Wholistically Speaking

May 2017

Mint Condition

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. What can I use mint for besides an upset stomach or in ice tea and how do I grow it?
Chasity

Where do I start? First, by asking what kind of mint you have! There are many varieties of mint and, in fact, I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many varieties of mint are out there. Spearmint and peppermint are the most common and medicinal, however, my favorite is chocolate mint which is hmmm hmmm good and a hybrid of peppermint! There is also orange mint, mountain mint, grapefruit mint, curly mint (spearmint with twisted leaves), pineapple mint, ginger mint and apple mint. Although there are many other mints, these are easiest to find at your local nursery. Of the above list, the only ones I’ve never grown are grapefruit and ginger mints. I even planted a new one last year that was called candy something but I really wasn’t impressed by its flavor. The other one that is not real appealing flavor-wise is pineapple mint, but I grow it because it is so pretty with its green and white variegated leaves. I use this one in a pot with pink yarrow because they look so beautiful together. Most true mints are perennials so you don’t have to replant every year. Note: I brought lemon verbena and chocolate mint inside last fall and was able to use both sparingly most of the winter. The pot is now back outside and gearing up for another abundant season.
As for growing mint, if it gets at least four hours of sunlight a day, is watered often (doesn’t like to dry out) but is not covered in water, it will grow. In fact, eventually it will outgrow everything else in the area by sending out root runners. If you have plenty of room, you may want to plant mint at the edge of the woods or against a fence and just let it have it’s way, however, plant only one variety in each area because they will co-mingle if they manage to intertwine.
If you don’t want to be overrun with mint, you can always plant different mints in separate pots. I grow about six varieties of mint on my deck in pots. I love going out there and clipping fresh mint to add to tea or just to nibble a couple leaves after a meal–especially if that meal included garlic or onion. If I am hungry for something sweet, I go for my chocolate mint which tastes like a Peppermint Patty but is almost calorie free and definitely sugar free! Just a note about chocolate mint; all chocolate mints are not equally delicious. Before I buy this mint, I either taste a leave or gently crush a leaf and sniff. If it doesn’t smell strongly of chocolate, I pass.
Harvest your mint in the summer just before it blooms. Use a sharp knife or scissors to clip the mint (so it can put out more leaves for you) and use it fresh or dry it. After the mint is dry and the leaves are crumbly, I store it in an old tea canister for up to a year. Make sure your storage container is airtight and stored out of direct light and away from heat sources.
And now we get to the “what can I use mint for” part. Everyone knows it freshens the breath, but some people think it comes in little blue chips like they find in their toothpaste. It doesn’t. Fresh or dried mint can be used to make tea, add to recipes (both dishes and deserts) but is also used medicinally as tea, capsules, tinctures, infusions and oils. It can be used internally and externally. As herbalists, when we use the term mint we are referring to spearmint and peppermint, but mostly peppermint. Peppermint is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. Both are excellent mints and are milder than peppermint and for that reason peppermint is usually the mint that we use medicinally.
For identification purposes, spearmint leaves are shorter, more rounded, crinkled and a lighter green than the longer, more pointed and deeper green peppermint leaves.
Mint is excellent for most digestive issues such as colic, cramps (including menstrual cramps) and gas, indigestion, upset stomach (especially good as mint tea after vomiting); irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (soothes an irritated bowel), diarrhea and constipation. It can also be used for travel and altitude sickness. Mint increases the flow of bile and digestive juices while relaxing the muscles of the gut. Mint tinctures are best for digestive issues and capsules are usually used for IBS while mint tea may be drank for indigestion.
But mint benefits do not stop with the digestive system. Mint has also been recommended as a sedative to calm heart palpitations (a couple of drops in a glass of hot water), depression and insomnia. A friend called me the other night and wanted to know how to calm her husband down (he has very serious heart problems) because he was nervous and pacing. I told her to fix him a cup or two of mint tea (you can also use a drop of two of peppermint oil in a cup of hot water which may also work for nausea). I always have peppermint oil on hand at home and while traveling, especially in the winter when fresh mint is not handy.
“Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food” says Megan Ware RDN LD in the February 2016 edition of Medical News Today. Knowing that, it stands to reason that a couple cups of mint tea a day may prevent cataracts and other oxidant issues.
Mint has also been used for the respiratory tract for sore throats (gargle with strong mint tea), bronchitis and cough. Mint tea induces sweating and reduces fever. It can be used for pain relief. You could try a tea made from dried leaves to relieve pain from kidney stones, gallstones or even headaches. For headaches, back pain and neck pain you can drink the tea (flower tops and leaves are good for these issues). You can also soak a cloth in the tea and apply externally to the area.
Externally, you may find mint helpful with painful muscles, insect bites or stings and eczema. Full strength mint oil may irritate the skin, so compresses and washes made with mint tea or diluted oils are the safest.
Cautions: If pregnant do not use mint without checking with your health care professional!! Do not use for hiatal hernia or acid reflux. Do not use mint oil if you have liver disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or neurological diseases (i.e.,Parkinson’s). Also, be aware that pure mint essential oil is toxic and a teaspoon can be fatal to an adult. Always dilute this oil before use. Be aware that mint oil can also lower blood pressure, and may lower it dramatically in young children or those with LBP issues. As with all oils, if you experience any adverse reaction, do not continue using it!
After scaring you with the cautions, I want to tell you that I just can’t live without my mints. And while an individual may be allergic to any plant, I feel it is very safe when used correctly and it just adds zip to drinks, food and desert. In fact, I use fresh chocolate mint straight from the vine as my “after dinner mint” or a cup of mint tea as an after dinner stomach soother. Mint has been used safely for eons so grow mints and enrich your life!
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.Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.

Copyright 2017, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking

 

 

 

 

April 2017

Spring!

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. I can’t get into spring. I just don’t have the energy. Are there herbs I could try to get my energy level up? Thanks, Sam

Oh yeah Sam. I revisited an article I wrote a few years ago and gave it a spring cleaning and update so give it a spin and see what you think.
It’s spring! Are you filled with energy and vital life-force (Qi)? If not, cleansing the liver and giving it a boost usually adds to your energy level and may be just what grandma ordered! You can buy a liver cleanse, however, you could also just go outside and pick dandelion leaves and make a dandelion salad (or add them to your regular salad), make dandelion greens, sauté dandelion leaves in olive oil or juice the leaves and add it to your morning “green” drink. For the next few weeks until the dandelion gets bitter from the heat, use it every time you get a chance. I even make a dandelion omelet, however, I have found that the easiest way to get enough dandelion is in salads and my morning shake.
FYI: Although a liver cleanse/tonic just like grandma used to say you needed every spring is a wonderful idea, when you are recovering from an illness or are in a weakened condition, work on rebuilding your system before you do a cleanse and check with your health care professional before cleansing if you have any health issues–especially if you are in a weakened state.
There are also many herbs, flowers and other plants which may help boost your energy levels. I have broken them down into categories for you so you can zero in on the plants for your particular energy issue. And remember, we are talking about traditional and historical uses.

Caution! Always do your homework and research any herb/plant you want to use. Are you allergic to the plant family? Are you on pharmaceutical drugs or over-the-counter drugs that don’t mix with the particular plant you wish to use? Anyone on medication(s) should have a book that lists medications, herbs, vitamins and contraindications. Check online for information or look for contraindications books at Amazon or your local book store.

Maybe you just feel “out-of-whack” (technical term). Winter can be hard on us and especially this past one because it was so up and down. Maybe we just need to rebalance and settle into spring. If so, check out these herbs:
Energy Imbalance Herbs:
Astragalus is a classic energy tonic for younger people and may be even better than ginseng for energy and endurance for those under 40. In Chinese medicine, it is said to warm and tone the protective energy that circulates just beneath the skin and helps the body adapt to external influences such as cold temperatures. Astragalus also raises immune resistance and improves physical endurance. After a round of flu this spring, I added astragalus to my routine for a few weeks to rebuild my strength.

Other herbs for energy include damiana which among other things aids the nervous system and helps very with nervous exhaustion; gotu kola which supports brain and memory, balances hormones, and increases energy and vitality. Licorice supports the adrenals and may help with that exhausted, weak, feeling but may also help spring asthma. However, keep a close watch on your blood pressure because licorice can cause BP to spike in some of us. Schizandra helps with energy and is also considered a vital energy tonic (chi or qi). Holy basil balances stress hormones for zen-like, calm energy. Sounds like the perfect state for spring!
Just feeling tired all over and don’t have any “get up and go”? Check out these herbs, but first, it’s also a good idea to check with your health care professional to make sure there is not a physical ailment causing your fatigue.

