Natural Health
Better living through nature


4 New Ways to Use Mindfulness in the New Year

For many, the new year represents a fresh start, a clean slate on which to write their bright future. But it also comes with its fair share of expectations, goals and to-dos. So, how can you stay focused on your new intentions and make 2020 your most fulfilling year yet? 

The answer is simple — mindfulness. Far from being a gimmick or a hipster trend, mindfulness is gaining attention from intellectuals, researchers and society as a whole for its power to make people more self-aware, focused and content. Practicing mindfulness entails focusing on feelings, sensations and thoughts, recognizing them for what they are and letting them pass without judgment. 

Traditionally, mindfulness takes the form of meditation. With closed eyes and crossed legs, the student sits in silence and focuses on quieting the mind, body and soul. Today, however, you can practice mindfulness just about anywhere, in any situation. Here are just a few ways you can incorporate this practice into your life. 

mindfulness written in calligraphy on window sill
Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

1. Play a Game

Meditation is taught in a way that doesn't emphasize community. So, many think of mindfulness as a solitary activity, practiced on a pillow in a private room. But you can also practice this skill with others. In fact, it may even enhance the effects of mindfulness. The joy of being with loved ones adds to any experience, and mindfulness is no exception.

One way you can practice in a group setting is by playing mindfulness games, which are created to help players become more aware and less stressed. These games take the intimidation out of meditation and introduce the practice in a fun, engaging way. For example, the mindfulness game Vertellis Classic is a conversation starter card game perfect for families and large groups of people. Each card poses a question for each person to answer, allowing players to connect on a deeper level. 

2. Embrace the Mundane

Washing the dishes or taking a shower don't require much brainpower, and many would even consider them boring. Yet, there is some bit of magic to be found in the mundane if you slow down and mindfully appreciate each sensation. Smell the soap. Watch the water splash against your skin. Notice the way each plate or utensil feels in your hands. Paying attention to these small, seemingly insignificant details can alter the entire experience and even make the most mundane tasks enjoyable. 

You can even practice mindfulness while eating. Eat more slowly than you typically would and notice each flavor as it flits over your tongue. Wait until those flavors dissipate to take another bite. Mindful eating can give you a new perspective on food intake and help promote self-control and proper portioning.  

3. Engage Wholeheartedly

The human brain has a tendency to wander, even in conversations with others. Often, you may find yourself thinking about what you'll say in response to the person talking instead of really listening to their words. Or maybe you're thinking about what you'll eat for dinner instead of focusing on quality communication. 

Practice mindful listening to change these habits. Notice the person or people you are talking with. What color are their eyes or their hair? Listen to the way their voice falls on you as they speak. Practicing interpersonal mindfulness will allow you to engage wholeheartedly in conversation and connect with others on a much deeper level. 

4. Go Back to the Breath

While this isn't necessarily a new technique, it's still an incredibly essential part of being mindful. Nearly every meditation study will advise you to focus on your breathing, the ins and outs, to center your mind and become more self-aware. You can practice noticing your breath and acknowledging any thoughts that arise by participating in an activity that brings you peace. This may include yoga, seated meditation, cycling or even petting your dog. 

Some people even wake up early to spend time meditating and breathing. Practicing first thing in the morning allows you to focus on your thoughts and subtle sensations without worrying about a to-do list or deadlines. And you won't feel guilty about taking time to practice when no one has yet had the chance to compete for your time or attention. 

Mindfulness for the Extraordinary Life

Becoming more mindful may uncover emotions and thoughts you haven't dealt with in a long time. For instance, those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse may struggle with feelings of shame and sadness — emotions they'd rather not focus on or acknowledge. But mindfulness makes them face their pain head-on, encouraging them to seek help and overcome these negative emotions and addictions. And, when they finally do, they'll be on the path to creating a more satisfying, sustainable lifestyle. 

Mindfulness isn't something you accomplish overnight. Becoming more self-aware, engaged and connected takes time and practice. The more you consciously exercise your brain, the more natural mindfulness will become — and the more likely you are to enjoy a fulfilling, extraordinary life. 

