Category Archives: Holistic Health

The Herbalist

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Sooo…how does someone who chooses to live life off the beaten path navigate one of the most commercialized days of the year?

Well, I can’t speak for everyone; but I started my quest to “enhance the romance” early this year with a trip to The Herbalist.

Located just a few minutes away from U-Village in Seattle, I found this holistic slice of heaven…

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When you walk in, the aromatherapy welcomes you. The interior is clean, contemporary, bright, and organized. I could have set up a cot in the back and moved in…

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Oils, flower essences, and herbs…OH MY!!!

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They always have a “tea of the day” for customers to try. I tried the Aphrodi-Tea.  Delicious!

So many goodies, so little time. *sigh*

They had a special display in the front of the store, specifically geared towards Valentine’s Day. And this, my friends, is where I went in for the kill…

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BAM!!!  Unrepentant Rose Soap, a box of the Aphrodi-Tea, the Sacred Union flower essence, and Rose Hydrosol came home with me. I could have acted a fool in there, but I managed to control myself.

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The owner, Tierney Salter, and her employees are so helpful and knowledgeable about their products. I will definitely return. Until then, I am glad that they take orders and ship.

If you’re in Seattle, check out The Herbalist. Or place an order and have them ship it to you. However you choose to do it, just do it!

Here’s to your holistic health, and have a great weekend!

Aria’s Birth Story

As a holistic health enthusiast, I wanted the most natural pregnancy and birthing experience possible.  After all, I considered this another leg of my health journey.  Although my pregnancy was confirmed by an OB/GYN, I quickly left her care to pursue my dream.  This led me to the Bethany Birthing Center in Phoenix, where I received all of my prenatal care and, ultimately, delivered my first child.

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Since I love water, swimming, and taking baths, a water birth seemed like an ideal way for me to experience natural childbirth.  Although I did interview a few home birth midwives toward the end of my pregnancy, I decided to stick with my original plan to go to Bethany.  My husband and I both felt more comfortable with this plan for our first child.  We figured that if things went well, then I could do a home birth the next time around.  My estimated due date (EDD) was July 18, 2006.  After a few days of pre-labor symptoms, things got really interesting on July 16th:

I missed church that day, due to cramps, contractions, low backache, and other “fun stuff.”  My symptoms worsened as the day progressed, so I tried to relax in an aromatherapy bath that afternoon.  At around 5:30pm, I felt a contraction radiate around my torso.  This was a major turning point (Hello, active labor! ).  My husband and I consulted with my doulas, then he called the birthing center to find out if/when we should come.  Meanwhile, Doula Michelle came to our house and labored with me in my room from 7:30pm – 8:30pm.  She really saved the day, since my other doula was too far away and had to meet us at the birthing center.  On our way to Bethany, Michelle labored with me in the back seat of my car with my husband driving and my mom riding in the front.  Longest. Hour. Ever.

We arrived at Bethany at about 9:30pm.  There, I went to the restroom, then was checked by a nurse.  I was 5 – 6 cm dialated.  After I requested the jacuzzi room, the tub was filled, my lavender candle was lit, and my music turned on.  I continued to labor in the jacuzzi:  I laid on my side, blew raspberries, brayed like a horse, cried out, squatted, wagged my tailbone, did cat/cow stretches, and breathed deeply.  At this point, my fingers were pruning and I wondered if I could make it through.  The baby’s heartbeat remained strong and steady, which was a relief.  Labor hurt but not as much as I thought it would.  Finally, Midwife Connie checked me and offered to push the remainder of my cervix out of the way so that I could deliver my baby.  I agreed and she did.   My birthing team instructed me to hold up my legs, sit on the edge of the jacuzzi seat, and push.  At first, I felt awkward, but I finally settled into a position and went for it.  I was offered the opportunity to get out of the tub, but I refused to leave the water.   It really took the edge off of my labor.  8 pushes and 40-50 minutes later, I felt the baby’s head, which motivated me to push her out.  This was a magical moment for all of us.  My daughter was born, I helped to lift her out of the water, and placed her on my stomach.  Afterwards, I settled into bed, breastfed and rested.  What an amazing experience!

