Hello Earth!

April 26, 2011 at 10:40 pm (Health Stuff n Junk)

Thank you so much for visiting my post!

So here’s what I’m about…

Natural health: new stuff, weird stuff, ancient stuff that’s weird, ancient stuff that’s totally not weird, and sometimes some rants. If you can take it, welcome!

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A World of Pure Relaxation

January 11, 2018 at 4:18 am (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A World of Pure Relaxation:

A Scientific Consideration of Addressing All the Senses During Massage of Persons Experiencing Chronic Stress, PTSD, and Anxiety.

Gea Belle Barker

Marylhurst University

Author note

This paper was prepared for WR323 Research Writing, taught by Professors Cara Hubbell and Kirk Howard

 

A decade ago, as I was lying in a cocoon of warmth, surrounded by soothing sounds of nature, a solo flute, and the scent of lavender and I made a bold and daring decision:  I want to live my life as a massage therapist. Not in fluorescent lighting that sucks nutrients out of my body with the discord of chatter, office equipment, upset customers, and the scent of lost dreams and recycled air being forced up my nose. I was aware of every one of my senses in those experiences but what I had not been aware of at that time was that I was suffering from chronic stress. Chronic stress is the kind of stress that can develop into facial twitches and poor digestion. As I lied on that massage table my muscles didn’t twitch, I didn’t have stomach pain, and I didn’t have a foggy brain. My breath was calm and deep. In this essay, I combine the areas of study that speak directly to the sensory experience of massage and how actively observing and seeking tools to either stimulate or sedate those senses provides a noninvasive, low cost alternative to allopathic medicine in treating stress disorders.

Though my initial goal was to provide a lens to view massage as a therapeutic approach that encompasses all the senses with a neurological perspective, I soon discovered in my research that the neurological effects of stress related disorders such as chronic stress, PTSD, anxiety, and depression have multiple crossover similarities both physiologically and neurologically. While each of these disorders have their specific characteristics, the end outcome of suffering from stress related disorders is consistently the same: increased cortisol, decreased dopamine, decreased serotonin, decreased oxytocin, imbalanced hormones, and decreased immune system. For this essay, I have combined the approach of therapeutic massage in addressing stress related disorders and how relaxation techniques positively impact our neurobiology.

With the advances of technology creating expansion in research in the areas of neuroscience, never in history has there been so much access to see what is going on in the brain. This has also created new areas of study and new information in understanding human behavior and this has been an unintended boon for the massage industry. The same technology that has helped us learn more about what’s going wrong in the brain is also showing us what can have a positive impact as well. Recent statistics show that stress, anxiety, and depression are on the rise (see table 1) and feelings of helplessness in relieving the byproducts of a stressful world are potentially the beginnings of disease (APA, 2017).

Table 1

Younger adults continue to report more stress; money and work are top culprits.

apa report

Note: The APA reports that stress is increasing, particularly in the younger generations, indicating a need for change in how we address coping with stress (APA, 2017).

An area of study that has emerged to help bridge the gap between alternative treatments for stress and the effects of long term stress is the study of chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition created from a traumatic event or long term exposure to stressful situations which creates a dysfunctional neuro-response in the brain to everyday life experiences (Tick, 2001). The long-term outcome of this condition can be stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and even suicide (Harmon, 2009). When we connect with all our senses we find new paths to how the stress and pain cycle can be impacted, and hopefully disrupted, by offering an opportunity for all our senses to receive respite. While a therapist may not be able to instantly discern which sensory response will trigger the relaxation a client needs, being aware of how each sense participates in the experience and what some of those tools and cues look like for a client can greatly impact how they’re recovering from stress.

I have received a lot of massages which have been well executed with positive results, and equally so, I have received massages that lacked therapeutic value. Though I am going to talk about all the senses in harmony for a complete massage experience, I stress the importance of good, healthy, SAFE, touch. Could you get a good massage in a back alley? Yes, you can. With a therapist that understands the importance and principles of touch, they can help you feel relaxed anywhere. But like Willy Wonka and his gum that is a full meal, we can go beyond ordinary massage. We can create a world of pure relaxation.

How We Touch

Touch is the most common association of massage. If touch were the only tool of massage that were assessed scientifically, the scientific data of touch could hold up the massage industry all by its self. A recent poll found that the most common use of massage is for stress reduction and pain management (AMTA, 2017). Stress can alter our natural chemical balance and our health and wellbeing can become compromised as our bodies attempt to respond to the stressor.

There are a myriad of chemical processes happening during a massage session. The primary changes that occur are in reducing blood sugar and cortisol, while increasing oxytocin, natural killer cells, dopamine, and serotonin.  With stress on the rise, our immune systems are being compromised with prolonged elevation of cortisol that begins a dangerous cycle of lowering the chemicals we need to rejuvenate and heal (oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine). Oxytocin, the bonding chemical, is created and released in our bodies through acts such as hugging, dancing, prayer, and massage (TEDtalks, 2011; Field, 2005). But more than the ability to build trust and guide morality, oxytocin contributes to a thriving immune system.

The release of oxytocin can become inhibited by the stress response while simultaneously raising our cortisol release in anticipation of danger. Oxytocin is the chemical our bodies create when we feel loved and safe, it makes us happy. Cortisol is the chemical our bodies create when we experience stress, fear, or trauma. It causes inflammation (i.e. pain, allergies, weakened immune system) and prolonged exposure to the stress response can lead to chronic illness and disease (Alvord, 2017). It is in this breakdown of balance that massage can begin healing and restoring wellbeing.

The Scent of Relaxation

The usage of aromatic oils in healthcare has historical documentation as far back as ancient Egypt where jars of oils have been found in tombs, buried with the dead along with other items considered sacred and necessary in the afterlife (Harmon, 2009). During the black plague, aromatic herbs were burned to ward off disease and were successful enough that one of the most popular essential oil blends on the market is based off that recipe (Thieves blend). Though the original 15th century recipe contained approximately 15 different herbs and spices, the modified essential oil blend contains rosemary, lemon, clove, cinnamon, and eucalyptus. (Thieves Essential Oil, 2017)

Figure 1 shows the basic setup of how we smell things, but the processes that are happening are far more miraculous than a simple ‘in/out’ cycle. Our olfactory has been recently found to discern approximately 1 trillion different odor molecules and these molecules all carry special codes to the thalamus that sends them to the hippocampus and amygdala to unlock specific responses in our bodies (Marin, 2015).

Figure 1

How our olfactory works (Marin, 2015)

 

olfactory

Perhaps one of the more interesting areas to be studied now in conjunction with stress reduction is our sense of smell. When considering ways to destress, our sense of smell can be a significant tool as scent goes right into our brain. The specific area involved in stress, the amygdala, is linked to how we respond to stress and is the focus when treating stress disorders from a neurological perspective.

