health

Herbalism: My Favorite Tools

As a baby herbalist, I feel fortunate to have so many tools at my disposal. Plant identification apps, online herbalist courses, and countless hours of discussion on YouTube have really opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of the herbalism world.

Today, I’ll be sharing a few tools that I’ve found invaluable in my growing herbal practice. If you’re interested in taking your wellness back into your own hands, I implore you to research safe and effective plants that you can incorporate into your wellness plan, and then venture out into preparing those plants in different ways: as infusions (teas), tonics, tinctures, poultices, and more. The more that you experiment, the more that your knowledge grows. I hope this little list of tools helps you. Enjoy!

One of my first major investments into my herbal practice is my drying rack. I love using this when preparing herbs that I harvested myself, or when I purchase a bundle of fresh herbs at the store. This one by Adwaita is large, and can accommodate a lot of plant material. I use this almost every day, as I frequently find myself eager to preserve my fresh herbs.

After trying to crumble herbs by hand a few times, I knew that I needed a mortar and pestle. This one has a really nice weight and ergonomic design. I love that it doesn’t shift around when I use it: the weighted base keeps the bowl firmly in place. It also has a sleek look that I enjoy.

I regularly prep my herbs on this cutting board. It’s a large and attractive workspace: using it is always a pleasure. I sometimes use it to take photos of some of my herbs as I’m trying different blends. I love this work surface!

Eventually, I’ll be standardizing some of my preparations, so an inexpensive digital scale was a must. I purchased this last week but I haven’t used it yet: I’m looking forward to eventually offering my herbal mixtures and I fully intend to be consistent in my formulations.

These are my favorite herbal tools at this point, and I’m slowing growing my collection to include all of the tools that I need to create the herbal products that I enjoy using. That’s all for today: let me know if you use anything like the items that I mentioned above!

health

Fibro Fridays: My Five Favorite Spoonie Essentials

Happy Friday! I hope you all had an amazing week and an amazing weekend ahead! It’s Fibro Friday, so I’m sharing some more tidbits from my fibromyalgia journey. One of the things I’ve noticed is that there are a few items that I keep nearby (especially during flares) to make my life a little easier and more pleasant. Here are five of my favorite “spoonie” essentials (if you want to know more about “spoonies” and Spoon Theory, you can read my post here). If you have some essentials that you think should be on my list, please share in the comments!

If I had to toss my spoonie essentials into a backpack, these are the ones I would include.

Knee pillow – Sometimes, my trigger points can be especially sensitive, to the point where it hurts for the insides of my knees to touch one another. When this happens, I love using a knee pillow for relief. There are knee pillow designed for side, back, and stomach sleepers. I have two knee pillows, but this one is my favorite.

Magnesium cream – I’ve written about this before, so if you want more information, you can check out this previous Fibro Friday post.

Ginger candy – This is one that I suspect a lot of spoonies keep nearby, because they are so handy and effective. Sometimes, even if you don’t have a digestive condition (such as IBS or chronic nausea symptoms), you will still find yourself feeling a bit nauseous. Fibro is a condition of nerve dysfunction and improper nervous perception, so there’s an element of unpredictability with the symptoms. In any case, nausea can flare up unexpectedly, and ginger candy can be great for soothing upset stomachs. I’m including the link to my current preferred ginger candy (you can probably find it for a much better price in stores, but if you can’t find it, this Amazon link may help). I prefer a stronger ginger flavor, so ginger mints are my favorite. However, I’m also including the link to a milder version that I used years ago, which are also effective.

Kindle E-reader – When I’m spending a lot more time in bed, I like having my Kindle e-reader nearby. My Kindle is OLD (LOL!) but it still works well. The most economical Kindle available right now is less than $100 USD but it is a great item to have, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me. I love that Kindle e-readers retain their charge much longer than my cellphone, and it’s far more portable than my laptop. Here is the basic black Kindle e-reader.

