Archive for Author Darlene Jorgens

Darlene Jorgens
About the Author: Darlene Jorgens
As the Student Advisor at Genesis School of Natural Health my purpose is to guide students through their studies. I also take on projects as needed. ~~ My business is called The Herbs & The Bees, LLC, which has a fully-stocked apothecary and provides holistic wellness consults and services utilizing nutritional augmentation, herbal and homeopathic remedies, as well as energetic modalities.

Good Boundaries Make Great Clients!

Building a natural health business can be a fun and rewarding experience. It also has potential to present difficulties that every entrepreneur has to work through. While some business owners seem to have an uncanny knack for building a business, others struggle.

Having difficulty doesn’t mean that you are not cut out for this type of thing, it only means that additional knowledge and skills are required to benefit your business – and most importantly YOU!

What is it that those with a ‘knack’ know? They know how to effectively use boundaries to accomplish their goals.

Signs that boundaries are needed.

Are you exhausted from working through the many expectations of others? Do you ever feel taken advantage of? Do others frequently ask for unsolicited freebies? Do constant interruptions decrease your productivity? Are “friend”-clients inclined to expect special treatment and favors? Are you frequently asked that ‘quick question’ that requires uncompensated research, but you do it even if you don’t have the time?

If any of these apply, you might consider the need to set boundaries. While all of these things may be a part of running a natural health business (and more), it is healthy to set your own priorities and not allow pressures inflicted from outside to ‘drive’ you. In simple terms, busy-ness does not equate with success.

“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”

~ Brene’ Brown

For some professionals the need for boundaries may present as resentment or anger. The feeling of having one’s stomach ‘tied up in a knot’ at the request of or thought of a person may also reveal a lack of healthy boundaries.  Feeling consistently overwhelmed or weary, or perhaps the realization that one has been taken advantage of or too often taken for granted may be yet another sign. When pushed to wits end the otherwise happy professional might even surprise themselves with that short or cutting remark that just jumped out of their mouth. Unfortunately, it may not have occurred to them that a lack of boundaries was causing their suffering and negative feelings or that there was a remedy.

Setting Boundaries is Healthy for You!

A person who sets boundaries is a person who cares for and respects themselves.  A person who is willing to set boundaries for themselves is a person who desires to nurture themselves with self-care and self-respect.  Believe it or not, setting healthy boundaries is a primary area that the natural health professional takes care of themselves!

Also, do not be quick to harshly judge those negative feelings you may have.  Negative emotions are merely an indicator that something is amiss in a similar manner as the fuel gauge on a car indicates whether the tank is full or empty. Now that you recognize healthy boundaries are in order you can do something about it!

Don’t become discouraged should the concept of boundary-setting have you in tears.  Given some time and opportunity it is very possible to become proficient in this area. Setting healthy boundaries is a wonderful way to practice self-love and personal growth is ultimately empowering and energizing.  If this is you, take courage. YOU CAN do this! Read on to learn how.

“Compassionate people ask for what they need.  They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.  They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

~ Brene’ Brown

Setting Boundaries is Healthy for Others!

For many natural health professionals, learning and practicing the skills required to create good boundaries necessitates taking a sobering inventory of themselves.  This is beneficial not only for ones-self, but also for one’s clientele.

Without boundaries, there is chaos, chaos causes stress which when prolonged results in the weakening the body.  In other words, your health will benefit from your learning to set good, healthy boundaries for yourself. Our clients, like us, benefit from applying similar techniques in their work and personal lives.  Boundary-setting tools are a great resource to have in one’s professional arsenal.

The following poem is a work of art crafted by the well-known American poet, Robert Frost.  Especially noteworthy is the relationship and understanding that is developed in the process of boundary-setting.

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

If you would like to listen to an MP3 recording of this poem click on the link.  ->  Mending Wall by Robert Frost

How to Get Started Setting Boundaries

The place to begin is by delaying the urge to automatically say “yes” whenever a request is made.  As author/researcher Brene’ Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, states:  “The moment someone asks you to do something you don’t have the time or inclination to do is fraught with vulnerability. “Yes!” often seems like the easiest way out. But it comes at a price: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “Sure!” in my squeaky, I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this voice, only to spend hours, even months, feeling angry and resentful. For women, there’s a myth that we’re supposed to do it all (and do it perfectly). Saying no cues a chorus of inner shame gremlins: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not a very caring [mother/wife/friend/colleague].”1

“No!” is a complete sentence!

Next, practice saying the word “No” with confidence! If you have difficulty speaking it out with confidence, practice! Say No! with enthusiasm until the confidence surfaces, then practice again. Say No! in front of the mirror. Say No! in the car. Practice until it becomes a habit. And remember, “No!” is a complete sentence!  Practicing your boundaries in everyday life is key to setting effective boundaries in your business.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.”

~ Warren Buffett

Warren Buffet an American investor and business tycoon said “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.” Isn’t that what every two-year-old child says? They are learning to set effective boundaries for themselves. A skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.

It is possible to use boundary-setting techniques to manipulate others/ This behavior ought to be rejected by the natural health professional. Manipulative boundaries are often extremely rigid and unyielding. They may be intended to make the boundary-maker feel safe or avoid anything that could possible go awry, but the downside is that manipulative boundaries actually exclusive. They serve to keep people ‘out’ instead of inviting them ‘in’-to a mutually-beneficial and rewarding relationship.

The 3 ‘C’s of Boundary-Making

What kind of boundaries should a natural health professional have? A good place to begin is by thinking about those areas in your business that would be benefited by a clearly-defined boundary. Undoubtedly, you will think of more than is listed here. Here are some examples to get you going:

Boundaries of Natural Health Professionals

  • Dates and times you are available (office, store, clinic hours)
  • ‘No show’ appointments. (Fee for cancellations?)
  • Being on time for their appointment. (How will tardiness be handled?)
  • When is payment due?
  • Preferred or acceptable, methods of payment.
  • How do you prefer to be contacted? (Email, text, phone call, etc.)
  • Client adherence to your professional recommendations, etc. (Definitely in the client’s best interest.)

After listing the boundaries you have decided upon and how you would like to handle each one, you will want to move on to the first ‘C’ of Boundary-Making.

Successful Boundaries Must Be Clear

Clear boundaries clarify expectations and set people up to succeed.  For boundaries to be respected and adhered to, clear communication is the key.

The best place to start when setting boundaries verbally is to “own’ it. This is an important step to establishing your authority and can be accomplished by making “I” statements. “I” statements are a simple way to get started. Practice the ones below and add any others that suit you. State them with confidence as with saying “No!”

“I don’t have the bandwidth for that.”
“I would be happy to answer your questions. My next available appointment is on Tuesday.
“I need time for myself outside of business hours.”
“I am not available before 10 a.m.”
“I can’t take that on.”

When offering an “I” statement, do not add further explanation as this muddles the message which will weaken the authority you would like to convey. Keep your boundary statements short and to the point.

Repetition along with enthusiasm will help build your confidence. If you have a friend with which you can practice, have them encourage you to be assertive. That is even better.

Successful Boundaries Must Be Communicated

It is a mistake to assume that others automatically know your boundaries. There are various ways to set boundaries with signs, in contracts, in policies, as well as verbally.

As was mentioned earlier, contracts, and policies and procedures are types of boundaries.  It is recommended to write out these things for the sake of clarity with your client.  However, not everything can be forethought and written.  Relationships are messy like that.  This is why we need to practice verbalizing limits.

Here is one example:  Last minute client cancellations or no-shows are costly in business.  Remember, your policies (boundaries) should be stated when the appointment is made, written where your clients can see them, and/or forwarded to them with intake paperwork.

At times it will be necessary to enforce this boundary. Practice the following statement until it can easily roll off of your tongue.

Boundary statement: “I am happy to cancel and reschedule your appointment. There is a $___ cancellation fee when less than a 48-hour notice is given.”

Obviously, we wouldn’t charge a cancellation fee every time a client cancels for any reason. After all, sometimes there are legitimate emergencies. However, being prepared for those times you have to use a boundary will help to keep you on your toes when you need it .