There are approximately 7 million Americans experiencing PTSD and this isn’t always induced by persons experiencing war. Prolonged exposure to stressful situations or traumatic events can induce chronic stress (Harmon, 2009). The current research on PTSD has become plentiful and one of the areas looked at for alternative treatments has been aromatherapy.  Those results have shown promising potential when we engage the olfactory in cases of stress disorders. A recent study performed at George Washington University found that orange essential oil alone improved fear responses in mice and subsequently improved the immune system by lowering the inflammatory response (Moshfegh, 2017). Considering the large percentage of persons experiencing stress, it is perplexing that there are currently only two FDA approved medications for PTSD. This leaves a wide-open door for therapists to assist in supporting this population by introducing aromatherapy to a session. Being aware that when clients come in they may be in a state of chronic stress can assist us in setting the stage for relaxation ‘stat’. Something as simple as dabbing a couple drops of lavender oil on the head rest (which will lightly scent the room as well) can help unlock those scent receptors that signal relaxation. One of my greatest delights is having a client tell me that they could smell an oil before they even entered the room and it made them happy because they have come to associate that aroma with the relaxation that is about to happen. Creating these neural paths that reach quickly into our memory banks of the hippocampus and amygdala increases our ability to reach greater depths of relaxation and healing. Using essential oils in a massage session can be simple and cost effective. Some therapists use pre-scented oils, while others have found using a drop or two in their hands blended with their carrier oil is also just as effective. With access of the internet, sourcing quality products that are also cost effective has become easy.

Sound Waves of Joy

About a year into being an LMT, I was settling in to my first private office. Eager to break away from the environmental restrictions I experienced as an employee, I was determined to create a different environment for my clients. One day, a client who had recently become a regular delivered an ear opening statement: “Can we listen to something else? That classical music makes me think of things like the opera and I’ll never do something like that. I don’t understand it and it just makes me feel dumb.” This was my first awareness of how important music is to a massage session. My stressed client was trying to relax but feeling intellectually assaulted by my music choice. Conversely, another client remarked that classical music reminded them of their wedding day, the happiest day in their life. Music is important and transcends all socioeconomic, cultural, and regional classifications. Every person has a preference and a genre of music that lifts the spirit, helps relax, or comforts during sadness (Week, 2014). Another facet of emerging technology in brain science is the study of how music effects our moods and what that looks like in the brain. What’s happening when we hear music?

Not long ago, scientists believed that the brain processed music only on the right side. With new tools like MRI’s and PET scans researchers are discovering this is far from the truth. What MRI’s (see image 2) are showing now is that more than one area of the brain is active in music listening. According to updated research, every area of the brain lights up when we hear music, music set’s our brain on fire (Week, 2014)! These brain responses to music are also contributing to positive chemical changes in our bodies. Listening to music that’s pleasurable releases hormones that make us healthy and happy, such as dopamine, prolactin, and immunoglobins while simultaneously reducing our cortisol levels (Week, 2014).

Image 2

The brain ‘fires’ in all areas when listening to music (Week, 2014)

brain

Note: Music can be used to activate all areas of the brain, providing a therapeutic tool for persons experiencing stress disorders (Week, 2014). Image credit: (Sweetow, 2013)

During my initial training, the extent of how music effects a session was limited to considering options of how to select music sources and the standard relaxation tracks. It was years before I had even heard of music healing and vibrational waves in connection to our own brain waves. With the addition of the neuroscience we can move out of the ‘woo-woo’ naysayer’s stance on music as a healing tool. We also have access to relatively inexpensive music sources such as Pandora, YouTube, and Spotify. Most people carry some sort of smart device now that will most likely contain their music choices as well, I’ve seized this opportunity and welcomed clients to bring their own music selection. I do specify some basic ground rules for music in the office: it can’t be violent, derogatory to anyone, or overtly sexual. My own experiences with this approach have been received well with clients and have added an additional sensory experience.

A Sight to Behold

My favorite motto used to be that “I’d be happy to get a massage even in a dirty alley”. That’s how much I loved receiving a massage and how little I knew about the importance of ambience. Several years later and I must say that my understanding of ambience is that it has the power to influence mood just as much as the prior three senses explored and considered from a neurological perspective sets the tone of a session. Ambience in massage is about creating a mood or feeling in the room that gives the initial suggestion of what a client will be experiencing. Lighting can be an important consideration in ambience. According to Victoria Dunckley MD, the lighting we use to illuminate our world could also be harming our neurological system by triggering symptomatic and behavioral changes in us:

Research consistently demonstrates fluorescent lights raise stress markers, such as reduced heart rate variability, raised blood pressure, increased skin conductance, stronger startle response, reduced drop in body temperature during sleep, increased cortisol, and reduced slow wave (stage 4, the deepest stage) compared to full spectrum incandescent lighting (Dunckley, 2014).

Interestingly, Dunckley’s metadata on the impact of fluorescent lights on our neural system bear a striking resemblance to the neurobiological effects of stress. Having the ability to adjust the massage room lighting can contribute greatly to lowering the external stimuli that a person may be experiencing from simply sitting at a desk with fluorescent lighting all day, let alone a person suffering from stress related pathologies.

Further taking the time to bring life into the environment, such as live plants, simple artwork, or water features can be done to create a space that people will come to recognize as a place of calm and peace, removing them temporarily from their stressful world.

Rest…Digest

Most people live in a fast-paced world that has at least in one moment included eating a meal while driving and that may also have been followed by indigestion. The result of all this stress has led to drug store aisles devoted to pills to help you digest, evacuate, stop evacuating, put the fire out, and calm or induce the queasy. Recent market research has found that the over the counter sales in digestive aids in 2015 was approximately 4.2 billion dollars (CHPA, 2017). The body has a very clever system that was designed to not eat and run at the same time. While I can’t prove this, I’m strongly positive that no hunter in prehistoric times ate while either running towards or away from prey. Our bodies reflect this biological fact by not producing digestive enzymes while under stress. When under stress, the stomach’s acid balance is disrupted and can lead to ulcers or other digestive disturbances (Salle, 2008). In persons experiencing chronic stress, the potential for improper digestion increases, is frequent, and can lead to disease.

With the direct contact of touch during a massage, the body’s parasympathetic system is activated and when relaxation commences this allows digestive fluids to be produced and released. It is not unusual to feel hungry after a massage and clients are sometimes momentarily embarrassed that their stomachs begin producing audible growling noises during a massage. This is the body’s audible way of stating it has moved from fight to rest and ready to consume.

