Essential Oil Of The Week: Peppermint

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Thad got me a very sleek aromatherapy diffuser for a Christmas present and using it is increasing my love for essential oils. It’s such a great way to experience the benefits of essential oils in a subtle and pleasing way. I’ve been trying out a new oil every few days, with the diffuser in my bedroom on for a few hours before I fall asleep.

Today I want to tell you about a common essential oil, peppermint. Although it might not sound very exotic, this is an excellent oil to keep in your arsenal, especially for nausea and other digestive issues.

Peppermint oil has such a refreshing and invigorating scent. It is best for diffusion and inhalation. Undiluted topical application is not recommended because in high concentrations menthol is an irritant. Definitely don’t put this one on your face, although a single drop in a bathtub is perfectly lovely and safe.

Carrying a bottle of peppermint essential oil when traveling is an excellent cure for all motion sickness, whether it’s car or boat etc., It is also recommended for pregnancy-related nausea and for easing stomach cramps. The scent is very calming for the digestive system, it relieves excess gas and bloating. Peppermint essential oil is routinely given in a low dosage for inhalation to chemotherapy patients to help prevent and ease nausea.

This ability to improve digestion is energetic as well, since peppermint oil facilitates the digestion of new ideas and the processing of emotions. It is very clarifying and consciousness-expanding. It inspires enthusiasm and can boost self-esteem and increase one’s motivation and interest in activities.

Peppermint oil offers relieve to those suffering from migraines and headaches. A drop rubbed on the temples is soothing and cooling and can also aid in concentration. Peppermint has analgesic properties and can help ease muscular stiffness and all sorts of bruising, aches, pains and swelling.

Using essential oils is safe, easy and effective, as well as a portable healing system excellent for folks on the go!

 

Love and Blessings,

Frances

 

 

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Essential Oil Of The Week: Palo Santo

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Palo Santo is a sacred tree growing in Ecuador. For centuries and centuries, it has been worshipped by indigenous cultures for its purifying powers.

Today the Palo Santo tree is protected by the government so that no living trees or branches are allowed to be cut. All Palo Santo essential oils and incenses are made by gathering and distilling the resin within aged (a minimum of 2 years on the ground) limbs. When the tree dies, the resin inside the branches is driven into the heartwood where it matures, giving it a unique and powerful fragrance.

The aroma of this sacred tree’s oil has a fresh and citrusy scent with resinous musky wood notes. It is non-sensitizing and non-irritating and can safely be used by all.

This oil is recognized for its myriad of therapeutic properties, including anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral and anti-septic actions. It is beneficial for the respiratory system because of its decongesting and expectorant qualities and is generally supportive to the entire immune system.

It is regenerative for the skin and excellent for soothing all types of muscular/skeletal system inflammation.

Emotionally, this essential oil is uplifting, warming and cheerful while simultaneously offering a very grounded, calming base. It is soothing to the mind and comforting during times of emotional turbulence. Its usage smoothes the flow of chi and relaxes an unsettled spirit.

There is a natural intelligence within the plant itself that can align with prana and produce an expansive, upward-lifting energetic. This profound power is very spiritually enhancing and deserves great respect and proper ritual. The use of this essential oil will assist in creative endeavors, deep meditation and prayer.

Palo Santo essential oil can be diffused, applied topically or simply inhaled via the bottle or a few drops on palms, rubbed together to bring out the warmth in the fragrance.

Have you ever used this powerful oil therapeutically? What is your favorite way to incorporate the healing attributes of essential oils in your life?

 

Love and Blessings,

Frances

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My Clean Green Beauty Routine

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There’s no denying it. I’m kind of a hippie flower child, despite the fact that I cut off my dreadlocks years ago. Take a look in my bathroom and you will see lots of random glass bottles and jars – no Pantene ProV or Secret in sight.

A few years ago, I got serious about “cleaning” up my beauty routine. I’ve always used high quality products, but when I read a book about the dirty side of the cosmetics industry, I knew it was time to step it up a notch. The amount of cancer-causing, endocrine-disrupting and generally nasty chemicals in our conventional products is down-right scary! So I purged my bathroom of all my fancy makeup and shampoos and started fresh with simple, organic, cruelty-free and natural products.

Using Skindeep as a resource for investigating different product’s safety ratings, I began experimenting with new hair and beauty concoctions. Whole Foods carries a lot of great products, many of which make the cut in terms of my standards of health/chemical-free cleanness. Acure Organics is one of my favorite brands that Whole Foods carries, mostly because it is so affordable for the high quality and cleanliness it delivers.

