The Benefits of Nettle

The Benefits of Nettle

Nettle leaf

ABOUT PLANT HEALING

I am beyond thrilled to share my first plant healing post. I am a student at The Gaia School of Healing in Southern California and has shifted the way I relate to the plant world and how I think about medicine. We learn in the Wise Woman Tradition which is based in honoring the natural, sacred rhythms of the Earth to tap into the wisdom held in the plants that surround us. It is also rooted in looking inward, listening to our bodies to tell us what type of healing is needed, both spiritually and physically. I hope you will feel inspired to connect with the plants around you and see what type of spiritual healing is there for you!

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO THE FABULOUS NETTLE!

I knew immediately which plant to post about first: The wonderful, nourishing Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). I can’t explain how grateful I am to have connected with this plant spirit; It is like taking in the richness of the earth in green liquid form! Nettle is a nourishing herb which means it is packed with the minerals and vitamins our bodies need to function properly. By flooding the body with nourishment, nettle rebuilds the various systems of the body and restores nutrient deficiencies.

Rich in: vitamins K, A, vitamin B complex, magnesium, iron, chlorophyl, potassium, zinc, and other trace minerals

Nettles can help with the following:
Increase energy and fight fatigue
Balance hormones
Boost immunity
Improve digestion and nutrient absorption
Build healthy blood and circulatory system
Provide basic minerals to help systems operate efficiently
Help the body handle stress
Grow thicker, shiny hair
Gives glowing complexion
Strengthen respiratory system
Build and restores adrenal and kidney function
Prevents cancer
Alleviate menstrual cramps
Increase breast milk production
Help anemia (due to high iron content)
Help fight addiction and release emotions no longer useful

I will shout it from the hilltops: Nettles should be part of everyone’s life, especially if you live in an urban environment and/or are dealing with chronic stress. Our bodies are constantly being depleted of nutrients due to environmental and physical stress. Taking in a nourishing herb, like nettle, helps keep your systems balanced and healthy.

This is why I can’t recommend this enough for people with crazy lives. From first hand experience, trust me: you will feel so much better! Gentle nettle put me back together last year at a very stressful time. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, muddling through a demanding job and family drama. I drank nettle almost everyday for a month and throughout the process, I noticed subtle shifts; I was much calmer in the face of stressful situations, was able to sustain my energy, and damn, was my complexion bright and glowing! I became stronger, both physically and emotionally. It was such a blessing to realize that there is so much spirit medicine available in a plant!

In addition to the scientifically-backed physical benefits, nettle delivers energetic healing, especially to the root chakra, by aiding in creating healthy boundaries and a strong spiritual foundation. Nettle can grow in low quality soil and bring it back to health, which is a beautiful way to imagine how it helps the human body.

Nettle is known particularly for being a wonderful plant ally for women in all stages of life through stabilizing the reproductive system, building rich blood, and increasing cells’ ability to metabolize nutrients. It will alleviate menstrual cramps, support new mothers, and ease menopause, alike!

Nettle, like most nourishing herbs, grows wild and abundant and is one of the most sustainable herbs you can consume on a regular basis.  You can buy dried nettles at Mountain Rose Herbs or at your local health food store. You’ll want to buy loose leaf tea in bulk since small teabags don’t provide enough plant material to make infusions.

How to make nettle infusion:

  1. Take a small fistful of plant material and throw it in a sturdy 1 quart glass jar (or fill up 1/4 of the jar with the herb if you’re not using qt size)
  2. Pour boiling water, filling up the jar
  3. Cover and let sit for a minimum of four hours, up to 10 hours. The longer it infuses, the more nutrients available.
  4. Strain and drink up! Start out with 2-3 cups per day, but there’s really no recommended amount – just listen to your body.
  5. Refrigerate any leftover infusion. Try to consume within 48 hours to prevent spoilage (I try to drink mine within 24 hours).

Nettle is very safe – just listen to your body. This class of herb works gradually, which is great because they can be taken safely for an extended period without side effects of harsher plants. The one thing I recommend is to drink plain water throughout the day since nettle can be slightly drying.

