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2/27/2015

"That’s what birth is, its improv." ~ Jamie Rose Lyle

Jamie Rose

Three weeks before the estimated due date of her first child, Jamie Rose Lyle’s water broke and slow contractions began. She wasn’t worried about a thing. ”I knew I didn’t need medical interventions, I needed to give my body time.” she said. She spent the time laboring and listening to music. “Reggae was what I was grooving to.” said Jamie, “that song ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright was playing when my water broke.”

After 24 hours of labor at home, Jamie was one centimeter dilated. She went to the hospital and was given antibiotics and pitocin for the next five hours, then spinal anesthesia. “By the time we had medical intervention, it was welcome.” said Jamie. Finally, 44 hours after her membranes ruptured, and a half an hour of pushing, Jamie pulled out her baby boy.

Fast forward nine months and Jamie has started belly dancing. While she had prior experience with ballet, modern and ballroom dance, she had fallen in love with an improv style of belly dance called Tribal, and has even earned herself a spot in local troupe Gypsy Heart Tribal. When Carol Vance, the troupe’s director called to invite Jamie to dance with them, Jamie let Carol know that she and her husband has just started trying to get pregnant again.  

“Fabulous!” was Carol’s response. “Right from the start,” Jamie said, “I found support for dancing while pregnant.”  

With the challenges that often come with first trimester pregnancy, I asked Jamie if she ever wanted to stop dancing during that time. “No, I didn’t want to stop, not at all,” she said, “When I was dancing, I would feel fine.” So, for three and a half hours each Tuesday night, Jamie dances with her tribe and gets relief from her nausea and exhaustion.

Jamie likes that the troupe consists of four generations of women, most who have given birth themselves. She said she loves, “being around all those tummies that have had babies.” She also acknowledges that belly dance has its roots in childbirth and she often thinks of how other mommas, both current and through the ages are joining her in her experience, “right now and in time,” she said, referring to pregnancy, birth and midnight nursing.

Jamie also feels strong and more comfortable because of belly dance. Throughout our conversation she listed the ways her body feels as a result of dance; I really feel like the dancing helps me feel strong, my stomach muscles are holding up my belly, I literally feel like my back is so supported, I can walk more comfortably and everything because of belly dance, my hips aren’t tight, if i could just keep my muscles doing this, it feels really good, its the kind of movement my body needs right now.

And according to Jamie, she can do things with her body that she couldn’t do in her first pregnancy. For example, she can get into the traditional birth squat now, “and I for sure was not doing belly rolls when I was pregnant with (Jackson),” she said. Out of a vocabulary of 300 dance moves, Jamie said there are only two that aren’t comfortable, “just knowing that I can do those positions fully helps my confidence.”

Finally, in contrast to her first labor, where Jamie said she knew she had to try hard to relax, her goal is not to try so hard this time. She anticipates the improv nature of tribal belly dance to be one of the best preparations of childbirth and that it will help her with this. “Before when I danced, it was always choreographed, tribal is improv style which will be a huge help in birth." She said that all her belly dance performances have been while she has been pregnant and she has to decide which moves to do in live time. Just like dance, she said, “I just have to trust my body and not think too much and let myself go. That’s what birth is, its improv.”

Photo: A pregnant Jamie Rose Lyle dancing with her tribe. Taken by Phoebus foto, courtesy of Jamie Rose Lyle.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/23/2015

Our daughter, Carly, is good at being thoughtful when it comes to sending cards and giving gifts. Last year for my birthday, she gave me a subscription to the quarterly publication Kinfolk, a high-end publication that highlights beautiful photography and stories from around the world. If left to my own devices, I most likely would not have stumbled upon this publication.

Kinfolk 

This spring issue contained an inspiring article about community entrepreneurs. It was just the uplifting reminder that my soul needed. I have had many conversations lately about the importance of community. Recently, in one of my communities, we were talking about how to share resources and be mindful of supporting other local communities with our spending. In another conversation, we were struggling with where people can go to engage in community outside of churches, temples, synagogues and mosques. As our dependence on our screened devices grow, our knowledge and practice of physical community growth seems to diminish. The Kinfolk article was a good reminder that maybe I need to spend less screen time to see and involve myself in strong communities of mutual support.

