Anti-aging politics, self-care and almost a recipe.

“I was just starved, though, to be visible to anybody.”-Joy Ladin, Gender and the Syntax of Being

Oh, my head. Or more specifically, my face. And all of our faces. Here they are, representing us.
How much of our culture is based on faces? Head shots, mug shots, swipe right for the hottie. Profile pictures on everything, from Facebook to Twitter to my “About Me” e-mail. Buy this thing to get a better face. Cut it, love it, hate it, inject it with botulinum. It’s too dark, too light, “uneven”, never good enough.
It is a source of so much of our personal anxiety.
I have one, too. A face, that is. And I think about it, and want it to be lovely.
I want to be seen, but not too seen. Or, seen for all the “right” reasons.
I’ve been thinking about faces and aging, lately. A lot. And how age can, potentially free us from this obsession with how we look, and how that sounds kinda great. Or it can do the opposite.
I looked up herbs for anti-aging, and you know, it seems to be a big industry. And it seems to be mostly full of crap. But it’s not just that a lot of the treatments don’t work as promised but that it is based on a false concept.
The anti concept.
Aging is not, by definition, a battle. It’s not something being done to us, independent of us. It IS us, cells plus time.
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But one can find a lot of articles on “___ # of herbs for anti-aging”. A LOT.
When we, as herbalists and healers, promote anti-aging as an entire category of herbal products what are we saying about time? What are we saying about age? What are we saying about our face?
Aging is not an abstraction. It is just a process. A natural cycle. It is many things to many people.
Some degree of observation (aka people-watching) does tell me, though, that there are a lot of different ways to age. There is the way in which we basically give up and wait to die. There is the way in which we attempt, at all costs, to be seen as something else, to hide, to battle the process. And there is the way in which we wrap ourselves in sensual pleasures, dive into the process, put aside our self-limiting fears of doing it wrong and finally just be who we are, wrinkles and all.
We can’t actually age well if we were not living well before aging became a concern. It is deliciously radical, punk even, to see oneself as whole and worthy, to identify as a process, to live in the culture without internalizing the constant messages that we need to battle our own bodies, not just today but throughout our entire lives.
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“The average woman is so beat down and besieged [by images of youth].” -Iris Apfel

And what is REALLY “anti-aging”? What keeps us from giving up? It’s not just what you apply to your skin. It is not a list of the top 10 spices you can take. It is a steadfast refusal to lose our sense of ourselves, our curiosity, our participation in the world around us. It is refusing to (figuratively) cut our genitals off from the rest of our bodies, or to dis-embody and float off into a world of caring more about The Price is Right or “kids these days” than we do about feeding our own senses.
It is the self-care we do out of love, not fear. The movement that keeps us strong and well. And the connections we have built up and maintained-with friends, lovers, our passions, the Earth and our own rich inner lives.
Oh, and it’s fiber.
It is indeed a paradox that I want to balance total self-acceptance with constant self-improvement, but they don’t have to be in opposition with each other. I’d love to hear how others are balancing this within their own lives, now and moving forward through age and time.
Ah, the ephemeral nature of life.
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Ok, so there is the dramatic stuff. Now let’s get to the juicy bits: my current favorite skincare product. Want to know how to make it? I am a huge fan of very straightforward, stripped-down products which are also luxurious and delightful. I like to do more with less, I like that which does “double-duty”, I like to pack light.
My personal skin-care story is that I have both super-sensitive skin and jumpy hormones, and therefore I am often trying to soothe the angry skin beast. I have tried many things and I do believe that most skincare should be internal–hydration, nutrition, supportive bitters, movement, laughter, sleep and stress management are the ideal long-term plan for most of us.
But anyway, I still wanted the perfect face wash.
I had tried straight coconut oil, straight honey and straight clay powder, all of which worked fine alone, but not amazing and not super user-friendly. Then I discovered something called “The Honey Mud” which combines all 3 and looks amazing…for 80-something dollars a jar. It’s a nice jar, but that’s more than I personally budget for such things.
I’ve now messed around with creating my own, and it’s so luxurious, so delightful and so easy to use that I’m moved to share the “recipe”. ( I use that word very loosely, but I know that recipe = clickbait so here it is.) It is in “parts” which means that YOU tailor that concept to the amount of product you’d like to make.
1 part each of:
raw coconut oil (yes, you can use a different high-quality oil or combo if desired.)
raw honey–(yes, it has to be raw if you want the enzymes and such, don’t ask if it doesn’t, just try it.)
clay-dry powder-I used 1/2 pink Rhassoul and 1/2 bentonite. There is a lot of info available about types of clay, basically some are more or less drying. Use your favorite or get a few and experiment. It’s cheap.

Put these things in a Cusinart or blender and add liquid to thin. Just, you know, blend, check, add a little liquid, repeat. You’re going for a consistency that is goopy and perfectly apply-able.
I used hydrosols as my liquid here-rose, and some cucumber. I love yarrow hydrosol if you can find it. Chamomile, maybe. Use what YOU like, and what you have. You could use nearly any herbal infusion as the liquid, or buttermilk if you will keep it cold.
I also added Cacao essential oil because I find it very pleasurable. Add whichever EO or combo you like, if desired. Or not.
I do not believe that external applications of Eos or herbs are necessary for daily skin care, or that they will magically fix your skin, contrary to marketing copy. But delicious smell is a thing people like.
And, at the risk of stating the obvious, put it in a jar and use it 1-2 times a day to wash your face. Can be left on as a “treatment”, I guess to increase general loveliness, and can be eaten in case of apocalypse scenarios.
Make it, love it, give it, sell it, just don’t tell yourself that it will fix you. Cause you’re great and don’t need to be fixed, and a product isn’t actually going to do it anyway.
Oh–and go watch Advanced Style, an amazing movie about fabulous women over 60 with a wonderful companion book by Ari Seth Cohen.