Scotch Pine Essential Oil: A Refreshing, Comforting "Essence of the Forest"

I refer to pine trees as “feel-good trees” because they offer so many benefits.  Many of the more than 100 species of pines have been used medicinally throughout the world by cultures ranging from the Greeks, Egyptians, and Arabians to the Native Americans, and Scandinavians.  The needles have been burned to clear away respiratory infections and insects and stuffed into mattresses to repel lice and fleas and fend off rheumatism.  The twigs were mixed with cedar and juniper for use as a purification incense.  

The sticky pitch or resin that often exudes from injuries to the tree’s trunk and larger limbs contains a concentration of the essential oil (as does the sap from the fir tree) and has been utilized to heal cracked skin, eczema, psoriasis, and infected wounds, and to bind cuts.  Infused into a base oil and massaged into the skin, it relieves joint pain, gout, sore or stiff muscles, sciatica, poor circulation of the arms and legs, chest complaints, symptoms of colds and flu, exhaustion, and adrenal fatigue.  I employ the refreshing, comforting, Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) essential oil to treat many of these conditions using it both topically and via inhalation.  Other species that I occasionally use, but which can be limited in availability, include the eastern white pine (P. strobus), sea pine (P. pinaster), and the pinyon pine (P. edulis).

scotch pine branch
Photo by Arbor Day Foundation

From Herb To Oil

Indigenous to northern Europe and Asia and introduced to North America by European settlers, this tall conifer has deeply fissured, papery, reddish-brown bark, 2-inch to 4-inch long, stiff needles that grow in pairs, and small-to-medium brown cones.  It has long been cultivated in the eastern United States and Canada, mostly for Christmas tree production and as a landscape planting.  The essential oil is produced primarily in the United States, Bosnia, France, Hungary, Scotland, Russia, and Austria and is one of the most commercially-produced oils – being in demand for products ranging from household disinfectants, detergents, insecticides, and fragrances. A pale yellow or colorless liquid with a potent, fresh, clean turpentine-like aroma, the essential oil is steam-distilled from the fresh twigs and needles.  An inferior essential oil is produced by dry distillation from the chipped wood and stump grindings.

Psychological Benefits:  Naturally uplifting and refreshing, strengthening, empowering, and grounding, Scotch pine helps you feel open and aware.  It brings strength and comfort when you are feeling weak, unworthy, unsure, or sad; dispels negative emotions.  When you are experiencing nervous exhaustion and extreme fatigue as a result of stress, it is an excellent choice.

Essential Properties In A Nutshell:  Scotch pine essential oil has an affinity for the respiratory tract, being a strong pulmonary antiseptic, decongestant, and expectorant; purifying and cleansing; warming circulatory stimulant that is good for pain relief; promotes healing of wounds and dry, cracked skin; deodorant; effective parasiticide against scabies and lice; strengthening, fortifying, and energizing, emotionally and physically.

Safety Data & Usage Information: Generally nontoxic and non-irritating (except in concentration), with possible dermal sensitization to those with highly sensitive skin.  Scotch pine essential oil has a rather short shelf life because it oxidizes quickly, so use it within 1 year or keep it refrigerated and use within 2 years.

Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application.  My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.

The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of Scotch pine essential oil with regard to its decongestant properties.  Works like a charm!

scotch pine essential oil and branch
Photo by Mars Vilaubi

"Breathe Free” Herbal Steam Recipe

This steaming vapors blend contains strong respiratory antiseptics to help fight infection and mucolytics to aid in loosening and draining mucous congestion – providing blessed relief to your stuffiness.  I swear by this steam when I have a bad head cold or sinus headache, or when my lungs feel heavy and congested.  It really helps drain away the misery and seems to open up everything!  A bonus:  the stimulating aroma leaves your house smelling ultra-fresh and clean.  Note:  This recipe is safe for folks 12 years of age and older.

Caution:  DO NOT use if you suffer from bronchial asthma, if you have sensitive skin, or if you are experiencing any type of skin irritation on face, scalp, neck, or chest.