The article highlighted people and projects such as Bread Furst, where founder Mark Furstenberg hopes his store's presence makes "it seem possible for others to open neighborhood stores." Then came the dynamic Amy Kaherl, the director and co-founders of Detroit SOUP. Her mission is to feed people, grow the soul of a city, and create community conversation by providing a space and venue where "people are meeting and sharing ideas, jobs are being created and people are doing amazing work in the community." Kaherl's good will in action made me want to open a Seattle SOUP tomorrow. Finally, the article highlighted Tina Roth Eisenberg's Creative Mornings. Eisenberg is clear that real connections take place when people meet face to face. In the article she says, "We shouldn't be living in isolated silos of just information architects or just graphic designers. Magic happens when all of our creative trades connect" and "trust breeds magic."

All these leaders are growing and fostering healthy community in creative and diverse ways. The more I read about ways of creating community, the more I remember that we truly need each other—that in our beautiful differences we grow together.

What communities do you belong to? How can your small communities impact the bigger communities around you? Is there an idea in some other place that you can replicate in your community?


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/19/2015

Is Chocolate Good for You 7 Reasons to Eat Dark ChocolateI love chocolate. I keep a stash of dark chocolate in the pantry at all times for after dinner cravings or mid-day pick me ups. In fact, it is rare that a day goes by where I don’t eat at least a small square of chocolate. But is my love of chocolate a bad habit, or is chocolate good for you? I am happy to report that dark chocolate, specifically, is actually quite healthy; there continues to be new evidence for the various health benefits of dark chocolate.

Why is Chocolate Good for You?

Cacao, which comes from seeds of the tree Theobroma cacao, is the main component of dark chocolate. Cacao is full of compounds called polyphenols (particularly flavanols), which have a variety of health benefits. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants, which help to fight diseases, particularly of the brain and heart. And dark chocolate has two to three times more of these compounds and a higher antioxidant activity than green tea, which is well known for its health benefits.[1] Dark chocolate might be an especially effective form of polyphenols because of the way bacteria in our gut interact with the dark chocolate that we ingest.

Health benefits of Dark Chocolate

The list of reasons why chocolate is good for you is seemingly endless. Here are just a few of the impressive health benefits of dark chocolate:

  1. Improve insulin functioning. Eating dark chocolate can help with blood sugar regulation. It leads to improved insulin resistance, and can even effect β-cell functioning (the cells that produce insulin).[1,2] In fact, people who eat one ounce of chocolate two to six times per week are 34% less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.[3]

  2. Protect against the effects of stress. Recent research shows that intake of dark chocolate can help to protect against the body’s negative reaction to stress. It seems that flavanols in chocolate can reduce the stress response by affecting hormone activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in the brain.[4]

  3. Fight dementia and improve cognitive performance. Dark chocolate can help to improve cognitive function in both young and older adults.[5,6] Flavanols in cacao are associated with a decreased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. This may be because the flavanols can help to increase the number and strength of connections between neurons, which can help to preserve memory and improve cognitive ability.[6] They also increase blood flow, and blood flow to the brain helps improve cognitive performance as well.[5]

  4. Improve cholesterol and triglycerides levels. A systematic review of 42 studies found that chocolate intake is associated with reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and an increase in HDL cholesterol.[2]

  5. Reduce blood pressure. Flavanols are effective blood pressure reducers, as well. People who eat flavanol-rich cacao products regularly have significantly reduced blood pressure readings.[7]

  6. Lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating chocolate can decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease mortality, as dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, has anti-inflammatory capabilities, and effects heart health in numerous other ways.[1]

  7. Fight cancer. Although research has not yet made a direct association between chocolate intake and cancer risk, many compounds found in chocolate have cancer-fighting properties. They protect against oxidative damage, suppress proliferation of cells, and protect from mutation.[1]

Scientists continue to discover new reasons why chocolate is good for our health. It may help improve mood, fight symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and more.[8,9] So if you have been limiting your intake of chocolate out of fear that it was an unhealthy indulgence, don’t worry; you can now enjoy a square of dark chocolate after dinner or a few dark chocolate covered nuts for a snack without guilt. Just make sure you choose a high quality dark chocolate with a high cacao content (look for over 70%).