Do you love nettle? I would love it if you would share your experiences in the comments, below!

4 Products To Solve Your Winter Skin Issues

4 Products To Solve Your Winter Skin Issues

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It has finally hit 50 degrees at night which means that us Angelenos now have to wear a medium-weight jacket over our dresses we’ve been wearing since summer. Even though it’s not very chilly here, my skin tends to dry out from indoor heating, hot water, and living in a really arid climate, and dry skin can turn into painfully itchy skin. Check out my roundup of therapeutic products that will alleviate all your winter skin issues and are great to take with you on your travels!

Dry, windburned, or cracked skin and eczema: True Organic of Sweden’s All You Need Is Me
For those of you who can’t seem to find a lotion heavy or moisturizing enough, this stuff is for you.  True’s stand out ingredients are castor, shea, olive, and blueberry seed oils, and zero fillers, making this balm ultra effective since it’s so concentrated.  I’ve been using this waterless balm on my hands, elbows, knees, cracked heels and general rough patches and they’ve been magically softened up! True also suggests using this on hair and to treat everything from diaper rash and insect bites to sun and windburn. Skip the toxic jar of Vaseline and use this single product as your family’s winter skincare cure-all!

Cracked, dry cuticles: Lilian Eve Cuticle Oil Pen
A la Karen Smith, my nail beds suck. Really, I have painfully dry, hang-nail ridden cuticles that will make even the most polite nail technician gasp with concern. This oil pen has rescued me! While it’s a simple product made with just Argan, apricot, and jojoba oils, the ease of application via the handy cuticle brush pen really wins me over. For me, half of the battle is remembering to oil my claws so I leave this on my nightstand and apply before bed.

Prevent dry ends: One Love Organics Healthy Locks Dry Shampoo Powder
Two words: greasy bangs. Since I followed through on a whim to cut my own curly fringe/bangs, I now understand the greasy bang struggle that my straight-haired counterparts have dealt with. This dry shampoo stands out for me because of its gorgeous, subtle scent and the incredibly velvety consistency of the powder. OLO’s dry shampoo is great for soaking up excess oils at the root of the hair in-between washes, preventing my ends from being dried out from too much exposure to hot water.  I sprinkle a little at the crown of my head and then add oil to my ends and I’m set!

Calm irritated facial skin: Keys Luminous Hydrating Moisturizer
This is one of the first natural products I tried and it has been a staple in my winter routine for about three years now. With therapeutic ingredients like avocado oil, Shea butter, blood orange and carrot seed oils, this formula is wonderful for calming sensitive, dry skin. It’s perfect to use as a daytime moisturizer since it is thoroughly hydrating and protects against drying environmental factors. It also provides a moisturizing base for makeup without being greasy.

Do you have any special wintertime rituals to soothe skin? Share, below!

 

*Affiliate links appear in this post which means that I receive a small commission from any purchases you decide to make. I only provide reviews for products and brands that I use, trust, and love and all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting MDG!

The Scary Truth About What’s In Your Feminine Care Products

The Scary Truth About What’s In Your Feminine Care Products

A culture has been created where menstruation should be out of sight and out of mind which allows conventional personal care product manufacturers to continue to sell chemical-filled, wasteful feminine care products pretty much under the radar. Consumers’ awareness of the hormone disruptors in our makeup and the carcinogens in our deodorant is increasing, but we rarely hear about chemical exposure from the tampons and pads that come into contact with the most absorbent and sensitive area of our bodies.

And the environmental consequences of all those plastic wrappers and applicators are just as concerning. Because discussing menstruation is still taboo, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, especially in the context of women’s health issues.  The marketing of conventional feminine products has left women assuming that the most convenient- and only- choices they have are tampons or pads. Discover why you should rethink the same ol’ tampons you’ve been buying since middle school.

Chemicals in Tampons and Pads

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The chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products are unregulated even though they are linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Some of the same toxins and carcinogens are found in feminine care products. By inserting a tampon, you’re exposed to chemicals like dioxin, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and many women’s health organizations link to reproductive issues and even cancer. Let’s do the math: manufacturers sell tampons and pads, well-aware they are laced with toxins linked to hormonal and reproductive problems, to come into direct contact with reproductive organs multiple times a day, 5-7 days each month, for decades.

