I use my intensive training, intuition, and relationship with the natural world to formulate personalized herbal blends for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Health is a journey and I serve as an intermediary between the healing properties of the natural world and the needs of my client to allow the path to begin.

Contact me at UnderRootHealing@gmail.com or 617-733-6872. I am available for one on one consultations in person or on the phone.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello friends!

For the New Year I now have a new site for my blog. Check out www.underroothealing.com! I will be posting blog posts there from now on. Just go to the menu of the left hand side and click "blog" for the latest. Thank you for reading and sharing this space with me!

Blessings for the New Year!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Visitng Old Friends: Getting to Know Plant Spirits

In the last few weeks I have felt a swell of anxiety begin to stir. This isn't a new feeling to me. In fact, my struggle with anxiety almost two years ago is exactly what turned me to herbalism in the first place. I was trying conventional medications, but I just didn't feel myself nor was I feeling much better. I was struggling with some intense anxiety and needed something in my life to shift.

That's when I found herbalism or perhaps the plants found me. I began preparing quarts of tea every day. My room started to fill with jars of milky oats, lemon balm, kava kava, skullcap, tulsi, borage, wood betony, st.john's wort, reishi, and rose. After a few months of regular teas, tinctures, and flower essences, I began to slowly and subtly feel myself again. It didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. And in a very powerful way. The plants cleared my anxiety and also cleared a path so that I could do the personal work I needed to do. While I was grateful to have the medications available to control my anxiety when I felt it was at an unmanageable level, I also felt that the medication numbed not only my anxiety, but also my whole self. When I began turning to herbal healing, I felt much more aware of my life and able to actively nurture the person I wanted to become. And I was able to do so safely, naturally, and with no unwanted side-effects.

I have been fortunate enough to feel that my struggle with acute anxiety has passed. After a few months I stopped taking the herbs and have had some downs and lots of ups in the last two years and have felt emotionally balanced and grounded through these experiences. However, in the last couple of weeks I have felt an increase in anxiety due to a few changes in my personal and professional life. In particular, I have had a hard time letting go, relaxing, getting to sleep, and returning to balance after a moment of stress. It was time to go back to my old herb friends that had helped me before.

But this time it was different. When I started drinking a daily tea of milky oats, wood betony, and tulsi it was as if I was being welcomed into a good friend's home. We had built a relationship before, so we just took up where we left off. I felt significant changes in my mood very quickly. I felt very strongly how much these herbs are not just a means to an end. Rather, these herbs are living spirits in a very real and palpable way. In addition to feeling less anxious, I also made some quick changes in my life which immediately became obvious were choices that were best for my health and happiness. Drinking my tea each day didn't feel like just drinking some helpful herbs. I felt much more like I was visiting with a comforting and wise grandmother. Having spent time nurturing a relationship in the past with these plants, they were now my allies. They were capable of strong healing. Their spirits immediately reached out to my spirit. When that happens its hard to tell if what occurs is healing or transformation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Defining Diagnostics: Listening to Cues from the Body for Deeper Health

When I talk about offering consultations to clients I often use the term “diagnostics.” This doesn't mean that I as an herbalist can actually diagnose someone. This is definitely where modern allopathic (aka conventional) medicine is a wonderful thing. However, allopathic medicine often detects problems when they have become a very serious, acute problem. A benefit of more “alternative” diagnostics is that it can be possible to detect an imbalance early. This means you can prevent larger problems and disease down the road. When I talk about diagnostics, I mean reading the body for cues of what might be happening on a deeper level. Areas of the face, tongue, and eye correspond to different organ systems and parts of the body. Likewise, different pulses in the wrist also correspond to organ systems. Lines, patterns, color, and quality of pulse are all indications of what is going on in those organ systems. A trained eye can observe food allergies, stressed adrenals, liver exhaustion, lung issues, digestive imbalances, etc. For example, the second pulses on both hands, the forehead and chin, the middle of the tongue, and the bottom section of the whites of the eyes are all places I look for cues about digestive health. To check out heart health I look to the tip of the tongue, the first pulse on the left hand, the nose, and the left side of the left eye.

Some of these things I can learn from a client sharing their experiences and health history. However, sometimes to a client it seems as though anxiety is the main issue, but the underlying cause of that issue is imbalance in the digestive system which can be observed in facial diagnostic observations. As an herbalist I aim to create a formula that both addresses the client's main concern, in this example it would be anxiety, while also addressing what I am observing as the root cause of the issue, such as digestive imbalance. Therefore the herbal formula might include an herb like wood betony which is beneficial in cases of anxiety since it is an herb that helps one feel grounded. It is also a slightly bitter herb which activates the liver and assists in the process of digestion.

