Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Tag: stress

Are you a worry wort?

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The darkness of winter gives us a chance to rest and replenish as the days begin to grow longer and progress toward spring. In addition to nourishing the body with good foods and healing flavors, now is the time to experiment with ways to address stress, insomnia, and worry and find out what works for you to help you have a better handle on life to address your stressors year-round. There are many things we can do on a daily basis to help manage stress, anxiety and worry including use herbal therapies to help us achieve the life style changes we need.

Stress & Our Body. Physiologically, it’s important to remember that when we are stressed, many of the body’s processes get put on hold. The body’s energy is diverted away from the immune responses, making it hard to both defend against viruses and infections – even chronic disease.  We stop digesting when we are under stress, reproductive hormones decrease, our glands dry up, and our respiratory response quickens. This, over-time, can have huge impacts on our immune system and quality of life.

Herbs aren’t needed for exercise! Get moving! Movement and physical activity (especially movement in the brisk, winter’s air) is something all bodies regularly need to both fight stress and build immunity: With proper hydration, movement keeps muscles and ligaments juicy and lymphatic glands moving. It helps blow off elevated cortisol from a stressful day and over time and in tandem with a healthy diet, can have a significant impact on blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Aromatic Herbals for Energy. Instead of that extra shot of espresso, go with an aromatic herbal blend.  Rose, Mints, Lavender, Lemon Balm — all have aromatic oils that are uplifting and can provide a boost of energy without adding the extra stress on the system that caffeine offers. These herbs can help clear a foggy head in the middle of a workday, break up tension from stress or soothe a headache caused by dramatic changes in the weather patterns.  Try adding these aromatic essential oils in a bottle for a refreshing face mist or room clearing spray to help lift the mood.

Still tired? THEN SLEEP MORE!  Regular sleep patterns seem to be quite a luxury nowadays, but sadly, this lack of sleep is a contributing factor to weight gain and deprives our body of the desperately needed rest and restore time so it can recover from our demanding wake time.  How to support a regular sleep schedule? Reduce after-hours activities that include screen time. Late night computer and television use can actually disturb the REM sleep patterns later in the evening. Try to cut off screen time after 9 or 10, and certainly avoid the urge to turn the screens on if you are unable to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. This can affect the body’s ability to fall asleep later at night. Limit alcohol consumption to dinner time.  Having the proverbial nightcap may be a relaxant beverage, but regular, late-night consumption of alcohol can also disturb REM sleep patterns (not to mention, relying on alcohol or other heavy narcotic to support regular sleep can lead to longterm dependency).

Insomnia? Relaxant herbals can help you catch some Zzzzz’s. The ritual alone of bedtime tea can help you unwind at the end of a busy day. Try blending relaxant herbals like Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Catnip, Rose, Blue Vervain, Scullcap or Kava Kava. Hops and Valerian can also help and relax the body for sleep.

Try these as tinctures, teas or even as massage oils and balms to help the body relax and relieve the stressors of the day. Or perhaps a hot bath? Herbs can be infused into bathwater as a tea or infused into an epsom salt bath. This can be done with whole herbs or by using aromatic essential oils.

Upset tummy? Try bitters. In times of stress, the body slows the digestive process and this can inhibit the proper uptake of core nutrients leading to a different sort of malnutrition. Bitter herbs are a MUST for helping stagnant digestion that is symptomatic of excess stress.

Bitter foods ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaves, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile tea) but they can also be integrated into our diets as classic digestifs (such as commercial Campari or Angostura) or tinctured bitters (variety of herbs can be used for homemade bitters, such as orange peel, cinnamon, aspen Bark, fennel, chocolate, etc).

Lemon balm or catnip does wonders for soothing an anxious stomach. Blend it with aromatic herbs like cinnamon or lavender.  Chamomile also does wonders to calm nervous anxiety.

Ulcerations: If there extreme digestive deficiency and there is ulcer, etc., more must be done with diet and herbs that can support the mucosa to heal should be introduced (marshmallow, slippery elm, etc). Reduce alcohol, sugar and refined foods. See an herbalist to formulate an herbal protocol to best help gut healing.

