Archive for April, 2013

No Magic About It

Posted on April 29, 2013. Filed under: Food and Cooking, Healing, Random Musings |

I wanted to share a thought that has been bubbling in my brain about herbalism gone wrong or perhaps misused.   I recently had a couple of encounters with what I sometimes call magic pill herbalism or thinking of healing as a magic pill.   Something I’ve always been a bit suspicious of.

Suspicious Cat (Photo by Michael Blackmore - Mad Crow Herbalism)

Suspicious Cat (Photo by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbalism)

Suspicious Cat is also suspicious of such things!

Not too long ago I had a couple of people tell me about their stress problems, adrenal fatigue and how they were taking adaptogens and licorice to help out with that but how they were still having problems.   And in parallel to that was remembering the seasonal rush in the fall by folks to use herbs that stimulate the immune system during cold and flu season and when they felt something coming on.

But as I mentioned to a couple of people – that’s a classic case of the cart before the horse.  What you really need to be doing is give the body something to support it in doing all these things.   Don’t forget your nutrients – the vitamins and minerals your body needs to deal with the losses caused by stress and to support a ramping up of the immune system.

Otherwise, all you’re doing is flooring the gas pedal and not filling the tank and you’re just speeding up the time until you completely crash.

I think that is one of the things I see happen a lot with folks who go crazy with immune stimulating herbs intending to prevent getting sick.   They keep revving the immune system without increasing the things the body needs to do that, then when they get sick they get sick bad.

As a rule of thumb we in the US don’t have a problem with too little protein or calories in our diet, but we generally have a chronic one with vitamins and minerals – which gets accentuated by stress and illness as the body uses these even more quickly and they were already in short supply.

Now I’m not going to go into a whose diet is better debate or advocate a particular diet – but I do think a parody of West Side Story with Paleos and Vegans would be rocking and I may someday write it.   I will just throw out some things both sides could deal with.

Don’t neglect seaweed in your diet if you can deal with it.  Seaweeds (nori rolls do not actually count since they are so processed the seaweed goodness is essentially gone!) are packed with awesome collections of vitamins and minerals – one of the true superfoods.

In the classic world of herbalism you can’t go wrong with stinging nettles which are practically the next best thing and probably overtaking your yard if you look!  Steam them like spinach, throw them in soups – but probably not  raw salad unless you like a numb tongue. 😉

Even just making sure you get a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables in your diet is amazingly important in general, but especially if you’re sick, stressed, etc.  Think soups.  Seriously it is not an accident soups are so helpful when you are sick – it’s probably the largest variety of vegetables most Americans get in their typical diet.  Which is incredibly sad.

Really, all I’m saying is I love herbs…they’re great, but step away from treating them like magic pills and remember about eating right.    Don’t just go for herbs when you are under stress, tired, sick or taking things to up the immune system, remember that is the best time to add more vitamins and minerals into your diet through eating a variety of good foods too.  Use the herbs to support you while you work to provide the body with what it needs to work with them! 🙂

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Skullcap, so happy together

Posted on April 15, 2013. Filed under: Herb(s) of the Week, Plant Friends, Yoga |

In a way, I’m shocked that I haven’t written about Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora; Family: Lamiaceae, Mint) yet. Seriously one of my favorite herbs and my special nervine partner.

I just love it.

So much so that I can’t think of it, see it or hear about it without the Turtles song “Happy Together” running through my head.

 

Heck, I think my herby friends have a lottery going to see how long before I start humming the tune after someone says Skullcap.

Some of the other commons names for it are: Blue Skullcap, Hoodwort, Virginian Skullcap, Mad-dog Skullcap. Mad-dog Skullcap being the most amusing for its dubious use in the past for rabies.

Skullcap is a classic nervine, sedative, a bit of a bitter and mild antispasmodic. It is high in minerals useful for the nervous system, so it nourishes and supports it to help calm stress and anxiety. It’s a very commonly used for insomnia and pairs particularly well with Chamomile for sleeping issues in general.

Different nervines have different affinities and are better suited for some folks than others depending on their nature and the nature of the issue they are working on.   I tend to think of Skullcap as best for when you’re finding your nervous system is over stimulated and needs help to tone down.

My first flush of love for Skullcap was when used to have a dreadful time sleeping at night and it was a regular part of a tea blend to help me sleep. Nowadays that isn’t so much an issue for me and my regular use of Skullcap fell by the wayside, then I re-discovered it in another way.

