The smell is one of familiar culinary delight. Ah! Oregano! It’s pungent aroma lends zest to sauces, Italian dishes, and tomato products of all kinds. But what of the medicinal qualities of this oft forgotten aromatic?
Oregano is a member of the huge mint family, Lamiaceae. Its name has a base in Greek (they all do, it seems). Oros, meaning mountain, and ganos, meaning joy, are combined to express what the people of the time must have thought of the plant. It is a mountain joy. It can be found cultivated throughout the world. As with many modern “kitchen herbs,” it has a great many varieties. Typically, it typically grows 50 cm tall and has purple leaves around 2 to 3 centimeters in length. The variety I have in my garden grows leaves a bit smaller and more of a deep green, however, that may be due to the climate in which we live. I am still investigating this.
The smell of oregano is distinctive. Thymol, pinene, limonene, carvacrol, ocimene, and caryophyllene all work together to give off that wonderful aroma. It’s flavor is impossible to mistake in Mexican and Italian dishes.
Oregano as Antifungal
A gentlemen approached me once, and request a rather large amount of essential oil of oregano. I had used quite a bit of different oils, but the quantity in which he asked for the oregano oil seemed quite outlandish at the time. Really, it wasn’t. He only asked for five 5 ml bottles, but I was a newbie and no idea why he would need so much at one time. He enlightened me.
It turns out that oregano oil acts as a vigilante against fungus. He was a long time sufferer of repeated sinus infections. Since he worked in a nursing home environment, and the research from the CDC suggesting that recurrent sinus infections may be a result of a fungal overgrowth instead of an infection, he was ready to try anything. He also shared with me, that he had long been battling toe nail fungus. This gave him the idea that perhaps his body was just dealing with too much fungus and not so much bacterial invaders.
He suggested the following use for oregano oil (in addition to applying topically in a carrier oil, such as olive or sweet almond oil):
Add 3-5 drops of oregano essential oil to a pot of approx. 1 quart of boiling water. After the water is removed from heat (and source of flame), bend over the pot and tent yourself with a towel over the vapors. Inhale deeply through the nostrils. The gentleman also added 1-2 drops of the essential to a nettie pot (see note at bottom of post) containing a teeny amount of sesame oil in body temperature water* to fully bathe the sinus cavities in the wonderful oil.
Oregano as Antibiotic
After some research, I was convinced the gentleman would be just fine using oregano. It turns out that not only is this oil antifungal, but it has antibiotic effects, too. Carvacrol, a phenol in oregano, is being looked at for its powerful ability to kill bacteria. Tests at Georgetown University suggest it may stack up even when compared to streptomycin and penicillin. Portuguese researchers found that Origanum vulgare essential oils were effective against 41 strains of the food pathogen Listeria monocytogenes2. I would love to see if this plant could pack a punch against some of the modern day antibiotic resistant infections rampant in the U.S. A team of British and Indian researchers reported that the essential oil of Himalayan oregano has strong antibacterial properties that can even kill the hospital superbug MRSA.
Oregano as Antioxidant
In the U.S. the push is to be young forever. We all seem to be chasing the easiest way to appear younger, feel more energetic and live longer. Adding oregano may be a component to your formula. It contains thymol and romarinic acid. These work to reduce free radical damage in the body. In fact, research done at the USDA's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, a tablespoon of fresh oregano contains as much antioxidant power as a medium sized apple. Now, I know the FDA won’t acknowledge such a thing, but another arm of our government clearly shows that it works. The situation is truly half a dozen of one and twelve of another, if you ask me.
Oregano as a Digestive Aid
There is no coincidence that these herbs found in heavy, fatty meat laden dishes, help to stimulate the flow of digestive secretions. It makes the saliva flow, and this is the beginning of digestion. The more your food can be broken down, the less gas it can create. And in case any gets past the digestive juices, no fear! It contains various chemical components that relax the gut, allowing the expulsion of gas without pain.