Successful Boundaries Must Be Consistent

Consistency is a bit more difficult in the beginning than after one has been setting boundaries for awhile. It is wise to expect some resistance when first using boundaries as with any good wall or fence there will be “fence testers”. Sometimes these are people who are genuinely surprised that there has been a change. These people generally will adapt and respect you all the more.

Another type of “fence tester’ is the manipulative or ‘toxic’ person. When you come across these as any reasonable and rational person would, just take a deep breath, relax, and calmly stick to your guns for “this too shall pass.”

“You best teach others about healthy boundaries by enforcing yours.”

~ Bryant McGill

Being habitual about consistently enforcing your boundaries shows that you respect your decision-making. Waffling demonstrates uncertainty and by doing so you undermine your own authority making it more difficult to hold your ground next time.

Take a moment and reflect back to the Mending Wall. Remember the place where the hunters passed through left a gaping hole in the stone fence? Their action made the boundary inconsistent. Inconsistency requires more effort to repair than the effort required in routine maintenance.

And that’s what this is all about isn’t it? Making your business a safe, joy-filled, and profitable venture… for YOU!

Good Boundaries Make Great Clients!

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Chia ~ Salvia Hispanica

Chia (Salvia Hispanica L.)

Chia is a herbaceous annual that is part of the lamiaceae plant family and native to Guatemala and the central and southern parts of Mexico. Plants in this family contain very aromatic essential oils in all of their parts. Other well-known plants found in the lamiaceae family are mint, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage.

Chia (Salvia hispanica) grows in well-drained clay or sandy soils with a lot of sun. Its beautiful flowers are bee and pollinator friendly, but chia does not tolerate frost. It should be harvested immediately after the first killing frost.

There are multiple varieties of chia such as Chan (Hyptis suaveolens) which is also sometimes called ‘Chia’. Unlike Salvia hispanica, Chan is high in Omega-6 essential fatty acids and not in the Omega-3s. Golden Chia (Salvia columariae Benth) produces seed that is used just like Salvia hispanica. Salvia miltiorrhiza, a “chia” that is native to China and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called red sage, Dan Shen, and Shen so. The root is used for medicinal purposes as a blood mover, traditionally in the form of a tea. » Read more

Food Allergy or Intolerance?

Are food ‘allergies’ or a food ‘intolerance’ the same thing? Keep reading to find out what the differences and the similarities look like in a topic that often results in confusion.  Let us begin with the hypersensitivity, commonly known as a food intolerance.

The Food Intolerance…

The outstanding characteristic of a basic food intolerance is difficulty with digestion, although it may exist for a variety of reasons.  For instance, a dairy-based lactose intolerance is common throughout the world affecting up to 70 percent of people.[1]  This is the result of the lack of a specific enzyme called lactase which is not produced in the small intestine of certain people.  Without the enzyme lactase, the body simply cannot digest milk sugars which are the carbohydrates called “lactose”.

The milk sugar molecules (lactose) remain too large without the proper enzymatic function, therefore the small intestine cannot absorb it and these particles remain in the GI tract.  Due to this increased transit time, the gut microbes work to ferment the milk sugars.  Lactose reaches the colon still in the process of fermenting, and produces gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen.  These are what cause the pain and discomfort of bloating which can further produce nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children. » Read more

Essential Oils & Water Don’t Mix

While it is common in the “world of aromatherapy” to be encouraged to simply add essential oils to a bath, to a foot bath, or to a compress with only water, you may want to think twice. Let’s discuss why…

Oil & Water… DO. NOT. MIX!

Pure, unadulterated, and undiluted essential oils are ‘hydrophobic’.

Pure, unadulterated, and undiluted essential oils will not disperse in water. Why? Because they are ‘hydrophobic’. In other words, they do not blend with or disperse in water.

Most essential oils are lighter than water and will float on top. There are also certain essential oils that are more dense than water, a few examples being vetiver, cinnamon, and clove. These essential oils will sink to the bottom. Regardless of where the essential oils lie, they will not disperse into the water. By separating to the top or the bottom, they will then adhere to whatever passes through the water like skin, or a cloth that then gets applied to the face, arms, or sensitive parts.

When adding essential oils to water special consideration should be given to children, pregnant women, and the elderly as their skin is much more sensitive than the typical adult.

Essential oils can be especially damaging to mucosal areas of the body and if inadvertently splashed into the eyes. Citrus oils which are relatively mild topically, may become an irritant when used for bathing. » Read more

Sleep Much? (Part II)

Welcome back! In “Sleep Much (Part I)” we learned that many of our ancestors slept in a biphasic manner consisting of two sleep periods each evening with a quiet awake time in between, especially during the winter season. Some cultures that sleep in a biphasic fashion take a siesta or mid afternoon nap, especially in the hot summertime mid-afternoons. Young children, the elderly, and some by personal preference may take a short nap in the afternoon. It is interesting to note that there remains a billion people in the earth who still practice biphasic sleep.

Myth or Not?

Are humans fundamentally different from all the other animals because our sleep has been consolidated into one continuous nocturnal session?  If one considers how other mammals such as dogs, cats, chimpanzees, horses, etc., sleep (which are actually poly-phasic in their sleeping patterns), man may not be so unique after all. In the annals of history well-known people such as Nikola Tesla, Leonardo DaVinci, Salvador Dali, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Winston Churchill have been recorded as having practiced polyphasic sleep.

The industrial revolution of the the late 18th and the late 19th centuries caused biphasic sleeping to lose popularity. Natural gas-powered street lamps increased in prevalence, especially in the cities. The first homes “wired” for artificial light were actually “plumbed” with gas pipes to gas-powered lanterns. Electricity was soon discovered, the modern light bulb was invented …and the artificial light pierced the darkness. » Read more

Sleep Much? (Part I)

There is no more restorative agent than sleep.  While one sleeps protein synthesis occurs.  This is crucial because protein synthesis is the activity that lays the foundation for the proper functioning of all the cells in the body.  During protein synthesis tissues are healed and physical and mental processes are restored.  There is also an emotional healing component and perceptual learning occurs while one is asleep.  Perceptual learning is the ability to discern the meaning of what we encounter through our senses of touch, taste, see, hear, or smell.  If any of these processes are short-circuited, then the whole person suffers as the body is not able to heal or restore itself.

An Interesting Sleep Study…

In 1987, Thomas Wehr, a psychiatrist from the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study using 15 men imitating the light exposure in the midst of the dead of winter in middle latitudes and its effect on sleep patterns.  Various indicators were monitored throughout each night such as temperature, hormones, brain waves, etc.  For comparison another set of measurements was taken later on when the men slept for only 7 to 8 hours as is more common today.

The results of the first study was amazing.  “As the study volunteers adjusted to their artificial circumstances, their sleep patterns relaxed into distinct phases. The men slept only about an hour more than normal, but the slumber was spread over about a 12-hour period. They slept for about four to five hours early on, and another four to five hours or so toward morning, the two sleep bouts separated by several hours of quiet, distinctly nonanxious wakefulness in the middle of the night. The early evening sleep was primarily deep, slow-wave sleep and the morning episode consisted largely of REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep characterized by vivid dreams. The wakeful period, brain wave measurements indicated, resembled a state of meditation.” [1]  The total hours equaling approximately nine hours per night.  Up until as little as one hundred years ago our ancestors slept nearly nine hours per night, just as the men in this study with all the external stimulation minimized.

Imagine the bliss of a full nine hours of sleep each night for even one week!

It’s Prolactin, More or Less

When people are sleeping with no artificial light at all they generally sleep twice every night.  Called biphasic or bi-modal sleep, they go to bed around 8 p.m. and wake up around midnight, then sleep again from about 2 a.m. until daybreak.  The hours in between first sleep and second sleep reveal a surge of prolactin that modern-day monophasic sleepers never experience.

In biphasic sleep between the first and second sleeps a higher level of prolactin is a secreted than when people sleep in one full “sleep” from evening until morning.  As we know it, prolactin is that hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and lactation in women.  It is also necessary in males and non-lactating females at low levels to produce a feeling of sexual satisfaction.  In birds, prolactin is the hormone that causes them to go broody and contentedly sit on their eggs for extended periods of time.  It is this same hormone that also that produces the feeling of peace and contentedness in the wake phase between first and second sleep in biphasic sleep.