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Someone, Give me a Sign! Part 1

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The other day I ran into a bear. Literally, I was running along  and flushed a little bear out of the nearby underbrush and up a tree. It was very exhilarating, and I deeply appreciate the experience. However, someone later told me it must be a sign, it must be “good bear medicine”. Is it?

I did a little research and found a huge industry based on animal spirits and signs. {note: all are actual quotes from the internet.} Apparently any animal “calling” to us is a sign. “Every animal has significance.” “We all have animal guides.”

Apparently “we are drawn to an animal because they are drawn to us.” “There are no coincidences.” “Many times animals enter your life to help you overcome difficult transitions.”

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“Dogs stand near the road to get my attention.” “If you’ve had more than one [animal] bite, consider this a Spirit sign.” “When birds fly into my glass door there’s something I need to look at.”

“Every single feather that you find is a sign.”

OK. I want to believe in signs. Theoretically, I want to believe animals are dropping dead in order to give me what I need. I want to believe that everything that attracts me is due to vibrations that all conspire to support me.

But HOLY HELL is that a human-centric, egocentric and delusional model.

Seeing a bird in your yard might mean that you have bought a bird feeder and filled it with bird food. It might mean that you have grown a lot of plants that attract birds, such as Asters, or live near a lot of habitat that birds like, such as water, birdhouses, or little safe areas that they can hang out in. Seeing a dead bird might mean that you have a cat or live near one, or that the bird had a disease. Are the flies on the dead bird a sign? The maggots? The vultures? The bacteria that breaks it down?

Seeing a feather might mean that you keep chickens, or a neighbor does.

Seeing a bear in your yard might mean that you have some very juicy garbage and the bear is hungry. Or maybe he’s going to provide his spiritual signage to another person, and your yard is a handy shortcut.

I believe there could be some confirmation bias involved in this process. We choose what to see as signs and what to ignore. A hawk is a spirit guide, a pigeon is a nuisance. A bear is blessing us, a mosquito is ruining our evening.

We can’t take every darn beaver as a sign from the Universe while failing to see every plastic shopping bag stuck in a tree as such.

And yes, I saw a bear on Friday, but then I saw an empty can of Chef Boyardee ravioli and a pair of rumpled underpants while hiking on Sunday.

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But honestly, I believe it IS a sign. All of it. It is a sign of engagement. A sign of curiousity. A sign that I went outside!

It is a sign that the world is terrible and beautiful, dangerous and nutritive, raw and confusing and complex, and that we are in it, we are of it, not just observers.

Sandor Katz says “Sustainability is participation” and perhaps it applies to signs, too.

Intuition is participation. Signs are participation.

Relating to animals, plants, minerals, this could be a sign that you are participating in the world around you. Interpreting the world around you. Devoting your time and attention to observation. And this could potentially be a beautiful process, a way to feel supported.

And humans have been using animals in our stories since memory began, observing them, using animals to inspire our movements, our identity, our sexuality, our ideas about power and art and spirituality, and that is a sign of our amazing imagination.

Or it could be a sign that you are shockingly egocentric, extremely careless, unable to apply critical thinking or so caught up in wishing for a sign that you can’t see that we are animals too, that our power animal just might be the bacteria that really wears the pants in this relationship and that we can’t just pendulum our way to liberation….

Ultimately, of course, we can choose to interpret everything we see through any lens we choose, consciously or not. If choosing a power animal gives one good feelings, what is the harm? I honestly don’t know, and I feel like I have more questions than answers. But for now, I am going to laugh to myself about my vision of the bear I saw telling all of her friends about how I was a sign, a sign that humans are running around in yoga pants and OMG you shoulda seen her face when I ran up the tree.

You’re welcome, MS. Bear.

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If this schlock is clean, I’d rather be dirty.

Perhaps you have seen the word clean thrown around a lot lately. It is having its moment, again. Heck, clean living hasn’t enjoyed this much popularity since the graham cracker saved us all from masturbatory hell!

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There are a lot of books on Amazon such as Clean Food, Clean eating, Eat Clean, Live Well, Oh She Glows (eyeroll), Clean Food-Amazing Body, Pure Food, Food Rules and Clean Start. There are products too: a Clean Energy patch, Clean Energy Pills, an Amazing Miracle Cleanse And Runa Clean Energy drink.

Fun Amazon fact:  people who bought these items also bought a family-size box of disposable latex gloves. Infer what you’d like from that information.

So this brings up two of my very favorite issues. What is energy and what is clean. The energy piece makes me wonder why we have this cultural expectation that we are all supposed to live in this energized cheerful positive hell, never stopping or napping. It is a depleted state which is based on delusion. Real energy comes from rest, nourishment and a movement practice.

There is nothing inherently better or “cleaner” about using a caffeine patch or Guayasa tea for energy compared to a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

“Clean, focused, balanced energy”…sounds like buzzword bullshit to me.