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Essential Oil of the Week: Ginger

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In the culinary realm, ginger is by far one of my absolute favorite flavors. I go gaga for anything ginger – seriously, I can sit down and eat a whole box of crystalized ginger without batting an eyelash. I love ginger tea, I love ginger in my smoothies and juices and I especially love grating fresh ginger into stirfrys and salad dressings.

Despite my love of consuming all things ginger, using the essential oil of this potent healing root has been a new discovery for me. It is a fabulous way to benefit from the power of this universally respected plant. Ginger has been used for just about ever as a food, medicine and spice. It has a long history of use in Asia, was used in both Greek and Roman medicine and is an essential component of TCM healing. Ginger was even introduced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and apparently was used to combat the Black Death because of its sweat-producing capacities. Native to India and China, it is now grown commercially in many tropical climates.

In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is viewed as the universal medicine that can be of benefit to all constitutions. It destroys toxins, it is a strong digestive, prevents nausea, stokes the digestive fire (agni), alleviates pain, is rejuvenating and beneficial for breathing difficulties.

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Yoga + Blood Sugar Levels

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One of the more entertaining aspects of having a blog for me is that I can see what phrases people Google to find Lila in the first place. Somedays I get some super random and funny ones. For example, a few of my recent favorites “ashtanga kicks my ass sometimes and sometimes not”, and, “hope for lila blog”, and “support patanjali dream through facebook.”

One phrase, or version of it, that often appears is “how does ashtanga yoga change my body.”

When we talk about how yoga changes our physical bodies we often talk about how it makes us more flexible or stronger and that is all good and true. I love that my Ashtanga practice has given my arms definition and made my big ol’ bootay round. But, one of the most awesome results of my consistent yoga practice is not something you can see by looking at me.

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When NOT to DIY

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I truly and unironically adore the DIY craze, so much so that I have a Pinterest board dedicated to it.

Making your own stuff is fun and creative. I personally find it really satisfying and empowering to do projects around my home. In a world of “buy, buy, buy!”, it feels good to actually make instead. I think the rise in urban gardening is a great example of this. I love that I can live in an apartment in the city but easily grow my own greens and herbs for abundant salads and smoothies.

There are a number of good reasons to DIY. It can be more cost efficient and more environmentally-friendly sometimes. It’s also a nice way to personalize something in your home/life.

Here are a few of my most successful and favorite recent DIY projects:

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Essential Oil of the Week: Tulsi

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Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, is a very powerful and sacred plant. Indiginous to India, parts of northern and eastern Africa as well as Taiwan, it is cultivated today all over Southeast Asia. It is also grown and venerated in Hindu temples around the world. If you’ve ever been to a Vaishnava temple, you will see the beautiful Tulsi-devi plant being lovingly cared for. Next to the lotus, tulsi is the most sacred plant in India. Tulsi-devi is regarded as a goddess and a consort to Lord Vishnu. Pujas and prayers are performed to her and the tulsi leaves are taken as a sacrament.

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Essential Oil of the Week: Mandarin

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This week’s featured essential oil is one of my personal favorites: mandarin. 

This soothing and delightfully uplifting oil is one of the safest oils to use for children, the elderly and pregnant women. It is non-irritating and non-toxic and has a pleasing zesty fragrance.

Not to be confused with Tangerine (they share a botanical name but not the same therapeutic potency), mandarin essential oil is a great tool to bring some lightness, sweet warmth and stress-relief into your life. Energetically it assists in clearing out clogged ideas and psychic heaviness.

Beneficial for the physical body by improving general circulation, easing stress-related digestive upset, soothing headaches and insomnia (especially if paired with lavender), it is also a top essential oil for women’s health, assisting in ameliorating PMS symptoms, hormonal imbalance and for managing birth and labor stress.

In terms of skin, mandarin oil is a good one to have because it is gentle enough for sensitive skin and can be used to help detox congested or oily complexions. It has a toning effect and is often blended with other essential oils to help reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

Emotionally, mandarin oil is simultaneously calming and uplifting. It provides a nurturing sense of well-being and contentment. It’s usage can ease feelings of anxiety, depression, fear of physcal contact or disturbed eating patterns. It’s even supposed to help you deal with a dislike of exercise! I kid you not, for a while, Thad was rubbing a few drops on his wrists and inhaling its fragrance every morning before practice.

For those of you with young children, mandarin oil can be diffused in the air to provide a soothing peaceful energy to help deal with hyperactivity or temper tantrums.

In general, diffusing essential oils in your home is a nice way to utilize them. I also recommend adding a few drops into a carrier oil (such as almond, apricot or jojoba) and soaking up the goodness in a warm bath. If you’re on the go and you need a little essential oil assistance, just shake a few drops onto your palms and take long deep breaths. Apply a few drops on your wrists, temples, heart center or under the nostrils to continue receiving the healing effects throughout your day.