Yes. Get angry. Still skeptical? Watch this horrifying video and you’ll think about ditching your typical pads and tampons, like yesterday. You may be asking (or screaming at your screen), “how is this legal?”.

Since the FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical devices, manufacturers
do not have to disclose a list of materials or chemicals in their products. Convenient for them, right?

Conventional tampons and pads have trace amounts of dioxins, bleach, chlorine, pesticides, and chemical cocktails advertised as “fragrance”. There are no rayon trees so it takes a lot of energy and chemicals to turn wood pulp into a synthetic fiber, engineered to be more absorbent than cotton, which manufacturers then market to women as “leak-proof”, and “super-plus absorbency”. And this is where heath risks like TSS come into play. Because rayon is so absorbent, it disturbs the pH level in the vaginal environment and increases the amount of bacteria present which are attacking the foreign object (rayon fibers in your tampon) in the vagina. Even after a tampon has been removed fibers also leave tiny lacerations in the vaginal wall, leaving the area susceptible to infection.

Dioxins, a cancer-causing group of chemicals, are a by-product of the chemical-laden rayon manufacturing process. Manufacturers cite that such a small amount of dioxin won’t cause harm, but multiple studies and the Environmental Proctection Agency showed there is no safe amount of dioxin and causes concern for a slew of reproductive problems since it accumulates in the body over time (read: decades of tampon use) and come into contact with vaginal tissue, some of the most vascular rich (absorbent) tissue in the body. In fact, absorbing chemicals through skin and tissue may be even worse than eating them since there are no enzymes to break them down and flush them out; they will remain and accumulate at a higher rate. Conventional feminine wipes, douches and sprays are just as loaded with chemicals, fragrances, and irritants and should never be used.

Tampons and pads are toxic to the environment

The average woman throws out 250-300 pounds of waste from menstruation-related products throughout her menstrual years. While it is a small percentage of the total waste she’ll create (around 62k pounds plus…yikes), most women will use 11k-16k tampons in their lifetime; multiply that by the 43 million women using tampons and pads and that’s massive amount of waste and chemicals clogging up pipe infrastructure and decreasing the efficiency of water treatment plants, leading to sewage leaks that flows into the ocean. A 2010 study of a beach clean-up found an average of 20-30 pieces of plastic litter from feminine products, per kilometer of beach. And when plastic applicators, just like other unnecessary single-use items, pollute the ocean, marine life ingests it. And if you forgot about trophic levels from 5th grade science, humans consume whatever our prey consumes.

Before tampons and pads were mass-produced starting in the late 1800s, women made their own pads from cloth, wool, papyrus, sea sponge; whatever they had. While taking a trip to the beach to go menstrual sponge foraging sounds like a great Sunday activity to some, there are convenient alternatives that will help you reduce waste, eliminate toxic chemicals from your body and the Earth, and save money.

Sustainable alternatives to tampons and pads

Menstrual Cups

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These are cups made from medical-grade silicone or natural gum rubber which are inserted into the vagina where blood is collected. They hold about 1 oz of blood and brands usually offer two sizes; one for women who have given birth and a smaller one for those who haven’t. Since the cups are non-absorbent, they can be left in for up to 12 hours, 5 hours longer than tampons. There are essentially no health risks to using a cup and they can be used for years, some brands claim up to 10. And of course you’ll be waste-free. They run about $30-$40 and even if you decide to replace the cup within 2 or 3 years, it can still save you hundreds of dollars in just two years. Now put those savings towards something that will actually make your vagina happy (nsfw).

I’ve used a menstrual cup for about two years now (I use the Diva Cup) and it has changed my life. I can’t recommended making the switch enough. It’s so much more convenient than tampons since I can leave it in overnight or all day, with no worries. It is very different from a tampon and there is a slight learning curve when it comes to learning to insert it properly, but you’ll get the hang of it and wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner. Promise. Also, watch these dudes give a testimonial in song about women gushing over the joys of their new menstrual toy.

