3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

The holidays needn’t be a time of relentless hustle, bustle, and unfulfilled, unrealistic expectations. It is easy enough to get swept up in the pressure and commercialism of the holiday season. Even for the most centered among us, you may find yourself getting stressed out about gifts for loved ones or pressured to be merry and bright at holiday gatherings, regardless of your true emotional state. And then, after all the holiday pressure and overindulgence, there is the boomerang effect of guilt and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. However, I have good news! It is, in fact, possible to enjoy the best of the holidays and to enter the new year with ease, simplicity, grace, and acceptance. It is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons

1. Give Simple Gifts

I grew up in a family that enjoyed the traditions of Christmas to the fullest. I fondly remember the holidays and recall a brightly decorated tree, overflowing Christmas stockings, traditional Cioppino on Christmas Eve, and the titillating excitement of wondering what Santa would bring. Every year, my grandmother would take my three siblings and me to pick out a new Christmas ornament for the tree, and we would wander the ornament shop for what seemed like hours, painstakingly selecting the decoration that most spoke to our young hearts. Some 30 odd years later, I still own many of those ornaments, and each one reminds me of my grandmother’s kindness and patience, as well as sharing in the holiday excitement with my two brothers and one sister.

As my siblings and I matured into adulthood, marriages, jobs, and grad school spread us out across the country, and our holiday traditions have changed with the times and in an effort to simplify life during hectic seasons like Christmas. However, it is my feeling that the heart of the holidays has remained intact in our family, and I believe our practices in simplicity and flexibility have assisted in that.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

One such example is our tradition of gift giving. Perhaps more than a decade ago, my parents, siblings, and I decided to simplify our Christmas gifts. Each family member is assigned to give to one other family member. This practice eventually evolved so that the gifts were restricted to handmade goods only. We rotate who gives to whom each year, and I find this to be a wonderful way to spend time really thinking about the person to whom I am gifting. The gifts are unveiled on Christmas Eve, and each year we marvel at the creativity and care of each offering, no matter how humble. These handmade treasures have included a terrarium; handmade jewelry; hand-drawn, screen-printed clothing; paintings and photography; and delightful edibles such as homemade truffles, a kitcheree making kit, cranberry chutney, and pineapple salsa.  

Last year, I made Kate O’Donnell’s Sunbutter Truffles as a gift for my father-in-law. I highly recommend these delightfully creamy, simple truffles as a gift or addition to your holiday spread.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

Sunbutter Truffles

These truffles feature sunflower butter, which is considered in Ayurveda to be lighter and easier to digest than peanut butter. Sunbutter truffles also contain an adaptogenic boost of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for extra resilience around the holidays.

[recipe_ingredients]

Filling:

2 tsp melted coconut oil
1/2 cup sunflower butter
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root

Chocolate Coating:

3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons cacao powder
Shredded coconut for outside (optional)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Mix together melted coconut oil, sunflower butter, honey, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add almond meal, cinnamon, and ashwagandha. Mix well. Cover the mixture and freeze for 45 minutes.
  • To make the chocolate coating, combine 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil with maple syrup and cacao powder in a warm saucepan. The coating must remain liquid for dipping, so working out of a warmed saucepan helps.
  • Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the sunflower butter filling from the freezer, and shape into one-inch size balls, dropping them one at a time into the chocolate coating mix. Coat sunbutter balls evenly (using two spoons helps). Once coated, place them onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle with a bit of dried, shredded coconut if you like. These wonderful truffles are creamy, simple, and divine. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat!

[/recipe_directions]

I share my family’s traditions not to dictate what you and your loved ones should do. It is merely to plant the seed for ways that you might be able to simplify life during hectic seasons so you can relish the joy of the holidays, and hopefully, reduce pressure and stress. I think my family members will agree that by changing this one aspect of how we celebrate, we have become more liberated to enjoy the holidays, and we also suffer less from the stress and financial strain that can accompany the pressures of extravagant gift giving.