In my office, I take the massage-digestive experience a step further by offering chocolate to my clients. The powers of chocolate have long been recognized even prior to modern day science that now has confirmed to us that chocolate contains substances that do wonderful things to our heads. In Professor Gary Wenk’s book Your Brain on Food explains how the chemical attributes of chocolate interact with our brain: “Chocolate contains fats that may induce the release of endogenous opiates and produce a feeling of euphoria.” (p. 127) Yes, chocolate makes us feel euphoric. That’s why I keep a bowl of dark chocolate in my office for all to enjoy and encourage people to pop a couple in their pocket for later. Though our society has come to make a joke out of women and their need for chocolate, within the joke is a truth about how we are feeling inside and the desire to feel those moments of euphoria. Considering all the potentially harmful substances that could be used to feel good, I think chocolate is the lesser of evils.

When I look back on how I felt that day I’m reminded of how people enter my office. They are tired, stressed, hungry, overstimulated, under-cared for, and wiped out. I had no idea when I made that decision that I’d also benefit every day from the contact I have with people and the focus I give to creating a relaxing environment. Therapists can equally benefit from being in the peaceful environment and the constant human contact increases our oxytocin too. Being aware of the increasing science behind receiving a massage is also important information to share with clients as well as it can further strengthen their resolve to seek new methods for coping with stress. When therapists become creative with the massage environment it communicates to clients that they are listening and looking for ways to help them reach greater depths of relaxation.

 

Works Cited

Alvord, M. K. (2017). Understanding Chronic Stress. Retrieved from American Pyschological Association: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-chronic-stress.aspx

AMTA. (2017, February). American Massage Therapy Association. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from Massage Therapy Industry Fact Sheet: https://www.amtamassage.org/infocenter/economic_industry-fact-sheet.html

APA. (2017). 2015 Stress In America: Snap Shot. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot.aspx

CHPA. (2017). Statistics on OTC Use. Retrieved from Consumer Healthcare Products Association: https://www.chpa.org/MarketStats.aspx

Dunckley, V. L. (2014, September 15). Why CFL’s Aren’t Such a Bright Idea. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201409/why-cfls-arent-such-bright-idea

Field, T. e. (2005, October 15). Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 115(no 10), 1397-1413. doi:10.1080/00207450590956459

Harmon, K. (2009, February). Aromatherapy Can Help PTSD. Military Spouse Magazine, unknown. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from https://achs.edu/aromatherapy-can-help-ptsd

Marin, A. (2015, January 27). Making Sense of Scents: Smell and the Brain. Retrieved May 6, 2017, from Brain Facts: http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/senses-and-perception/articles/2015/making-sense-of-scents-smell-and-the-brain/

Moshfegh, C. e. (2017, April 24). Effects of Essential Oil on Fear Memory and the Immune Response: A Potential Alternative Therapy for PSTD. George Washington University. Washington DC: GWU. Retrieved May 6, 2017, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/eb2-oeo041217.php

Salle, M. (2008). Life Event, Stress and Illness 15(4), 9–18. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences : MJMS, 15(4), 9–18.

Sweetow, R. W. (2013, February 4). An Integrated Approach to Tinnitus Management [Image]. Retrieved April 30, 2017, from Audiology Online: http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/integrated-approach-to-tinnitus-management-11598

TEDtalks (Writer), & TEDtalks (Director). (2011). Trust, morality – and oxytocin [Motion Picture]. Retrieved April 27, 2017, from https://youtu.be/rFAdlU2ETjU

Thieves Essential Oil. (2017). Retrieved from Young Living: https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/thieves-essential-oil

Tick, E. P. (2001). Practice of Dream Healing. NY: Theosophical Publishing House.

Week, C. I. (Director). (2014). The Brain: This is Your Brain on Music [Motion Picture]. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from https://youtu.be/-c7d5W0_NPA

Wenk, G. (2010). Sleeping versus Waking. In G. Wenk, Your Brain on Food. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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How Often Should I Get a Massage?

April 27, 2015 at 3:20 pm (Health Stuff n Junk, holistic health, massage) (, , , , , )

“How often should I get massage?” is a common question LMT’s get. I’m sorry to say there is no cut and dry answer to this question. It all really depends on you. So I gave this question more thought and I’ll share with you my own massage routine. I get a massage every week. There are two reasons for this:

1) I’m very active both physically and mentally. To keep my whole being healthy so I can take care of you I have to take care of myself too. It’s the same principle of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put it on others when the plane is crashing. Sometimes I only have time for 30 minutes and that’s o.k. but I make sure that I’m doing something weekly to stay in touch with how my body is doing.

2) Getting a massage from a therapist that doesn’t practice what they preach is like being cooked a meal by someone that never tastes what they’re cooking. When I experience massage it helps me understand what others may be feeling. I also learn new techniques or change certain approaches based on those experiences. I have multiple LMT’s that I go to, they’re all great, and they’re all different. It’s o.k. to have multiple therapist and you should never feel like you can’t see someone else for fear of bruising a therapist ego. Grounded therapist know and support this.

So how often should you get a massage? Are you commuting more than a few hours a week? Do you sit at a desk and work on a computer all day? Are you doing hard labor daily? Do you have above average levels of stress? Do you regularly take any medication for pain? Are you in any kind of physical training program? If you answered yes to even one of these questions you need a minimum of 1 massage a month. I stress ‘minimum’. But if you’d like to go for better than the least you can do, the best you can do is weekly.

The benefits I receive physically are priceless…and yes, I do trade for my massages but I also pay too, I think that’s important. As we age it becomes even more important to take care of our mind and bodies. The idea that being an adult has to be painful and draining is an unfortunate construct that we won’t go into in this post. Stop feeling guilty for feeling good.

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How Deep Is Your Massage?

September 19, 2014 at 4:27 am (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , , , )

There’s an age old idea that deep tissue massage, to be effective, should hurt and leave you sore for days. This is a myth and I’d like to abolish this form of massage for the simple reason that its hurting people. Hurting while getting a massage is no more beneficial then stubbing your toe.

From a physiological perspective, our bodies have what is called a feedback loop. Where pain is concerned, this is referred to as a negative feedback loop. Going back to a stubbed toe, you jump up to head to the kitchen during a commercial break and stub your toe on the coffee table. Your body’s initial response is to pull back, you don’t even have to tell your foot to move…it just does. This is because the signal sent to your brain from your injured toe is screaming ‘Abort!!!’ because the body doesn’t like pain. Pain is a warning sign that the tissue is being injured and the body’s primary goal is to preserve itself at all costs. Our cells have a remarkable desire to live, and pain is not considered productive to that cause. The only time this negative feedback loop has a positive outcome is during childbirth when the signals of pain on the cervix signal it to open. That’s it, no other time does the body receive pain signals as beneficial.