Organic tampons and pads

Purchasing organic means that the cotton used in the pads or tampons are non GMO and were not sprayed with pesticides and you’ll also support more ethical brands supporting women’s health and the environment. However, expect to pay significantly more per box since it is organic. To reduce waste, select those without plastic applicators. You can find great organic products at any health food store. Companies like NatraCare and The Honest Company make great organic tampons.

Resusable pads

Products like Lunapads and GladRags make washable, reusable pads, eliminating packaging waste and saving money. As far as convenience, the menstrual cup wins for me but these would be wonderful for lighter menstrual days, or as a back-up for cups or organic tampons.

Use menstruation to connect with your body

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Feminine products offering increasingly discreet packaging and promises of zero leakage are marketed to women, contributing to the stigma of menstrual blood being dirty and embarrassing. Instead of using this time to connect with our bodies, we’ve become detached from such a beautiful process. Up until a few years ago, the only time I talked about menstruation was to ask my closest co-worker in a whispered hush to borrow a tampon or to justify to my husband why I needed him to buy me three kinds of ice cream.

Most women have a subtle sense of shame attached to their period. This connects back to how we learned and our parents learned (or didn’t learn) about sexual development. Participation in this culture starts young: pre-teen girls get their period and unless parents discuss it, they have to rely on what they’re taught in school, which is basic and sanitized information not even close to being practical, holistic human development education.

I adore this article by Sofia Sundari, who’s like a modern day spirituality goddess whisperer! She shares how to truly celebrate the power of menstruation and was one of the first women to shift the way I think about my period. I’ve discovered that I have an increased amount of creativity during the first two days. I get really fatigued and where I used to take Midol and grab an extra cup of coffee (god forbid I slow down!) I now listen to my body, imagine my body doing what it’s supposed to do, and express gratitude to have a healthy female body; it’s incredibly empowering. I also pay attention to lunar phases and meditate on which parts of my life need to be nurtured.

The next time you hear a woman refer to menstruation with childish euphemisms like, “the curse” or “my lady time”, I encourage you to lovingly call her out on it. Talk about menstruation in grown-up, medically accurate language where we can re-frame the way in which we think about menstruation and discuss it for what it is; the beautiful and spiritual process signaling strength and women’s empowerment. Things like confidence, healthy body-image, and ultimately, self-empowerment, will follow.

Have you tried menstrual cups? Any other choices I forgot to list? Please, do share in the comments.

 

Photos courtesy of Women’s Voices for the Earth and crushable.com

Acne: Your Skin is Trying to Tell You Something, Pt. I

Acne: Your Skin is Trying to Tell You Something, Pt. I

A few readers have asked about products and D.I.Y.s that will help with acne situations. I struggle to answer these questions simply because acne is a symptom of a larger internal imbalance. Based on my research and reading more holistic approaches to managing acne and blemishes, this is a two part problem: there’s the stuff you put on the outside that can either soothe or aggravate acne, but the more important part is dealing with the underlying causes which are diet and stress levels because they affect hormones, on which this post will focus. In part II, I’ll provide topical oils and products that can help clear up the skin. It’s a long one, so grab a beverage and settle in.

I have been rather lucky; I’ve never dealt with serious acne, even as a teenager. I did deal with a moderate case of cystic acne about two years ago in my late twenties. My attempt in this post is to pool my research and to share what worked for me, which I learned from holistic approaches.

Most skin care products formulated to eliminate acne can worsen the condition, due to the drying ingredients. The skin is slightly acidic and most mass-produced products mess with the pH balance or completely strip skin of its natural oils, sending the skin into panic mode. While what we put on our skin is very important to combat environmental damage and to retain moisture, topical products are only a fraction of the cause of most acne cases.

