that same scent in the room during the actual test. (Just as at home studying can be amplified with essential oils and then the brain triggered during the assessment with the same scent.) It’s important to switch up the essential oils if used in this way, so assigning certain subjects with certain essential oils can help the brain function best. Also, doing blends might be the best option of all so the scents will be truly unique to a certain class and its specific material, so that way students won’t automatically think of the pythagorean theorem every time they smell Cedarwood for the rest of their lives, or whatever scent has been married to whatever subject. It’s truly something to consider! The role scent plays in memory cannot be overstated, due to the construction of the brain, so making use of it is wise, but being thoughtful about it is kind.

Besides diffusing essential oils, making sprays can be another way to scent the room, and also to combat germs. Thieves oil is the classic germ buster, but many essential oils have anti-bacterial properties, and some are even anti-viral. Thyme is especially good for cold and flu time of year, and besides being antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral, it is antifungal too. You can use the spray you make not only as an air freshener, but also to wipe down desks and tabletops. You can also use sprays made from distilled water and essential oils as a body spray to help keep yourself or your student healthy. Just diffusing the essential oils into the air will help keep down the germs, and almost all the essential oils have some antiseptic properties so you can’t really choose badly in that respect. While more essential oils are antibacterial than antiviral, the following have both antibacterial and antiviral properties: Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon Eucalyptus, Garlic, Lavender, Onion, Oregano, Tea Tree, and Thyme. (Reference: Valerie Ann Wormwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.)

For more about what students and parents of students can do to combat anxiety and increase their study power, click the links, and here are two more posts on immune boosters for winter.

Although winter is an especially good time for bringing plants and essential oils into the classroom, students and teachers can benefit year round from a bit of nature in their shared space. Instead of gifting teachers apples, a potted plant or a bottle of essential oils might be the healthier option for all. Wishing you all the best in health and happiness~ do what it takes. You are worth it.

 

 

Herbal Journey

The other day an acquaintance asked me how long I’d been interested in herbs, and I went into a rambling story of formal and informal studies that were in no way chronological (nor coherent most likely), and it made me realize that I haven’t actually thought through my personal herbal journey, which means I also haven’t shared it here and that just seems wrong. So, the following is my attempt to write down this very organic path that I’ve traveled so far and give some links if anyone else is looking to study herbs and wants to move beyond books and websites.

Although I was the kind of kid who liked to play outside, I was really more of an animal lover than a plant lover, who declared I wanted to be “Caterpillar Queen” when I grew up and was intent on going to ‘dog heaven’ instead of human heaven. (When you grown up Catholic, you think quite a bit about the logistics of heaven.) My favorite thing to do indoors though, was when my sister and I would get out big bowls and mixing spoons and combine all the good smelling products in the house to make ‘perfume.’ This appalled my husband until he understood we weren’t using things like vinegar and baking soda, but instead used all the shampoos, conditioners, liquid soaps, perfumes, after-sun gels, lotions, body sprays, anything scented, and poured them all together. It was great fun to make these concoctions though of course it was all pretend play, and now that I think about it, we probably are indeed lucky we never caused a bad chemical reaction in our reckless mixing. (That would have been one cacophonous-scented blast.)

In high school I was drawn to the local natural foods store and would buy small amounts of herbs from the bulk bins to try as tea, as well as books about natural products and natural living. I honestly don’t remember why or how it all started because it wasn’t something we grew up talking about as a family philosophy or anything. The natural world, and herbs in particular, just resonated with me in a way that was impossible to ignore. It might have had something to do with the fact that I never really felt well, always a headache, constantly tired, always a “nervous stomach”, and the world of herbs and other naturals offered promises of health and well-being while modern medicine seemed stark, rigid, mildly toxic. and lacking creativity. And the natural things did help, especially the cleanses, but it wasn’t until I went off gluten that I got the biggest uptick in health and well-being. With my herbal books I learned to make natural masks and full-on facials with ingredients found in the kitchen, which was very reminiscent of the pretend play my sister and I did as younger children.

Right after college (English major) I worked at the natural foods store where I had once shopped, and started an herbal correspondence course with Wild Rose College. It was a great program that made me study a bit of anatomy, the healing process, iridology, and more (besides the herbs) and it wasn’t easy, so check out their programs if you are interested. At that time the natural foods store also had an employee education program that most people ignored but I dove in and loved it so vocally that I was given it to run when the coordinator couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like the luckiest person ever to have all that great free educational material about vitamins, minerals, oils, herbs, homeopathy, and so much more.