Other Historical Uses
Oregano “juice” is said to soothe venomous spider bites, bee stings and mosquito bites. While I never intend to find out, it also said to treat venomous snakebite. I would prefer to error on the side of caution on that last one, and get to a hospital in that instance.
Oregano tea (from Medicinal Health Guide)
wash fresh or dried oregano leaves
chop then add in 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of oregano leaves
let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes
let it steep then strain the leaves
Drink half cup of Oregano three times a day
oregano concoction can be stored in suitable glass container for later consumption.
*Please use care when utilizing a nettie pot. This is wonderful tool, but the water used should be distilled and warmed to body temperature ONLY. The sinus tissues are very sensitive and can be burned easily. A tiny bit of sesame oil added to the warmed water will help from drying the sinus tissues, as well. Oregano: zest for your dinner and your herbal medicine chest.
Common Name: Rosemary – Botanical Name: Rosmarinus officinalis. Energetics: Warm, dry. Taste/Impression: Aromatic, spicy, diffusive, slightly astringent and slightly bitter. Action: Aromatic, circulatory stimulant, stimulant/relaxant nervine, stimulating diaphoretic.
Hello again, I hope you have been enjoying our herbal health posts here! I've been busy preparing for our HerbFolk Gathering, while doing my best to keep up with the gathering and preparation of our native medicinal plants for our family's yearly use. Now I'd like to share with you an excerpt from one of my articles in our book The Plant Healer's Path, and introduction to the ever lovely Rosemary!
This is one of my partner Elka's very favorite plants, and I think she could live, breathe and swim in it and be very happy. We have rosemary butter, rosemary-infused olive oil, rosemary salve, rosemary tea, rosemary tincture, rosemary lotion, rosemary smudge, rosemary rubbed meat and all manner of other rosemary-flavored dishes and body products. Thankfully, Rosemary is a common ornamental and culinary garden plant in NM and can be gathered in most villages and cities. This is good, because it's cold enough in the canyon that our rosemary tends to struggles and grow very slowly. We do have one little plant gifted to us by a woman from Taos that is thriving in the shelter of our kitchen door. It’s growing round and tall, and each Summer presents us with gorgeous purple flowers for months at a time. Every time I walk from the den to the kitchen I stop to rub my fingers against a resinous, leathery leaf and breathe in the magic of this warm, spicy herb. Even on the coldest days of winter, it’s gentle presence fills me with an inner glow of contentment and joy.
Medicinal Properties of Rosemary
Rosemary has been a favorite ally of mine for quite some time, both for its beautiful and giving nature and because it’s just so damn useful. It's a common ingredient in my digestive formulas, especially for those with a sluggish, overtired liver and a cold gut typified by lack of appetite, gas, constipation and bloating. I especially like it combined with Oregon Grape Root for the liver issues, and is additionally helpful in a pattern that often includes excessive, dilute urination from kidney deficiency and low blood pressure as well as inability to digest protein/fat efficiently. Other specific indications also include foggy thinking, general feeling of coldness, tiredness and intermittent depression with or without thyroid involvement usually with nervousness or anxiety underneath. There are also sometimes signs of heart weakness accompanying the poor circulation.
Rosemary tincture made from fresh plant in high proof alcohol is very powerful, so my proportions tend to be something like 5 parts Oregon Grape to 1 part Rosemary. If it still seems a bit too stimulating or heating for the individual but is otherwise a good match I'll adjust it to 2 parts Oregon Grape, 3 parts Burdock root and 1/2 part Rosemary. The taste is lovely and really harmonizes with the other herbs very nicely. Some amount of Lavender can also be added if there are significant signs of anxiety or insomnia, especially when accompanied by headache or confusion.
Rosemary is a very efficient and effective circulatory stimulant, and thus useful in a great many heart and circulatory formulas. Fresh whole rose hips, Rosemary, Ginger and Yarrow is the basic makeup of one of my favorite winter heart remedies for those who tend to get cold, quiet and lethargic in the winter. Also great for headaches of a vascular nature, along with Virgin’s Bower or Pulsatilla.
