5 Plants to Help You Chill the F*ck Out

Herbs to Calm, Balance, and Restore Your Nervous System

I’ve needed more than just lifestyle changes to make a dent in my health. Anxiety, stress, restlessness, and overwork honestly weren’t things I could change all by myself. My body needed help coming back to itself. It had to restore proper function but was all out of whack. There were days along the way I needed more encouragement, a push in the right direction, and days I needed to feel less alone. Sometimes I just needed a little something to quiet my thoughts, like Piper methysticum (Kava), or something to make me feel safe and held after a long day, like Avena sativa (Oats).

The plants have been great friends to me in many ways. When I’ve felt lost or in need, the plant world has lent a leaf, a root, or a petal. The trees have swayed my way when I needed a hug, and they’ve picked me up from the ground when I thought it might be time to return home. The flowers have laughed with me on the days where the sun was beaming brightly through my window, and at the same time, stood with me when my head hung low, mirroring their resilience into me.

When I’m in search of comfort or a confidant, I often turn to my apothecary. The plant world is filled with such mysticism, knowledge, wisdom, and truth, as well as radical love and care. As a studying herbalist, I often experiment with the plants that come my way- sometimes in hopes that I’ll feel a little better. And not to my surprise, they have shined.

Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that work to keep our bodies in balance, operating non-specifically to help us adapt to changes within and without ourselves. They work on many different factors and help to regulate/normalize organ and system function. These herbs are generally labeled as ‘non-toxic’.

You may have heard the word ‘adaptogen’ before. This is likely because they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years. When I first heard of adaptogens, I was working in a café that carried Moon Juice– a fancy LA brand that makes herbal products. Adaptogen sounded exotic and intriguing, as I’m sure it does to you. It drew me in with the possibility of stress and anxiety regulation, improved memory, and better focus. I didn’t know much about herbs at the time, so I bought into it (mentally and financially!). And to be honest, I wasn’t disappointed. 

Many herbs worked great for me. Unfortunately, most of the popular supplements on the market were pricey for an 18-year-old college student, so I eventually stopped using them. There was still a twinkle in my eye that I was in reach of being able to heal myself (affordably).

Nervines

Nervines are a class of herbs that work on the nervous system (hence the name). These herbs promote calmness, support stress, and can act as sedatives. These are also commonly used herbs like Matricaria chamomilla (Chamomile) or Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender). They can help us deal with what we’re facing head-on or work overtime, whether that be winding down before bed or building our reserves back up. Nervines can be tonics (help strengthen and restore the nervous system), relaxants (put us at ease and relax), or stimulants (stimulate the nervous system or act as a pick-me-up). 

Nervine tonics and relaxants are what I’ll be focusing on today because they act more to soothe stress/anxiety and help to restore the nervous system.

I believe plants are powerful ancient medicine. In this post, I steered away from some of the typical herbs you may hear about for stress and anxiety because I wanted to shed the spotlight on some of my personal favorites. These are herbs I’ve tried, worked with, and feel comfortable with- though your own experience with these herbs (if you decide to try them) will be entirely unique.


5 Plant Allies to Help You Balance Out & Experience More Peace

1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a compelling nightshade, native to India and Africa, and goes by other common names such as Winter Cherry. It’s an adaptogen and nervine that can help improve sleep quality, rebalance the stress response, and address fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety. And though it is fantastic as a nervine, it also helps stimulate thyroid function, has long been used as a sexual tonic, and is high in iron.

I find Ashwagandha to be especially helpful before bed. I’m a ‘wired but tired’ person who needs help winding down after a stimulating day. I often find it hard for me to just stop working because I feel like I need to get everything done in a day. Ashwagandha grounds me, keeps me present, and reminds me that I need to rest. Ashwagandha holds me in a loving grip, much like Mother Earth, and carries me back to where I should be.

How to Make: I like to make golden mylk with Ashwagandha, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger, Black Pepper, and honey. Or sometimes I’ll make a hot cocoa with Cacao and Ashwagandha. It doesn’t combine well with water, so it’s best to do so in something ‘fatty’ like ghee, milk, or mylk. You can add it to your morning oats too! 2 tsp in 12oz of liquid (best simmered).

Where You Can Find It: Banyan Botanicals has high quality Ayurvedic herbs.

2. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Valerian is a calming nervine that’s great for nervous tension, anxiety, and restlessness. It’s an amphoteric herb, which means it normalizes function (in this case, that would be functions of the nervous system). Valerian also works to help insomnia and reduce the number of times you awake throughout the night.

Valerian is a superstar for anxiety. I know someone who swears by it, even after being on prescription anti-anxiety medication for years, and remarks that if they knew of Valerian, they would’ve used that all along. Valerian has been a great ally to help me fall asleep and calm my anxiousness that prevents good sleep. I don’t take Valerian during the day because it makes me a little too sleepy.

How to Make: I often mix it with Chamomile and Lavender to help mask the very peculiar sticky/musky, but also sweet, smell and taste it has. I take about 1 tsp of each herb and add it to my mug, then steep for 20 minutes.

Where You Can Find It: I prefer Valerian in its tincture form if I have nothing else to mix it with because of its taste. Herb Pharm makes a good quality tincture of valerian. If you choose to purchase Valerian, you would want the root, and you can find that at your local herb shop. Starwest Botanicals also has valerian root in bulk. Pukka has some of the best tea I’ve ever tried and has a lovely night-time blend with valerian root in it.

3. Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil is a nootropic, nervine, and adaptogen. Nootropic refers to improving cognition or memory. Holy Basil helps enhance focus and concentration. And it is an uplifting herb that doesn’t stimulate, as well as a calming herb that doesn’t sedate. It’s a perfect balance. Holy Basil is also a tonic to the brain and nervous system.

Holy Basil is truly one of my most beloved herbs. I drink the tea throughout the day (every day) and have seen many improvements in my mental health, clarity, and mood- not to mention it smells and tastes beautiful. I used to really struggle with a foggy mind, waking up tired and staying tired throughout the day. Since I started drinking Tulsi tea, I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and clear.

How to Make: 1 tbsp to 12oz of water, steep 20 minutes.

Where You Can Find It: Deer Creek Collective Herb Farm has an AMAZINGLY great quality holy basil, so I would recommend them if you are looking to buy in bulk.

4. Milky Oats (Avena sativa)

Milky Oat Tops are a wonderfully nourishing nervine- high in magnesium and gentle for anxiety. ‘Milky’ refers to the stage in which the oat tops are harvested. When harvested fresh and you press on the oat top, a white mucus emerges- thus milky

Milky Oat Tops are for people who are overworked and depleted- people who have run themselves dry. This is for those of you who are burnt out and need long term support to build up your reserves. Oat tops help restore the nervous system. 

Though the touch of Milky Oats is light and gentle, the medicine is potent. For me, drinking a tea of Milky Oats feels so supportive. I add them to pretty much every tea I make because they are such a lovely addition. They’re sweet and synergize with many other herbs.

Milky Oats are best for long term use in order to feel the effects. It’s a plant you have to get to know and sit with for a while. And time spent with this plant is never wasted because the benefits are unmatched.

How to Make: 1 tbsp of dried milky oat tops in 12oz of water, steep 20 minutes to overnight.

Where You Can Find It: Foster Farm Botanicals has good quality dried milky oat tops. If you’re looking for a tincture or the dried herb elsewhere, make sure it was harvested in the milky stage. Also for a tincture, the herb should be bottled fresh.