2. Let Go. Do Less.

Whatever your traditions may be, winter can provide a wonderful opportunity for reflection, release, and rethinking about what really matters. Something that I love about the holidays is that our collective priorities seem to shift. Professional ambition gets a chance to take a back seat to social engagements and quality time with the family. As we take time away from work and day to day responsibilities in order to celebrate and connect with dear ones, it seems there is a common understanding that productivity is slowed and that it is a time to rest, retreat, and revel allowing us the perfect opportunity to further simplify life during hectic seasons. I would like to emphasize that the choice about what to do with this special time of year lies with you. For some, time away from work is not an option, but if you have that luxury, I suggest you take a moment to truly consider what you want to do with the gift of downtime. What are the traditions that you want to invent, adhere to, or toss aside with the outgoing year?

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

There may be an unspoken pressure to follow suit when it comes to holiday traditions. However, interestingly enough, when one person leads the way in the rethinking and simplification of rituals, that choice often takes the pressure off others, and everyone can enjoy the freedom of eased expectations. For instance, I have shared my family’s gift-giving tradition with friends who have then been inspired to adopt it among their circles. When we encounter ritual, therein lies the perfect opportunity to explore and question what we want to keep and what actions are motivated purely by obligation, expectation, or even guilt.

3. Enjoy The Space Between

It may be comforting to listen to messages from nature as the days turn dark and cold. You may delight in festive food and twinkling lights (I do!), and yet, it is also helpful to remember that winter signifies the end of the life cycle. It is a barren time, and in many ways, time for stripping away, letting go, and reflecting on the year that has gone by. I often feel a tinge of sadness in the quiet days between Christmas and the new year. It amazes me how quickly the years pass, and perhaps I am simply feeling the existential melancholy that comes along with all human shortcomings. I am keenly aware of all that I failed to do and all the unexpected surprises, twists, and turns that the road of life has taken me on. Yet, in this quiet window, when the noise of holiday gatherings dies down, I can often get a glimpse at humbling self-acceptance, and that type of acceptance is relieving. With the pressure to do, be, and create temporarily lifted, there is a chance to realize that we are not our accomplishments. There is a beauty in the quiet, the stillness, and the space between, and in this space, one can find ways to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

Rather than making stringent or grandiose New Year’s resolutions that will be forgotten by Valentine’s Day, the dawn of a new year can be viewed as the ideal time to enjoy some quiet reflection and to clear the way for the activities of the year to come. A few new year’s practices that I enjoy are taking time for silence, cleaning house, throwing away to-do lists, and retreating to somewhere quiet and restful for a few days.

Silence has a wonderful purifying effect, and you don’t have to go on a retreat to practice it. A decision as simple as choosing not to speak from sundown to sunrise for a few days can be a lovely way to reset and step away from the noise. The post-holiday time is also a great chance to purge the excess from your home. Excess clothing, odds and ends, and unnecessary paperwork can all be tossed out, donated, or recycled to make space for the freshness of the new year. I find the transition from one year to the next to be a good time to reassess my to-do lists and expectations. If there are tasks that are truly important, I try to accomplish them before the start of the new year. However, I may look at what I set out to do and realize that some of it can be put off, crossed out, or simply thrown out.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

In regards to to-do lists, a lawyer friend once shared his experience after leaving a high-stress job at a law firm. He was cleaning out his desk and came across a long list full of tasks that he never accomplished. He then realized that although he had never done any of those things, nobody else ever cared or even noticed. He was still completely successful at his job and moving on willingly. Seasonal transitions, as well as life transitions, provide a prime opportunity for revamping, releasing, and making space to rethink our true intentions for the road ahead.

My message to you as you clean up holiday messes, return from travel, and transition into the year to come, is don’t rush in. Before you get caught up in the collective ambition of the new year, enjoy a little time to exhale and pause. Take a moment of silence, a walk in the snow, turn off your phone, throw away your to-do list, and hang out in the in-between for a moment. When you reflect on the year gone by, and all that there is to do and become, I suggest you consider how you can simplify and what you can let go of. By doing so, you give permission for others to do the same, and perhaps we can all move closer to a state of purity and grace as we strive to simplify life during hectic seasons.

3 Ways to Simplify Life During Hectic Seasons | Herbal Academy | The holidays needn’t be a time of hustle and bustle. In fact, it is possible to simplify life during hectic seasons. Here are 3 ways to do just that!