In Dr. Wehr’s study it was found that the men’s prolactin release was linked to the onset of darkness.  During the long 14-hour nights, prolactin doubled shortly before sleep and remained high for the whole first sleep, wake, and then second sleep phases.  However, once men returned to a modern eight-hour nightly sleep, the prolactin released stayed the same, but here is the clincher, it was restricted to that shortened time frame.  Instead of 12 to 14 hours of increased prolactin each night, men are now getting at best eight hours, but likely much less.

This raises questions.  One of them being, how does a minimum of six hours less prolactin release per night affect male physiology overall?  Researchers know that men with prolactin deficiency often struggle with impotence and depression.  WebMD states, “The research, published in the August 2003 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that ED is common among older men and sexual function sharply decreases after age 50.”[2]  Perhaps this is a hidden contributing factor to erectile dysfunction (ED) that ought to be explored.

It is interesting to note that the people in these studies feel so awake during the daytime that they say they have never experienced true wakefulness before in their lives.

Back in the Day…

Sleep prior to the 1600s included biphasic sleeping, a practice that most would be unfamiliar with today.  This type of sleep described in literature as ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep was still a common occurrence with country folk or “laborers” as late as the 19th century.  As the range of night, especially in the winter season could be as much as 12 hours in duration, people would commonly sleep for three or four hours and then wake for two or three hours, and later return to sleep until daybreak. 

Those hours in the middle of the night were used for many reflective tasks such as prayer and meditation, reading, and studying, and sometimes other mundane tasks such as tending the fire, sewing, or chopping wood.  Yet typically, this time was primarily one of reflection or socialization.  If one was out and about and a neighbor had candlelight emanating from their dwelling that would signal someone was awake and ready for a bit of a social visit!

Illuminate the Night

In the preindustrial era until the industrial revolution, biphasic sleeping continued in rural areas while, towns and cities were having natural gas lanterns installed as street lights and even as a method of illuminating the interior of homes and industry.

This was readily accepted, especially by the wealthy, as lighting was useful to discourage theft as well as to provide opportunity for people to move about after dark.

In those early days of in-home lighting aristocrats continued to sleep in biphasic fashion, however, they began to go to sleep later, wake briefly, and then awake from second sleep much later, well into the morning.

A doctor from the 1500s explained the reason why the working class conceived more children than city dwellers was “that they typically had sex after their first sleep.” [3]   While there is something to be said for romance, it makes sense that many women, especially busy mothers, might enjoy three or four hours of recuperative sleep before intimacy.  The first phase of sleep is an extremely important restorative phase of sleep.  We will discuss this in more detail later.

Historian A. Roger Ekirch found that “references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years.  Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear.”[4]  As people began to deny their natural biological rhythms to stay up into the evening, they became more fatigued upon awaking. 

Although a number of early experimenters contributed to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison developed a better design and Edison had the funds to commercialize the product.  It was not long before he introduced the incandescent light bulb in New York City in 1882.

In May 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”.  For the most part, this rural electrification was accomplished in the 1950s, yet even before that cities and towns were electrified.  Street lights and urban homes already had the luxury of illuminating the night, causing the body’s biorhythms which had been embraced since the dawn of mankind to be ignored.

Work More, Sleep Less

World War II (1939-1945) called many women to the workforce.  They were needed in these jobs to replace the men who had joined the military.  Where before the war began most women fulfilled a culturally-accepted role of homemaker and child-raiser, now a full-time job beyond their full day’s work was not only encouraged, it became expected.

A famous cultural icon of this era was “Rosie the Riveter.”  Rosie the Riveter stood for the many women who took factory jobs building aircraft, producing ammunition, and other supplies in support of the war effort.  Long work hours added to family life also served to increase their daily stress.

Once having entered the workforce, many women continued to work after the war efforts ceased.  The additional income helped the family to afford luxuries or “extras” that soon became necessities such as cars, store-bought food (because they no longer had the time nor the energy to garden.)  Unfortunately, for the working mother, with the hours demanded by both job and family and the changing societal beliefs about sleep, the only place that could ‘give’ was her precious time for sleep.

Play More, Sleep Even Less

The 1950s saw the dawning of the age of technology.  As the days continued to be filled with work and increased stress, people sought entertainment to help them relax.  By the 1960s about 45 million homes had televisions across the United States and TV viewing grew to more than five hours per day.  From there, video games, personal home computers, smart phones, and a host of electronic gadgets occupied free time and unfortunately time that might be better spent sleeping.

The following chart will help to visualize the stark reality of the changes occurring not only in the United States but in other countries as well.  Life was getting increasingly difficult and stress had become an everyday word.

The year 1910 was used as a baseline as the amount of sleep that people got then was likely what was common throughout antiquity.  1942 is another marker when it was found that the average amount of sleep was reduced by an hour per night.  By 1960, another hour was lost reducing the average amount of sleep each night by two hours from 1910!  This translates into a loss of more than half-a-day of sleep each week.  If this doesn’t blow your mind, at just seven hours of sleep per night, an entire month of sleep is lost each year! 

Only two hours of missed sleep from the nightly average of nine experienced 100 years ago is the equivalent of an entire month of 24/7 sleep lost each year! 

Sleep Debt

A condition called “sleep debt” is created when the amount of sleep a person needs increases because they have not gotten enough in previous days.  While people may think they can get away with having less sleep, this is not entirely true.  What generally happens is that they become used to performing their daily routine in a deficit mode.  The greater sleep debt that is incurred, the less the person is able to identify it.

Fortunately, the body is faithful to give warning signs when it does not receive enough sleep.  Feelings of excessive sleepiness, yawning, irritability, and daytime fatigue drive people to consume caffeinated beverages to get through their day.  These beverages are often counterproductive, making it even more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Microsleep, where one dozes off for a few seconds to a couple of minutes without noticing is another indication of being sleep-deprived.  The EEG test results of sleep-deprived rats, reflect that certain parts of the brain fall asleep while others stay awake.   Researchers to do not fully understand the mechanisms behind this.

Types of Sleep Deprivation

Full sleep debt is when a person is awake for a minimum of 24 hours.  This is not as rare as it might seem.  Think of any college campus when reports are due and exams are looming or a stressed working mother when her child is sick and she stays up all night and goes to work the next day, or computer programmers propping themselves up with coffee and energy drinks until an employer’s deadline is met.

Partial sleep deprivation is what most people experience at a more chronic level when sleep is not adequate for an extended period of time such as several days or weeks.  One study found that “the results of those who slept for six hours each night for a period of 10 days were similar to those who are completely sleep deprived for one day.”[5]  It can be caused by not enough hours of sleep, disrupted sleep, or physical conditions like sleep apnea.

Sleep disruption can occur because of sickness, pain, or the use of pharmaceuticals such as alpha-blockers, beta blockers, corticosteriods, diuretics, SSRI antidepressants, medications containing alcohol/caffeine/nicotine, sedating antihistamines ACE inhibitors, ARBs, Cholinesterase inhibitors, H1 antagonists, glucosamine/chondroitin, and statins, Theophylline (an asthma med), and higher doses of thyroid hormone, as well as over-the-counter painkillers.[6]

Alcohol has been shown to disturb the second half of sleep by increasing wakefulness after its initial effect of sedation, even when consumed up to six hours before bedtime.  “However, alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of the sleep period. The subject may sleep fitfully during the second half of sleep, awakening from dreams and returning to sleep with difficulty. With continued consumption just before bedtime, alcohol’s sleep-inducing effect may decrease, while its disruptive effects continue or increase.”[7]

While most adults require from seven to nine hours of sleep each night, about one third of the population gets less than six hours per night.

Can’t Sleep?

Insomnia, or disrupted sleep is something that was almost never recorded in the history books two hundred years ago but has become commonplace in our modern culture.   Insomnia includes having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep.  Acute insomnia is considered brief.  It comes on with stressors such as getting bad news, anticipating a stressful event (good or bad) such as a test at school, financial stress, work stress, relationship stress, etc.