Then I had an herbal internship with herbalist Michael Pilarski who primarily wildcrafted herbs, made medicine with those herbs, and is a well-known authority on permaculture. I enjoyed the medicine-making days the most and also got to attend herbal classes and a conference while interning with him. It was a great learning experience.

I later worked for a natural foods and products distributor which meant more education and insight into the industry as well as the natural products themselves. It definitely helped to already have a strong herbal background as I remember very clearly going into a shop on Whidbey Island where the skeptical owner handed me a cup of herbal tea which I immediately identified as burdock and I won her over. (I was in sales/customer service which sometimes drew people who knew nothing about the actual products.) Plus, if you know what burdock tastes like, it’s kind of an acquired taste. Thank goodness it was an herb I was familiar with because there are so many herbs out there it’s not possible to know them all and that was the quickest way to earn trust ever!

While working for the distributor I went through a year-long herbal certificate program at Bellevue College which was run by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa. He has moved from the Seattle area now but was the president of the American Herbalists Guild for several years recently and has online courses mainly for people interested in using herbs professionally, but also classes for people just interested in a specific topic, such as Ayurveda. I believe he even still has some in-person programs like the kind I went through, so if you are interested in online or in-person classes, check out his website. I then had an internship with him for a couple of months where again my favorite aspect of it was making Ayurvedic kits to be used for spa-type rituals and panchakarma.

Afterwards, I started making my own herbal bath and body products with the name Dragonlily Herbs as well as giving classes in making herbal products. That did not last long though as first one baby and then quickly two took over all my time and energy. (And going back to school to get my MA in TESOL.) Now that the boys are older, I guess this is really just my second iteration of Dragonlily, with the addition of making my Luddite-soul fully embrace the online world.

Over the years I’ve also taken several other herbal classes about things I was specifically interested in such as the digestive system, thyroid, essential oils, skin herbs, and herbal crafting. Now that I’ve written all that down, I feel like I really should know a lot more than I do but there’s so much herbal knowledge out there from all different traditions and cultures that it’s hard not to constantly feel like what is left to learn is a vast ocean compared to what I already know. I’ve got a studious streak though so that endless learning aspect suits me just fine.

The links above to KP Khalsa’s site and the AHG will help if you happen to be looking for classes. Also Bastyr University and the American Botanical Council are good places to visit as well. I’ve got some herbal classes in the works myself, both in-person and online, that will focus on my favorite part of herbalism~ medicine-making and bath and body crafting. If you are interested, let me know what you most want covered. The focus will be on simplicity, beauty, and health, with an emphasis on the kinds of products that used to be part of everyone’s daily life before mass-market, chemical-laden commercialization became the norm. We deserve to hang on to our roots and customize our own health and body care as only our own selves possibly could. (Now that’s self-care!)

More on that soon, but in the meantime, could you do me a quick favor? I’ve made a short survey and I’d really appreciate your feedback~ it is just three short questions and I promise it’ll take less than one minute.

Survey here

Thank you so much! I would love to hear what drew you to herbs and where you are on your own herbal journey. Looking forward to hearing from you and best health to you and yours.

How to Make Your Own Toner

Toner is one of those things that I kind of hate buying but I can’t live without. It is used between cleansing the skin and putting on a serum and/or moisturizer, and it balances the pH of the skin as well as helps the serum/moisturizer spread evenly so you get the most out of those more expensive products. Since it is the first layer on your skin after washing it, it has the potential to really help your skin be its healthiest and therefore its glow-iest, but it’s a light product so there shouldn’t be too much in it. Leave it to the serums and moisturizers to pack in the heavier oils and such, but that doesn’t mean toner can’t have some amazing ingredients too. Making your own means you can tweak it for your specific skin needs and even add in ingredients that might be missing from your other skin care products. For example, if you know your skin could benefit from more Vitamin C but you happen to love your current serum which is Vitamin A based, you can make sure your toner is strong Vitamin C by using Hibiscus tea, Vitamin C powder, and/or orange peel.

