Sunday, February 08, 2015

Valerian is an herb that's close to my heart. It's usually always the magical sounding herbal remedy tossed around in medieval stories for "sleeping draughts" that folks randomly pick along the roadsides while in transit with their gypsy caravans. It's developed a reputation for inducing deep, dreamy slumber, and with good reason. It's one of the oldest herbal remedies with documented medicinal use, spanning hundreds of years and countless generations. It's a tried and true ally for me, because sleeping is probably one of my favorite things to do, and on the random night when I can't sleep, my whole life seems unbearable. 

So here's the lowdown on Valerian (Valeriana officinalis):

Major constituents include essential oils, iridoid esters and valerenic acids (a non volatile sesquiterpene derivative).The valerenic acids are what you'll find to be "standardized" with some supplements to enhance potency.) 

Parts used include the rhizome with the rootlets. Yep - you'll know right away it's valerian root with that classic stinky gym sock smell. When purchasing, aim for the coarsely chopped roots/cut and sift that are a light tan colored. The roots are heat sensitive, so the lighter the color, the better they were processed and dried and not exposed to high heat. 

Primary Actions: Valerian primarily influences the nervous system (AKA a nervine) and has a remarkably calming and relaxing effect. It has an affinity for GABA and adenosine receptors which will help lull you off to sleep and relax you (alternately, coffee blocks these receptors, get it?). At higher doses, it's relaxing effect is ideal for people with sleep onset insomnia (in combination with behavior modifications) or who have a heightened sense of anxiety in the evening. However, tricky this little plant is because at low doses, it's actually stimulating. You'll need to take valerian for a couple of days to really see a solid effect, and you'll know within 7 days if this is the right herb for you or not. Aim to start at about 500mg and work up from there, paying close attention to how it is affecting you at different doses. 

When I'm recommending valerian, I'm either giving a tincture (hydroalcoholic extract), or mixing the chopped root in with a sleepy herbal tea combination, or sending folks away with a capsule if that's they're preferred method of taking it (like I said, it's got a pretty funky taste...). For capsules, I really like Gaia, Oregon's Wild Harvest, or Mountain Rose Herbs - all amazing quality products. There's also some other unique and delicious way to take valerian...and those recipes you'll be privy to with later posts :)

So lets paint a picture of the classic Valerian person: A generally robust, pale and sluggish person who is routinely exhausted with anxiety and stress on a daily basis. Generally they may run cold with slower circulation and difficulty making quick decisions. They may present an able-and-willing persona, but underneath they're significantly fatigued and possibly emotionally distraught. They're usually the people that are asked to do more than they can handle...and they're likely to say yes, even if they know it will deplete them. They may often get a dull, persistent afternoon headache and be cold to the touch. Sometimes they may literally feel too tired to sleep, and need the gentle nudge of valerian to hold their hand into their slumber land. 

Have you ever taken valerian and noticed a change? I'd love to hear from you about your experience!

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sometimes, in the dead of winter when I least expect it, a truly inspirational and wonderful weekend rolls around that just puts me in a singsongy mood and dormant ideas can flow freely...unencumbered by the normal, sluggish doubts surrounding winter time. I picture it sort of like all of the streams and rivers thawing in Narnia when spring starts to come around. My frozen over ideas and projects start to break free and suddenly look possible. It's been one of those weekends so far, and Sunday afternoon is proving to be a nice roundup of ideas - past, present and future. 

We spent the bulk of the weekend cooking - making lemon blueberry pancakes and black bean burgers and heaping pots of Kitchari and extra servings of fresh green broccoli and spanakopita. It was a gloomy Saturday, all rainy and gray here in Richmond. We had the lanterns lit in the house and the kitty and pup were curled up asleep most of the day in their usual cozy spots. It was the perfect day to clean out the old office and get paperwork out of the way (oh, taxes...). Keep what I need, get rid of the stuff taking up space. In the next month, Idea No. 1 is to re-design my office upstairs and make it a space I want to actually use. I'm making a giant chalk board to hang on the wall to keep track of past and future financials, and list the current and new ideas in full fledged view all the time (thanks to the lovely gals at Braid for that idea). We're building bookshelves out in the wood shop for my increasing collection of books, and collecting plants to turn the space into a room that encourages inspiration and hard/fun work. I think we're almost there. 

Idea No. 2 is setting up a legit weekly schedule. It's been a long time goal of mine to have a 4 day work week plus 1 extra day for office work, patient charting, email returns, idea formulating, odds and end round up and workshop planning. Starting February 1st, this will actually happen and I can hardly contain how exhilarating that prospect have time to finish and follow up with things and devote 100% of my creative and work energy to my business and things that bring me joy. I have never ever liked the feeling of being under the wire, crunched for time or juggling too many things. I like to have just enough on my plate to keep me busy and also allow lots of time for sleeping (a speciality of mine) and reading and play time and rest time. Having weekends and evenings to do that feels like a solid YES. This also means that I'll have a little extra time to play with new ideas that have been dormant for years. So with some recent encouragement from friends, colleagues and even strangers, this leads me to:

Idea No. 3 which is tea formulations. For sale. To anyone who wants 'em. (!!!!!). Sure, I put herbal formulas together all day long for people who come to see me at my office, and these formulas are hardly EVER the same twice. Everyone gets something different depending on what they come in with. But I've had a few herbal formulas floating around in my personal tea arsenal for a long time that I always go back to for myself and to give away as gifts. With some tweaking and professionally rustic/badass packaging, they might just find themselves to a wider audience, but still keeping it on a relatively small scale. So I spent some time this weekend playing with formulas and packaging ideas. There's still a long way to go until perfection, but the ideas (and flavors!!) feel amazing. 