Now for all you ‘No pain, No gain’ freaks out there, yes, I know what’s going through your head right now: you have to endure that pain to get results. Actually, you don’t. You can certainly choose to and for some of you that works. Enduring pain on purpose takes a special mindset, a meditative state of sorts. And as any of us can see, the gym doesn’t work for everyone and most people don’t become body builders. Just as the first time gym goer isn’t going to walk in and start bench pressing 300 pounds, the occasional massage goer isn’t going to benefit from having an elbow burrowed into their ‘trigger point’. And just as the beginning gym member can quickly stop using their membership due to poor training and guidance on equipment (usually resulting in injuries and very sore muscles), the occasional massage client is going to wait a year or longer to get another massage because they remember how much it hurt (usually resulting in injuries and very sore muscles)…which defeats the purpose of getting a massage.

So how does deep tissue massage without pain work? There’s a few factors that the therapist needs to take into consideration. First and foremost, warm up the tissue for heaven’s sake! The technical term for this process is called thixotropy. This is the process of physically changing the tissue from thick to soft by warming. Another change that happens during warming is relaxation and the chance for tissue to become comfortable and trusting in the therapists touch. This is very important whether or not deep work will be administered. Second, the psychological aspects of massage are equally as important as the techniques used. A skilled therapist can tell when someone isn’t comfortable, muscles don’t lie. Muscles also have amazing memory and if they’ve been injured in a massage session before, or any injury for that matter, they do what’s referred to as ‘muscle guarding’. This all relates back to the whole pain issue. Maybe not the greatest analogy, but a child that’s been abused will flinch at a perceived hit. Again, you don’t even have to tell the muscles to move, they’re way ahead of you. If you receive a massage that leaves bruises you’ve just been injured. Bruises only happen when the tissue is damaged, it’s no different than any other time you get a bruise accept that you sat still for it.

Finally, and this is the magical part, when our bodies are relaxed and feel safe the rate of healing is phenomenal! When you’re in that blissful massage coma the cells get to work, mostly because they don’t have to deal with all the other crap you’re putting them through and they can focus on the important stuff (your wellbeing) but also because this is the state of being that healing takes place.

Pain is, above all else, a subjective term. What hurts to one person may feel great to another. Don’t let anyone tell you to ‘Relax’ during a massage, if you were relaxed you probably wouldn’t be there…that’s the Therapists job. And if you have to clench your jaw or practice deep breathing to ignore the pain…it’s too much. This is your massage and there’s plenty of highly skilled (this doesn’t mean length of practice) Therapists out there that are happy to provide you with exactly what you need: a good massage.

 

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The Sweet, Dirty, Low Down…on Cellulite

September 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , )

We’re about to get uncomfortable, folks. We’re about to talk about cellulite and it’s my intent to take you to uncomfortable places, but like a good psoas release, when we’re done you’re hopefully going to feel better and filled with hope.

Cellulite. Eeewww. Go ahead, say it. Nobody likes it, nobody wants it. From the socio-emotional aspect of cellulite it’s inferred that if you have cellulite you’re probably overweight, eat poorly, and have no interest in your health whatsoever. This is not true. Just like many other unpleasant things in life, cellulite happens. It’s how we respond to these unpleasant things that defines the difference between devastation and triumph.

I think we can make the speech on self-image and cellulite short. If you have it you may not feel quite as good about yourself as you’d like to. It may influence your clothing decisions, interfere with your intimate relationships, and deprive you from the joys of water.

Here’s your brief A&P tutorial on cellulite – it’s actually quite simple: one or a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and hormones will effect how our cells are processing our ‘biowaste’. Mechanically, when our circulation is restricted, such as sitting at a desk all day, our body can’t flush out the biowaste and fat as quickly as we’re creating them. This biowaste and fat gets caught in subcutaneous fat cells and surrounding connective tissue. When this happens, the cells holding this junk get bigger…and bigger while the tissue around it gets stretched, creating the ‘dimpled’ look we associate with cellulite. This decrease in circulation can also show up as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. This creates a cycle of loss of circulation which stores more biowaste, which causes more decrease in circulation…holding more waste.

KLF14 – this is the gene that is considered to predispose people to obesity by altering how our body processes fats. But here’s how I feel about ‘genes’. Instead of telling ourselves we are ‘predisposed’ to an ailment and accepting our fate we can simply look at our thighs and say ‘there is cellulite, what do I need to do to bring my body back to balance’. I would no sooner accept my cellulite*, as I would be an alcoholic, which I’ve descended from many. Feel free to evolve.

So what can we do with cellulite? The trifecta of health: eat healthy, move your body, and get massage. Eating healthy is such an important part of keeping our body supplied with what it needs to keep moving. I’m very anti-diet. I think diets make people angry. Don’t starve your body. But do be discriminating on what you’re putting in it. All the exercise and massage in the world will not make up for eating fast food and polluting your body with chemicals.

Move that ass! Movement in our lives doesn’t need to mean pumping iron everyday at the gym or running on a treadmill until you want to vom. The best exercise is movement that makes you happy. Dancing, taking walks in the park, gardening – these are all fabulous forms of exercise that move our body and make us feel good in our souls. If you don’t enjoy the exercise you’re doing this message is sent to your entire body as a negative action and thoughts are things. Some people love to run and lift weights, if it brings you joy – do it. Adding 30 minutes 3 days a week will have a huge impact on your health.

If you say you don’t enjoy massage I will fight you…then give you a massage. Massage is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Just like brushing your teeth so you don’t get cavities, massage when used for preventative care helps keep your body healthy. When used as damage control, the following in relation to cellulite can be achieved:

  • help tone & shape your body
  • improve circulation in your skin & muscles
  • breakdown fatty deposits so the body can eliminate safely
  • smooth out dimples, soften & strengthen skin
  • able to specifically target problem areas
  • promotes elimination of toxins & bio-waste
  • helps produce new elastin & collagen
  • technique includes lymphatic drainage to help reduce water holding

When used in conjunction with healthy eating and movement, massage can accelerate the process of getting the body fit or maintaining achieved wellness. The techniques used in cellulite specific massage are a combination of deep tissue, myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, and Swedish for relaxation. Here’s a simple test you can do on yourself – and you may not even see any cellulite on your leg: while seated, pinch your thigh. Tissue that is free of adhesions easily collects between your thumb and forefinger. Try it in different directions. This is exactly what I would do to check the condition of your tissue. If I can’t pinch it without pain or there is no movement then your tissue is adhered and not receiving as much nutrients as it could be. Frequent massage of these adhered areas will improve your circulation and therefore help the body breakdown and move out cellulite.