Essential Oils:

  • 2 drops Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) essential oil
  • 1 drop eucalyptus (species globulus or radiata) essential oil
  • 1 drop balsam fir (Abies balsamea) or Scotch pine essential oil

Base:

  • 3 cups purified water

To Make And Use The Steam:

Bring water to just shy of a boil and pour into a medium-to-large heat-proof bowl.  Place the bowl on a stable surface, in a location where you can either stand or sit comfortably for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the essential oils and swish the water to disperse them a bit

Immediately drape a large bath towel over your head, neck, shoulders, and the steaming bowl to create a vapor tent.  With your eyes closed and your face 8 to 12 inches from the surface of the water, breathe deeply and relax.  If your nose is clogged, inhale through your mouth.  You should begin to sweat and your nose should run – that’s a good thing.  Your circulation is moving.  If you begin to feel uncomfortable, pop your head out of the tent for a few moments of fresh air, then go right back in.  Keep your eyes closed during the entire steam.

When you’re finished, splash your face and neck with tepid water, followed by a few splashes of cool water.  Pat your skin almost dry and follow with an application of light moisturizer, if desired.  You may partake of this treatment once or twice per day until you are feeling better.

Yield:  Makes enough for 1 treatment


Recipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

The Best Teas to Drink to Start the New Year

Aah! What's better than a nice hot cuppa on a cold winter's day? Tea is a fantastic beverage that warms icy fingers and toes while offering a host of health benefits. 

If you think tea only came in a bottle or from one plant, think again. You can make a tea out of the leaves of many plants, but some remedy specific troubles. If you want to jumpstart the new year in the healthiest way possible, try one of these varieties tailored to your needs. 

cup of tea with kind message
Photo by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

1. Green Tea 

Green tea and black tea come from the same plant — the difference is the maturity of the leaves. Both are rich in antioxidants, but the verdant variety has less caffeine. It has far less than a cup of coffee, so if you're trying to reduce caffeine intake overall, try alternating a cup of green tea with each mug of joe. 

What is an antioxidant, and why are they so important? Oxidative stress refers to a disturbance in the balance between damaging free radicals and the substances that combat them. Free radical damage leads to cellular death and plays a role in the development of diseases. What elements fight free radicals? Antioxidants for the win! 

2.  Cinnamon 

Currently, tens of millions of Americans live with either diabetes or prediabetes. If you fall into the prediabetes camp, make cinnamon tea your new best friend in 2020. A recent meta-analysis of the efficacy of cinnamon in treating Type 2 diabetes found a clinically significant reduction in fasting blood sugar among those who used the herb. The powdered form of this tree bark proved the most effective, so consider adding a scoop to your other favorite tea recipes. You'll get a hint of sweetness and improve your glucose metabolism. 

3. Turmeric 

If you have chronic pain of any type, reach for turmeric. Better yet, make a chai-like tea blend by mixing the Indian herb with black pepper. This blend increases the absorption of turmeric by 2000% — you read that right! As if that wasn't enough pain-relieving loveliness, both substances contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper contains compounds similar to capsaicin, the stuff in pain-relieving creams. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that anecdotal evidence shows efficacy in treating anything from migraines to fibromyalgia to arthritis. 

4. Chamomile 

Many people today live with chronic stress. This tension doesn't only rob joy from the present moment — it can lead to disease and long-term suffering. Scientists find correlations between ongoing high-stress levels and the development of both heart disease and diabetes. For centuries, herbalists have turned to chamomile to help them relax. If you want to wind down before bedtime, mix a cup of chamomile and lavender herbal tea. You'll sleep like the proverbial baby. 

5. Moringa 

Moringa comes from an African tree that resembles a giant horseradish. In recent years, the herb has gained a reputation as a weight-loss supplement, and some research supports its efficacy in regulating blood sugar. One thing is known — moringa is chock-full of vitamins and minerals your body needs. Try a cup in the morning and see if you experience the increased energy levels many users report. 

6. Lemongrass 

Do you have hypertension or high blood pressure? If so, try adding lemongrass tea to your daily repertoire. Lemongrass contains high levels of potassium, a mineral that decreases your blood pressure. The herb also stimulates blood circulation, further boosting your cardiovascular health. Do you need one more reason? It lowers your cholesterol, too. 