Herbs for Fatigue:
Alfalfa, American ginseng, angelica, astragalus, barley grass, blackberry leaves, blue vervain, borage, capsicum, club moss, cordyceps, dong quai, evening primrose, fungus, gentian, ginko, ginger, ginseng (Chinese & Siberian for chronic fatigue), gotu kola (strengthens nervous function and memory) (mental & physical), guarana, Iceland moss, kava kava, kola nut, licorice root, lycii berries, mahuang, maple, mirabilis, olive leaf, pine, prickly ash, pulsatilla, raspberry leaves, schizandra, spruce, St. John’s wort, strawberry leaves, suma, thyme, yellow dock root, plantain. A long list, but you may pick and choose and if one herb doesn’t work for you, try another. Just keep track of the ones that you like so you won’t have to test each one again. And a little more on ginseng: Ginseng is an adaptogenic which means that it helps the body adapt to stress, fatigue, hunger, any extremes of temperatures (especially cold) and mental and emotional stress. It also produces a sedative effect when the body needs sleep, however, you should take it no longer than six weeks. Also used for nervous exhaustion.

If you are the classic weekend warrior or gardener and end up exhausted, or you are suffering from nervous exhaustion, you may want to check out these herbs.

Herbs for Exhaustion:
Angelica, ginko, hawthorn for helping heart strain due to overexertion, lemon balm (nervous), rose hips, rosemary (mental exhaustion), skullcap (nervous) sea berry (with weakened immune system). Lemon balm and hawthorn are two of my favorites from this list and I have used them together for a very soothing blend. In fact, they are in my “Sweet Sleep” blend.

Another energy sapper is fear and/or anxiety. Lemon balm tea with honey is a delightful way to calm fears and anxiety. Just holding a warm mug in your hands and smelling the soothing aroma of the tea as it cools enough to drink is an exercise in relaxation in itself. I am still using dried lemon balm from last fall’s harvest, and as I sip this tea, I close my eyes and picture the lush leaves of lemon balm and guess what, I can even catch hints of the sweet fresh scent of lemon balm. Now that I am full of energy and Spring enthusiasm, I think I’ll hit the herb bed and clean out the winter’s debris!
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.Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright  2017

March 2017

Sweet Sleep

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. Help! Is there an herb that can help me get a good nights sleep? Christy

If you have ever lain awake until the wee hours, you know how sweet it is to fall asleep quickly and soundly–and stay asleep! Whenever someone asks me what herb they might use for sleep, the first question I ask is, “Do you have have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?” From an herbalist and natural health perspective, it is important to differentiate between the two.

There are several reasons for not being able to fall asleep that immediately come to mind such as caffeine intake, using electronics too late in the evening and watching disturbing programs (like news!) just before going to bed. All three of these things are under your control. Shutting off electronics a couple of hours before bedtime and breaking the bedtime news routine are fairly simple to do but caffeine can fool you.
I hear so many people say that they don’t drink any caffeine after 2:00 p.m. so that can’t be the problem. Let’s delve a little deeper. Caffeine increases stress hormone levels and keeps you awake by blocking sleep-promoting receptors in the brain. Research has shown that even after five hours of drinking a caffeinated beverage, 50% of it remains in your bloodstream. But here is the mind-boggling statistic: it takes 16 to 24 hours for caffeine to clear your system! If you are sensitive to caffeine, that morning cup of coffee or tea may be the sleep-depriving culprit–even if that’s all the caffeine you drank all day! When I decided to eliminate caffeine from my diet (and my system), I did so by cutting back a little each day. By the end of a week, I had removed it from my diet without causing any headaches, fatigue or concentration problems and I slept better than I had for years. I am sensitive to caffeine and even morning caffeine can cause me to wake up about 2:00am and not be able to get back to sleep. Amazing.
While we are on diet, let me share a little more information on foods that may be messing with your sleep. Nightshades. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and any peppers including bell and chilies and anything made with these plants including cayenne, paprika, potato starch, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and chili powder. For a more complete list of nightshades, go to my website trayfoot.com, click on Whollistically Speaking and scroll down until you find the article on nightshades (The Dark Side of Plants).
The reason nightshades may affect you detrimentally is because these plants produce natural pesticides called glycoalkaloids, which are designed to kill predators like insects. However, these glycoalkaloids are also toxic to human cells because they block the enzymes which keep the nervous system from getting overstimulated. If you are sensitive to these plants, they may keep you awake. After a completely sleepless night, I researched bell peppers to see if they could affect sleep. I had not had caffeine in any form for weeks so I knew that wasn’t the problem and that only left my dinner. I had fixed a delicious meal of stir fried chicken, onions, and red and yellow bell peppers the night before. Boy was I surprised to find that if you were sensitive to peppers, they could keep you awake. Although I loved them, I love sleep more so I eliminated them from my diet.
FYI: Another hint that you may be sensitive is that you are sensitive to weather changes.
Alcohol may cause drowsiness, but then later on, prevent sleep. Aged, fermented, cured, smoked and cultured foods such as salami, cheese, sauerkraut, red wine, etc., foods contain histamine (a neurotransmitter that can really mess with the cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal, cardiovascular, and digestive systems) which may also affect the quality of your sleep. If you want more information on histamine intolerance, check out the article at http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/histamine-intolerance/.

If you want to know if any of your favorite foods are causing some of your issues including pain and insomnia, start a food journal. Write down everything you eat. When an issue arises, look over the previous day’s food intake and see if you can find a pattern. Eliminate the suspicious food for two weeks and see if that makes a difference. It may be a gradual improvement that you don’t notice until you again eat that food and suffer the consequences.
I always believe in looking at root cause and trying to correct or remove the cause before taking drugs. If something we are eating is causing a health issue, it follows that although that food may be healthful for some people, it can also be a health hazard to you and may make other health issues worse because you weaken your systems by stressing them with “poison apples.” If you do your homework and find foods you love do not love you back, you have to decide if you want the food or the sleep and good health. Many who ask for help back off quickly when we start talking about food causing pain and sleep issues. They are not going to give up their breads, sodas, caffeine and nightshades. That is their choice.
But back to Christy’s question; yes there are herbal remedies for sleep issues that come to mind (although I would rather you find the root cause and fix that first!). They include valerian root, chamomile, lavender, S. John’s wort, Passion flower, lemon balm, lemon verbena, wild lettuce and skullcap. I have used valerian root with Passion flower and hops with good results, however, my daughter can’t take it because it causes her to have bad dreams. We are all different! If one doesn’t work for you, you can try another until you find a sleep remedy that does work. However, one of the reasons the herbs may not work is because you are still doing things to keep you from sleeping.
I have several different tincture blends brewing based on these herbs in hopes that it may help some of us with sleep problems and I will let you know which works best. Finding a natural remedy is so much more to my liking than taking prescription drugs with nasty side effects!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2017

January 2017 — Happy New Year!

A Moving Resolution

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. I have lost 35 pounds, but I have also lost muscle. Getting plenty of protein but no strength in legs. What can I do? Jean
Jean is a dear friend of mine. I met her in the first tai chi class I taught in 1995 and we hit it off. However, Jean gradually quit doing tai chi. In fact, she quit moving any more than was absolutely necessary. When we went to lunch, she would only go to restaurants where she could park at the door. Eventually she had knee replacement and didn’t work hard enough on PT and ended up with a knee that wouldn’t bend enough to walk normally down the stairs. Now she has lost weight–which is great–but she is doing nothing to build muscle. She said she didn’t understand why she was losing muscle because she was getting plenty of protein. She wanted to know how she could rebuild the strength in her leg muscles.
Jean lives in a two-story house, so I suggested she walk up and down the stairs v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y several times a day. She responded that she did go up and down the stairs–once down in the morning and once up at night. And, she added, “I do go very slowly but it hasn’t helped any.” I replied that going down the stairs slowly once a day would not build a lot of muscle strength, then I asked her if she was using both legs. She told me she would step down with her right foot, then bring her left foot down to the same stair because her knee would not bend. “That,” I said, “is not going to strengthen your legs.”
There are many gentle easy movements that could rebuild leg strength, however, as one of my teachers once said, “They don’t work if you don’t do them.” You can’t sit in the chair and wish your legs strong. You have to do the work!
If you want good motion now and as you continue aging, you need two things: water and movement. Sitting all day is not the way to lubricate your body. If you have an injury, you may need to rest your body, but if you find yourself sitting for hours at a time every day and your ability to move and even walk is gradually declining, get up and get moving! I move better and have stronger legs at 70 than I did at 40. I owe my moving ability to tai chi and qigong and to my stubborn nature.
I don’t have a perfect body or perfect health. In fact, I have had many health issues including multiple connective tissue disease, arthritis, Lyme, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, environmental illness and chemical sensitivities and more. But from the time I started doing tai chi–no matter how bad I felt or how much I hurt–I started improving my health. Not with a pill, but with movement. If you had told me thirty years ago that I would be teaching movement therapy at 70, I would have insisted you were out of your mind. When I was 39, a doctor told me to get a rocking chair and sit in it. Had I listened, I probably wouldn’t be alive today and if I were still living, I would probably not be mobile. I am thankful everyday for tai chi and qigong!
The reason I am sharing this with you is because I talk with so many people who are having motion and pain issues and invite them to a tai chi class. Almost without fail, they tell me that they can’t move good enough and/or their balance is not good enough or they are in too much pain. Duh, that is what tai chi is for! Tai Chi is famous for building lower body strength and endurance, and preventing falls. It can reduce arthritic pain up to 70+%!
Of course, it also improves most health conditions, gives the immune system a big boost, helps lessen depression and improves brain function. I can’t imagine why everyone isn’t doing tai chi instead of taking pills! In fact, if everyone did tai chi regularly, it would greatly lower health care costs. A recent study said that those who do qigong (too simply put, tai chi without stepping patterns) spend 83.4% less on healthcare than those who don’t. WOW! Why isn’t the health care industry writing prescriptions for Tai Chi instead of addictive pain pills? Guess what, the VA is! And some health care plans now pay for Tai Chi/Qigong classes. It is that beneficial. So in 2017, I think we should all make a “Moving Resolution”.

