Friday, December 30, 2016

Myddfai Reiki: 6 Potent Healing Herbs for Cold and Flu

It's that time of year again, when you and everyone else in the world is prone to sneezes, snuffles, and worse. (My household has already been hit a couple times now.) If you're reluctant to pour DayQuil into everyone, try these helpful tips from Michelle Schoffro Cook instead:

6 Potent Healing Herbs for Cold and Flu

‘Tis the season of comfort and joy as the carol remind us, but it is also the season of socializing and with that comes the spread of cold and flu viruses. Fortunately, you don’t just have to suffer. There are many great herbs for colds and flu—both to keep your immune system strong to prevent these nasty infections or to help your body fight them off. Here are some excellent choices:

Echinacea—Who hasn’t turned to this beautiful flowering plant for help preventing or fighting off a nasty virus or to shorten the duration of time spent suffering from a cold or flu? Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustifolia) has become the go-to herb for just such occasions for good reason: it works. Research in the journal Advances in Therapy found that Echinacea extracts significantly reduce the risk of recurring respiratory infections. Other research in the journal Cell Immunology has also been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms of respiratory infections. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu.

Elderberry—One of the best antiviral herbs, dried elderberries, elder leaves or flowers can give your immune system the boost it needs to fend off viruses, including colds and flu. David Hoffman, FNIMH, AHG, herbalist and author of the book Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, reports that an alcohol extract of elderberry was effective in laboratory tests against ten strains of influenza virus. It also reduced the duration of flu symptoms for 3 to 4 days in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study. Use two teaspoons of the dried flowers or herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection.

Garlic—Garlic is a well-established antimicrobial herb. According to renowned botanist James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, garlic contains several different antimicrobial compounds that can help while battling colds and flu. One of the most antiviral compounds is known as allicin. Thanks to its pungent flavor and aroma, garlic is best suited as additions to foods like soups, stews, chili, curries or other savory fare, but it doesn’t make a particularly good tasting herbal tea. Alternatively, you can crush one clove of fresh garlic and mix it into a teaspoon of honey and eat at least one per day to help prevent or eliminate a cold or flu.

Lemon Balm—One of the most anti-viral herbs available, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), has been proven effective against the herpes virus but it can also help with cold and flu viruses. That’s because, according to Dr. Duke, lemon balm quickly and effectively slows the entry of the virus into the cells. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection. Keep in mind that lemon balm is not the same as lemongrass.

Peppermint—Peppermint (Mentha piperita) has natural antiviral properties but its potent vapors also help to alleviate sinus congestion linked with colds or flu. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily at the first signs of a cold or flu and throughout the infection. If your sinuses are severely packed, you can also make a peppermint tea that you cool and use as a facial spritzer.

Yarrow—In the herbal world, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is known as a diaphoretic herb—one that induces sweating. The skin is your body’s largest detoxification organ, and in some cases of high fever or serious infection, sweating is one of the best ways for the body to reduce its internal temperature and eliminate toxic buildup linked to infection. Many herbalists, myself included, recommend the use of yarrow in combination with potent antibacterial herbs like ginger and Echinacea to combat infections. Use one teaspoon of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Drink one cup three times daily.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts For Everyone On Your List from Hello Glow!

Never mind giving these as gifts; I want to make a bunch for myself! However, the wonderful people I work with will definitely enjoy these.  

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts For Everyone On Your List

It’s the season for giving and, as always, we’re all about taking the homemade route. There’s so much joy and care in making your own gifts, plus you get to save some dollars and your own sanity (who wants to go to the crowded malls this time of the year? not me!). Give the gift of homemade beauty with these 11 ideas:
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Melt + Pour Soaps
1. Rosemary & Eucalyptus Soap can be made in big batches in no time with this easy melt-and pour-technique. Bundle two or three together for a lovely stocking stuffer.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Solid Perfume
2. Sandalwood Vanilla Solid Perfume works for everyone and it’s easy to customize the containers with a pretty, seasonal label.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Cheek Stain + Lip Gloss
3. Creamy DIY Lip and Cheek Stain is the perfect multitasking beauty product to give your BFF! You can play around with the beet root powder to get the color intensity you love.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Body Spray
4. Homemade Jasmine Aloe Perfume Body Spray is a refreshing treat for any woman. It’s lightweight and beautifully scented to remind you of summer.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Detox Bath Salts
5. Himalayan Pink Salt Detox Bath Salt is the absolute easiest thing you could make! The bath salts look beautiful and they’re super relaxing to use.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Clay Facial Soap
6. Homemade Almond Vanilla Clay Facial Soap is gentle on the skin, which makes it perfect for winter, and surprisingly easy to make in bigger batches.

11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Bath Bombs
7. Aromatherapy Bath Bombs are such a little luxury during the stressful holiday season! Save some for yourself and give them to everyone on your list.
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Body Oil Spray
8. Vanilla Clove Body Oil Spray is like a big tray of freshly baked cookies for your skin. Who wouldn’t want that in their Christmas stocking?
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Bubble Bath
9. Honey Vanilla Bubble Bath is a great excuse to take time for yourself and enjoy a relaxing soak in the tub. Your friends will appreciate this gift!
11 Homemade Beauty Gifts Everyone Will Love - Sugar Scrub
10. Vanilla Sugar Cookie Body Scrub + Soak is the perfect combination of thoughtful and personal–and who doesn’t love the smell of cookies on their skin?
11. DIY candles in the slow cooker will save you a lot of time and effort, so you can make many candles at once! Mix in some essential oils to give them an aromatherapy boost.