7. Fennel 

If you're female and have menstrual discomfort or are nearing menopause, try fennel tea in 2020. Fennel contains estrogen-like compounds that may help balance your hormones and alleviate symptoms like cramping and low energy. Are you welcoming a bundle of joy in the new year? If you're breastfeeding, drinking fennel tea can help stimulate your milk supply. 

8. Uva Ursi 

Women with menstrual discomfort often experience bloating, but other conditions cause this symptom, too. Consuming too much salt, for example, can lead to water retention. This tea made from the leaves of the bearberry plant contains the chemical arbutin. Arbutin helps promote healthy urinary tract functioning so that you can flush away the toxins causing the swelling. 

9. Spearmint/Peppermint

Finally, if you ever experience tummy trouble, reach for a cup of peppermint or spearmint tea. These tasty blends help to soothe the muscles of your digestive tract to stop the anguish. These herbs work primarily on the intestines, although they relax the stomach muscles as well. Therefore, mint teas work best for disorders of the lower digestive tract. When the muscles of the stomach relax, acid can flood the esophagus, making gastric reflux worse. Ginger is a fabulous alternative if you do have this disorder. 

5 Ayurvedic Herbs to Protect Your Body in Winter

The Vedic sages had understood the rhythm of nature and forces – the rhythmic cycle of seasons – alteration of night and day can affect us as cycles and seasons in human life. Being in tune with nature also means being in tune with the individual constitution – Pitta, Kapha, and Vata – the energy of metabolism, lubrication, and movement.

It is important to make peace with the natural cycles and adjust with the changes in the environment by making little changes in food, ingestion of herbs, and exercise for staying healthy all year long. You cannot control external factors but small changes in daily meals can make a big difference. Cloudy and grey sky often cause an imbalance in Kapha, which is responsible for lubricating the joints, maintain immunity and moisturize the skin. In excess, it can persuade mucus related illness, sluggishness, negative emotions such as greed, envy, and excess weight. You can learn in detail by enrolling yourself in Ayurveda courses in India

As we know, food plays a crucial part in keeping us healthy. Incorporate buttermilk, unyeasted bread, steamed vegetables, cottage cheese, ghee, warm soup, and warming spices like cloves, cinnamon, black pepper to improve appetite, promote digestion, and increase circulation. For more details, you can go for an Ayurveda course in Kerala. Here is Ayurveda's view on winter and a guide to help you stay balanced all winter long by adding a few herbs in your diet.  

Ayurveda herbs

Brahmi

Brahmi – a blessing for the brain! In fact, the leaves of Brahmi have the appearance of the human brain. The word Brahmi describes two different herbs for instance Bacopa Monnieri and Centella Asiatica. Its leaves help in balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain. You can nurture both the intuitive and analytical side as well as both Shakti (feminine) and Shiva (masculine) aspects so that you can become whole. It stimulates the pineal gland as well as the endocrine gland located within the brain and assists with intuition. You can take Brahmi in the form of powder or syrup. Many brain-boosting supplements have Brahmi.

Peppercorn

Peppercorn – king of spices has a mild and sharp spicy flavor that enhances the taste of many dishes. This ayurvedic medicine has been used for thousands of years because of its beneficial plant compound and concentration of potent. Free radicals can damage our skin and leads to premature aging, certain cancers, and heart diseases. Peppercorn has a plant compound that helps in protecting it from free radicals and their effects. It has shown potential benefits for severe degenerative brain conditions, for instance, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Daily consumption of peppercorn leads to the absorption of nutrients like selenium and calcium. A study shows that it can be a natural pain reliever.

Cloves

This versatile spice is a staple of Indian cuisine. Found in both powder and whole form, it can be used in hot beverages, cakes, cookies, and pot roasts to add aromatic and sweet flavor with medicinal properties. It will be surprising to know cloves include minerals, fiber, and vitamins with some crucial nutrients. Cloves are rich in antioxidants and vitamins C. Cloves have antimicrobial properties that stop the growth of microorganisms, for instance, bacteria. A study shows that cloves are capable of killing three types of bacteria including E. coli. It can use as an herbal mouthwash for proper oral hygiene and improves gum health. Cloves promote liver health and regulate blood sugar.