Last   Last winter, I got a Fitbit and was shocked at how few steps I was taking on a hourly/daily basis. I made a concerted effort to move at least 250 steps an hour. That meant that when I sat down–like now–and started writing, once an hour I needed to get up and make a trip through my wild, wooded garden, around the pond and back. I live in a four-level house, so when the weather is bad, I just go up and down all my steps a few times.
One thing about using stairs for exercise: like Jean, go down the stairs very slowly, but unlike Jean, use both legs. When you step down slowly, you build more muscle than when you run down steps. The slower you go, the more muscle and strength you build in your legs. That’s why tai chi and qigong are so good for you–you move very slowly with a relaxed body, opening all joints including the spine. Furthermore, do not try to do all the bending in the knees. Relax the lower back, sink into the hip joints and feel them coordinating with the knees to control your step-downs. That will engage the big muscles of the legs.
Personally, I don’t like using machines for moving the body. I want to use movement methods which I control because I know how each slow movement feels to different areas of my body. Does it cause pain? Does it feel good? Does it cause tension? A machine just keeps doing what it is set to do but if I am feeling the reaction in my body, then I can adjust the movement to my comfort level which does not include pain! A machine cannot do that.
Another friend of mine recently went to an excellent physical therapist at UVA who told her that “motion is lotion.” I love that! It says it all. So for 2017, think about making a “Moving Resolution”. Get a Fitbit or use your smart phone to record steps and get moving so you can keep moving!!

Note: I will be starting a beginners class in January so please call or text me (540-476-1789) or email me (jennifer@trayfoot.com) if you would like more information or if you would like to begin Tai Chi and/or Qigong. I will also be starting a new meditation class. We would love to have you join us!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2017, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Certified Herbal Teacher, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 35 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756. Visit Trayfoot.com!

December 2016

Creating Peace on Earth
Jennifer Stroop Hensley

This Holiday Season, it is more important than ever for each of us to do our part to recreate Peace on Earth. This is the first time I have ever mentioned politics in Wholistically Speaking, however, the current political circus is having a detrimental effect on many of us. I see it in my friends and family and that distresses me even more. It did not start with this election, but with unprecedented anger and hatred toward the current administration over the last eight years. It has, however, culminated with this election.

We have gone through a presidential election that has left many of us unhappy, angry, worried for our future and the future of America, and even grief-stricken for the loss of progress we have made in treating all Americans equally and with respectful consideration.

On the flip side, there are many who are excited about the prospects of the new twist on politics. Then, on the far side, there are those who think that the recent election has given them permission and justification to step back in time to when one group of people was thought superior to other groups. What better time to support Peace on Earth, one-by-one.

For those of us who crave Peace on Earth, it is important that we send out peaceful, hopeful thoughts. After all, what we send out is what comes back to us three-fold, and understanding this, we need to do everything possible to bring peace and calm back to our families, our friends and even our politicians. This year, why not choose Christmas presents that support peace, calm and hope for the future?
Essential oils and a diffuser are a wonderful place to start. Begamot oil has a calming effect easing fear and tension. It has a delightful sweet, tangy citrusy scent and reminds me of Childhood Christmases when our Church handed out goody bags to us which included oranges. Pink Grapefruit elevates mood and eases nervous exhaustion while Red Mandarin soothes agitation and calms restless children of all ages. Clary Sage eases stress, tension and balances/lifts mood while Lemongrass brightens and also elevates mood.

The rich, earthy aroma of Patchouli balances emotions, Sweet Marjoram eases nervous exhaustion, and Thyme eases mental fatigue. Geranium is soothing and balances nerves. And then there is Rose. This wonderful scent is comforting and calming in matters of the heart while promoting affection and warmth. I think we could use a lot of Rose!

Myrrh and Frankincense were two of the three gifts presented to Baby Jesus in Bethlehem by the Three Wise Men. Myrrh promotes emotional balance and well-being and is associated with strength and endurance while the rich aroma of Frankincense helps us find our center and elevates our mood. It is also associated with the Three Wise Men. Come to think of it, our politicians could certainly benefit from the counsel of Three Wise Men!

Sandalwood is a favorite of many and is especially important now because it lightens and harmonizes mood. Harmony is much desired right now! We cannot forget the calming properties of Lavender and Chamomile. These two EOs have been used for centuries and maybe even millenniums for calming, relaxation and promoting sleep.
You can use any of the mentioned oils by themselves or you can mix your own blend using several of the oils, however, this can get expensive. Nature’s Sunshine has a blend of oils including Lavender, Orange, Atlas Cedar, Ylang Ylang, Blue Tansy and Vanilla called Refuge which would be an excellent choice if you are just giving one oil. I always keep this one in stock in my Herb Cottage!

High quality EOs are not inexpensive, however, why not spend your Christmas budget on something that will be healing for the mind, spirit and body for the next year! Add a good book on aromatherapy like Aromatheray For Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay and your gift is complete.

FYI: When you are buying your EOs, there are several words you do not want to see on the bottle including fragrance, synthetic, GMO, perfume, fragrance oil, Nature-identical oil, extenders, and dilutants. In fact, if your bottle of EO has anything listed in ingredients except essential oil, the oil is not pure. I use only pure, organic EOs.
Remember, our thoughts and emotions have energy and that energy is released into the world. With so many negative emotions surrounding this election, the negative energy that has been unleashed attracts even more negativity, hate and anger. On Christmas Eve, why not spend a few minutes focusing completely on sending out beneficial, peaceful and loving energy to everyone you know and also to all who have had a part in the undoing of Peace on Earth–with, of course, your diffuser sending out a wonderful, calming and harmonizing scent.

Holistically speaking, you cannot have a healthy body, mind and spirit while having hateful and angry thoughts. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with an aura of positive thoughts for yourself, your family and your country.
I wish for you a happy, peaceful Holiday Season and for that peacefulness and happiness to extend throughout the New Year!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Certified Herbal Teacher, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 35 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789.

November 2016

Sweet Sleep

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. Help! Is there an herb that can help me get a good nights sleep? Christy

If you have ever lain awake until the wee hours, you know how sweet it is to fall asleep quickly and soundly–and stay asleep! Whenever someone asks me what herb they might use for sleep, the first question I ask is, “Do you have have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?” From an herbalist and natural health perspective, it is important to differentiate between the two.

There are several reasons for not being able to fall asleep that immediately come to mind such as caffeine intake, using electronics too late in the evening and watching disturbing programs (like news!) just before going to bed. All three of these things are under your control. Shutting off electronics a couple of hours before bedtime and breaking the bedtime news routine are fairly simple to do but caffeine can fool you.
I hear so many people say that they don’t drink any caffeine after 2:00 p.m. so that can’t be the problem. Let’s delve a little deeper. Caffeine increases stress hormone levels and keeps you awake by blocking sleep-promoting receptors in the brain. Research has shown that even after five hours of drinking a caffeinated beverage, 50% of it remains in your bloodstream. But here is the mind-boggling statistic: it takes 16 to 24 hours for caffeine to clear your system! If you are sensitive to caffeine, that morning cup of coffee or tea may be the sleep-depriving culprit–even if that’s all the caffeine you drank all day! When I decided to eliminate caffeine from my diet (and my system), I did so by cutting back a little each day. By the end of a week, I had removed it from my diet without causing any headaches, fatigue or concentration problems and I slept better than I had for years. I am sensitive to caffeine and even morning caffeine can cause me to wake up about 2:00am and not be able to get back to sleep. Amazing.

While we are on diet, let me share a little more information on foods that may be messing with your sleep. Nightshades. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and any peppers including bell and chilies and anything made with these plants including cayenne, paprika, potato starch, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and chili powder. For a more complete list of nightshades, scroll down until you find the article on nightshades (The Dark Side of Plants).

The reason nightshades may affect you detrimentally is because these plants produce natural pesticides called glycoalkaloids, which are designed to kill predators like insects. However, these glycoalkaloids are also toxic to human cells because they block the enzymes which keep the nervous system from getting overstimulated. If you are sensitive to these plants, they may keep you awake. After a completely sleepless night, I researched bell peppers to see if they could affect sleep. I had not had caffeine in any form for weeks so I knew that wasn’t the problem and that only left my dinner. I had fixed a delicious meal of stir fried chicken, onions, and red and yellow bell peppers the night before. Boy was I surprised to find that if you were sensitive to peppers, they could keep you awake. Although I loved them, I love sleep more so I eliminated them from my diet.

