Natural Remedies for Common Pregnancy Ailments

Treating simple ailments at home can be fun and empowering. Natural remedies can restore balance and lessen or relieve various common conditions. Diet and lifestyle are often the first line of treatment; they are simple, effective, and safe in pregnancy.  Ayurvedic and Western herbalism offer many healing herbs, as well.  We will explore some of the most common ailments of pregnancy and how you can safely treat them at home.

Here is a link to the recording of this talk I did for the Birthworks program:
http://sarahloubodyworks.com/2014/08/02/natural-remedies-for-common-pregnancy-ailments/Whole and sliced ginger

Summer Sun Tea

Sun Tea
As summer heats up the earth I find myself craving refreshing and cooling beverages. I created this summer sun tea a few years ago to quench my thirst, cool down system while delivering the amazing benefits of herbs to my family and myself. My children now love to help put the herbs in a large glass jar, fill it up with water and watch the colors change in the sun.  After a short time the tea becomes a gorgeous deep red color. It’s simple and delicious. The recipe is below. Here is some interesting info about the herb in the tea.

Hibiscus is sweet, astringent and cooling. It is wonderful for relieving summer heat. The Yoga of Herbs (one of my desk companions) states that hibiscus flowers “ help purify the blood and heart, and they also improve skin complexion and promote hair growth. They are effective in menstrual difficulties, particularly excess bleeding.”

Even though peppermint is pungent, it is cooling to the system and wonderful tasty addition to summer time teas. Mint’s soothing and calming actions work wonders on the nerves and digestion.

Nettle leaf is one of my go-to herbs for many women’s health conditions. It is super high in iron (excellent in pregnancy and during/after menses to build blood) and other minerals. Nettles are cooling, astringent and pungent, with an earthy taste. They have a wonderful alterative and hemostatic action.

Rose petals are a delicate, delightful addition to this tea. Rose is excellent for reducing Pitta by cooling the blood, reducing inflammation and relieving heat. Its affinity for rakta dhatu and the blood make it useful in many female health conditions from menorrhagia (excess/heavy menses) to dysmenorrhea (difficult menses) to endometriosis and fibroids. Rose is also known as the flower of love and devotion, helping to lift the spirits and heal the heart.

Rose hips are the end result of a rose’s life and actually the fruit of the rose. I love to find them on wild rose bushes in the mountains and many moons ago I harvested them from the wild and dried them for tea. These fruits are one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C available.

1/4 c. hibiscus flowers
1/4 c. rose hips
1/4 c. pink rose petals
1/2 c. nettle leaf
1/2 c. peppermint leaf
10 c. filtered water
2 c. unsweetened apple juice (if desired)

In a large glass jar place all the herbs. Cover with water and shake well. Place jar in the sun for 4-6 hours. Strain the herbs well from the liquid into a clean pitcher. Add apple juice, if desired. Enjoy!

* You can purchase the herbs in bulk from a natural foods store, herb shop or on-line from Mountain Rose Herbs.

The beauty of simplicity and lemons

lemonssmallI am a gal that gets excited about the simple pleasures in life, such as freshly picked lemons. My family and I went on a short trip to Arizona recently and I went absolutely bonkers when I discovered how many lemon trees there were with tons of ripe fruit just dangling on the branches and scattered all over the ground. I couldn’t believe that no one was picking the lemons and using them. So we harvested away….

We made many batches of fresh lemonade and I used lemons in the dishes I prepared, but my greatest joy was fresh hot lemon honey water first thing in the morning. It is a simple, inexpensive and effective morning elixir of health. Just boil 2 cups of water, add the juice of 1/2 lemon and add 1 TBS raw honey. Drink warm. This beverage clears away congestion and mucus, stimulates digestion and cleanses ama. Perfect timing for clearing excess Kapha that has accumulated over the winter and for clearing seasonal allergy congestion.

In Ayurveda we look at the nature and qualities of herbs and foods to see if they are beneficial for us. Lemons have a sour and astringent taste (rasa), are cool in energy (virya), and sour in post digestive effect (vipaka). They decrease Vata and Kapha and when taken in excess aggravate Pitta (due to its sour/acid nature). So if you are Vata and Kapha type, lemons can be used freely. Pitta can use occasionally.

Lemon juice has so many uses- as a gargle for sore throats and a mouth rinse to reduce bleeding gums. It liquifies and expectorates mucus from the lungs, increases the flow of bile by flushing the liver and gall bladder and acts as a gentle laxative. Squeeze lemon on your itching bug bites for relief and add it to house cleaning products for an extra lemony scent and cutting grime.

So, pick up some lemons at your favorite place to shop and have them on hand for your juicing pleasure.

IMG_0156

The Hidden Powers of Turmeric

bigstock-Fresh-TurmericSmall

That jar of bright orange powder in your kitchen is your very underestimated friend! Did you know that turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and disease preventing spice? After Dr. James Duke reviewed more than 700 studies on turmeric, he concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals against chronic diseases, with practically no side effects. Turmeric has been shown to address Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and arthritis.

Turmeric is a potent immune stimulant and one of my first lines of defense for weakened immunity. It is a superb cold remedy that helps the upper respiratory system by removing excess mucous and reducing inflammation in the sinuses.