Easy-to-prepare foods – Some days are more exhausting than others. When I simply don’t have the energy to prepare an elaborate meal, I enjoy having a few easy-to-prepare foods around the house. I love instant soups, noodles, and even protein shakes that take less than five minutes to prepare. The local international grocers have a lot of healthier quick meals than typical grocers, so I generally prefer to shop there. However, one of my favorite meals is by Tsubi Soups (I’ve written about it here) and I can only order it online.

That’s all for this week! I hope your weekend is spectacular, and I’ll be back on Monday. Take care and be safe!

*This post contains affiliate links.

health · life curation

Preparing for Mid-Summer Gardening!

I have still been enjoying time out in my yard, and I’m considering what plants I can start in July (since I was SO behind the ball this season). For the record, I didn’t know that I was going to be so fascinated with gardening, flowers, and nature in general this spring. My fascination blindsided me, so I’m very LATE in garden planning. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost! There are quite a few plants that can be started in midsummer and still thrive with ease.

Dreaming of summer gardening . . .

Burpee’s website outlines all of the crops that can be started in July. I wasn’t interested in growing vegetables per se, but if I change my mind, I may try to grow squash. My preference is smaller herbs and maybe some flowers. I found this guide published on The Spruce to be the best one for planning the kind of plants I would like to grow.

The only thing currently blooming in my yard: my gorgeous gardenias!

I’ve very interested in growing cilantro, garlic, basil and (perhaps) arugula or looseleaf lettuce. I want to start small and then expand into bigger plants. I really enjoyed seeing my overall growing options over on the Old Farmer’s Almanac website. There are a lot of plants that can grow in my zone (zone 7) so I’m excited to see if I can squeeze in one more herb or maybe even a fruit (perhaps blackberries or raspberries).

I watched this fantastic video that also gave me some ideas for what I may grow in my zone in July. I like that this guide can be used for multiple zones, not just zone 7. Rare Seeds’s YouTube channel is a wealth of information.

Will any of you be trying some midsummer gardening? Let me know about it in the comments!

fitness · health

Fibro Fridays: My Fibromyalgia Library

Happy Friday! This week has been pretty good overall, even though the weather here in central Virginia has been gloomy and rainy. I suppose I should be thankful for the rain that keep my flowers growing, but can we get a little sunshine, too? I know the sunnier days will return soon: I just have to be patient.

This week’s Fibro Friday will be all about the books in my “fibro library”. While the Internet has been a fantastic resource for learning more about this complex condition, I still enjoy reading books that can give me some insight into fibro. I have several books that I’ve used in learning about fibro as well as ways to give myself some relief from the symptoms. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with this condition, perhaps these books will be helpful to you.

My first recommendation is Career or Fibromyalgia, Do I Have to Choose? by Karen R. Brinklow. This book was one of the firsts that I read on my fibro journey. It’s actually what inspired me to hire a fibro coach last year, to help me manage this transition into a new lifestyle. My coach, Julie, was fantastic and instrumental in helping me to see that fibro can be managed and my life can still be full of fun and meaning.

This next book, 12 Healing Herbal Recipes: Herbal Medicine The Delicious Way by Mary Thibodeau, is a light read that I enjoyed tremendously. The book has little facts sprinkled through it, and has information about foods and spices that can help heal the body. I love the emphasis on the fact that we can use food as medicine, and, by giving our bodies the nutrients that they need, we can alleviate some of the symptoms that we experience.

Next, Beyond Powerful: Your Chronic Illness is Not Your Kryptonite by Lala Jackson is an inspiring read about the many “superpowers” that come to the fore when you’re faced with a chronic illness. Jackson doesn’t have fibromyalgia, but her examples and advice easily apply to any chronic condition.

Finally, Taking Back My Health and Happiness: Hope and Healing from Chronic Pain, Fatigue, and Invisible Illness by Marie Anne June L. Tagorda is an inspirational book that also outlines a step-by-step wellness plan that can be used to improve your health. This book does a good job of addressing the physical and metaphysical aspects of illness. I’ll admit: I’ve read the book but haven’t committed to completing the steps yet. But when I do, I’ll be sure to share my results on this blog!