References

[1] Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012;2012:906252.

[2] Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Mar;95(3):740-51.

[3] Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;34(1):129-33.

[4] J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jun 3;63(21):2297-9.

[5] Physiol Behav. 2011 Jun 1;103(3-4):255-60.

[6] Hypertension. 2012 Sep;60(3):794-801.

[7] J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2014 Feb;16(2):101-6.

[8] Nutr Rev. 2013 Oct;71(10):665-81.

[9] Nutr J. 2010 Nov 22;9:55.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/18/2015

In my experience with plants as both a grower and an herbalist, I have seen firsthand the healing power of plants time and time again and it never ceases to amaze me. The vigor and vibrancy of plants is magical. They are one of the greatest life forces on earth and inherently hold the key to health. Plants nourish our bodies.

Numen: The Nature of Plants, a film by Brook Hollow Productions, an association with United Plant Savers, is a cornucopia of intuitive wisdom, science based knowledge, and exuberant passion and reverence for plants around the world dedicated to and in memory of the late Bill Mitchell, Co-founder of Bastyr University. The film opens with plant close ups and stunning time lapse photography of plants throughout their growing cycles, their intrinsic eye catching patterns and their symbiotic relationships with pollinators. Numen is defined as the spirit believed to by animists to inhabit natural objects. The film describes that we sense this force the most abundantly through plants.

I immediately visualized of the life cycle of the sunflower. When you close your eyes and imagine one sunflower seed in the palm of your hands, you notice the shape, the size, the texture, the color, the pattern and striations. Imagine placing it in soil and seeing the sprout cracking out of its shell. The roots push their way down into the rich dark earth at the same time the sprout forms a stem and cotyledons appear like magic. The stem stretches for the sun and begins to grow wider and taller. Leaves form and the stout square stem burrows strong roots into the earth. Soft rains fall. The stem grows and grows and new leaves form. The bud forms. The leaves once protecting the fragile bud begin to fold back, exposing the inward facing petals to the sunlight. The sunflowers tight bud slowly begins to blossom- a process which can occur within just a few hours. The bloom opens wide, fully embracing the life force energy of the sun, even turning with the sun. The sunflower proudly displays its inherent sacred geometry, the Fibonacci spiral. As it is meant to, it fulfills the very essence of its being, welcoming pollinators to drink its sweet nectar in the mutually beneficial relationship that is pollination. The sunflower-whose petals capture the very essence of the sun itself and whose sight is stunning against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, whose company is pleasant as it dances in the gentle breeze throughout changing seasons. As it fulfills the very nature of its purposeful life cycle, seeds form and become food for humans, small animals and birds alike.

Numen describes the intelligent and intuitive characteristics each plant intrinsically holds. Indeed the animated life force is recognizable in plants, if we take the time to notice their beauty and magic. Their shapes, sizes, colors, textures, heights- all vastly different characteristics which allow for their unique distinguishing factors. Similarly to personality and character traits recognized in a friend hidden amongst a crowd of people a unique laugh, the color of their hair, their vibrant eyes, and their smile distinguishes them amongst the masses. Identifying and getting to know plants can be seen in the same light. Recognizing a plant just as you would a friend is an excellent way to delve into the vast art of plant medicine, foraging, gardening and plant science.

The film immediately dives into some of the most quintessential concepts of humans in relationship to plants. When considering the most fundamental building block of life on earth: Kenny Ausubel, founder of Bioneers eloquently makes a critical point that” the history of humanity is the history of our relationship to plants.” Dr. Tieraona Low Dog points out the simple yet precise fact that “all people historically and today have relied on plants for their food, medicine and clothing.” Dr. Rocio Alarcon, an Ethno botanist is fascinated by the notion that “humans have been living approximately only five million years; agriculture has been around for only 10,000 years; plants have been around for 400 million years. You can imagine the evolution of these plants to have these incredible rich properties”