FYI: Another hint that you may be sensitive is that you are sensitive to weather changes.
Alcohol may cause drowsiness, but then later on, prevent sleep. Aged, fermented, cured, smoked and cultured foods such as salami, cheese, sauerkraut, red wine, etc., foods contain histamine (a neurotransmitter that can really mess with the cardiovascular, nervous, hormonal, cardiovascular, and digestive systems) which may also affect the quality of your sleep. If you want more information on histamine intolerance, check out the article at http://www.diagnosisdiet.com/histamine-intolerance/.

If you want to know if any of your favorite foods are causing some of your issues including pain and insomnia, start a food journal. Write down everything you eat. When an issue arises, look over the previous day’s food intake and see if you can find a pattern. Eliminate the suspicious food for two weeks and see if that makes a difference. It may be a gradual improvement that you don’t notice until you again eat that food and suffer the consequences.
I always believe in looking at root cause and trying to correct or remove the cause before taking drugs. If something we are eating is causing a health issue, it follows that although that food may be healthful for some people, it can also be a health hazard to you and may make other health issues worse because you weaken your systems by stressing them with “poison apples.” If you do your homework and find foods you love do not love you back, you have to decide if you want the food or the sleep and good health. Many who ask for help back off quickly when we start talking about food causing pain and sleep issues. They are not going to give up their breads, sodas, caffeine and nightshades. That is their choice.
But back to Christy’s question; yes there are herbal remedies for sleep issues that come to mind (although I would rather you find the root cause and fix that first!). They include valerian root, chamomile, lavender, S. John’s wort, Passion flower, lemon balm, lemon verbena, wild lettuce and skullcap. I have used valerian root with Passion flower and hops with good results, however, my daughter can’t take it because it causes her to have bad dreams. We are all different! If one doesn’t work for you, you can try another until you find a sleep remedy that does work. However, one of the reasons the herbs may not work is because you are still doing things to keep you from sleeping.
I have several different tincture blends brewing based on these herbs in hopes that it may help some of us with sleep problems and I will let you know which works best. Finding a natural remedy is so much more to my liking than taking prescription drugs with nasty side effects!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Certified Herbal Teacher, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 35 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789.

October, 2016

Camp/Travel Herbal Kit

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

It’s fall, it’s colorful, it’s cool and it’s the best time to be outside! Last month, we looked at Green Bandaids for accidents in the outback, but have you ever been away from home when diarrhea, vomiting or any other trip-ruining health disaster struck? Who do you call? Not Ghost Busters! Unless you are seriously ill and need immediate medical care, you may not need to call anyone if you have your trusty herbal Camp/Travel Kit with you. You might say it’s natural ways to treat injuries in nature.
Whether I am traveling or in the boonies or just traveling away from home, there are several items I consider vital for a good–stay-well-but-just-in-case–safe trip. They include Tei Fu EO, activated charcoal capsules, ginger capsules or tea, silver gel (cleaning and disinfecting cuts, wounds, etc.), and the following tinctures: burdock/dandelion, teasel, valerian root, wood Betony, echinacea, and mullein. I also take some of my handy-dandy poultice kits with me for bites, burns and cuts/wounds. In fact, I have put together my “Trayfoot Mountain Camp Herbal Kit” which includes all of the above. Let’s take it from the top:

Activated Charcoal: A must have for mild food poisoning or food additives reaction resulting in a fun-ending round of diarrhea. (You just can’t have a good adventure when you can’t leave the porcelain throne.) Also good for chemical poisoning, belching, blood poisoning, gas and bloating; motion sickness and poisoning in general. To be on the safe side, if you think you have any type of poisoning, contact the Poison Control Center! Of course, they may recommend you take activated charcoal.

Ginger Capsules or Tea: Ginger may help with nausea and vomiting and also motion sickness. It may even relieve flu and cold/cough symptoms.

Tinctures: Tinctures are strong herbal medicine made by soaking herbs in alcohol such as vodka or brandy and then taking the strained liquid by the drop. The tinctures I have chose for my kit are ones that can be used for several different symptoms.

Burdock/Dandelion Tincture: This one is definitely a must have for about two dozen reasons from balancing blood sugar levels to purifying the blood. It is also good for arthritis, gout, allergies, sinus, sinus infections, liver support, kidney support (a natural diuretic) and more. This is one I make big batches of so we never run out.

Echinacea Tincture: We all know this one is good for colds, bronchitis, and infections however, never take it for more than 10 days at a time or if you have an overactive immune system.

Mullein Tincture: Mullein is wonderful for allergies, but it is also a good pain reliever. It has narcotic-like properties, however, don’t get all excited and gather the leaves for a relaxing smoke…you may relax, but you will not get high and it does not taste good! Native Americans smoked the leaves for lung issues.
Silver Shield Rescue Gel: I keep this anyplace I might need to disinfect a wound, cut or bite. It is in my studio, my bathroom, my car and my Camp Kit.

Teasel Tincture: Matthew Wood says teasel tincture is a remedy for Lyme disease. Any time we get a tiny bite we start using this tincture immediately. FYI: Wood says that taking Teasel Tincture daily for 18 months will eradicate all of the parasites associated with Lyme Disease. We spend a lot of time in tick country so this is another one that is essential!

Valerian Root Tincture: This one is wonderful after a long strenuous outdoor day. It relaxes muscles/muscle spams, pain, promotes sleep, is very calming and is good for the heart.

Wood Betony: I wrote an article about Wood Betony a couple of months ago and I have been hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for the tincture. Must have something to do with helping with short term memory loss. Here is an excerpt from that article: “Wood Betony is a nervine that both relaxes and strengthens muscles, nerves and organs and has a very potent effect on the brain and mental functions. The following list are some the symptoms expert Matthew Wood says may be helped with Wood Betony: promotes cerebral circulation, opens the arterial blood supply, and may reduce high blood pressure. Used in the past for vertigo, headache, loss of memory, comprehension difficulties, facial neuralgia, migraines, irritated and watery eyes. Traditional authorities say it may prevent strokes or will stimulate improvement when given shortly after a stroke. Other sources say that it may help with learning disabilities, bed wetting, bronchitis, convulsions, gout, heartburn, insect bites, jaundice, parasites, sprains, tonsillitis and varicose veins.” If you want to read the whole article, go to my website trayfoot.com, tap on the Wholistically Speaking button and scroll down though recent articles until you find it.

Poultice Packs
We came up with this idea one day while making tea bag blends. Wondering out loud, we thought of putting dried herbs that are used on injuries (poultices) in these little bags, sealing them closed and then keeping them on hand. To use, lay the bag in a shallow dish, add enough water (hot is possible) to just cover the bag and let set for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the water and apply to affected area. The following poultice packs are included in my Camp Kit: plantain for bites and stings; burdock, comfrey and yarrow blend for all the other things that could happen in nature or while traveling. This is a synergistic blend that my be used to stop bleeding, for swellings, broken bones, sprains, sciatica, burns and bruises. Notice I have burdock in a poultice and in a tincture. This way you can heal from the inside out!

I left the best one for last. Tei Fu Essential Oil. This is a tiny bottle of a wonderful essential oil blend which I never, never go anywhere without. I have a bottle in my pocket, beside my chair, beside my bed and down at the pond. I use it for bug bites and stings, headache and arthritis pain (rub a drop on painful area), stuffy nose and sinus (rub a drop briskly between your palms and then hold over your nose and inhale). You may also rub a drop on painful sinus areas, but keep away from your eyes because it really burns the eyes. I even add a few drops to bottled water and sip if I am feeling queasy. Well, to tell the truth, I just put a drop on my tongue. Also great for mouth ulcers and fever blisters. There is more, but I am out of space!
Please know that I have just given you a few uses of each of the herbs. All have many more healing talents and I encourage you to research each for more remedy ideas. Get outside this fall, but don’t forget to take your Camp Herbal Kit!

Note: If you are interested in purchasing a custom herbal kit, contact me to place your order and get pricing.

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Certified Herbal Teacher, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 35 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756. Visit Trayfoot.com!

September 2016

Reading, ‘Riting & Rosemary

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Excuse the play on an old standby, but kids going back to school reminded me of the three Rs and that led to substituting Rosemary for ‘rithmetic (I was never very good in math anyway). You see, I read about Rosemary and I am ‘riting about Rosemary, so for me, that makes it Reading, ‘Riting, and Rosemary!

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. I love it’s piney/cedar scent and love to use a Rosemary “tree” as a Christmas decoration because of its scent, its texture and its shape. As a small child we always had cedar Christmas trees and that scent more than any other takes me back in time and creates the exciting anticipation of Christmas! The Rosemary aroma is a great substitute for cedar and for me, always creates a happy, smiling feeling. But there is more to this “feel good” herb than that–Rosemary’s delightful, soothing aroma is also associated with relieving stress and anxiety!