REFERENCES

O’Donnell, K. (2015). The everyday Ayurveda cookbook. Boulder, CO: Shambala Publications, Inc.

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep | Herbal Academy | Discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol in this post.

Cultivating deeper, more restful sleep can be one of the most foundational pieces to rebalance your overall health. But actually achieving deeper rest in the long-term is more complex than simply “knocking yourself out” with the same choice each night. Herbal sleep cycling is a protocol design I incorporate frequently in my clinical practice and is easy to learn and adapt into your routine at home if you struggle with sleep issues. Read on to discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol.

Why Herbal Sleep Cycling?

I often get asked: why cycle between herbs when using them as sleep aids? Depending on the complexity of the root causes for your sleep troubles, it could take some time for the body to re-adjust to sleeping naturally again. During this time of adjustment, it is helpful to have an arsenal of natural sleep aids you can cycle through so that your body can still receive the adequate, good quality sleep it needs (Winston, 2002).

For example, if someone is struggling with menopausal insomnia triggered by night sweats and hot flashes waking them up, a comprehensive protocol to help re-balance their hormones, restore the nervous system, and calm the heart would often be suggested for months while cooling herbal sleeping aids are used to alleviate symptoms in the meantime. For some individuals, symptoms of menopause can take over a decade to go through, and the likelihood of the same herbal sleep aid remaining effective for them every night throughout that period is slim.

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep | Herbal Academy | Discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol in this post.

In herbal practice, it is suggested to avoid taking any herb (or formula of herbs) nightly to prevent building up a tolerance (Hershoff & Rotelli, 2001). In my clinical practice, I have found herbal sleep cycling helps improve the efficacy of herbal sleep aids especially if they are being taken long-term. Every person’s body is unique so discovering the right pattern of sleep cycling can take some time and experimentation to figure out. A good rule to go by is to change the herb (or formula of herbs) you are using every night and cycle between at least three different herbs (or formulas).

How To Build A Basic Herbal Sleep Cycle Protocol

Building an herbal sleep cycle protocol can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. As a basic template, you should make your protocol around a three-day cycle at minimum, choosing three different formulas or herbs to use on a rotating basis. Here are some key steps to consider as you create your own personalized toolbox for deeper sleep.

Step 1

Before diving into creating your protocol, take a moment and reflect on what the roots of your sleep issues are, your constitution (i.e., do you tend to run hot or cold; are you more dry or moist), and your general symptom picture. Through building your own protocol for deeper sleep, you can tailor it to your specific wellness picture. Even if you are unsure of the exact roots causing your sleep issues at the moment, use this time to reflect on all of the contributing factors you do know of.

For instance: maybe you have no problem falling asleep at night, but you always wake up in the middle of the night from intensely vivid dreams and are unable to fall back asleep. Or, maybe you lay down to sleep feeling anxious with a racing mind every night, making bedtime an uncomfortable process. There are many different categories to sift through here so use this step as an opportunity to clarify what your personal sleep picture looks like (Winston, 2002).

Step 2

Based on your personal sleep and health symptom picture, it’s time to choose the herbs you want to use in your sleep cycling protocol. You can reference the list of herbs and herbal categories below to help you get started. It is helpful to choose your herbs based on which actions are most necessary for you, which herbs are most accessible, and if there are any particular herbs you feel especially drawn to work with.

You can either choose a handful of herbs and then build several different formulas for the varying days of your sleep cycle protocol, or you can incorporate the herbs as simples in your routine. When it comes to choosing the herbal components of your sleep cycle protocol, sometimes one simple herb can be as effective as an intricately designed formula. Consider the desired actions you would like to include in your sleep aid, then assess if one simple herb would be enough to offer this, or if multiple herbs in a formula would be more ideal. It might take a bit of research and self-reflection to discover the ideal action-formula balance for your sleep picture.

Incorporating some kind of sedative herb (or multiple herbs) should be present in every formula to assist in easier sleep. Remember that these formulas are only intended to be taken at night.

Consider the energetics of each herb when deciding which ones to use. If you suffer from night sweats, for instance, you would want to avoid heating herbs like valerian. Note that any naturally stimulating herbs are best avoided around bedtime even if they are caffeine-free (Hershoff & Rotelli, 2001). Some examples of these include ginger (Zingiber officinale), cayenne (Capsicum annuum), and rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).