Have you used mandarin essential oil before? What’s your favorite way to incorporate essential oils into your life?

Blessings!

Frances

 

 

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Colds Are Wretched – Here’s How To Survive Them Naturally

hate following trends sometimes, especially lame ones like “cold and flu season.” But, despite my best intentions and healthy ways, I fell hard with a cold a few weeks ago and I’m just now rounding the corner out of it. Thank goodness! The other day, after yoga, I said to Thaddeus in all seriousness, “That was really awesome to be able to breathe through my nose  – it really makes a difference in practice.” After weeks of fake ujjayi due to insane congestion, I had almost forgotten what it was like to be able to breathe properly in yoga!

I personally do not use a lot of Western medicine. I took antibiotics once last year when I got sick in India, but other than that, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken any Rx drugs at all. Partly that’s because I’m blessed with good health, partly because I’m afraid of the doctor’s office but also, I’ve not always had the best results with pharmeceuticals. I get super nauseous and spaced out from things like Dayquil, Sudafed or any type of painkillers. I’ve only recently started taking Advil again, and only when I’m desperate.

So what do I do when I feel like an achy, owey, miserable snotball?

Well….I have a few tricks that seem to ameliorate the symptoms and help my body work through the stuff of a cold/flu. Although I don’t believe you can do much to make a cold immediately “dissappear” once it’s got you, at least you can make yourself feel a little bit better with natural remedies and soothing techniques while you wait out the worst of it.

Let’s talk yoga first – When I feel absolutely wretched, even if I don’t have a fever (the traditional deciding factor), I stay home from Mysore for a day or two. For my constitution, I find it’s best to take a little extra rest and do some gentle practice at home. By this I mean mostly seated and supine stretches and some restorative poses like supta baddha konasana, supta virasana and viparita karani. I try to do a little Breath of Fire to clear my passages, but sometimes that’s just impossible. I tend to hold my sickness-tension in my shoulders and upper spine so I find it’s very beneficial to encourage movement in my back with spinal twists, shoulder rolls, neck rolls, and other gentle circling/opening movements.

When I have the energy to do a more substantial practice, I stick to Primary Series for it’s healing properties until most of my symptoms have ceased. But, I had an interesting experience the other day – I realized that after 2 weeks of mostly Primary during my illness, I was still feeling very fatigued from my cold and the busy nature of my life right now, so I decided to practice just my Second Series poses (after standing series and surya namaskars of course). I felt so energized by this practice; it really helped me keep my energy level up throughout the day. It seemed to offer me the chi-boost I needed to move through the last little lingering sickness.

Herbs and Medicines – I rely on various tinctures to help boost my immunity and clear up mucus. I use a few blends that contain herbs like goldenseal, Echinacea, boneset, and hops (I use a CO brand called WishGarden Herbs  currently). I’ve had great success in the past with Boiron’s homeopathics –  Oscillococcinum if I can catch my cold/flu before it hits and then ColdCalm once I’ve succumbed to it. If I have a sore throat or a bad cough, I often use Zinc or Honey lozenges and maybe some natural cough syrup like Elderberry syrup. Now that I’m past my sickness, I’ve been taking a bit of ginseng extract to boost my energy levels back to normal

I also make some potent concoctions (much to Thad’s chagrin) of apple cider vinegar, cayenne, lemon juice, raw honey and grated ginger – these can sometimes be a bit rough to get down but I think they are really helpful for moving through the sickness. When I’m feeling less than vibrant, I use it as a reminder to be extra good about taking vitamins and probiotics and eating simple nourishing food like cooked whole grains and vegan soups to help my body regenerate.

Self-Care – Extra rest and hydration are of the utmost importance. Because I, like most people, tend to chill easily when under the weather, I drink warm water throughout the day instead of cold. I rely heavily on herbal teas such as Tulsi tea (immune booster and respiratory health enhancing) and homebrewed ginger tea (warming and soothing). Yogi tea is cleansing, warming and full of spices with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Make a big pot of it to keep on your stovetop for a few days – this way it’s always available and it makes your house smell yummy and comforting.

Ending my day with a hot bath helps me relax into the night and ease tension and body aches. I like to toss some Epsom salts, almond or sesame oil and essential oils of lavender and eucalyptus oil in my bath. Sleep with a humidifier if possible – this really helps with the dry sore throats and nasal passages. Neti pot everyday and also try a tulsi or eucalyptus essential oil steam to help you regain the ability of deep breathing. It’s super easy and quick and can make a huge difference in the way that you feel. Simply boil water, pour it in a bowl, use 2 or 3 drops of essential oil, cover your head with a towel, stick your nose in the bowl and breathe long and deep.