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

The beginning of this year feels so exciting for me. I've established this year as "The Year of Improvement", and my mind is abuzz with new and exciting projects, collaborations and goals. One of the (many) things that keeps me continually inspired and on track with my business vision and daily practice is filling my shelves with amazing books that feed my body, mind and soul. Every month I add new ones and sometimes come back to the old tried and true ones. Here's what's in my book nook this month:

For the Body:
A Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari | Maya and her books are always on my radar and I always go back to them when I need some grounding in my nutrition and Ayurvedic practice. Her recipes are amazingly therapeutic and refreshing in their simplicity. This particular book is the ultimate reference for following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle practice that's ideal for the novice to the seasoned practitioner. I often utilize her recipes and dosha menus for my own patients in their treatment plans and haven't had a single person yet dislike any of the recommendations.

GATHER Journal (fall/winter 2015) | I was introduced to this journal over the holiday and it's so adorably perfect I can't stop looking at it. Filled with "seasonal recipes and exceptional ideas" (and beautiful photos), it's bountiful with new food ideas for January that I'm already drooling over, like Magical Mushroom Risotto and Smoky Lentil Soup with Pumpkin. Yes. 

For the Mind:
Sacred Commerce by Matthew & Terces Engelhart | This book was recommended to me by a friend a couple of months ago and over the holidays was gifted to me (thank you, Universe) by my Mom. I read through it in a single day, and will continue to read it over and over to let all of the gems sink in as I start this new year for my business and personal growth. It feels so right to embark on a business venture with a foundation based in gratitude and open communication - two principles that made into into my yearly ideal wheel for my daily living. 

For the Soul:
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince | Because I hopped on the Harry Potter fan wagon way late...and was apparently too busy being a die hard Lord of the Rings fan. I tore through the first five HP books in the past three months and....this one is nearly done already. Not that I imagine any of you have neglected to read these in the past 10 years, but if you haven't, just mosey on down to the bookstore and seriously get started. So much adventuring. 

What's in your book nook this month that's keeping you inspired?
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Thursday, December 04, 2014

I am often instinctively called Ginger when people don’t know or don’t remember my name. Either it’s a subconscious nod at my gingery red hair, or I just have a face that subtly hints, “Ginger!”. Either way, it’s been years and years since my friendship with ginger began, and this delicious, warming, cozy herb and I are tight allies for life.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is ideal for those folks who run cold at the core. Who dread the colder winter months because even their bones feel cold, and they cringe at the thought of stepping outside in the blistery snow storms. Their hands and feet are always on the “Jack Frost” side, and their digestion may run a little slow. Ginger is also fantastic for those, in Ayurvedic philosophy, who are considered to be of a Vata constitution and could use some grounding and warmth. Ginger has a naturally pungent and almost spicy taste that is absolutely revitalizing to your entire body, getting things moving and circulating both deep in your core, and also to your peripheral hands and feet.

Herbs, like people, have a strong personality and should ideally be used where they are most efficient and most needed. Ginger is hot - pungent and hot - and works best for people who are cold in order to bring about that balance. (Hint: I wouldn't recommend using ginger if you have active inflammation happening somewhere in the body, as this excess heat can exacerbate ulcerations or bowel disorders). So, do you run cold at the core, or cold in your periphery (like cold hands and feet)?

Dried ginger, taken as a tincture or tea, is best for warming and nurturing the core of the body (especially for digestion). Fresh ginger, taken as tea, is best for warming the extremities and awesome for that first stage of a cold where you need to push those pathogens out of the body by producing a superficial sweat (this is call a diaphoretic action). Fresh ginger can also be taken daily as a tonic herb to not only keep you warm and grounded, but also to modulate and enhance your digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. It is also a broad spectrum anti-inflammatory for the musculoskeletal system, supporting the muscles, joints and ligaments. (As a side note, Vata’s tend to run a little dry and…brittle, if you will. They may often be susceptible to arthritic conditions or tight muscles, hence why ginger is a great ally for them).

My favorite way to take ginger is as a fresh tea.

Take about 1 inch fresh ginger, peel and coarsely chop. Place in 2 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove and let simmer (with a covered lid) for 15 minutes. This is called a decoction, and is ideal for those tough portions of an herb like stems, roots, rhizomes or bark. Strain and put in your favorite mug to sip on those chillier days.

I also LOVE taking crystalized ginger with me when I travel. Traveling is one of the very few things that really puts me on edge and just gloriously unravels my otherwise calm and collected persona. Flying especially is the worst. Oh my gosh I hate flying. Putting a piece of crystalized ginger in some hot water and sipping on that brings me right back into my peaceful aura and helps put me at ease again. Like I said - we’re tight allies. 

What’s your favorite way to take (or eat!) ginger?

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Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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Richmond, VA 23220
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