Step 3

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep | Herbal Academy | Discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol in this post.

After choosing your herbal formulas or simples, you can decide which kind of herbal preparations to use. Some common preparations you could choose from include: infusion, decoction, tincture, herbal bath, and herbal powder. Depending on your symptom picture and when you anticipate needing to take your sleep aid (i.e., before bed vs. in the middle of the night), you should consider the convenience and accessibility of preparing or taking the herbs.

For instance, preparing a relaxing herbal bath and tea formula might be ideal if you need help falling asleep at bedtime, but if you need to take your sleep aid in the middle of the night to help you fall back asleep, taking a tincture would be more accessible. Consider the flavor and taste of your herbs too when deciding which preparations you would like to implement into your protocol. It is fine to use all of the same preparations between each of your cycle nights or use a different preparation each night.

Step 4

Once you have your herbs and extraction methods chosen, it’s time to figure out a basic dosage strategy. This step requires the most experimentation and patience while you figure out what works best for you. Determining the right dosing for your herbal sleep cycling protocol depends on your herbal sensitivity, how “wound up” you are (i.e., how much sedation you need), and root causes of your sleep issues. Pay close attention if you choose to incorporate any low-dose herbs into your formulas (or use them as a simple) and what the standard recommended dosage is for those herbs. Some of the stronger sedative and relaxant herbs, like lobelia and corydalis, have a much lower dosing threshold than other herbs.

A good place to start when determining your dosing strategy with herbal tinctures is to start with the standard recommended dose, then repeat every 30 minutes until sleep is achieved (without exceeding a determined amount of doses, so that you do not pass any herbal safety thresholds). It is critical to do your herbal research here so that you know how to create a safe and effective dosing strategy for yourself. Remain patient and curious as you refine all of the pieces in your herbal sleep cycling protocol over time.

Herbs To Draw From

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep | Herbal Academy | Discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol in this post.

Here are some herbal action categories you can reference and pick from when choosing the herbs to use in your sleep cycling protocol:

Sleep support (sedatives): valerian (Valeriana officinalis), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), lobelia (Lobelia inflata),* catnip (Nepeta cataria), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), lavender (Lavandula officinalis), hops (Humulus lupulus), corydalis (Corydalis ambigua),* kava kava (Piper methysticum), and skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

*Safety Note: Lobelia and corydalis are low dose botanicals and should be used with caution. It is necessary to note the specific professional dosage instructions for each herb individually prior to using or suggesting to others.

Depression support: lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and damiana (Turnera diffusa)

Anxiety support (anxiolytics): passionflower, chamomile, lemon balm, ashwagandha, skullcap, St. John’s wort, rose (Rosa spp.), and lavender

Nervous system & stress support: oatstraw or milky oats (Avena sativa), tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), ashwagandha, and skullcap

Liver stagnation support: burdock (Arctium lappa), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), milk thistle (Silybum marianum), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) root, and turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Pain support (analgesics): corydalis, California poppy, Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia piscipula), and wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa)

You can learn more about these herbs in The Herbarium (our herbal membership site) through our library or herbal articles or our extensive list of herbal monographs.

Bonus Step: Supplementing Your Herbs

There are many other natural supplements and support available which you can incorporate into your herbal sleep cycling protocol to help cultivate deeper sleep. Although we will not focus on these in this article, keep in mind that there are other options which could be helpful to add into your routine or combine with your herbal formulas for additional support. Depending on the nature of your sleep issues, certain supplements, herbs, and other support could be more indicated than others.

One Step Closer To Deeper Sleep

Think of herbal sleep cycling as one more beneficial tool you can use to achieve deeper sleep. Remember, herbs interact with everyone differently so it could take a little time for you to discover which herbs will be most supportive for you in your personal sleep cycle protocol. Be sure to always check for any contraindications and herb-drug interactions before using any herbs if you are taking any prescription medications.

Looking to learn even more about using herbs for deeper sleep? Read our articles: 7 Herbal Remedies For Better Sleep and A Simple Solution For More Rejuvenative Sleep.

