Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Massage -- Feeling Better than Fine

Massage is a therapeutic modality with a number of benefits. You may either be familiar or have heard of some of these like:

  • lowering blood pressure and heart rate
  • encouraging relaxation of the body, mind and spirit
  • circulating fluids such as blood and lymph and reducing edema
  • warming up the muscles before exercise
  • draining the muscles of lactic acid and other waste after exercise
  • breaking up scar tissue
  • reducing muscle pain and soreness

There's more, if you're interested. I have a full list on my website

But what about the benefits that can't be assessed with numbers or data.

What about warm fuzzies?

In the modern age, we pass by so many people that we just don't have the time to engage with. We  drive by hundreds on the highway, and pass by dozens at the grocery checkout. 

We exchange greetings and goodbyes so many times that the expression is rote rather than heartily felt. 

And that's life. 

But the difference between getting a massage from an independent LMT like me, rather than going to a spa or even just a busy doctor's office, is that you're going to know that I care. Right away.

There isn't going to be a long wait, I'm not going to avoid your eye at the cash register, and I'm not going to harbor any secret judgements about your history. I'm here to help you.

Some people have asked me, "Do you like your job? Does it bother you to touch strangers?"
And no, it doesn't. 

My job is an opportunity to connect and help other people. They are going to feel good all day and even longer, both in their body and in their heart.

Because you know when someone asks "How are you?" and expects the answer "Fine." 

And when I ask "How are you feeling today?" I really am interested. If someone says 'Fine' I'm going to keep digging.

Of course you are doing fine. But how can I make you feel better? Awesome? Great? Stupendous?

Let's work on that. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Herb Spotlight: Calendula -- calendula officinalis

Calendula or pot marigold can be grown all over the world, and this wonderful plant has been used in medicine since at least the 12th century. Known as "poor-man's saffron" the yellow leaves have been used as cooking substitution since Ancient Rome. Spanish sorcerers used it as a talisman.

Antiseptic calendula is great for any problem with skin. Often it is made into an oil, lotion or tincture. Scrapes, cuts and peeling can be covered with a little calendula oil or lotion to speed recovery.

 If used in lipbalm, calendula moistens chapped lips. For a burn, steep calendula in hot water and let it cool. Coat the skin and viola! No scars. I have even put calendula onto already healed wounds and I swear the scars are fading. It stimulates collagen production and so I am told calendula can also heal stretch marks. Externally this plant can help treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Seriously I have a friend who solved a pesky rash with this, it is amazing! Calendula can even help patients during radiation therapy to avoid skin irritation.

Calendula is antifungal and antibiotic. Ear drops of calendula oil, tincture, or infusion can ward off infection. It'll help with athlete's foot, or fungus. For yeast imbalances, calendula is a god send. Apply oil externally, drink a dropper full of tincture daily in water or drink a fresh infusion. If you soak a calendula tea bag and let it cool, placing it over the eyelid will sooth pink eye

Enjoy the anti-oxidants! Drinking calendula can help to avoid inflammation, and both viral and bacterial sickness.

Swish calendula tea or watered down tincture for sore throat, oral lesions, or thrush. Swallow to help heal gastric ulcers or other inflammatory digestive problems.

Use dried flowers in oil, tea, or tincture. It should be very yellow! Watch out, the oil may stain clothing!


  • Proceed with caution if you have an allergy to daisies, aster, ragweed or chamomile. 
  • In theory, calendula may affect conception, so discontinue use of calendula if trying to conceive.
  • In theory, calendula may also interact with the following medications: sedatives,  treatment of  high blood pressure, treatment of diabetes. 

Researched through Herb Mentor:

  • Healing with Calendula in Mountain Rose Notes by Irene Wolansky
  • Calendula by Marilene Richardson
  • Calendula on Herbalpedia 

Click Photos for Original Location

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Recipe Review-- Sweet Stuff

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars From Serious Eats


A delicious and versatile recipe made with rice flour and potato. Potato may be replaced with tapioca.  These pb bars are substantial and chewy. I feel like you could throw anything in here! For crunch I added almonds. Instead of chips I used a sugar free chocolate bar, and instead of sugar I used low-glycemic coconut sugar. The peanut butter added some stick even though I forgot my guar gum. Crumbly but good.