And then if you combine the awesome healing powers of specific oils to this massage you further enhance the healing properties of this ritual. Some of the oils I like to use are as follows:

  • Avocado – known for regenerating and improving skin that has scars, sun damage, and age spots. High in vitamin E
  • Grape Seed – assists in the repair of damaged skin
  • Cocoa Butter – not an oil but worthy of mention – same as avocado but also added benefits of antioxidants and a vasodilator
  • Cypress – supportive for venous health, arthritic conditions, & cellulite
  • Lavender – supportive for arthritic conditions, helps tone and revitalize the skin, stress reducer

The specific blend I use is oils of almond, apricot, avocado, coconut, grape seed, sesame, cocoa butter, and essential oils of cypress and lavender. The ratio is equal parts oils, 5 drops each of EO per ½ ounce of base blend. A little goes a long way. I try to make a point of massaging myself 3 times per week with about 30 minutes per session. You may experience some soreness initially as you’re breaking those adhesions, but should notice a difference in the softness of your skin within a couple weeks.

These are all steps you can take to empower yourself to take control of your health. And if you need extra support there are many natural health professionals out there that can give you a hand on the way. Be well!

 

*and I do have cellulite – I was late on this blog – my apologies – as I was busy blending an anti-cellulite oil and learning specific massage techniques for breaking up cellulite.

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My Favorite Muscle Part II

July 29, 2011 at 2:32 am (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , )

This blog is more of a ‘love letter’ of sorts to my feet. Nothing makes my feet happier than being free to move. Feet like to dance, they like to swim, they love to be held, and they absolutely love everything I’m about to share with you…

Historically humans haven’t always made the best adornment choices for their feet, specifically the practice of foot binding and high heels, but I do believe our innate urge is to love our feet.

For instance, the practice of foot washing is accounted for in most cultures and across all religions. Some historians believe the foot washing to be symbolic, while others maintain it’s social acceptance purely from a cleanliness standpoint and an expected sign of hospitality. Regardless of which road you take on foot washing, it’s undeniably a sign of respect paid to the feet that has been a tradition spanning many thousands of years.

The history of body adornment dates back as far as 30,000 years ago. So don’t feel frivolous or abnormal that you want to put beautiful things on your body – of course you do, we have been for 30,000 years. DNA like that doesn’t just die out. A majority of days, the only bodily adornment I wear is my toe ring. Things can be plain and ordinary in my day but when I look down and see my toe ring, I’m reminded of my universal given right to beauty and life. Our feet are beautiful and should be respected with adornment. It’s a gesture of self-love. And though on the surface our modern pedicures and foot pampering may be viewed as indulgent or perhaps reserved for wealthy housewives I vote we reclaim the foot adoration practices of the past: wash the feet, put oils on them, give them silver and gold, love them. Hell, put some gorgeous henna tattoos on them.

Now that we’ve established, and I’ve hopefully inspired you to love your feet, let’s talk about keeping our feet healthy. For a body part that does so much, it really takes so little to keep them happy. Remember how much your mother loved getting your scribbled mother’s day cards in exchange for devoting her life to you? Well our feet work on the same principle. You can stand on them all day and simply putting them in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salts make them happy. But let’s not stop there, give them something special…

Soothing foot soak:

*warm water – as per preference temperature-wise
*a tub – you can pick up a standard tub for a few bucks
*5 drops of an essential oil – see list below
*a spoon of apple cider vinegar or powdered milk – this helps disperse the EO

Lavendar – antidepressant, antiviral, antiallergenic, migraines
Eucalyptus – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, decongestant
Tea Tree – antimicrobial, antiviral, stimulant
Cinnamon – anesthetic, aphrodisiac, antispasmodic
Rose – antidepressant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac
Thyme – antiseptic, tonic, stimulant
Basil – analgesic, antidepressant, digestive
Ylang Ylang – antidepressant, aphrodisiac, antiseborrhoeic

This is just a small list of some of my more favorite oils to use but the availability on the market of EO’s is phenomenal. As you can see from some of the therapeutic uses above, foot soaks aren’t just for fun they can also be highly therapeutic. And if you don’t have oils but have the fresh plants, throw them in… it’s tea for your feet! You can further enhance the soak experience by throwing some marbles in with the water to facilitate a self-massage.

Outside of the regular relaxation maintenance your feet would like, sometimes there are imbalances in our feet. Most common ailments of the foot are easily taken care of at home for very little cost, sans chemicals.

Athlete’s foot: Annoying, itchy, sometimes painful, and may prevent one from wanting to remove their shoes in public. This is a common fungus that can become prolific on your feet if the moisture and pH balance are off (see sweat gland fact below). Some simple home remedies are the following:

*garlic oil (see previous blog) – rub oil on feet and in between toes
*a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse – ratio of 1:2
*cornstarch – helps absorb the moisture
*AIR THEM OUT – soggy feet have no positive outcome
*honey – somewhat sticky

Plantar Warts: Plantar warts is a virus that makes itself known via the feet appearing as a wart growth:

*garlic – straight up, crushed and rubbed on warts

Fever and head colds: employing the methods of hydrotherapy, you can ease the discomforts of fever and head colds by doing a contrast foot soak. What this entails is having a bucket of cold water (ice if you can stand it) and a bucket of hot water. Put your feet in the warm water for 3 minutes, then the cold for 30 seconds, repeat several times, ending on hot. This is also good for swollen feet due to overexertion.

I’d be remiss to not mention the wet sock treatment. This has been one of my most trusted methods for my Sons when they were young with fever and/or head colds.

*Wet Sock Treatment:

Soak feet in hot water for 5 minutes, get two pairs of socks – one cotton, one wool. Soak the cotton socks in ice water, placing on the feet after they’ve soaked in hot water, next put the wool socks over the cold wet cotton socks. As torturous as this sounds it works wonders by pulling the congestion and hot blood from the head down to the feet and will enable the child (of any age) to sleep well.

Sometimes what the foot needs is exercise. That’s right, even your feet need to get exercise. Conditions such as plantar fasciitis (painful feet) and fallen arches benefit greatly from a combination of exercise, massage, and hydrotherapy (a.k.a. foot soaks). The awesome thing about exercising your feet is that its easy and you can even do it while sitting at a desk.

Simply put, going through the actions your foot can do is exercising them: pointing your toes, pulling them back up, make circles with your toes, put a tennis ball on the floor and roll your foot back and forth on it, or practice picking things up with your toes (like the monkeys we are). All the actions, though basic in explanation are excellent ways to keep the muscles and joints in your feet healthy.