Cardamom

An intense, sweet flavor spice used in ancestral medicines for centuries and both savory and sweet recipes – cardamom can easily be found in Indian kitchens. Cardamom – a simple spice has immense health benefits. It is highly beneficial in high blood pressure, contains cancer-fighting compounds, and has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps in protecting you from chronic diseases. This is not it cardamom has used to treat digestion problems for thousands of years. It often uses with other medicinal spices for treating vomiting, nausea, and discomfort. It improves oral health and treats bad breath. In some cultures, it’s common to eat cardamom after meals for freshening up your breath.

Cinnamon

A delicious spice prized for its medicinal properties. Modern science has confirmed what humans know for ages – cinnamon has effective medicinal properties. In Egypt, it was valuable for gifting to the king. There are two types of cinnamon – Ceylon (true cinnamon) and Cassia (we generally use). Cinnamon is stuffed with antioxidants like polyphenols and can be used as a natural food preservative. Cinnamon protects from the world’s common problem for early death – heart attack. As we all know, Insulin imbalance leads to diabetes. Regular use of cinnamon boosts metabolism, controls blood sugar and shows effective benefits on insulin resistance. It also treats diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and protects from cancer. A study shows cinnamon can treat HIV – 1.

You can include these ayurvedic herbs into your diet for immense health benefits. You can also take a break from the hassles of your life and go for a yoga retreat in Nepal. Hopefully, this little guide will be helpful for you in this winter. These spices will not only help you keep warm but also make you healthy. I hope you’ll adopt these habits in your daily routine for a healthy winter. 


Bipin Baloni is a yoga teacher from India and his core specialization is in Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. He organizes 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh. Bipin Baloni conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India in different cities. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda and Health.

3 Yoga Poses for Strong Legs and Thighs

Powerfully built legs are what everyone wants. Since legs are responsible for movement, the pair is of tremendous importance in one’s life. Most of one’s successes are based on the healthiness of the legs and thighs—from enjoying the beauty of this world to witnessing your success stories, a brawny pair of legs is quite significant. A number of people in the world believe in yoga for making their legs strong. In fact, there are numerous yoga asanas which can be extremely useful to strengthen the legs.

Here, we will discuss three yoga poses that are immensely fruitful in making the legs and thighs strong.

girl in boat pose outdoors
Photo by Vishal Bhutani on Unsplash

Navasana (Boat Pose)

One of the finest exercises for having a pair of well-built legs, Navasana is Sanskrit for Boat Pose. The practice is all about balancing the two halves of the body by balancing it from the hips. While indulging in the asana, the thigh and abdomen muscles undergo a good workout which in turn, enhances their strength. Boat Pose is considered a fine exercise to lose weight. Navasana is also given tremendous importance in various Yoga programs such as Yoga teacher training in Nepal, India, Thailand, etc., thanks to its all-round benefits.

How to Practice:

  • Navasana’s practice starts in Savasana — the state of complete rest on the mat.
  • Bring the feet together and make the body flexible.
  • Raise the upper body in the air, followed by the legs and thighs.
  • The elevation angle of the spine should be equal to that of the thighs.
  • Make sure the spine is elongated and the knees do not get bent during the process while the body is balanced on the sitting bones.
  • Extend the arms to bring them parallel to the ground, in line with the knees.
  • It is also very important to keep the chest opened.
  • You can take help from others if you are not able to balance the two halves on your own.

