Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Boosting Health in Everyone’s Hometown

Good health means more than good medical care.

Many other things affect how long we live and how healthy we feel — including conditions in our housing and neighborhoods, the social and physical environment of our communities, economic opportunities and the levels of stress in our lives. According to a landmark University of Wisconsin study, the state of our overall health is attributable to four major factors:

• 20 percent - access to and quality of clinical health care
• 40 percent - social and economic factors in our lives
• 30 percent - individual factors and behaviors
• 10 percent - the physical environment in which we live

The good news is that we can improve these factors to boost everyone’s health, no matter where they live. Last year, Kaiser Permanente and Project for Public Spaces released a detailed report of peer-reviewed research making the case that healthy communities foster healthy people. Addressing these issues is the point of a Centers for Disease Control-funded initiative to improve community health — the National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention program, known as Partnering4Health.

As part of the project, the American Planning Association, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), the National WIC Association, Directors of Health Promotion and Education  and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association are using community-based solutions to boost health for Americans of all incomes, ethnicities and regions.

They are working to reduce a 21st century epidemic—preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and many forms of cancer—by helping communities increase physical activity, nutritious eating, breastfeeding and other healthy ways of living. Recently more than 200 community leaders from among the 97 communities participating in the program came together in Denver to share best practices and success stories. “There’s more to health than great medical care,” declared Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention of the America Heart Association at the meeting.

A spate of recent medical research shows that your zip code can be a more accurate measure of your prospects for a healthy life than your genetic code. Sanchez pointed out that people living in certain low-income, racially segregated areas of Chicago live 16 years less, on average, than those in affluent city neighborhoods because of disparities in income, employment, social support and education.

More real-world evidence for this place-based approach to health was found in the stories that community health advocates brought to Denver from their hometowns:

Kenosha, Wisconsin: A Prescription for Better Health

Recent medical studies suggest that healthy habits can be as effective as some medicines in reducing and preventing many prevalent diseases. Concerned that Kenosha’s health statistics rank among the lowest in the state, local Haitian-American physician Junith Thompson worked with local public health groups to design RX pads prescribing patients to eat more fresh vegetables, take up new physical activities, set aside daily time for reflection and other positive lifestyle changes. Distributed by the Kenosha Health Improvement Project, they are now used at a number of clinics and health agencies in southeastern Wisconsin.

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana: Listen to the Music

“In Louisiana, you have to reach people through their culture,” explains Mary Schultheis, project supervisor for Healthy Plaquemines Parish Now.  In her community, just outside New Orleans, that means music. So she adapted popular songs into public service announcements that promote breastfeeding.

A new recording of the classic Mardi Gras song “Iko Iko,” now trumpets, “Hey, now. Hey, now. Mothers are breastfeeding!” New lyrics to the ‘70s soul tune “Mr. Big Stuff,” shout out: “It’s the right stuff. We’re trying to make healthy babies.” Another thrust of the organization is to connect more people to existing resources for healthier living such as WIC programs, farmers markets, food shelves and faith-based health organizations.

East St. Louis, Illinois: Health on the Corner

Many residents of this predominantly African-American city buy their groceries at corner stores. That’s why Make Health Happen! — a coalition of health, government, business and civic groups — engaged six shop owners to stock more nutritious foods. One store was able to add a cooler for fresh fruits and veggies thanks to a donation from the regional YMCA. Another worked with a local graffiti artist to create a mural showcasing the store’s new selection of healthy offerings.

Lowering the cost of healthy foods through coupons accepted at groceries and farmers markets also boosts wholesome eating throughout this city of 27,000.

Loudoun County, Virginia: Water as One Answer to Childhood Obesity

Since many kids swill sugar-laden beverages throughout the day, Loudoun County’s health department introduced “It’s Water Time” to encourage elementary and Head Start students to drink more water instead of juice or sweetened beverages.

Captain Hydro, a flying penguin toting a water bottle, extols water as the best thirst-quencher in coloring books and other materials for kids and their parents. Promoting breastfeeding, offering healthier options in vending machines and increasing access to nutritious food are other strategies being used to reduce childhood obesity in this suburban community.

Wichita Falls, Texas: Making WIC Easier to Use

The number of people involved in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program was falling in Wichita County, Texas, which potentially means a less healthy community. A big part of the problem was confusion among both shoppers and grocery store clerks about what foods were eligible for purchase with the benefits. The county public health office and local WIC office worked together training clerks about the program and distributed handy shopping guides to WIC participants.