Now, the deeper issue is what is clean. The whole concept is based on our viewing ourselves as dirty, as broken. Because CLEAN implies that what is not clean is therefore  DIRTY. Religious concepts of original sin, body pollution and pleasure-phobia have seeped deeply into our culture to the point where we often don’t even see them. We tremble in fear of being dirty in any way, from body odors to buttholes and go to extremes to avoid what we see as germs.

The result is a judgmental, holier-than-thou approach to diet and a bonus to the book industry.

The result is a heck of a lot of “othering”.

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So now all these things have been labeled as dirty: meat, grains, coffee, spices, sugar, salt, processed foods, alcohol, GMOs, all non-organic foods, cooked foods, alliums.

These foods make you less spiritual, less sexy, less glowing, angry, lusty, fat, stupid, un-evolved.

I think it is time to talk back to the overuse of “clean”, people.

I think it is time to admit that we are all dirty, and we like it.

We are setting up a binary that doesn’t exist. There does not have to be labels of clean and dirty on people, on foods or on your colon. We don’t have to put others down in order to raise ourselves up.

I do support all people in making healthy changes. I support your spiritual practices, your weird-ass teas and label-examinations. I support choosing sobriety, if needed.

BUT.

Let’s not let the marketing people manipulate us into judging each other as dirty. Let’s not loathe our own body parts and processes. Let’s not forget to delight in a sweet, sticky, meaty, lusty, sweaty life.  Let’s not hate ourselves for choosing a shot and a beer over a nasty-ass raw green juice on a hot summer night.

If we are the people being marketed to, if we are the people being represented by these products and concepts then it is up to us to say HEY, WORDS MATTER!! It is easy to dismiss words, to decline the debate. “Oh, words don’t matter.”

But they do.

There is no magical level of cleanliness that will save us from ourselves, no pure space that lives above marketing and critical thinking and debate, and perhaps that is for the best.

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Book Review: Yoga–Fascia, Anatomy and Movement

Disclaimer: I have a love-hate relationship with Yoga. I am a big fan of moving around, and Asanas are one interesting way to do so. But I find some Yoga to be extreme. I love inner journeys, but I cringe at “Namaste”. And ultimately, I am turned off by the Yoga industry, by the strong association I find with positive thinking and by what I feel is the cultural appropriation and/or misunderstanding aspect of Yoga’s roots.

But Yoga is, at this moment in time in the West, many things and some of them are worth hanging onto, and I believe we can acknowledge these issues and move on.

So this is the personal context in which I was searching for a book to add to my movement-book-collection. I found that the majority of the Yoga books were either focused on looks, such as weight loss or the mysterious concept of “glowing”. Or had a spiritual angle, which I prefer to avoid.

I found Yoga-Fascia, Anatomy and Movement by Joanne Sarah Avison on Amazon. There were no reviews and only 1 copy available, and it was expensive compared to the other books I looked at, about 50.00. I’d never heard of the author, who according to her bio teaches in London, and it felt a little gamble-y to spend that much money on what I considered a longshot. But the foreword was written by Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains which is a groundbreaking and intense tome so I went for it.

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The result: the book is a masterwork. It is written for an audience of Yoga teachers–and I like that because I believe that if you want to really get into a subject, try to read books written for teachers of that subject. It’s got a whole different tone compared to books written for the masses–it’s an assumption that you, too, are passionate about this subject. There’s no feeling that she has to sell the tickets, cause you’re already on this bus.

Fascia is a newish subject, and one that I haven’t seen a lot of books about yet. I’d love to see a short, snappy, funny and photo-rich Fascia book with easy infographics that appeals to a wide audience…maybe it can come with a tennis ball and a  mat…but until then, we have to accept the challenge of more advanced works.

There are a few moments where I feel like she knows her subject so well that I am not quite getting it, but I suspect that is more my fault for not actually being a Yoga teacher. I haven’t been able to sit down and read it cover-to-cover, I keep jumping around from chapter to chapter, getting up to try things, taking time to think her ideas through. The book is as dynamic as the subject, which says a lot about her depth of knowledge.

I particularly liked that there are drawings and photos but no photos of very well-dressed super-perfect glowy people doing Asana on their stand-up paddelboard.

I particularly liked the back third movement section, and found that more accessible for entry-level people than some of the (albeit super interesting) theory.

And I appreciate that there is NO diet advice. At all. I have noticed many otherwise great movement or exercise books, such as Barefoot Walking and Strong Curves have large  sections on the authors’ ideas about food. Eat more, eat less, eat raw vegan, eat Paleo, eat this not that. Listen, writers, if I want a food book I will get one. Thank you to those who deliver movement content without assuming I need a diet!

Ultimately, I believe this book is going to be like the Velvet Underground, in which it quietly changes the world, becomes a favorite of those who are teaching and writing about t he subject and inspires a million people to start a band.

I am going to go ahead and suggest that if you have any interest in Yoga, movement, fascia, bodies or theory around these subjects you seek it out immediately.

Parasite panic.