If one is suffering from asthma, heart problems, low blood pressure, etc., the practice is advised to be avoided. It should also not be practiced during menstruation. The stress-relieving asana is great for stretching the hamstrings. If you are a Badminton player or a footballer, give some serious time this asana for boosting the movement of your body. In addition to all the physical benefits, the pose is an awesome alleviating reproductive health problems. Also, if you are having digestive issues, this exercise will prove to be immensely fruitful.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

This one is quite an easy exercise when it comes to practice. Almost everybody can enjoy the asana’s beauty. And this is what makes Utkatasana an extremely popular Yoga pose among people of all age groups. The final position of the asana imitates a chair, for which it is also known as Chair Pose. Owing to its contribution to boosting the strength of the thighs and legs, this asana is very fruitful for athletes and sportspersons.

How to Practice:

  • The practice of Utkatasana begins in the standing position. Keep the whole body straight.
  • Make sure the feet are placed slightly apart from each other.
  • While bending the knees gently, push your pelvis down in such a way that looks like sitting in a chair.
  • It is better to keep the thighs parallel to the ground and let a right angle be created at the knees.
  • Stretch your arms in the air to bring them parallel to each other above your head. Instead, you can bring them parallel to the ground with palms facing the mat.
  • Make sure the elbows don’t get bent.
  • Keep the spine erect and elongated while trying to hold the body in the position.
  • Let the body relax and thighs muscles tone for about a minute.

At the end of the practice, it is very important to give your legs a much-needed rest. Sukhasana, Virasana, and Siddhasana are some of the most popular relaxing Yoga poses.

Since the whole weight of the body is placed on the thighs, the muscles get toned in an amazing fashion. It is advised that you should not force yourself to stay in the pose if you are not able to do so. In the beginning, you can practice 5-6 laps of 4-5 seconds each. You can increase the lap time as you become an expert.

Padangusthasana (Hand to Big Toe Pose)

Padangusthasana is an amazing exercise when it comes to strengthening the thighs and legs. It is a very impactful practice for the complete health of the body and mind. Traditionally, the asana is a major instigator of peace, since it leads to a good amount of blood flow in the mind. Also known as the hand to big toe pose, the Yoga pose is one of the most influential physical exercises. The best part about this asana is the fact that you can practice this anytime and anywhere. Making it an integral part of your life would ensure the fitness of your legs.

How to Practice:

  • Padangusthasana also begins in a standing position.
  • Bend the body down in the forward direction and bring the nose near the knees.
  • By making sure that the knees are not bent, plant the fingers below the soles in such a way that the palms face the soles.
  • Make sure the torso, thighs, and shoulders are in a comfortable position.
  • Come back to the original position and repeat the same practice a few more times.

The asana has various forms of practice. Instead of placing your palms below the soles, you can just hold the toes with your fingers. Many people station their palms on either side of the soles. One of its major variants is called Uttanasana. Give this pose at least 5-6 minutes in the morning as well as in the evening to get the maximum benefits. Along with bolstering the thighs, Padangusthasana is also beneficial in enriching the brain and all muscles with substantial blood. The asana nurtures the legs, shoulders, and hips with proper blood circulation throughout the body parts. Enjoy this pose for strong and better-functioning hamstrings.


Bipin Baloni is a yoga teacher from India, and his core specialization is in Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. He organizes Ayurveda Courses in India specially in Kerala. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and health

Helichrysum Essential Oil: A Potent Remedial With A Gentle Hand

Helichrysum essential oil is yellow-to-slightly reddish in color with a pungent, distinctive, earthy, warm, honey-like scent which some say reminds them of sweet curry spice. It is a relative newcomer to the essential oil market, but demand for it is high, given its undisputed ability to help heal damaged skin tissue and soothe achy, inflammatory conditions. Like lavender, helichrysum essential oil is a complete medicine chest in a bottle!

A strongly aromatic, shrubby herb, helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum, syn. H. angustifolium) produces small clusters of bright yellow, semi-dry flowers that can be kept for years in a dried arrangement; in fact, helichrysum is also known as immortelle  or everlasting.  The name helichrysum is derived from the Greek helios (sun) and chrysos (gold).  Usually taken in the form of an infusion (tea), helichrysum has long been valued for its astounding number of medicinal properties, especially in Mediterranean countries, where it has been used as a remedy for liver ailments, skin conditions, respiratory complaints, headaches, inflammatory conditions such as muscular aches, sprains, and strains, and rheumatism.  African cultures prized the plant as a wound healer and burned the fragrant leaves as ceremonial incense.