Though I had some postpartum challenges, my daughter’s birth was textbook-perfect, which is why I wasn’t “scurred” to home birth my son, 22 months later.  I’m so grateful that I was able to labor in the comfort of my own home, make the 1-hour trip to the birthing center, and have a relatively smooth delivery after 8 hours of labor.  I remember the soft glow and smell of my lavender candle, the soothing sound of Deva Premal’s singing, the comfort of the warm water, and the support of my doulas, my husband, and my mom.  This provided me with the perfect “home away from home” experience.  The 5-month road to recovery was a long one.  But my daughter and I went on to overcome many obstacles, heal, and bond.  And I couldn’t be more proud of my “peanut.”

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Happy Birthday, Aria!

Spring Into Action!

Do you need to drink more water?  I do.  But our tap water is gross; and our reverse osmosis water is stripped of everything: bad contaminants and healthy minerals.  And I would rather not buy bottled water since it’s not eco-friendly, the sources are questionable, and it leaves a plastic aftertaste in my mouth.  Ugh…

Harding Spring

Harding Spring

For a healthy way to quench your thirst, what you COULD do is find a natural spring near you.  Find A Spring is a resource dedicated to helping people locate springs worldwide, many of which have been tried and tested by others.  Spring water is cleaner than drinking water, mineral-rich, tastes great, and…wait for it…FREE!  So take your jug, bottles, canteens, and go get some of this cool, refreshing, deliciousness.  Your body with thank you, and beg for more.

Me filling one of my Eastar BPA-Free 1-gallon jugs at Harding Spring.

Me filling one of my Eastar BPA-Free 1-gallon jugs at Harding Spring.

Personally, I go to Harding Spring near Sedona, AZ.  When my family retreats to this area for some R & R, we make collecting spring water a group activity.  It’s fun for all of us, and we savor every drop.  We always meet locals there, who have been collecting spring water for years.  If we lived closer, I’d be there EVERY. SINGLE. DAY…TRUST!  In the meantime, I add fruit pieces, fresh-squeezed citrus, or other supplements to our reverse osmosis water; and I look forward to checking out other springs during my upcoming travels.

Another view of me collecting Harding Spring water.

Another view of me collecting Harding Spring water.

Stay hydrated, my friends!

Salt

Growing up, I suffered from seasonal allergies.  For years, I was MISERABLE.  By the time I graduated from college, my symptoms had mysteriously subsided.  What?!?  I have no idea how I managed that, but who am I to question a modern-day miracle?  These days, I am mildly irritated during allergy season.  However, my family’s allergies are much worse than mine.  So, what do we do?

The Salt Chalet Arizona is located in this building in Scottsdale.

The Salt Chalet Arizona is located in this building in Scottsdale.

For an alternative treatment that will have you (literally) breathing a sigh of relief, what you COULD do is try salt therapy.  Salt therapy (a.k.a. speleotherapy or halotherapy) helps to relieve allergies, respiratory issues, and skin conditions.  My husband shared his experience at Salt Chalet Arizona, where he went through a series of treatments to deal with an extreme case of eczema and allergy symptoms.  I’ve wanted to try this, and recently took the plunge.

Kickin' back in my zero gravity chair, ready to do some deep breathing...

Kickin’ back in my zero gravity chair, ready to do some deep breathing…

As with many natural therapies, it takes time to heal.  The more you do it, the more benefits you receive.  And who doesn’t want good benefits these days?  I have also found that it can take a couple of sessions to understand how to make the most of alternative treatments.  For example, during my first Salt Chalet experience, an elderly gentleman with COPD pointed out to me that I should breathe in the fine salt particles through my mouth (no filter), and breathe out through my nose.  I had been doing the opposite!  So, when I went to my second appointment, I applied this intel accordingly.  As a result, I had a more productive session.

The view from my zero gravity chair.

Nothing fancy to see here.  It’s all about the therapeutic benefits of the Dead Sea salt.  The comfortable chairs, light therapy, and relaxation music help to create a spa-like experience though.  And I’m always down with that!  For information about other salt room locations, check here and here.

Looking to “spice up” your allergy, respiratory, and skin protocol?  Just add salt.

 

 

 

Float On…

I love getting 90-minute therapeutic massages to relieve stress and muscle tension, and usually won’t settle for anything less in duration.  In fact, I already have a session scheduled during an upcoming trip to Sedona, and I can’t wait!  However, I also enjoy trying alternative therapies that promote health and well-being.