As a nervine, it has both relaxing and stimulating qualities, making it ideal for cold- bodied people with a tendency to both depression and nervousness. It promotes clarity of thinking, calm awareness, a sense of groundedness and can be very useful for flighty people constantly floating out or sinking down out of their bodies. Cold, sad people with digestive weakness and have a hard time being in the present and tend to drift into dreamy or spacey thinking will often benefit a great deal from the ongoing use of this herb.
Rosemary Tea and Rosemary Oil
The tea of dried leaves tends to be milder and more easily handled by a variety of constitutional types. It works very well in many tea blends, or as a pinch added to a nourishing infusion to warm things up a bit. A foment, oil or vinegar of the leaves is very nice for old muscle or joint injuries with a tendency to flare up in cold or damp weather. The oil or fresh leaf infused lard makes an excellent salve for old wounds that don’t want to heal, chronic pain of various sorts and on cracked dry feet or hands (Comfrey or Plantain is a nice addition to this). The salve and tea are also highly antimicrobial and helpful for any wound or infection that could use a boost in circulation and warmth.
Partially due to its intense volatile oil content, Rosemary works very well as an warm infused foot bath. Great at the end of the day for sore, tired feet and it is quickly absorbed through the feet into the bloodstream allowing the body to take advantage of its many healing qualities. Headaches, coldness, exhaustion and sadness (among other things) can all be addressed quite well through this simple method. To make a foot bath, just throw a handful or two of dried leaves into a big pot (big enough for both your feet to comfortably fit in) half filled with water (depending on depth) and heat to just below simmering, turn heat off and let steep for ten minutes. You can then either let the water cool down to an enjoyable temperature or add some cold water before soaking your feet for as long as you like. You can also make a quart of strong infusion of the herb and pour the strained liquid into your regular bath. You can also create temptingly aromatic blends to revive your feet at the end of the day, something like 1 part Rosemary, 1 part Lavender flowers and 1 part Rose petals. This also makes a wonderful face or body wash, it’s stimulating, calming and very cheering.
Preparations and Dosage
Fresh plant tincture (1:2 95%) is strong and a great ingredient in many digestive, headache, and heart formulas, as well as in liniments. It’s strong enough it doesn’t usually need to be used in large dosages. Taken by itself I start with two drops at a time and move up from there. Makes a great infused vinegar, especially from the fresh plant, yummy for food or excellent asa medicine, especially for external issues. With its high volatile oil content, this is a prime herb for infusing into oil or lard for salves or food. Fresh plant is definitely superior for this purpose. Freshly dried plant makes a nice tea or as a pinch added to a nourishing infusion.
Cautions & Contradictions: While almost everyone loves Rosemary as a spice or condiment, some don't do so well with it as a medicine, often those of excess type constitution who are hot-natured, prone to high blood pressure and ruddy colored. Possible signs of incompatibility include roaring in the ears, feeling like your pulse is going to bust out your head when you stand up (high blood pressure), rapid heartbeat, sharp headaches and excessive and uncomfortable flushing. If these symptoms occur either greatly reduce the dosage or cease completely. If the symptoms are unclear, withdraw it and then retest if possible. Rosemary should not be used where there are indications of heat, whether from excess or deficiency.
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Green Blessings, Kiva Rose
It enhances libido, balances hormones, and might even be a form of hormone replacement therapy, so say certain maca marketing materials, which appear to be based on rodent studies funded by those very same supplement marketers. But what do quality, independent studies on humans have to say? And what about traditional use and indigenous rights of the people who have been growing maca as their primary food source for millennia? Let’s get to the root of maca.
What Is Maca?
For thousands of years, a radish-like root called maca has been persuaded out of the planet’s worst farmland high in the plateaus of the Peruvian Andes: rocky soil blasted by high winds, intense sunlight, and high temperatures alternating with subfreezing temperatures. It is said that maca, Lepidium meyenii, an herbaceous perennial (grown as an annual) in the Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) family, is the world’s most elevated cultivated food crop, growing at 12,500-14,500 feet above sea level. There are several varieties of maca including red, white, yellow, and black.