I once did a consultation with someone who was experiencing occasional panic attacks and anxiety. When I did a diagnostic assessment of her it was clear in the facial and eye diagnostics that there was an imbalance in the lungs. However, she said she did not have any sort of experience with asthma, allergies, pneumonia, or any other kind of lung issues. I recommended some herbs that improve lung health but also help quell anxiety, such as tulsi and mullein. But she was unable to get the herbs at that time. About a year later she was diagnosed with acute asthma. Perhaps if she was able to get the herbs she would have been able to prevent a slight imbalance from becoming a problem.

The benefit of these sorts of diagnostic techniques is that they allow slight imbalances to be detected which can be preventative of bigger problems. It also allows the source of an issue to shine through, so that the source of the problem can be dealt with and not just the symptoms. For example, someone dealing with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) who sought out allopathic medicine would most likely receive birth control pills to reduce the symptoms of PCOS. However, this sort of hormonal imbalance will only be worsened over time with the use of birth control. When I have seen clients with PCOS I have observed hormonal and reproductive issues as well as liver and digestive imbalance through the facial, eye, and tongue diagnostics. It was clear that the problem could not be isolated to the reproductive system. So when I created a formula I included herbs that are detoxing to the liver, assist digestion, and also balance hormones. I included herbs such as sarsaparilla, vitex, and dandelion.

Hopefully this gives a snapshot of what I mean by the term “diagnostics” and why I feel it is important to incorporate this process into my consultations. It is amazing how much the surface of our bodies can reveal about what is going on deeper within. Part of this process of diagnostics is about knowing the techniques and applying them. However, a larger part of this is just about being still, taking time to connect, and see what observations rise to the surface.

Friday, November 18, 2011

When the 99% Drinks Some Herbal Tea: Herbalism and The Occupy Movement

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has certainly been a moving presence in our nation. Who has power? What structures are in place that have encouraged this distribution of power? How do we create a reality that reflects our values and ethics? These are all questions that are brought up by the Occupy Movement. And no matter what your position on the movement, I think these are important questions for all to ask. As an herbalist, I can't help but think about how herbalism is such a key in creating a world that reflects so many of the values held by the Occupy Movement.

There are so many things as an herbalist that I could say about the medical industry. But, I think we can all agree that a system that is supposed to care for people when they are sick, vulnerable, and unwell and yet are driven by profits and growth thereby requiring a never ending supply of sick people reliant upon an expensive medical system...well I think we can all say that there are lots of things wrong with that picture. And I know it's not that simple. I know that there are lots of good people and good work being done within the medical industry. But there is also motivation for profit over people, growth over sustaining health, and numbers over people's experience that all motivate and maintain the industry. The thought of how much the FDA is responsible for is astounding, since it is one organization responsible for monitoring every product, food or medicine, that we might take into our bodies to nourish, heal digestive issues, get a flu shot, add smoky flavor to smoked mozzarella without having to smoke it, approve of new cancer treatments, deal with a snack attack, deal with depression, and color Halloween M&Ms. A strange world, indeed.

So, what is the alternative. Herbalism, mindful and informed nutrition, accessible and well planned exercise, and alternative healing practices are all possible modalities that could play a larger role in people's experience of healing and wellness. Some people feel that allopathic medicine is never needed. Some people feel herbalism and other alternative forms of medicine are too “woo-woo.” I, however, feel that both allopathic and alternative forms of medicine can work together for the optimum good of a person, working together to prevent and treat disease and encourage wellness and balance.

The medical system and the media, have taught us that our bodies are not our own. We do not know what they should look like, we don't know what is good for them, and we can't heal them when we are ill. For that we need experts. But, deep down we all know none of this is true. We know our bodies. We can nurture a healing path for ourselves. We can help each other by sharing herbal and healing knowledge and supporting each other in our healing processes. And isn't this what Occupy Wall Street is all about? Claiming our own agency as people, standing within our power, and creating a reality for ourselves that is from yourself and your community rather than a large entity that is motivated by profit and growth at the expense of the wellness of the earth and all the beings that live upon it.

If we are thinking about how to bolster the power of the 99%, how to give people more choices and agency over their lives. If we are talking about supporting local and small businesses. If we are talking about how to provide options that are not toxic to the earth or to ourselves when there are plenty of healthier alternatives (the pharmaceutical industry is incredibly toxic to our environment). If we are talking about local foods and small economies. Then what better way than to go to your backyard, go to your local herbalist, go to your grandmother. Gather some plants, say thank you, and make a tea.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Soak Your Troubles Away: Luxurious Herbal Baths!