Extremely gentle but highly efficacious, helichrysum essential oil is a powerful wound mender; a wonderful skin rejuvenative for aging and environmentally-damaged skin, as well as skin exhibiting eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis; and a superb anti-inflammatory.  I especially like it for its ability to ease arthritic pain, sciatica, sprains, strains, and muscle spasms, including menstrual cramps.  It is recommended for soothing achy hands and feet, too. 

helichrysum and cobalt bottle
Photo by Mars Vilaubi, c2018, used with permission from Storey Publishing

From Herb To Oil

 Helichrysum is native to the Mediterranean region and North Africa, and its essential oil is mainly produced in Italy, Spain, France, Croatia, Corsica, Hungary, and Bulgaria.  It takes approximately 1 ton of hand-harvested helichrysum flowering tops to produce just over 2 pounds of essential oil by steam distillation.  Thank goodness a little goes a long way!

Psychological Benefits:  Helichrysum is considered generally uplifting, harmonizing, nurturing, and calming, which is helpful when you’re dealing with issues of depression, apprehension, phobias, lethargy, stress, mental unrest/exhaustion, irritability, and shock.  Thought to open the heart, it provides warmth and grounding to those dealing with emotional coldness and fear.

Essential Properties In A Nutshell:   Powerful skin cell regenerative, excellent for treating wounds, burns, and skin irritations and pampering environmentally damaged, sensitive, or mature skin; antibacterial; superb anti-inflammatory and pain reliever; gently warming; soothes emotions and strengthens resistance, especially in times of heavy stress.

Safety Data & Usage Information: Generally nontoxic, non-irritating, and non-sensitizing.  Do not use with children under 2 years of age.

Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application.  My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.

The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of helichrysum essential oil with regard to its muscle-comforting properties.

helichrysum pain relief rub
Photo by Mars Vilaubi, c2018, used with permission from Storey Publishing

Essential Sports Rub Recipe

This effective oil blend contains soothing anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and analgesic properties and has a subtly sweet herby aroma.  It is designed to improve muscular circulation during the warm-up process or to deliver relief from overexertion after any vigorous or prolonged physical activity.  It leaves muscles feeling fabulous!

This recipe calls for herb-infused oils of comfrey leaf, St. John’s wort flowers, and calendula flowers.  You can either purchase them from better online herb purveyors such as Mountain Rose Herbs or learn to make them yourself.  On page 211 of my book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide, I give complete DIY instructions!

Note:  This recipe is safe for folks 12 years of age and older. For children ages 6 to 11, omit the rosemary essential oil and substitute with 6 additional drops of lavender essential oil.

Essential Oils:

• 8 drops helichrusum (Helichrysum italicum, syn. H. angustifolium)
• 6 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
• 6 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. cineole or non-chemotype specific)
• 4 drops ginger root (Zingiber officinale)
• 2 drops sweet orange (Citrus sinensis)

Base:

• 3 tablespoons comfrey-infused oil
• 3 tablespoons St. John’s wort-infused oil
• 2 tablespoons calendula-infused oil

Container:

• 4-ounce plastic (PET or HDPE) or dark glass bottle with a pump, screw cap, or dropper top

To Make The Rub: Combine the helichrysum, lavender, rosemary, ginger, and orange essential oils in the bottle, then add the comfrey, St. John’s wort, and calendula oils.  Screw the top on the bottle and shake vigorously for 2 minutes to blend.  Label the bottle and set it in a cool, dark location for 24 hours so that the oils can synergize.  Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year.

To Use: Shake well before each use.  If possible, have a friend or partner massage this blend into your muscles, paying particular attention to any painful or tense areas, before and/or after activity.  Applying it to skin that is pre-warmed from a bath, shower, or heating pad encourages the oil to penetrate deeply, but it is not necessary.

