While facilitating our Herbal Medicine Making Summer workshop recently, I was struck by how empowering it is to reconnect with knowledge and skills to care for ourselves and our families. It allows us to be more responsive to our own health needs and, importantly, reminds us how powerful self-responsibility is for supporting our health.
What does it really mean to be responsible for our own health? At times this idea might be weighted with a sense of judgment or blame, if we view any ill health as being a personal failure. But what if we could respond to ourselves with compassion? What if we could recognise our sub-optimal health as messages from our wise inner self, signalling us to make adjustments in the way we are living our lives? What would it look like if we took this kind approach, responding to our body’s needs moment by moment, adjusting our food, our activities, our approach to work and play in order to keep ourselves in a state of wellness?
When we take the lens of judgement away, self responsibility becomes instead an empowering realisation, knowing that we have the ability to listen and respond effectively to meet our own needs. Times of ill health are then transformed into times of concentrated learning, positive exploration and change. When we can flip our approach to health care in this way, then our bodies become a reference point to learning about ourselves, our beliefs and attitudes and how these are driving us in our daily lives.
It can take a significant internal shift to respond to ourselves in this way. Our modern culture does not tend to prioritise self care. In addition, many of us come from family lines that have had to work through significant odds in order to survive. This can result in a strong work ethic, but also a harsh view of life that can negatively impact the way we care (or don't care) for ourselves. It is not just our eye colour that is passed down our family lines! Do you allow yourself to take time for rejuvenation, or do you have internal messages saying that this would be lazy, unproductive, or selfish? Is your sense of self worth tied up with working hard? Bringing awareness to these beliefs and shifting those that are no longer serving us is an important part of our self healing process.
So, let's enable ourselves with knowledge and skills, and respond to ourselves with kind attentiveness. One aspect of self care we have that is ever close at hand are the herbal allies and healing foods found in our own backyards and kitchen pantries. We just need to restore this ancient knowledge and relationship, and bring that support back into our everyday lives. If this is something that speaks to you, I encourage you to come along to one of our upcoming natural medicine workshops - learn to take hold of your health care in an age-old and natural way.
So there I was, laid out on the couch with chills and a chesty cough - yes, natural health practitioners are human too! Once they got over their surprise at seeing a prone mother, my two daughters, aged 7 and 4, got into action making me a variety of effective herbal medicines. These included both a cold infusion and fresh paste of garlic, lemon juice and seeds, honey and freshly picked Kawa kawa leaves. These natural foods and herbs contain powerful active constituents to warm the body, stimulate it's natural healing response, directly kill off infection, and aid the removal of mucus from the lungs. I could feel the impact of these preparations almost immediately, with my body finally managing to warm up into a productive fever and being able to effectively clear congestion on my lungs.
It is so rewarding to see these skills become integrated into my childrens approach to health and wellness at a young age, rather than them learning to reach for pharmaceutical medications as their first line of defence. From the outset they are learning that nature provides an abundance of medicinal plants, many of which are commonly found in the pantry and garden. While medications can be life saving, they are often over prescribed. One of the actions of cold and flu products is to block aspects of the immune response. While this alleviates symptoms, such as a runny nose, it can lead to chronic infection. In the case of antibiotics, it is now well known that they kill off the good bacteria that play such an important part of our body's immune defence, among their many other functions. In contrast, herbs such as garlic have powerful antimicrobial effects as well as actually feeding beneficial bacteria as a prebiotic. Medicinal herbs often have multiple actions, derived from the multitude of active constituents they contain, with one action supporting another. Pharmaceutical medicines, however, tend to be made from a single ingredient and have narrow action. Even where drugs are based on nature (and many drugs still are) they are used separated from the very constituents that would have supported their healing effect if whole plant extracts were used.
Coming back to my children, they will take the skills and knowledge they are learning with them into their adult life and to care for their own families one day. As a parent and Naturopath this is a great inspiration and reward. A key focus of A Bountiful Life is this sharing of knowledge, so that people are empowered to take charge of their own well-being in a natural way. Along this theme, bookings are now available for our first workshop: Herbal Medicine Making – Summer. Checkout the Workshops page for details.
What if you had a plant in your backyard with high levels of antioxidants, combined with powerful anti-microbial properties? What if it could also be a tasty addition to your meals or tea collection? This potent herbal remedy is the well-known culinary herb Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis.
Warming and drying, Rosemary clears up the damp, congestive conditions that can accumulate over winter and in which pathogens thrive. Rosemary has a special ability to decongest the head, and is a quick acting remedy for clearing the sinuses during a cold or sinus infection. Coupled with this, its anti-microbial properties make it a great choice for both preventing and treating colds and flu’s (1).
Rosemary’s stimulating effects greatly enhances mental function and concentration during fatigue. Drinking a cup of Rosemary tea while studying or working is a great way to enhance performance while maintaining a calm, clear state of mind. While doing so, it gives you none of the side effects of stimulating drinks, such as of coffee, and is a great alternative to this where you need to remain focused (3).
Rosemary contains high levels of the powerful anti-oxidants rosmarinic acid and carnosol, which act to protect cells against toxin damage and to regenerate tissues.1 This has seen Rosemary used for many diseases including liver disease, diabetes and cancer (2). I have been drawn to work with Rosemary to support cleansing as we move towards springtime. Rosemary has a strong effect on the liver, making it a great spring detoxification remedy. Its anti-oxidant actions are also useful to protect against potential damage that can occur while the body is detoxifying. With so many amazing properties, this herb is a must have in your garden medicinal cabinet!
A therapeutic way to capture Rosemary’s active constituents is to prepare it as a hot infusion – aka, a cup of tea! Place a 15cm sprig of fresh or one heaped tablespoon of dried Rosemary into a teapot or Agee jar. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water and place a lid on top to prevent the loss of important volatile oils as the tea infuses. Brew for 15mins, strain and enjoy. Drink it on its own, or sweeten with honey.
Please note that Rosemary is contraindicated for those with high blood pressure.
To learn more about preparing herbs as home medicines please join our mailing list to find out about upcoming classes.