5. Kava (Piper methysticum)

Kava is a relaxing nervine originating in the Pacific Islands. It is best at relaxing tension- whether that be physical or emotional. Kava helps improve focus, concentration, soothes anxiety, and can help with insomnia. It’s also indicated for racing thoughts.

The first time I tried Kava, I was having trouble falling asleep because there were too many thoughts on my mind. It was late, but I just wasn’t tired. I laid there in the dark, mind wandering. I took the recommended dosage of a tincture, and it felt like something was lifted off my shoulders. Literally- the tension I was carrying in my shoulders was relieved. The overbearing chatter had disappeared, and suddenly, I was sleepy! Though Kava is not a sedative, it may make you think it is because it eliminates whatever’s keeping you up.

There are such places called “Kava Bars” scattered across the country, where people go like they would a bar, but instead enjoy a cup of Kava (no alcohol involved). I have not been to one, but I’ve heard good things. Kava has a special quality about it that helps people in social or group settings connect better.

It’s important to note that this herb is not for long term use. It is best used occasionally. The FDA warns that Kava has been linked to rare, but serious liver injury.

How to Make: Kava tastes good on its own, but I like to mix it with Cacao to make Kava Cocoa. Sometimes before bed, I’ll mix it with Blue Lotus and Cacao to ease me into the dream world. 1-2 tsp simmered for 20 minutes should do the trick.

Where You Can Find It: I like the Kava tincture from Herb Pharm, but you can also purchase kava in bulk from Starwest Botanicals or your local herb shop.


I think it’s important to discuss that all of these herbs have been around long before you and I walked this Earth. They have been used, experienced, and cared for for centuries- way before they were ‘trendy’ and ‘cool’ to add to your iced coffee.

All these fancy/pretty/popular brands are actually quite expensive, but what is the true quality of their products? Where are they coming from?

Most of the time, herbs aren’t something you hear about unless it’s a fad- unless someone is promising you an overnight cure. Most of the time, these products, and the conversation itself, are out of reach to the general public and people who most need them. Herbs have become something to capitalize off of, instead of as a way to care for the community and build a relationship with the environment.

Let’s think about how trends affect the plants themselves and their communities. Sacred plants like Ayahuasca have been made so available, but at what cost? Trends can destroy the environment and local economies and also be harmful to traditional culture.

Think about who you choose to give your money to. When possible- choose the organic, sustainable, and local option. Ask yourself- is there another, more sustainably harvested and crafted plant, or plant that grows in your area that you can use instead? A plant being sold at your local farmer’s market or one that’s right in your backyard as opposed to that exotic plant everyone’s talking about? There may be something native to your area or even an ‘invasive weed’ that can do more justice to your specific needs. (Not to steer away from the possibility that a popular plant may actually be what you need!)

Herbs are not one-size-fits-all. They are unique. They have personalities, just like you! And you may find one that matches yours that will work twice as good.


To get the most out of the herbs you work with, I suggest having a consultation with an herbalist or visiting your local herb shop (if you have one) to chat with an herbalist. It may be best for you to take certain herbs under professional supervision. If you’re taking any medications or have any medical issues, it’s important to speak with your doctor before taking any herbs. And of course, always do your research.

So Much Love,

LA.

Body Sovereignty and the Power of Knowing

Understanding the Womb and our Sacred Cycle

She stands firm, her two bare feet, still, on a blue yoga mat. Slowly and elegantly, she begins to move in her flow, reaching her crane-like neck towards the starry, candlelit ceiling and stretching her arms as if they were feather-covered, beginning to take flight. She bows to herself, and in this safe feeling, she begins to let go- letting her body move itself. She notices how it feels to be moved by movement. Her naked belly swings in freedom. Her hands lovingly caress each limb. The left and right meet in the middle and do their own dance, entangling and breaking apart over and over, feeling the air as if it was a velvety fabric. Her hips sway in seduction of the mirror, of the moon, of herself. The room becomes a mirage of the deep purple sky, and the floor below is the cold, dark ground. She stands somewhere between Heaven and Earth- at the same time, in both places at once. She stands, calling back to her body, calling out to home. For once, her body is hers. No one watches. No hungry hands reach for grabbing. She is sexy and gross in movement, strong and delicate as she chooses to convey. She is the sole generator of the yin and yang within her- they twirl in sacred space. She rejoices and lifts the Earth with her, laughs with her whole being.

-the piece of love she gives back to herself after a long day.


I remember being so excited to get my first period when I was younger. And when I finally got it, I felt special (as I should). I was changing and so was my body. I felt like I was becoming a woman. I was finally experiencing my wonderful rite of passage.

Though I had my special moment, it slowly turned to humility. It rotted in my memory. I’d come to forget the magic of my first moments exploring my body- as it would soon turn into a weapon. And though I’d felt powerful and untamed in my skin, I would soon be told to cover up, to hide.

My public school education affirmed these beliefs. My 6th grade science teacher taught us how to hide our pads and tampons, so no one would know we were on our period. The world wasn’t supposed to know because bleeding was disgusting. And we should absolutely, never talk about what we were going through, unless it was in private. Over and over we would hear how we were bitches because we were on our period (“She must be on her period.”). We weren’t allowed to just feel things. We weren’t allowed to stand our ground or express how we felt. We weren’t allowed to be strong in our own right.

I sat with a textbook in my palms, written by a man, open to the page on the female reproductive system, and was taught that you bleed for one week of your cycle- and that’s that. Female body parts are for babies and male pleasure. I got no explanation of how my hormones orchestrated a symphony in my body throughout the month. No explanation as to why I was experiencing PMS- that was apparently normal. No explanation as to why I ended up developing debilitating period pain. They never even attempted to explain the parts of the vagina. The female orgasm was never talked about and thought of as unimportant. In fact, there was no complexity to the female body at all!

Who was I supposed to ask questions to when I felt too ashamed to speak up? When I didn’t have the right words to ask questions (though I’d think to myself, what does this do?)? Why is such important information kept from us? Objectified and sexualized, I was meant to be kept quiet and ignorant to my own body.

Knowledge is power, right? Learning about my body and body parts was a part of how I began reclaiming myself. I felt like something had been taken away from me, or at least hidden. It was belonging to someone else, and they had the control. Because of this, I struggled to connect to myself on what seems like such a simple level. What I knew was my mind, not my body.

Luckily, you can find almost anything on the internet. And in today’s climate, I see women everywhere reclaiming their power. I see female educators taking storm and teaching not just the youth, but all of us. I honestly didn’t learn the complete truth about my body and cycle until about a year (maybe more) ago. And I’m fortunate enough to have access to some awesome books and teachers who’ve educated me on the reproductive system, as well as the cycles it goes through.  

THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

The female body not only operates on the circadian rhythm (lasting 24 hours), but also the infradian rhythm. The infradian rhythm is a biological clock that lasts about a month. There are two phases overall, which can be split again in two. These are the proliferative phase (1st day of menstruation to ovulation) and the luteal phase (ovulation to next period). These can then be split into; menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal. Throughout this duration, your hormones shift, affecting your energy levels, cravings, moods, etc..