Highly nutritious, maca has been used as a staple food source by the people of Central Peru for thousands of years, as well as a ceremonial offering in traditional sacred rites, as currency, and as medicine to improve overall health in both animals and people. The Incans first domesticated the plant over 2,000 years ago, and in the 1550s a Spanish conquistador chronicled his observations of traditional maca use in the Peruvian highlands.
Maca is nutrient-dense and is rich in copper, vitamin C, and potassium as well as trace elements like iodine, iron, and zinc, fatty acids, and amino acids. Dried maca root consists of about 10-14% protein and 60-75% carbohydrates. In terms of daily nutrient value, 100 grams (about 20 teaspoons) of maca powder contains 475% vitamin C, 82% iron, 25% calcium, 300% copper, 57% potassium, 29% niacin, and 57% vitamin B6.
Fresh maca is eaten either roasted or baked, while dried maca is made into a fermented health drink called maca chica or incorporated into jams, porridges, and puddings.
Native Peruvians recommend cooking maca before consumption – by many accounts raw maca appears to be a North American trend not based on traditional use. Like other cruciferous members of the Brassicaceae family, maca contains a chemical called glucosinolate, a sulfur compound with many health benefits that may interfere with thyroid hormones in some people if consumed in high amounts. Glucosinolate concentration is significantly reduced when maca and other brassicas (kale, bok choy, broccoli, etc.) are cooked. Raw maca has been known to cause digestive upset in some folks.
Maca as Medicine
Western herbalists have classified maca as an adaptogen, which are those plants (often found growing in hostile climates and terrain) that enhance the human body’s ability to adapt to stressors such as poor diet, lack of sleep, environmental assaults, and emotional imbalances. Adaptogens help modulate functions of the body without having a strong effect on any one particular system or disrupting the balance of the individual.
Peruvians use maca to improve energy and endurance, for reproductive disorders including infertility in both men and women, to stimulate the immune system, and to help with menopausal symptom, menstrual problems, and other health problems including memory loss and some cancers.
Worldwide, it has become a trendy herb for enhancing fertility and sexual performance, balancing hormones, and even as a potential alternative for hormone replacement therapy; however, the latter claim is primarily based on product-sponsored studies by marketers and manufacturers of maca. Independent studies do not show any change in hormone levels in either men or women; the mechanism by which it acts is likely independent of hormonal influence.
One idea to consider, as pointed out by naturopath and herbalist Leslie Taylor, is that Peruvians consume up to a pound of maca root a day and as yet do not appear to exemplify the fertile images of super human virility one might expect (if the marketing claims are true); on the other hand, the herbal supplement labels in the U.S. recommend up to just a few teaspoons or capsules of powdered root a day. It would not seem that such small amounts could have an effect, yet those small amounts do show some results, as we shall see in the following section. Gelatinized maca, which has had much of its starch removed, is more concentrated than other types of preparations. (Gelatinization refers to a specific process of starch removal and does not refer to gelatin encapsulation.)
What Does Science Say About Maca?
Independent (those not funded by the supplement companies) human studies on maca have not shown any change in circulating hormone levels, but an increase in subjective feelings of enhanced libido has been noted for both men and women. One small study showed a slight decrease in sexual dysfunction induced by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during maca supplementation in patients taking 3 grams of maca; those taking 1.5 grams a day did not experience improvement. A study on nine men taking 1.5-3 grams a day showed an increase in seminal volume and sperm count and motility, but again, hormone levels were unaffected.
A product-funded study showed an increase in estrogen and a suppression of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in early postmenopausal women who took 2 grams of gelatinized maca a day. In contrast, an independent study evaluated postmenopausal women who took 3.5 grams of maca daily, but there was no difference between the baseline, maca treatment, or placebo in serum concentrations of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, or sex hormone-binding globulin.