Reflexology is a modality that specializes in feet. The basic definition is the use of pressure to specific areas of the foot to induce a physiological response in the body. While massage techniques are used, reflexology is not considered massage. Forms of reflexology have been used for thousands of years in many cultures and what is common practice now is a culmination of those therapies based on zones correlating in the body with itself but accessible through the feet. The belief is that by activating these zones it helps the body to heal itself.

To know the specific corresponding locations on the feet to their internal organ parts one needs only know where everything is located in your body. The bottoms of your feet mirror exactly your internal anatomy. The big toe being the neck and brain, the ball of your foot the lungs, the instep the digestive system and so forth. Here’s a great website that has an interactive chart:

http://www.reflexologycharts.org/reflexology-charts/reflexology-foot-chart/

One of the cool things about reflexology is our feet are a perfect mirror into our bodies and frequently show signs of disease and dysfunction long before it becomes evident elsewhere. Techniques like reflexology have the ability to address and work with the entire body without physically touching outside of the feet. This can be helpful for individuals that for various reasons can’t experience traditional massage. My own personal experiences using reflexology have been very profound and I can attest to it’s efficacy. And unlike massage that can be difficult to perform on yourself, reflexology can be self-administered.

And since we’re on the topic of foot touching, one of the kindest and loving acts you can offer a loved one is to massage their feet. You don’t need to be a professional to give a stellar foot massage. Some basic techniques is all you need:

*the rub – when rubbing the feet, it’s always best to start with broad strokes and compression. This is done with the whole hand or by making a fist and using the knuckles (pretend you’re opening a beer – that’s the action your wrist can make for a smooth stroke on the bottoms of the feet) and using both hands to squeeze the foot. This will warm the muscles up so that we aren’t hurting.

*the oil – any massage oil will work, one’s with mint for cooling or cinnamon for warming are nice. Don’t have massage oil? Olive oil is excellent for massage and it’s inexpensive and most of us have it in our kitchen.

*getting specific – once you’ve warmed the foot (2-3 minutes), you can get specific with your thumbs. An easy way to get specific with your thumbs is to simply trace the boney prominences of the foot, tracing the outline of each bone and joint with your thumb.

Viola! You’ve gained a new skill that makes people happy and costs you nothing but a little time.

So you’ve made it this far, here are some interesting foot facts followed by more wisdom from The Book of the Dead:

*The combined bones in your feet (the average is 52) comprises ¼ of the bones in your body
*A pair of feet have roughly 250,000 sweat glands that excrete around ½ a pint of moisture a day
*A 2 ½ inch heel on a shoe can increase the load baring on the forefoot by 75%
*When running, the weight impact on your feet is 4 times greater (that’s 4 times your weight…coming down on your feet)
*As a person’s income goes up, their foot issues go down

~Spell 74~

For being swift-footed when going out from the earth

‘May you do what you are wont to do, O Sokar who are in your mansion, possessing a foot in the realm of the dead. I shine in the sky, I ascend to the sky; though I am inert, I climb on the sunshine; though I am inert, I walk on the river-banks…in the realm of the dead’

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My Favorite Muscles – part 1

July 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , , , , )

My chosen profession of massage therapist was not just one born out of spiritual enlightenment to help others. While that played a large role in my decision, I’m not ashamed to openly state that I love muscles. I appreciate muscles in the same fashion that an art collector admires a Picasso. I appreciate what nature has created, the complexity of how they all attach to specific boney locations, each with a strategic purpose in their attachment. With functions that are unique and independent of it’s fellow but integral to the team. And just like art, nature has gifted us with endless variations of the human body. All of them beautiful and meaningful in their unique way.

I’m a constant student of human nature and always observing how the body is moving. I have the following questionnaire in my internal dialogue: What are those muscles doing? What messages are they conveying about the person that inhabits them? Why is the left shoulder higher – pelvis anteriorly tilted – right foot inverted…etc? This should in no way be misconstrued as a judgement, it’s all very objective in nature for me.

The top two complaints I hear from clients about their previous massage experiences are: 1) it hurt so bad during and afterwards that I didn’t want to do it again, & (2) I’ve never had a massage that included glutes, wow, that was really awesome. And to this I say ‘Boo!’ Therapists’ responsibility to the public is to help us feel better about our bodies in a healthy, nonsexual environment. Pain is not positive and where would we be without glutes?

So I’m going to jump off the ledge and talk about my favorite muscle first: The Glutes. Here’s how I feel about the glutes: overworked, under appreciated, over sexualized, and definitely poorly attended to. Over my years of being an LMT, it has vividly come to my attention that there is a general fear in our culture of the glutes. This is not just among the average person on the street, even massage therapists are fearful of massaging the glutes. This is leaving our culture with continued longing for healing and lack of compassion for a group of muscles that are greatly in need of care. When I speak of working on the glutes I’m including the following muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and ‘the deep six’ (lateral hip rotators).

The mechanical nature of the glutes are that they do everything that enables us to be bipeds. That in itself is pretty damn cool. Yet we spend hours sitting on them, impinging blood and nerve flow, torture them for an hour or two at the gym in order to make them look presentable, but then deny them healthy relaxation.

This group of muscles includes one of the largest and most powerful muscles in our body, the gluteus maximus. The glutes help us stand erect and stabilize our center of gravity. They are rich in blood and lymph vessels, and house one of our largest nerves – the sciatic nerve. Due to the type of actions this group is responsible for and the location, glutes are commonly a culprit in low back pain. A tight and inflamed piriformis can impinge the sciatic nerve causing a myriad of issues and pain for anything south of the glutes. Anyone who has experienced a sciatic episode can attest to how debilitating and excruciatingly painful it is.

I recently experienced firsthand both ends of this dilemma and can tell you that a client who has been accused of soliciting sex for simply asking to have the glutes massaged is a very traumatic and humiliating experience for that client. If you go for a full body massage and the glutes are passed over you’ve been short-changed. So then how does one get their glutes massaged outside of a sleazy lingerie-modeling parlor or not treated as though your soliciting sex?

First, when scheduling an appointment with a therapist you need to state that you are seeking glute massage. Don’t be afraid to ask the therapist to clarify how they perform glute work. Over the sheet? Undraped? Not at all? Be upfront as to why you want the glute work. Any person who sits more than an hour a day or is highly athletic has reasonable grounds for needing glute work. Most States have laws regarding draping and they do vary. I can only speak to what I know of which is the State of Oregon. It is completely legal to massage the glutes with respect to observing the draping rules:

334-010-0025 (3)(c)
‘Genitals and gluteal cleft of male and female clients and the breast area of female clients are not exposed;’

With proper draping technique it is very easy to access the glutes for work and still maintain gluteal cleft privacy. And I can’t help but point out that I feel if women’s nipples should be covered, then so should men’s. But that’s a whole other debate.