Can’t get out of bed? Herbs for Grief, Sadness or Depression. Herbs like tulsi basil, hawthorne, rose petals, lavender, and lemon balm can offer comfort for a sad heart. Aromatic herbs are uplifting and help clear away the dark clouds and offer some clarity and peace of mind. And of course, see a professional if your stress simply is hanging over you to the point where are are affected and family and friends can no longer help. There is a role for pharmaceuticals, and many can be used in combination with herbals – just first consult an herbalist familiar with both therapeutics.

Nourish your nervous system for the long term. Build back up your nervous system with herbs that can actually restore tone to the central nervous system used over time . These herbs include milky oats (Avena sativa), nettle, passionflower, skullcap, ashwaganda, burdock root, and American ginseng. There are others, but those are a few favorites (and toning needs to be done with lifestyle change).

Lisa Rose’s Time for Sleep Tea**

1 Part Passionflower

1 Part Catnip

1 Part Elderflower

1/2 Part Holy Basil

Steep, covered in hot water (in a french press or tea ball) for 2 minutes and then sip. Promotes restfulness, focus and soothes an anxious mind and stomach so you can sleep.

**Bulk, dry herbs are available via Mountain Rose Herbs

Holiday Merriment Means Movement

IMG_2009It’s that time of year again when holiday stress is high.  Holiday parties, plates of butter cookies, and glasses of cabernet are the temptresses: singing to us like sirens on the rocks with their promises to way-lay the best set plans for getting in some exercise. We all kvetch that there is little time to “get it all done,” much less build in time for movement and exercise.

But movement and physical activity (especially movement in the brisk, winter’s air) is as important as making healthy choices during the holidays and getting adequate rest. Movement is something all bodies regularly need to both fight stress and build immunity: With proper hydration, movement keeps muscles and ligaments juicy and lymphatic glands moving. It helps blow off elevated cortisol from a stressful day and over time and in tandem with a healthy diet, can have a significant impact on blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Too many group commitments? Instead of another cookie party meet up, suggest a walk around the neighborhood as a way to get in some movement and fresh air. Or consider other group activities — from ice skating to sledding to roller skating, a group could even hit up the open swim at a local pool for a game of Marco Polo. It doesn’t really matter your current physical fitness level — it just matters that you make the decision and move!

And don’t let the snow and cold be a deterrent to getting outside.  The cold winter air is great to help build immunity and stay strong during cold and flu season — it just requires a mental re-frame about the winter weather and a bit of clothing planning. Remember, there is never the wrong weather — only the wrong clothing.

Here are some ideas to try that will keep your heart rocking, your glutes burning and will mix it up for the holidays. The tips are Grand Rapids specific, but wherever you are located, you can check into community resources in your area for similar activities — and all these suggestions are group and family friendly! Mix it up and get moving!

Ice-skating. There’s nothing more picturesque during the holiday season than an outdoor ice-skating rink.  Grand Rapids locals know one of the most fun and magical locations for ice skating is outdoors at Rosa Parks Circle located in downtown Grand Rapids in the city’s center adjacent to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It’s our own little Rockefeller, and has affordable ice skate rentals. Afterward, you can stroll the local streets for some last minute holiday shopping or stop into the Art Museum to check out their most recent exhibit. There are also many private rinks in the area featuring rentals and open skate throughout the holiday season.

Skiing. Whether it’s classic cross country or downhill adventure seeking you crave, the snow machine has been ON in Michigan since Thanksgiving, allowing nearly all the local hills and resorts to have established base conditions for this early in the season. For cross country lovers, Kent Trails provides miles of fantastic cross trails, and many ski resorts offer both rentals and groomed trails where you can spend the day testing your cardio, quads and glutes on the skis. For a resource on all things ski related, including resort and conditions reports, check out MISkiReport.

Sledding Hills. Yes, wax the toboggan, it’s time for some sledding. West Michigan boasts some great sledding hills especially at the lakeshore state parks (Hoffmaster is especially nice) as well as in the city here in Grand Rapids (GR Kids GR Sledding Hill Guide), Pando is also a local favorite for tubing down the hills, and also has trails and gear for the ski enthusiast.

Roller skating. Roller skates! Yes, the 80s are alive and well (infused with a bit of Taylor Swift top 40 hits) at local rinks in the West Michigan area including Tarry Hall in Grandville. So, get your best Limbo and Hokey Pokey ready — it’s time to lace up and go for a roll!!!