One of the easiest ways to make toner is by using Witch Hazel as the base. In fact, you can just use Witch Hazel for a toner by itself or by adding essential oils to it. Witch Hazel balances skin, soothes irritations, tightens, firms, and refreshes the skin. You can use it to cleanse your skin by pouring some onto a cotton ball and wiping your face clean. To use as a toner, it’s nice to cut it a bit with distilled water, floral water, a hydrosol, or a glycerin extract of an herb such as rose or orange peels as mentioned above. You can also just use floral waters and hydrosols alone as a toner in which case Rose water is a popular choice.

I happen to be out of toner so I am making some with what I have on hand which is: Witch Hazel, distilled water, and essential oils of Carrot Seed and Geranium. Both of those essential oils have a plethora of beneficial properties for the skin from moisture-balancing to wrinkle-fighting, and are good for dry, oily, mature, and/or combination skin. Their wide-ranging benefits for all different kinds of skin types make them similar to Rose essential oil, but a lot less expensive.

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Toner Recipe:

1/8 C Witch Hazel

1/8 C Distilled Water (a floral water or hydrosol would work beautifully too)

4 Drops Geranium Essential Oil

3 Drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil

2 oz. glass bottle with a spray top

Be sure to label your product and to shake your toner before each use.

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Speaking of different skin types, here’s an infographic from Delicious Living on best natural ingredient for different types of skin. Some of these could be added to a toner, while others work better in a mask, serum, or moisturizer. Borlind_infographic_3

Happy creating and beautifying everyone! You deserve to shine with optimal health.

Cold and Flu Season

A few posts back I wrote about some great immune boosters that had recently been sent my way in the new hope blogger box. Now that we are in the thick of cold and flu season, I thought I’d also post some other natural products that help us fight the good fight against those nasty viruses and bacteria that like to get social this time of year.

Essential Oils:

Essential oils are great germ fighters and immune helpers with some more potent than others in their anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral properties. If you just want to have one go-to blend for fighting all the winter sicknesses that get around, then Thieves oil is what you want. Thieves oil has a great story to it, though whether it is more history or mythology is anyone’s guess. I like to think the story had to start somewhere, so why not in an actual event? The story has several variations, but basically they all say something along the lines of this: During the Middle Ages there were four thieves in France who used to rob the graves (or the houses) of those who had died of the Plague and managed to not get ill themselves. When they were eventually caught, they were given a lighter punishment in return for telling how they did it. The four thieves admitted they used herbs (most likely soaked in vinegar at that time) to keep themselves from getting the disease. They knew how to do this because among them were perfumers and spice traders who at the time understood the anti-biotic and anti-viral properties of their goods. Their blend has passed down to us through all these centuries, though the actual recipes vary depending on who’s making it. Usually the blends include: clove, lemon, eucalyptus, cinnamon and rosemary, and then different makers add in their own special favorites. You can find it as Thieves Oil, Medieval Mix Oil, Bandits Oil, and I’m sure other names as well.

Thyme oil is another great anti-germ essential oil. You can make a room spray for wiping down surfaces or use it in an diffuser for infusing the air with its strong anti-viral properties. Thyme also repels insects and combines particularly well with Lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils to kill any bacteria or viruses around, which makes it a great blend to have along for classrooms, workplaces, and travel.

If you have congestion in your nose or chest, nothing beats Eucalyptus Oil for loosening it up and helping you breathe. Putting it in a diffuser or flicking some on the back of a shower before starting the water are great ways to get the Eucalyptus into the air. If needed, I’ll put a drop right on the front of a shirt or on a pillow if it’s bedtime.

Herbs:

There are plenty of immune boosting herbs to help you avoid getting sick that also help you get well faster if you do get sick since sometimes it is just unavoidable, but there are two that almost always get center stage in any immune blend~ Echinacea and Astragalus. Tinctures and teas are a great way to take immune boosting herbs if you are already sick, and you can also add Astragalus to soup and you might be lucky enough to find it fresh in your local produce section. (It’s a root.) Herb Pharm makes quite a few immune support blends in tincture form, from a daily builder to use before getting sick, to a rapid defense once you are sick, one specifically for viruses, and one for kids. Yogi Teas has an assortment of immune boosting teas such as this one and this one. I put the powdered root of Astragalus into my adaptogen blend during the winter for daily immune system support and because it also has adaptogenic properties.

Elderberry is another cold season herb that is a must have in your personal natural medicine cabinet. It is in a lot of cold formulas and syrups so it is an easy herb to add. Besides this kind of formula there are lozenges that one of my son sucks on all school year long, though it’s more about the yummy taste in his mind.

