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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in stress (2)


My Trip through Elder & Sage (and Adrenal Health) with Burdock & Rose

Lisa Rose Starner of Burdock & RoseI've always loved herbs.  I've grown them for nearly half of my life (the other half was spent trying not to kill them in my New York City apartments).  A calm, a wisdom, a connectedness arrives when you clip your own herbs from pots or garden, then use them in any simple culinary creation of that day.  Food feels more personal.  Teas are a thoughtful process rather than a box, a bag and a cup.  Though I've become well-acquainted with herbs throughout these years, my knowledge is broad not deep.  Incidental and whimsical, not learned. I read about and experience herbs. Then I forget the details.

So when person after person said, "Do you know LIsa Rose Starner? ", I looked forward to actually speaking to her face to face. We've been in the same room doing downward dog at From The Heart Yoga studio, but had never "really" met.   Lisa, owner of the wonderful web site Burdock & Rose, has shaped plants and their energetic and medicinal uses into her life's work.  And passion.  She is an urban farmer.  As a city girl, I understand that term well, but "forager" and "wildcrafter" were the stuff of 18th Centruy novels, not modern chicks up town. 


The Elder & Sage Herb RackThankfully, my mind was unlocked.  Along wtih a few other interested herb-o-phites, I met Lisa, sans Facebook, and I got to hear some wisdom from one of today's modern wildcrafters.  We met at a fairly new little herb shop called Elder & Sage where you can find hyper-local, organically grown herbs.

Here is a synopsis of my experience, and a list of herbs from Lisa to help with adrenal stress.



Respect Your Adrenals

Burdock in BloomLisa began her talk with a personal story of 70 hour work weeks, and a type-A driven, self-imposed gun to her own head.  I think many of us can relate to this.  A healing crisis brought her to her knees, and her herbal life began. She offered a very important piece of introductory wisdom (I'm paraphrasing): 

Herbs can help us arrive at a healing solution, and will support us as we heal.  There is no subsitute for fundamentals like sleep, exercise and finding joy in life. An herb cannot correct any never-ending abuse of our emotional and physical limits.  Herbs do, however, serve to help us make changes, and support us when our bodies get out of balance and when life throws a nasty curve or three.

The lesson here is to use herbs to help calm the mind and get a good night's snooze, but face the internal or external circumstances that are keeping you up at night.  It could be a simple as turning off the Twitter Feed at 6pm or being with family and friends.  Or it could be something deeper (physically, medically, or emotionally) that needs professional intervention.


A Note on Food Allergies & Anxiety

Lisa didn't get to this in her talk, but I should mention that a key symptom in many food allergic reactions can be anxiety.  Heart racing, can't sleep, don't-know-why-I'm-nervous-all-the-time-because-this-isn't-me-at-all anxiety.  This symptom can range from the subtle to a crazy, out-of-the-blue personality change.  So make sure to look into this possibility if anxiety is something that has entered your life -- especially if you can't find another cause. 


Modern Day Bears

Lisa gave a great example of what stress does to your bod.   If a bear is chasing you in the forest, your body puts all energy into helping you get away from that bear.  Your digestion shuts down.  Fuel is redirected to your muscles, heart and lungs so you can run.  Your adrenal glands 'n such start pumping out stress hormones to inspire super human strength.  If all of this happens to quickly, we freeze and can do nothing.  This is the classic fight or flight response.  However, our "modern day bears" are not usually physical predators from which we can run or hit on the head to solve the problem.  When modern day bears threaten, we must keep "control" to remain socially adept.  Not so good to punch out your boss after he/she bad mouths you at a meeting.  Probably wouldn't help you to "de-friend" or flee willy nilly from healthy relationships because of politics, a difference of opinion, or whatever stresses you out... (you have my permission to defriend and run from truly scary, or abusive peops, though.  Or maybe start the search to find another boss).  