That’s all for my fibro library! I hope this information helps you to forge a path to wellness, or, if you don’t have fibro, I hope that these books will give you additional insight into this condition so that you can better understand the symptoms.

Have a great weekend, and take care!

These are affiliate links featured in the post, but rest assured, I purchased each of these books with my own money and I’m only sharing what has worked for me 🙂

health

Fibro Fridays: Why It’s Difficult to Treat Fibromyalgia

Happy Friday, friends! Today’s post is one that I’ve been eager to write, because I feel that explaining this (from the perspective of someone living with fibromyalgia) may give a little clarity to others that are struggling with their diagnosis, or may help people that are unfamiliar with the condition to better understand why there is no easy “fix” for fibro.

Whenever you try to learn about fibromyalgia online or directly from a medical professional, there is generally a lack of consensus on the causes of the condition. The condition is treated as a bit of a “catch-all” category for a set of uncomfortable (to the point of painful) symptoms. This “catch-all” designation is one reason why there are still some medical professionals that continue to deny the existence of fibro (I already wrote a post touching on this topic).

In any case, the overall lack of understanding behind the WHY of fibro leaves a lot of questions regarding the HOW of treatment. Different root causes call for different treatment protocol. However, fibromyalgia can be linked to muscular, nervous and even digestive malfunctions, so most treatment is, at best, akin to a game of darts. Medical professionals will try to hit the “bullseye”, and many treatments can offer a level of relief, but it seems that no one has hit the “bullseye” of fibromyalgia – YET.

Prescription medication is one treatment option for fibromyalgia

There are many researchers that are getting closer to an agreed-upon definition of fibromyalgia, including its root causes. However, until consensus is achieved, we have an assortment of treatments that can be explored and that may have varying levels of effectiveness. Many of the most popular treatments include physical therapy, aquatic therapy, acupuncture, prescribed medication, nutritional supplements, lifestyle overhaul and lots of intentional self care (which is, by far, usually the most effective treatment [maybe I’ll write more about this in the future]), chiropractic care, etc.,. The trick to managing the symptoms is finding the perfect cocktail of treatments, along with having an excellent support system and medical team in your corner.

Well friends, that’s it for this Fibro Friday! I hope you all have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you on Monday. Take care!

life curation · Uncategorized

Wonderful Weeds

Since becoming a homeowner last year, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my home and yard. I enjoy the flowers that the previous owner planted, and I find so much pleasure in sitting in my morning room and looking at the woods beyond my backyard, where I can catch glimpses of rabbits, various beautiful birds, and occasionally deer.

Prior to moving here, I assumed that weeds were the bane of most homeowners. After all, weeds were usually unsightly, absorbed nutrients that could have been utilized by prettier plants, and attracted pests. However, my herbalist studies have given me a different perspective on weeds, and I’ve gotten to a point that I love to explore my yard and see if the weeds can be used for medicinal or culinary purposes.

I’m delighted to share that I’ve discovered several weeds that I can use in my herbalist practice! I also have some photos of the weeds that I’m excited to use in the upcoming months.

This weed is mullein. Isn’t it stunning? It can be used to create teas and tinctures that remove mucus from the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. I actually just love the look of it. It is wind-pollinated, so here’s hoping that it’ll bloom and those seeds will create some more plants nearby.

A young mullein plant

This is dog fennel, a weed that closely resembles dill. This weed should only be used externally (it can treat sunburn and can also be used as a mosquito repellent) because it has compounds that are toxic to the liver. Some people hate the smell, while others find it earthy (like pine). I actually enjoy the fragrance. I’m still researching the best way to extract the oils for a liquid repellent, but so far, I haven’t seen anything. I may just experiment a bit and see if I can come up with a good repellent recipe using dog fennel.

A cluster of dog fennel

This very common plant is pokeweed (poke salad/poke sallet). It can be prepared as a cooked green, and, if done well, it’s delicious. My mother gave me a great recipe, and cautioned me that the weed should not be consumed once it starts bearing seeds (when the little berries appear). We had a chance to pick the pokeweed behind my home, and we filled a large garbage bag with the leaves, and there are still so many more plants left. However, we’re done gathering pokeweed for this season: we have plenty!