It's here! There was a snow storm so it is official! It is time for bath season! One of my favorite ways to take in herbs is through a healing hot bath. Who doesn't love that? Sometimes we forget that our skin is the largest porous organ we have. When we take a bath in herbs we are drawing that medicine into our body through our skin so it pervades every part of our bodies.
It is such an act of self-care to take a bath. It's not just about the herbs, but about taking time out just for yourself, enjoying a nice hot soak, and feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

My favorite way to take a bath is to use a cheesecloth or piece of muslin and place the herbs I want for a bath into the muslin and tying the herbs in place in the center of the cloth. You can also use a tea ball, muslin bag, or a bunch of tea bags. You can also brew a large cup of tea and just pour that into your bath water. I also like to add essential oils with a little cream, milk, or almond milk. I use milk or almond milk so the essential oils will have a fat to bind to and this prevents you from the rather intense contact with an essential oil. Sometimes I add some clay, sea salt, and baking powder for some extra cleansing and detoxing. I often add flower essences. This makes the bath especially emotionally and spiritually healing.

There are so many wonderful herbs that are great to use for a bath. When I was struggling with very frequent panic attacks I took a relaxing bath about once a week. Taking those baths allowed me the space to finally let go of some of that anxiety I was holding onto. One time I had a case of the flu with a high fever and very intense chills. I took a medicinal bath and within 20 minutes of the bath my fever had broken and I was on the mend. Baths can be powerful medicine.

Here are some ideas for herbs to use in a bath. Feel free to mix herbs you feel drawn to as you wish.

For a relaxing bath:

lemon balm, skullcap, milky oats, lavender, rose petal, borage, passionflower, linden

lavender essential oil – calming

aspen flower essence – helps clear out anxiety

cedar flower essence – cleansing of any negative energy

For a bath for sore muscles, pain, injury:

comfrey, solomon's seal, st. john's wort, ginger, mullein

rosemary essential oil – circulatory stimulant which helps bring fresh, nourishing blood to any affected area

lavender essential oil – helps rebuild cells

For a bath for the flu:

yarrow, peppermint, elder – this is an ancient combination of herbs against the flu. Add some boneset or comfrey to combat achyness.

rosemary essential oil – anti-microbial

lemongrass essential oil – very powerful anti-microbial

Play around with different herbs! Have fun...and don't forget the rubber ducky.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Success on the Healing Path: A Lesson From My Dog

Today I took my dog, Emmett, for a stroll around the West End. Our routine is to head out after his breakfast around mid-morning for a walk around the neighborhood. Usually he is easy on the leash. Maybe he pulls a little or jumps to meet a dog, but he understands when he is corrected. Today he was just awful. Pulling constantly and not paying any attention to the commands and cues I was giving him. When we returned home I didn't give him his usual treat after the walk.

About an hour later I decided he needed another chance. I knew that after getting his need to walk and sniff satisfied from the previous walk, that he would definitely be better behaved if I took him for another walk. So, I just took him for a very short stroll around the block. He needed to experience success in order to know he could reach my expectations for a walk that day. We needed to walk again so he could achieve the goal of a good walk. And, he was wonderful. I praised him as we walked and when we returned home I gave him a treat. He could enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

It occurred to me that this is much like many of our experiences on our own individual healing paths. We have a bad day and it seems as though we do nothing right: we skip exercising, we don't eat right, we forget to take our herbs, we just don't take care of ourselves. We just don't “heel” to our health plans. It can be so easy to get down on yourself when this happens. To feel as though you have failed. But there will be another walk. You can get back on track. The next day, or even the next hour is fresh and new and ripe for success! When you have a bad moment or day when you are off track, do something simple that will put you back on the right path. Just go around the block, rather than around the whole neighborhood. Eat an apple, or brew some dandelion tea, or do a breathing exercise, or strike a yoga pose. Set yourself up for success and recognize your victory, no matter how small it is. And determine a way to treat yourself after being successful. Perhaps a nice hot bath, a Saturday night movie, an extra hour in bed with a book, a glass of wine with your friends, etc. Do something to recognize your good work.