THE FOUR PHASES:

1. Menstrual Phase (Day 1-5)

Your uterine lining is being shed and pushed out of the body because there was no conception, thus no implantation. There’s a drop in progesterone. This phase is characterized by low hormones levels and a low basal body temperature (BBT), which will be reflected as less than 37 degrees celsius (<37).
This is the time to rest and reflect. Be honest with yourself, as you can see things clearly. Reevaluate aspects of your life. Notice how that makes you feel. Trust your intuition, and do what feels right to you. Engage in light activities like yoga or walking, and know it’s okay to feel vulnerable. I personally don’t feel very social when I’m menstruating, so it’s a good time to self-care and do things for me. I like to think of it as time to get to know myself (me-time).
Your body is losing key nutrients like iron and zinc. I remember my mom always telling me that I needed to eat food with protein during my menses. Mineral-rich veggies, like kale/seaweed/mushrooms, are a good choice to help replenish nutrients. Consume bone broths, which contain a lot of wonderful nutrients to nourish your body during this time.
Some kitchen herbs that I find are helpful for this time are black pepper, fenugreek, and cinnamon (warming herbs that promote circulation/movement of blood), as well as nettles (mineral-rich) and chamomile (stress-relieving and calming). I also swear by raspberry leaf tea for painful menses. You can pick it up at your supermarket.

2. Follicular Phase (Day 6-11)

Your ovary is beginning to prepare the egg. The uterine lining begins to build, and cervical fluid increases. Estrogen is rising, so your body can ovulate. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland and tells the ovaries to mature the follicles. Your hormones are still at their lowest, and your basal body temperature is lower (<37 degrees celsius).
This is the best time in your cycle to brainstorm and get creative. It’s also the perfect phase for planning. Set intentions, write your to-do list, and fill up your calendar for the month ahead.
Because this is the “start fresh” phase (a new moon), eating light foods that can help match that nourish your body best. Think leafy greens, nuts, and avocados (bonus: fermented foods, which are great to incorporate into your regular diet as well!).

3. Ovulatory Phase (Day 14-17)

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) kicks in and tells the ovary to release the egg. Estrogen peaks in order for the uterine line to thicken in preparation of a fertilized egg. LH, FSH, and estrogen are all at their peaks. A day before your ovulate, BBT peaks, then drops (> or = 37 degrees celsius). It will build up consistently afterwards. (Fun Fact: the ovary you ovulate from often switches sides by month. If you feel where your ovaries are, you may be able to tell which one you’re ovulating from.)
Time to be social! You may find yourself having your highest energy levels at this time. Connect and collaborate. This is my favorite time to do cardio or exercises that require a lot out of me. Bask in the extrovert within!
To support your cycle, eat lightly steamed veggies, and have a nice raw juice. Ovulation can be a constipating time, so make sure you get enough fiber in your meals. You could make a warm oatmeal with blueberries, figs, and flax seeds to top! Maca can be a nice herb to incorporate in your meals to help support endurance, and dandelion as well to help your liver metabolize hormones.

4. Luteal Phase (Day 17-28/30)

This is the longest phase in the cycle. Progesterone levels are at their highest, and BBT is over 37 degrees celsius (>37) until it drops before menstruation. Estrogen declines, and FSH and LH level out. The uterine lining is still building.
Get things done! Check off your to-do list! In the first half of the luteal phase, it can be a breeze to complete tasks and projects. The second half is a time for nurturing and preparing for your moon.
The more I started eating root vegetables during this phase, the more I began to crave them. Sweet potato with eggs, sprinkled with black pepper, salt, and cayenne, for breakfast is an excellent choice. And instead of eating sugary snacks, curb your cravings with sweet fresh or dried fruit like dates! In the second half of the luteal phase, try to incorporate warming herbs, like ginger and cinnamon. Bone broths can be nice to warm the body up before bleeding. Stray away from cold and raw foods at this time. Have a hot cup of fennel tea to encourage optimal digestion. ❤

There’s a disconnect between many people and their bodies. I think the fact that we’re given a very impartial (and kinda false) story about them is a huge cause of this. How do we become closer to ourselves when we’re constantly being fed falsities and stereotypes? How can we work with our bodies and tend to our needs, if we don’t know how to? How can we listen? And frankly, how can we enjoy our cycles, when we’re in pain and taught that that’s NORMAL?

Our cycle is part of our vitality. It is beautiful and amazing, and it is even more so knowing all that our bodies are capable of- all the work they do. We are incredibly strong, yet vulnerable at the same time and own it so well. We’re divine, and I hope that you can see the divinity in yourself and continue to explore your body. It has been an immense gift for me to grow into myself. The more I learn, the more I understand, the better I feel, and the better I help myself…

With Love,

LA


Sources:

  • Alisa Vitti’s In the Flo

Things to Check Out:

Keep a Lookout for Future Posts about Reproductive Health and Women’s Wellness, including Birth Control and Fertility Awareness!

Relationship Status: Hungry

Let’s Talk Perceptions, Interactions, and Relations to Food

How often do you ask yourself what your relationship with food is like? I can’t be the only one who stuffs their face in front of the computer screen or munches on a croissant while driving to work. I skip breakfast sometimes. I snack all day. My body is, sometimes, a way to measure whether I’m deserving of a meal or not. And on my best days, I eat full, wholesome meals, am completely present with my food, and feel awesome about that.

My relationship isn’t perfect. We’re on good terms, then we’re not. It fluctuates. And I want to interact with food guilt-free, but even when I’m eating healthy I can find myself wondering if I should even be eating at all.

Eating is how we provide energy for our daily activities and nurture our bodies. It is something we must do to keep ourselves alive, so how come eating rituals and mindful practices surrounding food have strayed away? How come eating is so simple, yet so complicated? How can we create a healthy relationship with food?


Where do our issues surrounding food and food consumption stem from?

Socially

It seems fairly recent that our Western society has begun to engage in certain eating habits such as mindless eating. We’ve let the dust collect on our traditional practices, our connections withering away, in many ways. We cling to a capitalist society that doesn’t have the time to sit down for a second and have quality time with their food.

The work, work, work mentality is harmful to our overall health. There’s an overwhelming feeling and/or habit of turning our hobbies into jobs, and on the other end of that, being as tired as we are, everyday activities like brushing your teeth begin to feel like work as well. These things shouldn’t be so taxing, and life should be enjoyable. Even the little things, like getting ready in the morning, could be made into pleasant practices.

It may not be often that you have the time to go grocery shopping and prepare meals from scratch. Taking the shortcut has become all too common in food preparation, ranging from in our homes to in the factories, bakeries, and farms our food comes from.

This is something that’s very alarming to me. As we’ve strayed away from the slow way of life, we’ve become more inclined to everything quickly, which is part in parcel to having a population that has dramatically increased. And this directly affects food preparation. Everything becomes go, go, go, or on-the-go. It’s quantity over quality. A lot of really important things have become more commercially motivated. It’s hard to have some sort of judgment over what’s right and wrong because we don’t know what goes on behind the counter, what exactly is put in our food, and how it’s prepared.

On the other hand, we can’t escape slimming tea ads and fast food commercials alike- not to mention the glorification of super-sized meals and allowance of this by government regulations. How we should and shouldn’t interact with food may not be explicitly said, but it is implied. For years, the media has pressed ideal body images. I acknowledge that the ideal body image has diversified, but there’s one thing that remains consistent, even as we charge forward with body positivity- the taboo of having fat.