Yield: 4 ounces (120 ml)

Bonus uses: This blend also delivers soothing pain relief to sprains, arthritic joints, and newly bruised tissue.  It effectively relaxes and comforts muscle spasms in the arms, hands, legs, and feet, too.  Apply to affected areas three or four times per day.


stephanie tourles book coverRecipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide, (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing. Cover by Mars Vilaubi and Michaela Jebb, c2018, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

5 Natural Ways to Treat Uterine Fibroids

By age 50, between 70 and 80 percent of women will experience uterine fibroids. Since most women will confront this common health issue during their lifetime, it's crucial to develop a treatment plan for each woman's unique needs.

While medications and pharmaceuticals constitute the most common form of treatment for these non-cancerous tumors, it's vital to consider every possible treatment plan available. If you're looking for a more natural way to treat your fibroids, you'll be happy to know that you have access to many different options. Below, we'll delve into a few natural alternatives you may want to consider implementing into your wellness routine.

healthy diet breakfast bowls
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

1. Switch Up Your Diet

Your diet has a profound impact on your overall health and sense of well-being — uterine fibroids included.

If you currently don't spend too much time worrying about the food that goes into your body, now's the time to start. Fortunately, eating a nutritious and nutrient-rich diet is simple and doesn't require too many lifestyle changes on your part.

When dealing with uterine fibroids specifically, try to cut out as many carbohydrate-rich and sugary foods as possible. Why? Since these foods can trigger your body to produce excessive insulin hormones, they can aggravate your fibroids or symptoms.

Not sure what to eat? Try loading up on fruits and vegetables and other uterine fibroid-friendly foods instead. 

2. Drink Green Tea

Green tea is hailed by many throughout the world as one of the healthiest beverages aside from water. Rich in antioxidants and vitamins, green tea is used as a remedy to ward off a multitude of illnesses or health risks, such as uterine fibroids.

Why is green tea able to achieve this desired shrinkage? As noted, green tea is rich in antioxidants that play various roles in ensuring your daily health. One such antioxidant — deemed epigallocatechin-gallate — is linked to fibroid shrinkage, and it happens to be found in green tea.

And that isn't just here-say, either. A research study examined the impact of green tea specifically on uterine fibroid growth. Results showed that women who took green tea extract experienced uterine fibroid shrinkage when compared to those who took a placebo.

3. Develop a Weight-Loss Plan

Women with excess body weight are at a higher risk of experiencing fibroids. Having a higher BMI can negatively impact hormone regulation, which is key in a woman's reproductive health. Since obesity is one of the leading causes of uterine fibroids, it's important to create a health plan that focuses on achieving a healthy weight. 

Avoid any diet pills or teas that promote rapid weight loss. In addition to eating healthy, engaging in daily exercise, such as yoga, weight training or biking, can help you more effectively lose weight and keep it off in the long-run. 

Aside from prioritizing a healthy diet, one of the top ways to ensure a healthy weight level is by engaging in regular exercise. Be sure to shed any excess pounds in a healthy manner gradually over time. 

4. Consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) Treatment

Rather than taking multiple medications, you may find it more appealing to undergo a minor procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).

In this treatment, a skilled radiologist will insert a small catheter into your wrist or groin where it will be guided to the fibroid's blood supply. You'll then be free to go home the same day. The ultimate goal is to free small particles from the blood supply to cut off the fibroid's supply of nutrients.

While this procedure may seem ideal, it's not for every uterine fibroid patient. Your physician can determine whether you'd be an ideal candidate.

acupuncture in hand
Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

5. Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that centers on inserting thin needles into a specific section of the body to promote healing. While current research studies on acupuncture are limited, many women tout that the healing benefits of this treatment option cannot be overlooked.

In a research study, women who used acupuncture versus medication experienced fewer adverse effects. Consider discussing this option with your general healthcare practitioner to determine whether you could benefit from the practice. Many health enthusiasts in the Western world swear by it!

How Do You Plan to Resolve Your Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are a common condition that most women experience at one point or another in their lives — so it's important to understand that you're not alone. Whether you're looking for a way to alleviate your symptoms or want to reduce the formation of uterine fibroids altogether, consider incorporating any of the alternative treatment options mentioned above into your wellness plan!







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