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Did you know that everyone is FULL of parasites? 90% of us have “Candida”, nearly everyone is constipated “whether they know it or not” and an undiagnosed virus is sapping your vital force right now! You are toxic and every single problem you have is due to this fact. Unless it’s due to planetary mis-alignment, of course.
At least, that is what the internet says.
And it is very easy to debunk these claims. Because we are actually full of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and IT IS FINE. We are participating in a lifelong dance of waste elimination, our body usually has this under control and we are actually co-existing with most of our critters. In fact, a lack of symbionts can be as bad as an excess.
“Viruses are the most abundant obligate intercellular entities in our body.”-Pubmed.gov
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And it is easy to make fun of this stuff too.There seems to be a confusion between living with our natural symbionts and suffering from antagonistic parasitic or viral imbalances–which do happen but are not common and are not the source of all evil, and can usually be corrected.
There are some truly extreme claims being made in the world of parasite panic:
You get parasites from a handshake?
Parasites slowly eat away at your internal organs and poop toxic waste into your system?
ALL cancer is caused by an intestinal parasite?
THEY don’t want you to know!!!
Yeast overgrowth is keeping you drunk!
A dirty colon poisons the body from the inside out and makes us all… walking zombies?
Some of this stuff is literally just made up.

But here is the thing. There is a reason why this stuff resonates with so many people. The cleansing, detox and parasite-a-noia products are selling, at least some of them. And if we do not change the conversation, shed some light, open this issue up and air it out the rhetoric of Original Sin will continue to drive people to strive towards a delusional ideal of intestinal purity. Just like a parasite, health delusion thrives in silence and darkness.
So let’s observe the way our body is commonly framed in discussions about alternative healthcare.
Often the context is based on the idea that there is something WRONG with the body. The body is broken. You have fallen from health-grace. You are a victim.
The paradigm is based on the idea that you need to take something. Are you tired? “Sluggish”? Have a little gas? Do you have an itch or indigestion? Imperfect skin that doesn’t glow enough? Feel a tad grumpy? Take this!
These are not necessarily pathologies. These are normal reactions to having a body.
But often the entire business plan is built on promoting a fear and loathing of the body and its functions.
The people who wish to sell us these harsh cleanse products use our deepest fears, our discomforts and our individual and cultural misunderstanding of Science, Anatomy, Bacteria, the process of elimination and the way our body achieves homeostasis and balance to manipulate us into buying their products or clicking fearfully on their links. They promote a fragility mindset in which we must constantly be guarding against evil entities that are trying got destroy us.
It is exhausting.
The blog writers and Senna salespeople seem to know more about Psychology than basic Anatomy and use their knowledge of human behavior to induce PARASITE PANIC!!! and bring you into the CLEANSE CULT!!! “It’s God’s medicine! It’s health freedom! The medical system doesn’t want you to be well. “They” are covering this up. They will tell you this is wrong but I know it, only I have the truth!”
(But I have absolutely zero citations for my allegations!)
And unfortunately there are some real examples of the medical system causing harm or seeking to make money over caring for individuals, but to imply that no alternative healthcare practitioner would ever do that is just bizarre. Business exists, no shit.
And the fact is, their cleanse products and protocols suck.
A Super Tonic that you have to take every 15 minutes for several weeks?
Purgatives to get all the feces out with 3-5 bowel movements every day?
Oil of Oregano daily as a preventive?
A month-long juice cleanse?
Avoiding ALL carbs to starve parasites?
“mysterious Ancient Chinese herbal formulas”?
These products show a fundamental misunderstanding of the body and how it works as well as a shocking lack of basic problem-solving skills and a laundry-list of logical fallacies.

“But these products are natural!” Listen, I am a fan of natural. I love nature. But the definition of natural is very much open to interpretation. Not everything natural is good, and not everything “unnatural” is bad, this is a false binary that we shout about when it feels convenient and there is NOT always agreement on what is natural. For example,  “YOU’RE NOT AN ANIMAL SO DON’T HAVE SEX LIKE ONE!” Sometimes our ideas of what is natural and unnatural are a direct reflection of our personal or political hang-ups.

(And why are we so darn obsessed with poop anyway?)

Abusing natural herbs to fix non-problems which are allegedly caused by nature, which viruses and parasites certainly are, nature that is, feels like a huge red flag to me.
And natural products can absolutely do harm, induce side-effects, and damage the beneficial bacteria and intestinal lining.
Oh, and we can’t alkalize our way out of a prison of self-loathing.
If needed, a few doses of standardized medicine may take care of a problem that would take a month of high doses of herbal medicines–herbs are not always the best solution for every issue, and certainly not without a downside. Herbs can be abused, too.
So let’s talk about what is really going on here.
Your body is always eliminating waste. Occasionally a little support is needed and that is fine. Eat some fiber, great. Movement and hydration are the 2 easiest ways to keep things moving and flowing. Trust the process while gently moving stagnation. Sleep.