We may deny that there is still a weight war going on behind the curtain, but losing weight is praised. No one ever congratulates you on gaining weight. Yet, when you’re finally super skinny, you need to “put some meat on your bones”. Growing up, I remember dieting program commercials were on the tv all the time. When you go to the supermarket, low-fat labels and I can’t believe it’s not butter! follow you through the aisles. Even social media, what was once a fun place to see what your friends were up to, has now become a sea of influencers sharing their “weight loss secret”, though behind closed doors they have consistently healthy diets and personal trainers. Bodies are everywhere, and comparison is too. How do we keep tabs of what’s actually healthy for our bodies in specific? Not someone through a screen or on the TV? How do we know this label is for us and not for someone else?

A peer of mine said something really relatable in class about how we perceive fat. We had been discussing the diets of traditional cultures- what they had in common and what kept them so healthy, even without the help of modern technology, doctors, dentists, and pharmaceuticals. Of course, there’s a list of things, but one thing we noticed was many of their high-fat diets (when I say high-fat, I mean naturally occurring healthy fats, like omega 3s- something that we don’t have much of in our modern diet!). Not only this, but when you look back in time, people’s perception of fat was completely different. Fat used to be a good sign- a sign of wealth. You were “eating good”.

In our modern society, low-fat is what you look to to lose weight. It’s what’s said to be healthy. And yes, that may be true according to your health concerns and in relation to unhealthy fats, but our ancestors used to cook in tallow and lard! And besides that point, our body fat is just what is leftover from what our body 1) didn’t use as nutrients, and 2) didn’t eliminate. My peer stopped and had to ask herself- why are we so quick to judge and demonize fat? Fats were important! And still are. It’s what our body turns to for energy, our protection, how we help preserve our health (acknowledging that anything in excess can affect our health as well). Why is it suddenly something unattractive? Why don’t we celebrate healthy bodies that have fat?

I see myself pick at my fat in the mirror before dinner, pulling at it as if it’s something that “must go!”. I watch my friends make comments about their weight almost every time I see them. And when I explicitly asked them where they think their own negative view and relationship with food comes from- they replied FAT!

Because of all this, food becomes our enemy. We must acknowledge that normal bodies exist, and they are beautiful. It’s so sad that so many people feel ashamed, are defined by this, and let it affect their relationship with food. It could be something that helps us heal, and what we should be doing is taking care of ourselves and listening to our bodies and what feels good. We need to stop shying away from changing our toxic lifestyles- that’s how we’ll change it for ourselves and for everyone around us.

Emotionally

Food can just as well be an emotional cushion. I know that when I’ve had a stressful or overly emotional day, I reach for sweet foods like chocolate. I’ll go for a giant, super-sized bowl of my favorite comfort food. Then chips. Then candy gummies. And I almost never feel good after I’ve stuffed myself past the brim.

Overeating can be just as harmful to our bodies as not eating at all. It puts stress on the body. And we end up making the connection to our brain that eating is the best way to pacify the emotions we’re feeling, instead of dealing with them. We turn to food when we’re looking for something.

We have to ask ourselves what we’re doing when consuming. Is it for our best and our optimal health? When I think about it, what I’m really looking for when I eat like that is a hug. That sensation of my belly feeling full makes me feel whole. I’m overcompensating for what I’m not receiving.

Environmentally

Where does our food come from?

For most of us, it’s the supermarket. But our food has a whole journey before it gets to us. The supermarket just gives us easy access and because of this, we’re disconnected from the land our food was grown on. If you’ve ever had your own garden, you probably know the elation of picking that fresh, red tomato off the vine from your own backyard. Close your eyes- can you remember what that smells like? Sweet, sunkissed Earth. Can you remember what the hairy leaves felt like in the palm of your hand, and how they tickled your cheeks as you reached down to pick the perfectly ripe fruit? Can you remember the beautiful bright red sparkling in contrast to the dark soil and green grass? Can you remember the gratitude you felt as you cut it to sprinkle over a salad or made into a sauce?

Without this connection, we have lost that gratitude to some extent. We’ve become senseless to the food on our plate- to the soil and water and sun that nurtured the potato you’re having for dinner. Imagine how much closer and more passionate we would be if we were the ones growing and picking our food. How much more we would savor those potent flavors in our mouths? How much slower we’d eat. Even just how much more we’d appreciate those who labor to bring our food to us, knowing how much work it is to tend to life. How much closer to mother nature we would be as we witness the miracle that is the creation of life. How much more we would advocate for organic, non-GMO food, and environmentally conscious farming practices.


How can you heal your relationship to food?

There are many unhealthy ways to interact with food (too many for me to name)- all for your own reasons and perhaps for one of the reasons above. There may be past trauma associated with eating or food. You may have a health concern that defines your relationship with food. Body image might be the battle you’re fighting at this moment. Or at the very least, what you eat might not matter to you at all. You might not care what you put in your body and don’t care how it affects you or makes you feel. But I promise that it does matter. Our relationship to food is important, and our bodies aren’t garbage disposals.

Being careful about my weight is a huge factor in my outlook on food. Eating itself is a subject that requires deep thought and careful interaction to keep myself from slipping into destructive habits. Self-punishment by denying myself food and being hard on myself after binge-eating are two things that I need to protect myself from and have struggled greatly with in the past. Because I had these two extremes, I catch myself thinking a certain way about myself and food, so subtly to the point where I almost miss it.

It’s easy to tell myself I can’t eat this or that and then feel bad about it. And harder to eat what my body is telling me to and to just feel good about that. But like most things, recognizing that is the first step, and from there, I’m able to constructively pick apart my thoughts and actions, so that I don’t have to feel that way anymore and finally have a healthy relationship with food.

Some Questions I Like to Ask Myself Are:
  1. How/what do I think of food?
  2. How do I feel when I think of eating and when I eat?
  3. Am I present while I’m eating?
  4. What does presence look like to me?
  5. What negative thoughts or feelings do I have surrounding food and eating?
  6. Why do I have these thoughts/feelings?
  7. How do these thoughts affect my relationship with food?
  8. Does my view about my body influence my relationship with food/eating?
  9. Do my general emotions and mental state affect my relationship with food?
  10. Do I have any restrictive habits or negative patterns I place on myself regarding food/eating?
  11. What foods make me feel good?
  12. What foods make me feel bad?
  13. What do I want my relationship with food to look like?
  14. How can I make that reality?

It could be good to keep a journal on hand to answer these questions and see how you feel as you go. You can log your habits/patterns, as well as the food you’re eating. You might just find the root cause of your problem. And this way, you can chart your different paths to see what works to get where you want to be.

Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship with Food
  • Explore yourself, and seek to release whatever guilt surrounds food and eating.
  • Practice mindful eating.
    • Sit with your food. Smell it. Notice it. Look at each bite as you eat it.
    • This might look to you like saying a prayer before each meal or simply just thanking the spirit of the food that’s on your plate and where it came from.
  • Practice mindful habits surrounding food.
    • This might look like scheduling time out of your day to really be present while grocery shopping, meal prepping at the beginning of the week if you’re too busy to do so throughout the week, or cooking meals from scratch.
  • Listen to your body and what it’s asking for!
  • Eat the foods that make you body feel the best.
  • Indulge in moderation.
  • Talk to people about how you’re feeling. A friend. A therapist. Your mom. Whoever you feel comfortable with. 🙂

Food is our sustenance. And past this, food can be our best medicine. You can have all the drugs or herbs or whatever in the world, and it still won’t work because the one thing you must change is your diet. There are no supplements out there that can match the pureness and quality assimilation with your body like real food. And we interact with it day in and day out, so why not take the extra time out to really care. Make it into a special little something, a ritual. It can make all the difference.