Trampolines. Want to blow through a ton of calories playing on trampolines? Check out SkyZone Indoor Trampoline Play . This is exactly what is sounds like! Indoor trampoline play great for kids and adults alike—  you can even book “court time” to accommodate a group for an organized session of Dodgeball.

Hiking.   Grand Rapids is surrounded by extensive trail networks that are ready for a nice Christmas or New Year’s hike with family, a trail run or even a session on snow shoes. Enjoy the benefits of the great Michigan outdoors in winter. It’s magical and good for your spirit as well as body, and a great time to practice winter botany for upcoming spring foraging haunts!

Foot Races. There are some of us running junkies (ahem, you know who you are) who will want to get a race or two in over the holiday. Well, I am not going to say no to that one. The classic year-end Wolverine World Wide Resolution 4 mile Run/Walk is a great way to wrap up 2014 on New Year’s Eve, and then you can wake up and race all over again with a New Year’s Day race at the lakeshore for the Sgt Preston Yukon King Run.

All in all, don’t sweat the small stuff — just make sure you do sweat some over the holidays. It’s that first step that’s always the most difficult, but in the end so very worth it for your health. Your body and loved ones will thank you!

Happy Holiday Trails!

De-Stress, Rest & Restore

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The halls have been decked and gifts have been swapped, and in the midst of what can sometimes seem like holiday hell, hopefully there is a moment or two where you can catch your breath and rest.

Winter’s season, by design, is a time to turn inward, rest and reflect. It’s a time where many set New Year’s Goals and Resolutions and this is a perfect time to ask yourself, “What do you need to keep in your life in the next year to make you thrive? What doesn’t serve you that needs to go? These aren’t the easiest questions to answer, but recognizing that you ~do~ have the power to make your life work for you. And in this time of shoddy economy and global breakdown, if not now, when?

While resting in this quiet, take time and really rest and then you may hear the answers you already know.

Stress & Modern Day Bears 

I daresay that stress is one of the worst contagious illnesses of our time — and it’s absolutely preventable. The impact of this stress on our bodies is the underlying cause of chronic disease and general unhappiness. The fight or flight response to stress can be likened to being chased by a bear (thanks Herbalist Howie Brownstein)– the body’s systems shut down, healing all but stops and panic dominates. And while we aren’t chased by literal bears in our day-to-day activities, our modern day bears come in all forms — email, text, phone calls, CNN streaming in the airport, the 6pm news, the piles of bills on the counter, budgets, busy schedules. And these modern day bears chase us upwards of  80 hours of our week.

Many people feel out of control, unable to manage the day-to-day pressures, especially given the current pressures of the local economy and overall state of global events. LIttle do we realize that we actually have all the power we need to make choices and repair our body’s depleted systems that have been impacted by our daily demanding routine. Part of that power is taking a moment to remember and realize the impact of our choices on our health and then making a conscious shift to a lifestyle that is more supported of our values and nourishing to our lives.

That shift does not, however, happen overnight.  Peeling apart the layers can take time, struggle and dark moments.  But with the courage and determination to restore quality to your world and with the help of some basic guidance of the plants in our natural world, we can heal ourselves from stress.

Revisiting the basics to handle stress

In order to stay strong in the face of stressful situations, as cliché as it may be, we need to remember to rest and to eat. If you can’t change the stress, get more rest and get more sleep to start.

A healthy body eats whole, nutrient dense foods. Of all colors and flavors. And remember: NOURISH with Healthy Fats! Omega 3’s, fatty acids.  The brain and nervous system absolutely need healthy fats to function to the fullest.  Choose foods that are chemical free and local to the extent that your body allows.

Get your ZZZs… SLEEP MORE!  Regular sleep patterns seem to be quite a luxury nowadays, but sadly, this lack of sleep is a contributing factor to weight gain and deprives our body of the desperately needed rest and restore time so it can recover from our demanding wake time.  Many studies are revealing that as a culture we are sleep deprived.  Re-organizing and re-prioritizing our evening schedules is necessary to be able to accommodate about 8 hours of sleep that the average person needs to maintain a healthful body.  Not all people require this amount of sleep, but many do.

