THE POWER OF ESSENTIAL OILS

I love essential oils, I use them every which way I can, therapeutically as medicine in creams, medicated oils and poultices, in massage blends, in skincare products, for cleaning, and when  cooking. Known as the life blood, or essence, of the plant essential oils have the power to heal, balance, revive and restore the body, mind and soul. 

Our sense of smell is powerful and primal. It is attached directly to the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for, among other things, our basic desires such as the desire to eat and drink, our emotions and our memories. Without our sense of smell we wouldn't be able to taste, the food we eat, determine danger or tune into those all important attraction creating, pheromones.

What makes essential oils so effective is that they have the ability to penetrate every level of our being. Their direct relationship with the limbic system means that they can heal on a deep emotional level, balancing our moods, lifting us out of depressed states and reducing stress and anxiety. Essential oils also have the ability, when applied to the skin,  to penetrate right down to the cellular level thus getting to the very core of the physical problem, which is why many of them should not be used when pregnant.

However you choose to use them essential oils are a must for every home medicine cabinet. But it's important to use them wisely, a patch test on a small area of skin is advised before you use your oils topically and if you are treating a chronic condition with long term oil use follow this easy pattern of five days usage and two days off (I like to think of it as taking the weekend off), this is because all oils metabolise at different rates and long term use of the same oils can cause a build up in your body resulting in over-sensitisation. Also remember, when using your oils on your skin, to add them to a carrier cream or oil such as sweet almond or jojoba.

The following list of oils are some of the most common, effective and safe to use.

EUCALYPTUS - Use for respiratory infections, headaches, muscular aches and pains, burns and cuts and as an insect repellent. 

GERANIUM - Use for wounds and bruising, cellulite and fluid retention, balancing the nervous  and hormonal system and in skin care to balance the production of sebum which makes it an appropriate oil for all skin types.

LAVENDER - This is a wonderful all purpose oil that can be used for just about anything. It reduces inflammation making it great for muscular aches and pains and arthritis, it's inflammatory properties also make it a go to oil for burns, insect bites, rashes, eczema, dermatitis and problem skin. Lavender is also useful for respiratory infections and for bringing the nervous system back to a state of peace and calm.

MANDARIN - This oil is particularly good for children helping with colic, restlessness and anxiety. Other uses for mandarin oil include topically for stretch marks, problem skin, and nervous exhaustion.

ROSEMARY - This oil is particularly good for treating tired, stiff overworked muscles. It stimulates the brain making it useful for times when real concentration is needed like before a presentation or when studying for exams. Rosemary is also helpful in respiratory conditions where congestion is a problem such as bronchitis, certain types of asthma and sinusitis. This oil combines well with lavender for treating headaches.

SANDALWOOD - Use for varicose veins and swollen lymph nodes. Sandalwood is also a wonderfully relaxing oil making it great for anxiety and agitation. Used in skincare sandalwood is soothing, moisturising and cooling and it may also help stimulate hair growth if baldness is an issue.

TEA TREE - One of the most powerful antiseptic oils Tea Tree should be the go to oil for any type of infection, it stimulates the immune system, kills bacteria and fungi and can be a deterrent to viruses. Tea Tree oil is recommended for wounds, burns, bites and blisters. It can be used to treat fungal infections such as athletes foot and a drop placed on a wart daily (then cover with a bandaid) will eventually remove the problem. Tea Tree oil is also particularly beneficial for respiratory conditions ranging from the common cold to whooping cough.

   

MINDFULNESS

Recently I attended a mental health seminar and while the speakers and their subjects were many and varied the common theme throughout was mindfulness. So what is this elusive thing called mindfulness, how do we achieve it and what can it do for us.

We are mindful when we live in the present moment, when we are open and receptive to our inner and outer environments and when we allow ourselves to be curious about life and all its wonders. Mindfulness keeps us connected to the universal energy, to each other and to ourselves and it keeps our senses alive. When we are mindful we are focused, aware and relaxed. 

Many people when they hear the word 'mindfulness' think only of its spiritual associations but being in a mindful state has many benefits. Mindfulness is good for our mental and physical health. Physically it assists with pain relief, improves our sleep and immune functioning and increases our performance capabilities. Mentally mindfulness helps with stress, depression, anxiety and addictive behaviour and disorders such as ADHD, ADT, psychosis and Alzheimers.