Fight or flight is meant to be temporary.  If we remain in that fight or flight response indefinately, it takes a great toll on our adrenal glands, our bodies, and our minds.  Ilness comes more quickly.  Researchers say that in this state, everyone is seen as a threat to our very survival.  Sometimes even ourselves.  The slightest disagreement causes harsh or even violent responses.  We are easily irritated because we look for danger in every comment, action and overature.  Kinda tough to have a positive outlook on life or see the good, honest intentions of your spouse, friend, or colleague when the threat of bears keeps preparing us for the "worst".  Right?

Here is a great resource to learn more about modern day bears, plus a rather entertaining educational video or two on the subject.


Adrenal Supporting Herbs - Advice from Lisa Rose Starner

Burdock Root - freshly dug from the groundIf your adrenals are in need of some love, what herbs are best?  I found it fascinating that Lisa discussed their physical, medicinal, and energetic qualites.   I asked her to list her favorites by condition.

Here's my fave short list of herbs that I mentioned on Wednesday (and a few I didn't even get to) that I use and love to have on hand to manage stress in our lives.  I use mainly herbs that grow in my immediate area and only a few non-local plants. I try to choose plants, too, that are not on an endangered list and if I don't harvest them myself, I procure them from reputable sources. _Lisa Rose Starner

NERVINE TONICS: Herbs that can actually restore tone to the central nervous system used over time include Milky Oats (Avena Sativa), Nettle, Passionflower, Skullcap.

AROMATICS: Rose, Geranium, Mints, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Oregano, Basil -- all these herbs have aromatic oils that can be uplifting and can provide clarity in times of stress. They can be sought out as teas to sip (the ritual of making tea in and of itself is calming) or as essential oils to vaporize in a room (or cupped in your hand) or added into a carrier oil for massage (remember those foot baths!).

RELAXANTS & CALMATIVES for anxiety, restlessness: Think Chamomile (also aromatic), Lemon Balm, Raspberry leaf, Spearmint, Catnip, Rose, Blue Vervain, Passionflower, Skullcap, St. John's Wort.  All can be used as tea, or tincture, and some can be used extracted into oils for massage... Experiment a bit! Circular thinking -- Passionflower, Wood Betony, Blue Vervain.  

SEDATIVES: Hops, Kava Kava (gives me the giggles), Valerian (feels like a heavy Xray blanket like they use at the dentist, but can sure calm spasm, quell anxiety and induce sleep).

BITTERS & DIGESTION:  Bitters are a MUST for helping stagnant digestion that is symptomatic of excess stress.  BItters ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaf, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile) but they can also be integrated into our diets as classic digestifs (such as commercial Campari or Angostura) or tinctured bitters (I hand make my own bitters with a variety of herbs such as Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Aspen Bark, Fennel, etc). If there extreme digestive deficiency and there is ulcer, etc., more must be done with diet and herbs that can support the mucosa to heal should be introduced (marshmallow, slippery elm, etc).  

NettleNOURISH: I've attached the recipe for the nourishing infusion of Nettle, Red Clover & Oatstraw (all good for nourishing adrenals for general wellness and in times of stress) and how to use other nourishing foods like Burdock, Astragalus and mushrooms to also help strengthen adrenals and core immunity.  Things to avoid or reduce consumption -- alcohol, coffee. Both can seriously disrupt sleep patterns and can exacerbate adrenal fatigue.

AND MOVE!!!!: Remember that a key factor to managing stress isn't just to nourish the body, but the body also needs to MOVE to manage cortisol levels that spike when under stress.  Excercise need not mean a gym membership -- it can mean gentle walking, stretching, dancing -- anything just to keep the body lithe and circulation flowing.

BE STRONG, YOU ARE SUPPORTED: Herbs are our allies to help us move toward a life of making choices that serve us to lead brighter lives. The herbs ~cannot~ be a substitute for making those choices. That is our responsibility and we all have the power to do what needs to be done -- they are here to support that.