It's easy to think that your healing path is made up of exercising, meditation, healthy eating, healing herbs, energy work, etc. And that is definitely a huge part of the path. But, there is also attitude. Being accepting, understanding, and gentle towards yourself as you shift your life. On the walk when Emmett was not behaving well, I didn't tell him “No, bad dog” because it wouldn't have been helpful. He just would have felt bad, but without a clear idea of the way he needed to behave. Instead, giving him a small, but fresh start and praising him for something I knew he'd be successful at made much more sense. Your attitude and view of yourself on your healing path is just as much a part of your healing as anything else. If one day you falter, give yourself another chance. Walk your healing path with compassion for yourself. And don't forget to give yourself a treat!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fighting Colds and Flu!

Last week I talked about good ways to nourish and build the immune system. This might reduce illness, but there is still a likely chance that you will get sick at some point this cold and flu season. So, here are some of my favorite herbs that will help you become healthy again quickly!

When I feel sickness coming on, the first thing I do is prepare a tincture with a formula of several herbs in a ½ ounce sized dropper bottle so that I can easily have it in my pocket at all times. I will take this formula up to once every 20 minutes and at least 3 times a day. I will take the formula from when I feel my illness coming on until I feel I am well over the sickness. My colds tend to have lots of congestion and post nasal drip which causes lots of sinus pressure and throat discomfort. So, I use a lot of herbs that will help reduce congestion.

Osha is one of my favorites against upper respiratory/sinus congestion, sore throat, and coughing. It is anti-microbial and stimulates the immune system. This herb is in nearly every formula I make against colds. It is also a warming herb which is perfect for those fall and winter colds.

Plantain is a great herb for drawing out congestion while soothing any irritation in the throat or upper respiratory tract. This is a great herb for thickly congested sinuses.

Sage is a great herb that helps with throat pain and is strongly anti-microbial. In general I look at this herb as a powerful harbinger wellness and health on many levels.

Mullein is one of my top favorite herbs. It helps move mucus and heal the lungs. This is a very gentle yet powerful herb suitable for when you are congested and also for when you have a deep cough that is really affecting the lungs.

Elecampane is wonderful for balancing mucus in the upper respiratory system. If you are dry and experiencing irritation or if you are super congested, elecampane will help balance your system to health.

I often add a very small amount of thyme to my tincture formulas because it is a very powerful anti-microbial. It's the herb I use to kill whatever microbes might be causing an illness.

I often add something a little soothing, such as anise, chamomile, or licorice to soothe an irritated throat.

When I feel illness coming on I also begin taking a tincture of echinacea. I take it separately from the other formula because I will take echinacea for three days in a row, and then I take a day off. This is a good practice because echinacea is a very powerful immune system stimulant. I want to stimulate my immune system enough to fight disease, but I don't want to over work it to the point that it tires out and becomes stressed. I take echinacea very frequently when sick, taking a dropperful up to every 20 minutes. I will also put echinacea in a ½ ounce dropper bottle to ensure I can always have it with me.

And, of course I take many of these herbs as hot teas. Nothing beats a wonderful cup of healing tea when sick. The tinctures are wonderful because it is easy to take the herbs frequently even while at work or going about your day. However, when you are getting sick what your body might be telling you is that you need to take time out, lay in bed, and take the time to make a nice cup of tea.

When I have difficulty sleeping due to congestion, I will take a tissue and add a few drops of some combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, balsam fir, clove, and lemongrass to the tissue. I will place the tissue on or near my pillow so I can enjoy the wonderful mucus clearing effects of those herbs while sleeping.

When you have a flu then it is important to add some good herbs to deal with fever and body aches. Boneset is a wonderful herb that helps reduce fever and body aches. Definitely a favorite of mine. I would also recommend the combination of peppermint, yarrow, and elder flower. This is a very traditional herbal blend that is very effective against the flu. Last year I had a bad case of the flu and I prepared a bath with these herbs by placing them in a muslin drawstring bag. My fever broke within two hours of the bath! It was amazing how effective it was!

Finally, I always take doses of elderberry cordial when a cold or flu is setting in. Elderberry stimulates the immune system and is very anti-microbial. Also it is very tasty medicine! You can take elderberry as a tea or tincture, but I always prepare a cordial with a healthy dose of honey and brandy! Very yummy and very healing.

There are so many other herbs to take for colds and flus, but I have given you some of my favorites. May these herbs help nurse you back to total health!

I often feel that the experience of our bodies and the imbalances and or health issues we may experience are in fact messages to ourselves, our physical selves speaking to our spirit self. Getting a cold or flu is often a way of our physical body telling us we have taken on too much, we are in need of some self love and care. Everything else can go on hold. Perhaps we can view sick time as a time to practice self care. See if you can continue that practice even as you are well again.