Neurologically a lot happens when we are mindful and, as a result, less stressed or anxious. Being in a high stress state can lead to atrophy in the areas of the brain that govern memory, ability to function, perform and learn. While it increases action in the amygdala the part of the brain that, among other things, deals with fear. Stress also leads to increased oxidation in our body which, in turn, causes the telomeres attached to our chromosomes to shorten and that has a detrimental affect on the ageing process. 

So how do we attain mindfulness, this state of being in the present moment. It may seem simple enough but the reality is that the default position of our brain is not a mindful one because our brain loves to wander. However the more you gently bring it back to the present state the easier it becomes. Stress busting techniques such as meditation, exercise, conscious breathing and spending time in nature are also great ways to bring yourself into the present moment. But whatever you do don't be too hard on yourself because one of the most fundamental aspects of mindfulness is acceptance and accepting ourselves just as we are is the first big step towards cultivating a mindful manner.

THE BENEFIT OF BITTERS

The corner stone of good health is a wholesome, varied diet complete with a balance of the six taste sensations of sweet, savoury, sour, salty, pungent and bitter. In Ayurvedic medicine all therapies start with the right diet and the belief that the wrong food will cause disease.

In todays diet bitters are often the forgotten taste, however is wasn't always like that. Once it was customary to take a bitter aperitif before dining, think Campari or Vermouth, or to include bitter herbs with meals.

Bitters are essential for good digestion, detoxifying, reducing inflammation and keeping our skin firm. Bitters are also effective in weight loss treatments as they stimulate cells in our digestive tract to release a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK) which makes us feel full so we stop eating. Bitter foods also stimulate the release of insulin which ,makes them useful in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

If you want to incorporate more bitters into your diet try a variety of green leafy vegetable such as kale, rocket, chicory or dandelion greens. Bitter spices include fenugreek and turmeric. We can even be decadent with our bitter options as black chocolate and champagne are both considered to be bitter in effect.

So get into bitters any way you can, your body will thank you for it

 

Be Well Be Blessed

MAKING FRINDS WITH FOOD

Whether we like it or not we all have a relationship with food. We need food, it sustains and nourishes us, helps us grow and is vital for maintaining good health and wellness. Our relationship with food lasts a life time, it is one of the most important relationships we will ever have, so how can we make it better?

We expect a lot from food. We want it to comfort us, fill our emotional gaps, nourish and sustain us, and keep us healthy and happy. But what do we give it in return? We use and abuse it. We are fickle, always jumping on the latest 'superfood' bandwagon or extolling the virtues of the newest fad diet. We blame food for our problems yet get angry with it when it can't solve them. We try to control food or end up letting it control us. We love it. We hate it.

But what if we had a good relationship with food? If we were friends with food we would eat mindfully, caring about what we eat and how we ate it. Preparing food would be a pleasurable experience. We would slow down to savour it, we would have fun with it. We would share it with others. Being friends with food would be help us to be the happy, healthy people we all want to be.

So how do we nourish our relationship with food, the way it nourishes us?

First we start by being friends with ourselves. When we love and respect ourselves, when we marvel at the remarkable thing our body is and take joy in all the wondrous things it can do then we will care about what we use to fuel and sustain it, then we will be friends with food. Imagine how good we would feel if we stopped hanging out with the fast food crowd, how improved our  functioning would be if we ran on clean, wholesome food. Imagine how energised we would feel if our digestive systems were performing at their optimum level and imagine how we would glow with good health.

So start today. Tell yourself how fabulous you are, love each and every bit of yourself and go make friends with food.

Be well, Be blessed 

 

HANDY HAY FEVER HINTS

Your eyes are itchy and watering, your nose is runny and you can't stop sneezing, it's spring and you have hay fever but before you reach for your antihistamines or decide that you are going to stay indoors for the whole season try some of these natural remedies.

First what is hay fever? It's an allergic reaction triggered by pollen, dust mites, animal dander or moulds. These triggering substances are inhaled and, due to a sensitised immune system, antibodies are produced. In  turn these antibodies bind to mast cells in the body and histamine and other chemicals are released which is what causes the itching, swelling and other uncomfortable symptoms of hay fever.

The good news is that a lot can be done with diet and herbs to combat the symptoms. Studies have shown that people who suffer from hay fever are also very likely to have food allergies so a diet that is simple and easy to digest, avoids the most common food allergens and mucus promoting foods is the best one to follow. Foods such as dairy products, wheat, eggs, corn, nuts and shell fish are some of the most common allergy foods and should be either avoided or kept to a minimum during hay fever season, at least until you have established if these foods are a problem for you. 

Zinc has potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties so it can be great for alleviating the symptoms of hay fever. Common sources of zinc are; fish, seeds, ginger, pulses and red meat. 