Rosemary Gladstar, world renowned author and herbalist explains how “herbalism is oldest system of healing used on the planet; plants are our teachers and we have evolved in relation to them; everything at the base of the food chain comes from plants. Plants were here long before humans and we have evolved in relationship to them” Dr. Hellen Oketch, Chief Scientist at Herb Pharm points out that “plants are the only organism that are able to transmit the energy from the source (the sun) into a form that can be used by humans and also states that t some of biochemistry found in plants is similar to some of the biochemistry found in humans.” Herbalist and healer Raylene Ha’aleelea Kawaiae’a, believes that “plants are our ancestors, our elders and that we should treat our elders well and respect them dearly because they have wisdom to share with us.” Bill Mitchell, ND and Co-founder of Bastyr University, concludes that “Our DNA contains so much material from the plant world. A lot of the DNA, the memory comes from the very origins of life. When life was evolving, most of the green material found in the ocean consisted of Omega 3 oils, the chloroplasts, Omega 3 oils which seem to be the fundamental oil of the universe. The body still needs omega 3 oils as they are the substrate to many chemical reactions. So we are connected to the beginning to life itself.” Matthew Wood, clinical herbalists states that “in the 19th century, herbalism was really part of the marrow of American society and was deeply entrenched and explained that 90 percent of the population knew how to treat themselves with herbs.” The film describes how in the late 1890’s and the early 1900’s in North America, you could walk into any drugstore in America and could buy hundreds of herbal products, especially liquid herbal extracts. Ausubel explains that “ many major natural medicine traditions going back, are all founded in these basic principles that nature is the source of healing” He goes on to explain a divergence, a conflict in medical philosophy between the natural medicine school and the conventional (allopathic) schools of medicine directly affected the future of healthcare in the U.S. and around the world. What was once considered health care quickly became sickcare. Ed Smith explains how “natural medicine began to die out as folk medicine after the second world war because people were enthralled with new science and technology and craved to be modern and how we are moving into a new era.” Rosemary Gladstar notices that less than one hundred years ago, herbal medicine was antiquated and pushed pills instead of herbal medicine and vitamins over fruits and vegetables. She explains that this new found modern medicine claimed to end disease and unfortunately influenced an entire generation to turn to western medicine and completely dismiss thousands of years of herbal plant medicine.

The disconnection has developed out of the fact that we began to not know where our food and medicine comes from and in turned the mindset developed that we are separate from nature. The sad effects of this massive disconnect is that we are now are seeing a rise in chronic illnesses. The disconnect has moved us farther and farther away from fresh air, clean water, healthy soil, safe food and ultimately our historic source for health and wellness-plants. Ausubel points out that “the huge toxicity directly related to drilling oil and all of the thousands of chemicals produced as derivatives are now poisoning the entire web of life, ourselves included. The whole idea of ecological medicine embodies that we are connected to the ecosystems around us and that we can only really be healthy when the land and the water around us are also healthy and if they are not, then it’s going to show up in our physical well being.” Author Mark Shapiro points out that a myriad of affects that have been researched and are documented. He points out the Center for Disease Control surveyed a group of random Americans and found that average American has 148 chemicals in their bloodstreams. Dr. Martha Herbert, Asst. Professor of Neurology at Harvard University states that these chemicals are “Wreaking havoc at the molecular level and then that cascades up to the cellular and organism and ecosystem level” The film goes on to explain the detrimental effects humans have caused throughout the last century but also provides hope in offering practical solutions that all of us are capable of being a part of. I have yet to see a film that sums it up as clearly.

With all this knowledge about the current state of the environment, the world, we are faced with a personal decision. There is a severe dilemma… We must choose a healthier way for the future of the planet. We must make smarter choices about our food, choices about medicine. We must make decisions that will improve the quality of our lives, not decisions which will contribute to our demise. The solutions: limit the use of plastics, shop local, buy local, adopt a diet in which 70 percent includes vegetables including dark leafy greens, a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, use fresh herbs in your daily diet; avoid big box stores, walk instead of drive, grow your own food and medicine, share your knowledge with your friends and neighbors, don’t use toxic cleaners; reduce, reuse and recycle. The larger lesson is to make a conscious effort in our daily lives to understand the interconnectedness and symbiotic relationships occurring all around us- between people and the earth, people and people, and plants, people and animals, , plants and animals and all the connections in between and to implement ways of honoring these connections in our daily lives. It is up to every single one of us to make small changes and adapt for the greater good. Holding reverence for the very thing that brings nourishment to almost all life… plants is the one thing that will truly open our eyes and hearts to healing ourselves and healing the earth.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/18/2015