Most dermatologists and Western doctors do not treat the skin as an integrated system and will prescribe detrimental drugs like peeling agents, Accutane or, for women, birth control pills to “fix” hormonal issues, while completely ignoring the underlying cause(s). With this method of treatment, blemishes on the facial skin are managed temporarily, but the food allergy or the high-stress lifestyle only continues to fester in the body in other ways. More pollution has been added to the body from these serious, disruptive medications or chemicals that may bring another set of side effects into the picture. Now, we have a toxin masking one symptom, only to push the sickness to cause harm in another part of the body.

Diet

Yes, you are what you eat, and it will show up on your skin.  Many naturopaths and Ayurvedic practitioners will say that acne begins in the gut. The overproduction of sebum and bacteria is just the effect of acne.  Because our skin is a sensory organ, it is constantly processing what comes in and out and is the best way to tell if someone is healthy at first glance. You’ve seen it: the person that has naturally glowing, dewy skin…that’s a reflection of a healthy internal ecosystem. When we ingest toxins or foods which are difficult for our bodies to digest, this shows up on our skin because what happens in our gastrointestinal system directly affects our hormones. The profound relationship between the food we eat and hormone balance is just now being understood. The resulting inflammation, toxicity, etc. is the root of the problem.

I was surprised to discover that acne is very much a U.S. problem because of the prevalence of processed foods in the average American diet. The rest of the world doesn’t consume it in the large amounts that the typical American does. There are hundreds of studies that show relief of participants’ acne conditions when placed on a low-glycemic diet (no grains, sugars, processed foods, etc.). This is because our bodies are more efficient at digesting complex carbs.  Many scholars are starting to believe that it has more to do with one’s environment than their genetics. Although, some will tolerate dairy and grains, or even if they have trouble processing, it may show up as another ailment like weight gain or IBS, rather than blemishes.

Stress

The other main acne trigger is our emotional well-being.

During the last six months of grad school, I dealt with cystic acne, those pimples that form underneath the skin and stay there for a solid week or so. There’s nothing you can do except wait it out 🙁 It was the pits. This horrible bout of adult acne happened because I was constantly stressed, neglected my body, and ate poorly. After graduation, I got back into a routine of eating and exercise/yoga and I haven’t had a cystic pimple since.  However, I did have some serious scars from those suckers. I researched natural ways to fade scars and hyper-pigmentation and found out about rosehip seed oil, which I’ll talk about in part II.

The condition of the skin reflects what’s going on inside our bodies. Any imbalance, or lack of self-care will show up on your face in a few days.  I still experience normal hormonal breakouts that coincide with my cycle, but I only get one or two spots around the jawline, and they are manageable and go away within a couple days.

What to Do?

1. Check your hormones:

Identifying any hormone imbalances can clue you and your doctor in on not only why you’re experiencing adult acne, but other issues.  If you have insurance, ask your doctor to check for imbalances during routine blood work to identify or rule out any serious issues, like a thyroid problem.

If your tests come back “normal” and you still feel “off”, then definitely listen to your gut and look into seeing an alternative medicine practitioner, like an acupuncturist. Most major cities offer sliding scale practices, so those of us without this coverage can still seek the benefits without going broke. If you’re in L.A., try this wonderful place!

Whatever you decide, I also would recommend the book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Claudia Welch. She describes the symbiotic functions of hormones and writes about how stress, food and synthetic medication and hormones wreak havoc on the hormones of modern women. She also offers solutions rooted in Ayurvedic, Chinese, and Western medicine. My mind was blown after reading this and is must-read for every woman.

2. Exercise your lymphatic system

The lymphatic system does not have a pump, like the cardiovascular, so the system can be sluggish and not working to purge toxins and junk out as efficiently as possible. If you are sedentary, so is your lymphatic system.

– Exercise – take a vigorous Vinyasa flow class

– Drink water – this will help flush out nasties

Dry brush – the nodes sit just underneath the skin, and the long, exfoliating strokes encourage blood flow to the area.

3. Clue in to your skin

From the lovely athletic line and my former employer (yay!) Lorna Jane blog, the location of the breakout can clue you in on whats going on internally. For example, cystic acne is more hormonal and stress related. While topical solutions may help temporarily, there’s probably an imbalance of some sort happening.

Chin and jaw line: Hormonal, especially when the spots go down the neck.