Not only is it great for adults, but turmeric is safe for children, too. I frequently give it to my kids at the beginning stages of a cold with great success. Mixing it with honey masks some of the bitter taste. A spoon full of honey does helps the medicine go down:)  Mix equal parts of the powder with raw honey into a paste, take it by the spoonful and follow with a glass of warm water. Kids can take between 1/4 and 1 teaspoon (depending on their age and weight) every couple of hours at the beginning signs of a cold and for acute infections, tapering down to 3 times a day until symptoms subside.

Adults can take a teaspoon with honey every hour for acute conditions. Turmeric is widely available in most grocery stores. The more convenient tablets can be taken daily for prevention or every couple of hours for an immune boost in acute situations. I like Banyan Botanical tablets – certified organic and they go down smoothly.

Cooking with turmeric is another way to benefit from it. Add it to stir-fries, vegetable and lentil soups, curry dishes and even egg salad.

And one word of caution – turmeric stains! Watch your counter tops, cutting boards and fingers. Years ago when I had a small herbal products company, turmeric was an ingredient in one of my products. My fingers stayed yellow for at least a few days after making each batch, and I had to scrub the grout on the countertop vigorously to remove the color. Just a word of caution!

Fall Newsletter

Cinnamon in the Spotlight 

I will always remember the aroma of freshly harvested cinnamon. Over fifteen years ago I traveled through the Andaman Islands, a small archipelago between India and Thailand, and had the privilege of stopping by a cinnamon farm. Locals were harvesting the bark right before my eyes and laid it out to dry in the sun on banana leaves.

The Sanskrit name for cinnamon, Tvak, literally means skin or bark. Just as the bark of a tree protects itself, so the bark of the cinnamon tree protects our own health. As the cool winds of autumn blow colorful leaves about, I have recently been craving this sweet, warming spice and have been reflecting on its amazing benefits.

Cinnamon is excellent for gently and effectively increasing circulation. Those of you with cold hands and feet may want to use a little extra now and through the winter months.  Cinnamon is a carminative, which promotes digestion and helps to dispel gas and distention, tenderly increasing agni(digestive fire) while harmonizing samana vayu.  It is also great for colds, congestion and the flu by acting as an expectorant (helping to expel mucus from the body) and a diaphoretic (encouraging sweating to release toxins).

Cinnamon is a good choice for those with a weak constitution as it helps to build strength in the body, referred to as the Ayurvedic action of Balya.  Women with painful menses can use cinnamon a few days prior to increase circulation to the pelvis and help to alleviate cramps. Cinnamon is also an aphrodisiac, which can simply be enjoyed sprinkled on hot chocolate and savored with your sweetie.

Cinnamon is similar to ginger in its universality, but is less likely to aggravate Pitta.  Therefore, it is great for Vata and Kapha types, and occasionally for Pitta predominant types.

Add a heaping spoonful of the powder into your morning porridge, place a few sticks in your pot when slow cooking beans and soups or enjoy a mug of cardamom, cinnamon ginger tea- perfect on a cool, autumn morning.

And if your jar of cinnamon has been collecting dust in your spice cabinet for ten years, toss it. Powdered spices (and herbs) are best used within six months. When you buy it fresh you will see, smell, taste and feel the difference!

Cardamom Cinnamon Ginger Tea Recipe
3 c. water
1-2 sticks of cinnamon
2 slices of fresh ginger root, about ¼ in. thick
8 green, whole cardamom pods

Bring water to a boil in a small stainless steel saucepan. Add cinnamon, cardamom and fresh ginger. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes before straining. Serve warm.

Yoga Kids

“Can I do yoga with you before bed, Mommy?” Sierra asked me last night with the sweetest inflection in her voice. How could I refuse that question? My new time for doing a home yoga practice is in the evening, after my daily responsibilities are done, children are in bed and the busyness dissipates, at least for a moment or two. Since dinner I had been thinking about doing a deeply meditative practice, a nice long pranayama (breathing exercise) and meditation. Then, in that moment, I looked at her eager eyes and saw a different practice before me. This one is full of sharing, connection and fun with my daughter.

She wants to start with sun salutations. A little invigorating for the evening, I think to myself, but it’s ok and it will probably feel good. I watch her seven-year-old body move with grace and fluidity. She asks for help dropping back into urdhva dhanurasana, upward bow or wheel pose, and I admire the innate flexibility of youth. Her spine is so open! We do virabhadrasana, the warrior pose, and I see strength and confidence build in her body. I hope these qualities stay present when she is confronted with troublemakers at recess. Sierra then decides to flip through Yoga Journal magazine and do poses that strike her fancy. She wants to do them together, very complex postures. I try to silence the voice in my head that is dreaming up a sequence to properly prepare the body for each one—glad that teacher aspect is ingrained in me. But I let it go, enjoy the spontaneity and just hope I’m not too sore tomorrow! I end with a couple of my staple poses and a short shavasana, rest pose. She mirrors me. Then it’s time for sleep.

I tuck her in bed and let her know that we can do that any time. She goes to bed with a huge smile across her face and I can feel the happiness in her heart. It’s in mine, too. I have spent many a’ time trying to do my own yoga practice with my children climbing on me, dancing and jumping around the room and me! This time, I went with what would be best for both of us, and it made all the difference. Do you practice yoga with your children? What works or doesn’t work for you? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!

Best to you,

Margo