Among adults, “15 to 20 percent have a short-term insomnia disorder which lasts less than three months, 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months.”[8]

The Four Stages of Sleep

Stage 1 – Lasts only about 5 – 10 minutes.  Theta waves are produced by the brain as the body transitions from wakefulness to sleep.

Stage 2 – Lasts about 20 minutes.  Body temperature begins to decrease and the heart slows down.  Most sleep is spent in this stage.

Stage 3 – SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) – This is deep sleep where slow delta brain waves occur and the deepest sleep happens.  During this stage muscles relax and blood pressure and breathing rate drops.  This is also the stage where sleepwalking tends to occur.  This relaxation helps to ensure the blood is circulating properly and that there are proper levels of blood glucose.

Stage 4 – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or paradoxical sleep.  “REM sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep because while the brain and other body systems become more active, muscles become more relaxed. Dreaming occurs due to increased brain activity, but voluntary muscles become immobilized.”[9]

When sleep deprivation occurs, it is primarily of REM sleep and generally results in cognitive issues.  REM sleep is believed to affect healthy moods, learning, and memory storage.  During REM signals are sent from different areas of the brain to the body.  Migraines may be triggered or increased due to increased expression of “the proteins p38, PKA, and P2X3, which are known to play an important role in initiating and sustaining chronic pain.”[10]

“Researchers performed a study in order to determine the effect REM sleep deprivation has on the way a person responds to a stressful event. They applied mild electric shocks to participants while they slept and studied how their brains reacted. According to the results, the people who spent more time in REM sleep showed a lower level of brain activity related to fear than those who spent less time in deep sleep. The researchers believe that if a person is getting enough REM sleep, they might be less susceptible to suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a fearful event.”[11]

“It is important to realize that sleep does not progress through these stages in sequence. Sleep begins in stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, and 3. After stage 3 sleep, stage 2 sleep is repeated before entering REM sleep. Once REM sleep is over, the body usually returns to stage 2 sleep. Sleep cycles through these stages approximately four or five times throughout the night.”[12]

You Decide

While monophasic sleep is what most of us have known and practice, it is a relatively recent happening within the past two hundred years or so.  Although there are many other factors that affect health we would be wise to consider the necessity of sleep in a culture that operates on the lack thereof. Sleep is the very thing the body needs to replenish and restore itself.  Might it be presumptuous to entertain the thought that we have somehow “evolved” and no longer need those nine hours of nightly sleep that many of our ancestors received? That is likely.

Is biphasic sleeping preferable to a seven to nine hour monophasic sleep model?  Perhaps.  Then again, perhaps not.  There is even a polyphasic sleep model for those whose interest is piqued, those who ‘wake up’ at the subject of sleep.

Each person is a unique individual who needs a certain amount of sleep to maintain good health. Chronic health conditions require even more sleep for the body to restore itself.  Although it sounds good on paper, dis-‘ease’ can be caused by sleep deprivation because a solid seven hours may not be enough. The industrialized society is programmed to work around productivity-based paradigms and do not base their work upon the biological rhythms of the individual. While it may not be feasible to adapt to a biphasic sleep modality, even if that were the answer, there is much the individual can do to maximize the sleep structure to which they adhere.

Some may heave a great sigh of relief with the new understanding that waking briefly in the quiet of the night can be a normal part of the sleep cycle and not always an indicator of dreaded insomnia. Forearmed with knowledge, these peaceful moments can be enjoyed by leaving the bed for a brief time of prayer, meditation, or reading using dim, non-stimulating light, then to return to bed again as they begin to tire once more.

Are there lessons to be learned in looking backward to a simpler time when folks were more connected to their surroundings? In the comments below, share your observations whether biphasic sleeping might be a valuable health-promoting tool, or maybe not so much…  We would love to hear your thoughts on the value of sleep.

Stay Tuned…

In Part II of ‘Sleep Much? we will take a deeper look at the devastating effects of sleep debt on the psyche and physiology, discover techniques to make falling asleep easier, and discuss natural remedies and healthy habits for getting a much-needed restorative, enjoyable sleep!

References:

1   Modern Life Suppresses An Ancient Body Rhythm

2   Erectile Dysfunction Common With Age

3   Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

4   Humans Used to Sleep in Two Shifts, And Maybe We Should Do It Again

5   Sleep Debt: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

6   10 Types of Meds That Can Cause Insomnia

7   National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol Alert No. 41 July 1998

8   Insomnia Awareness Day facts and stats

9,12   The 4 Stages of Sleep (NREM and REM Sleep Cycles)

10 REM sleep deprivation plays a role in chronic migraine

11 REM Sleep: Why is it so important for food health by Dr. Amy Lee

It’s All About That Spin…

Proteins, next to water, make up the greatest part of the weight of the body. They are what provide the “framework” to every living cell. The proteins themselves are made up of chains of even smaller structures called amino acids which are connected by what are known as peptide bonds.

When peptide bonds are formed between two amino acid molecules, two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen is lost. This removes a molecule of water from the structure that is commonly written as H20. Therefore the process of peptide bond formation is accomplished by dehydration.

The process of the digestion of proteins begin in the mouth with chewing called ‘mastication’ and the release of saliva which contains the enzymes amylase and lipase which further break down the food. Once swallowed the food passes to the stomach through the esophagus. In the stomach the chemical process of digestion continues with hydrocloric acid which deactivates amylase but continues to allow lipase to work breaking down fats. In the stomach pepsinogen, a pro-enzyme, converts to pepsin which then can break down proteins into smaller units called polypeptides and amino acids. Depending upon the type of food and an individual’s metabolism, generally takes around four hours for the stomach to empty.

As the chyme moves into the small intestine, the pancreas releases amylase and lipase (the pancreatic form), trypsin and chymotrypsin to continue breaking down proteins. Additionally, there are four sugar enzymes (sucrase, lactase, maltase, and dextrinase) released which are secreted by cells that line the small intestine.

Therefore as a result of the activity of protease enzymes, large chains of amino acids found in protein molecules are broken down into even smaller chains of amino acids that can easily pass through the micro-villi of the small intestine (along with other nutrients) and into the bloodstream.

Once released into the bloodstream, amino acids are rebuilt or ‘biosynthesized’ into the specific types of proteins required for the building and repairing of tissue and to “develop into enzymes, hormones, bones, muscles, and blood.’ [3] Each redesigned amino acid is crafted to meet a unique “fit.” These newly-created proteins cannot be used for a different application. For example, a protein designed to replace tissue in the eye cannot also be used in the heart as heart tissue is not identical to eye tissue and would require a different protein.

DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

“Proteins form the structural basis of chromosomes, through which genetic information is passed from parents to offspring. The genetic ‘code’ contained in each cell’s DNA is actually information for how to make that cell’s proteins.”1

“In the human body, protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, many vital body fluids, and are essential for the growth of bones. The enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate all bodily processes are proteins. Proteins help to regulate the body’s water balance and maintain the proper internal pH. They assist in the exchange of nutrients between the intercellular fluids and the tissues, blood, and lymph.”2

There are over 20 distinct amino acids with the human body having the ability to produce only half of them. The 10 amino acids the body does not produce are called “Essential Amino Acids.” This is because they must be obtained through the food we eat. The body does not store amino acids so they must be ingested daily. The essential amino acids are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

This work of the body is absolutely amazing. I mean, who’da thunk it? Having a body that makes its own individualized building blocks from those large protein molecules in the hamburger or hummus that we have the pleasure of eating. Absolutely ingenious.

A Body That Cannot Repair Itself

Amino acid deficiencies are common. There are many ways that this delicate system can become impaired. If even one of the essential amino acid building blocks is not available, the entire protein synthesis in the body is hindered. This deficiency can lead to a disruption in integral proteins negatively affecting the whole body.

“The main reason for amino acid deficiencies is either low protein consumption, poor digestion, or the use of antacid medication, as protein requires adequate stomach acid to be broken down into the amino acids.” [3]

Signs of Deficiency…

Amino acids are the base organic matter used by the body to create serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and endorphins. These are all chemicals called neurotransmitters that create those good feelings of peace, contentment, and happiness in the brain. They are known for stabilizing mood.