Transportation was another problem, especially in reaching a local farmers market where special deals were available with WIC coupons. So now fruit and vegetable vendors are also setting up shop at the local WIC office where women enroll and visit for benefits.

Tattnall County, Georgia: A Friendly Place for Breastfeeding

Mommy & Me, Healthy as Can Be is a new program to make breastfeeding easier and more acceptable throughout this rural county. More than 50 local businesses have become breastfeeding friendly locations thanks to a joint effort by the Southeast Health District and the Partner for Health program at Meadows Regional Medical Center.  The medical center also works more closely with the area WIC office now.

More Success Stories from Michigan to Texas

That’s not all. Trailnet is pursuing an ambitious plan to connect St. Louis with a network of safe, comfortable, protected bikeways, which will encourage people of all ages, incomes and physical shapes to bike around the city. Tarrant County WIC in Fort Worth sponsors a breastfeeding bootcamp for new moms, with personal instruction. Kansas City, Missouri, features mobile markets, which bring healthy food to underserved neighborhoods by bus with Rollin’ Grocer and with Truman Medical Center’s Mobile Market.

Choosing Health in Lake County — serving a rural area in Western Michigan where 51 percent of kids live in poverty — aims to make “the healthy choice the easy choice” with farmers markets, increased access to WIC programs and healthy food options labeled in groceries and restaurants.

While funding for this CDC program ends in late 2017, “there’s no sense that the work is over for these groups,” noted Elaine Auld, CEO of SOPHE, who was one of the Denver event’s organizers. “People have really rolled up their sleeves so that many of these projects will continue, funded by other sources such as hospitals with their community benefits work.”

A number of pressing public health issues surfaced at the Denver conference, which will influence the ongoing work of this emerging healthy communities movement around the country.

• “Poor health cannot be explained just by individual behavior,” noted Monte Roulier, president of Community Initiatives, which helped put on the conference. “Place really does matter. How do we change physical, economic, social and cultural environments to improve people’s health?”

• Inequality cannot be overlooked as a health issue. Equity came up often from speakers and in audience discussions. “These conversations are daunting. It’s easy to say, ‘what can I possibly do in the face of all this? How does a farmers market fix it?” said David Gibbs, a senior associate at Community Initiatives, who is African-American and called the conversations at this meeting notable in their depth. Many participants from low-income communities emphasized that, yes, they need more community gardens, bike trails, and good food options, but unemployment, poverty, crime, and gentrification also impact health issues, too.

• “The action is local now” was a common refrain heard throughout the four-day conference as news from Washington, D.C. foretold massive cuts in domestic programs, including health. “There is a positive spirit in communities that we can still get things done,” Auld observed.

• Local success depends on deep community engagement. The expertise and resources of national organizations is critical, but what’s most important is that local people feel equipped to make their communities healthier.  When they feel ownership of these projects, the results are more far-reaching and lasting.

• The power of story.  While scientific evidence is mounting in favor of this community-powered approach to health, real-life stories of everyday people in a wide variety of communities are just as important in capturing the attention of the American public — not to mention healthcare professionals, government agencies and funding institutions.

Jay Walljasperauthor of the Great Neighborhood Book and America’s Walking Renaissancewrites, speaks and consults about creating healthy communities. Read all of Jay’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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

The Journey to Becoming a Naturopath: What Traditional Naturopathy Is & How It Can Impact Your Life

 

I could not be more excited to share my journey to becoming a Traditional Naturopath with you. Specifically, I will detail out why I chose this field and what exactly the 'Traditional Naturopath' does as I view it as life changing.

Ever since I was a young child, I had an affinity for health, the human body and nutrition. I was born and raised during my formative childhood years in Bulgaria. I still have fond memories of spending my Summers in the village in the Balkan region of Bulgaria with my grandparents, surrounded by pristine land to say the least.

My grandmother practiced 'holistic' health and I still remembered her torn and tattered books with recipes & nutrition information. She grew herbs in the village and had a garden. My Grandmother instilled in me early on that 'sodas' were bad & other basic health information that was just enough for me to absorb. As basic as this was, this is where it all began.

I come from a well educated family of physicians, structural engineers, architects and lawyers. I think deep down that I always had a desire and drive to do something big with my life and something that made my parents proud.

Originally, I thought I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon so I was a major in micro-biology with a chemistry minor. It became clear early on that while this was an 'affluent' career choice, it was not my passion or purpose. I quickly became confused as to what exactly I was to do and I had to go back to the drawing board.