I often use Rosemary in cooking for the wonderful flavor it gives meats, soups and stews. Whenever I bake a chicken, I loosen the skin and stuff Rosemary in between the skin and the breast. I also toss a couple of sprigs into the cavity.. I always add Rosemary to grill meat not just for the great flavor, but also because it inhibits the formation of the nasty cancer-causing compounds that are created when meat is grilled, pan-fried or broiled (From the Journal of Food Science). And not only is it good in foods, it is also good in our bodies because it is a great source of iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and some very powerful anti-aging phytochemicals! And…

Rosemary is brain food and has been used to boost memory for thousands of years. It improves memory, recall and focus (especially for us older folks), and is a helpful aid for study, learning and exam performance. And if you tend to study too long and hard, it can be used to ward off metal exhaustion. For these benefits, you could make a head wreath of Rosemary like scholars did in Ancient Greece (and wear a toga), or you can just use the oil in a diffuser, hold a sprig near your nose as you study or most simple, just keep a potted Rosemary in your study area and inhale as you feel the brain fog approaching. My favorite way is to place Himmalayn Pink Salt in a small jar and add 10-30 drops of Rosemary essential oil. Place the lid on the jar, shake, and set the jar aside. The next time you need brain power, just take the lid off the jar and set it beside you. It’s quick, easy and inexpensive…and it works! FYI: As I write this, I am drinking green tea with fresh Rosemary and I have Rosemary EO wafting through the air from my diffuser.

But Rosemary is talented in so many other ways. One study reported that a key ingredient in Rosemary “specifically targets free radical damage in the brain…can actually protect the brain from strokes and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and normal brain aging” (from a study published in Cell Journal). Another study showed that one of the components in Rosemary helped raise cognitive performance. And we know that as we age, we need all the brain power we can get! And to that end, a study published in Psychiatry Research found that inhaling Rosemary increased free radical scavenging–a very good thing–while decreasing cortisol levels.

But that’s not all folks (I sound like an info-mercial), Rosemary is also considered “highly effective against cancer…and may inhibit…cell growth in leukemia and breast carcinoma cells” (published in Oncology Reports). Another study showed that Rosemary…”reduced the formation of cancer cells by preventing the replication of cancerous cells…”. “It is also considered an “herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent” (study from Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry).

You can use fresh Rosemary, dried Rosemary or Rosemary Essential Oil. Rosemary EO is considered a valuable oil for respiratory problems and therefore is helpful for colds, catarrh, asthma and sinuitis. It is an anti-inflammatory agent and therefore may be helpful for everything from gout, arthritis and sore muscles to sports injuries. But its anti-inflammatory benefits doesn’t stop there. It also helps reduce inflammation in the blood vessels and may help prevent heart disease and strokes.

As a pain reliever, Rosemary may relieve common headaches, migraine headaches, joint pain, surgery pain and spasms. It is also helpful in managing Type 2 diabetes blood sugar levels.

As an herbal digestive aid, Rosemary has been used for upset stomach, nausea, constipation and diarrhea, and indigestion. It’s anti-bacterial properties also help with stomach infections which cause ulcers and staph infections.

Again for us older folks, the carnosic acid in Rosemary can “curtail” the degenerative progress of macular degeneration (from a study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science) because Rosemary promotes eye health and age-related eye disorders. It also stimulates the nervous and circulatory systems and gives the immune system a boost. It improves blood flow and is considered good for high blood pressure on one hand, but may also be too stimulating for blood pressure on the other. See the warning below and check with your doctor before using!

Rosemary is a very talented and versatile herb. As you can see, it can be used for dozens of health issues and in hundreds–if not thousands–of recipes. I used to consider myself lazy until a Chinese Qigong Master told me “You not lazy, you just efficient.” I look at Rosemary the same way; it just sits in the pot resting until you pluck a sprig for tea or cooking and then boy is it efficient!

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Warnings: Rosemary’s stimulating action is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, epilepsy, pregnancy or breast feeding mothers. Also, be aware that very large doses can cause vomiting and spasms and may interfere with certain medications (i.e. anticoagulant drugs, blood pressure drugs, diuretics to lithium).

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 35 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756. Visit Trayfoot.com!

August 2016

“Green Bandaids”

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Picture this: You are outdoors off the beaten path, enjoying the beauty and serenity of nature when you have an encounter with a flying or crawling critter. The critter wins and you are left with an angry sting or bite. Maybe you even start to have an allergic reaction to it. Or maybe you trip and fall on a sharp rock or cut yourself with your outback knifer or you develop a severe nose bleed. What could you do to neutralize the venom, reduce swelling, relieve pain and/or stop bleeding? Enter the “Green Bandaids”; Yarrow, Comfrey, Burdock and Plantain.

If you spend as much time as we do outdoors, being able to recognize a few plants–especially these four–and what outdoor emergencies for which each could be used–could be very beneficial. I have lost track of the times I have scooped up a plantain leaf, popped it in my mouth, chewed it and then pressed it against a bite or sting to draw out poison. This is an instant poultice and I am constantly amazed at how effective it is as a drawing agent and how quickly it works.

Tip: Plantain will stop the itch of poison ivy or poison oak!

Tick and Other Critter Bites

Last year WT had a tick bite that looked hideous. He had sat on the lake fishing all day as the tick bite festered and by the time he got home, I really thought we would be heading to the ER. However, I first made a poultice by grinding plantain leaves and adding a little hot water. The affected area had grown to softball size and was an angry red. It was swollen and filled with fluid. Within an hour of applying the plantain poultice, the swelling and pain was gone. Now the whole area was a rosy pink and, because the swelling came down so quickly, the skin was wrinkled much like a person’s skin who looses weight too rapidly. Amazing. Now, every time we get a tick bite, we just automatically chew a plantain leaf and apply it to the bite. Can’t help wondering if this might also help prevent Lymes disease.

Tip: When we are going into areas (like mountains) where plantain does not grow, I pick several leaves from my yard, wrap them in a clean damp cloth (like an old sheet or cheesecloth) and tuck them in a plastic bag. If you don’t mind using paper you could also use paper towels. Don’t discard the wrapping, use it to wipe down or cool the affected area!

If you are traveling, you can keep the bag of leaves in the cooler. If I need to make a poultice, not only do I have the leaves, but I also have the cloth to cover the poultice. I know, you are wondering how long you can keep them and still safely use them. I

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Broadleaf Plantain

discard them after a day or two of hiking, however, if I keep them refrigerated, they can sometimes keep for a couple of months. I harvest the last of the season’s leaves in late fall and keep them this way for most of the winter. After all, we had ticks in January last year!

Carry Plantain leaves with you when you travel!

Broadleaf Plantain Seedheads (when ripe) have a nutty taste and may serve as a laxative. Sauté them in butter for a healthful “moving” snack!

Look for plantain in waste areas, yards and pathways (although I avoid using leaves that are walked upon). It thrives in packed soil because of its “drawing nature”. In other words, it can draw nutrients up from hard packed earth just as efficiently as it draws poison from bites and stings. It’s leaves are light to darker green, depending on the age of the leaf, and are oval with lines running lengthwise. It grows in a rosette pattern with the center stem springing up with seeds spiraling around it.

One last note about plantain: I am often asked what I would do if I were bitten by a poisons snake. If in cell phone range or at home, I would first dial 911 and then I would chew every plantain leaf I could find and apply it to the bite while waiting for help to arrive. This would help draw the poison out and maybe help save my life!

Accidents & Nosebleeds

Moving on to accidents and nose bleeds in the outback. Again, you need to be able to identify plants that will stop bleeding. Yarrow–also known as the “nosebleed plant”– is the one that comes to mind first because it is easier to find. Yarrow is found in sunny fields, meadows and along roadsides, so if you are going to be in high country, you may want to harvest the leaves at lower altitudes and store them like the plantain. You never know when you may have a bleeding emergency, so picking a few leaves to take along could be a lifesaver. In fact, according to legend, Achilles carried yarrow with him into battle to use on himself and his soldiers to stop the bleeding of wounds.

Yarrow the “Nosebleed” Plant & Insect Repellant

For a nosebleed, pick a small, soft leaf, roll it up and tuck it into the nostril.

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Yarrow

If you don’t want to tuck a week up your nose, you could press the juice out of the leaves andsnuff the juice up the nose. And be sure to check for bugs before you stick it up your nose!

Yarrow is also an excellent insect repellant. I soak yarrow leaves and flowers in vodka for a month, strain the concoction and put the liquid in a spray bottle.

As I write this, I am sitting in the pagoda at my pond. The mosquitos are buzzing around, but I sprayed my hat, skin and clothes with my yarrow spray and they have yet to nip me. I always leave a bottle of it sitting beside my chair at the pond.

You could also try tucking or clipping a few leaves onto your hat or shirt to keep the bugs at bay.

Comfrey

As for comfrey, it was a mainstay of cottage gardens and has been used for centuries to stop bleeding, reduce swelling and sprains (wrap the whole leaves around the

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Comfrey

affected area), help heal broken bones and soothes inflamed and painful skin tissues.
My advice to you is to do what I did and plant several of these plants in your beds and take a few leaves with you when you go hiking.