A systematic review of maca’s effect on menopausal symptoms noted high risk of bias for several of the published studies, and revealed that very few rigorous studies on maca have been conducted. In the end, the review authors concluded that while there is some evidence for maca’s effect on menopausal symptoms, the number of trials, their size, and their quality were too limited to draw firm conclusions of any kind. It would also be beneficial to see more studies using the more concentrated, gelatinized form of maca on humans.
The most recent study (in 2014) on maca was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of 29 post-menopausal women taking 3.3 grams of maca a day. As seen in other independent studies, hormone levels remained unaffected; however, both blood pressure and depression levels significantly decreased. It appears that the benefit maca confers is independent of reproductive hormone levels.
Maca and Indigenous Rights
Maca was at the center of an indigenous rights battle after several international supplement companies were granted patents in the U.S. for “inventions” related to maca root, allegedly financially benefiting from traditional knowledge without adequately providing compensation or securing permission to use that knowledge.
While it appears this issue has been mostly resolved, I advise carefully researching maca product companies to assess their relationship with indigenous farmers and their environmental policies. Don’t hesitate to contact companies and ask specific questions about their practices. Acting with sensitivity towards traditional knowledge and taking a stand against biopiracy is the responsibility of the holistic-minded and conscientious herbalist.
As a supplement, maca offers many vital nutrients that can support vibrant health and it does appear to increase libido, but one should perhaps not expect miracles such as the sort as are promoted by some marketers. I recommend seeking out maca from ethical companies who work closely and respectfully with farmers and who use organic and fair-trade farming practices.
If you experience digestive issues with maca or have a thyroid problem, try the gelatinized maca or be sure to cook your maca before consuming.
Maca has a mild butterscotch flavor and can be added to smoothies, baked goods, yogurt, and other foods as a nutritional supplement. (Check out our Summertime Maca Smoothie recipe!) It can also be taken as an herbal infusion. Below is a recipe for Maca-Roons: date-sweetened maca-fortified macaroons that are delicious and nutritious!
Yield 20 macaroons
½ cup coconut butter
¼ cup organic gelatinized or regular maca root powder
1 cup shredded coconut
7 medium sized Medjool dates, pitted
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit – just warm enough to dehydrate the macaroons.
Mix the coconut butter, maca root, shredded coconut, and salt in a bowl.
Remove the pits from the dates, and place into a blender with the ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth.
Pour date mixture and vanilla into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Scoop out a tablespoonful of the mixture at a time and place onto a baking sheet.
Place in the warmed oven for 25 minutes, then let cool. Store in the fridge and enjoy!
Brinckmann, Josef. Peruvian Maca and Allegations of Biopiracy. Retreived on August 22, 2014.
Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L. (2008) Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62.
Dording CM, Fisher L, Papakostas G, Farabaugh A, Sonawalla S, Fava M, Mischoulon D. (2008). A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008 Fall;14(3):182-91.
Gonzales GF. (2011). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:193496. Epub 2011 Oct 2.
Gonzales GF, Córdova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Góñez C. (2003). Effect of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a root with aphrodisiac and fertility-enhancing properties, on serum reproductive hormone levels in adult healthy men.
J Endocrinol. 2003 Jan;176(1):163-8.
Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Gonzales C, Chung A, Vega K, Villena A. (2001). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian J Androl. 2001 Dec;3(4):301-3.
Lee MS, Shin BC, Yang EJ, Lim HJ, Ernst E. (2011). Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review. Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):227-33.
Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, Barchia I. (2006). Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Dec;2(4):375-94.
Meissner HO, Kapczynski W, Mscisz A, Lutomski J. (2005). Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. Int J Biomed Sci. 2005 Jun;1(1):33-45.
Meissner HO, Reich-Bilinska H, Mscisz A, Kedzia B. (2006). Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women - Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Jun;2(2):143-59.
Self Nutrition Data. “Maca Powder Nutrition Facts.” Retrieved on August 22, 2014.
Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. (2009). Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.
Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, Apostolopoulos V, Haines C. (2014). Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric. 2014 Aug 7:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]
Taylor, Leslie. (2012). Database entry for Maca Lepidium meyenii Maca - Lepidium peruvianum, Chacon - Maca - Lepidium meyenii Maca - Lepidium meyenii Maca. Rain-tree.com. Retrieved on August 22, 2014
Zenico T, Cicero AF, Valmorri L, Mercuriali M, Bercovich E. (2009). Subjective effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) extract on well-being and sexual performances in patients with mild erectile dysfunction: a randomised, double-blind clinical trial.
Andrologia. 2009 Apr;41(2):95-9.
Photos provided by and copyrighted to Annie Hall, Herbal Academy of New England.
Before I begin this blogging journey of mutual sharing and growth, I thought I’d tell you a bit aboutmyself. I am an optimist, a confident, 54-year-old woman, who was raised as an American, and spent two of my impressionable childhood years living abroad in Brussels. Some of my passions are family, good friends, yummy locally grown organic food, growth through observation, connecting with the universe and all of its infinite wonder, parenting, being awake and conscious, and voting with my dollars.
This clearly is a very brief description, but in my coming posts, I trust you will learn more about me, my thoughts, and how I weave family and parenting into most of what I observe and write about. I firmly believe that many of our world’s ills can be and will be solved in our homes by the way we impact, teach, and love our children.
When our daughter was very little and didn't like the rules we had put in place, I told her that those rules were non-negotiable. I told her they came from a handbook that we had received when she was born, a book visible to parents only. The book contained all the most important rules every parent must follow to raise a happy and healthy child or young adult. This invisible manual was my version of "because I said so." When our daughter reached a certain age, she quit believing my story. I promised that not only was it true but also, one day, the invisible book would be visible to her, too. Being a woman of my word, I wrote the book for her as a Christmas present—my love story to her.
Writing Your Own Parenting Book
Through this blog, I hope to inspire others to write their own book about parenting to their own children or the children in their lives. The book can be a love story, a manual, or whatever form feels right. I believe if every parent had the luxury of mapping out their aspirations for their adult children, our world and its inhabitants could and would be a more loving, caring place. The aspirations I’m talking about have less to do with profession, income, place of residence, or the family size your adult child chooses and more to do with how they would like to affect the world and others around them, how they will fill their time, what potentially positive legacies they might leave for those who follow.
Here's my question to you: What will be the intangible legacy that you leave for your child/children? Set aside all the material items and, instead, begin to question the societal expectations. Try to focus on what you can timelessly impart in their hearts and souls. Writing is a practice of consciousness. I encourage you to write your own Invisible Parenting Handbook. Enjoy your journey.
Photo by Joe Frankenberg
Shawn Hosford is a parenting mentor and healthy families advocate based in Washington state whose other interests include lively conversations, organic and sustainable food, continuous learning, being outside and living life to its fullest. Learn more at The Invisible Parenting Handbook website and Facebook page. The handbook is available to buy here.
In honor of world breastfeeding month, I have written a two-part series on my relationship with breastfeeding. Part one talks about my breastfeeding relationship with my kids. For Part Two, I will discuss my relationship with non-breastfeeding mothers. Here I want to honor the bottle-feeding mothers.
"While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby." ~Amy Spangler
I absolutely believe that breastfeeding is the right choice for every baby and even, in contradiction to the quote above, the right choice for every mother. While intended as a reference, I have read Dr. Jack Newman’s The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers from cover to cover and agree with Dr. Newman that with enough patience and support, there is a solution to every breastfeeding challenge.
However, I also understand that in a society where mother’s are given bottles at baby showers, breast pumps have made it to the needs list and formula comes in as many flavors as does ice cream, that breastfeeding isn’t always going to be the final choice for every mother and baby.
Do I feel more awkward seeing a bottle in a baby’s mouth than getting a glimpse of an undisclosed breast? Yes, I do. Do I wish my breastfeeding-challenged mommas could utilize the wisdom of the perfect lactation consultant for hours, days and weeks in the comfort of their own homes? Yes, I do. Do I want to boast a 100 percent breastfeeding statistic for my birth clients? Yes, I do.
Do I think a momma who has chosen not to breastfeed just didn’t try hard enough. No, I do not. Do I make her feel less than and guilt her for her choice? No, I do not. Do I decide her love and passion for her child aren’t as full for not breastfeeding? No, I do not.
I have seen mommas caress their blooming bellies as they look forward to meeting their new babies. I have seen mommas sweat, groan and celebrate as they birth their babies. I have seen mommas balance like a tight-rope walker as they try to understand their new role as parents and figure out how to take care of the new life in their hands. I know they want the best for their babies and whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding, are working through sleep deprived days and healing bodies to feed and nurture their children.
While I still believe breast is best, that doesn’t mean bottle is bad and I champion my mothers on both sides of the coin. You spent 9 months of your life growing an entire human being, hours birthing and have committed the rest of your life to raising a respectable citizen of this world.Each day that you awaken in the morning, be that 3 a.m., 5 a.m. and/or 9 a.m., and have enough mental clarity to crawl into the appropriate bed when the sun goes down, is a success.
So take pride that you, momma, in one form or another, fed your baby yesterday are likely feeding your baby right now and will do it again tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Katelyn Goslin and Amanda Buffington.
Sedentary behaviors are classified as those that involve sitting for extended periods of time with little movement and low energy output. In day-to-day life, many people spend a lot of time sitting. Many office jobs require sitting all day at a desk, and some people spend hours a day in the car while commuting. After a long day, it is not uncommon to sit down to read, watch TV, or chat with friends. Even the hours eating around a dining room table are spent sitting. In fact, one survey estimates that children and adults in the United States spend 55 percent of their waking hours in sedentary activities. While it may not be surprising that sitting down is not the healthiest activity you can do, it may be shocking to hear that the dangers of sitting too long could actually shorten your life expectancy.
Even people who exercise regularly can be affected by sedentary behavior. It is important to realize that being physically active does not necessarily mean that you cannot be at risk for excessive sedentary behavior. In fact, you can be both a physically active person and a sedentary person at the same time. For example, perhaps you spend eight hours a day sitting at a desk for work. Although you may go on a run when you get home after work, the eight hours you spend sitting each day are not cancelled out by the fact that you exercise daily. Anyone who spends prolonged periods of time sitting, regardless of their overall activity level, is at risk for the dangers associated with sedentary lifestyles.
Sedentary lifestyles decrease life expectancy. Many studies have found a positive correlation between sitting and mortality from all causes.[1,2,3] These effects are seen regardless of general activity level of the individuals, and are pronounced in obese individuals. One analysis concluded that the life expectancy of the US population could increase by two years if adults spent less than three hours a day sitting.
Sedentary behaviors, including sitting and television viewing, are associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular disease.[1,3,4] Time spent sitting or watching TV is also associated with increased mortality from cancer, with an increased risk of breast, lung, prostate, colon, and endometrial cancers.[3,5,6,7] Additionally, sitting may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and dementia.
Why Is Sitting so Bad For Us?
As one author puts it, “humans are not programmed to be physically inactive.” Indeed, the sedentary death syndrome is a major risk factor for numerous worldwide diseases and millions of premature deaths each year.  It is suggested that physical inactivity may accelerate the aging process. Sedentary behavior can directly influence metabolism, bone mineral content, vascular health, and can increase plasma triglyceride levels and decrease HDL cholesterol.
Strategies to avoid the dangers of sitting too long. If you spend much of your day sitting, find ways to get on your feet and move throughout the day. There is evidence that sitting for one prolonged period of time is worse than sitting that is broken up into smaller bouts by short interruptions.
At work, take short breaks regularly to walk around the office. Stand up for your lunch break, and if you can, meet with colleagues while making laps around the office or at least stand during a meeting. Put your computer on a high counter or bookshelf, or try out a stand-up desk that allows you to stand up while working. Some people even set up a desk on a treadmill so that they can walk while they work.
