Tag Archives: herbs

The Great Do-Over Pt. 2 – Sleep, Rosehips, Nettles, Lemon Balm and Digestion

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I have begun the process of re-prioritizing my health and the choices that I make which impact it.  The latter is a long list, sigh.  It’s a funny thing how the mind can convince you that just because you know better means you are doing right.  It doesn’t.   I know how to ensure quality restorative sleep.  I do  the opposite.  I know how to feed and fortify my body against disease and illness.  I choose to eat as much taxing junk as I can get away with.  I know how to release and protect against the serious damage of daily and circumstantial stress.   I act like every other over stressed, adrenally fatigued person I know.   I know how to use herbs to rebuild my body, but I fail to do much but forget them in my cabinet because herbs heal by shear proximity, right?
Step one has been to take a good look at all these moment by moment, day by day choices and see what reality I’ve created over the past couple of years, the proof being in the pain pudding.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been consistently replacing breakfast and lunch with a large mug of broth.  This is one that I thought would be difficult, especially with the whole family at home eating actual meals, but it hasn’t been difficult at all.  As I’m beginning this I am dealing with

  • one or two days of pain per month,
  • at least two weeks of heavy fatigue each month,
  • difficulty in falling asleep, difficulty in staying asleep,
  • difficulty digesting food (stomach bloating, churning)
  • several times per month I get a terrible electrical feeling in my body that is tied to intestinal irritation
  • sensitivity to gluten, guar and xantham gum, carageenan, corn derivatives, beans, tomato sauce/paste, potato and potato derivatives

These are all things that allow me to live my life, but limit it surely.  My goal is to regain complete health and freedom from all Fibro/CFS symptoms as I did for 2008/09.

To prepare I placed a bulk order with Mountain Rose Herbs.  I will outline each of the herbs as I add them to my routine.

To help with sleep I have begun using approximately 30 drops of Skullcap tincture along with 5 drops of Motherwort tincture, and 5 drops of Five Flower Formula.  I take it twenty minutes before going to bed.  Whenever possible I take a 30 minute long bath that is as hot as I can tolerate (meaning I have to ease myself into it very slowly and likely don’t lay down for several minutes – about 112 degrees) just before going to bed.  If I’ve done it right when I get out of the bath I will have the “I need to lay down and don’t care if I’m dry” feeling and will fall directly to sleep.  If I’m having a night where I feel certain that I won’t fall asleep readily I add a soothing essential oil to the bath like Lavender or Clary Sage (clary sage being my preference), and drink a night time tea that includes things like chamomile, passionflower, etc.  On such nights I play an effective guided relaxation/hypnosis/meditation by Jan Bennet Collier while I fall asleep.

Sleep is a top priority.  Nothing else that I can do will bring the heft of results that restorative sleep will bring.  This week’s goal is to regain control of my bedtime and what I do with myself in the hour leading up to it.  I long ago abandoned my nighttime routine and schedule to disastrous results.  This week I’m aiming for a consistent 10:30pm bedtime, with no stimulating media for an hour before bed.  This means that I will be staying off of the computer (or TV if I had one) and be skipping any books that are emotionally charged or cognitively stimulating, in favor of soothing, calming works like Shambhala Sun Magazine, Eckhart Tolle, Pema Chodron, etc.  These are things that bring me a sense of peace, quiet and certainty at the end of a day.  In fact I need to get back to reading them until I regain that place of keeping peace, quiet and certainty with me throughout the day.  If you read through the Cage Free Family archives you can see those things slip from my writing over time.  I regain them here and there, but I eventually lose them and lose my thread of writing altogether.

Of the herbs that I ordered I have introduced three of them into my every day, Lemon Balm, Rosehips, and Stinging Nettles.  I drink the Lemon Balm and Rosehips together as my morning tea, which I have with my cup of broth when I first wake up.  Together they make a really yummy citrusy tea with added honey.  I brew them, covered, for 15 minutes each morning.

The Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and is powerfully soothing to the nervous system treating everything from anxiety and depression to very tough viruses like Herpes and Mono.  It eases the heart and the mind (much like Motherwort) and is a wonderful tonic not just for those with chronic illness or sleeplessness, but for anyone dealing with daily stress.  It has long been absent from my routine, and I am better for having it back.

Rosehips, which are actually the fruit of the rose bush, boast one of the most concentrated sources of Vitamin C available from plant or animal. In addition, they contain assimilable and high levels of iron.  Not by accident, the key to digesting and using iron is the presence of Vitamin C.  They strengthen the tissues of the body, support the vascular system, are cooling to the body and tonic for the mind, they treat chronic diahreah as well as stomach weakness.  Native American’s used Rosehips to treat muscle cramps, and they contain many vitamins and other beneficial supplements, including lycopene, essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, pectin, sugar, resin, wax, malates, citrates and other salts, tannin, malic and citrus acids, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zin c and vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, C, D, E and K.