I have twice used comfrey leaves after outdoor accidents to stop bleeding (comfrey has a cell proliferation that also speeds healing) and believe me, it does work! However, as with all things, common sense goes a long ways.

If you have an serious abdominal wound with things visible that you would rather not see, or if you have arterial spray bleeding it’s a 911 call. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use yarrow or comfrey to slow the bleeding while you wait for help.

Sprains, Gout & Sciatic Pain

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Burdock

Burdock is good for everything from sprains and gout to sciatica. Just wrap the leaves around the affected area.

If the sciatic nerve is bothering you, slip a large leaf between your waistband and over the painful area. However, always check for bugs first! Guess how I know that?

In August, Burdock has a lovely pinkish bloom, but if you don’t want the dreaded burs come fall, snip the blooms now.

Burdock is the plant that produces burs that love your polar fleece in the fall! In fact, the burs were the inspiration for the creation of Velcro…no kidding!

Campfire Burns

This happened at one of our VOWA events and I grabbed a few “weeds” to cool and alleviate the burn (remember this Dave Coffman?) You can use comfrey, burdock and plantain leaves, however, remember to make use of the wrappings from your bag of “Green Bandaids”. This will allow you to also use “yarrow juice.” Of course, it might not be a bad idea to add an aloe leaf from your windowsill to your herb bag before you leave home.

Caution: Always do a skin test before placing leaves on skin for extended length of times. Just take a small piece of the leaf and rub it on you arm. If you break out or the skin burns, don’t use it!

Tip: Always check with your health care professional about your “outback treatments” as soon as possible!

FYI: Yarrow, Burdock and Plaintain can also be used for numerous other internal issues including digestion, blood sugar balance, arthritis and many more, however, this article discusses only external uses.

Get outdoors, have fun, but be prepared with your “Green Bandaids”!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756. Visit trayfoot.com!

July 2016

Wonderful Wood Betony!

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Recently, a good friend asked me about using Wood Betony for a head injury and that got my wheels turning. After re-reading about Wood Betony in Matthew Woods’s The Book of Herbal Wisdom (one of my favorite books) I immediately started a Wood Betony tincture brewing, not just for the friend who requested it, but also for several other people who need to be “grounded”. So what is so special about Wood Betony?
Wood Betony is a nervine that both relaxes and strengthens muscles, nerves and organs and has a very potent effect on the brain and mental functions. The following list are some the symptoms expert Matthew Wood says may be helped with Wood Betony:

  • promotes cerebral circulation,opens the arterial blood supply
  • short term memory loss
  • may reduce high blood pressure
  • used in the past for vertigo, headache, loss of memory, comprehension difficulties, facial neuralgia, migraines, irritated and watery eyes
  • Traditional authorities say it may prevent strokes or will stimulate improvement when given shortly after a stroke.
  • Other sources say that it may help with learning disabilities, bed wetting, bronchitis, convulsions, gout, heartburn, insect bites, jaundice, parasites, sprains, tonsillitis and varicose veins.
  • What is not to love about Wood Betony?

Wood Betony, also known as lousewort (no wonder it lost favor!), is an herb that was once considered essential to health and healing, but has faded in popularity in recent centuries (it was one of the most popular herbs in the Greek and Roman period, through the Dark Ages and even up through the seventeenth century). I, for one, would like to see it come out of the dark ages embellished with a new glow of excitement. Betony grows close to the earth, with the leaves radiating from the ground. Only after it is “secure” in the earth–a doctrine of signature–does it send up slender stalks terminating with yellow or reddish (or both) flowers in a tight cluster at the top. The flowers, which bloom April – June, are hooded and remind me of miniature snapdragons. Look for it in open woods from Maine to Florida.
In another of my favorite reference books from the Peterson Field Guides series is the Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke, I found the following: “The American Indians used root tea for stomachache, diarrhea, anemia, and heart trouble; also in cough medicines; poulticed for swellings, tumors, sore muscles…”
In Wood’s book, he goes into great detail about Wood Betony and even gives several case histories in which he successfully used Wood Betony as a remedy. He says that, “Wood Betony enhances the actions of diverse organs–lungs, liver, gallbladder, intestines, kidneys, and uterus” and “…it is a remedy which helps establish rootedness, connectedness, earthiness, and groundedness.”

Before we go any further, I want to add that about ten or twelve years ago, I went to the annual Outdoor Writers of North America Conference and the keynote speaker said that as a nation, we were “three generations away from the land.” What he meant by that was there were sometimes three generations of families raised on concrete who’s bare feet had never touched the earth or felt grass between their toes. Keep this in mind as we go a little further into Wood Betony.

Wood also says that Wood Betony strengths the solar plexus which “…is one of the most significant nerve centers in the body. It is the switchboard for digestive functioning and gut-level instincts and reactions…”. When the solar plexus is run down, many organ functions do not operate at maximum and can cause a myriad of health issues, but Wood says because, “…the solar plexus is the center for gut-level instincts…the sense of groundedness, instinctive wisdom, and self-confidence in subjective impressions is adversely affected…Instincts and mental processes are weaker.”

These problems could be the result of a head injury or just due to aging, however, Wood says that Wood Betony increases nervous strength and circulation in the solar plexus (he calls it the “brain of the stomach”) and in the brain itself! He also says that, “When the solar plexus is functioning strongly, a person’s inner life is enriched by intuition, instinct and a zest for life.”
He also tells about a woman who came to him for pain, burning, and gas in the stomach. She had been diagnosed with stomach ulcers. Her friend came along and told Wood that “she was a bit of a space cadet”. In other words, spacey. Wood says that, “Wood Betony not only removed the digestive problems rapidly, but improved her ability to function.”

“Wood Betony,” says Wood, “is a specific when the is nerve pain associated with a tendency to disconnectedness, hysteria, or frenzy. It is one o the remedies for severe pain It is also a traditional and important medicine for head injuries.”
But the theme running throughout my research on Wood Betony was its ability to reconnect the body and spirit with nature. I believe–like the author of that book– that when we lose our connection with the earth or nature by working too much, spending too much time glued to electronics, or are too attached to having, wanting and buying material things, we create the process of disconnecting from nature. Maybe more of our children would be classified as “normal” instead of hyperactive and attention deficit if we made sure they spent more time outside–without cell phones! Remember the keynote speaker I mentioned earlier? His name is Richard Louv and he wrote the book Last Child in the Woods, subtitled Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. This was the first book that showed research indicating that “direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.” Louv actually links the absence of nature in the lives of “today’s wired generation” to obesity, attention deficit disorders and depression. If your children or grandchildren have any of these issues, you may want to check this book out and invest in some Wood Betony.

As synchronicity would have it, I planted Wood Betony earlier this spring. Then my friend asked me about it a week later. Yesterday, Cami, my apprentice, came in the studio and I took one look at her and said instinctively, “You need a Wood Betony tincture.” She laughed and said, “look what I brought with me”, as she handed over two jars of herbs with Wood Betony on the labels of both. However, one was Wood Betony and one was labeled wrong, so we needed to figure out which was Wood Betony. My thought; Wood Betony has really been trying to get my attention!

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756.

The Zombie Plant

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. What is that plant that has purple leaves and tiny pink blooms and is all over right now. I see it in large patches in fields. Is it good for anything?
Cami