It wasn't long after this that my wife, Ashley encouraged me to start our own business after I successfully helped her to lose 80 pounds. I put her on a nutritional plan, trained her and educated her on the lifestyle. The largest emphasis of course, was on fixing her nutrition and deeply ingrained food addictions. She urged me that this was my calling and to start a career revolved around my passion.

At this point, I had already been in the fitness industry as a Certified Personal Trainer & Nutritionist since 1998 however, I did this to support myself through college and never thought about this becoming my Career. Even though I was very successful at it and thrived, to me, I didn't feel it was 'prominent' enough. I however, listened to Ashley's recommendation (thankfully) and we started our business in 2005.

About 7 years into running our very successful business, I decided that it was time for me to embark on a more in depth holistic path and to pursue becoming a traditional naturopath. I chose this route not because of the years of working with our clientele but because of my very own firsthand experience with the power of nutrition.

It was during our time of running our business that I embarked on my own personal journey of how impactful nutrition could really be. I was diagnosed in 1999 with severe panic/anxiety attacks & generalized anxiety disorder. In 2005 I was then diagnosed with additional bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD. I was a mess to say the least. I was dependent on 5 psychiatric medications and was really at a loss.

By the time I was 30 years old, not only was I fully reliant on these medications just to function, I had been through 5 different psychiatrists over a 10 year period & was told that I would have to be dependent for a lifetime on these meds. I was also told that as better medications came along, I could be switched and titrated to them accordingly. It was made blatantly clear to me however, that there was no cure for my 'condition'. This wasn't an answer I was willing to accept.

We sold our business in Tampa in 2012 and relocated to ATL for me to focus on schooling to become a naturopath and re-building/branding here and I completed my degree in 2017.

Today, after many years of highs and lows and searching, I am a traditional naturopath. I am also pleased to say that I was able to get off all of my medications and to be free from the oppression and devastation of anxiety, depression and the conditions I was told I would have for a lifetime. In addition, I have been blessed to help SO many of my clients achieve optimal health and well being through naturopathy and proper Holistic Nutrition.

Many people are unfamiliar with what traditional naturopathy is or is not. I would like to take this opportunity to really dive in to what naturopathy is and how it can help to positively impact your life. A traditional naturopath/natural medicine focuses on the prevention of diseases and optimizing health. An N.D. teaches clients how applying natural lifestyle approaches which can act to facilitate the body’s own natural healing and health building potential.

The traditional naturopath/natural medicine practitioner does not medically undertake to “diagnose” or “treat diseases,” nor by traditional definition DOES NOT use surgery, drugs, or other harsh, or invasive methodology as part of service. The main goal of a naturopath is to address the root cause of the problems that people are suffering from. Any ailment has one of two causes: toxicity or deficiency. An N.D. will work to help address these issues by removing the source of the toxicity while at the same time addressing the deficiency that may be present. This could be due to environmental issues, lifestyle habits, nutrition, upbringing or some type of infection.

Personally, I had to get to the root cause of my issues with the anxiety and depression through intense nutrition and lifestyle intervention. The hardest realization to come to terms with was that I was suffering immensely because of things I was unknowingly doing.

Today, it is clear to me that my journey through panic, anxiety, depression and ADHD were all a part of my testimony to becoming a more effective traditional naturopath. One who knows and who has been there.

I will leave you with this, you owe it to yourself to live the best and healthiest life possible. There is an optimal life available to all of us. You never know what is possible when you apply the laws of Nature and correct living to your life. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Alexander Poptodorov is a health and wellness expert who has a passion for helping others to achieve their very best through optimal living. He is a micro-biology major who has 16+ years helping others achieve healthy lifestyles through nutrition. In 2005, Alexander opened his own wellness facility, A+A Wellness in Atlanta, Ga. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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

Patient Advocacy: Listening and Observing

Advocacy1

I have found myself as patient advocate many times through the years. It is a role I enjoy, excel at, and one that comes quite naturally. I have the ability to become invisible for long periods of time yet pop into action when needed. I’m good in a crisis without becoming flustered or overwhelmed. I can maintain critical thinking and act when pressure ensues without letting my emotions bubble over the top. These are important keys in patient advocacy. I’ll describe three stories here to clearly show why I believe this is a necessary task to be handled when illness or injury interferes with our daily lives.

