Sunday, February 13, 2011

Natural Winter Remedies and Rethinking the Context of Illness

It has come to my attention lately that the military-industrial complex is one of America's largest monetary expenditures. If people mimic their environment and doubly create an environment to mirror their internal landscape, then America's inflated and superfluous expense on war and our "national security" must resonate within most Americans as well. This analogy brings us to this blog installment's topic: Rethinking the Context of Illness. We load up our steel-barred shopping carts with all sorts of weapons that, since birth, we are conditioned to think of as necessary and healing, from Robitussin to Halls to Tylenol and even antibiotics. How much of what we believe in when it comes to the vein of medicine is actually a product of our own analytic mind, our own personal opinions, and how much of what we believe in is out of conditioning, ignorance, comfort, tradition, and even fear? How much of what we think we know do we actually know? And even further than that, how much of what we think we know is corroborated by objective evidence and works with our bodies instead of against them? We have an entire medical field full of intelligent life and wisdom within us, why not use it?


To understand illness and healing, we must first understand what illness is. Simply, it is a messenger sent by the body to inform your mind of imbalance.

Let's all pretend to be as excited about this topic as I am and consider some of the reasons your body will want to send you a message:

Have you been unhappy at work/in a relationship lately?
Have you been too hard on your self or overworking your self?
Have you avoided a situation or the emotions of an event such as a death in the family, a breakup, etc?
Have you ever experienced a serious emotional/psychological/physical trauma and have been repressing      
        the feelings of that for a long time?
Are you in a difficult financial spot that is causing a lot of stress?
Have finances and/or time constraints lately led you to ignoring your self, your personal happiness, and
        your health?
Have you been eating poorly and not exercising?
Have you been depressed or inside often, rarely socializing or getting out?
Have you physically hurt yourself lately and ignored the pain, going on with life as usual?

There are so many reasons why one's body sets off alarms, ranging from emotional reasons to physical or psychological and even to biological. You are the most qualified person to know your body, so trust thyself! You are a physician, we are all physicians, with enough information at our disposal to understand ourselves, to take the time to heal, and to enjoy abundant health. How can we as people expect to help, care for, and heal others when we can not first heal ourselves? A great quote to follow is from Luke 4:23: "Physician, heal thyself." We are all our own caretakers. Your body is a wonderful body that wants to be joyful, healthy, clean, and alive. You have the ability to heal yourself. Trust in yourself!


Illness is the messenger your body sends to say "Captain, something is wrong here." Illness arrives when our internal landscape mirrors something like the game of minesweeper instead of one of those quintessential "peaceful landscape" photos that come as the default wallpaper to all new computers. Let's think about illness and health as a set of scales. One side of the scale is order, quiet, scarcity, minimalism, coldness, hardness, implosion, logic, thought, and cleanliness. The other side is chaos (not to be taken negatively), loudness, energy, explosion, indulgence, color, brightness, creativity, emotion, busy-ness, and warmth. This is essentially the whittled-down and American version of most concepts of medicine, illness, and healing in Asia: the Yin and the Yang. For simplicity purposes here, we will stick to the flawed but workable headings of Implosion and Explosion (also, Order and Chaos, respectively). At all times, we need to have a balance of the two. In meals, in our social experiences, with color, with love, with travel. When these two forced become tipped, our body is out of homeostasis, and our bodies strive very hard to reach this point, so, let's reward them, what do you say?