A few other herbs to aid the immune system are medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Oregon Grape Root, Lomatium, and Garlic. Any time you can add any of these to your teas, daily supplement regime, and/or diet help keep your immune system in top form.

Homeopathy:

There are a couple of homeopathic medicines that can really help shorten a cold or flu and lessen the symptoms. As soon as you start to feel flu-type aches and pains, fever, and such, your best bet is to take Oscillococcinum as soon as possible. This means having it on hand at all times, just in case, because it really only works if you get it in you before the flu really takes hold. Follow the directions on the box for how much/often to take it.

Another homeopathic medicine that really should be taken at the first sign of a cold or flu is Umcka, but with this one even if you don’t get it going immediately, it’ll still lessen the duration and intensity of the cold or flu when you do start taking it. I keep a cold formula and a cold/flu formula on hand all winter long because it always seems to be nighttime when one of us starts to feel bad. There are many versions of this medicine from a hot drink to an over-the-counter-style liquid, and it’s tasty enough for kids. (Mine love it.)

Vitamins, Minerals, and Others:

Vitamin C is of course the go-to vitamin for helping the immune system fight little invaders. Be mindful that our bodies get used to the amount of vitamin C we normally take so a large, sudden increase can result in diarrhea. Vitamin D has become more well-known lately for its role in immune system support so it can be found in some wellness formulas such as this Emergen-C fizzy drink, and if you are lucky, in the sunshine. Zinc is also recognized as an important component in immune boosting and can be found in the Zand Elderberry lozenges above as well as other wellness formulas.

Probiotics are an integral part of the immune system. Taking them regularly helps keep you well, and if you go through a round of antibiotics, hit the probiotics hard afterwards, and even during the antibiotic treatment. Just make sure to take them at least two hours after taking the antibiotics.

One more thing I feel compelled to mention is drinking anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. The bottle must say “with the mother” in order for it to be actively healing. If you feel something coming on, then drinking this three times a day will help your immune system fight it. It is strong tasting at first so starting with as small of an amount that you can get down is fine. I promise it grows on you and you can increase the amount you put in water for greater health boosting. Apple cider vinegar does a host of  good and I drink it every morning all year long (1 tablespoon in a glass of water) to prepare my digestive system for the day.

Keep well everyone and please share this with anyone who needs some immune support this winter.

Herbs and Supplements for Students

Students have specific needs whether they are in middle school or pursuing their third Master’s Degree. Some of these suggestions meet the needs of all students, while some are just for the older set. Most of these herbs and products are focused on either brain function or stress management so people other than students can certainly benefit from them as well.

There are several herbs known for brain functioning enhancement, and interestingly enough, a few of them happen to be adaptogens too which help with overall stress management. Adaptogenic herbs Ashwagandha, Tulsi, and Gotu Kola have also been traditionally used for brain functioning as well as their adaptogenic over-all body balancing benefits. Ginkgo Biloba is another herb known to enhance brain functioning with benefits to clarity, mood, and memory also traditionally observed and is especially good for the aging brain.

Blends are a great option for getting several ingredients that work together in a synergistic way in one supplement. Gaia Herbs makes one that comes in capsules, while Herb Pharm has one in tincture form. Herb Pharm also has an alcohol free one for kids to help with concentration. There is another tincture option from Anima Mundi which is a newer line of herbal products that are well-formulated and well-made. The video below has a brain function supplement from Neurohacker Collective that actually came to me through the New Hope Blogger Box of which I am a member. The packaging of this supplement called Qualia is so beautiful that it is gift-worthy, and honestly, pictures didn’t do it justice so I made the video below. You should check out their website for more information because these supplements are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, and surely other ingredients I didn’t even catch.

Also in that video is Spice Pharm‘s Chocolate Elixir which is a great herbal drink that tastes like hot chocolate, has Ashwagandha and Turmeric in it, and helps reduce stress and hunger pangs. They also make a Golden Chai which is another delicious, healthy option for students and anyone else who is a chai lover.