Story One

My father-in-law was in a long-term care facility. We visited him regularly. It fell to me to see him most often because of my more flexible schedule. I noticed he was “off” one day and checked in with the nursing staff. Though they weren’t initially as concerned as I was, we decided a visit to the ER was warranted.

My husband joined me in watching his father’s steadily worsening state. After nearly an hour and being told dad was going to be transported back to the nursing home, we sought out a doctor for more information. Though not verbatim, we were basically informed that dad was old and people eventually die of something. We were completely floored. We were not given any specific information on the problem or the proposed treatment.

After  transport, I stayed with dad as he continued to be somewhat disoriented and unwell. I inquired about sending him a little further to a different hospital ER for evaluation. It turned out his insurance would cover it (Medicare/Blue Cross), so I insisted. After several hours, they chased down a severe bladder infection and admitted dad to the hospital.

Had someone not been present to advocate for dad, he likely would have died because of that episode. It takes an observant individual who knows the patient well enough to notice what’s out of the ordinary behavior or abnormal. Our intuition and daily interactions with people can be key to helping trigger advocacy.

Story Two

A friend ended up in the hospital with a mysterious ailment and his wife (one of my closest friends) called to tell me about it. I traveled to sit with them each day for several days (until he was diagnosed and well on the road to recovery). While I was there for my sick friend, I was there as much for his wife.

When a loved one is ill or injured, it can be overwhelming to try to function with any normalcy. My friend was traveling to and from the hospital in the dark while trying to keep as many day-to-day necessities functioning as possible. I supplied moral support, her lunch, and took copious notes during the parades of doctors.

It can be vital for someone to keep track of the information different teams of doctors bring to the equation. Taking down names and times at the very least lets a medical team know that someone is holding them accountable. Asking clarifying questions can help everyone remember when emotions overwhelm.

Story Three

Another close friend was hospitalized recently. This is a person that I care a great deal about and with whom I work on occasion. My first visit was only an hour long but by morning I was rearranging my schedule and ready to camp out for as long as was needed. It was clear to me that she needed an advocate to speak with the staff and to inform friends and loved ones who cared and wanted to help but for whom my friend had no tolerance due to her severely ill state. I sat quietly for at least eight hours each day for several days tending to her needs and helping the hospital staff and loved ones stay updated on her status.

Most care facilities are stretched beyond limits. Even when checking vitals and dispersing medication when normally scheduled, it’s not the same as having someone observing constantly—especially when that someone can underscore that what the patient is telling is truth. For instance, this friend was in need of the strong medication they were delivering and it was important for them to know that she usually didn't do any drugs. When she asks, it’s because she really needs them.

It was also important to keep friends informed so they could focus on their best avenues of helping. Not everyone should use their energies to visit the hospital. Often the patient needs peace, solitude, and quiet. Many of us feel a need to care take others or entertain when we are visited. That often isn’t what a hospitalized person needs or wants to do.

While I could go into a lot more detail and give more information about each of these stories, I hope it’s apparent that these aren’t abnormal but rather ordinary experiences. Many people can’t simply set aside their everyday lives to advocate for others but networking can help facilitate the caring for our friends when needed.

Advocacy3

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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

4 Herbs to Support Gratitude

Think back to the last time you had a quiet moment to yourself to reflect on your appreciation for something or someone in your life. For me, a sense of gratitude comes from deep inside. It does not wash over me, but rather is stirred from the heart. A complete focus is required, as well as a vulnerability, and the effect is immediate. A tranquility sweeps through me and a subtle feeling of joy embraces me.

Melody Beattie, a best-selling author of many self-help books, wrote, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” It is a beautiful idea that health and wellbeing can be a consequence of something as simple as gratitude. In fact, studies have shown a correlation between the two. In one study, counting blessings resulted in a decrease of systolic blood pressure in hypertensive participants. In another study,gratitude predicted greater sleep quality, less time to fall asleep, and increased sleep duration.

The key to observing gratitude is to open your heart and center yourself. In celebration of Herbalist Day on April 17, a holiday that is meant to express appreciation for herbalist friends and teachers, we take a look at four herbs that will help you do just that.

Herbs to Support Gratitude

Herbs that support Gratitude: Gingko

Gingko

If gratitude begins with centering yourself and focusing, we look to herbs that nurture concentration. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is known for sharpening mental focus. The ancient ginkgo tree is well-known not only for its longtime medicinal use, but for its longevity as a species. Considered a “living fossil,” the tree is widely known as perhaps the oldest continuous species of any kind; fossils of the plant have been dated to over 250 million years old, making it likely that it was a food source for dinosaurs.