So, illness=imbalance. Our minds, emotions, and bodies are all connected. Have you heard the phrase, "You're going to worry yourself sick!" Well, there is a lot of veracity embedded in that statement. We have grown up in a society and a system that perpetuates the idea that the mind and body are separate and that emotions are something to be conquered. Emotions are our guidance systems, they help direct us , support us, and help us to engage in actions that help build our spirit, not tear it down. Emotions and thoughts influence the body, and thus can influence health. Doubtful? Check out THIS BOOK by Dr. Candace Pert, the woman who first discovered the opiate receptors in the brain and later found that neuropeptides (the molecules that neurons use to communicate with one another.....basically what allows you to think and your body to communicate with itself) were found all throughout the body, not only in our brains. This means that our thoughts affect our organs, our skin, our muscles, everything, just as much as a drug, sugar, or caffeine. Your entire body has the ability to think, to feel, to change and communicate. Illness can arise from imbalances caused by the environment, a relationship, negative thoughts, emotions, everything. So, when you first become ill, ask yourself what your body is trying to tell you. For example, I become ill every single Christmas without fail. I stress out about not having enough money to give people the gifts they deserve, then I beat myself up for it and I begin to feel inferior and surround myself with negative emotions. I begin to ignore my health because my self-esteem is hurt, and I stay up all night right before Christmas trying to make something meaningful and beautiful for the people I love. Then, I still feel like I cannot give them what I want to get them, what they deserve. So, my body reacts, and I become sick. I am forced to be calm, quiet, to heat well, to sleep, to relax, to forgive myself and love myself. Becoming sick is sometimes the best thing that could have happened. It reminds me to be loving and to take care of myself. Your illness is a message, is a gift. Respect it, understand it, and try to learn from it to prevent the imbalances from occurring again in the future. Maintain homeostasis with moderation, the middle path, and understanding. As Dr. Christiane Northrup says in Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: "For healing to occur, we must come to see that we are not so much responsible for our illnesses as responsible to them." 

A few natural winter remedies for you to enjoy while wrapped up in a blanket, taking time for yourself, and enjoying health:

A couple of cinnamon sticks boiled for 20 minutes in filtered water along with cloves and honey. Cloves are a natural pain killer, so if you are having toothaches, mouths sores, or a sore throat, soothe yourself with clove and cinnamon! Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels, warms the body, and helps increase blood flow. 

 Sore throat recipe: a 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced, and simmered in filtered water for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, pour ginger infusion into a mug, add some raw and/or local honey and juice from a wedge of organic lemon. The ginger also helps stimulate blood flow, ease the stomach, warm the body, and fight infection. Lemon cleans and purifies and can help return mucus glands back to normal production. And, honey in small amounts boosts the immune system, provides energy, and provides valuable enzymes in addition to soothing the body medicinally.
Apple Cider Vinegar. AKA The Miracle Cure. Is there anything ACV cannot treat? For great health in the winter months, drink a tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water upon rising. To help digestion, take a small tablespoon shot of ACV twenty minutes before eating, this stimulates enzyme production. ACV also helps break down food when eaten with food, say, in a salad dressing. It also soothes the throat when served hot with honey, it makes hair shiny when applied via a spritzer bottle after bathing, and ACV is an all-natural facial astringent when diluted with water 1:3. ACV helps brighten complexion, slough off old, dead cells, and helps restore the skin's natural PH to help prevent breakouts, overly-oily, or overly-dry skin! ACV also alkalinizes the body, which helps prevent disease and provide energy, and it provides powerful probiotics! 

A delicious mix of cinnamon, aged cloves, and black peppercorns for mulling with cider for a healthy winter drink. These spices which are heavy in natural oils, are also antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial......a great mix for cleaning the house naturally.

As a close to this much, much belated blog entry, I want to apologize for the sporadic nature of my posts recently. I have been in the middle of a huge life change! Just this week I moved to Manhattan where my business partner and I are in the infant stages of opening our own organic, handmade, vegan chocolates bar coupled with a cocktail bar where all the luscious drinks are made from NY-state-made alcohol and NY-state-grown and freshly-pressed fruit! I will absolutely keep you all posted on this journey, thank you all for the support and the patience thus far!

Also coming this week are a few great meals: white bean cassoulet with roasted red peppers and olive oil, no-dairy mashed potatoes, caramelized onion gravy, and roasted cauliflower! And another surprise dish, a delicious local bluefish dinner, NYC restaurant reviews, and the "Are you getting enough water? Do you hate the taste/tastlessness of water? Here are some great drink ideas to help you drink more water, flush fat, detoxify, and get beautiful and feelin' great!" talk....I know, you can hardly even stand it. The suspense! For now, thank you all again for all the patience and for hanging onto this blog even though I have been neglecting an entry for quite some time now. Now go, be free, be healthy, and try to maintain that balance!