If you have been to any of my classes, you know my passion for natural healing and for the natural world. I've found that many of our community members share this passion. I’m not a medical professional but have learned a lot from my herbalist friends and love to share. Please read up before using wild or cultivated herbs and mind the cautions. These pictures are from my midsummer garden and the healthy benefits described below are just a few of their wonderful qualities. I encourage the whole community to share about their gardens and add pictures and talk about how you use your plants for healing, beauty and for food.
Mint and Lemon Balm
Mint is a miracle herb for digestive discomfort. Whenever I have a stomachache, I drink mint tea or just chew some mint and it almost immediately relieves it. Even a peppermint lozenge works wonders for this. Mint is also used to treat IBS, to improve cold symptoms, to reduce pain and to freshen the breath. Lemon balm, which is in the mint family, has many of these same qualities and is a miracle herb for the nervous system, it calms and soothes and helps with sleep. Peppermint and spearmint are among the other variations in the mint family and all can be dried and used in teas and smoothies or just chewed. Invigorating peppermint oil is wonderful in soaps and lotions and a few drops can even be added to a glass drinking water.
I cook almost every day with this herb, blanched almonds soaked in coconut amino acids and rosemary, then dried are so delicious (they sell them at Trader joe’s too, that’s where I got the idea). Rosemary helps with digestion, heartburn, gas and loss of appetite. It also can treat gout, coughs, headaches, blood pressure issues, stress and depression. Rosemary oil increases circulation which helps relieve muscle aches and arthritis - it is also famous for hair, it is added to shampoos and rinses and is a remedy for hair loss as it stimulates circulation when rubbed into the scalp, which also can help with head pain as well as concentration and memory retention.
I like to crush lavender leaves up and just inhale their scent, it instantly cheers me up. At our MKY yoga teacher Jennifer's behest, I recently used lavender oil on a real bad burn and was astounded at how fast it began to heal! So grateful! It is good for all kinds of wound healing, fungal infections and muscle pain. It is also good to rub on the scalp to prevent hair loss and when rubbed on the skin and inhaled is good for emotional symptoms, including premenstrual angst and moodiness.
Queen of all Chinese herbs, the berries have been famous for centuries for women’s beauty. It lowers inflammation, supports adrenal function, improves liver function, protects and beautifies the skin, improves mental functions and helps with healthy sexuality. I’m still waiting for my four thriving plants (planted in the shade) to bear berries. Probably will have to consult my local gardening club about this soon. Schizandra cleans both the liver and the blood at the same time. Just a wonderful five flavor herb that improves all-around health, perhaps more than any other herb.
I first became interested in this plant when I got bit by a tick as it contains resveratrol, the number one herb for Lyme disease and it grows in abundance in all the places where lyme it prevalent. It is also high in vitamin A and C and antioxidants that support vision. It reduces inflammation, boosts immunity and promotes brain health. It is also known to detox the liver and prevent heart disease, reduce cholesterol, maintain healthy blood sugar and beautify the skin. It can reduce inflammation in the GI tract and treat gout as well. Resveratrol also induces autophagy, which cleans up the whole body, repairing every cell. Quite a powerhouse, anti-aging herb!. I gather this herb wherever I can find it, which is almost anywhere, because my plants are still so young. I make tea from the stems and leaves and also add the stems to my smoothies.
Rosehips are the big round bulbs that remain after a rose dies. I have a virtual rose garden in my yard and dry all my rosehips and grind them up in the coffee grinder and steep them in tea. Rosehips are a potent form of vitamin C and have been used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, digestive disorders, urinary tract infections and the flu.Read up on rosehips before using them as there are some cautions. Rose hip oil is one of the most famous beauty oils around. The biggest rose hips I’ve ever seen are by the beach.
Please tell us about your garden, even if it’s a windowsill garden, in the comments below. We love our plants and benefit from them so much, so let’s share the love.
Next month, in this botanical vein, we are going to explore yoni herbs, yoni steaming and flower essences that assist that part of the body, including the perineum point which often deserves healing in females. Marla, one of our cherished members, along with myself, will share expertise and resources. If you have any knowledge in this area, please get ready to share on our August blog. Sat Nam and Wahe Guru!!!
My mother used to do this thing when I was upset. She'd wiggle her fingers in my face and say, "Re-laaaaaaaaax. Re-laaaaaaaaax." I HATED it! It had the opposite effect and just enraged me more. One time it infuriated me so much that I kicked a radiator with my bare foot -- thinking, "That'll show her" -- and broke a toe.