Gingko improves cognitive focus in part by improving the synthesis and turnover of neurotransmitters. As a circulatory tonic, Gingko supports circulation throughout the body to improve the flow of nutrients, oxygen, chemicals, hormones, and immune cells. Ginkgo is well-suited for persons facing circulatory deficiency as well as hypertension.

In Western herbalism, ginkgo is seen as having an affinity for the head, brain, and the circulatory system; the standardized extract in particular shows antioxidant actions in the brain. Vasodilator herbs such as Gingko help dilate the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

Herbs for Gratitude – Holy Basil

Holy Basil

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is uplifting and joyful, guiding open the heart to feel gratitude and a yearning for emotional connection. The heart is the processing center for the nervous system and stores our life experiences and memories. As an adaptogen, holy basil can help put one in a state that allows for the ability to expand knowledge. As a nervine, holy basil 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.

Learn more about holy basil here and here.

Herbs for gratitude - Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry

As a member of the rose family, wild cherry (Prunus serotina) is an ally for the heart and sacral chakras, as it is sweet, loving, nurturing, and sensual. It helps open the heart, making space to lovingly communicate with and receive from others. Our hearts are much more than mechanical pumps; they are powerful sensory organs and nervous system receptors tuned toward love, compassion, and oneness, and they receive emotional input of all kinds every minute of the day.

As such, their physical health is affected by the myriad of life experiences and emotions processed by the heart and stored in the heart’s “memory.” We’ve all seen or felt the physical effects of a deeply broken heart – our heart hurts. Heartbreak, stuck emotions, depression, grief, and trauma can manifest as physical heart ailments, from coronary disease to weak hearts to blockages. The rose family, particularly hawthorn and rose, excels at gently nourishing, healing, soothing, opening, and protecting our energetic hearts allowing us to participate genuinely in practices of gratitude.

Download a free Wild Cherry Plant Monograph from The Herbarium here.

Herbs for Gratitude - Hawthorn

Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is a calming nervine and is used much like rose, and often with rose, to heal, open, and protect the energetic heart. This is helpful because the heart chakra is the balance point, or gate, between the lower and upper chakras (the external/physical/matter and internal/mental/spirit). If the heart chakra is blocked, we feel the mind and body as separate, not unified, and can feel isolated, disconnected, unworthy of love, and have difficulty expressing emotions like appreciation. If the heart chakra is too open, we may withhold our emotions to manipulate others or offer love only with conditions attached. Physically, we may suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. If the heart chakra is balanced, we feel harmonious, and feel a deep well of unconditional love, compassion, and trust for ourselves and others.

Hawthorn is used by herbalists as a wonderful plant ally for the heart. It is considered to be a trophorestorative that helps to nourish and balance the heart. Emotionally, hawthorn may be soothing and healing.

Try our Winter Solstice Heart Tea here.

Celebrating Gratitude!

Celebrating Gratitude!

As herbalists we have a responsibility to pass information onto others and to empower them on their herbal path. While gratitude for these people can, and should be, practiced every day, Herbalist Day is a special occasion to say thank you to those who have helped you on your own journey. On Monday, April 17, you will find us carving out time in our day to write cards to our mentors and friends.

We encourage you to join us with the Herbal Academy’s free, downloadable thank you cards designed just for Herbalist Day 2017.

Free download for Herbalist Day

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Learn more about the Herbal Academy at theherbalacademy.com.

REFERENCES

Herbal Academy. (2016). Herbarium monographs: Gingko, Holy basil, Wild Cherry, Hawthorn [Membership-only Website]. Retrieved on 03/24/2017 from herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/

Wooda, A., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43–48.

Shipon, R. (2007). Gratitude: Effect on perspectives and blood pressure of inner-city African-American hypertensive patients. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University.

 


 

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

Apitherapy: Bees as Medicinal Midwives

 

Pharmacology is the branch of medicine dealing with the actions of drugs in the body — their therapeutic and toxic effects. Our ancestors were the original pharmacologists; developing drugs from plant and animal sources. The word pharmacy originated from an Egyptian word, pharmaki, and the Greek, pharmakon. It is also related to the Egyptian word pharagia, which means “the art of making magic”. The ability of organisms to make medicine and to self-medicate play key roles in the development of pharmacology and in the making of magic.