Pokeweed growing next to my back porch

Finally, you may see a cute little berry looks like a strawberry, but it’s smaller, a bit rounder, and the seeds look a little strange. That is actually a mock strawberry. It’s nontoxic, but it doesn’t have nearly the same level of flavor or sweetness as real strawberries. However, it’s lovely ground cover and is a pretty harmless plant overall, other than the fact that it can take over a yard quickly. I learned that the berries can be eaten (some people enjoy the flavor), and the leaves can be dried and turned into a tea. So I collected a TON of the leaves and started drying them. I’m excited to let you know how the tea turns out.

Closeup of the mock strawberry leaves

So when you start seeing your grass get a little taller than you’d like, perhaps you can take some time to explore and figure out if any of the “weeds” could be useful to you! You may be pleased with what you find.

That’s all for this Tuesday. Have a great day everyone!

health

Fibro Fridays: Magical Magnesium

Happy Friday, friends! We’ve survived another week and I’m happy to give you some more tips and insights into the fibromyalgia (and chronic pain) experience.

Magnesium is a great tool to have in your pain relief kit

Recently, I spoke to one of my friends that has also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and she commented on how achy she’s felt recently. When I asked her if she has been taking a magnesium supplement, she immediately went and took her daily dose. As it turns out, she’d been neglecting this supplement (this is very easy to do when you’re taking a handful of prescriptions and supplements daily). She felt relief rather quickly and thanked me for reminding her.

As I shared in my May empties post, I take chelated magnesium daily. I’ve found magnesium to be somewhat magical. This element is crucial to a multitude of biological functions and works extremely well in relieving pain in the chronically ill. Magnesium is one of the most powerful elements that our body needs, yet roughly 70% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency contributes to poor utilization of calcium, fatigue, mental disorders, nerve and muscle dysfunction and, of course, chronic pain.

What’s amazing about magnesium is that it may be even more effective when applied topically than when consumed orally (I’m still doing research on that, though several websites have confirmed that topical application is preferable). So, along with the oral magnesium supplement, I keep a topical magnesium cream nearby for especially painful days. The cream I use is Frida Botanicals Magnesium Cream (fyi this is not an affiliate link or a paid endorsement: I purchase this product with my own money).

I want to share this tidbit for anyone that is trying to improve their overall health and to help reduce pain in the body. Try magnesium and see how it works: you may find that it really helps your pain levels!

health

Fibro Fridays: Why It’s Hard to Get a Diagnosis

Happy Fibro Friday, friends! It’s been a fantastic week, and I’m positive that the weekend will be full of even more JOY and delight!

One of the things that I consider when reflecting back on my fibromyalgia journey is how long it took to get an accurate diagnosis. For years, I had symptoms of fibro yet it took me being completely out of commission (in bed for weeks at a time, unable to sleep for more than 2-3 hours, intense physical pain) before I got close to an accurate diagnosis.

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As it turns out, my experience isn’t unusual. In fact, most fibro sufferers take more than two years to get diagnosis. This statistic is appalling, considering the pain and diminished quality of life that we experience while we wait to get some clarity on what’s going on with us.

I have a few theories on why it takes so much time to be diagnosed. I’m sure that there are more reasons why this happens, but these are the reasons that I experienced, and I’m sure that many others with fibro can relate to at least one of these scenarios.