For a euphoric experience in a unique environment, what you COULD do is try flotation therapy.  Flotation therapy (or Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy) relieves pain, stress, and aids relaxation.  Earlier this year, when I was searching for an unconventional spa treatment for my birthday, my husband shared that one of his clients raved about True REST Float Spa.  So, I scheduled an appointment on my special day.  At first, I struggled to quiet my mind.  But once I settled into a comfortable position and focused exclusively on my breathing, I went into a deeper state of relaxation until I was out.  On my way out, I could feel my body release a LOT of tension in my lower back.  Hallelujah!  At the end of my 1-hour session, I emerged from my pod relaxed, refreshed, and HOOKED.  I can best summarize my first float as follows:

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1 REST pod + 1200lbs of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) + 200 gallons of skin temperature water + relaxation music + LED lights = a womb-like experience that helped me find my happy place.

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I returned a couple of weeks later, and brought a friend.  ‘Nuff said.

You can find more information about flotation and float center locations near you here.

If you don’t float, now you know.

 

Kendan’s Home Birth Story

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After successfully water birthing my daughter at the now-defunct Bethany Birthing Center in Phoenix, I decided to “bring the party to my house,” by home birthing my son.  I chose to work with home birth midwife, Wendi Cleckner, of Freedom and the Seed.  Wendi is a positive person, a nurturer by nature, and a hippie at heart.  LOVE HER!!!  Not once did I doubt her ability to help me have the birth of my dreams.  However, I wanted to have a back-up plan, just in case things didn’t go according to our plan.  In order to do that, my OB/GYN required me to do co-care, which meant dividing my prenatal visits between her and Wendi for the duration of my pregnancy.  Still, I set my intention on having a textbook-perfect home birth with the help of Wendi and her team.

My OB/GYN saw me exclusively, until the end of my first trimester.  She confirmed my pregnancy and calculated my conception date as August 3, 2007, and my estimated due date (EDD) as April 25, 2008.  I questioned both of these dates, yet my OB/GYN decided not to change them.  According to my calculations, my conception date was between August 13 – 15, 2007, not August 3rd as my OB/GYN asserted.  Ummm…that’s a 10 to 12-day difference!  Furthermore, both of my ultrasounds indicated that my baby would arrive during the first week of May.  When my EDD of April 25, 2008, came and went, I felt discouraged, depressed, and doubtful.  Just as I suspected would happen, my OB/GYN’s office was blowing up my phone trying to schedule me for a series of tests because my baby was “late.”  My midwives assured me that my baby would “come when he comes,” and told me not to worry.  I went deep, deep, deep undercover to wait it out.  Sure enough, on May 5, 2008, things started to unfold…11 days after my EDD (Do I know my body, or what?!?).

On May 6, 2008, I woke up to bloody show and Braxton-Hicks contractions.  I rested a lot that day, and tried to stay hydrated and nourished.  In order to stay occupied and encouraged, I spent time surfing the internet and reading magazines .  That evening, my husband and daughter went to the gym, and my mother went to visit a friend.  While I was home alone, my contractions grew more intense and I went into active labor.  After timing some of my contractions, I called my doula to inform her of my condition, then continued to labor in bed on my own.  When my family returned home, I was in labor with contractions less than 10 minutes apart.  My husband called my doula and told her to come to our house.  Our daughter had already gone to bed, and was sound asleep.  At 11:00pm, my doula arrived and helped me through my labor using aromatherapy, massage, and breathing techniques.  After a while, she called my home birth midwives and told them to come over.  The midwives rested in my living room while I labored in bed, on the toilet, and in the bathtub, with the help of my doula.  Ultimately, I chose the tub as my final birthing place.

In the tub, I focused on finding a comfortable birthing position, breathing, and relaxing.  My pain was intense, barely tolerable at times, but ultimately manageable.  I “rode the pain wave” by taking deep breaths between contractions; and blowing raspberries and making low sounds while exhaling.  After laboring in the tub for a while, crying out loud, and [secretly] wondering how much more I could take, I asked my doula to have the midwives check me.  Wendi and Sarah came into my master bathroom, checked me, measured me at 8cm, and encouraged me to try some practice pushes without holding back.  Hesitant at first, I decided to go for it.  After a couple of practice pushes, my body went into convulsions and my son began to emerge.  I felt his head crown under water, then pop out suddenly.  Wendi encouraged me to push him out the rest of the way.  I yelled, moaned, and delivered my son in a side-lying position with one leg in the air on May 6, 2008, at 2:32am.  Wendi swirled him around the tub, then placed him on my chest.  He weighed 8lbs 8oz and measured 21″.