But if 85 or 90 percent of a given population “HAS” something, such as parasites or cellulite or wrinkles, it is NOT an epidemic. It is normal. I’d be more concerned with the freaks who don’t have it. What’s their deal?
You are not broken. Sticky feces are not currently destroying your life. These people say they promote health freedom, but you cannot be free if you are chained to self-loathing. You cannot be free if you fear your own butt.
This is not a battle between good and evil, my friends. You don’t win points with God or some mysterious forces for your intestinal purity. We don’t need to project fantasies of sparkly cleanliness onto the places that depend on moist darkness to work properly. We can’t purge and punish our way out of reality.
So let’s put aside the desire for an easy answer and get real.
Let’s admit that we are full of wonderful, delicious bacteria and viruses and symbionts and yeast and it is totally  normal.
And maybe instead of dissing those who are joining the cult of cleanse we can all examine how people are sometimes dismissed by standardized medicine, and how that feels. Let’s look at what drives people to seek out alternatives, for better or worse, and let’s note that Parasite Panic fills an emotional hole that is real.  Like joining a cult, people often seek answers out of a sense of desperation, out of disconnection, fear, confusion.
Let’s note that many of the symptoms that marketers attribute to parasitic attack are extremely similar to the symptoms of poorly managed stress and fear. Is it possible that we are inducing our own indigestion by dwelling in a fear state, constantly looking for signs that our colon is under attack?
Is it possible that our confirmation bias helps us feel GREAT that we are finally doing something–anything–about all the “toxic poison” collecting in our duodenum and ruining our “purity”?
Are we seeking a sense of identity, of belonging, or trying to correct greater cultural ills by exerting control over something in our own life? Are we trying to prove a point about health or behavior or conspiracy theories?
Ideologies can create realities. But true self-love means loving all of ourselves, inside and out, including the less shiny bits. We do not truly accept our body if we cannot accept that the colon stores feces.
And to me, a lot of these blogs and articles and ads have a terrifying lack of a sense of humor. Our body and its processes are fun and funny! Our symbionts are delightful and interesting and heck if we can’t see humor in poop then we really can’t see humor anywhere.
And parasite fear (for example) may point to a deep inner discomfort with our animal nature, an evolutionary fear of certain frightening insects or antagonists, an ancient obsession with belonging and “the other” and a misunderstanding of our basic intimate processes and desires.
There is no battle between good and evil being fought in your colon, but there just may be a marketing battle preying upon our ancient brains.
Some marketers claim that their cleanse will help you lose weight–even as much as 10 pounds overnight! But the best weight loss you might ever achieve is losing the weight of eons of shame over having a fabulous dirty body…and losing the fear of the symbiotic flora and fauna you live with.
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Get Boundless Energy with Herbs!

IMG_1915There seems to be a dearth of energy in the world today. At least you would think so if you spend 5 minutes on the internet or browsing “health” magazines at the bookstore. There appears to be an unlimited amount of products that claim to give us energy. How can we make sense of this? Is it really possible to create more energy by taking a pill or drink?
Let’s see what we can find…
“Insanely healthy energy!”
“Fat just falls off!” (WTF)
“7 Top herbs for an energy boost!”
“Nettles can give you as much energy as a cup of coffee!”
“Heavier foods use up more of our ‘digestive fire’, leaving us a little lethargic!”
“The culprit may well be a virus lurking, unidentified inside our body!” (They then suggest oil of oregano to destroy it.)
“Parasites are a hidden cause of fatigue!” (According to a ‘master herbalist’)
There are some creative products out there like:
Diet aid and energizer capsules
Peptime stimulant 357 magnum caplets (Hey, kids, what time is it? Pep time!)
Extreme power plus dreamlike weightless diet pill energy lose weight product (thanks, ebay)
Herbal energy plus (plus what?)
Fat burner 4x plus energy (“effortlessly melt away belly fat!”)
Thermogenix fat burner
Isogenix President’s Pak
And then we have chile peppers, grapefruit, nuts, green tea, adaptogens, juicing, bee pollen…
Ugh. First of all, any product can claim that it increases energy. This is one of the most vague, unmeasurable claims in the known universe. (Note that my claim is also unproveable.) But seriously, any person can say it. It’s like a creepy code. How can it be disproven? This vagueness is so perfect for marketers who prey upon our schlubby misery.

Just use testimonials:
“Oh, I never knew I could have so much energy!”
“Oh, my energy levels are through the roof now that I finally found the right combo of grapefruit and Chiles and Garcinia!”
This energy could come from the fact that you just blew 50 bucks on that bottle of pills and your confirmation bias insists that you feel great because you don’t want to feel like an idiot who just wasted 50 bucks.
Or from the way that humans respond to novelty. Every time you start something new it feels energizing because new things excite our ancient brains.
So, what is energy anyway? Where does it come from? What is wrong with just having a regular ol’ amount of energy? Why do we feel like we must constantly be bursting out of our blouses with this mysterious energy stuff?
And what are they REALLY saying?
In my opinion, gaining solid healthy energy is more about taking away what is not working than adding products to produce more. Stop wasting the energy you do have with worry and bullshit. Sleep like your life depends on it. Nourish the hell out of yourself, deeply, and if you are out and hungry but can’t find kale and marrow bones, just eat what’s there and move on–because worrying that you ate a donut takes energy!
It takes a lot of energy to repair our body, consider how your body mechanics, posture and fitness level are giving you energy or taking it away.
Oh, and it takes energy to hold onto years of trauma and anger, it takes energy to repress unresolved emotions. So let something go.
Avoid any expensive product that is “as good as coffee” when coffee is cheap, tasty and widely available.
And avoid EXTREME energy plus 5,000 type products like the plague. Why?
-Insomnia. Not much produces a cycle of true exhaustion like relying on energy products.
-Pyramid schemes. Some of these products want you to go on and on about how great you feel, then sell it to your friends.
-Fat-Shaming. Losing 2 pounds will not magically make you happy. Looking at these shaming ads will just make you feel like you’re not good enough. And they often suggest extremely restrictive diets combined with caffeine pills. Great idea. Not.
-Side effects. What else is in there? Do you really need one million milligrams of every mineral every single day?
No. But clearly absurd claims of endless extreme energy sell products and move magazines.
Can we explore our feelings about energy a little more deeply before we attempt to fix it by shopping? Can we take note of our desire for a quick and easy solution to a part of life that is just a reflection of deeper issues? Can we accept that levels of energy do ebb and flow, naturally, not just through the day or week but through the seasons and the years? Can we see that we cannot Ginseng our way out of a hole that needs our attention, that anything that sounds too good to be true is probably NOT true, that the vague hyped-up claims are ethically questionable and actively obnoxious? Can we grasp that different people have different speeds to operate on and most, unless causing serious life problems, are not “bad” or “good”? Can we insert some critical thinking into our lives, and ask questions and look a little further beyond the label or advertisement? Can we create a conversation around this issue, and shed a little light on a system that attempts to push us too far, into a system that makes us feel like we aren’t good enough as we are?
I like to keep my energy slow and steady with a movement practice, active release of body and emotions, engaging in a creative pursuit, spending time outdoors, eating mostly nourishing foods, using occasional vitamins if needed, using caffeine sparingly (i.e. not all day every day), limiting soul-sucking energy stealing interactions when possible and adjusting my expectations according to season, wellness level and need. And ultimately I draw my energy from a sense of inner resilience. From not being knocked down by every little thing. From building strength in body and mind, slow strength, quiet strength. It is not flashy and it is not glamourous. It is real.
A little dose of reality can go a long way in speaking back to this marketing-created delusion.

"Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!"
“Someone bring me a Cappucino, stat!”

Celebrating herbs

Herbal products aren’t really a great substitute for actual human contact. I definitely suggest going outside and talking to people, family, friends, neighbors and even random strangers. But the tincture you bring home from an herbal event, the package of scented oil that shows up in your mailbox, the artisanal bitters or handcrafted muscle rub exchanged with a friend help extend the meaningful moments of connection with plants and people.
It’s a long cold winter here in upstate NY and I do miss the smells and tastes of fresh plants as well as the smells and tastes of herbalists-who tend to gather more in the summer.
So I consider these photos to be a celebration of the harvest, of the work we’ve done throughout the year and of the times we have gathered together or packaged up some goodies to send or share. It’s like, you know sports people? They have their jerseys and their giant #1 foam hands? Well, this is how I root for my team.
Often I focus on the medicinal properties of plants but the reality is that sometimes they are just good old-fashioned fun. And it’s an art. It’s a craft, and these are craftspeople who are making this stuff!
This is an art gallery.
I thought I’d share a small taste of my collection to honor those whose hands created this body of work, to honor the creativity, connection, persistence and joy. And most of all, to honor the plants that went into the jar.
To those who use their hands and craft plant medicines, gather and forage and blend, for business and for pleasure, I say this:
THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
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Towards a more multi-faceted view of injury-pain management.

not exactly, bro.
not exactly, bro.

Last weekend, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys was talking about the band’s reunion show on NPR, and mentioned that they were icing their back and knees backstage after dancing, which gave me 2 different reasons to grit my teeth while listening to Morning Edition.

There is a lot of advice available via the internet which combines RICE-rest, ice, compression, elevation- with ibuprofen for assistance with pain from an injury or post-workout pain and muscle soreness. But RICE has been debunked.

I see icing suggested for nearly everything from Plantar Fascitis,  both chronic and acute pain, “heel pain”, back injury, too much running. Heck, my kid was given ice by the school nurse for an earache! (shudder.) This is not my personal strategy. I am most likely to use– and recommend– basic self-care strategies like active recovery, warm or hot soaks with Epsom salts and herbs, gentle massage,  lymphatic activation and herb-infused liniments or infused oils. In certain cases, rest.

And longer term,  I suggest working towards prevention of injury. Strengthening the fabulous glutes, addressing your  weaker areas over time, improving balance and proprioception, building protective muscle with weight-bearing exercise, releasing tension with bodywork and personal mindfulness practice, sleep, exploring movement and mobility every day, hydrating with both water and good fats, eating bone broth and gelatin and paying attention to your nutrition may all help the body to resist injury and recover more quickly.

(Just a quick note here, I am saying “help”. Accidents happen, and I am not alleging that  there is ONE answer. Always seek medical care in an emergency and take the advice of your doctor, not some lady on the internet.)

To me the strategy of RICE and NSaids for pain ignores the causes of pain, ignores the lymphatic system’s role in our health, ignores the existence of fascia and values short-term relief over long-term wellness, helping us to feel like we are “doing something” whether or not it actually supports healing. Rolling your foot on an icy bottle to fix Plantar fascitis seems to misunderstand  how the body works as well as what preventive care means.

Yes, there are times when a quick-fix is the right choice for an individual, and should remain available to those who need to git-r-done, for whatever reason. I don’t wanna judge your choices.  But ultimately, I believe that the tide  of opinion, as well as solid scientific fact,  is turning away from icing and immobilizing and towards active recovery, and though many establishment folks are resisting a deeper view of recovery it IS happening.

When the doctor who coined the term RICE has officially retracted his support for the method we may want to reconsider, hmmm?

What I am really asking you to do is just think it through. I believe much of our current attitudes towards health in general and pain management in particular do not come from places of deep wisdom, innovative testing or knowing what is truly the best but what is easy, available, marketed, affordable and culturally sanctioned. Many people do not want to ask WHY we do things and whether they are right. And sometimes  health care professionals (including herbalists!) don’t have the time or desire to stay up on the latest information, to question their own practices–or don’t have the time to spend with each patient to truly support them. Maybe we just need to get them fixed up quickly.