“Low levels of amino acids lead to low levels of neurotansmitters. It’s that simple!” [3]

So what does it look like when one’s mood is “off” because of an amino acid deficiency?

Mental & Emotional Health

Sometimes an amino acid deficiency can present as pervasive negativity, agitation, mood swings, tension, irritability, insomnia, obsession and worry, low motivation/energy, types of depression such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or bipolar, or other major depressive disorders and mania. Schizophrenia and the anxiety-like symptoms of schizophrenia may be a result of amino acid deficiency as well.

For many people, anxiety reveals itself in everyday stress, or high stress situations, panic attacks, controlling behaviors, feeling frequently overwhelmed, perfectionism, or perhaps even being someone who seems to be driven to exhaustion. Crying too easily or frequently finding onesself feeling emotionally ‘hurt’, seeking to escape with drugs and/or alcohol, sugar and/or carbs, impulsive or aggressive behavior are more symptoms that tend to be magnified with amino acid deficiency.

The good news is that the person or some unknown entity may not be the root of the problem. Their body may simply be having some very real health challenges due to an amino acid deficiency. If it is a lack of neurotransmitter-building amino acids, the condition may be helped with proper nutrition which affords the body those necessary building blocks.

Musculoskeletal System

Amino acid deficiencies may be the root of some of the following symptoms which affect the musculoskeletal system. Arthritis, ataxia (lack of muscle control or coordination), impaired bone (fragile bones), insufficient cartilage repair, impaired collagen formation, muscle fatigue, slow post exercise recovery, and stunted physical growth.

Integumentary System

The skin, hair, and nails may express amino acid deficiencies through decreased tissue repair and growth, the graying of hair, skin rashes, alopecia (excessive hair loss), and poor wound healing (especially that of burns and infections.)

Cardiovascular System

The heart and circulatory system can reveal a deficiency of amino acids through atherosclerosis, cold hands and feet, elevated cholesterol, low blood pressure, and poor blood vessel functioning.

Nervous System

The nervous system (which includes the brain and teeth) is affected by amino acid deficiency in many ways. Insufficiency may present as: bloodshot eyes, cataract formation, corneal vascularization, dementia, dental caries, diabetic complications that affect the eye as well as nerve cell damage, headaches, migraines, lack of ability to focus, becoming hyper-stimulated, poor memory and memory loss, motion sickness, nerve deafness, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and stunted intellectual growth.

Gastrointestinal System

There are a number of ways the gastrointestinal system including the liver make known they are facing a lack of amino acids. Some of these are: appetite loss, nausea, and dizziness. Other symptoms are constipation, decreased immune function, a fatty liver unable to process fats, impaired fat burning, lack of gastric acid secretion which may cause indigestion, and obesity.

Immune System

  Amino acid deficiency affects the immune system by not being able to support the liver in its role in detoxification which can cause an accumulation of heavy metals. Other ways the immune system is affected by insufficient amino acid availability is by not being able to help prevent AIDS. Amino acid deficiency could also be causative for some allergies and other symptoms of an ineffective immune function such as anemia, chronic fatigue, fatigue (in general), lowered red and white blood cell production, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Endocrine System

  Some may be surprised at all the functions of the endocrine system and its chemical messenger hormones. Amino acid insufficiency here can look like delayed sexual maturity, diminished insulin production, high blood sugar, hypothyroidism, an inflamed pancreas, lack of sexual arousal, male sterility and low sperm count, menstrual cramping, mood swings, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Urinary System

Kidney stones may occur as a result of amino acid deficiency.

All of Life has its Own Spin

From a physics perspective, the intelligent design of the RNA and DNA of all living organisms (plant and animal) require amino acids which under polarized light reflect a spin to the left (also called left-handed spin).  These are known as L-amino acids.

Optics – The branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light

The Greek word ‘levoratatory’ is symbolized by the letter “L” which identifies the molecule as appearing to spin to the left when polarized light shines upon it. Conversely, “D” is the word ‘dextrorotatory’ meaning the molecule appears to spin or turn on a right rotation with the application of polarized light. Therefore, in scientific language the left hand would be written ‘L-hand’ and the right hand written ‘D-hand.’ We will look more in depth at the significance of the spin in a moment.

Not everything has a left-hand spin. Some molecules spin to the right. For instance, sugars have the opposite spin of amino acids. They spin to the right and are recognized as “D-sugars.”

Chiral is a term that is used to describe an object whose mirror image cannot be identically superimposed upon itself.  For instance, your left and right hands are mirror images of each other when placed palm sides together.  If you set one on top of the other facing the same direction, they will always appear in reverse order.  (Notice how the thumbs point in opposite directions when one hand lays on top of the other).  This is called “chiral.”  In both chemistry and physics, the term chiral indicates mirror images that are not superimposable.

Public Domain

Therefore, we have learned that, molecules which cannot be superimposed on their mirror images are called chiral. Either one of a pair of optical isomers is called an enantiomer. For example, if a hand were a molecule, each hand as it cannot be superimposed upon the other but is a mirror image, would be considered enantiomer.

Images that are superimposable are those that fit in the exact same space as the other. Therefore, you could lay the two molecules on top of each other and only see that one shape. Molecularly, these items look the same from the front or the back and are also spatially the same.  In other words, one would be an exact “fit” in place of the other.  These are called achiral.  Either molecule could be placed in the space of the other with the exact same superimposition.  There is no right or left “handedness” with achirial objects or molecules such as we see with chiral.

This becomes a bit more complex when considering achiral objects or molecules from the three dimensional (3-D) perspective.  Let us consider the following:

“Starter”
by Willdre
CC BY-SA 3.0

An automobile mechanic determines a certain part no longer works and needs to be replaced, the starter for instance.  When one starter goes bad, it is replaced with another that is the same size, fits exactly in the same place, and has the same function as the one that was removed.

If a mechanic tried to replace a starter with a spark plug the car would simply not be repaired. Everyone knows that it would be ridiculous to replace one part with another of a different size and/or function as the original.

What does this mean for me?

The same is true with the nutrients required by our bodies, especially amino acids, the topic we are discussing at present. Proteins that we consume in natural, unprocessed forms from plants and animals are always made from the L- form of amino acids. The fit our bodies perfectly. Isn’t it marvelous at how nature provides just what a body needs?

Nature Provides Just What the Body Needs!

Foods naturally high in amino acids are: eggs (which have the highest percentage of essential amino acids), game, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, wild-caught salmon, tuna, cod, and surprise… quinoa!

In general, plant-sources have less of the essential amino acids than animal sources, however, a varied diet can offer additional nutritional component combinations along with the amino acids. Plant foods with higher amounts of beneficial amino acids are: buckwheat, seaweed, spirulina, pumpkin, peas and pea protein, lentils, whole grain rice, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, watercress, turnip greens, hummus (chick peas) mushrooms, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, figs, broccoli, olives, avocados, raisins, dates, apples, chia seeds, blueberries, and bananas

Racemism – the state of being optically inactive

We have learned that chiral amino acid molecules spin to the left a certain number of degrees. Additionally its mirror (not superimposable) molecules spin to the right an equal number of degrees. An equal mixture of left-handed and right-handed molecules (or D-50% and L-50%) is called a racemic mixture and has no rotation. In other words, an equal raceme is optically inactive. “In general, most biochemical reactions are stereoselective, meaning only one stereoisomer will produce the intended product while the other simply does not participate or can cause side-effects. ” [7]

“…or can cause side-effects” Huh? What?

Well over a hundred years ago it was known that the racemization of naturally-formed molecules was, in fact, a sign that they were dying.