These are my simple (very basic but effective!) tips for natural healing during this cold and flu season.

Do you have any helpful tips, medicines or recipes you use to help heal naturally? Please share!

Love and blessings for abundant health!

Frances

Kitchari: Healthy and Nourishing Cleansing

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Whenever I come home from traveling I like to do a gentle cleanse. I find that it helps me get back on track to my normal at-home diet. It’s also a great way to give my digestion a little break from all the hard work of eating food in a foreign country like India.

There are many different ways to cleanse so it’s important to find what’s right for your body, environment and the current season. I personally can’t do intense stripping cleansing like the Master Cleanse or multi-day juice fasts. I get terrible headaches, anxiety, chills and totally spaced out from these kind of cleanses. I’m not a health expert, but in general I do not recommend people try these long intensely restrictive fasts while maintaining their regular work/home life – this can be too stressful and that would be counterproductive! In certain controlled environments, under guidance and for a specific health condition, more restrictive cleanses can be incredibly healing, so I’m certainly not writing those off completely, I just don’t find they are the best choices for householders of good health.

So then how do I “cleanse”?

I eat simple cooked foods in moderate amounts, hydrate like crazy, take extra good care of myself and supplement with cleansing herbs and extra fiber. I sometimes use those 365 brand “Complete Body Cleanse” kits or take capsules of the Ayurvedic medicine, Triphala, as well as detoxifying herbal teas.

The method for cleansing I want to share with you today is a mono-diet. This means you eat only one type of food for each meal. The recipe I use for this cleanse is called kitchari. It is a staple of Ayurvedic diet and healing. It’s a wonderful meal for cleansing, but also for any time you are feeling a bit under the weather. It is nourishing and very soothing. Kitchari is served in India to people who are sick because it is so simple and easy to digest. The vegetables, legumes and rice provide a balanced meal of an easily assimilated protein while the spices are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and digestion-boosting properties. Onions, garlic and ginger –the trinity of roots, as Yogi Bhajan called them – are stimulating to the digestive fires and beneficial to the immune system.

A kitchari cleanse can be done for one day or many. I’ve done this mono-diet for up to a week before and I felt amazing afterwards. For severe illnesses, people have done kitchari mono-diets for weeks on end with very positive results. I find that even one day of kitchari makes me feel very light and balanced. Kitchari is very good for cleansing the colon so it’s especially beneficial for people with trouble digesting and eliminating their food in a healthy manner.

Each time I make kitchari it’s a bit different depending on whether I use brown or white rice and what spices and vegetables I use. Kitchari doesn’t’ have to be boring – mix it up!

If you are totally turned off by the idea of eating the same bowl of food multiple times a day, here’s a great modification:

Eat kitchari for lunch, dinner and an afternoon snack. In the morning, eat a bowl of cooked gluten-free cereal such as a steel-cut oats or millet. I flavor and supplement my hot cereal with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamon and nutmeg and sweeten it with cooked fruit like apples or pears and a dash of molasses, maple syrup or brown rice syrup.

 

Mung Beans and Rice Kitchari

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil

1 cup of mung beans

1 cup of basmati rice

9 cups water

4-6 cups chopped assorted vegetables (carrots, celery, kale, broccoli, sweet potato, zucchini, etc.)

2 onions, chopped

1/3 cup minced ginger root

8-10 cloves of minced garlic

1 heaping tsp. of turmeric

1 tsp. of black pepper

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. crushed chiles or cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. of coriander powder

1/2 tsp. of cumin powder

1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. of cardamon powder

2 bay leaves

sea salt to taste

 

Directions:

Soak beans and rice for at least 2 hours and then rinse. Add water to beans and rice and boil over a medium flame. Add vegetables to cooking beans and rice. In a large frying pan, heat ghee/oil. Add onions, garlic an ginger to hot oil and saute. Add spices. When done, combine onions with cooking mung beans and rice and continue to cook until well-done, stirring often. The consistency should be rich and thick. Add salt to taste when finished cooking.

 

How to make the most of your cleanse:

Get some extra Zzzzzs – Switch off and get a little more rest. Be lazy – your body and mind will benefit from the extra sleep.

Sweat and soak – End your day by soaking in an Epsom salt and essential oil bath. If you have the opportunity to go to a sauna, steam bath or hot spring, go soak your bones and sweat yourself clean.