I love coconut sugar, but recently I learned from Tropical Traditions that coconut trees used to create palm sugar can't be used for other coconut products. Converting too many trees for the cause may affect the future availability and price of coconuts and coconut oil.

Slow Cooked Ribs with Homemade Gluten Free Barbeque Sauce From Wellness Momma

I've never made it before, but making your own barbeque sauce is a lot easier than I thought it was. I cut down on the sugar in this recipe by using mostly agave in place of honey with just a bit of molasses for color and flavor. I tossed a bunch of spices in including cinnamon, cumin and paprika. My table of four devoured two pounds of pork ribs with a few leftover.
Gluten Free Brownies from Trader Joes

This product is made with rice flour and cane sugar primarily. I LOVED them. The secret I believe is using coconut oil as your oil for the recipe--when hot you can pull it out while still gooey for sundaes. Let it cool, or put it in the fridge/freezer and it is chewy mousse style brownies. Black bean and avocado brownies are gravy but for an ice cream sundae with warm brownies...use this mix.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Herb Spotlight: Lemon Balm -- Melissa officinalis

This month's herb sustained 14th century French king Charles V in a daily tea. Although it's a member of the mint family, it has a unique lemon-honey taste. It's latin name Melissa comes from Ancient Greek mythology and in that language it means "honey bee." Temples of Diana held it sacred. It is the main ingredient in Carmelite Water, a German herbal tonic produced for seven centuries. Another of it's nicknames is "Heart's Delight"

I recently sprouted this plant in my garden, took a pinch and chewed it up. It is instantly clear how lemon balm got it's name. Melissa smells and tastes delicious, lemony sour but sweet at the same time. I plan to use this plant in muffins, ice cream, and summer ice tea. AND I can't wait to use it in a medicinal fashion.

First, off this plant is antidepressant, relaxing, and antispasmotic. That means it will relax both body and spirit. It improves mood and mental ability. If affected by SAD, this cherry plant can brighten your day and temperament. If your heart is pounding, stomach is nervous, or baby is crying, add some lemon balm. Combined with chamomile, valerian, or hops, it can be used to promote sleep. A few studies have suggested lemon balm can help the function of Alzheimer's patients.

Second, lemon balm is antiviral, antibacterial, and full of antioxidants. This plant is your friend whether you have a flu or allergies from the changing of the seasons, or would like to prevent these. If you are feverish, the leaves are cooling in some ice tea, and can help you to sweat it out. The herb is also affective in the prevention of cold sore and herpes outbreaks.

Third, lemon balm is carminative, meaning it assists in digestion and prevents gas. Try a teaspoon to a teaspoon and a half in hot water. Drink after ten minutes of steeping.

And last, crush a little lemonbalm and rub it on your skin to avoid mosquito stings. Because of the mild winter in the mid-Atlantic region, I am told this summer will be a buggy one! How much nicer is it to be coated in delicious lemon scent rather than toxic chemicals? Lemon balm can also be made into an ointment for bites and inflamed sores.

Please be careful in taking this plant if you are on sedatives, thyroid or HIV medications as it may prevent the effectiveness of the medicine. However according to the Herbalpedia, "Studies indicate that the herbs slightly inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone and restricts Grave's disease, a hyperthyroid condition."

Pregnant and breast feeding woman should not take lemon balm.

Herbalpedia -- for more information and recipes!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Book Review: The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking by Sharon A Kane

Would you believe that a few short weeks ago I had never made sourdough before. Never made a starter, or fed it, or put it in the oven. The complexities of trying to do something like that for gluten free bread was way too complicated for me to figure out myself. But with this book-- The Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking by Sharon A. Kane-- I feel like a pro.  This book is great for anyone with a gluten allergy, or any other kind. Having many allergies herself, Sharon has included information for you to tailor the recipes to flours you can digest most easily.

So far I've made two batches of rice and quinoa bread, hearty and delightfully sour.  It's flavor would make an amazing cheese bread if I topped it with some during the baking. I also tried my hand at the foccacia style bread, which is much spongier and would even be interesting as a pizza dough.
 I fully intend to try out every recipe in this book, and I wanted to let anyone interested know about it.

