Spring is just around the corner! The days are getting longer, the crocuses are blooming, and the sun is shining more, and the days are getting slowly warmer. It’s almost time to open all the windows, shake out the rugs, and clean behind the furniture. Yes, spring cleaning!
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Pau D’arco - tabebuia impetiginosa - is one of my favorite barks. It hails from the mountains of South America, so it is a foreign visitor, but a most welcomed and respected one. Pau D’arco has an astringent, aromatic taste, making for one delicious cup of tea. I like to add it to my home-made chai, my adaptogen tea, and to my immune boosting syrup.
8 Hugs a Day
For more than 2 years now I have had a practice of sharing 8 hugs a day. Why? Hugs promote the release of oxytosin, also known as the ‘love chemical,’ ‘trust molecule,’ and even ‘morality molecule.’ Oxytosin is also released while singing, holding hands, snuggling, and during childbirth, breastfeeding, and sex. It promotes a feeling of belonging and facilitates a feeling of trust and cooperation. Oxytosin reduces stress and anxiety levels, and may even help regulate metabolism.
Ginger Honey Lemonade for Colds
Chinese medicine explains that there are two kinds of colds – ‘hot’ colds and ‘cold’ colds. With a ‘hot’ cold, you are sweating and throwing off the covers; with a ‘cold’ cold you are piling on the layers and shivering. It is very common for one to experience both of these conditions intermittently throughout one cold; you may experience a 'cold' cold in the morning, then then 2 hours later experience a 'hot' cold. It is best to drink warm beverages and eat warm foods and soups during a ‘cold’ stage of a cold; and to drink cool beverages and eat cooling foods and soups during a ‘hot’ stage of a cold. I find this dynamic view of a cold to be very helpful and that tailoring your food and drink intake to your current body state can help you to recover more quickly. Chicken soup is great for a ‘cold’ cold, but later when you are sweating it may be the last thing you want.
Water, Water, Everywhere.
Water is one of the most important nutrients required by the human body, and yet so many of us take it for granted. Water has numerous roles in the human body. It acts as "a building material; as a solvent, reaction medium and reactant; as a carrier for nutrients and waste products; in thermoregulation; and as a lubricant and shock absorber" (Jequier & Constant). Well more than half of our bodies are made out of water! And yet, in the cold of winter, I find myself drinking much less water than is optimal, which is exacerbated by the drying action of my electric heat. Even in the warmer months, I find myself suggesting increased water intake to almost all of the clients I see as an herbalist. It seems that in our very busy lives, hydration can sometimes take the backseat. It can be difficult to remember to drink water when you are busy doing a hundred other things. I would like to offer here some tips and tricks that have been very helpful for me in increasing my overall water intake and awareness of my hydration level.
Astragalus membranaceus – a perennial member of the pea family, astragalus is native to China and often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As an adaptogen, astragalus helps the body to be more resilient in coping with internal and external stressors from mental and emotional stress to the cold and flu season. Astragalus is supremely suited for boosting the immunity and helps to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, mononucleosis, pneumonia, and a myriad of other infections. Astragalus improves digestion and aids the lungs. Energetically, astragalus improves the body’s defenses, or “wei qi” while reducing excessive sweating. Susun Weed says that astragalus is one of the best herbs for preventing contraction of Lyme disease. Astragalus also protects the liver and kidneys, and is specifically helpful in preventing immune-suppression caused by chemotherapy. It also has tumor-inhibiting activity and high levels of anti-oxidants.
Given the current controversy around this traditional home remedy* and the snow falling outside my window, this seems like a perfect time to share a fire cider recipe! Fire cider is a spicy, sour, and sweet winter tonic that burns away obstacles, from the cold and flu to cloudy thinking and low energy. Many people use apple cider vinegar alone as a daily tonic for its various health benefits. Fire cider steps it up a few more notches! A great winter tonic for those of us who tend to be cold bodied, fire cider is an integral part of every home medicine cabinet.