Vitamin C helps prevent the secretion of histamine and it's a powerful antioxidant so be sure to include it in your diet. Common sources of Vitamin C are; kiwi fruit, papaya, mangoes, capsicum, berries, potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, broccoli and chick peas.

Vitamin E can help reduce hay fever symptoms due to its ability to reduce immune allergic responses by modulating mast cells. Common sources of Vitamin E are; kale, spinach, avocados, asparagus and rice and bran oils.

Vitamin A is an antioxidant, it boosts the immune system and it helps with the excretion of mucous. Common sources of Vitamin A are; meat, fish oils, egg yolk, dark green leafy and yellow vegetables.

Another helpful nutrient is Bromelain, found in pineapples, which has anti-inflammatory properties and clinical trials have shown that it improves breathing and helps break down mucous.

The most effective herbs to use are Turmeric, Garlic, Ginger, Fenugreek and Horseradish all of which can boost immunity and  reduce inflammation and congestion. Have them as teas or add them to your meals.

Another potential causative factor in hay fever is a yeast over growth in the digestive system, probiotics will help with this.

Essential oils are another effective way of treating hay fever. Eucalyptus, Lavender, Myrtle, Rosemary, Peppermint and Tea Tree are some of the best. You can use them as a steam inhalation, mix them with a carrier oil and apply topically or have them diffusing around the house. 

So now that the your eyes have stopped itching and your nose isn't running you can get out there and really enjoy all that spring has to offer.

Be Well, Be Blessed

 

 

 

 

DETOX IS NOT A DIRTY WORD

Some people when they hear the word detox automatically think of starvation diets, drowning in endless glasses of water and hours spent shopping for, and then preparing special meals. Sure you can detox that way and there’s nothing wrong with it but it’s not the kind of detox I’m talking about. This kind of detox is  a total inside and out kind of detox and it starts with listening. Yes it’s that easy all you really have to do is listen to your body, your mind and your soul and then give them what they want.

Spring is the time to cleanse your liver and gallbladder, which have worked so hard during the last few months digesting all the fats and heavy foods of winter, and your body instinctively knows that.  So when my body starts craving all things fresh and green, crisp and crunchy I listen to it and give it salads with a delicious assortment of greens and sprouts, lightly steamed or grilled meals, fresh and flavoursome juices and smoothies and naturally sweet juicy fruits for snacks or dessert.  Instead of weighing your meals down with heavy sauces try flavouring them with pungent herbs like basil, fennel, dill, caraway and bay leaf and avoid overly starchy or salty foods. Dandelion or mint tea with honey are great spring tonics too.

 The next step in the detox process is detoxing your environment. Start with your wardrobe clear out all those clothes you don’t wear, that don’t fit that are way out of date. Give them to a charity shop, have a market stall, organize a clothes swap with your friends or donate what you don’t want to your local schools drama department. Move onto the rest of the bedroom making sure to really clear out under the bed to get the good chi flowing. Keep going through your house clearing and cleaning one room at a time feeling yourself becoming freer and lighter as you clear out drawers and cupboards, recycling and reinventing as you go. Again what you don’t want to keep donate or take to your market stall. The more you clear your space and get the fresh energy flowing the better your feng shui will be. If this all seems to daunting make it fun by getting your friends involved, get a group together taking turns to host detox parties.

Great now that you have detoxed your physical body and your home is all sparkling and new it’s time to take the final step and do the emotional detox. This one is the hardest, this one requires you to really listen to your heart and soul and take a good, long and honest look at your life and see what needs changing. Are you stuck in a rut or a toxic environment that brings you no joy? Do you have bad habits that somehow you never seem to be able to let go of? What about the people in your life, do they raise you up or pull you down? Think about getting out in your community, joining new groups or starting your own. Ask yourself what are the things I’ve always wanted to try and get out there and try them. Have fun, be inspired.

The more we clean out the old and outgrown the more room we make for wonderful new things to come into our lives. So now that your detox is complete, sit back with a cup of calendula tea (mild tasting and a great lymphatic cleanser) and welcome the new with open arms and a happy heart.

 

Be well, be blessed 

 

WHY FERMENTATION

This blog was inspired by a conversation I overheard on a train.

Woman One "Im going to give this fermentation thing a go"

Woman Two "Why?"

Woman One "Because they say it's good for you"

Well yes it is and here's why.