Also remember that everyone's path (and constitutions) are different, so herbs that work for one may not be suited for another.  If you would like to talk more about your personal questions, I am available to help discuss what might be right for you and your life in this moment.  _Lisa Rose Starner



Adrenal & Immune-Building Recipes

My thanks to Lisa for this great information.  Here are a few immune building recipes to try. The first two are from Lisa, and are vegan: 

Castle Defense Nourishing Broth

Nourishing Burdock Stew

Immune-Building Bone Broth Recipes

Slow Cooker, Nutrient-Rich Beef Bone Broth



Aimee's Story: Second Thoughts About Thanksgiving.

Welcome to Aimee B. Smith, our new guest blogger and parent of a food allergic child.  This post is part of a series about dealing with food allergies in social situations -- this series will discuss handling Thanksgiving.  

Upon Arrival

From the moment I step out of our car on-to the snow-packed drive of my aunt’s house, my nose catches a whiff of the delicious aromas of roasted turkey, baked stuffing and homemade pumpkin pies.  The smell takes my mind and taste buds back, evoking all the warmth and nostalgia of Thanksgiving. But before my belly has a chance to rumble with the anticipation of gorging on the holiday spread, a sharp pain stabs my gut. Anxiety overtakes me: Will we be met with sly glances or unpleasant teasing again?  Will my daughter’s food intolerances consume the dinner table discussion? Will I be slammed repeatedly from every direction with questions like, “I forget, what gluten is exactly?” and, “Now tell me again, why can’t she eat this?” The knot wrenching my stomach tightens. Am I prepared to handle the slew of well-meaning but perpetually clueless references of, “I don’t understand…” and “Don’t worry so much, a little won’t hurt her.”?

Second Thoughts

I am having second thoughts about being here. Maybe our family’s dietary baggage is too great a burden to others.   Should we even have come to this dinner? This is as bad as, maybe worse than taking Raina to her friend’s pizza party or attending a neighborhood picnic. I’m scared for her safety, afraid she may ingest the wrong foods.  But it’s not just the allergens, disguised in mouthwatering dishes and desserts that I fear. My concern goes deeper –what if my daughter feels like an outcast, or that she feels somehow less of a person because she can’t eat what others are indulging in? 

Giving Thanks

My eyes turn to find Raina. She’s skipping up to the steps with glee. My Uncle Bob opens the door as full of high spirits as my little, bouncing girl. My aunts push him aside and run out with open arms and wide, glowing smiles to welcome and hug Raina tightly. I relax for a minute; my fears are subdued watching everyone’s joy. 

I remember the lessons that Melanie Potock, Raina’s feeding therapist, taught us: Eating should be enjoyable and relaxed.  It’s as much about the act of sitting down and enjoying each other as it is the food.  We aren’t here just for the food. 

I take a deep breath, allowing myself a break for just that instance from the overbearing stress I put on myself to manage these sorts of situations. As I let out a deep sigh, I remind myself of the pressure I place on myself to ensure Raina’s safety and that I’m doing a great job.

As I waddle up to the steps, laden with bags of my own allergen free pumpkin pie, gluten/egg/dairy free, green chili cornbread and homemade gravy I think perhaps this year can be better. I inwardly repeat my daily mantra, “It’s getting easier each day.  It’s getting easier each day…”  

Aunt Margie jolts over to grab a bag and, peaking in, says, “Oooh, look as these goodies! Your cousin, Lizzie, will be so happy. She’s on some crazy diet, off the dairy and gluten as well.” 

“Really!” I reply in shock then burst out a big smile, eager to greet my cousin, our new comrade on our allergen-free team. 

While I can’t always have faith that my family or friends will understand Raina’s needs or bend over backwards to accommodate her, I can hope that each year will improve as we all grow. I’m certain Raina will someday grow to be her own advocate and we, as a family, will find improved ways to cope with our stresses. Now that, is something to be thankful for!


About Aimee

Aimee B. Smith is a mother to four year old Raina, her miracle girl who was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks gestation. Aimee and her family embarked on an allergy-friendly journey after discovering Raina suffered from multiple food intolerances. The process has opened up a whole new adventure of cooking, shopping, dining and socializing for her and her husband. She is an avid writer, who finds inspiration for her art through her strong spirited daughter and the challenges and triumphs of motherhood.