Herbal Sleep Cycling: How To Create Your Own Protocol For Deeper Sleep | Herbal Academy | Discover the nuts and bolts of herbal sleep cycling, herbs you can draw from for deeper sleep, and how to build your own basic herbal sleep cycle protocol in this post.

REFERENCES

Hershoff, A. & Rotelli, A. (2001). Herbal remedies: A quick and easy guide to common disorders and their herbal treatments. New York, NY: Penguin.

Winston, D. (2002). Botanical/nutritional protocols for insomnia and other sleep disorders. Retrieved from: https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/winston_david_-_botanicalnutritional_protocols_for_insomnia_and_other_sleep_disorders.pdf

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase. Anyone who has suffered from chronic insomnia or disturbed sleep is well aware of the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep not only compromises your outward appearance. It wreaks havoc on your metabolism, mental alertness, emotional balance, and even memory (Albrecht & Ripperger, 2018). Sound sleep is vital for whole body health. Both modern science and ancient wellness systems, such as Ayurveda, underscore this truth.

The ancient ayurvedic sages placed sound sleep at such a high premium that it was deemed an essential pillar of health, along with good digestion and effective energy management. In fact, the Charaka Samhita, one of Ayurveda’s pivotal classical texts, states that by upholding these three pillars, the strength of body and good complexion are preserved even until the very end of one’s lifespan (Dash, 2014).

Although you may intuitively know this, stress, schedules, and a number of other factors may interfere with getting the rest you need. This article will explore lifestyle hacks for sound sleep so that you can wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day.

The Science of Sleep

In addition to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, there is mounting scientific evidence to support the value of sound sleep. In fact, not so long ago, an entirely new bodily system that plays a key role in sleep was discovered. It is known as the glymphatic system, and it functions as a waste clearance mechanism, removing metabolic and protein wastes from the brain while you sleep. This curious system may also be involved in distributing nutrients, such as amino acids, lipids, and glucose to brain cells (Jessen et al., 2015). The interesting thing about the glymphatic system is that it only functions while we sleep. Sleep that is regular, ample in quantity, and timed with the natural rhythms of dark and light, keeps this waste clearance system functioning as it should. The result? Sleep that feels restful, as well as clear thinking and a healthier nervous system. When the glymphatic process is disturbed, the consequences may be as serious as exacerbated neurological disease (Albrecht & Ripperger, 2018).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep

Of course, getting sleep of adequate quantity and quality is easier said than done. If you find that your sleep is less than stellar, these five lifestyle hacks will help put you back on track.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

1. Be Consistent

One trick to attaining sound sleep is regularity. In Ayurveda, restless sleep and insomnia are often linked to an imbalance in vata dosha, which is associated with the wind element, as well as movement (Frawley, 2000). Vata dosha is easily imbalanced by changes in routine. Irregular lifestyle patterns such as frequent travel and irregular work schedules tend to throw vata dosha out of balance, resulting in sleep troubles. Regular sleeping times and good sleep hygiene (such as the sound sleep hacks describes in this article) help soothe the nervous system and keep vata dosha pacified and less likely to wreak havoc on sleep patterns.

The ayurvedic teachings around the importance of sleep routines correspond with the concept of circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the natural rhythms of the body and correlate to the cycles of day and night. It is natural to sleep at night and to awaken with the light of day. When circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, a number of health issues may ensue, such as being at a higher risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancer (Palanisamy, 2015).

According to Ayurveda, not everyone needs the same exact amount of sleep. You may have noticed this for yourself anecdotally. Vata types tend to need the most sleep, kaphas the least, and pitta types fall somewhere in the middle. Kapha types may also benefit from getting up a bit earlier; too much sleep exacerbates their naturally slower constitutions, causing sluggishness and lethargy. On the other hand, the more delicate nervous systems of vata types require maximum rest and rejuvenation. It is especially important that ravenous pittas are not up in the middle of the night, as they are particularly prone to late night eating, which only leads to an imbalance in their digestion, liver, and sleep patterns. Ayurveda teaches that “early to bed and early to rise” is best for everyone. This means that getting up around sunrise is ideal for all, with slight variations depending on one’s constitutional type (Svoboda, 2010).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

2. Unplug

This lifestyle hack for sound sleep is a game changer. It’s important to give your nervous system time to unwind before bedtime. Just like stopping a fast moving car, it’s not easy to slam on the brakes when you are traveling 100 miles per hour. The same is true for your nervous system. Easing, rather than crashing, into to sleep is generally far more effective.