Fermentation is a process by which natural bacteria feed on the sugars and starch in foods and create beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, EFA's and various probiotics. Mother Nature has been fermenting food substances long before humans discovered it, but eventually our ancestors realised that fermentation was a great way to preserve food and the nutrients it contains.

The health benefits of fermented foods are many. Firstly fermentation addresses the problem of anti-nutrients, or those compounds found in almost all foods that inhibit the digestion and absorption of all the good nutrients so eating fermented foods ensures that you are getting all  the nutritional benefits from what you eat. Soy beans are a good example of this, without fermentation the complex proteins in the bean would be indigestible. Fermentation also balances the hydrochloric acid in your stomach; when it is too low fermented foods will help increase the acidity of gastric juices and when it is too high the fermented foods will help protect the gut lining preventing damage from excess acidity. Fermented foods also help the body produce acetylcholine the neurotransmitter that, among other things, helps with the production of digestive juices and the movement of the bowels. 

Fermented foods also act as a natural antibacterial agent destroying harmful germs. Scientific research has shown that a particular strain of lactic acid bacteria found in sourdough bread has proven to be very effective in destroying bad germs while Koumiss, a fermented milk product from Russia has been successfully used to treat TB.

Here's some info on the health benefits of fermentation http://www.healthline.com/health/cold-flu/, http://textbookofbacteriology.net/lactics_3.html).

Fermented foods are also very helpful in the management of diabetes, they improve pancreatic function and, since the carbohydrates in food have been broken down or pre-digested, they are easier to digest thereby placing less strain on the pancreas.

So how can we get the benefits of these wonderful foods? By adding a small portion of fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, sourdough bread, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso and yogurt to your diet on a daily basis you will quickly realise the benefits of fermented foods and your digestive system will thank-you. Oh and enjoy a glass of red wine with your dinner because after all wine is made from fermented grapes.

For more fermented foods go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fermented_foods

 

Be well Be blessed

 

 

 

 

How To Beat Those Winter Flu's

Ok here goes my first blog ......

We've celebrated the winter solstice so officially the back of winter has been broken but the coldest months are still to come. In fact as I write this it is 4.8 degrees outside , pouring with rain and the weather forecast isn't ruling out snow. So how do we keep our immune systems healthy so we don't succumb to the dreaded winter flu? (or anything else that may be doing the rounds), and avoid endless rounds of antibiotics and flu shots. It's really quite simple we boost our immune systems so that none of the millions of bacteria and viruses that we're exposed to everyday can take hold.

So here are some easy ways to make sure your immune system is in tip top order and your body ready to kick some nasty germ butt.

1. Be happy. Be calm. Stress and anxiety increase levels of adrenalin and cortisol both of which will suppress your immune system. So when things get hectic reach for your favourite stress buster and relax.

2. Diet. Yes this one is a no brainer but here are a few of the best immune boosting foods around. Of course a diet rich in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with whole grains. legumes and lean meats will always be a winner. And avoiding processed foods is a must because they increase inflammation which in turns leads to a decrease in immune function.

  • YOGHURT - All those lovely probiotics will keep your digestive system healthy, full of good bacteria and free of nasty germs. But here's a tip dairy should be avoided if you already have a cold because it will only make you snottier.
  • BARLEY and OATS - The beta-glucan in these foods make them rich in anti-oxidants and antimicrobials. One serve a day is all you need.
  • GARLIC - The allicin in garlic is a wonderful immune stimulant. If you're worried about garlic breath eat it with parsley.
  • SWEET POTATOES - Are rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene) which is needed to maintain a strong and healthy immune system
  • MUHROOMS - These tasty treats increase the productivity of white blood cells which the body uses to fight infection.

3. Take your vitamins. Vitamins A, C and E are the most essential for a healthy immune system and so are the minerals zinc and selenium. If you want food sources of these vitamins here's a few suggestions.

  • VIT A - Sweet potatoes, capsicum, squash, lettuce, dried apricots and fish.
  • VIT C - Citrus, kiwi fruit, broccoli, capsicum and strawberries.
  • VIT E - Nuts and whole-grains, vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, wheatgerm, avocados and egg yolks.
  • SELENIUM - Tuna, shellfish, whole-grains and garlic.
  • ZINC - Spinach, beef, oysters, shell fish, kidney beans, lima beans, flax seed, pumpkin seeds and peas.

4. Drink, drink, drink. Dehydration leads to inefficient circulation which then leads to a delayed immune response. Herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated in winter.

5. A good nights sleep. Our bodies do their best work while we are sleeping, hormones are balanced, tissues repaired and healing occurs.

 

Be well. Be blessed