Doing these things helped me become closer to the food I consume and the act of eating it. Even though I’ve felt so many ways about food, and it affects my body in constantly changing ways, at the end of the day- I’m truly a foodie. It’s something I want to enjoy, always.

I’ve begun to realize that when I consume food without guilt and with happiness, love, and gratitude- my body recognizes that. My entire physical being feels better. I digest better. And that all ties in and makes me a happier person who doesn’t have to worry too much!

With Love,

LA

SKIN

Our bodies are our homes while we’re on this Earth. And we want to feel good and comfortable in our own skin.

My skin definitely isn’t perfect, but it has come a really long way from where it’s been. I’ve always had acne. It usually clears up during the summer time and resurfaces during the change of seasons (at its worst during winter). But over the course of the last year, I started getting cystic acne on my cheeks and forehead. These spots would stick around for months at a time. I got back and chest acne as well. My pores were enlarged like crazy. And on top of all this, I was breaking out in rashes, and on occasion, burns from trying a billion different products. As the acne itself went away, it would leave behind scars that I thought would never leave.

I didn’t know where to turn when it came to skincare. Everything I used either didn’t work or made it worse. I got a few products from my dermatologist at first, but they take three months to kick in and work steadily. Truly, I was impatient, and I also didn’t want to have to rely on these to keep my acne away for good.

I was really embarrassed of my skin. I told myself I could only wear certain clothes, so people couldn’t see my back, and I scrambled to find a good foundation to cover up my face. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Growing up in the age of social media makes it really hard to be confident in your own skin, when you’re constantly seeing these seemingly perfect people. There’s a lot of room for comparison. I used to edit my face on some of my pictures because I didn’t want anyone to know what was really there.

I had to learn to love myself throughout all of this, despite what my skin looked like and know that there is so much beneath all of that. Having acne is not an “ugly” thing. It’s a normal human thing that most people struggle with. There was nothing wrong with me when my skin was awry- it just needed a little more TLC. It was my body’s way of telling me something was up that I needed to deal with. Acne didn’t make me any less. I didn’t, and don’t, have to hide.

I wish someone could’ve flat out given me a solution when I was desperately searching for one. This was my journey though, and everyone’s solution is going to be different. What’s listed below is what helped me, and hopefully it’ll help lead one of you to yours.


Secrets to Getting Clear Skin

Treat from the inside-out.

We must work from the inside-out. Doing this helps you clear the root of the problem, so it doesn’t resurface again. The goal is to nourish and nurture your overall health.

Your inner work and work that is done from the inside is where the bulk of the effort lies.

  • Mental/Emotional Health. When I look back at the times I had a lot of acne, I was most often not happy, stressed, anxious, or depressed. I wasn’t doing well mentally, and my skin was a reflection of that. It sucked because my skin breaking out put an even bigger damper on my self-esteem, but those were times when I really needed to take care of myself.
    • Me-Time. Make time for yourself and things that make you happy. Go for a walk. Make some art. Make sure there’s always at least a day a week that’s just for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.
    • De-stress. Stress can play a HUGE role in acne. It’s important to de-stress throughout the day. Meditate. Do some breathwork. Write in your journal, and identify your feelings. It’s important to come back down to the ground and realign yourself.
    • Happiness. When I’m happy, I have the best skin. It’s almost like it glows. The key (for me) to being happy is what’s said above. I lean towards being anxious, so I’m constantly having to identify what’s going on inside of me, debunk stressful situations, and re-ground myself. I do things to set myself up for success. P.S. Being grateful brings joy into your heart.
  • Cleanse. While looking for solutions online, I discovered Organic Olivia’s blog about how she cleared her acne. She swore by doing a parasite cleanse. I was familiar with the subject because I’d done a few before, but I’d never thought about how parasites can relate to cystic acne. (Yes, we all have parasites. And no, they don’t have to be causing life-threatening illness.) Parasites can also cause a slew of mental health issues like anxiety. It all lined up for me. I went to Whole Foods and picked up a two week microbial cleanse. I did the two weeks, waited one week, and repeated it. Not only did my entire body feel like I was getting rid of all the junk, but my face acne was significantly reduced in size, and my body acne was disappearing.
  • A Good Diet. A good diet doesn’t mean dieting. It means clean-eating and drinking lots of water for the most part. It’s not about being super strict with yourself either. Treat yourself, but understand it’s everything in moderation. I don’t hold back when I want something because I don’t want my relationship to food to be negative. I want to enjoy the food I eat. For the most part, I try to stick to eating a plethora of veggies, lean proteins, and I cook at home. I also try to stay away from most processed foods and sugary drinks. Kombucha is my favorite alternative because it has probiotics and is also fizzy like soda.
    • Listen to your body. Only eat when you’re hungry. Overeating can put stress on your body because it’s overloaded. Be conscious of what feels good.
    • Less Coffee. Coffee dehydrates the body. This is my biggest vice because I love coffee, but it also causes major anxiety. Staying away from it, and choosing to drink herbal tea instead, improves my skin health tenfold. It also helps bring my stress levels down :).
  • Vitamins- A good probiotic can go a long way. Imbalances in the body, especially in the gut, can lead to acne. I took a Skin Probiotic for a while, when my skin was at its worst. Now, I stick to a Bio-K probiotic for my overall gut health.

Treating the surface layer.