Second, do not refer to the glutes as ‘butt, ass, or…?’ any other slang term that may denote immaturity or sexual in nature. Due to the social stigmas around massage and sex workers we all have to be more communicative about what we need – this applies to clients and practitioners alike. As a practitioner, I never assume clients are comfortable with glute massage. That’s why I ask. It’s such an important area to work on and has such high therapeutic value that I would be remiss in succumbing to the social fear and not providing my clients with the care they need and deserve. To this day, the only client I’ve ever worked on that had an issue with it was another therapist, who proceeded to tell me that women don’t like to have their glutes massaged undraped. Go figure.

Glute work can have excellent therapeutic value for clients with low back pain, and sciatic nerve impingement. For clients that have office jobs, the endless hours of sitting at a desk can lead to weakening of the glutes and gluteal paresthesia. Working the glutes can not only help get the blood flow back through those near-death glutes, but also offer some much needed stress relief. Clients that are elderly can benefit greatly from any work that supports the joint health of their hips. Athletes push their muscles to the limits on a regular basis. Working the glutes helps them maintain the flexibility and tissue health necessary for them to continue performing at peak with minimal injury.

And here’s the real rub: massaging the glutes feels wonderful! Wonderful doesn’t have to mean sexual, no more than massaging the back or any other part of the body. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had two places that I’ve demanded be rubbed…even as a child…and that’s been my feet and my glutes. Nothing relaxes me faster! It’s a shame we have come to the point where we have to be strategic and scientific on getting our glutes massaged but this is where we are. There is a fetish for every person in the world out there. If I were to not massage certain body parts because it might be something someone gets aroused on then that would leave me with nothing to massage. So go forward, get your glutes massaged and relax!

In closing, here is a lovely recipe for the ‘hinder’ region from the ‘Ebers Papyrus’:

4 parts colocynth

8 parts sweet beer

2 parts honey

1/2 part frankincense

2 parts juniper fruit

5 parts raisin

4 parts fig

4 parts sebesten

remains during the night in the dew and is taken for 4 days – yum!

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The Stinking Rose

May 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm (Health Stuff n Junk) (, , , , , )

Garlic is one of my all-time favorite plants. It’s delicious, it’s inexpensive, and can be used for nearly any ailment. Following is just some of the more common uses of garlic – this is not a definitive list.

Garlic as an antiviral:
Garlic has been used in ongoing studies for treating AIDS for the past 20 years with quite remarkable results. As an antiviral medicine bacteria and viruses are unable to mutate with garlic as they do with pharmaceuticals. It strengthens the immune system by killing the viruses and opportunistic diseases that HIV patients can succumb to. In addition, garlic improves the digestive system as opposed to destroying it. By keeping the digestive system healthy nutrients can still be absorbed further strengthening all the bodily systems. Equally positive results have been shown for it’s use with Herpes and HPV both internally and as an external application.

An easy to make topical garlic oil I use for HPV (this is a common wart that shows up usually on the hands) and other bacterial or viral skin conditions is to fill a small jar with crushed fresh garlic and then top it off with olive oil. Let sit for 24 hours, shake well, then apply with cotton ball to affected area. I’m currently testing this on plantar warts. So far, going good.

Political fact – In 2005, South Africa told the WHO to piss off with they’re demands that HIV be treated with potentially harmful and expensive pharmaceuticals because they felt a blend of garlic, lemon, and beetroot was far more beneficial and less harmful. Word.

Garlic and the Digestive System:
Garlic is excellent in the maintenance of a healthy digestive system as a digestant and cathartic. It’s medicinal attributes of being an antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and anthelmintic (expels internal parasites) makes it extremely versatile for conditions such as candida albicans ulcers, and general digestive imbalances.

Garlic vs Penicillin:
The creator of pasteurization, Louis Pasteur, documented that the raw juice of garlic kills bacteria with the same effectiveness as 60 mg of penicillin.

Garlic and Your Blood:
Garlic is widely known as a cardiac agent, removing plaque from the vascular system, which promotes a myriad of health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and preventing platelets from clumping together. By removing the plaque, it has the ability to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (it can lower an LDL over 200 by 15%). It helps with production of glutathione, important for cellular health.

Garlic as an Anti-inflammatory:
As an anti-inflammatory and increasing blood flow it can improve conditions such as glaucoma, rheumatism, liver disorders, and removes heavy metal from your system (not the head-banging kind… the kind that can lead to cancer and other unpleasant health conditions).

In East Asia and the Middle East, garlic is used for tuberculosis, diabetes, rheumatism, colic, dysentery, liver disorders, facial paralysis, high blood pressure, and bronchitis. On going studies around the world for the use of garlic in cancer treatment have been in progress for well over 50 years. Western acknowledgements have been made contesting to garlic’s use with cancer, tumors, blood conditions, fungal infections, and is used globally for intestinal parasites.

Another favorite recipe for me is garlic syrup, great for respiratory complaints:
4 cloves of crushed garlic
4 Tbsp of honey
Let sit for a few hours then take by the tsp full every few hours – great for children (only over 14 mos due to the honey).

Lore, Legends, and …huh.

Garlic’s lore and legends are as various as it’s medicinal uses. Garlic was used for everything from worthy offering to the Gods, arousing sexual interests, and healing virtually any affliction a human being. Thus earning it’s title of ‘Pancea’.

The Egyptians were true supporters of garlic. It has been found in ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to 3200 BC, such as in Tutankahman’s to help him on his journey to the afterlife as offerings to Gods. They created statues of garlic, used it medicinally, in embalming concoctions, and even fed it to their pyramid builders to give them strength and health.
Following the lead of the Egyptians, Romans explored the usefulness of garlic as well. They fed garlic to their soldiers and athletes for strength and health. A recipe was found documenting garlic for curing hangovers that listed using 16 bulbs (not cloves) of crushed garlic boiled with a bucket of wine, and then drank. The remedy most likely deterred most from wanting to drink in the first place. They also used it for curing leprosy and as a scorpion repellent.

In similar uses, Transylvanians used garlic as an insect repellent for mosquitoes, which may lend credence to the legend of vampires being warded off by garlic. Romanians would put garlic in the orifices of the dead to ward off evil entering or the deceased turning vamp.
In Ayruvedic practices, garlic contains 5 of the 6 rasas (tastes), and use juice for sinus problems. In the similar healing modality of Unani, garlic had many uses. Inhaling a powder form to regulate menstruation, for paralysis, forgetfulness, tremors, colic pains, internal ulcers, and for fevers. In India, garlic has been used as an aphrodisiac. Apparently there is some truth to this as it was forbidden for monks and widowed women to consume so as not to be led into temptation.