Why? Melatonin is the reason. Melatonin is important for immune function and sleep quality. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland, and it plays a major role in signaling your nervous system to calm down. Interestingly enough, light exposure, particularly the blue light emitted by screens, prevents the release of melatonin. Therefore, the more time you can spend in dark or dim lighting before bed, the better your chances of falling gently into a sound sleep. Using lamps and area lights in the evening, rather than bright overhead lights is helpful. Also, light bulbs with an orange or red hue are preferable to white or bluish light. Apps, such as f.lux, that adjust your computer screen light throughout the day are useful as well. Ideally, turning away from computer screens and phones in the late evening, and instead of picking up a book, taking a hot bath, or doing other relaxing screen-free activities will help send your nervous system the message to calm down and prepare for sleep (Palanisamy, 2015).

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

3. Eat Better to Sleep Better

Refraining from late night snacking will not only assist with weight management, but this healthy habit also helps you sleep better. Even your fat cells have a circadian rhythm. Research shows that eating less at night can assist in weight loss (Garaulet et al., 2013). This is consistent with the ayurvedic recommendation to have your largest meal at lunchtime, which is attributed to the ayurvedic teaching that one’s agni, or digestive fire, is strongest at midday. Also, by eating lightly at night, you give your body the chance to focus on detoxification and restoration during the night, rather than digestion. Furthermore, by normalizing your metabolic circadian rhythms, you have a better chance at bringing all of your circadian rhythms into balance, lining up patterns of eating, sleeping, and waking (Palanisamy, 2015).

4. Keep cool

Though hot summer days may leave you sleepy, our best sleep is attained in a slightly cool environment. The ideal recommended room temperature ranges from 60 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit with pajamas and in the mid-80’s without pajamas and just a sheet as covering (Onin, Bailey & Parquet, 1994). Furthermore, keeping a cool head may especially help with sound sleep. This is a rather amusing sound sleep hack. One study showed that sleep quality was significantly improved in 16 males who were subjected to head and neck cooling in a hot environment (Lan et al., 2018). If you have the option to regulate your bedroom’s temperature, keeping it on the cool side may help you rest more thoroughly. If not, consider a cool shower or applying a cool washcloth to the head and neck before bed for a soothing, soporific effect.  

5. Consider Herbal Support

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

There are a plethora of herbs that can assist in getting a good night’s rest. Ashwagandha, with its nourishing, tonifying capacities is a great place to start. This starchy root is an ayurvedic classic for all types of nervous system disturbances. Ashwagandha is soothing for a range of imbalances including insomnia, fatigue, general debility, tissue deficiency, poor eyesight, and anxiety. Ashwagandha may not correct sleep immediately, but due to its nourishing and stabilizing effects on the nervous system, it will help normalize sleep cycles over time. One great thing about ashwagandha is that it is safe to take in rather large doses—anywhere from 1-9 grams per day (Dass, 2013). To maximize the root’s strengthening and soothing effects, it is helpful to consume in powdered form. For ease of consumption, you can mix powdered ashwagandha into hot water, hot milk, or a hearty warm grain cereal.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

If you are looking for an herb with potent sedative effects, valerian may be for you. Valerian is a powerful sleep aid and also has the ability to soothe anxiety and relax tense muscles. Since valerian can cause drowsiness, it is best to take only in the evenings, about 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This strong smelling root can be taken as a liquid extract or in dried powdered form (generally best swallowed in capsules). The suggested dosage is 3-9 grams of dried whole root and 2-6 mL of liquid extract (Mills & Bone, 2000). Some ayurvedic practitioners caution against long-term use of valerian, as it can exacerbate depression, melancholy, and mental lethargy (Dass, 2013). Also, oddly enough, some people find that valerian has a heating and stimulating effect rather than a sedative effect. This is a simple testament to the ayurvedic tenant that nothing is right for everyone. Always listen to your body and be willing to adapt your herbal supports based on your own felt experience.