  • A Good Skincare Routine. There are lots of super fancy acne fighting products on the market. There are many things people will try to sell you because it’s “revolutionary”, but 1) why would I spend that kind of money if I don’t know if it’ll work, and 2) they’re usually out of my budget. I needed things that actually do something and are reasonably priced. I tried pretty much everything and read a bunch of articles before I found the one. The first thing that worked for me was the SLMD Acne System Kit. I opted out of using the cleanser because of a sulfate it contained, but everything else was great. After using it for a few months, I began to branch out.
    • My skincare routine consists of:
      • Cleanser– I use this once a day, usually at night. If I’m breaking out more, I use it twice a day. Otherwise, in the morning, I just rinse my face with warm water, massage with an exfoliating glove, then rinse with cold water. I like to have a cleanser with salicylic acid in it to help fight breakouts, so the Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser is ideal and also cheap. There’s another awesome exfoliating cleanser by Skin Medica with AHA and BHA. It’s a little more pricey.
      • Toner– I use this morning and night. As an astringent, it helps tighten your pores back up after washing. Just regular witch hazel works, or the Thayers Witch Hazel (rose petal).
      • Exfoliant– AHA and BHA work wonders on acne, ESPECIALLY if you get those little skin colored bumps that don’t ever leave. It helps peel away the dead skin and reveal a new layer. I like the BHA Liquid Exfoliant from Paula’s Choice. I only use it at night because if used too much, it makes my skin dry.
      • Retinol– This is only used at night. It helps bring collagen to the surface of your skin, helps smooth skin texture, and get rid of dark spots/acne marks. I still use the SLMD Retinol Serum.
      • Treatment– This is basically a spot treatment. I use drugstore brand benzoyl peroxide whenever I get a stubborn pimple. Other times, I use tea tree oil- ONLY when there’s nothing else but lotion on my face. (CAUTION: Always dilute tea tree oil. Never ever mix it with chemical treatments. And test to see if you’re allergic first.)
      • Moisturizer– Used morning and night. It’s always, always oil-free. (Oil clogs pores, so I try to make sure all my products are oil-free.) I like it to have vitamin C to help reduce hyperpigmentation. The Avalon Organics Intense Defense Oil-Free moisturizer is my favorite.
      • Sunscreen– I really only use this in the summer time or when my skin is oily. My sunscreen contains niacinamide, which helps balance oil production. I like the EltaMD sunscreen.
      • If you have body acne, I swear by the Paula’s Choice Acne Body Spray.
      • *Bonus*- To help extract the dirt out of my pores and pull out toxins, I use the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. This stuff is true magic.
  • Don’t Pick at Your Face. Just don’t.
  • Check the Ingredients in Everything. I can’t stress this enough. Because Perioral Dermatitis is triggered by certain things, and because my skin is so sensitive, I have to be careful with what I’m using. Everything I buy, I READ THE LABEL first. Most products contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), which is a really big no-no for PD. Sulfates can clog pores and also cause skin irritation. Check your detergent, dish soap, foamy hand soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Look for things without sulfates, parabens, fragrance, etc.
    • It’s hard to find products without all these chemicals in them, I know. But there are brands out there that strive to put conscious products out. Some examples are; Shea Moisture, Whole Foods Organic Detergent, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, and Lyonsleaf.
    • Know everything you put on your skin goes into your body. It all has an effect and swings back around. Here are some quick little facts for you about things to avoid (from @plateful.health on Instagram):
  • Makeup. The thought of this at first made me nervous because I didn’t want to expose my skin, but wearing less face makeup helped reduce my problem of clogged pores. Instead of covering my face in foundation, I just use concealer under my eyes or as a spot cover up. Primer helps the product not seep in either. Remember to properly remove makeup- exfoliating with gloves help here. Also CLEAN YOUR MAKEUP BRUSHES. I’d get acne wherever I was swiping that brush because bacteria was collecting all over it. It’s important to wash them periodically.
  • Exercise. Get your blood flowing! Exercise helps improve circulation and move the blood to where it needs to go. Sweating also helps expel toxins. I don’t love exercising, but it makes me feel good and improves the way my skin looks. Even just getting out for a walk every day makes a huge difference.

Ever since doing all of this consistently, I haven’t broken out much. Sometimes I’ll break out because of something I ate (like dairy, sugar, or gluten), other times for hormonal reasons (my cycle). My pores stay clear, and I keep an eye on my mental health, which helps keep my skin glowy. I also make sure to get enough sleep, so my body has time to heal itself.

These are some photos of what my skin looks like now. Healed :).

Take this all with a grain of salt. Know that you are beautiful, and you don’t have to be ashamed of your skin. I understand that now more than ever and have to fully accept myself as I am.

With love,

LA

The Divine Feminine

art by Sage Shakti

Lessons from Me, My Mama, and Other Wise Women in My Life


“Self care allows me to tap into my divine feminine energy. This energy is the force that connects mother nature and all souls. It is an interwoven essence that speaks to authentic power. Keyword; authentic power. As a woman, I am connected to Mother Nature. She is me and I am her. It’s the energy that is deep within me; surging. Becoming.

What does self care look like to me?

Speaking my truth. As a woman, we are told…don’t be so loud, don’t feel your feelings. Think without heart. My heart, my pain, is my power. I tap into the energy of all by allowing myself to be. To be. Repeat that, to be. Whatever that might be, I’m unapologetically myself. “

Sage Shakti


For so long, I felt uncomfortable in my body. Not exactly self-image wise, but I felt like being a girl, a woman, was a burden and that I should be something/someone else. I felt like I should hide or be ashamed for being this way. I was never taught what it meant to be a woman, or anything deeper than physically why our bodies were different from men. I was never explicitly taught how to take care of myself. I felt embarrassed to ask questions, to discuss anything out loud, and to talk about my body.

I always wondered why no one talked about anything. Why my friend group growing up never really discussed what we were going through until we were older. And why as women we are so hard on ourselves and despite belonging to that collective, we are hard on each other too. Was there a safe place I could go?

As I got more mature and more serious about myself and my body, I began searching more. Thank god for the internet because whenever I didn’t feel comfortable saying something out loud, I usually looked there in private. Beyond that, I was just learning through observation. Then I got past caring about what anyone thought and started to ask questions- talking openly with my mother and my friends about everything. I started to realize how incredibly awesome it is to be a woman and to share a space with other women. I also realized how much they had to share and how learning from them was the best way to do it. They understand because they are.

This is an ode to the village that raised me. There are parts of me that have wandered off (and still do), out of curiosity and thirst for knowledge and intellect. But there have been many who touched my soul so deeply, it’s impossible to deny. Each print on my spiritual body expanded my mind and thought process. I would not be the woman I am today without their gentle voices, their soft eyes who have lost, been disheartened, and silenced, but have chosen to share their stories and wisdom with me. It’s an ode to the knowledge I’ve picked up along my way. To all the women that taught me what taking care of myself meant beyond physical terms- I want to share their unfiltered voices with you. So all I ask is that you bask in that, open your mind to receiving the energy of these magical women.


photo by Brea Carlstrom

What is The Divine Feminine ?

Lessons from my mama;

The Divine Feminine (and feminine energy) are the heart’s love and all it encompasses; purity, nurturing, creation, allowance, compassion, caring, etc. They are the awareness and understanding that all life is sacred. And paired with The Divine Masculine, there is a powerful union and balance.

Therefore, self-care is not about cancelling out The Divine Masculine. It is not one or the other. It is both. Self-care is just accessing that feminine part of yourself and bringing it out. There may be masculinity in excess-due to the state of society or what you’re being told. The Divine Masculine is that of action and reason, but when we overdo that, we become overwhelmed because we’ve spent so much time suppressing our true nature. We neglect the part of ourselves that needs to relax and feel. Maybe because sometimes we’re told that being soft and vulnerable are bad traits. When in reality, that’s not true.

You support The Divine Feminine by being grateful (giving thanks) and expressing that- staying true to your heart. It is such an important part of us stepping into our power as women because it lives so strongly within our bodies. Love (feminine energy) reaches out its arms, embraces you, and shows you- you were born worthy. No one can confirm or give you that because it was yours all along. And that love is unlike any other. My mom compares it to that of the love from a mother to her child- that unconditional pure love. And that’s how it should be with yourself. You treat yourself with the same kind of care and gentleness that you would your own child.

“I find that regardless of what happened or what is happening at this moment, love’s purity, wisdom, protection, and power, are the simplest, easiest courses of action. Real love wants what is best for you and all that you deserve.” Love delivers peace of mind. You heal in that light. It keeps you youthful, joyous, and present. And remaining and channeling that is what can and will guide you. Self-care is inviting that kind of love in and letting it wipe away anything negative. When you’re living in the light of love, it’s hard to have anything penetrate that and knock it down. And it becomes much easier to quiet your mind’s chatter and really listen.

I have yet to come across anything stronger than the power of Divine Femininity. It’s the life force that exists the womb and surges through our veins. It’s what keeps us from breaking (even if we may feel like we are), while carrying generations and generations of weight. It’s what keeps us going when we are tired, why we continue to fight. It’s the quality of being resilient. It’s the flowers that sprout from our palms- a peace offering. It’s the healing vibration of laugher and touch. It’s the effortless beauty in every woman. It’s the reminder and knowing of the vast aptitude of our existence.