My son’s home birth was a powerful and empowering experience.  It is one of my most significant accomplishments to date.  I am so grateful that I was able to deliver a healthy, beautiful, baby boy, in the comfort of my own home, without any complications.  After enduring 7 hours of labor, I had a quick and relatively easy delivery, complete with candlelight, relaxation music, 2 midwives, 1 doula, my husband beside me, and my mom looking on.  Today, I celebrate my son’s arrival.  Happy Birthday, Kendan!

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5 Essential Oils To Have On-Hand

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Image courtesy of wikiHow

I was first exposed to essential oils 12 years ago, during a massage appointment with a therapist who worked exclusively with oils.  She created custom aromatherapy blends on the spot, based on her clients’ physical and emotional needs.  Her use of essential oils, combined with her bodywork technique, was AH-MAZING!!!  I was inspired to complete a massage therapy certification program, work at a spa, and start my own business.

Although I no longer practice massage, I incorporate aromatherapy into my family’s regimen for health and well-being.  Here are 5 essential oils that I luuurve, a few of the benefits that they offer, and examples of how I use them:

1.  Lavender

A must-have in any essential oil kit, this is one of the safest, most versatile oils.  Lavender is calming, helps soothe and heal skin conditions, and is anti-bacterial.  For stress relief, I like to place a few drops in my hands, rub them together, cup them under my nose, and breathe deeply.

2.  Peppermint

One of the most widely accepted oils, peppermint is a digestive aid,  stimulant, and immunity booster.  I place a few drops in the toilet to relieve constipation, which was especially helpful to me post-partum.  Just sayin’…

3.  Eucalyptus

This oil is one of the most popular and is useful for treating respiratory ailments, relieving congestion, and purifying the air.  I place 10-20 drops in a vaporizer to remedy nasal and chest congestion due to colds, flu, and allergies.  It works well overnight, plus it creates a “spa-like” effect in your room.

4.  Bergamot

With its floral, citrus scent, bergamot is uplifting, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial.  I blend it with lavender, clary sage,  and water into a “calming” spritzer that I carry in my bag to use as needed.  Gotta love aromatherapy on-the-go!

5.  Rosemary

Rosemary is clarifying, improves circulation, and helps to relieve pain.  I recently placed some drops in a spray bottle with water and taught some aphids not to mess with my garden.  Buh-bye, pests!

A great way to learn more about essential oils, and to support local businesses, is to visit an herb shop near you.  Furthermore, your local herb shop has relationships with essential oil suppliers, and thus knowledge about the quality and source of the oils.  100% pure, therapeutic quality, organic essential oils are best.  Keep out of reach of children, and check contraindications on all oils.  When in doubt, consult your health care provider and/or a qualified and trained aromatherapy practitioner prior to use.

What are your favorite essential oils, and how do you use them?

 

A Moment in Hairstory

As a child, I had long thick hair.  Friends, family, and strangers alike often commented that they wanted my hair; and some even threatened to steal my pigtails!  They had nooooo idea what I went through.  I remember my mom, literally, breaking a comb while trying to detangle my “wig,” and how I dreaded getting my hair washed.  Eventually, my mom arranged to have my aunt relax my hair just before my 7th birthday.  Once I was “straightened out,” my mom and I both exhaled, and thus began my 22-year “addiction” to “creamy crack.”

After I subscribed to a holistic lifestyle, it seemed natural to address my hair care regimen.  Why spend all of this time, effort, and money to cleanse the inside of my body, yet continue to put toxic chemicals on my head so that I could have straight hair???  So, I embarked on a natural hair journey.  I read books and online forums, and I did a LOT of people watching accosting.  I literally stopped natural-haired women in the streets of downtown San Francisco to grill them about their hair.  “How do you like your natural hair?”  “How long have you been natural?”  “Who cut your hair for you?”  “How do you maintain it?”  Those poor women!  To say that I was on a mission is an understatement.