“The phenomenon of autoracemization is of interest in connection with the question of permanency of optically active substances. Let us consider a pure organic substance such as dextrorotatory bromo-succinic ester. When it is kept for some time in a closed flask at ordinary temperatures, it undergoes spontaneous intramolecular rearrangement and a gradual decrease of the optical rotation results; in other words, it racemizes. Several examples may be cited to illustrate this remarkable fact…Might we not speak of ‘dying molecules’ much as we speak of ‘dead catalysts’?… The effect of these reactions is, as we may express it, a complete turning ‘inside out’ of the molecule.”[8]

1895, Dr. Paul Walden

It’s all About That Spin, ‘Bout That Spin, …No Trouble”

Getting our nutrition from food whenever possible is always best. With the exception of phenylalanine (utilized as a mixture, i.e. DL- ) all other amino acids are considered more suitable (the state is called “free-form” which is immediately bioabsorbable meaning it does not require digestion) in the human body. As Dr. Richard J. Thiel states, “Amino acids are also useless if not toxic when present in synthetic forms. Only left-handed (laevo-) amino acids can be assimilated. All synthetic aminos are racemic.”[9]

Of course, it is not only amino acids that are affected by spin. Synthetic “Vitamin D sold as “Viosterol” and “Vigantol” is well established. It causes blood in the urine very quickly in children, by its destructive action to the kidneys. Deaths have been reported from the ordinary dosages used to “protect” from rickets.” [10] Here is another worth considering:

“Pantothenic Acid is a vitamin now commercially available only in synthetic form. Probably this is the reason for its effect of causing loss of sex function, particularly in females. This castrating action has been found both in test animals and in patients receiving the “vitamin” according to unpublished reports…” [11] Does this sound like nutrition to you?

There is much more to be concerned about with the use of synthetic supplements. All synthetics are reduced to a single molecule, while real food vitamins are always available in complexes that include many other nutritional components that boost nutrition and bioavailability in the human body. Science has yet to study or publicly disclose this information should it be available.

The “spin” is important just as the complexes and other factors are in real food that the body was designed to eat. On no death certificate ever was the reason for death given as “pharmaceuticals or supplements ingested with the wrong spin.” Although that has indeed occurred. Keep this in mind while seeking answers for yourselves and your clients.

This is a complex topic with many implications. We look forward to your thoughts and comments.

NOTE: The biochemistry of amino acids and their work in the body is significantly more complex than we have had time to discuss here. However the intent of this short description was to provide the reader a basic outline highlighting the importance of amino acids in relationship to nature and the human body as a whole. Hereby laying a foundation which conveys the potential for negative consequences when the natural spin of polarized light is not taken into consideration during synthetic supplementation.

References & Resources:

Coffee Depletes Key Nutrient

Yes sirree! Did you know that drinking just one cup of strong coffee or black tea within one hour of consuming a healthy meal will impair up to 60% of iron absorption? The stronger the coffee or tea, the greater the absorption of iron is undermined in your body.

Is that a problem?

It could be. Mild to moderate iron-deficiency may be asymptomatic or it can present symptoms such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, dizziness, restless leg syndrome, frequent infections, difficulty concentrating, cardiac problems, and more.

“Drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages with a meal is associated with a 39 – 90% reduction in iron absorption.” [1]

However, caffeine in and of itself only demonstrates a mild negative affect on iron levels compared to the extreme affects caused by tannins.

Do I have to give up my coffee?

Well maybe, maybe not. A severe deficiency may require a complete break from coffee, at least while rebuilding your body’s iron stores. However, if you must imbibe you will want to limit your intake and make sure to leave a one to two-hour window between consuming coffee and then consuming foods or supplements that contain iron. You will also want to increase the amount of food iron that you eat overall.

The Framingham Heart Study [3] was a large study of 634 elderly people from 67-93 years of age and who were still living on their own. It “found that each weekly cup of coffee was associated with a 1% lower level of ferritin, a protein that indicates iron storage levels.” [1]

What is the best way to get my iron?

Well, to begin with, it is not recommended to consume the inorganic form of iron called ferrous (Fe) sulfate which happens to be the most common form that is found in both supplements and in fortified foods.

“Iron used to fortify breakfast cereals ‘is a finely powdered metallic iron and is generally poorly assimilated.” [2]

Inorganic iron is not only used to fortify cereals, it is used to fortify wheat, maize (corn), and rice. Dairy, condiments, and sauces are also fortified. Therefore, one must consider any derivatives of these products such as bread, pastries, pasta, ice cream, tortillas, etc. to contain metallic iron.

Which real foods contain the iron my body needs?

The best organic food forms of iron are found in green vegetables, legumes, and meat (especially red meat and organ meat.) Unlike ferrous sulfate, dietary iron from real food is non-constipating and bio-available, making it the very best choice for your body!

Recipe: Darlene’s Mocha Delight!

~ A Delicious, Health-Promoting Coffee Substitute ~

  • 1 Cup Dandelion Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
  • 1 Cup Chicory Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
  • 1 Heaping TSP Cacao, powdered
  • 1/4 TSP Powdered Cinnamon

In a pint jar, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Label and store with a secure lid.

Add 1/2 – 1 scant teaspoon (more or less as desired) to a tea infuser for each 8 to 16 ounces of water. (I like to use large coffee mugs for my tea!)
Pour boiling hot water over the tea and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes for a delicious “coffee-substitute” beverage or steep longer, 10 to 15 minutes, to draw out more nutrients and increase the health benefits.

Be sure to add some almond milk, coconut milk, or a maybe a little of both and you are good to go. There is a natural sweetness to this recipe that does not require additional sweeteners. It is great cold as the “chocolaty” taste seems to increase as it cools. Yum.

Dandelion is a treasure-trove of nutrients. Unlike coffee, dandelion is high in iron as well as manganese and phosphorus. Chicory, like dandelion, is full of nutrients and an especially good source of potassium. Like dandelion, chicory is known to aid digestion making this a wonderful beverage to consume with a meal. Chicory and dandelion are a great combination.

‘Coffee people’ and ‘non-coffee’ people are pleasantly surprised when they try this hot beverage. It is satisfying, delicious, and provides a nutrient boost the body really craves.

Darlene’s Mocha Delight!

Share your favorite coffee-substitute creation in the comments below or change-up this one and make it better! To your health!

Sources:
[1] Do Coffee and Caffeine Inhibit Iron Absorption?
[2] The Truth About Vitamins & Minerals in supplements: Why real nutrients are best! by Robert Thiel, Ph.D.
[3] Dietary determinants of iron stores in a free-living elderly population: The Framingham Heart Study

Herbalism ~ Yesterday & Today

Herbalism has been around as long as there have been, well, plants and people!  Mankind has studied the usefulness of plants as food and medicine from the very beginning.  In the early days women were the gatherers of plants for food.  Therefore, they were entrusted with the duty of preparing food and mixing plants into ‘medicinal’ preparations to promote health.

During that time, it was a commonly held belief that disease originated with invisible spirit beings such as ghosts and fairies.  Therefore, to appease the “anger” of these invisible beings, herbs (also believed to have spirits associated with them), were combined with magic rituals that corresponded to religious views.[A]

A different approach to herbs was practiced by the ancient Hebrews.  While they also collected plants for food and medicine, they offered thanks for the food and medicinal value of the plant life all around them to their God whom they recognized as an all-powerful Creator and the God of their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Many of these herbs were recorded in the Torah which is also known as the Old Testament in the modern-day Bible.

Onions & Garlic
Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

The allium plant family of which garlic, leeks, and onions are a part were a dietary staple of the ancient Hebrews (and also quite popular today!)  One of these potent herbs, garlic, which is a rather lowly herb, was consumed in everyday life, yet highly regarded by the Hebrews.  They “believed that garlic increased virility and relied on it to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ as directed in Genesis.”[B] As such, they indeed were a prolific people which quickly grew into a very large nation.

In addition to the alliums, there were the balms such as the Balm of Gilead, an aromatic, medicinal substance derived from plants in the historical area of Gilead east of the Jordan river which was known for their spices and ointments.  Also of significance were bitter herbs such as chicory, dandelion, sorrel, and watercress which were important for maintaining healthy digestion as they stimulate appetite and support the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, etc.  These bitter herbs are especially nutritional, and we know now that they are chalk full of vitamins and minerals.