What is Self-Care ?

It’s more than just face masks and painting your nails. Although that can be where it starts- physically. I like to think that self-caring means nourishing and nurturing yourself through different means, in all aspects of your health. That being; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. At the end of the day, it boils down to the journey of self-loving and being happy- meaning you don’t have to look outwards and nothing can change it. Self-caring is learning about yourself and practicing that.

Beth Killip: I love that question! I love it because self care is such a beautiful energy that equates to not only self love, but self knowing. And that to me, is the most important piece of self care right now. I care best for myself by knowing myself. Self care is knowing some days I remember, and some days I forget, but I ALWAYS have access to listen to her, my truest self.

I know myself more and more by taking time each day to question everything; to critically think, sift through the bombardment of information, and then the most important part…feel gratitude for my life, all of it 😉. To sit quietly and listen to my soul, my expanded self- that part of me that is connected forever to the big ole’ Universe.

It is not always easy to look at and release thoughts and beliefs I’ve been programmed with my entire life; the stories I’ve created in my mind based on these programs, the agenda driven, manipulated, and infiltrated information I hear in the world- the overly positive messages swirling around. But as I do, I get quiet and let in the part of me that holds wisdom and truth and love beyond this world. It is the most self caring thing I can do.

I get guidance, I hear messages, I feel love. I remember who I am and then I can live with more lightness, more purpose, more appreciation for this fantastically beautiful Earth (and my place in it), and a boatload more joy.

So my self care advice? Listen…to…yourself…the You that is connected to All. You got this! And also I’d like to mention getting massages and belly laughing with friends- those are ranked way high up on the self care list as well.

Sonal Madhok: Self care looks different for everyone and every day it could be different. There are days where my self care is a healthy meal or a workout or a long walk. I think the common denominator is that self care is rest. It’s a rest of the mind, body, and soul. And it’s necessary so that we can become even stronger and honor ourselves.

I usually shut everything off and listen to music. Journaling is always a go-to for me. It feels good to write down what I’m feeling and what triggered it because otherwise, I’ll feel tension. And overtime, I’ll forget how it came about, and I might release it onto others or myself. By addressing it, when I feel it and accept it, I make it easier for the emotion to pass. The more I spend trying to push it away instead of accepting it, the harder it comes back to remind me that I’m hurt. So journaling helps me alleviate that.

I also like to keep affirmations around me- whether that be in reminders on my phone or on notes around my room. Sometimes, I self-care by remembering the things and/or people I’m grateful for. Recently, when I feel like I’ve been in my head too much, I remember a loved one, and I write them a letter about how I appreciate them. Then I send it to them in the mail. This has been such a powerful way for me to rejuvenate, remember that I am loved, and ground myself. It feels good to make others feel good and especially, when they are words that you say in your head and are conveying them on a random day- not only on their birthday or a ‘special’ day.

It really is such a beautiful process. So I think keeping a gratitude journal, and/or writing letters to those you’re grateful for, does wonders for your own mental health.

Julia Forsyth and her mama, Marcie Forsyth: When you’re talking about mental health, it is so okay to be selfish. You have to do the best thing for yourself in that moment. I like to take the time to figure out what I need, and sometimes all that is, is water. I struggle with keeping things in now and again, so it’s very therapeutic to communicate and talk about how I feel. Overtime I’ve learned what I need. Thankfully, I have the emotional support to lean onto, which I couldn’t survive without. Sometimes all you need is a little push. And it’s okay to ask for it.

Along with that- having a schedule, eating good, and doing things you love every day has helped me tremendously. I would tell someone who has not found inner peace yet, to never stop because you are the only thing that can give yourself happiness. It’s worth the journey. (Julia)

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keeping everything in perspective is so important. Since I teach kids everyday, I’m always thinking about the impact I have on other people. Listening to them, giving them confidence, and making them feel good about themselves is my #1 priority. Having a schedule helps me do any day-to-day tasks, such as waking up at a consistent time, taking a shower, getting dressed, and getting ready for work. Getting outside is also very important to me. I always feel so much better after I walk. (Marcie)

CJ Howley: Self care, for me, can seem to take on various forms; from certain actions to eating exceptional foods. Practices like yoga, which in Sanskrit means “union”, have helped me throughout the years in countless ways- rehabilitating my mind, body, and spirit. Meditation taught me that I’m able to find the stillness, the acceptance, the love, that is always present among the thoughts.

Buying, growing, preparing, and eating beautiful foods, free of chemicals and poisons, has been a commitment of mine now for two decades. I feel better- my body feels lighter, more healthy, ever stronger, and I’d like to think that my impact on the Earth is a positive one.

All of this is great and has contributed to my overall wellness, but still, each of these can be singulated to be put into categories for health, but for me- there’s a bigger picture. In my humble opinion, it all boils down to one practice- one monumental thing – the ultimate self care. For me, self care is self love.

Learning to hear, then to listen, trust and follow the knowing of your heart (spirit, soul) is perhaps our greatest quest on this Earth. I know it’s mine. The desire to want to feel good is not necessarily shelving the things that you may think feel bad- but rather it’s identifying what about it that brings misery and suffering and getting curious about that.

Perhaps if we look at the things- (feelings, people, places, actions) that “scare” us, “challenge” us, “dominate” us, etc..- if we face them, get curious about them, start to understand what is going on inside of us when we are feeling scared, lonely, rejected, abandoned- maybe then we can learn to feel the discomfort, recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it.

Maybe the more we do this, the louder the whisper of our heart, our spirit, our soul becomes. Maybe we start to differentiate our heart’s wisdom from the voices in our heads, the opinions of societal and cultural “norms” and we begin to navigate our life on our own terms regardless of what the outside world is saying. And maybe even demanding of us.

Yes, this takes practice.
Yes, this takes fastidiousness.
And yes, we may falter along the path at times.
But this, we can do it!

And the beauty about it is; the more we listen, the more courageous we grow. The more courageous we grow, the more we may open up to greater compassion, more softness. The more softness can be found for ourselves and then authentically, we can forward it towards others.

From this place we learn to love, to truly love, the voice of our heart- the wisdom of our soul. Self Care, therefore, is an inevitable byproduct of Self Love. And thus, Self Love is Self Care.


To the people in my life who continue to raise me up, keep me in check, and show me love- the women I’ve found home in, where I can be myself, where I don’t have to apologize for being me, but instead am celebrated. Thank you.

With Love,

Us.

Let’s Talk About Wellness: Alternative Medicine

Mom’s Medicine Cabinet

How Alternative medicine changed my life

On a particularly ill-feeling day, my mother and I hopped on a train to New York City. We were to visit a Chinese herbalist on Canal Street. I’d never been to any type of Eastern doctor previously. Instead, I grew up on cold, stale waiting rooms and busy doctors- ones who were too busy to listen to me.

Prior to this endeavor, I was suffering from debilitating anxiety, migraines, and a raw stomach. It was hard to hold down food and even when I tried, I’d have this burning sensation run through my abdomen. The best I could do was apply pressure and stay still to help dull the pain. I was shaky and in knots- on edge and tired. It felt better to not put anything in my body at all to avoid what I was feeling. I spent months switching doctors to figure out what was wrong. They ran tests. Did blood work and gave me ultrasounds. I even visited a gastroenterologist, but left with the discovery that I had high blood pressure, which is strange for someone who’s ‘young and healthy’. I waited weeks for some kind of response, but there was never anything returned or that they could find. Still, I knew something was wrong, regardless of if I had something to base it off of.