For the all-amazing Nettles I make an infusion every night before bed and drink it all day.  Aside from it’s truly incredible list of balanced vitamins, minerals and protein (yes, protein!!) it is long renowned for it’s benefits for the kidneys (one of our toxin elimination pathways) and the adrenal system (what sick person isn’t dealing with adrenal stress, heck, what modern person isn’t?)   Herbalist Susun Weed says “A quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.  There is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even bluegreen algae; and nettle is much more reasonably priced than any supplement, especially if you buy more than an ounce or two at a time.”  It is amazing for increasing energy and general wellbeing.  For more info click here.

In addition to the herbs I am dealing with my poor digestion with the introduction of Betaine HCI and a pancreatic enzyme that contains amylase, protease, and lipase.  I have found that taking these with a meal eliminates the painful bloating and the hours of churning.  Both are available at any herb or natural food store as well as many sources online like Amazon.

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Management of Pain While Healing

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Manage. This is what I did for myself in the beginning. I managed.  Once I realized that this is what I was doing, a whole world of options opened up to me.  As I researched managing pain I found a wealth of information from hospice workers.  The most helpful came from reading Buddhist Teacher, Zen Priest, Medical Anthropologist, and Author Joan Halifax.  At first reading about pain was scary, but quickly it was quieting. Comforting.  I started learning about meditative management of pain.  No, it wasn’t easy.  Often I didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand words, ideas, faiths.  I didn’t want to sit, I couldn’t focus, I had no patience, and was easily bored, but I did it.  My life became about this.  I eliminated all  non essential things in my life that interfered with this new focus.  Yes, this included unsupportive family and friends.  This was a matter of life and death.  Death being the life swallowing symptoms I was working against.

I knew nothing of Buddhism.  I knew little about what meditation really was.  I just moved forward.  I focused.  I bought a Buddhist magazine called Shambhala Sun, I read, and read, and read.  As I did this I started to learn that I could quiet my body’s reaction to pain, to stress, to fear and especially to outside factors like loud children, traffic noise, phone calls.  I started to become aware of myself and my body in a way that had seemed dangerous all of those years before.  I had spent half a life time learning to ignore what I was feeling so that I could survive.  Now I was focusing on it.  Everything started to slow down. Slooooow down.  Feelings and pain and stress and fear stopped flying at me and floated around instead.  I started feeling separate of these things.  A big shift from feeling like I was made of them.

The pain still rose up, but it wasn’t having the same effect on me.  It wasn’t so sharp, so unbearable.  I started to understand this ‘Brain-fog’ thing because I could see it more clearly.  I wasn’t fogged.  I wasn’t confused.  I didn’t have memory troubles.  I was tired.  My brain was tired.  Sometimes more than others.  From this tired brain place it was easy to go on auto pilot and react to the world as it happened to me.  As I slowed down and became more aware of all that was happening in my body I was able to slow down the world around me too.  When previously I could not find time for sleep, or accomplish it, I was now able to open up space for this in my life.  Even when I meant bringing the kids into the bedroom with me, setting the up with something and napping between them.  Bit by bit the life inside our home changed to accomodate what I needed.  I did not make a list and demand that it adopted by my family so that they could tell me why this could not happen.  I moved life myself.  I changed and it affected change.

Remaining calm and peaceful became a high priority.  When my family realized how much more functional and healthy I could be in a calm environment they started to prioritize this too.  It wasn’t over night.  We didn’t know what was happening as it was happening.  It just shifted, imperceptibly, as I shifted.  As we realized that I was getting better, even in the presence of devestating regressions, it became easier to allow me the things that I needed to get better.  When we began to believe (together) that I would get well, it became simple to make sure that we were protecting that progress by letting other priorities go for a while.  Life shifted.  It became about healing.  Living was put aside.  Chores, expectations, commitments, these things were placed below all things that led to healing.

It was like starting to finally see a hint of that light that was supposed to be at the end of the lightless tunnel I had started traveling.  It was the breath of life, the ray of sun, that was rewarded after all the promiseless trials.  And there were many, many promiseless trials.  There were more coming too.  It didn’t really matter though.  This healing thing had taken a life of it’s own and I was being carried through it, pushed through it, pulled through it and sometimes crawling through it of sheer will.