At home, avoid activities that keep you sitting for too long, and find things you like to do that keep your body moving. Find more ideas on how to stay healthy here.
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In honor of world breastfeeding week, I wanted to write something profound, unique and beautiful about breastfeeding. After reading several other stories in honor of breastfeeding week, I quickly realized, however that nothing I say can really captures the mystery of the breastfeeding relationship. So, I simply decided to share my own personal relationship with breastfeeding. Part 1 talks about my breastfeeding relationship with my kids. Part 2 will talk about my relationship with other breastfeeding mothers.
When my first child was born, she was at my breast within a few moments of her birth Once the initial whirlwind of emotions began to settle, I attempted to latch her on. My first feelings were, “okay, this works - but yikes, this hurts.” Thankfully I said something because up until then, everyone approved of her latch. That was when I learned that if it hurts, something isn’t right. We readjusted and were on our way to a very healthy, yet challenging, breastfeeding relationship. The challenge was when I was away from her and needed to pump. When she was six months old, I started a new job doing student recruitment for a community college. This new job had me out in local high schools, college fairs and community events at various times of the day and night during both weekdays and weekends. While I was up for the challenge of pumping, the challenge was always finding a place to pump. When I was on campus, there was a little corner in a basement bathroom where I pulled a sheet between me and anyone else in the bathroom’s lobby. This wasn’t so bad when there is no one in the lobby, but it did get a little awkward when several students were preparing for a performance and had clothes. make-up and themselves strewn about the lobby floor. “Um, excuse me,” I would uncomfortably say,” I need to use that space in the corner. Don’t worry, you can leave all your stuff there, It’ll just be a few minutes.”
I pumped behind a display stand in an exhibition hall. I pumped in the car several times, covering myself with a coat or sweater parked in the back of a lot, under a tree if I was lucky. I pumped in a bathroom bar with graffiti littering the walls. I pumped in a high school bathroom with a stall barely wide enough for me and all my equipment. “What’s that sound,” I remember the young girls saying on the other side of the door.
I hadn’t committed to a timeline of breastfeeding and pumping for my daughter, but the time came to put it all away when my daughter was two years and one month old. I was pregnant with her little brother, my breasts were extremely tender and supply was decreasing. The day I told her that there were no more nursies, she replied, “Go get some more.” I asked her from where. “Go to the store and buy some,” was her matter-of-fact response.
My second child latched easily and without pain. A month after his birth, I started a jobshare in a new position. I took the new position, because it offered a more consistent schedule in a single location. This time pumping happened primarily in the same basement bathroom corner protected by a sheet and in a sometimes vacant office. I did have to pump once on the freeway when a friend and I were on our way to run a half marathon. Since my daughter has nursed for two years and one month, I felt I had to be equal with my son. So, at precisely two years and one month, I stopped nursing my son, cold turkey. I would not recommend that. He cried and I cried. He cried more and I cried more. Once the crying was over, I wore red cabbage leaves in my bra for a week to help the soreness of my engorged breasts. We finally made it, we had weaned. But, I still reflect and wish I had thought through that experience a little more.
We have just celebrated my third child’s second birthday. So, that two year and one month marker is looming. While I look forward to having my bed back and can’t wait to go dancing until the wee hours of the morning to celebrate having no one attached, I am not so sure I am quite ready to let go. Or, rather, I am contemplating waiting until he is ready to let go. Le Leche League recommends letting children self wean. Based on how much this kid nurses, that is not going to happen anytime soon. My husband is also ready to have our bed back, he probably more than me. He has made several comments about counting down to a night without nursies for baby. He asked recently straight out, “when are you going to wean him?” I replied that I didn’t know and asked what his plan for weaning was. And for today, I think I’ll leave it at that - my husband can wean the baby and I will continue to nurse.
Caption above: My youngest nursing at two years and two weeks.
Caption below: Nursing is a family affair.