Other herbs for stress management include herbs under the classification of adaptogens and nervines. Adaptogens are for long-term balancing and should be taken on a daily basis throughout a lifetime, while nervines are more for getting through specific events or tough times, unless there is a continual need to fight anxiety or depression, in which case the nervines can be taken long-term as well. I have rather lengthy posts already on adaptogens and nervines so click the links if you haven’t already read your fill about those. If I were to send a care package to a college student, I would definitely include a powdered mix of adaptogens that are also brain specific like the three mentioned above, and a tincture or two of an anxiety/stress-buster blend.

Other products that can help students, especially those living in dorms, are powdered greens. It’s hard to get all the fresh produce that a working-hard brain needs when living away from home, so a greens mix is a nice supplement to include to enhance daily nutrition. There are several good ones out there but this one by Food Science of Vermont which I received recently in that same New Hope Blogger Box is doctor formulated and enhanced with probiotics and enzymes. Just mix half a scoop in 8 oz. of water or juice.

Essential oils can also be used for students of all ages for stress reduction and also for clarity and memory enhancement. Rosemary essential oil is the best known scent for memory, and actually the fresh or dried herb can be used for cognitive functioning as well so it’s a great plant to have in study areas, although not the best for sleeping rooms since it is stimulating. Any essential oil can be used for studying though, and in fact it is best to change up the oils used according to the subject being studied. If you or your student is studying for a math test for example, you could diffuse the essential oil of orange in the room while working on it, then during or just before the test sniff that same scent. Then when it’s time to study for History, you would use a different scent, such as cinnamon, then again have the scent available to smell during or just before taking the test. In other words, it doesn’t matter what scent you use as long as it is a scent you can smell at the time of studying, and then again at the time of test-taking. You can take the scent along with you by putting it on a cotton ball, sticking it in a sealed plastic bag, then sniffing it before the test, or even better, you can make an oil with it and put it on your neck before the test. (Use 6 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of base oil.) Scent really helps with memory so it is a great tool to use for studies.

Students of all ages are working hard and handling stress to differing degrees. There is plenty of help for them in terms of nutrition, brain functioning, and stress management. Please share this with any student or parent of student that you know who might be looking for natural help with the hard work associated schoolwork.

Nervines and Other Natural Help for Stress and Anxiety

Ahh, the holidays….nothing like high expectations and extra obligations to turn up the heat on stress and anxiety levels. It’s a shame that the most joyful, festive, family-oriented time of year also has to be one of the hardest for many people. Stress and anxiety cause problems all year long of course, but it seems like this time of year people are rushing around much more with longer to-do lists and shorter fuses. Luckily for us, the natural world has plenty of help to offer, so much so that it seems pretty clear that nature would really like to tell all of us to chill out a bit. Since there are so many options out there, I’ve limited this post to just a few herbal and natural choices that cover the range of stress and anxiety from mild to intense but it’s still rather long. If you don’t see what you are looking for, feel free to contact me.

Nervines are a class of herbs that focus on the nervous system. They share similarities with adaptogens, which I posted about earlier, which are a different class of herbs that offer help with stress and anxiety by balancing out the body overall, with specific attention paid to the endocrine system. A great, concise article about the difference between adaptogens and nervines and when to use which can be found here. Nervines are good for any kind of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and certain types of pain. They range in their strength from gentle tonic (such as Skullcap) to powerful sedative (such as Valerian). Most fall in-between the extremes and you can find plenty of blends that allow the herbs to work in a synergistic way.

Kava Kava is one of the most popular calming herbs, but it’s also an herb that has some warnings attached to it. Although it’s been in use in the South Pacific for it’s relaxing and euphoric qualities since ancient times, there have been a couple of issues recently that could indicate Kava might be damaging to certain people’s livers. It’s all quite inconclusive but some products do come with a warning on it, and some stores just stopped selling it, although it is still readily available in capsules, tinctures, and teas both online and found at brick and mortar stores. If you have an overload of toxins in your body, or a compromised liver for any reason, you might want to stick to other calming herbs or blend of herbs. Also, if you are taking it as a tincture, be prepared for it to numb your lips at first~ that just means it’s a potent product and it is a good sign.

Valerian which is also found in tincture, pill, or tea form is deeply relaxing and often part of herbal sleep aides. If you are not familiar with the herb, be forewarned that it has a strong scent although it doesn’t taste bad at all. More than once I’ve smelled the herb near someone or in their pocket and mistakenly thought the person was ill because it is that strong (and I have an over-active nose). If you need to address insomnia, Valerian is a good place to start.