  • Fibro symptoms often mimic other conditions. Many times, primary care physicians (PCPs) will diagnose you as being depressed (which is a frequent comorbidity of fibro), having muscle strains, or suffering from a viral infection (again, this can often occur with fibro patients). As a result, the PCP, in an attempt to make a conservative diagnosis, ends up “under-diagnosing” (yes, I know that isn’t a word, but bear with me LOL!) their patients. And when this happens, it creates a delay in getting an accurate diagnosis.
  • Primary care doctors are hesitant to refer to rheumatologists unless there is conclusive test results indicating some sort of auto-immune issue. When having blood work done, your primary care may see unusual results . . . Or not. And if everything looks “normal”, they will often doubt that you need to be referred to a specialist. I have a whole story about this, and I will share it in a future post.
  • Some PCPs deny the validity of fibromyalgia. The vast majority of physicians believe that fibro is a real condition, but there is still a minority that aren’t convinced of the seriousness of the condition. If your PCP doesn’t believe that your condition is real, how likely is it that you will get an accurate diagnosis?
  • Some PCPs are very unfamiliar with fibro as a condition, and, while well-intentioned, they may overlook this common but still mysterious diagnosis.
  • Using a variety of PCPs, or having more impersonal relationships with care providers, makes it difficult to determine your “baseline” condition and what symptoms are truly abnormal for you. This is especially relevant for those that have milder chronic pain symptoms or higher pain tolerances. If you aren’t experiencing major, life-altering discomfort and inconvenience, it may not be apparent to a new physician (or a physician that doesn’t know you well) that you are experiencing abnormal pain.

These are just a few of the reasons why getting an accurate fibro diagnosis usually takes quite some time. Even though my symptoms were mild at first, they eventually intensified. It took me becoming incapacitated to get diagnosed, and even that occurred nearly two months after I was in bed for weeks at a time. My advice to anyone that suspects that they have fibro is to get a referral to a rheumatologist as quickly as you can (if you have an HMO), or, if you have a PPO (like I do) contact a well-reviewed rheumatology office and schedule an appointment yourself. It may take some time, but an accurate diagnosis and the right medical team can make a world of difference in your health and quality of life.

That’s all for this Fibro Friday. Have a fantastic weekend!

life curation

New Goals for 2020

Even before COVID-19 upended our collective plans and intentions for 2020, I knew that I was taking a completely different direction than I had for the past few years.

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Every year, I focus on very tangible goals. My goals could be easily quantified, because I believe in goals being SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound – and I tied my personal value to the achievement of a SMART goal.

But now, my goals are shifting . . . And I like it. Yes, to a degree, my goals are still SMART, but they all aren’t as dynamic as before. I will always have a couple of dynamic goals (that’s my nature) but some of my other goals are more fluid, and allow me room to be gentle with myself. I’m starting to fall in love with my “new normal”, which include practices that support my emotional and mental health, and goals that focus more on who I’m being as opposed to what I’m doing.

With that in mind, here are some of my new goals for 2020:

  • Practice yoga weekly
  • Finish writing and editing two of my books
  • Complete my herbalist certification (did that earlier this week!)

Have you had a chance to revisit and rethink your goals? What direction do you think you’ll be going this year? I’d love to hear all about it!

health · life curation

Fibro Fridays: A Thought on Spoon Theory

Happy Friday friends! We survived another week and here’s hoping that we are all feeling great as the weekend begins.

I was just thinking about how much things have changed since my fibro diagnosis last year, as well as the concepts and terminology that has become second nature to me due to fibro. One of the most fascinating concepts that I’ve heard about is spoon theory. This principle speaks to the finite energy stores possessed by the chronically ill, as well as how easy it is to fall into an energy deficit, resulting in the inevitable “crash” phase.

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The Spoon Theory essay was written by Christine Miserandino, and I love that this simple teaching has offered such an accurate visual representation of the daily reality of chronically ill individuals. Once we have used up our energy, the results of exceeding our limitations can be devastating in the days and weeks to come. Also, it illustrates how having casual/less active days can allow us to “save up” energy for anticipated intense days.

I’ve shared this theory with friends and relatives so that they can better understand what I experience. It’s hard to describe the specific feelings that I may have each day, but I can easily tell you if I’ve used too many spoons in the previous days, or if, on a particular day, I have a lot of spoons at my disposal. It’s very useful for quantifying my energy levels on any given day.

If you really want a better understanding of chronic illness, I highly encourage you to read the Spoon Theory essay for yourself. If you’ve already read it, let me know your thoughts in the comment below!

Those are my views on Spoon Theory. I hope you all are doing well, and enjoy your weekend!