Since my hairstylist refused to give me the “Big Chop” *gasp*, she referred me to a natural hair specialist who was happy to cut my hair.  My appointment was scheduled for the day before my husband and I were set to travel to Spain for a 2-week vacation.  This would allow me to adjust to my new do in the presence of strangers.  On the big day, the stylist gathered my hair into a ponytail, told me to take a deep breath, then cut it off.  When she finished trimming, I rose from the chair a new woman.  I felt weird not having any hair, yet oddly liberated at the same time.  For the first time in a long time, I saw ME.  Look at the difference:

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It has been almost 18 years since I went natural, and I am thrilled to have reclaimed my health in this area.  And although I admire various styles worn by my fellow naturals, my super short hair suits my personality and active lifestyle.  As a mom, I want to encourage my daughter to embrace her hair and to take care of it…naturally.  To that end, I am constantly seeking ideas and advice from others who are more proficient in longer natural hairstyles.  I found more than enough natural hair info on curlynikki.com and naturallycurly.com to keep any natural-haired beauty or would-be natural occupied.  If you or someone you know are having a bad hair day, you’ll soon be loving your hair!

My Journey to Health

My journey began in San Francisco in 2000, when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal, Stage-4 pancreatic cancer. She was given 1 year to live.  Because she refused to do conventional treatments, my husband and I researched alternative therapies, one of which was the Gerson Therapy.  My MIL agreed to participate in the program, I volunteered to be her companion, and we traveled to the Gerson Clinic in Mexico for a 2-week stay. This experience changed saved my life.

As her companion, my role was to help my MIL through the Gerson Therapy, and to learn how to administer this alternative treatment when we returned home.  I chose to immerse myself in the program as well, to further educate myself and to show my complete support.  Through this immersion process, I learned about the connection between diet and health; I discovered the difference between organic whole foods and packaged, processed, and refined foods; and my eyes were opened to the dangers of environmental toxins.   In  following the Gerson diet for two weeks straight, I ate organic, vegan meals (meat- and dairy-free) in the cafeteria right alongside other cancer patients, all fighting for their lives, and consumed tall glasses of fresh-pressed vegetable juice at every meal.  Just as my MIL was asked to do, I ditched all of my chemical-laden personal care products.  I even did a couple of coffee enemas to detox my liver…a totally different way to have a java!  I was “all in,” and I think that my MIL really appreciated it.

At the Gerson Clinic, I bonded with my MIL in many ways:  I saw more of her than I ever thought I would, we had some very deep talks about our hopes and fears, and she humbly allowed me to serve and care for her (she was always serving others prior to her illness).  Together, we became part of a family with the other patients and their companions, who were also fighting to beat cancer – fighting to stay alive.  We cheered them on… and, occasionally, we cried with the companions of those who didn’t make it.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  It was truly the fight of our lives!  In addition, I watched the team of practitioners, along with Charlotte Gerson, as they tirelessly made their patient rounds and poured their hearts into caring for my MIL as a WHOLE person.  And can you imagine being treated by doctors and nurses as though you were the first and only patient on their schedule? It was so encouraging!

The lights came on for me personally, however, when I began to experience some startling and unexpected healing benefits from following the Gerson protocol: increased energy, greater mental clarity, improved digestion, clearer skin, and stronger nails, just to name a few.  I loved my results, and the community, so much that I didn’t want to leave.  Plus, I had come to realize that my husband and I had “toxic food” in our kitchen, and I was “scurred” to return home!  As someone who had poor eating habits and lots of digestive issues, I believed that God was trying to tell me something: I needed to change…radically.

Despite all of the efforts of the Gerson Clinic staff, my MIL’s cancer was too advanced and she was unable to recover.  Charlotte Gerson personally apologized to me for not being able to do more (Seriously?!?!  They did waaaaay more than we could have asked for or expected at home!).  She did say that if we continued the therapy at home, my MIL would have the most mental clarity, greatest amount of energy, the least amount of pain, and thus the best quality of life.  She was right.  My MIL had wonderful visits with all of her siblings, family, and friends; and she was virtually pain-free until the last week of her life.  I was by her bed side when she passed away at home on May 20, 2000.  One of the last things that my MIL expressed to me was that although she knew it was too late for her to recover, she felt encouraged that my experience with the Gerson Therapy opened the door for me to change my diet and lifestyle, and to improve my overall health and well-being. It did, I did, and I am sooooo grateful!

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Here is a pic of our “Gerson group” in March 2000, on the day of our departure from the clinic.  That’s my MIL with the white hair; and me standing next to her with hair!  See the guy in the baseball cap on the far right?  He’s British yogi, Neil Patel, of Chi Kri Yoga.  And I’m FIRED-UP to report that he is ALIVE and THRIVING, having beat the odds against sarcoma with Gerson Therapy!  Go, Neil!!!

 

 

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