Myddfai Reiki: How to Avoid Getting Sick When Everyone Around You Already Is (from Care2)

This information comes a bit late for me, as I am on day 2 of Rest At Home following the sinus infection from Hell. (I'm going back to work tomorrow, no matter what it takes!) Still, a little second-hand info isn't all bad; it may help keep me from a second bout of the plague. And if you haven't been struck down yet, here's some advice on how to avoid becoming so:

How to Avoid Getting Sick When Everyone Around You Already Is

It happens every year. The holidays approach, the weather cools, and just as the season really begin to get busy, you begin to feel sick. We all know the feeling: fatigue, headache, sore throat, low energy. Why does the winter seem to be married to illness?

The answer, according to Dr. Anthony Lyon with the Ash Center in New York, is a combination of overtiring our bodies at the exact time we ask them to battle the cold weather. And when you add the element of enclosure—more people are cooped up together in the winter months, germs spreading as the heat blasts—well, it’s a sure recipe for sickness.

So how can you protect yourself when everyone at the office is catching the flu? The trick isn’t to avoid the ill, but to focus on priming your body to fight off any pending sickness that may be sneezed your way.

In addition to eating well (come on, leafy greens!) and avid hand-washing, Dr. Lyon offers tips for staying well, even when you seem to be the only one.

Breathe better. Lyon suggests you battle exhaustion—a leading cause of illness—by improving the way you breathe. Lyon notes that improper breathing can impact the 5 main reasons why you feel tired: sleep disruption; overwhelming stress or anxiety; gastrointestinal upset and suboptimal digestion; immune system dysregulation; and chronic neck and low back pain.
So how can you breathe better?

“When asked to take a deep breath, most people bow out their chest, lift their shoulders to their ears and breathe in a  very vertical manner,” says Lyon. “This is the style we have adopted after years of reacting to challenging situations, including physical or emotional trauma. But, by breathing like this, you are actually perpetuating a sense of fear and unrest by sending a signal to your brain that you are in ‘flight or fight’ mode. Instead, expand your abdomen when you inhale and make it look like a pregnant belly, which engages your diaphragm, and dissipates turmoil by telling your vagus nerve that all is fine and it is okay to rest, relax and digest.” Lyon explains that when you can rest, relax and digest, you give your body the best chance to restore and recover, and protect itself from germy invaders.

Move your muscles. Lyon promotes movement as a surefire way to stay healthy. And while any physical activity is great for keeping your systems moving, Lyon says that weight training to build stronger muscles can help ward off winter illness. “We are only starting to learn all of the health benefits that strong muscle confers, including its role as an endocrine gland,” says Lyon. “Muscles secrete proteins, hormones and other vitally important messenger molecules that send signals to direct essential activities elsewhere. Keep your muscle happy so your immune system will be primed and ready to go.”

Adjust your bedtime. We all know catching enough zzzs can help us feel rested and give our body ample time to fight potential illness. But Lyon stresses it’s not just how much you sleep (aim for 7-8 hours), but when. Lyon recommends falling asleep by 10pm at the latest. “By going to bed at a decent hour, your sleep will be physiologic – which means it is congruent with your body’s normal functioning. Right around 10pm is when certain organs need to start the housekeeping work to prepare you for the next day, including your brain, which needs to detoxify from the day you just had. When you stay up late, the housekeeping cannot be completed, leaving you fatigued the next day.” If you have a ton of tasks on your to-do list, Lyon says you’ll be better off turning in at a decent time and waking up early.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Simple Gifts...Happy St. Nicholas Day!

   Those of you that have been reading steadily will know that my family is of Swedish and German heritage, and my husband is of Finnish and Polish descent (among other things). As a result, we have learned about various traditions from these countries, and by far our children's favorite is of course St. Nicholas Eve, which was last night, December 5. Our little boys set their boots by the door and left a carrot for Santa's pony, then we read a story I wrote (which I will not post here, but you can find it at if you are interested: )

     Santa doesn't leave many things when he stops by on St. Nicholas Eve, just a few trinkets to let good children know how much he appreciates their efforts at being good. Today each of the boys found a small hand-sized ball, a pair of holiday-stripey socks, a wooden car and a small package of gingerbread cookies. Nothing fancy. Nothing electronic, light-up, noise-making, battery-powered...nada. In fact, what they found was very similar to what my grandfather, born in 1907 to a Swedish immigrant mother and a hard-working, no-nonsense Anglo-American father, may have very well found in his boots on St. Nicholas Day when he was 7 years old. And they were delighted. I woke up to giggles, squeals, and "oh my gosh, Mush left some of his carrot in front of the door!" (apparently Santa's pony missed a bit)

   The boys, usually very argumentative first thing in the morning showed off their gifts to each other, gave hugs, and Bubbah wished Cubby a 'Happy St. Nicholas Day!' We were a little late heading out the door this morning, but their joy was palpable, and they carried their excitement into the daycare, where Cubby couldn't wait to show off his firetruck and ball, and Bubbah sat down to tell the other kids about what St. Nicholas Eve was.

   Bubbah has his own LeapPad Ultra tablet and a Playstation 2 (his sister's old one, but still: a seven year old with a Playstation...I feel like a failure somehow); Cubby has obnoxiously vast amounts of light-up noise-making cars and trucks and trains. And yet this morning, they found incredible happiness in a few very simple toys and socks. It is a reminder that gift-giving doesn't have to be an eventful to-do. The real meaning of gift-giving is to give from the heart, and to receive with joy.