Move your body and breathe deeply – Cleansing is not the time to bust out Third Series or run a half-marathon. Take it a bit easy in your exercise routine but still get some good movement. Perhaps a gentle yoga session, a good walk, some tai chi – something to move your blood and lymph and keep the joints lubricated will make you feel better as you’re cleansing and processing.

Start your day right by tongue-scraping to clear off the amma that collected overnight, detox your skin by dry-brushing before you shower and be sure to drink a big glass of warm water to encourage elimination before eating.

I like to take a cold shower in the morning to dilate the blood vessels, flush my body of toxins and wake up. After yoga practice I normally take a hot shower to soap/shampoo etc. and then I rub my skin with a vata-pacifying oil like sweet almond or sesame.

Drink herbal tea – Make a large pot of Yogi Tea which is a blend of boiled cinnamon, ginger root, cardamon pods, black peppercorns, turmeric and cloves. I drink this tea multiple times a day with a splash of unsweetened almond milk. It’s very detoxing and beneficial for the digestion. It’s also warming so I find it to be very comforting when I am cleansing. I’m also a huge fan of tulsi tea. Tulsi (holy basil) is warming as well, so it’s a great choice for the cooler months. It is incredibly healing and great for building a strong immune system.

Stick clear of all intoxicants/stimulants – This means no coffee, booze, or drugs (except for necessary rx, if you take any), no caffeine or sugar. Give your body a break from these substances that are so hard on your liver and adrenals.

Break your fast intelligently – Don’t go out and order a big pizza and ice cream! Stick with a low-inflamation and healthy diet.  Slowly introduce more diverse foods. Use your cleanse as a way to bring healthier, plant-based foods into your routine.

 

Hope you find these suggestions helpful.

Blessings,

Frances

Health-Changing Reads

I love to read. Although I adore the feeling of getting transported by a great novel, I’m almost always reading at least one non-fiction book. Many of these books have a cultural, historical or spiritual lean, but given my interest in health, I’ve been picking up more books on health and wellness recently.

In the past year, two book in particular have inspired me to drastically change my own lifestyle habits. These books are on quite different subjects, but both of them raised my awareness about how my choices effect my health in a big way. I have given copies of these books to my sister and recommended both to pretty much all of my female friends.

There’s so much information on the web about health and wellness. Some of it is great, other sites are kind of bogus. There are a gazillion contradictory opinions about what to do/not do, what to eat/not eat etc., etc. so it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe. But one reason I especially benefited from the following two books is that they both approach health from a place of common sense and traditional knowledge. Both are accessible and full of realistic and effective suggestions for making positive lifestyle choices.

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The first book is Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr. Claudia Welch. This book made me stay up at night reading and occasionally waking up Thad to say “Oh my gosh, did you know….?” It is really eye-opening how diet and lifestyle choices effect the balance of our sex hormones and stress hormones. Coming from both a Traditional Chinese Medicine background and an Ayurvedic one, for years Dr. Welch has been studying hormones and working with women of all ages from puberty through menopause. She is such a storehouse of information. This book discusses the role of hormones in all a woman’s life stages. The information on birth control and hormone replacement therapy especially needs to be heard by every woman out there, in my opinion. So fascinating and really empowering. I learned so much from reading this book, because I, like so many other women, have struggled with unbalanced hormones and difficulties with my cycle. Having read this book, I feel like I have new tools to help me achieve balance and ease on this front.

Her website is drclaudiawelch.com

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The second book pretty much blew my mind and made me clean out my entire bathroom cabinet. It is called No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and The Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics by Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt. We all know that what we eat is important, but so many of us forget that what we put on our bodies is just as important. Most women who use conventional products and even some of the green-washed “natural” products out there are lathering up in cancer-causing, endocrine-disrupting toxic chemicals from head to foot daily. There is next to no regulation on the cosmetics industry in North America. Many chemicals in these products have actually been banned in Europe and other countries, but American women are still using them daily without any knowledge of the dangerous repercussions. This book was so informative but also really entertaining. Not sure how they managed to make the science and politics of cosmetics to be such a turn-pager, but they did. Like Dr. Welch’s book, I finished NMDL and felt really empowered with my new knowledge and the many suggestions for how to clean up my own personal beauty routine. I love the suggestions for clean brands and DIY recipes offered in this book. Their blog No More Dirty Looks is one of my go-to resources online for learning about clean, green products from shampoo to lipstick.

What books have you read that have inspired you and empowered you to change your lifestyle and adopt new healthy habits? I would love your suggestions too!

Blessings,
Frances

 

PS – In no way is this a sponsored post, I’ve just been so psyched on these books I wanted to share them with you!