Skullcap is also found in insomnia formulas but is milder and can be used throughout the day as a tonic for the nervous system. This is a particularly good herb for you if you find that your brain gets stuck on repeating anxious thoughts or has circular patterns of negativity.  Capsules and tea forms are also available.

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Blends are a healthy option if you are not sure which herb is best for you. Herb Pharm makes one which has a unique lavender taste and also comes in capsule form.

 

For children, the line Herbs for Kids makes a couple of non-alcoholic blends, a Valerian based one and a milder Chamomile based option. Herb Pharm also makes a kid- friendly blend to help with nighttime and nap-time that is also alcohol-free.

Most people know St. John’s Wort is good for minor depression such as the kind caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It takes two to three weeks to feel the benefits of this mild tonic nervine but it really does have the ability to make one’s outlook a bit sunnier. In fact, St. John’s Wort can increase one’s photo-sensitivity so if you live in a sunny climate, do be aware that your skin just might surprise you with its quicker than usual darkening  or reddening. I actually love this about the herb because SAD is related to lack of sunshine and vitamin D, so what does St. John’s Wort do? Increases your sensitivity to the sun! All the citrus essential oils act in the same way by the way~ they too increase your photo-sensitivity and they are also anti-depressants, so if you are using them in a body oil or body spray you should keep that in mind.

A word about deciding how to take your nervines. Tinctures are a great option because if you put the liquid right under your tongue you will feel the effects almost immediately. (It might burn so have some water nearby to wash the rest down your throat.) Stress and anxiety often lead to less than optimal digestion which may inhibit the results of a capsule or tablet, so if you use a tincture or tea, that alleviates the potential problem of not getting the most out of your supplement (and therefore your money). Of course, use whatever form works best for you because in the end, the best form is the form you actually take.

There are other natural products that help with stress and anxiety as well. B vitamins are important for daily stress management and are often even labeled with the word ‘stress’ right on the front them. If your daily tension levels are high then looking into a total B could prove beneficial.

As discussed earlier, vitamin D plays a role in SAD and is especially important in places where the word ‘overcast’ is in the daily forecast. Using a liquid formula is the most affective way to take D, other than getting at least a half hour of sunshine on some bare skin every day. (And that includes no sunscreen for that half hour.)

For times when your anxiety is high because of a certain event, or you are anticipating something stressful, then GABA might be your answer. GABA is a neurotransmitter already found in our brain that has anti-anxiety action. This study gives a brief explanation of one test and what the results were if you are interested. My naturopath actually first suggested GABA to me for times when I had to take my kids to get shots because of the extreme stress around those situations. (The GABA was suggested for my kids but I needed it too!) We use the chewables or lozenges because they are faster acting and personally, I feel the effects far greater than with capsules.

Essential oils are really at their prime working on stress and anxiety. They are definitely nature’s messengers telling us silly humans to relax, enjoy beauty, and quite literally to stop and smell the roses, or at least the rose oil. Neroli blossoms used to always be part of bridal bouquets because of their calming attributes and the essential oil continues that tradition of being a powerful anti-anxiety oil. Lavender is well-known as a relaxing scent and it combines beautifully with almost any other essential oil. Combining it with Neroli creates an affective anti-anxiety spray or oil, and combining Lavender with a citrus oil creates a lovely uplifting scent for diffusing or wearing. As mentioned above, all the citrus oils are anti-depressant (and also mildly stimulating), but the best ones for uplifting your mood are  Orange, Grapefruit, and Bergamot.

Clary Sage is often referred to as a ‘euphoric’ and it combines well with Bergamot for an uplifting, anti-depressant effect. I like to make body/room sprays that are half Clary Sage and half BergamotF5819F24-E430-43E6-A5D7-C2277A95D067[1]

Making body oils is a great way to wear your anti-anxiety and anti-stress essential oils like a shield. You can put the oil on the bottom of your feet, all over your body, or make a stronger scented perfume oil or spray that you can reapply to your pressure points throughout the day. There are so many natural options for help with stress and anxiety that you really don’t need to just push through those moments, days, or seasons alone. Of course, always consult a medical professional if you are struggling to the point of it disrupting your daily activities, but know there are plenty of natural options to help you enjoy your life fully and with optimal health.

Peace to all of you this season and please share this with anyone who might be looking for a little natural help with stress, depression, and/or anxiety.

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.

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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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.

 

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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