Not everyone believes in self-care or preventive care. We claim that we “don’t have time”. We don’t always want to notice that we are overdoing it, that we are relying on poor movement patterns to get something done faster or generating force now at the expense of our longer-term health. Or that we haven’t exercised in 20 years, and it’s catching up to us. And perhaps there are issues inherent in the structure of our culture that tell us we have to shut up and move that entire pile of bricks RIGHT NOW. Perhaps marketing and “fitspo” tell us that if it doesn’t hurt we haven’t done enough. And perhaps some  people are not willing to feel a bit of discomfort in the short term to benefit longer term health. It is possible that our culture fears discomfort and pain, misunderstanding that sometimes pain can be just a symptom or a signal which is suggesting that we address underlying causes, look at our movement mechanics and patterns and imbalances.

Ultimately, I suggest you decide for yourself what is best for yourself. Wellness isn’t always as easy as “just take something” or just slap an ice pack on it. Addressing underlying issues can be a pain in the ass, literally. Self-care can be work, it can be play if you let it, but it definitely requires more thought than swallowing a pill. And those shoes that are slowly destroying you look so cute! There is a side effect to self-care though…a feeling of self-empowerment; the knowledge that we have a certain responsibility to help support our own health. I’ve got a few links here for you to explore, and trust me you can find a LOT of links to represent the opposite side–though not much in the way of great scientific studies to support RICE or preventive ibuprofen before a workout. (ugh!)

So let’s think before we reach for ice, and certainly before we perpetuate the ice myth to others. Ice is on its way out, kicking and screaming perhaps, but better late than never.

People, We’ve Got to Stop Icing Injuries. We Were Wrong, Sooo Wrong | Community Video

http://www.mobilitywod.com/2013/07/community-video-peoples-weve-got-to-stop-icing-a-year-later/ (video)

http://www.tabatatimes.com/de-iced-end-cold-war/

http://www.tabatatimes.com/stillness-enemy/

http://drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

http://www.kennykane.com/gary-reinl/ (podcast)

http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_09_2013_Ice_Achauer2.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/ice-baths-strength-soreness_n_3795622.html

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes

http://www.katysays.com/diseases-of-captivity/

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2012/03/everybody-hurts-sometimes-relieving.html

http://www.liberatedbody.com/welcome/ (podcast)

http://www.therollmodel.com/

http://herbcraft.org/solseal.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/bodywork/performance-plate/Athletes-Guide-to-Bone-Broth-Soup.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/01/22/how-bone-broth-became-kobe-bryants-secret-stone-age-weapon/

http://bearmedicineherbals.com/a-general-guide-to-creating-an-effective-pain-liniment-or-salve.html
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New word: Linksterf*ck

Have you ever gotten into a terrible internet battle? Where 2 or more people are trading comments back and forth, and in those comments are some links?
“If you’d just read my link, you’d see it my way!”
Well, if You would just read MY link you would see MY side!”
NOT super likely, dude.
This happens often in the world of health, as well as herbalism, “alternative” medicine, breastfeeding and childbirth, child-raising, politics, dog-walking, religion, vaccinations and the all-important debate over whether or not you need your own AK-47.
This happens in fitness and exercise, diet, and even the thrill-a-minute electrical code forum my man reads.
But here’s the thing with links. We can find an internet link to support almost anything. Nearly all twisted, creepy, insane, illogical, delusional, harmful, bizarre, unfounded and straight-up nasty people and ideas have access to the internet.
We know this.
We have no idea who wrote some of that stuff, and we probably aren’t going to check.
And yet we link to it in order to convince others that we are right.
It’s not a debate, it’s not an argument.
It’s a Linksterfuck.
So now you have a word for it.
Let’s use it in a sentence:
“Oh, geez, I was in a real Linksterfuck in the AHG forum last night over whether or not herbs work without also eating a diet of only raw beaver and Paleo zucchini noodles.”
“Those 2 religious zealots are going back and forth all day in a Linksterfuck and driving everyone else out of the Elderly Birders of Wyoming forum.”
“I tried to get some information on deadlifitng but all I found was a Linksterfuck about whether women with muscles are all bitches.”
See?
ultimately, these back and forth battles are promoting false binaries, ignoring the vast worlds of grey areas between any 2 extreme positions. Many of life’s most pressing problems will not be solved with internet links. In fact, you may have to get some actual experience and explore things from different angles.
I don’t think the internet is a horrible place to share ideas and even to have a healthy debate. I don’t think sharing links is always bad. But I think the Linksterfuck acts like a degenerative brain disease, canceling out much of the function in forums and discussions.
So let’s call it what it is.
The next time someone starts in on a list of links which–if only you cared enough to educate yourself about, jeez!–would change your mind and convince you that the alien being Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the REAL cause of climate change, call it what it is….just say it…
LINKSTERFUCK!!!

Sorry, this has nothing to do with the post but heck it's neat.
Sorry, this has nothing to do with the post but heck it’s neat.