How to support a regular sleep schedule? Reduce after-hours activities that include screen time. Late night computer and television use can actually disturb the REM sleep patterns later in the evening. Try to cut off screen time after 9 or 10, and certainly avoid the urge to turn the screens on if you are unable to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. This can affect the body’s ability to fall asleep later at night. Limit alcohol consumption to dinner time.  Having the proverbial nightcap may be a relaxant beverage, but regular, late-night consumption of alcohol can also disturb REM sleep patterns (not to mention, relying on alcohol or other heavy narcotic to support regular sleep can lead to longterm dependency).

AND MOVE during the day!  Restlessness at night can be a sign that you aren’t moving enough during the day. The body needs to MOVE to manage cortisol levels that spike when under stress, and getting in regular exercise can significantly improve sleep habits.  Exercise need not mean a gym membership — it can mean gentle walking, stretching, dancing — anything just to keep the body lithe and circulation flowing.

Get some bodywork! ACUPUNCTURE, BODYWORK & MEDITATION: For those folks who travel internationally across timezones or those working night and swing shifts, this can mean a regularly disrupted sleep pattern that can last for days on end.  Consider supporting these work transitions with regular treatments of acupuncture.

Other regular bodywork treatments like massage, cranial sacral and acupressure can relax the body and help release tension that builds up because of the stress response. Additionally, adding in a mindfulness practice such as meditation or guided imagery can help break the patterns of circular thinking and can support an unloading of the day’s proverbial baggage, leaving space to rest and restore.   

Starner’s go-to herbs for Peace in Chaos

Herbs are our allies to help us move toward a life of making choices that serve us to lead brighter lives. The herbs ~cannot~ be a substitute for making those choices. That is our responsibility and we all have the power to do what needs to be done — they are here to support that. Here’s my fave short list of herbs that I love to have on hand to support the nervous system as we try to manage stress in our lives.

Reduce anxiety, improve clarity with AROMATICS. Rose, Geranium, Mints, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Oregano, Basil — all these herbs have aromatic oils that can be uplifting and can provide clarity in times of stress. They can be sought out as teas to sip (the ritual of making tea in and of itself is calming) or as essential oils to vaporize in a room (or cupped in your hand) or added into a carrier oil for massage (remember those foot baths!).

Bliss out your stressed state with RELAXANTS & CALMATIVES (aka Nervines) and alive anxiety, restlessness. Chamomile (also aromatic and helpful to relieve stomach upset), Lemon Balm, Raspberry leaf, Spearmint, Catnip, Rose, Blue Vervain, Passionflower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort.  All can be used as tea, or tincture, and some can be used extracted into oils for massage… Experiment a bit! For circular thinking — I like Passionflower, Wood Betony, Blue Vervain.

Help get better sleep with SEDATIVES. Hops, Kava Kava (gives me the giggles), Valerian (can sure calm spasm, quell anxiety and induce sleep in most people, and can agitate a select few– test it out first).

Build back up your nervous system with nourishing NERVINE TONICS. Herbs that can actually restore tone to the central nervous system used over time include Milky Oats (Avena Sativa), Nettle, Passionflower, Skullcap. There are others, but those are a few favorites (and toning needs to be done with lifestyle change).

What’s the correlation to stress and digestion? In times of stress, the body slows the digestive process and this can inhibit the proper uptake of core nutrients leading to a different sort of malnutrition. BITTERS are a MUST for helping stagnant digestion that is symptomatic of excess stress.  BItters ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaves, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile tea) but they can also be integrated into our diets as classic digestifs (such as commercial Campari or Angostura) or tinctured bitters (I hand make my own bitters with a variety of herbs such as Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Aspen Bark, Fennel, etc). If there extreme digestive deficiency and there is ulcer, etc., more must be done with diet and herbs that can support the mucosa to heal should be introduced (marshmallow, slippery elm, etc).

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Remember that everyone’s path (and constitutions) are different, so herbs that work for one may not be suited for another.  And the *right* herbs that are good for you now in this moment may not be the herb you need later down the road. Be open to this and if you want to talk more about what might be right for your constitution, schedule a time to talk with me about your needs.

Links:

Great Lakes Herbalist jim McDonald on Bitters 

Fascinating article on our culture of pill popping for stress: New York Magazine “Listening to Xanax” (2012)