In those moments, I obviously did need to relax, but I couldn't choose to. My mind was too chaotic and overrun by emotion to slow down enough to focus on relaxing. And those wiggly fingers were soooooo annoying.
My mom had such wonderful instincts as a parent and raised me with so much compassion, with such great values, and with infinite grace. Misfires were extremely unusual, but this was one of them in my opinion.
Why did "re-laaaaaaax" drive me up-the-wall, over-the-deep-end, and into a radiator?
Because it was a command, a command that negated my feelings. Instead, my mom could have let me say my piece and listened and been a little stealthier at getting me to calm down. She could have slowed her own breathing down, monitored her internal experience, rather than trying to dictate mine.
When you're with someone who's upset, a great gift and a healing is to focus on your own mental state and shift yourself into a relaxed place. If you're stable enough and strong enough in your calm, you influence the upset person surreptitiously. You can set the tone and even the rhythm of breath for the both of you.
I learned this technique in a children's yoga training with yoga teacher and special needs educator Allison Morgan. Allison told us a story about being called into a classroom to evaluate whether a girl (let's call her Jane) with problematic and disruptive behavior could stay in a mainstream classroom. She'd been hearing about Jane for weeks. Jane's teachers were so upset about this "uncontrollable" child. The principal was getting complaints from the parents of other children in the classroom. There was a lot of anxiety around Jane. On the morning that Allison went into the classroom to evaluate Jane, she talked to herself and silently to Jane. She slowed her own breathing down. Allison sat behind Jane as she breathed long and deep and projected thoughts like: "It's okay, Jane. Just be yourself. All you have to do is be yourself. It's okay."
And what happened? Jane worked at her desk quietly and did not cause any disruptions. She had never behaved like that before.
Allison explained that this was because of a phenomenon called entrainment, when one's internal rhythm syncs up with an external rhythm. The strength of Allison's focus and intention and the power of her breath calmed Jane down without her even knowing it.
What does this mean? It means we can do so much with our breath.
One day, a woman came to yoga and was clearly stressed. She peered into the studio from the foyer, saw everyone settling in on their mats, and said, "I really shouldn't go in there. I shouldn't be anywhere near here. I'm a ball of anxiety."
"That's what we are here for," I said. "This is exactly where you should be."
I didn't just mean that the teachers are here for her to help her calm down her nervous system and access her breath. I meant all of us, all of the students. After over an hour together, we rub off on each other. Our breaths can sync up. Those who can access a deep breath do, and they do it for all of us.
Off the mat, though, you have to be a little slick about it. If my daughter is having a moment and I shift into an obvious, conscious deep breath-- letting my torso expand and audibly inhaling and exhaling, she's onto me and she's not having it. "Don't do that yoga [expletive deleted] with me!" A big, deep breath can be the equivalent of the wiggly fingers. I have to do it quietly and imperceptibly. There's an art to it because I can't be so calm that I appear blank, either. My daughter wants to feel heard (as I did, as we all do) and know that her anger or agitation matters. I need to outwardly reflect active listening and inwardly calm myself. (P.S. I don't mean to suggest that I always make the right, artful choice. If only... )
I think about the potential of this, such a simple technique, and I get really inspired...
A young woman has just been let go from her job and is hyperventilating in the lobby of the office building. You ask if she's alright, listen to her intently, and most importantly, inwardly focus on slowing down your own breathing. A young boy is frantic at the playground unable to find his favorite toy truck. You ask if you can help, listen to him intently, and most importantly, inwardly focus on slowing down your own breathing. Your spouse, your child, your sister, your brother,
your mother, your father is angry about a perceived injustice. Very angry. You let him or her know that you understand; you listen intently, and most importantly, you inwardly focus on slowing down your own breathing.
We can do this everywhere we go -- schools, offices, restaurants, subways, etc. Imagine. We can breathe deeply for each other. When we breathe long and deep, we are helping to heal the world. (As long as we're slick.)
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. In 2008, Cate completed her Level 1 (200 hr) teacher training with Hari Kaur Khalsa of Hari NYC. In 2012, she broadened her knowledge with a very special Holistic Hatha Yoga training (300 hr) with Amy Witmyer of Sacred Space. Kundalini Yoga is her home, her go-to sanctuary, her point of peace and insight. She believes that it is a wonderful tool for busy times and busy minds.