Skullcap ties nicely with releasing tension in skeletal muscles, and helps ease muscle tension in general – especially related to stress as well as general physical or emotional exhaustion. It’s not a full on muscle relaxant, you’d look to something like Kava for that, but I’ve been finding it particularly adept in supporting my after yoga practice issues.

Sometimes when I’m working in new asanas or beginning to really have conversations with muscles long dormant and make demands on them they’ve never felt before. They get cranky and carry a bit of specific nervous tension to them for a while.

During those times I will often drink more Skullcap tea generally paired with Nettles for the extra minerals punch which cranky muscles love. Or eat more seaweed for the same mineral awesomeness. (And, of course, extra quality protein in building those muscles!) I’ve been finding the combination incredibly supportive in my yoga work.

So Skullcap has become a big part of my life again in my yoga practice.
In general, in Western herbalism we use the aerial parts (leaves, stems, flowers) which is an interesting contrast because it is originally a Native American herb (used mainly by the Cherokee) and they tended to use the roots and in somewhat different ways – more as a women’s herb. Where it was used in purification ceremonies associated with menstruation. Decoctions of the root were used to stimulate menstruation and ease breast pain. And it was also used to flush the kidneys as well as for diarrhea. None of which are uses we follow with in contemporary Western herbalism. But sound like interesting areas to explore….

Anyway, Skullcap has proven a twice blessed herb in my life first for aid in for sleeping problems I used to have and now again it support of my yoga practice.

Who knows what the future holds for us…

“Me and you and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be
The only one for me is you, and you for me
So happy together…”

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Troubles ahead and troubles behind – a tale of my yoga struggles

Posted on April 8, 2013. Filed under: Yoga |

Ever notice how people love posting wisdom sharing bits to demonstrate how wise they are?  Or tales of initial struggles and challenges turned to triumph or valuable self-realization?  This post ain’t one of those.  Instead, it is about an in process struggle in my yoga practice – surprise!

Right now I’m in the midst of comical struggle with a pose, and as I work toward it all these emotions keep coming up for me.

So what’s the pose? Adho Mukha Vrksasana, aka Handstand.  Yeah, really.   I’m fine when I get into it, and can be aided into it and have kicked up into it by myself a handful of times over the past year or so.  But kick up into by myself on demand – not so much.    (But kicking up into headstand so not a problem.)

And shush any yogic B.S. like “you just release your spirit and fly, etc.”  Not only is that not remotely helpful it is vaguely condescending when yoga folks fall into such yoga-speak.  It’s kind of the yoga equivalent of a thin person telling someone trying to lose weight – “Oh, I just eat whatever I want and never gain a pound.”  Which I think is legal grounds for smacking them with a clue 2″ x 4″ in at least 12 different states.

Which makes it great fodder to work on right now,   so my teacher is having me just spend part of my regular daily practice just focusing in on it.  Then to up the anty she says don’t get so frustrated doing it…..

Oh, but that is not so easy, because as I throw myself toward it or throw my legs to the wall and it just ain’t happening…I get oh so frustrated.  Little bits of self doubt try their best to nibble at my consciousness.  And I get annoyed with myself.

And I get annoyed with the cats…

kitten_headstand

(Found on the internet…)

Uber flexible show offs!  But so cute!!!!

But wait isn’t his back rounding too much?  Or is that just the pot calling the kettle black?  Yeah sometimes I do round my back in yoga when I shouldn’t.   😉

It’s okay though.  The thing about feelings like those in practice is that they aren’t as “bad” as portrayed.  We have all kinds of feelings flitting through us at all times.  When we come up against something in a yoga practice a whole range of feelings can come roaring up.

But too often we get so condemning of some feelings as being negative or “unyogic” while allegedly cultivating others as being positive or “yogic.”

Feelings are constantly flowing over you but what matters is if you get too possessed by them or possessive of them.  And what you do with them is even more important.   In this case, I’m just taking all that and am motivated to keep trying and working on my practice but don’t attach too much to them.  When I feel frustrated I just put the energy into trying again and then let it go when I’m done.   (It’s only a problem if instead I was diving into it and avoiding my practice by wallowing in those feelings.)

So no resolution yet.  I practice, stuff comes up, I work with it and keep practicing.  Sometime that asana won’t be the mysterious problem it is now.  (And no doubt there will be another one to take its place down the line. )

Crap.  I guess there is some wisdom in here and growth from even an unresolved practice story.  Sorry about that.  🙂

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