Forehead: Bowel congestion and constipation.

Between the eyes: Liver

Temples: Gallbladder

Cheeks: Various causes, including genetic

Back: General toxicity and candida

Whiteheads on the face: Can be digestive

Large cysts on the face (without heads): Indicates a hormonal imbalance

4. Eliminate known acne-causing foods

While some people say that detoxing is a great idea to get rid of acne, I’m not a fan because this is not a sustainable solution. Yes, your acne may subside, but you then have no idea which foods were triggering the blemishes.

Instead, there’s so much literature that supports eating a low-glycemic or dairy-free diet. Grains and dairy can cause inflammation and therefore trigger bacteria, which shows up on your skin.

– Try cutting out grains for a week. If that doesn’t help, try cutting out all dairy.

 

I’ll post part two next week, filled with blemish and scar-reducing products and DIYs that have worked for me.

 

Apple Cider Vinegar 101: Uses for Beauty and Wellness

Apple Cider Vinegar 101: Uses for Beauty and Wellness

apple cider vinegar uses for beauty ans wellness, immunity boost

Apple cider vinegar is a beauty and health wonder juice that I believe to be straight from Mother Earth’s bosom. Thanks, girl.  Its benefits have been touted by both the naturopath community and supermodels.  I will try anything in the middle of that Venn diagram (if you haven’t read Miranda Kerr’s Top Shelf, enhance your quality of life and do it now!).

When I get in the habit of drinking ACV for an energy boost (described, below), I swear my skin looks brighter and I feel less congested when I wake up. It has worked wonders for my hair. It detoxifies, closes the cuticle, which softens and adds shine. Raw, fermented ACV (a.k.a with the mother, like Braggs) is simply apple juice sugar that has tuned into vinegar. It is rich in enzymes, minerals, specifically potassium, which alkalizes, and balances and prevents inflammation in many parts of the body. ACV acts as an antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, which is why it’s great for everything from boosting immunity to curing candida.

Skin

The acidity of apple cider vinegar actually balances your skin and hair’s natural pH levels.

D.I.Y. toner: use this ratio to start – 1 part ACV to 4 parts water. Those with sensitive skin will stick to this ratio. If you want to power up, use a 1:3 ratio. Acne, skin irritation are treated with this solution and has been said to fade acne scars.

Hair

I use this D.I.Y. to balance my scalp, remove product build-up and increase shine:

Mix 1 part ACV with 2-3 parts water in a spray bottle. After shampooing or co-washing, apply to wet hair and let it sit for 3-5 minutes then rinse out. I prefer not to use conditioner on the days I use this ACV rinse since I’m trying to let my hair “breathe’ for a day or so. It does smell, but it will fade away. Hair will feel bouncy and light, once dry.

Wellness

Morning energy boost: Dilute a tablespoon of ACV with 8 oz of water and drink on an empty stomach.

Immunity boost:  Add a tablespoon of ACV to a cup of hot water with lemon and honey.

My Must-Listen, Life-Changing Podcast

My Must-Listen, Life-Changing Podcast

The Model Health Show, podcast  The Model Health Show podcast, hosted by Shawn Stevenson, is so incredibly empowering and enriching. Just like other clean beauty advocates, I am constantly on a journey to figure out what is best for my body in the eating and exercise departments. This podcast supplements this process.  He talks about fitness, hormones, diet and everything in between, (you guys, he has one about pooping! tee hee, giggle). He approaches these issues in such a unique way by incorporating research from emotional, environmental, and even human evolutionary perspectives, all with a splash of holistic vibes. While I am not a huge podcast person, after listening to an episode of TMHS, I always come away with new knowledge or a different perspective on an issue I thought I knew all about (gluten-free diet!).  And surround sound with Shawn’s dulcet-toned voice doesn’t hurt, either 🙂

My personal favorites:

How sitting can destroy your health

How to improve your self-esteem, build confidence, and strengthen your body image

Why you can’t loose weight (the TRUTH)

Healthcare vs. Sickcare: Why preventative care is safer, smarter and cheaper