Holy Basil Tall

Holy Basil Monograph from The Herbarium

At the heart of herbalism is one’s understanding of and connection with the plants. There are many ways to foster this, from personal experience and traditional wisdom to book study and scientific investigation. Ideally, one gathers understanding in all of these ways: observing, feeling, tasting, and using plants for healing; studying traditions and other herbalists’ experience passed down orally and in books; and digging into the scientific literature for new information and perspectives. At the Herbal Academy of New England, we believe all of these methods have value and we strive to incorporate each of them in our own studies and in the information we offer to our herbalist community.

This philosophy was at the center of our approach to building our new plant monograph database nestled in The Herbarium, which is an ongoing labor of love.

What is a Plant Monograph?

The word monograph comes from the Greek word, “monographia.” Mono [single] + grapho [to write]. In other words, a monograph is a detailed writing of a single subject — in our case, herbs.

The Herbarium plant database includes some of the most beautiful and complete monographs to date, pulling together traditional herbal wisdom, hands-on experience, and modern scientific research to present a multifaceted description of each herb. Along with quick facts, there is detailed information on the medicinal uses of each plant. Multiple images and botanical prints, scientific research, and information on botany, energetics, safety, preparations, and dosage make these monographs wonderful tools for learning for students and curious dabblers.

Holy Basil Monograph 

A Close Study of Holy Basil

Excerpted from The Herbarium Monograph Database: Holy Basil.

Uses for Holy Basil

Holy Basil is an herbaceous plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae) that is native to South Asia. It grows throughout lowland regions of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, southern China, Thailand, and Malaysia [1]. In its native range, holy basil is a perennial; however, it is not frost-tolerant and thus is annual in more temperate climates. Holy basil likes rich, moist soil, sun or partial shade, and will willingly spread if given the space to do so. The species name, sanctum, reflects the sacred nature of the plant in Indian culture. In India, holy basil is considered sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu, who considered basil the incarnation of the Goddess herself. In Sanksrit, tulasi means “that which is incomparable”, and in Hindi this word is tulsi, hence its common names. Tulsi is commonly grown in special pots in the courtyards of Hindu homes.

Holy basil includes a few species and varieties. O. sanctum (synonym O. tenuiflorum) includes holy basil rama, which has green leaves, and holy basil Krishna, which has dark green to purple leaves and a stronger taste and smell; while O. gratissimum includes holy basil vana, a wild variety with green leaves [1]. Of course holy basil is in the same genus as the common garden basil (O. basilicum) that Westerners are very familiar with. Herbalist Jennifer Altman points out that the lore and mystery of an exotic herb from the other side of the world is supremely attractive, but she has noticed very little difference in medicinal effect between the holy basil and common basil [3]. The word holy in the name of their basil varieties reflects this herb’s sacred place in Indian culture for millennia and its revered use as a spiritual symbol, ritual offering, and household medicine. Likewise, the holiness of cows of India is a reflection of the prevailing cultural and religious beliefs, as opposed to any particular superiority to Western cows!

This shrubby plant grows to a height of 3 feet. The green and purple leaves are arranged in opposite pairs on a slightly hairy stem. The small white/purple flowers are arranged tightly in a long raceme. The flowers bloom starting in mid-summer and are loved by bees.

The leaves and flowering tops are harvested and used fresh or dried for use in teas, tinctures, or infused oils. The active constituents in holy basil include flavonoids, triterpenes, ursolic acid, volatile oils, mucilage, and vitamins A and C [1, 2]. 

Energetically, holy basil is warming/cooling with a sweet, pungent taste. Holy basil is indicated for cold, congested, stuck conditions due to the stimulating effects of its volatile oils. As a nervine, it is initially stimulating, but then brings a calm and reassuring sense of solidity and groundedness that helps quiet the mind, collect distracted thoughts into focus, and give one a sense of resilience for the long haul. It is uplifting and joyful, guiding open the heart to feel gratitude and a yearning for emotional connection.