10 Cheap or Free Self-Care Ideas to Stop Feeling Like Crap

I am working on a class called “How to stop feeling like crap” about sharing the joys of self-care and as a little taste, here are 10 ways to get started on that endeavor. These may be cheap/free and fairly straightforward, but I won’t say they are easy because an object at rest stays at rest, and you might have to expend some effort to get the flow moving again.
But what the hell, a little effort in exchange for a lifetime of less crappiness is probably worth it, my dears.
So here are a few suggestions, and as I continue on this project I’d love to hear how YOU support self-care. Please note that while I do believe self-care will help support us, both short-term and long, none of these will induce a magical state of pure positivity, and I’m not going for that anyway–life is partly dark and that is OK. Sometimes the darker moments should be explored. And, as with any random advice from a stranger, it does not replace medical care–please know that if you are truly suffering you can ask for help, maybe from a professional if needed.
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1. Get something off your chest. Secrets can be very heavy. Repression and festering anger or sadness can lead to a lifetime of simmering pain. You might not get a resolution when you express your feelings, but you definitely will not get a resolution from silence.

2.Take some Vitamin D! I love making my own Vitamin D but realistically speaking, it is -10 this morning and if I go outside nude I’ll quickly die. So I bolster myself with taking vitamin D, and I’ll be darned if I don’t feel less wintery doldrums. Don’t take my word for it though, there are tons of studies on D–and it is widely available.
http://www.examine.com/supplements/vitamin+D/

3. Go for a walk. Walking to me supports thinking and processing physically, mentally and emotionally. Walking is available to most people, (other movement options may replace it for those who can’t) and is the main piece of my meditation practice. I can’t say enough about walking-it’s weight-bearing, building bones, moving lymph and promoting circulation. But beyond the health benefits, it is a way of participating in the world.
http://www.katysays.com/caution-kids-not-walking/

4. Support your lymphatic system. I am delighted to hear about more people feeling the lymphatic love. I believe the lymphatic system is super important to overall health. It is a vital part of your immunity! When I am feeling a cold coming on, I don’t reach for a bottle of Echinacea-Goldenseal extract, I go for a walk! The lymphatic channels don’t have their own separate pump, we move the fluids by our own actions, or lack thereof. This can be supported in part by engaging in various types of movement, taking lymphatic herbs such as Cleavers, Calendula, Alder, Mullein, Ocotillo and gentle body massage-ideally all of these combined.
http://www.kahnacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/organ-systems/lymphatic-system/v/lymphatic-system-immunity

5. Enjoy an orgasm. It’s not a sin, you’re not dirty, you have the right to enjoy living in your body–and it can be a great way to release tension, move through pent-up emotions and sleep better now. I am not going to tell you how, but I can assure you that it can be looked up on the internet if needed.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/secrets-longetivy/201102/orgasms-health-and-longevity-does-sex-promote-health
Sorry that article is so heteronormative…
UPDATE: OK, another piece of advice, maybe don’t search the internet for links on masturbation.
6.Eat fat. Healthy fats, that is–don’t chug the fry oil at Taco Bell. Think grass-fed butter, Coconut oil, pastured animal fats, duck fat, Olive oil. Free-range eggs, cream, avocados. Fat helps us to absorb and use some of our vitamins better, lubes up the joints and plumps up our eyeballs. (unsubstantiated claim, but it’s funny) Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. It is satiating and delightful. Avoiding fat might make you cold, shriveled, bored of another skinless boneless chicken breast and squeaky-jointed.
http://www.chriskresser.com/have-some-butter-with-your-veggies

7. Find your nervine. Essentially, I believe in having a plant ally or two to call upon in times of duress. Try a few nervines, or speak with an herbalist familiar with nervine differentials who can help match you with the right simple or blend. Nervines help support our entire nervous system and restore function, help us manage stress and help us relax. My very very favorites are (tinctures) Milky Oats, Scullcap, Hawthorne, Blue Vervain and Passionflower-but don’t limit yourself to my list. I love many…Explore!
http://www.bearmedicineherbals.com/relax-already-selected-nervine-differentials.html

8. Hydrate. One of the cheapest fixes I can think of, after “Take a deep breath” perhaps, is to be sure you are drinking enough water. Please don’t ask me if it can be herbal tea or lemon water…if you can’t decide or yourself, dehydration is not your main problem.

9. Address your micro-biome. Ok, so you’re basically a big ball of bacteria. With a little fungi and virii thrown in. (It’s viruses, but who’s checking?) It seems like a lot is unknown about the micro-biome, but one thing is clear: it’s kinda important. So examining your usage of antibiotics, internally and externally plus supporting your biome with everything from hanging out near soil, snuggling farm animals, eating ferments, possibly using a probiotic–(though be wary of the current marketing of probiotic everything from nose to tail, ass to entrails) basically just let go of the idea that a bacteria free bubble is better or even possible. Cause it ain’t.

ww.fourhourworkweek.com/2015/01/10/microbiome/

10. Bodywork! Ok, this one may require a little cash outlay. I suggest seeing a massage therapist at least occasionally as well as doing some self-massage at home, trying a bumpy massage ball and/or muscle roller, exchanging basic massage with a partner and walking on varied surfaces, which stimulates different parts of your foot than walking on a treadmill.
http://www.westsidewell.com for great accessible massage therapy and affordable classes too.

And remember, the idea is not achieving some delusional state of perfect happiness but acquiring the support, connection and strength to move through the ups and downs of life. Neither judging others for their chosen self-care choices (or lack thereof) nor forcing walks and herbs on ourselves or others will solve much without the work of letting go, letting ourselves be good and bad, dark and light, happy and crappy and everything in between. There is a lot of greyscale in the human life and that is just fine. It’s not all about shine, glow and heart. Sometimes it’s about git-R-done. But if there are ways to feel the best you can without a huge outlay of cash or time, why not give it a try?

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