It had taken some convincing. My mother has a strong distaste for the city, but I could tell that upon entering the building, there was an excitement between the both of us. A ray of light. Three flights above us held an office-like space with dull lighting. It was decorated generously with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) books, calendars, notebooks, and acupuncture tables- which at the time was a sight to marvel at. I didn’t even know what acupuncture was exactly and the sight of needles in people was a bit unnerving, but at the same time interesting.

Dr. Fu Zhang’s waiting room was warm and welcoming. Quiet with the permeating scent of herbs filling my senses. I vividly recall the soft face of his daughter waving us over from behind a wooden panel divider. I sat down, pulled up my sleeves, and laid my arm across his empty desk. He placed his steady fingers on my pulse and asked me to stick out my tongue. In my head, I sort of wondered why he needed to see my tongue to diagnose, but I was far beyond the point of questioning- I saved that for later. I didn’t have to say much, only answered a few questions. Before I could settle, his daughter was concocting a set of powdered herbs from the wall shelves.

A cold stomach, or an invasion of yin. Our bodies work on a balancing system of energies. They work tirelessly to keep everything equal, but not without our help and effort. It works in a balance between yin (cold) and yang (hot). When too much of one is present, it throws off the balance, overwhelming the other. This can lead to physical symptoms. And where it comes from just depends. Anxiety and worry happen to affect the stomach/spleen. The stomach is where your digestive fire lies. And those emotions weaken the corresponding organs and make them more susceptible to illness. What you consume also greatly affects your organ function- eating iced, cold, or raw food/drinks in excess can deplete your digestive fire and make it more difficult for your body to perform digestive function (more energy is used to digest those kinds of foods).

I was instructed to eat warm, cooked foods and to avoid any dairy, cold, and greasy foods. Then, I was given the set of herbs to boil into a tea every night for twenty minutes. Within weeks, I regained my strength and started slipping back into myself.

But that wasn’t without the internal work too. Before my visit to Dr. Fu Zhang, I wasn’t taking care of myself properly in any aspect of my life. I didn’t even know how. And for a while after that, even after getting better, I still struggled. I do now. Though, this did mark a major point in the way I looked at myself, my lifestyle, and health as a whole. It was just the beginning.

Around the same time my anxiety was at its worst, I started getting a rash on my face. It was mostly under my nose and around the sides of my mouth- red and irritated, only getting angrier the more I tried to cover it up or use over the counter remedies. So I decided to visit a dermatologist. The minute he saw me he knew what it was. Perioral Dermatitis. He handed me a pamphlet and said he’d have a prescription sent to my local pharmacy. No questions asked.

With a bit of time, it went away. And I thought I was good, but it came back with vengeance. I used the cream again. And it went away and came back. Again. And again. And again. This happened for years to come.

So I started to experiment. First, I tried just leaving it alone, which yielded no result. Then I started doing my own research on its causes/the root of the problem- beyond what I’d been told. I read other peoples blogs and experiences with this form of dermatitis. I tried different creams and essential oils. I dove into nutrition and gut function and explored different foods/their effect on my body and skin. I discovered how important what I was putting in my body was. And began taking internal supplements and herbs to help eliminate whatever was going on inside my body. Then realizing that even things like toothpaste and detergent had an effect on my skin- so I changed all the products I used previously. I started actually reading the labels of everything I use.

I then discovered the wonderful gift to this Earth that is acupuncture. I found someone I could talk to about what was going on with me, whether it was big or small, whatever I thought was relevant. And he listened and understood at a deeper level. He took everything into account when treating. In turn, I was able to learn from the knowledge of another. There’s only so much you can get from the internet and just plain reading. It helps to be able to discuss your findings, get some sort of validation, and learn further. It showed me that any type of physician or specialist should truly care about the wellness of their patient and also everything that goes into what caused the trauma/illness/disease and the healing process. It’s not all cut and dry.

Everything began to come together. I began to understand my body and that it needed certain things, attention and treatment, that it wasn’t getting before. And that other things I was doing hurt it. My emotional health carries so much weight. With a lot of patience and time, I eventually discovered a ‘No BS’ skincare brand specifically tailored to people with skin conditions like Perioral Dermatitis- that focuses on healing the skin/protecting it and nurturing it with the use of herbal salves. Within two weeks after using their products, my skin cleared up. And has stayed that way as I’ve focused more on identifying my emotions, switching products that are harmful to my skin, and paying attention to my diet.


Alternative Medicine is basically any method of healing Western medicine considers unconventional. But these practices are ancient. They’ve been around much longer than the modern world has. It includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Naturopathy, and much more. Their methods of healing recognize you are not just a hollow body. Everything is both physical and non-physical. It recognizes that there are different pathways to explanations and answers. The remedies work with your body’s natural rhythm to get the job done.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t born with a perfect body or perfect skin. I have to be very careful when it comes to most things because I don’t know how it’ll affect me. It’s frustrating to say the least. On a daily basis I ask myself what’s feeling off, what can I fix, and how. Everything I put in my body has a consequence sooner or later (positive or negative). Everything is so seemingly easy for everyone else. There are things I used to be able to do that I just can’t now. But I am still grateful because it has opened me up to this world.

I am so lucky to have been able to have access to this community. To have it revealed to me at a young age- through a mother who chose to use homeopathic remedies whenever she could, teaching me indirectly. And through the many, many people I’ve come across who share the same interests, who have also taught me. To have had the jobs I did that exposed me further to herbs and horticulture and nutrition. To have been open to the love they have to offer. And to be able to explore as I please at whatever pace I’ve chosen. I’m grateful to even have this interest and feel my heart grow every time I gather a piece of information. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. It gave me the opportunity to focus on my wellness and to know myself, to be in tune with my body and soul. It gave me hope. It was there for me when nothing else, or no one else, was, and taught me how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way- to build healthy habits and to dig deeper. Not everything lies on the surface. And I’m not saying I don’t slip up, I do. But I try.

I’ve learned that plant vessels are not silent. They do speak and each has its own beautiful, unique voice. So much is offered when being a part of these forms of medicine- whether it’s what you grew up on, if you’re a teacher, a student, or someone who receives this kind of care or are just discovering it. This knowledge is acquiring a greater understanding of everything encompassing you- to learn it is all intertwined and purposeful, flowing together. It’s learning the knowledge of eternity on this planet. Plants were here long before us, hold more information than even the most acknowledged scientific journals. All you have to do is listen and pay attention. Let them speak and show you. It would be a crime to discredit all that came before you were even a seed on this humble Earth. The one that gives and gives and gives until there is nothing left. The one that has everything you need to live and breathe.


What I’ve learned is there are things modern medicine cannot do. There are bounds it does not reach. But what I’ve ALSO learned is- there are things alternative medicine cannot do either. There isn’t supposed to be a constant battle between the two and neither should be invalidated. They are to work together for the sake of wellness and betterment of humanity.

While there have been more experiences since, and run-ins with Western medicine, where I was unable to figure out what was happening to my body- these two experiences jump-started my fascination with ancient medicine and native healing practices. Each moment has only left me hungry for more. It has even pushed me towards studying Western Herbalism. But if I wrote about each and every one this post would be endless. Perhaps I’ll share in the future. 🙂

With Love,

Visionary Orchid