I think you are talking about purple dead nettle, or as I tell my grandkids who are crazy about zombies, it is “The Zombie Plant”. I just do that because zombies are the rage right now and it captures the interest of the kids and of course we can’t rule out “creative license”. It is not really the name of the plant, however, since it is alive and yet called dead nettle, I thought the name appropriate. And yes, Cami it is good for many somethings and it is free for the picking! But first let’s look at where and when it grows.
Purple dead nettle appears in late winter and early spring and can last till fall if it’s not too hot and dry, however, here in the Shenandoah Valley, it usually blooms March through May. When you look out over a field and see a large patch–sometimes the whole field–of plants growing uninterrupted which give the impression of a subtle purple haze, it is probably purple or red dead nettle. If you get up close and personal, you will find tiny pink flowers amid the green and purple leaves. The triangular leaves are bunched at the top, start out green with the top leaves purple. The leaves are opposite each other and spring from a square stem. Hmm, what does that tell us?
Square stems denote plants as part of the mint family. Some people who munch on raw purple dead nettle say that they can taste a slight minty flavor. I just went outside and plucked off the top of a purple dead nettle and am chewing it up as I write this. (My husband asked what I was doing and then said this is true dedication!) I can detect little, if any, mint, however it does not have a bad flavor and would be a good wild addition to a spring salad.
One other thing, purple dead nettle is not related to stinging nettle. If it were, I definitely would not be munching on it! In fact, it is called “dead” not because it is a zombie plant, but because it doesn’t sting.
There are two other plants that pop up in the yard at the same time and that tend to be mistaken for purple dead nettle; henbit and ground ivy. Henbit has a striking deep red stem and the leaves are in whorls around this stem. All of the leaves are not bunched at the top and you can easily see the red stem between groups of leaves. Henbit does, however also have a square stem and similar flowers.
The perennial ground ivy is also know as Gill-over-the-ground and Creeping Charlie and as you may have guessed, grows low and sprawling, also has a square stem and small purple/lavender flowers. The leaves are roundish to kidney shaped with scalloped edges. Makes a nice ground cover and one man decided that he wants to get rid of the “useless” grass and let his whole yard be covered in ground ivy. Although there are several traditional uses listed in Petersen Field Guide Medicinal Plants and Herbs, there is also a caution listed that says it is toxic to horses and some people. After steeping the leaves in hot water and then drinking it “…Within five minutes tea produced swelling of throat and labored breathing, and resulted in difficulty sleeping that night…”. Remember, anyone can be allergic to anything, however, I choose not to use this herb or make tinctures with it.
Now, finally, let’s look at the properties and traditional uses of purple dead nettle. This little plant is nutritious and is high in Vitamin C, iron, fiber, quercetin (boosts the immune system) and antioxidants. It also has other vitamins, minerals and flavonoids. It has traditionally been used on cuts as an antiseptic and to stop bleeding as well helping the would heal. To use for this purpose, pick the leaves, “bruise” them and then place them on the cut. Purple dead nettle has also been used as a diuretic and to produce sweating. It is astringent and is considered a tonic and also has antifungal and anti- microbial properties. It is said to be helpful to allergy sufferers and may protect from secondary infections of the throat and bronchi.
And as if that isn’t enough for one little purple plant, from the website Herbs-Treat and Taste comes this tidbit of information…”It has been shown to effective against the E. Coli bacteria…” and Also has anti-inflammatory properties. An article on the livestrong.com website says that “…researchers discovered purple dead nettle had a wide range of antimicrobial and anti fungal properties. Extracts of purple dead nettle fought many microorganisms including staphylococcus, enterococcus, e. Coli, pseudomonas and candida. Purple dead nettle is a rich source of antibacterial essential oils such as germacrene D…”
To use purple dead nettle, you can pick the fresh leaves and add them to salads, soups, stews and sauces. You can steep the fresh or dried leave in hot water and make a tisane (you may want to add honey to tea or tisane) and be forewarned, purple dead nettle also has laxative properties. Or you could make a tincture by covering the fresh leaves with brandy or vodka and letting them soak for several weeks, and then straining the tincture and taking a drop or two as needed. You can also pick the leaves now, dry them and store them in a sealed container in a cool, darkish room or closet for future use.
So there you have it Cami. As you can see, this little zombie plant is full of life!
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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors. For directions, questions or issues or you would like to see covered in future columns, please email her at jennifer@trayfoot.com, text her at 476-1789, or call (540) 249-5756.

Bug OFF!!!


Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. Is there a natural bug repellant without DEET?

There are several natural bug repellants made without DEET, however, because I make my own, I can’t tell you which ones work and which ones don’t. How about I just tell you how to make your own? This especially important with Zika Virus making its unwelcome appearance. You may have to try several before you find one that works for you.
As I write this, I am making a Lemon Verbena/Chocolate Mint hydrosol as the base for making this week’s batch of bug spray, which this time of year I sell as fast as I can make. Hydrosols are distilled plant/flower waters, not oils. They are more gentle than oils and therefore may be applied directly to skin on most people. However, I always recommend you do patch test on a small area of your arm before you spritz yourself. Doing this might help prevent a major allergic reaction if you are allergic to any of the plants or flowers you choose to use.
I am sure you have heard of rose water. It is pretty pricy but delightful to spritz on. Rose water is rose hydrosol and if you grow roses, you can make your own rose water using the following recipe.
Place a clean brick in a large stainless steel kettle with a glass lid and then go gather enough plant material (which today will be lemon verbena, chocolate mint, wormwood and yarrow) to make two batches of hydrosol. For the first batch, I cover the bottom of the pot with lemon verbena and wormwood, then add water until it is just to the top of the brick. I place a large glass measuring cup (the four cup size) on the brick, and cover the pot with the lid. The secret here is to turn the lid upside down and place ice cubes in the lid. This really enhances the condensation rate. I turn the burner on high just until the water starts steaming and then turn it to low. This is important because I don’t want to boil the herbs, I just want to steam the essence of them into the distilling process. Once the water is steaming (you can see the condensation beginning as the steam hits the cold lid and streams down to drop into the glass bowl), set your timer for 20-30 minutes and relax. When the timer beeps, I turn the heat off, and carefully remove the glass measuring cup. It is really hot, so be sure to use a pot holder or towel to lift it from the pot. (This process consistently makes just a bit more than four ounces for me.) I set the hydrosol aside to cool and gather materials for the next step which include bottles, spray atomizer and essential oils. Once cool, I pour into my two bottle(s), add essential oils, cap with an atomizer lid, and shake vigorously and then like magic, I have bug spray!
I use two ounce bottles and add 4 drops of each organic essential oil. For pests like mosquitos, I add variations of lemon, eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, lavender, cedar, wormwood (especially if ticks are a problem) and rosemary essential oils. As a rule, I do not use all of them in one mixture, so experiment and see which oils work best for you and which scents you like. I have found that if I don’t like a scent, I am less likely to use the spray, so I make sure to add favorite scents to my blends. Now, just spritz yourself and your clothes and take a walk!
If you want to make cooling spritzes to mist your self with on hot days, I find the mints, lemon verbena and rosemary very refreshing (which scents do you love?). I keep these in the fridge to add to the cooling power. If you like lavender, make a relaxing hydrosol or spritz lightly on your pillow before going to bed. I like to spritz the air in front of me and then slowly walk into the mist and let it settle on me. You could also make hydrosols which are soothing to skin issues (ie., calendula, comfrey, plantain, chickweed, burdock). I even make aThieves Oil Hydrosol which I spray into the air and onto handles/door knobs to prevent colds and flu from spreading.
Organic essential oils are expensive, so you may want to take advantage of a workshop where a large variety of oils are available for blending your own custom hydrosol. Discovering which oils you like and dislike in a class like this will save money as you won’t buy bottles of expensive essential oil only to find out you don’t like the scent. (Later on this fall or winter, I am going to teach a workshop on making hydrosols and hydrosol blends and will have 10+ oils from which to choose. If you would like to be notified of the date and location, drop me an email at jennifer@trayfoot.com and I will let you know the details as soon as they are available.)
Hydrosols are easy to make, inexpensive when you use your own plants, and delightful to use. And making your own from your garden gives you a deep sense of satisfaction!
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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.

Copyright 2015, 2016, Jennifer S. Hensley, Wholistically Speaking
Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Consultant, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors.

For questions or issues you would like to see covered in future columns, please leave a message on the Home Page of this website.

The Dark Side of Food, Herbs and Spices!

Jennifer Stroop Hensley

Q. I read about the grains last month, but what about nightshade plants? A friend told me I shouldn’t eat those either. Is that just tomatoes and potatoes?
Marg

