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Some Thoughts About Physical Stress

I’ve received many messages from well-wishers (including great research on shingles)  as well as much help from friends and neighbors. Nothing like a little debility to let one see the web of connection that binds us to our community, and a great opportunity for gratitude for what we do have in our lives. However, a few folks have bravely asked why I think I “got” shingles…as if herbalists and those who take ridiculous amounts of supplements and really pay attention to diet were somehow immune to the ills “lesser” mortals are prey to. We are not “greater” and we are not immune. But all of this did get me thinking, especially when so many well-intentioned blithely talk about “stress” and how I must have been under a lot, etc., you get the picture.

If I were to ask all of you reading this if you are under a lot of “stress”, I bet most would say yes. The economy, dealing with illness and death, years of war, personal problems, Congress doing more harm than good, working too hard and too long, social inequality, anxiety…the list seems endless. Mostly though, it seems that when we think of stress we think emotions, thoughts: worry, doubt, fear, anger, frustration.

Not all stress is lodged in the heart and mind; much is in the gut. And certainly stress can be and often is a mixture of thoughts and feelings that twirl about stealing our rest and our peace of mind. That’s why so-called stress relieving practises, like meditation, mild to moderate physical exercise, visualization, etc., are so helpful: they really do calm the heart and mind and relieve stress. However,  I did a little research from the Chinese perspective, as well as one of my Western medical (both allopathic and alternative) databases, and came up with an interesting piece of information: some stress is actually physical in origin, and it can lower immunity (and according to the Chinese way of seeing the world), is one of the major cause of a shingles outbreak.

Physical stress–which includes lack of sleep (or sleep interruptions), changes in diet (especially from a good diet to one that is less healthy for the individual), changes in climate (e.g., from hot to cold, dry to damp), recreational drug use, strenuous exercise, exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., chemical, electromagnetic, radiation), allergens, etc.–is just as pernicious as the emotional and mental stress that we more commonly think about as “causing” dis-ease. And no one thing “causes” dis-ease: the terrain of the cells is just as (if not more) important than any particular “germ entity.”

So all this rumination is a gentle way of saying to my self and friends that the whole person is a mysterious miracle. We can try to mitigate stress of all kinds; we can be happy and fulfilled in our work and/or our emotional life; we can monitor our thoughts and meditate and be filled with joy… and we still may become ill. My shingles were “probably” the result of physical stress on my vacation (that was added to some emotional stress around work, and a genetic predisposition to shingles). Take home message: how can we each lead a less stress-full life on all levels…and still be authentically ourselves?

PS Next week I’ll look at statin drugs and their natural alternatives. Then some thoughts on cholesterol. What else?

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More Aromatherapy for Gentle Detox

As I’ve been dealing with shingles, I’ve found some new ways of using essential oils.  When applying essential oils on the body, they must be diluted, and sometimes (like with shingles lesions or broken skin)) you do not want to use the more common mediums like oils and lotions. So I’ve been using alternatives: yogurt, fresh aloe gel (just the inside goop, not the skin), honey and clay. If you are wanting a drawing, astringent, use the clay (and for shingles, tea tree is a great addition, as is any anti-viral including bergamot, niaouli, cajeput, basil, lavender and eucalyptus). The yogurt is cooling and good for hot conditions (and is aided by using cooling essential oils like the chamomiles, lavender, blue cypress and yarrow). Honey is anti-microbial as well as soothing, and helps prevent secondary infections. Use any of the first list for added antiseptic power, and any of the second list for the anti-inflammatory effect.

Eucalyptus is penetrating and cleansing; helping to disperse negativity and constriction through clearing stagnation, thereby bringing inspiration for positive change. {anti-microbial, stimulant, decongestant/expectorant, mild diuretic}  There are several species of Eucalyptus that are useful in aromatherpy. Here are some of the most commonly used:

Peppermint Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus dives) is great for bronchitis (as it thins the mucus very effectively) but not for children or pregnant women.

Narrow Leaf Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) is strongly anti-viral, an expectorant, and anti-inflammatory. Is excellent in a vapor steam.

Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is the most commonly used; be aware that much of this Eucalyptus sold (even in natural food or herb stores) has been redistilled and is not as therapeutically valuable as the pure and natural oil, which is an excellent expectorant.

Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) smells like a combination of regular Eucalyptus and Lemon. With its high aldehyde content, it is anti-viral and calming (but irritating if not well-diluted).

Gully Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus smithii) is the safest for children because it is milder. Like all Eucalypti, it is antiseptic, anti-catarrhal, analgesic and fever-reducing.

Grapefruit this fresh, light citrusy oil is essentially cleansing, especially of deep-seated frustration, self-blame, and feelings that lead to “comfort eating.” It helps disperse the heaviness of angry disappointment. {liver tonic, digestive stimulant, lymphatic decongestant).

Juniper with its pungent woodsy aroma, has been used since ancient times to purify on the spiritual level, using its power to drive away negativity (this is the herb we commonly call cedar). There is also a sweeter note that reflects Juniper’s empowering potential  as it helps us to confront the rigidity of worry. {loosens phlegm, lymphatic decongestant, anti-rheumatic, stimulates circulatory system, a general tonic– especially of the nervous system–and anti-microbial}.

Bay or Sweet Laurel has been a symbol of triumph and achievement since ancient times.  Its fresh camphoraceous scent brings warmth to chilly, congested folks who are burdened with doubt and debility. {pulmonary antiseptic and expectorant, anti-spasmodic–especially of the digestive system–stimulant, diuretic, anti-rheumatic and nervous system tonic}.

Any of the above oils may be purchased from , as well as individually formulated for specific health enhancement purposes. None of the info presented here in this blog is for diagnostic or treatment purposes. It is just the traditional wisdom of our ancestors conveyed in a modern way. Nothing here has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for specific illnesses. For that you must consult a qualified health care practitioner. This info is for educational purposes only.