Holy basil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, adaptogenic, immunomodulating, antioxidant, neuroprotective, radioprotective, anti-cancer, alterative, antispasmodic, expectorant, decongestant, carminative, stimulating, emmenagogue, galactagogue, nervine, heart opening, and antidepressant actions. Like many plants in the mint family, holy basil works to open and balance, particularly in the head, the heart, and the stomach. Its expectorant, decongestant, stimulant, emmenagogic, and galactagogic actions are opening, while its alterative, immunomodulating, carminative, antidepressant, and nervine actions are balancing.

In Ayurveda, holy basil is considered a rasayana herb, one that “nourishes a person’s growth to perfect health and promotes long life” [1]. In Western herbalism, holy basil is considered an adaptogen, helping the body respond in a measured way to stressors, thus reducing the negative effects of stress on physical and emotional health and providing balance. Holy basil’s antioxidant, neuroprotective, and radio-protective actions are considered protective and anti-aging [1]. The languaging may be different between the two traditions, but the tonic, health-supporting effect of holy basil is the same!

Holy basil has a long history of use for the respiratory ailments due to its antiviral, antibacterial, decongestant, and diaphoretic actions [2]. It is useful in the treatment of colds and flu, due to its ability to move congestion, stimulate circulation and perspiration to reduce fever, and kill microorganisms. In India, holy basil is also used as an expectorant tea for bronchial mucus [1] due to its ability to warm and clear stuck congestion. As a tonic, it also shows beneficial actions for asthma and allergies. Holy basil is an immunomodulator, strengthening and balancing the immune system’s ability to respond to infection. A double-blinded, randomized, controlled, cross-over clinical trial was conducted with 24 healthy volunteers to evaluate the immunomodulatory effects holy basil leaf alcohol extract. The participants received 300 milligram capsules of holy basil extract or placebo. Statistically significant increases in immunological parameters (interferon-γ, interleukin-4, T-helper cells, and NK-4 cells) indicate that holy basil leaf extract had an immunomodulatory role on healthy volunteers [4].

Holy basil is considered to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Preclinical studies have shown that holy basil “prevented chemical-induced skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers”; and was shown to “mediate these effects by increasing the antioxidant activity, altering the gene expressions, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis.” [5] The authors also review studies which indicate that holy basil protects against radiation-induced sickness, mortality, skin tissue damage, and DNA damage due to its phytochemicals (flavanoids, orintin, vicenin, eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, and/or carnosic acid).

Holy basil’s ability to stimulate appetite and digestion, move stagnant food, and relieve flatulence [2] also helps decongest the digestive system, as well. In India, holy basil is used to alleviate indigestion, gastric distress, and vomiting [1]. Like so many of the mint family plants, holy basil’s volatile oils produce warming, antispasmodic, and carminative actions to help to soothe the digestive system. 

Holy basil is also used to regulate blood sugar in people with diabetes. Holy basil leaf was used in a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover single blind trial to evaluate its effects on blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels in humans during fasting and after eating. Results indicated significant blood sugar decreases during fasting (17.6 percent) and smaller decreases in blood sugar levels after eating (7.3 percent), and mild reduction in total cholesterol levels [6].  

As an alterative, holy basil “removes heat and toxins from bloodstream, liver, circulation, and intestines” [2]. Holy basil can also support detoxification of toxins stored in body fat such as metals, medical drugs, and compounds from marijuana use; in India and the Middle East, holy basil has long been used for this latter purpose [2].

As a nervine, holy basil has a dual action as it is both stimulating and relaxing to the brain. While these are seemingly disparate effects, they are indeed related. As herbalist Rebecca Altman describes, holy basil regulates the nervous system by its opening action, moving blocked energy to dispel sluggishness as well as move and direct restless energy to ease hyperactivity and inability to concentrate [3]. Herbalist David Winston uses holy basil to treat poor memory, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because of its ability to enhance cerebral circulation; and to treat stagnant, situational depression, in which one is stuck in a depressive state related to a particular trauma [1]. By moving stuck energy in the energetic nervous system, holy basil ‘lifts’ the depression, uplifting the heart and allowing it to open to feel emotion and connection with others. Holy basil also helps heart health by enhancing healthy circulation via its slight blood thinning and circulatory stimulant actions, reducing cardiovascular stress both physically and via its adaptogenic actions. 

... Uses Continued in The Herbarium.