All you need is flour and water kefir. That's what creates a starter. Then it's a brand new pet--feed it two to three times a day for three to four days to get enough for a loaf. I did make a major mistake on my first bread--after mixing the batter I realized it needed six hours to rise, which would have been three in the morning! I did end up getting up early (but later than that) because I was so excited to make my first sourdough. And its worth it.

This book contains everything from loafs, to muffins, to pancakes, to carob bread, to olive loaf, etc etc. There is a lot in here! And you can definitely modify the recipes as she fills you in on the qualities of different kinds of breads and general rules of how to troubleshoot a starter gone awry.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Life As I Know It

Over the past six months I've had to come to terms with my mortality more than I've ever had to before. I don't so much mean fear for my life, as I'm not in anyway near death. But I've never broken a bone, never been in the hospital for long past infancy, and never had anything worse than mono and a very severely bruised foot. A scooter landed on it. (It looked cool)

I had to come to terms that I couldn't just tear through life like I had always done. Go go go grab a bite on the side. Repetitive movements caught up with me for the very first time. I lost my kid rubber. You know that stuff that lets kids bounce around like they just ate a bag of gummibears, knocking heads, but they still don't really hurt themselves? Yup that. I lost that.

Basically I found myself unwell on the cusp of starting a very physical career. I sought an answer that didn't involve medications. I researched on my own, talked to my doctor, herbalists, acupuncturists, and people all around me who might have knowledge to share. I turned to herbs, whole foods, a diet which spelled out for me that what was included was just as important as what wasn't. Those answers for me (and everyone is different) really shook the foundations of my lifestyle in a way I am still adjusting to. It was pretty hard to realize that corn, wheat, potatoes, and most sugars are just not in the cards for me at the moment. I do not know if this is a life long adjustment I will need to make, for that I am playing it by ear. 

There are times when I've gotten really sad. It's difficult to go out, a lot of the time it doesn't even feel worth it. There are many restaurants that can only offer me salad without the croutons. But the only way I could get through it to a happy place was to cook. Was to learn. Was to try new things and new recipes and just make this a constant in my life--what are you going to eat next? It has taken me to a place where I feel more in tune with the people who came before me. The people who had to forage the jungle and identify the food among the poisons. When things changed in my life the supermarket became a jungle, every label had to be checked carefully. It might not be life threatening, but it is unpleasant when things slip by my notice.

I've learned how to make kefir, milk and water, to make sourdough starter, bake breads, popovers, muffins and protein bars without sugar or any of my allergies. I know how to get myself in good working order: take my herbs, prepare good foods and watch what I'm doing. Took me months to figure out just how and to learn all the skills I have now.  Major accomplishment. I find myself getting into this rhythm, paying attention to all my starters and these life supporting kefir I've adopted. It kind of feels like the lifestyle I needed, the structure to hold my life together. Boil water, choose herbs, steep, and drink. Do these steps, make something good for you, make something right. It'll be there tomorrow and the next day, and so will you. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Herb Spotlight: Catnip - Nepeta cataria

So how is Catnip, our cat's favorite herb, useful for humans?

Catnip may put cats into a frenzy but for humans it is a relaxing nervine. That means it helps put you into a calm state. It reduces tension and headaches, as well as soothing menstrual cramps. It relieves nausea or indigestion caused by nerves or tension, as well.

It can help digestion in other ways, too. Catnip is a naturally antacid herb so it helps with heart-burn, and it's bitter which means it helps your organs to produce more gastric juices for digestion. It can sooth IBS, indigestion and flatulence.

It is so gentle that can be given to young children for help with fevers, diarrhea, colic, and calming down hyperactivity. Mothers can drink a tea of this herb to help breast-feeding children sleep (probably a better idea than another folk remedy-- wine)

Catnip is a great source of minerals especially potassium. This is a great quality if you have a fever and are dehydrated as potassium is a water soluble vitamin. Water soluble vitamins can be lost in urine.

How to take it? Try it in a tea, tincture or even in your salad. For a tea:
Cut the top six inches off the plant to harvest. Dry it upside down. Then steep one to two teaspoons if the herb in a cup of hot but NOT boiling water. Boiling water will evaporate some useful volatile oils in the plant.

For tinctures and more on Catnip: