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Essential Oils to Ease Holiday Stress

Essential oils can be remarkably effective stress relievers. These concentrated plant extracts promote deeper breathing, stimulate the limbic system of the brain, and calm the nervous system. Essential oils can be utilized in a number of ways to ease stress: Added to a warm bath, mixed with carrier oil and massaged into the skin, applied in small drops to the feet and scalp, or diffused into the air. Knowing the oil’s properties and indications will make the application one chooses in aromatherapy the most effective.

Frankincense is an ancient oil associated with Christmas and sacred rituals. The oil has a complex aroma with notes of balsam and citrus, considered a base note in perfumery, and has many medicinal properties: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and analgesic. Diffusing the oil combats airborne cold and flu germs, and will be appreciated by anyone suffering from any lung or sinus condition. Frankincense is also used for pain relief in topical applications.

A light, uplifting oil, orange is a great choice to disperse winter blues, which some experience more acutely during the holidays. Orange blends well with frankincense, and is also antiseptic, has expectorant properties for lung and sinus congestion, and benefits the digestion. It is a great oil to use in massage, as it eases fluid retention and reduces the appearance of cellulite.

Have a fake tree but love the smell of a real one? Fir needle oil can add the olfactory ambiance of a real tree when diffused, and help open the sinuses, combat germs and viruses, and relax the nerves. Mixed with carrier oils, it is also effective for relieving muscle and joint pain.

Submitted by Holly Dunbar, LMT, Herbalist

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Painful Menstruation? Herbs to the Rescue!

Menstruation that does not literally flow smoothly and is instead characterized by cramping, bloating, clotting, and perhaps heavy bleeding is known as dysmennorhea clinically.  In Chinese medicine, this condition is considered to be stagnant qi and blood, and may be compounded by blood deficiency.  Herbal medicine, and several specific Chinese formulas can greatly alleviate this condition and lend greater vitality in general.

“Free and Easy Wanderer” is one such formula used for menstrual irregularity.  This ancient formula combines donq quai and other herbs to build the blood, and help the blood flow more smoothly, thus reducing pain and clotting.  Smooth flowing blood can be likened to a nicely running stream- when the stream is full of water and unclogged by debris it flows in the intended path.  When congested with debris, or waterlogged, the stream overflows, or may veer off course.  These visual analogies often help the patient identify with their condition, and make wiser choices in their diet.  Eating too many refined foods, overindulgence in alcohol or prescription drugs, a diet lacking in vegetables, will all aggravate this condition.  Dark leafy greens, healthy fats, and lemon juice, garlic, and apple cider vinegar will all help decongest the liver and build healthy blood, thus alleviating this condition.

Ba Zhen Wan is another dong quai based formula used for over 800 years to build the blood.  Women who experience heavy bleeding may suffer from dizziness, dry hair or eyes, memory loss, or a generalized itching of the skin.  This formula helps vitalize the blood and nourish both the skin surfaces and normalize the circulation so that clotting and pain is diminished during menstruation.

While these formulas are mentioned to highlight the potential of herbal medicine when seeing an herbalist or acupuncturist, other simple remedies can provide much relief.  Consider raspberry leaf as a general blood tonic, shephards purse for heavy bleeding, and white peony and cramp bark for cramping.

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Safe and Effective Herbs for Weight Loss

Feet on a ScaleLosing weight is a very common New Years resolution, and a goal many people strive to attain throughout the year. The desire to shed pounds and have a healthier, leaner body also feeds a very profitable industry, which capitalizes on those who are willing to pay to get the body of their dreams. Ads for weight loss supplements abound in magazines of all types, some of which contain questionable and even dangerous substances that no reputable Herbalist would begin to recommend. The widespread and imprudent use of some of these “miracle formulas” gives the supplement and herbal industry a bad name, and erodes our rights as consumers to have access to all herbs, including those proven safe and effective. Continue reading Safe and Effective Herbs for Weight Loss

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Building Natural Immunity with Herbal Adaptogens

ImmunityImmunity begins within the body, and is either strengthened or weakened by what drugs, food, and herbs or supplements we ingest, as well as from outside influences and our contact with viruses. Our immune system can be greatly compromised by too much stress, which makes stress management an essential component of staying well. Continue reading Building Natural Immunity with Herbal Adaptogens

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Are Your Skin Care Products Truly Natural?

PlantDiscerning product labels of skin care products can be confusing, leaving consumers to rely on intuition, and a blind trust that one is buying a product that seems as benign and derived from nature as the advertising implies. After all, when the product derives its name from botanicals, such as “green apple shampoo,” or “oat and honey body wash” it sounds good enough to eat, so why not apply it to the skin? Knowing a few important things to look for on that label, and with simple research, one can emerge a more educated consumer, confident that one’s skin is absorbing only things it should. Continue reading Are Your Skin Care Products Truly Natural?

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Aromatherapy for Anti-Stress Support

What are essential oils? What exactly is aromatherapy? We are bombarded with the phrase plastered on everything from air fresheners to scented candles, yet most products advertised as such have nothing to do with this legitimate healing art. Aromatherapy is the application of pure plant oils, called essential oils, to positively affect the health of the mind and body. Essential oils are highly concentrated substances extracted always from plants, and depending on the oil used, can have relaxing or energizing effects. Topical applications will utilize their various virtues on the physical self and these properties include: anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial, immune enhancing properties, and cell regenerating effects. Continue reading Aromatherapy for Anti-Stress Support

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Amazing & Versatile Lavender Oil

AromatherapyLavender essential oil is one product I routinely recommend as a staple in one’s medicine chest. This small vial of essential oil, (as opposed to perfume oil), can provide relief to many common complaints, and can even be relied on as first aid in certain situations. Lavender essential oil is distilled most often from Lavendula angustifolia, or “true” lavender, which distinguishes it from hybrid varieties. Like all essential oils, lavender is primarily used as a topical remedy, and not intended for ingestion. It should be kept out of the reach of children. Continue reading Amazing & Versatile Lavender Oil

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Easing Winter Blues with Essential Oils

Beat the Winter BluesSpring is just around the corner, but the month of March has a way of stretching itself out like a lazy cat that doesn’t want to relinquish its cozy spot. The first day of spring is official on the 20th of March, with the Spring Equinox, but the warmth and growth we associate with spring doesn’t make itself readily apparent until April. Essential oils, which are highly concentrated plant extracts, are a natural choice for banishing the last of the winter blues, as what could be more effective than smelling and applying the essence of plants just as the world outside is breaking its dormancy? Continue reading Easing Winter Blues with Essential Oils