Making magic with plants and flowers has its roots deeply entwined in the interspatial relationships over millennia with insects as pollinators. Pollinators procured the sweet and tangy nectars and the rich and robust pollens for their own nutrition and self-medication. In so doing, they have helped to fertilize flowering plants and thus, have served as midwives to blooms across the globe producing food and medicine for varied species for millennia.

The foraged food from flowers that bees collect is indeed magical in that it not only feeds them and their developing young directly, as well as other critters and humans, but also serves as medicine to their super-organismal health network. This ability to transform flower power into sweet elixirs and other potent hive products provides medicine for the one — and the many.

What is it that the bees have been eating and sharing with other organisms that lend to health? Bees visit numerous flower blooms and the mixtures through biological processes of chemistry and physiology keeps them healthy and provides healthy products which they share with humans as pharmaceutical (plant-derived) medicines. As super-organisms, honeybees have evolved as an efficient and productive species. More recently, they, along with other pollinators have been experiencing increasing challenges from climate fluctuations, habitat encroachment and industrial agricultural development.

Yet, there are pockets here and there around the globe, where the natural landscape and topography is helping to nurture stronger and healthier species, whose subsequent generations — like seeds, carry their genetic story to unfold over time while providing pollination for growing food, feeding life, and making medicine, magic, near and far. And, when bounties are plentiful, their products can be shared.

New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment is one such place. NM plays host to 7 out of the 8 climactic zones, from desert to tundra, only lacking tropical. Enchanted landscapes chisel and sculpt challenging and unique circumstances living under the state flag Zia sun emblem. Father Time tests and Mother Nature encourages. Plants and organisms that have adapted to the diverse and adverse conditions of our enchanted lands have unique and creative healing properties, as is evident in the traditional and cultural practices of both our Native Indigenous and Hispano societies.

Early pharmacologists focused on natural substances, mainly plant extracts. It was until the 17th century that botany and medicine went hand and hand, and then it changed: Science diverged from its physical foundation to controlled laboratories. The industrialization of agriculture and “conventional” societies changed perspectives and approaches. We are now becoming more conscious and returning to integrative approaches that our ancestors have known and applied generation upon generation.

Pharmacology developed in the 19th century as a biomedical science that applied the principles of scientific experimentation to therapeutic contexts. Today, pharmacologists harness the power of genetics, molecular biology, chemistry, and other advanced tools to transform information about molecular mechanisms and targets into therapies directed against disease, defects or pathogens, and create methods for preventative care, diagnostics, and, ultimately, personalized medicine. But, for millennia, other organisms have been serving as pharmacologists and have helped to harness the power of healing from their natural surroundings. In turn, this has helped to challenge and enhance their health through selective pressures authored by Mother Nature.

Over time, these organisms have developed diets and essences of being that have integrated into the very context of nutrition and health for a myriad of other creatures, including humans, via diversified fruit and vegetable produce options, grains, and other forage. By pollinating animal forage, these pollinator organisms also help to produce meat and fiber; such fantastic feats for such small beings.

It is this miraculous and magical energy that is bestowed by bees into their stored foods, as well. Historical folklore and modern medicine both recognize and share the benefits of honey and other bee products. Ancient cultures developed and refined methods of application including honey; bee bread (bee collected pollen mixed with honey and stored in honeycomb); propolis (antibacterial and antimicrobial resins harvested by the bees from various woody plants, shrubs and trees); royal jelly (a secretion by young nurse bees fed to all of the hive’s progeny for their first few days of life, and to the queen for her entire life); and venom from the bee sting.

Individually and collectively, in various proportions, these hive medicines have served as beneficial therapies for various conditions and cultures.

The application of bee hive product medicines is called Apitherapy. "Api" is Latin for bee and "Apis Mellifera" is our beloved honeybee. There are numerous races of Apis Mellifera- the majority of which originated in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Thus, it is these cultures that have developed elixirs and concoctions of bee hive products for their apitherapeutic properties. It is with current scientific documentation that much of what these ancient cultures already knew is now being better understood through modern research and scientific applications.

Integrative Apitherapeutic applications can help various conditions and bodily systems including allergies, cardiovascular diseases, blood diseases, respiratory, digestive, kidney, musculoskeletal, nervous, eye, ENT (ear, nose and throat), skin, endocrine, nutrition and metabolic, genital, sexual, immunological, viral, cancers, oral, parasites, systemic, mental and pediatric.