I had no idea how long this tunnel was.  I had no idea how far I may or may not have come.  There came a point when it didn’t matter anymore.  I wasn’t focused on the light at the end.  I was learning to focus on the best here and now that could be achieved.  I was learning to experience each moment in the best way possible, pain or no, fatigue or no, strain or percieved failure or not.  Each thing was going to be experienced in the best way that it could be.

It was an astounding lack of judgment.  It took me a while to realize that shift, but when I did it opened up yet another stash of tools for the process.

I read more.  I perused the book ads and reviews in Shamala sun and found two books that would become very important to me.  Two books that would act like security blankets and start to carry me back into every day life.  They were The Four Agreements and The Power of Now.  If someone had told me that these two books would have anything to do with healing I would never have picked them up.  I wouldn’t have believed such a thing and thus would have chosen to not waste my time.  But no one told me that and they intrigued me, so I was able to pick them both up and simply read.

I read them ever, ever so slowly.  Trying to understand every single sentence.  To follow every single paradigm shift, and to take a break when I couldn’t follow anymore.

I was truly astounded to discover that these two books helped me manage the pain.  It went against everything I had ever been taught, told or previously believed, but it was very real.

I was getting better and it was time to refine my practice… discover what was truly working and give it more.  Learn more.  Heal more.

Update – Week 1

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It’s been about a week with the aforementioned changes in place and there is a definite improvement.  I’ve been taking St. John’s Wort and Skullcap tinctures every 4-5 hours and it’s been sufficient to keep the pain in check for the past four days.

Friday was a pretty painful day and I wound up taking a dose of Vicodin in the morning while I had the kids at the park, which sucked.  I also had an 8oz decaf Americano on the way.  All in all not the best morning.  I over did it on account of the Vicodin, so that when it wore off a few hours later I felt positively wrecked.  Miserable.  I drank about a quart of water while we were out, but this was definitely not enough to counter the desert sun and wind, the dried fruits and nuts we were snacking on, or the diuretic effect of the coffee.  I had another pint of water in the car on the way home, but this was too little too late and I could feel the burning feeling that I get in my bones, eyes, mouth, nose and ears that comes of not enough water.

Yesterday was similar in the hydration department.  I tend to forget to drink enough early in the day, not noticing until I start to feel those icky signs of dehydration.  Then I have to drink a lot all at once to try to catch up and douse the rising pain.  This kept me up for an extra hour last night so that I could get in that last quart of water.  Which of course led to three trips to the bathroom in the first 90 minutes of sleep.  Again, not the best I could have done, but it was a productive day with very little pain.

Today I woke up completely free of pain after a fairly heavy night of sleep (after the initial interuptions) and feeling well enough to get ready for a trip to town straight out of bed.   I had the energy to oil my skin, braid my hair and dig through the summer clothes for a new T-shirt to wear.

I had dried fruit, nuts and tea for breakfast and followed it up with a quart of water dosed with a chlorophyll supplement called Chloroxygen, 25 drops of St. John’s Wort, and 60 drops of Echinacea.  I also took two capsules of probiotics, and a teaspoon of fermented cod liver oil.

I had a couple of slips with food this week that resulted in feeling icky.  Even though the package says “no ADDED MSG”, the organic Beef broth available here definitely has MSG derivatives in it.  I rarely have access to organic beef stew bones, so when I need beef broth we wind up buying it.  I always regret it though.  It’s not worth it and I will begin substituting veggie broth or chicken broth instead.  I always keep my vegetable scraps in a a bag in the freezer for making a no cost veggie broth and we have a beautifully rich chicken stock everytime we cook with chicken since we always buy it either whole or as bone-in pieces.

For more info on how I keep us (a family of 5)  in a totally organic, whole food diet for $400-$700 per month (depending on what I have to work with) you can check out this post. Or this one.  I’m planning to write a lot more about eating healthy on a serious budget, menu planning, dealing with food limitations, and the like.  Whenever I do, I’ll copy a link to the posts here.

Another slip I had this week was Alden’s Organic Ice Cream.  It has soy lecithin in it, which bothers me at this lowered level of health.  At healthier times when I’ve been living within the rules for months Alden’s Organic Ice Cream is an acceptable treat, but I have to limit to once or twice in a week and not repeat the treat too often in a month.

It seems complicated, but it’s rather like learning the same rules you learned as a child:  We don’t run into the road without looking, we don’t eat too much Halloween candy, ice cream for breakfast is not okay, onions and peanut butter don’t go together, etc.  Once you get it, you get it and it’s a choice whether you adhere or not.

To our health!

xoxo

Aimee