There were also cleansing herbs such as hyssop, marjoram, milk thistle, and the nettles.  “Louise Baldensperger, who, in the early twentieth century, gathered lore about folk use of plants in Palestine, found that “People whip themselves with nettles for rheumatism, a most heroic remedy, rather like allowing oneself to be stung by bees for a cure.”[B]

Saffron
Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay

Many were the herbs used in ancient times, anemone, poppy, crocus (saffron), anise and dill, cumin, mint, and rue along with grapevine, date palm, olive, myrrh, cassia (cinnamon), frankincense, hyacinth, lily, iris, lotus and many more.  The benefits of these herbs were woven into the fabric of everyday living for the Hebrews.  Everyone who partook at meals, received the benefits of many of these herbs, especially those that were edible as they were incorporated into recipes and cures for common ailments.  Unlike today where one with a deep knowledge of herbs and their actions is unique, back then, the knowledge was commonplace and held within community.

At about 2500 B.C. the Egyptians began to practice what is considered a “rational and scientific” approach to medicine beginning with a physician named Herophilus.  “The contributions of Herophilus to our knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology are enormous. Through his anatomical studies on the nervous system, Herophilus proved that the brain and not the heart was the seat of intelligence, a revolutionary breakthrough for that period since it contradicted a prevailing Aristotelian concept which stated that the heart is the seat of intelligence, rational thoughts, emotions, and desires. Unfortunately, their writings have been lost and most of our knowledge of these two is derived from commentators, especially Celsus and Galen.”[C]

“Galen is a giant in the history of medicine and casts a long shadow. His medical theories dominated European medicine for 1500 years. He was a Greek physician who practiced in Rome, becoming physician to five Roman emperors. He was prolific and wrote hundreds of treatises, compiling all significant Greek and Roman medical thoughts, and adding his own discoveries and theories, foremost of which was the humoral basis of disease: illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. He showed, through experimentation, that the arteries carried blood, and not air, as was commonly believed.”[C]

Apples
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Interestingly, King “Solomon’s ‘refresh me with apples’ may have inspired the nineteenth-century saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’  In biblical times Greeks believed the apple healed all disorders.  In the second century, Roman court physician Galen prescribed apple wine as a cure-all for almost every ailment.  An Arabic author from the same period wrote, ‘Its scent cheers my soul, renews my strength and restores my health.’  Scientists at Yale University have since discovered that the scent of spiced apples produces a calming effect that lowers blood pressure.”[C]

For many thousands of years herbs were so commonplace to diet and wellness that most people practiced a type of folk medicine in their homes and villages.  When the knowledge and remedies within the home were not enough, caretakers would reach out to a more knowledgeable family member such as a spinster aunt or a grandmother with greater knowledge.

When a situation would escalate beyond their abilities the family would then seek out the next most knowledgeable person who was known as a “wise woman” or a “wise man” man of the village or what we might recognize as the community herbalist. To this day this practice continues to be practiced outside of first world countries.

Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

Modern day examples of herb-based medical systems would be Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as other eastern religions where there is a synergy between lifestyle and worship, and the resulting states of either health or disease.

Modern-day Christianity had its very roots in the religion of the Hebrews which was birthed in the Eastern mindset.  The Western mindset, based upon reductionist Greek philosophy, has pervaded the thoughts of generations of believers until this preset day.

As a result, our beliefs have become fragmented into separate criterion-based compartments such as ‘business and personal,’ ‘church and state,’ and even ‘health and sickness.’  There is some value in this mode of thinking as ideally each criterion would remain within consistent parameters no matter who does the assessment. However, illness can have many different roots and while a person’s lifestyle may appear healthy, there may be something amiss lying below the surface.

What does this have to do with herbalism?  Well, a lot. Understanding people and physiology, while understanding herbs and their actions is the basis for applying gentle, supportive, and effective remedials. Although our bodies have all the same components (liver, heart, blood, lymph, etc.) which can be scientifically studied, there are significant variables that are individual to each person that the holistic herbalist is trained to uncover.

In the early days as it is today, the herbalist’s “medicine chest” is not filled with pharmaceuticals. Rather, the herbalist ought to be intimately acquainted with the actions of plant materials: roots, stems, leaves, and flowers as remedials to support the body’s design to heal itself.

What Does Herbalism Look Like Today?

A burgeoning passion for medicinal plants combined with a desire to support people in their recovery process are two distinct indicators of an intense “herbal” fire burning within one’s soul.  The field of study is called herbalism, which is the practice of utilizing plant materials in a manner that supports the body’s ability to maintain wellness and to heal itself.  In times past, herbalism was known as the “medicine of the people.”  Herbal artisans were called “healers” or the “apothecary.”  In modern times these same people are called herbalists.

There are precious few who have experienced the passing down of esoteric knowledge through familial generations.  Therefore, it has become common for modern-day herbalists to seek out knowledge and training regarding the utilization and safety of medicinal plants and to intentionally gain an intimate experience with these wonderful, unique, and beautiful creations of immense benefit to mankind.

What is a Master Herbalist?

A Master Herbalist is a title that denotes proficiency in the use of herbs.  What a Master Herbalist actually does often varies with the individual’s talents as well as the desired expression of such knowledge and creativity.  This is where it gets exciting! 

For instance, some herbalists are avid foragers and know much about plant identification, growth and habitats, as well as the medicinal and/or food uses of plants – a study called botany.  Other herbalists are professional seed savers, farmers, or gardeners that specialize in providing plants for other gardeners, medicinal, or culinary use. Still others like to compound herbs and make herbal remedies such as infusions, decoctions, tinctures, salves, creams, medicinal syrups, suppositories, and encapsulations.  Yet others find creativity and fulfillment in formulating lines of natural cosmetics, bath and body products, household cleaners, and personal hygiene items.

Herbalists have been known to dress in period costumes and demonstrate how herbs were a vital part of frontier wellness, while others find pleasure in teaching folks how to incorporate herbs into their daily lives.  Still, some master herbalists spend their time studying and writing books, articles, and blogs while others capture the distinct beauty and intricacies of herbs through art, photography, painting, and crafts.  Due to the popularity of pets, herbs are becoming more sought out in the support of the natural health and wellbeing of animals such as dogs, cats, and horses.  Once again, we find our beloved Master Herbalists stepping forward to bridge the gap.

Some herbalists work in retail helping customers make the right product selections while others work in an herbal apothecary setting selling herbs by weight or mixing herbal blends to help with specific ailments. However, most commonly, herbalists are self-employed wellness consultants who observe and assess clients to offer natural solutions for their health issues and to maintain proper wellness.

Many licensed practitioners (doctors, dentists, chiropractors, nurses, massage and physical therapists, etc.) are adding herbalism to their knowledge base as well as carving out a space in their clinics for proficient Master Herbalists.  Lots of moms just want to be grounded and knowledgeable in using safe and natural remedies with their family and friends.  Others simply want to be an herbal resource for their local communities. Whichever way one chooses to express their passion for herbs is valuable and necessary as many people are searching for gentle-yet-effective alternatives to strengthen their bodies.

If you are interested in herbs and are unsure of what your long-term goals might “look like,” take a long, deep breath in and exhale. There is time and you have come to the right place. It is not unusual for a vision to bloom and grow as our students progress through the Master Herbalist and/or Clinical Master Herbalist program(s) at Genesis School of Natural Health and in their interactions with the other students and graduates in our private Student Discussion Group.

Herbalism is more than a career. It is a desire, a lifestyle, a dream, and an expression of what lies within a person, their beliefs, and the “communion and fellowship one has with nature, and with the Author of that nature.” ~Euell Gibbons

Image from Pixabay

References:

Make Your Own Healthy Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a delicious condiment most people love to eat.  It can be dressed up and used in sauces, as a sandwich spread, as base for dips and salad dressings, and in a mix for meats and fish (a yummy addition to meatloaf and salmon loaf.)  You might be surprised at the innumerable and creative ways that mayo can be used in a non-edible fashion.