In fact, there is research being conducted in north-eastern NM on the benefits of NM honey to treat antibiotic-resistant staph (MRSA) infections in children through a grant from UNM- Pediatrics by Farmington Pediatrician and beekeeper, Dr. Stephen Rankin. (American Bee Journal article reprint and NMBKA PowerPoint slideshow link.)

Honeybees and their stewards are indeed midwives helping to pollinate wild and cultivated forage for the one and the many. As community-minded, super-organismal magic makers, honeybees and their stewards have been sharing their efforts with cultures and peoples across varied lands for many moons. We honor them and their efforts for our communities, now and for future generations.

We hope that interested community members will continue to participate in mindful pollinator promotion and production…for it does indeed take a community network to support local, regional, national and global production of food, fiber, and medicine through positive stewardship of our Tierra, Aire y Agua - Land, Air, and Water. Somos Agradecidos/We are Thankful.

Melanie M. Kirby is a professional apiculturist, honeybee breeder and consilience researcher based in New Mexico. She considers herself to be a seed saver — with the bees as the seeds — by finding and sharing quality stock lines with beekeepers around the nation and globe. In her spare time, Melanie makes honey wine and exquisite medicinal hive products and beeswax arts. Connect with Melanie at Zia Queen Bees and Rocky Mountain Survivor Queen Bee Cooperative.

 


 

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20 Different Varieties of Mead

In its most basic form, mead is simply the fermentation of water and honey into an alcoholic beverage. Also called honey wine, the craft of mead fermentation has been enjoyed for centuries for social, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes.

Mead comes in various forms and displays huge diversity in regards to ingredients that are used and the flavors these ingredients bestow. These flavors are further diversified through the use of different types of yeast, different types of honey, additives like herbs or fruits (known as adjuncts or gruits), or the method of aging.

Mead taste testing by Herbal Academy

Chai Mead from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

In the Herbal Academy’s newest online program, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, students explore the many types of mead that are brewed across the world and experiment with recipes from several varieties themselves. Preview the Different Varieties of Mead chart below, a brief excerpt from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course!

Varieties of Mead

These terms will not only help you navigate some of the informational resources that exist regarding this delightful fermentation experience, they will hopefully also inspire you to experiment. You will notice that many of these varieties of mead include the use of herbs such as hops, rose petals or hips, and even chili pepper as flavoring ingredients! In essence, any of these meads could be considered herbal healing liquors. So, formulating your herbal mead can be about both flavor and healing. Just look at this variety!

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy - recipes

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF MEAD

Acerglyn

A mead made with honey and maple syrup.

Black Mead

A mead made with honey and black currants.

Bochet

A mead made whereby the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water to bring out toffee, chocolate, or roasted marshmallow flavors.

Braggot

Derived from the Welsh word bragawd, is also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added.

Capsicumel

A mead flavored with chili peppers! Yee haw!

Cyser

A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together – similar to a hard cider except sweeter due to the addition of sugars from the honey.

Great Mead

Any mead that has been aged for several years. Distinguished from short mead or quick mead which is meant to age quickly and be consumed in short order.

Hydromel

The Greek and French term for “water-honey” in Greek. It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.

Melomel

Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Certain melomels have more specific names depending on what type of fruit is used. For example, a morat is a type of melomel made from mulberries.

Metheglin

A healing liquor, or mead made for medicinal purposes.

Omphacomel

A medieval mead recipe that blends honey with a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crabapples, or other sour fruit. Lemon or sorrel juice is also sometimes used for additional flavor, as are herbs or spices.

Oxymel

A historical mead recipe traditionally made by blending honey with wine vinegar. In modern times, Western herbalists often employ oxymels as a preservation method for medicinal herbs. For example, some forms of ‘fire cider’ are made with honey and therefore considered an oxymel.

Pyment

A pyment is brewed with red or white grapes or grape juice. A pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes also called white mead.

Rhodomel

Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. This type of mead could also be considered a metheglin, depending on the intention of the brewer.

Sack Mead

Mead that is brewed with more honey than is typically used and therefore contains a higher-than-average alcohol concentration. Mead that is at or above 14% ABV is generally considered to be of sack strength. Sack mead often retains elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads which have no residual sweetness can also be produced.

Short Mead

Also known as a quick mead and often considered the opposite of a great mead. A type of mead that is meant to age quickly for immediate enjoyment. It can also be champagne-like, depending on the methods and yeast used. Good for brewers with little patience.

Show Mead

A plain mead with only honey and water as a base with no additions such as fruits, spices, or herbal flavorings. Sometimes requires a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes for an enjoyable finished product, as honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle.

Sparkling Mead

Mead that has carbonation. Usually created through the use of champagne yeast.

Still Mead

Mead that is not carbonated.

White Mead

A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit, or sometimes even egg whites. Also a name sometimes given to white grape pyment.

As students discover in The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, brewing herbal mead can be much more than simply making an alcoholic beverage. Brewing herbal mead can be a ritualistic journey of celebrating community and honoring the people, places, and plants that have provided guidance, knowledge, friendship, or support. In fact, brewing herbal mead is one method, among many in the realm of fermentation and food production, that can be used to honor the changing of the seasons, times of year, or memorable milestones in your life and the lives of those in your community.

Herbal Mead Tutorial  The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

Whether you are interested in creating delicious mead and beer with an herbal spin to share with your friends and family or are looking for ways to expand your probiotic routine with kombucha, water kefir, or fermented foods, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course will walk you through making these ferments step by step, from start to bubbly finish!

Preview the full course outline and sign up to reserve your seat in class here: theherbalacademy.com/product/craft-herbal-fermentation-course/ 

Cheers!Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Marlene spent several years studying herbs and learning under some of the most revered modern herbalists and continues to practice plant medicine through correspondence courses and teaching others. 

Photos provided and copyrighted by Amber Meyers and Grant Lacouture, Herbal Academy.


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

Prepare for Spring by Making Digestive Bitters

Just as we spend spring days clearing rubble from our overwintered gardens, we can also spend the warmer, longer days clearing winter’s accumulated waste and toxins from our bodies. Up to this point, we’ve been in hibernation mode – sleeping more, eating comfort foods that are high in fats and oils – and in early spring it’s time to jump-start our perhaps still resting metabolisms, get the blood moving, and help the liver process the waste efficiently.

Bitter tonics are particularly useful in spring because the simple act of tasting bitters on your tongue triggers the liver and gall bladder to create bile, which stimulates the digestion of fats and oils. With the digestive system working efficiently, toxins are eliminated from the body and, over time, bitters act as “alteratives” or blood purifiers. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar taught that alterative bitters are “agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the blood” (Gladstar, 2011).

dandelion greens
Fotolia/posh

You can introduce bitter flavors into your diet by eating more bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion. Coffee is the most commonly consumed bitter, and steamed burdock is a seasonal bitter treat that’s also fun to forage. An easy DIY option is to make herbal bitters, which are essentially a tincture made with bitter herbs. Although drinking bitters isn’t as much a part of our mealtime traditions as they once were, you may still recognize the term “aperitif” for digestive-stimulating drinks consumed before a meal, and “digestif” for those consumed after a meal.

Digestive bitters can also double as fantastic ingredients in homemade cocktails. For example, the Manhattan cocktail (my personal favorite) calls for angostura bitters, which feature bitter gentian root (Gentiana lutea). Keep the following Digestive Bitters in your medicine cabinet, but don’t hesitate to break them out when a special-occasion cocktail is in demand.

DIY Digestive Bitters Recipe

tincture bottle
Fotolia/rawf8

This recipe uses ingredients that are easy to forage, grow, or purchase in the United States. Yield: 1 pint.

  • 2 parts dandelion root

  • 1 part fennel seed

  • 1 part orange peels

Add combined herbs to a wide-mouth canning jar and then cover with high-proof vodka or brandy. Shake to make sure all herbs are completely submerged, and then let sit in a dark spot for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking every 2 or 3 days to keep plant material covered. Strain through a cheesecloth and store infused tincture in a labeled, amber-colored bottle. Take 1 teaspoon or one tincture bottle dropperful before or after meals. Consume your homemade bitters within 1 year.

fennel seeds on spoon
Fotolia/ksena32

Learn more about bitters by reading this fantastic two-part series by Sharyn Hocurscak with The Herbal Academy: Part 1: History and Benefits of Bitters and Part 2: Making Bitters. 

I’d also recommend reading Guido Masé’s book The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic PLants – Guido is the founder of Urban Moonshine, a company that crafts high-quality bitters that are sold nationwide.

 

 Hannah was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in The Herbal Academy’s online school where she worked her way through the Entrepreneur Herbalist Package. She is managing editor for Heirloom Gardener magazine and senior editor for Mother Earth News. Read all of Hannah's posts here.