Last month we popped your bubble about eating grains, now I guess we will continue the cruelty by telling you about nightshades. And yes, Marg, tomatoes and potatoes are nightshades, but this class of foods also includes eggplant and peppers including bell pepper, chili peppers, habenero, cayenne pepper and paprika. It does not include peppercorns (i.e., black pepper). But before we delve into nightshades, a little history lesson.
Nightshade is the common name for over 2,800 species of plants. Very diverse, this group includes tobacco, potato, tomato and even morning glory! And, nightshades are more famous as drugs (i.e., belladonna, mandrake) than as food. Anyway, when tomatoes were brought to America in the very early eighteenth century, it was only grown as an ornamental because people thought it was poison. Eggplant was also grown first as an ornamental and did not become a common food in America until relatively recently. According to Dr. Norman Childers, an expert on nightshades and author of The Arthritis Diet, Mediterraneans used to believe that eating eggplant daily for a month would cause insanity and they nicknamed it “mad apple.”
So why should we be concerned about eating nightshades? Most of us do it on a daily basis and it doesn’t hurt us, right? Licensed Naturopathic Physician Warren Smith says that avoiding nightshades got rid of 90% of his back pain. In an article he wrote for the Weston Price Organization, he says, “A physical therapist once told me that if a patient isn’t responding to treatment, one of the first things to consider is nightshade sensitivity–there is simply nothing else that anyone else can do to help somebody in pain when nightshade sensitivity is the cause–because once they eat some nightshades again, their pain will return as it was before.” Wow! How many people do you know that tell you they do not know what is causing their pain?
But it is very hard to keep nightshades out of the diet. You can certainly quit eating all peppers, potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes, however, when you eat out or sprinkle something from a spice jar, do you check to see if they include nightshades? I was shocked to find out that cayenne pepper and paprika were part of this group. Isn’t cayenne supposed to be anti-inflammatory? Not if you are sensitive to nightshades!
If you are sensitive to nightshades, avoid these spices and seeds: capsicums, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, curry, paprika and red pepper, and these seeds: anise, annatto, black caraway (black cumin), celery, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, nutmeg, poppy and sesame.
Did you know that if a spice blend says “other spices” they probably have red pepper, paprika, or cumin in them? You best bet for spices is to avoid all blends and use only single spices. I take it one step further and mix my own blends. For example, steak seasoning usually contains pepper, chili, cumin and cayenne; poultry seasoning often contains nutmeg (a nightshade); Chinese 5-Spice contains Star Anise, and fennel seeds while curry powder typically contains coriander, cumin, fenugreek and red pepper. The above listed foods, herbs and spices are not a complete list. You can do as I did and google nightshades and find many lists, and also go the the Weston Price website and Dr. Norman Childers’ website. Lots of good information there.
Now I want to share a personal experience with you. In the process of eliminating grains, dairy, soy, processed foods, sugar and caffeine from my diet, I came across a chicken fajita recipe that used peppers and onions and meat, but no wraps. You just serve it as a main dish. We loved it! I made it with cubed venison steak and then with chicken. However, after eating this delicious supper, I did not sleep at all that night and my pain level was up the next day. I was already off caffeine, so I knew it wasn’t that, so at five the next morning I googled bell peppers and sleep issues and guess what came up? You got it, sleep issues along with fibro pain, arthritis, and many other health issues. Darn! It was so good! But remember, everyone is different and may experience different symptoms or no symptoms at all from eating nightshades. Just because bell peppers kept me awake does not mean they will do that to you. Peanut butter keeps my husband awake. Keep a food journal and note pain levels. You may be shocked to see what foods your pain cycles around!
My point is, if you have a symptom that does not seem to have a cause, look at what you are eating. An elimination diet cost absolutely nothing and no harmful pain drugs are used. Just set up your game plan and stick to it. Some experts say it takes 30 days and some say all symptoms from nightshades may take up to six months to clear from the body. When you are pain or symptom free, and want proof that nightshades are the culprit, add one nightshade in at a time and watch for symptoms. One other thing, it can take up to 48 hours for the symptoms to manifest, so maybe you want to skip a couple of days between each experiment to make sure it is clear as to which is bothering you.
As for me, I cut all nightshades out of my diet. In fact, that was why I was fixing the fajitas that week, because the next week was when I was eliminating all nightshades. That was the last stage of my elimination diet. I am finding wonderful benefits such as better sleep, up to 90% less pain, digestive system issues gone, etc. and the pounds are dropping off!
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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.
Copyright 2016, Jennifer Stroop Hensley, Wholistically Speaking

Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Coach, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors.

For directions, questions or issues you would like to see covered in future columns, please leave a message on the Home Page of this website.

The 50/50 Rule of Health
Jennifer S. Hensley

It’s Summertime and the living is easy…especially if you are in good health. It’s July, it’s hot, it’s humid. You could go to the beach or the pool and rub sandy elbows with the crowd, or you could find a good book and sit quietly and peacefully under a shade tree (or for me, down at the pond where it is always 5-10 degrees cooler than up on the deck) with a cool glass of iced tea or lemonade. Prop your bare-feet up, relax, wiggle your toes and get comfortable.

Now back to your health: If you are blessed with good health, you probably do not knowingly do things that are detrimental to your health. Hopefully, you take an active part in maintaining your health as well as your family’s health. One of the ways I help maintain my health is using some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) methods which are thousands of years old. Just in case you don’t think TCM is legit, it has been used for preventing illness and healing for thousands of years. I figure if it didn’t work, after two or three thousand years they would have found another health system. TCM is the oldest holistic medical system still in practice in the world.

Tai Chi, Qigong, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbs and Healing Foods are all a part of TCM. Now only do I practice and teach Tai Chi (Taiji), Qigong (Chinese Yoga), and meditation, I also encourage my students to explore the world of TCM and healing herbs and foods. For example, we just finished our Friday morning Tai Chi in the Treetops class on my second level deck. I grow lots of herbs in large pots on the deck, and as we finished up our Tai Chi form, I suggested we “browse” a bit. We sampled chocolate mint (for digestion), licorice mint (tastes just like licorice without the sugar and artificial flavorings), wood sorrel (has a tart lemony burst and high in Vitamin C), spicy basil, and pineapple sage. We sat an extra half hour and talked about the many virtues of these plants and food in general necessary for good health and healing. You see, I don’t believe there is any ONE thing that is responsible for good health, so therefore, any class I teach embraces holistic aspects. Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation are great for health, but even if I practice these arts faithfully every day and then eat junk food, sodas, and other foods bathed in chemical fertilizers and pesticide sprays, I am going to have more nasty symptoms than if I eat clean, wholesome, organic fruits and veggies. If I eat junk food, I am probably only getting 50% of the benefits of healthy living.

But there is another 50/50 that many do not practice and that relates to you being 50% responsible for your health and your health care professional/practitioner/doctor (HCP) responsible for the other 50%. Too many of us give the HCP 100% responsibility for our health. Who is more vested in your health, you or your HCP? Let’s go a little deeper into the 50/50 rule.

Allopathic (Western Medicine) treats symptoms and is great in emergencies, but poor in prevention and chronic disease. TCM (Eastern Medicine) emphasizes prevention, and if an illness occurs, the outcome is only 50% the responsibility of your practitioner. The other 50% of healing is up to the patient. Do you accept 50% responsibility of your health and healing? If not, according to TCM, you will never achieve complete healing and, in fact, you may be responsible for more serious diseases developing which may cause a complete health crash. Those who suffer from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, and other illnesses did not anticipate these problems when they were younger. They were young and healthy and never gave staying well into old age a second thought. They just assumed they were healthy then and they would be health later in life. Fast food, a beer keg party and junk food didn’t seem to hurt their health any, so why bother with healthful foods and drinks. That’s for the food nerds! By the time they start having symptoms, it may be too late to regain 100% of their health, because the problem with some illnesses is that they are not reversible, so medicine can only relieve the symptoms.

For example, if your Health Professional (HP) recommended you change your diet and increase your exercise because your blood sugar levels were elevated and may foretell the beginning of Type II Diabetes, did you do your research and figure out which foods would continue to raise your blood sugar and eliminate them from your table, your cupboard and your fridge? Did you choose to eat only food and take supplements that would support your systems and keep your blood sugar at a healthful level? Remember, your HCP is only 50% responsible for your health. Or did you ignore the advice and resign yourself to taking meds to control your blood sugar. Now, you are giving the HP 100% responsibility and taking absolutely no responsibility for your health. At least you can blame the HP for your escalating health problems, unless, of course, you run across someone like me who will tell you to put your big boy/girl pants on and get to work!

Go to your Doc, get your check-up, have the tests run and then research and discuss your options for healing. In my opinion and in the opinion of many others, Western medicine is excellent at testing/diagnostics but lousy at preventing or curing chronic conditions. TCM, on the other hand, is excellent at preventing and curing chronic diseases, or as Dr. Aihan Kuhn says–who is trained in both Western and Eastern healing methods–“Chinese medicine is effective at preventing disease and Western medicine is effective in dealing with medical crises…The goal of TCM is to create wholeness and harmony, restore the balance within a person, break any blockage in the body’s energy channels, and promote energy and blood circulation. This not only initiates the natural healing process, but also speeds up the natural healing process. Having studied both Western and Eastern medicine, I believe that Chinese medicine is much more difficult to learn, more complex, and has more potential in human healing. TCM provides us with so much to explore. Chinese medicine is a vast treasury of knowledge. It is the product of several millennia of practical experience in dealing with sickness. Chinese medicine can help relieve or heal all kinds of ailments with over 90 percent effectiveness treating non-traumatic ailments. It is a well-respected ancient healing art, a time-honored medicine that is now just beginning to be understood and recognized throughout the world for the tremendous benefits it can bring. Chinese medicine is practiced side by side and has equal value with Western medicine in China’s hospitals, medical centers, and clinics. In China, people have the choice of both Western and Chinese medicine.”

If you like what Dr Aihan Kuhn has to say, you may want to pick up her book, Simple Chinese Medicine, A Beginner’s Guide to Natural Healing and Well-Being. I have many books on TCM but this is one of the easiest to understand that I have ever read. Wish this book had been available when I first became interested in TCM, because I would have understood so much more so much sooner! And it introduced me to the 50/50 rule. Dr. Kuhn’s book, a shade tree in a peaceful setting, and a cool glass of ice tea…who could ask for more?

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Important Note! The information in Wholistically Speaking is for educational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose and/or treat diseases. If you have a health problem, I highly recommend you consult a competent health practitioner and educate yourself before embarking on any course of treatment.

Copyright 2015, Jennifer S. Hensley, Wholistically Speaking

Jennifer Hensley is the owner and chief instructor of Trayfoot Mountain Studio offering Tai Chi, Qigong (Chinese Yoga), & Herbs, a Certified Herbalist, Natural Health Consultant, Energy Worker/Dowser, Certified TFH Applied Kinesiology Practitioner, and a professional writer for over 30 years. She served on the BRCC Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Board and the VOWA Board of Directors.

For directions, questions or issues you would like to see covered in future columns, please leave a message on the Home Page of this website.