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Ancient Healing Techniques for Better Living

Use these natural healing tips for overall improved health.

| May/June 2017

  • Getting enough sleep is an important building block of good health.
    Photo by iStock/Wavebreak
  • Lavender essential oil helps promote relaxation and sleep.
    Photo by iStock/hynci
  • Elderberry syrup and jam is a tasty way to improve immunity.
    Photo by iStock/kleiness
  • Ashwagandha can be added to a glass of water or taken in a capsule as a supplement.
    Photo by Fotolia/Erich Mücke
  • Bitter foods such as dark chocolate or black coffee can help your body process nutrients.
    Photo by iStock/anna1311
  • Going for a walk is an easy way to incorporate physical movement into your day.
    Photo by iStock/lzf

Modern medicine deserves credit for extending our lifespans and finding cures for formerly fatal diseases, but ancient medicinal traditions can excel at treating nagging problems that fall through the cracks in the modern medical system. All of the following suggestions rely on treatments people have used for thousands of years. They’re all safe and easy to use at home. However, if you plan to use these treatments in addition to, or in lieu of, pharmaceuticals, make sure to discuss it with your doctor first. Some medical doctors incorporate these simple therapies into their practices. You can also consider seeking out the advice of a qualified, certified alternative health therapist, such as a naturopath, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner or Ayurveda practitioner.

Get Quality Sleep

Modern science and ancient health traditions agree that sleep is critical for good health. In one study, people awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse on a test than people with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent (the legal limit for driving under the influence is 0.08 percent). When they went without sleep for even longer periods, response speed and accuracy dropped into the range of people given the maximum alcohol dose (blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent).

During sleep, our bodies release growth hormones that rebuild muscles and heal injuries, as well as enhance our cognitive function. And yet, hectic daily life makes it easy to neglect our sleep habits. A regimen of natural strategies can help improve sleep, often more safely and effectively than prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. A 2012 study found that hypnotic sleep drugs, such as Ambien, were associated with increased chance of death, even at low levels of use, as well as increased incidence of cancer. (For a full list of natural alternatives for better sleep, visit mother But if you’re going to try just one tactic for better sleep tonight, turn to lavender essential oil. Exposure to lavender essential oil has been shown to significantly inhibit anxious behaviors in rats. Another 2006 study showed that lavender essential oil had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in women college students.

TO USE: Place a drop of lavender essential oil on each palm, and rub them against your temples. Sound too simple? This technique is not only backed up by modern science, it’s also a tried-and-true method that’s been around through the ages. Aromatherapy, or the use of botanical oils for healing, has been used therapeutically for around 6,000 years. Lavender itself was used in many ancient cultures, from ancient Egypt to ancient Persia to ancient Greece.

Resist Stress

Unfortunately, eliminating stress itself is, well, impossible. Modern sources of stress tend to be mandatory—work, bills, the inevitable traffic frustrations. And these are exactly the types of stress that confound our bodies. After all, our adrenal systems are designed to help us run from immediate sources of danger (lions! tigers! bears!) or fight off attackers, not to fight the stress of office politics or high cell phone bills. The good news is that ancient medical systems have gleaned insight into helping our bodies adjust to both physical and mental stressors. For instance, Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine practiced in India for more than 3,000 years, has long prized ashwagandha as a type of health-boosting tonic called an adaptogen. Modern studies have shown that ashwagandha can, in fact, help increase stamina and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol in animals.

TO USE: Try a daily dose of ashwagandha tincture in a glass of water, following the dosage instructions on the tincture you select. You can also try a powdered preparation or take the plant in capsule form. The roots of the plant are traditionally used to make medicine.

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