The word “herbarium” is traditionally used to describe a collection of dried plants preserved in some fashion to display and offer as reference. A traditional herbarium may be a room or a building, a box, or a cabinet. We’ve reproduced tangible herbariums into a grand virtual herbarium. Inside these digital walls, members will discover a preservation of our herbs and knowledge, catalogued into an ever-expanding library of plant monographs as well as articles, videos, and media on a variety of topics, all based on carefully gathered research and the wisdom of many contributing herbalists. Contributors include clinical herbalists and those versed in the science of herbalism to traditional and folk herbalists drawing from tradition and intuition.

We know that learning about herbs is a life-long endeavor. If you are looking for a resource to help you expand your knowledge and continue your journey in herbalism, we invite you to come join our community in The Herbarium! We also offer a free herbal blog chock full of informative articles and online programs designed for students who wish to build their foundation of herbalism knowledge.

The Herbarium Preview 

References

[1] Winston, David and Maimes, Steven. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.

[2] Wood, Matthew. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants.

[3] Altman, Rebecca (2014). BASIL: OCIMUM SPP. Retrieved on January 12, 2015.

[4] Mondal S., Varma S., Bamola V.D., Naik S.N., Mirdha B.R., Padhi M.M., Mehta N., Mahapatra S.C. (2011). J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jul 14;136(3):452-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.05.012. Epub 2011 May 17.

[5] Baliga MS, Jimmy R, Thilakchand KR, Sunitha V, Bhat NR, Saldanha E, Rao S, Rao P, Arora R, Palatty PL. (2013). Nutr Cancer. 2013;65 Suppl 1:26-35. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.785010.

[6] Agrawal, P., Rai, V., Singh, RB. (1996). Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996 Sep;34(9):406-9.

[7] Bhattacharyya D., Sur T.K., Jana U., Debnath PK. (2008). Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9.

Jane Metzger is the Course Development Director at the Herbal Academy of New England.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/16/2015

Well Behaved Women

There are only two articles of clothing in my closet—given to me by two different people—that are exactly the same. They’re tee-shirts with a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich printed across the front: "Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The woman who gave me the first one, bless her heart, is a pilot for Alaska Airlines.

I don't necessarily need or want to make history in a grandiose way, but I do want to make a positive impact on the lives I touch. When I step outside the boxes that make others believe I am well-behaved, to make sense out of nonsense, it seems to benefit me and those around me. If I ask tough questions that allow others to look at life from a different perspective or challenge myself to change my perspective for the good of the whole, am I misbehaving? Perhaps for some. I know that my mother's generation was taught to color inside the lines and do for others before themselves. Many in her generation also believed that if women acted by a singular definition of “ladies,” things would work out for the best. When the best was not achieved, the constructs started to shift. Thank goodness for wonderful and critical pioneers of change.

My sister sent me a link to an article, 15 Things All Badass, Fearless Alpha-Women Do Differently Than Other Types Of Women, in an email this weekend. In the subject box she wrote, "Don't know why I thought of you immediately :-)."

The civil and women's rights movements helped shift our thinking about what well-behaved looks like. In the US, before the 1960s, was it well-behaved to sit at the back of the bus if you were black? Is it well-behaved to keep silent about rape and sexual abuse? Is it well-behaved to try to hide your mental illness? Is turning a blind eye to injustice well-behaved? Those two words “well-behaved” can keep us in a box of perceived moral authority founded on fear. When we step out of those boxes, our boldness can illuminate their limits by shining light on all sorts of oppression.

As I read through the article my sister sent to me, and read about the 15 things all badass, fearless alpha-women do differently from other types of women, I had to smile. I know that of the 15, 13 perfectly describe me. I may work on the other 2. What if we expected all humans to incorporate this list of 15 into their lives, held each other accountable to the list — changing our cultural definition of well-behaved. I think we might all change the course of history.

History making, as with decision making, could and should be something that benefits as many lives as possible. If we stood in solidarity: expecting mutual respect from each other, calling out others when they began threatening the stability of other living beings, mutually cultivating lives of sustainable nourishment, and seeing our inner-selves as an investment more important then things, money, or other physical collections, we would make our world together a better place for all.