‘Four Thieves’
During the Black Plague a vinegar was used called ‘Four Thieves’ that was a blend of herbs including garlic. The recipe varies depending on the historical document but the most common ingredient is garlic. One of the stories is that grave robbers during the plague were caught and convicted but the court was puzzled how they could rob all the virus ridden bodies and not be affected by the virus. Apparently they had been taking a French concoction of garlic soaked in wine. The most common and consistent recipe contains the following herbs: garlic, rosemary, rue, mint, thyme, sage, and lavender.

These last few points I found interesting and for some may fall into the ‘huh…’ category:
*Used for dental purposes to remove plaque from teeth and to make loose teeth take root again
*Applied to the noses of hysterical girls to calm them (if you happen to run into me and I have garlic strapped to my nose…you’ll know what kind of day I’m having).
*Before passing through a mountainous path, Koreans would eat pickled garlic as they believed tigers didn’t like the taste.
*Some Mid East beliefs state that garlic was created by the footsteps of Satan as he left the Garden of Eden.
*Used in many cultures to keep demons away and ward off the ‘evil eye’

So in closing, I have something totally unrelated to our discussion on garlic. I came across this in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and thought it was important I share it:

Spell 189: For preventing a man from going upside down and from eating feces:
(this is just an excerpt – not the whole spell)

‘What I doubly detest, I will not eat; what I detest is feces, and I will not eat it; excrement, I will not consume it. It shall not fall from my belly, it shall not come near my fingers, and I will not touch it with my toes.’

Good words to live by.

**my disclaimer: none of this article is intended to diagnose, treat, or cure. If in doubt of your current condition, please seek the advice of a medical professional prior to self-treatment and above all: do your research!

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Oh Honey!

May 3, 2011 at 12:55 am (Health Stuff n Junk)

Today, I’m going to share with you my fascination and love of bee products. And while I could go on for hours regarding all the variations of their marvelous creations today we’ll just stick with honey.

Honey is one of the most common substances in the world that is harvested on almost every continent and has been known by all cultures for thousands of years. It’s versatility makes it unique on our planet and a must have in every home.

The use of honey can be traced back 10,000 years to Spain where a Mesolithic cave painting depicts two women gathering honey from a beehive. In Egypt, honey has been long revered for it’s medicinal value and religious purposes depicted in murals dating back 7000 years. Not as well documented as Egyptian use, China documented their use of honey as far back as 3,000 years ago though probably much further back.

Religiously, honey is mentioned in all sectors and all with similar reverence. It was documented that Ramses III held the honey in such high esteem that he offered 15 tons of it to the God of the Nile, Hapi. A sanctuary for Osiris was named ‘Hwt Bjt’ – translation: ‘Mansion of the Bee’. In the bible, Proverbs 24:13 Solomon advises: “My son, eat honey; it is good. And just as honey from the comb is sweet on your tongue, you may be sure that wisdom is good for the soul. Get wisdom and have a bright future.” John the Baptist is said to have lived off of locusts and honey while in the desert – yum! In the Qur’an the prophet Muhammad states to his followers: “Use the two curatives: honey and Qur’an”

And here’s why you should have it in your home…

The applications are fairly universal. The following is just a portion of those medicinal uses. If you’re interested in further uses, I strongly encourage you to do some Googling: acne, anemia, antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, antioxidant, bedwetting, burns, diarrhea, digestive disorders, energy, hay fever, hyperactivity, insomnia, kidney, liver, osteoporosis, peptic ulcers, spleen, stress, wounds (internal and external).

In the ‘Papyrus Ebers’, an Egyptian medical text, lists honey as a component in a majority of the recipes that are believed to date back over 3000 years. Here’s one of the more simple ones (that doesn’t involve animal organs) for what is described as a prolapsed hemorrhoid: powder of barley, powder of dates, powder of wheat, honey, colocynth, and grease mixed together and taken daily.

Li Shizhen wrote the ‘Compendium of Materia Medica’ in 1578 and stated that honey has the ability to remove toxic substances from the body and treat deficiencies in qi by toning the spleen. He also notes that it can reduce vexation, and who out there can’t use a little of that. Henry C. Lu notes a clinical report in his ‘Chinese Natural Cures’ 2005, regarding honey and anemia: ‘the results show an obvious increase in blood cells and hemoglobin’.

A simple recipe for relieving stress and can be used for bouts of insomnia is mixing 1 tbsp of honey in 4 tbsp of warm water (not boiling).

On a more aesthetic approach, honey has also been used for thousands of years for cosmetic purposes. It’s antibacterial and calming properties make it excellent for the skin – both internally and externally. Honey has been used to soften skin, smooth fine lines, soften pores, and as an antibacterial calms and heals acne. I’ve used pure honey for facials for many years. Simply warm up the honey and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes and rinse with warm water. Very soft skin!

The following is a recipe Egyptians used for make-up:

  • eyepaint for overnight – kohl, goose fat, green eye paint, lapis lazuli, honey, ochre, applied to lids

China had many cosmetic uses as well using honey as an ingredient for anti-aging:

  • beauty drink to increase elasticity: make a tea out of dates, longans, American ginseng, and honey
  • day/night cream for reducing wrinkles and soften skin: dilute honey with a little water then add powdered pearl

A few words about pasteurization: The heat used in pasteurizing honey is not high enough to kill the botulism spores. Plain and simple. What it does do is kill the enzymes and other nutritious values of honey. All the pasteurization does is give honey a longer ‘liquid’ shelf life. Which is ridiculous in itself as honey’s natural antimicrobial and antibiotic attributes keep it viable for a very long time. For instance, the honey found in tombs that is still edible. Yes, really. All honey, whether pasteurized or not should not be fed to children under 14 months old. So skip the pasteurization, don’t let the Man scare you. Eat your honey, baby! (as long as your over 14 months old)

In closing, here are some tips for caring for your honey –

  • do not keep in metal containers – use glass or porcelain
  • do not store in the fridge – the drop in temp will lower the medicinal values
  • don’t worry about honey spoiling – it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties can preserve it for …well, centuries. Archaeologists found a clay jar of honey in a tomb that was 3000 years old…the honey was fine.
  • Be sure to not let water get into your honey jar as this may cause the honey to ferment
  • Do not heat honey beyond 140 degrees, high heat will damage the nutritional content

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