Using mayo as a face mask to soothe and soften one’s complexion has been around a long time. It is also used to relieve and moisten sunburn. It feels so good when applied cold.  It is an old-style hair conditioner. Just apply, massage into the hair and scalp, and leave it in for five or 10 minutes, then shampoo it out.  It can even help remove chewing gum from hair.  (Not that any of us would ever need that!) By saturating a finger with mayo a “stuck” ring can slide right off!

Old wooden furniture can get a welcome moisturizing and rejuvenating “face lift” by applying the gift of mayonnaise. Just be sure to spot test the area first. Simply apply and allow to set for a few minutes, then wipe off and buff.  By applying a little mayo to a squeaky hinge or to a bottle that needs stubborn residue removed.  It also as been touted as an effective application to tar or sap on one’s car.  Apply to the tar, let it sit for awhile, then wipe clean. (Again, spot test in a hidden area first.)

Mayo as a condiment is highly perishable. It has been a modern convenience for many of us that has taken some unfortunate wrong turns in the manufacturing process. Unnecessary sugar can often be found to be added to mayonnaise, cheaper and very unhealthy oils have been substituted for the nutritious oils once used, and the method for preserving mayo has drastically changed.

In light of these things, take heed before you go and purchase a jar of commercial mayonnaise because all commercial mayonnaise is now cold pasteurized.  Cold pasteurization is a method of sterilizing mayonnaise because raw eggs, a necessary ingredient in mayonnaise, cannot be allowed to set out on shelves at room temperature for months without going dangerously bad.  Sounds great, yes?  Well, no.  Unfortunately, cold pasteurization (also known as HPP or High-Pressure Processing, or irradiation) is a modern method of preserving food that uses extremely high amounts of pressure.

While there is great publicity about the “wonders” of this technique, there are also problems with the outcomes that are beyond the scope of this blog and what the industry is willing to admit.  Thoughtful consideration should be given to the nutritional devaluation of food caused by cold pasteurization, toxic radiolytic byproducts in addition to benzene resulting from the pressure, changes in the chemical composition of food, and contamination by toxic waste products from bacteria that remain unchanged throughout the irradiation process, along with the possibility of rapid re-contamination of food due to its sterilization.

The primary ingredient(s) in commercial mayonnaise are canola (rapeseed) and soybean oils both of which are mutagenic.[1]  Soy interferes with the bioavailability of nutrients and inhibits the function of enzymes.

Simply stated, enzymes have the important function of breaking down proteins into small enough bits that the body can assimilate them.  This kind of interference in digestion can cause many negative malnutrative effects such as cognitive impairment (250% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s), brain shrinkage and premature deterioration (think dementia), increased production of steroidal hormones and estrogen mimicking compounds (beyond what the body requires and not the same as the body makes), early puberty in girls and delayed puberty in boys (from said hormone disruption), menstrual difficulties in women and “permanent” PMS, and a myriad of other negative effects.[2]

On the positive side, when homemade using your own select ingredients, mayonnaise can be a source of healthy fat intake when used in moderation!  It is incorporated into many summer recipes such as dips, sauces, salad dressings, and is an absolutely delicious additions to one’s table.

Fast ‘N Snappy!

My favorite way to make mayo is by dirtying the least amount of dishes in the quickest amount of time.   That means I like to make my mayo in the same container that I store it in. Therefore, my container of choice is a wide-mouthed pint mason jar.

Here are the tools you will need to get started:

  • 1 pint-sized wide-mouthed canning jar and lid
  • A stick/immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender/Vita-mix/etc.  I have been told that you can hand whip mayo but that it takes much longer to set up.  That doesn’t jive with my “quickest amount of time” requirement so let us move right along…
  • A rubber spatula

The Mayo-Maker’s Secret

The key to making mayonnaise is to allow all the ingredients to sit out until they become room temperature.  If you add room temperature oil to cold eggs you would be the lucky one to get a proper emulsion.  Here are the basic ingredients you will need:  (Feel free to cut the recipe in half to suit your needs.)

Basic Recipe –

  • 2 Raw Eggs
  • 1 Tsp Water
  • ½ Tsp Sea Salt
  • 2-3 Tsps Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, or White Wine Vinegar
  • 2+/- Cups Oil

About the eggs. Farm fresh eggs are a great selection and carry little to no risk of contamination.  Simply wash the shell prior to using and allow to sit out on the counter-top until they are completely room temperature.  Also, for safety’s sake do not ever use an egg with a crack in it.

A Word About Oils

The oil you select will directly affect the flavor of your mayonnaise. Extra virgin olive oil has a very strong flavor and will work, however, many folks do not like in their mayo.  I find that I enjoy extra-virgin olive oil-based mayo better when I add more pungent spices like garlic, paprika, and horseradish.

“Safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and canola oils should never be used in your mayonnaise. They are highly polyunsaturated, omega-6s that go rancid quickly (many are rancid by the time you buy them, but [you] cannot smell the rancidity because they’ve been perfumed), and increase your inflammation index.”[3]

Peanut oil, sesame seed oil, and grapeseed oil can be used.  Macadamia nut oil is “da bomb” from what I hear and avocado oil is another option, but presents a flavor with its own unique taste that not all will find suitable.  A combination of oils can also be used. This is handy to know should you run out of your favorite go to oil. Additionally, coconut oil can be used, but it must be liquefied to become an emulsion and it might be wise to begin with a second oil before adding the coconut oil as it is high in saturated fats.

Spices I like to add to the basic recipe above –

  • ¼  Tsp Garlic
  • ¼  Tsp Paprika
  • ½-1 Tsp Dill

Mayonnaise is delicious served plain or one can flavor it any way they like. For a yummy twist add fresh or dried herbs.  Parsley, oregano, chives, thyme, ground mustard, Dijon mustard, etc.  Experiment to find the combination that you like best.

The Mayonnaise “Trick”

Add a teaspoon of water to the egg yolks before adding the oil because “A little water physically broadens the space between fat droplets, helping them stay separate,”…“If the oil droplets don’t stay distinct from one another and evenly dispersed in the oil, the mayonnaise will break.” says Tucker Bunch, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.[4]

Putting it all Together

Step #1 – **This is the most important step**

Everything must start out at room temperature.  To emulsify properly the oil and the eggs must be the same temperature.

Step #2

Crack the eggs and put the egg yolks (reserving the whites for the next step) and water into the canning jar. Blend them together until frothy.

Step #3

Add the egg whites, salt, lemon juice or vinegar, and your choice of spices.

Step #4

Next, pour a thin layer of oil into the jar.  About ¼ cup of oil ought to do it, that will be about 1/4 inch of oil floating on top. You don’t need a measuring cup, a guesstimate works fine.  Then re-insert the stick blender and pulse a number of times until the oil is incorporated into the egg mixture.

Step #5 – **Now take your time**

This is where you slow down and forget about your time constraints.  While processing, gradually add the oil in a thin, SLOW, steady stream until the mayo thickens (takes approximately 1 cup oil per egg.)

Helpful Hint: A grippy shelf liner works well to hold the canning jar. I run the stick blender with my left hand and pour the oil with my right hand. I am careful and take my time during this step. Of course, this would not be an issue with a traditional blender, but it is my preferred method. If you happen have someone wandering about the house with nothing to do, have them reach over and hold the jar steady.

Step #6

Clean off the rim of the jar if there is any food on it and then screw on the lid.  If you are using a blender or food processor you will need to use a spatula to spoon your mayo into a suitable container.  Then refrigerate.

As long as the mayonnaise remains refrigerated it is good for approximately 3-5 days. Enjoy!

What if it Flops?

Wait! Don’t throw it out! If it is runny, use it so make salad dressing by adding more vinegar and additional seasonings. Another option would be to stir in some sour cream and turn it into a veggie dip. You might even pour it into a delicious homemade soup or casserole. You still have time to refrigerate it and devise a plan. Then try again…

Have you made homemade mayonnaise? How did it turn out? Did you try this recipe? What is your favorite oil? Share your thoughts below …and make it better!

References

 [1] Mutagens from Heated Chinese and U.S. Cooking Oils
[2] Soy found to be ‘unfit for human consumption’ and what the industry never told you about it
[3] Ultimate Mayonnaise Recipes
[4] Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg and a Drop of Magic
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