What do you do for the sustainable good of all that might be misconstrued as ill-behaved? Can you do more in that area? What does well behaved look like to you?


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/13/2015

Cranberries

Around this time of year, I begin to miss the bright, colorful fruits and vegetables that I can find fresh in the farmer’s market during the summer. It seems that eating healthy during the summer is sometimes easier, because there is an abundance of fresh, nutrient-dense foods at your fingertips. But getting health-boosting nutrients, like antioxidants, is important all year long.

If, like me, you need a little mid-winter inspiration, here is a list of healthy, high antioxidant foods to eat this winter season. You might be surprised by some of these rich sources of antioxidants, which include black rice, pecans, and dark chocolate.

The Importance of Antioxidants

Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants like vitamin C, phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Often, the brightest colored fruits and vegetables have the highest antioxidant capacities. Antioxidants help to get rid of harmful reactive oxygen species formed during oxidation, which protects cells from damage. Oxidative damage can contribute to several diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer, and consuming antioxidants can help protect you from these conditions.

Getting Antioxidants in Winter

You have probably heard that blueberries are great antioxidants. These, and other bright, colorful, high antioxidant foods are easy to find in the summer, but you won’t easily find fresh blueberries on the shelf in the winter months? Not to worry; there are plenty of foods easily available all year long that can give you a sufficient supply of antioxidants.

Black rice. As mentioned earlier, brighter, deeper colored foods often contain more antioxidants. This is true for rice, as well. While white rice is not a highly nutritious food, black rice is actually an antioxidant powerhouse, full of phenolic compounds. Most of the antioxidants in rice are found in the rice bran (the outer layer), which is removed in the production of white rice.[1] Pigmented rice, like black rice, has almost six times the amount of phenolic compounds than white rice. Out of all the colors of rice, black rice has the highest level of antioxidant activity.[2] So instead of using white rice in your next recipe, substitute black rice instead for a healthy alternative.

Cranberries are a health food well-known for their use in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Cranberries are harvested in the fall and can be found fresh into the winter months. The tart, almost bitter taste of cranberries is off-putting for some. But this flavor is due to the low sugar content and high antioxidant composition of these berries, which make them healthier than many other fruits.[3] The phenolic compounds found in cranberries allow them to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, fight cancer, and more. And these antioxidant compounds are readily absorbable and easily used by the body after ingestion.[4] Just try not to eat over-sugared preparations of cranberries, like store-bought cranberry juice.

Pecans. It is now known that nuts are actually healthy, and studies show that pecans come out on top in the number of phenolic compounds and antioxidant capabilities compared to other nuts. They are rich in flavanoids, in particular. Consuming antioxidant-rich pecans as part of a meal can help to lower blood lipid and cholesterol levels.[5] Eat pecans as a snack, or toss them on a green winter salad with apples.

Spices. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, which tend to be characteristics of winter cooking, all have enormous health benefits, in large part due to their antioxidant content. For example, cloves and allspice contain large amounts of an antioxidant called eugenol, which is extremely powerful in protecting the body from harm.[6,7] These spices protect against inflammation, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.[6-8] Add a few teaspoons to muffins, quick breads, or your morning oatmeal for a delicious flavor.

Dark chocolate. Fruits and vegetables can be delicious and nutritious, but winter should not be without its treats, as well. If you are in need of a satisfying treat, look no further than dark chocolate. The health benefits of dark chocolate come from its polyphenol content, with these antioxidants aiding in improving memory, boosting mood, lowering blood pressure, and more. Look for high cacao contents for the healthiest option.

This list is just the beginning of healthy, antioxidant foods to eat during the winter. When trying to choose healthy foods, remember bright, natural color is best. Winter squashes in orange and yellow also contain a lot of antioxidants, as do beets, pomegranates, and carrots. What will your favorite antioxidant foods be this winter?

References

[1] J Food Sci. 2015 Jan 16.

[2] Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Mar;2(2):75-104.

[3] Adv Nutr. 2013 Nov 6;4(6):618-32.

[4] Food Chem. 2015 Feb 1;168:233-40.

[5] J Nutr. 2011 Jan;141(1):56-62.

[6] Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Dec;13(14):1900-6.

[7] Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 Feb;4(2):90-6.

[8] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:642942.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.












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