Skullcap (Scutellaria)

Whereas ashwagandha and valerian are both warm and somewhat heavy herbs, skullcap is light, bitter, and cool. However, it is also a great nervous system soother. Skullcap is classically used as support for a host of imbalances including nervous tension, stress, anxiety, premenstrual syndrome, tremors, and addiction. For vata types who require deep nervous system nourishment, it can be combined with heaver herbs such as ashwagandha or valerian. Though skullcap is helpful as a sound sleep hack, it can also be taken during the day to calm a stressed mind or jittery nervous system. As a tincture, you can take 30-60 drops up to three times per day or 1-9 grams of the dried aerial portion (Dass, 2013).

If getting your zzz’s is a challenge, with the help of these sound sleep hacks, we hope you will find your way back to restful and rejuvenating sleep.

5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep | Herbal Academy | Wake up more rested, alert, beautiful, and ready to take on the day with these 5 lifestyle hacks for sound sleep. Beauty rest is more than a turn of phrase!

REFERENCES

Albrecht, U., & Ripperger, J.A. (2018). Circadian clocks and sleep: Impact of rhythmic metabolism and waste clearance on the brain. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30274603

Dash, B., & Sharma, R.K. (2014). Caraka Samhita (Vol. 1). Varanasi, India: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office.

Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic herbology: East and west. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Garaulet, M., Gomez-Abellan, P., Alburquerque-Bejar, J.J., Lee, Y.C., Ordovas, J.M., & Scheer, F.A. (2013). Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International Journal of Obesity, 37(4):604-11. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.229.

Jessen, N.A., Munk, S.A., Lundgaard, I., & Nedergaard, M. (2015). The glymphatic system: A beginners guide. Neurochemisty Research, 40(12):2583-99. doi: 10.1007/s11064-015-1581-6.

Lan, L., Qian, X.L., Lian, Z.W., & Lin, Y.B. (2018). Local body cooling to improve sleep quality and thermal comfort in a hot environment. Indoor Air, 28(1):135-145. doi: 10.1111/ina.12428.

Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone.

Nedeltcheva, A.V., & Scheer, F.A. (2014). Metabolic effects of sleep disruption, links to obesity and diabetes. Current Opinion Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 21(4):293-8. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000082.

Onen, S.H., Onen, F., Bailly, D., & Parquet, P. (1994). Prevention and treatment of sleep disorders through regulation of sleeping habits. La Presse Médicale,  23(10):485-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8022726

Palanisamy, A. (2015). The paleovedic diet. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.

Svoboda, R. (1999). Prakriti: Your ayurvedic constitution. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

Over the last few years, the Danish concept of hygge has become downright trendy. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary shortlisted it as one of the most influential words of 2016. And, since research states that Danes are some of the happiest people in the world, it seems that hygge bears paying attention to. But what exactly is this strange sounding word, and when you embrace hygge during the long, cold winter, can it help bolster your happiness over the dark days ahead?

What exactly is Hygge?

Hygge is not only tricky to say, but it’s also tough to define.

Pronounced hue-guh or hoo-ga, it loosely translates to “coziness” or “comfort.” However, it’s more than just a word. In Denmark, where the term originates, it is more of a way of life that represents “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” (What is Hygge, para 2).  

According to translator ToveMare Stakkestad, “hygge was never meant to be translated. It was meant to be felt” (Elliott, 2017, p. 29).

Choosing to embrace hygge can mean different things, such as cuddling up by a warm fire, enjoying a lovely dinner with family and friends, or relishing a refreshing walk in nature. It remains a concept that is difficult to define but easy to recognize. At its essence, hygge is all about feeling good and appreciating life.

Signe Johansen, the author of How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life, says the core of hygge is in knowing that one must make the most of the time they have in this world and to be kind to ourselves and others (Johansen, 2016).

On the other hand, what hygge is is just as important as what it is not. Hygge is not a product you can buy or a service to subscribe to. Once the concept gained popularity, it “quickly became a marketing buzzword to sell Scandi-cool items, such as tea-light candles, fluffy throws and woven hats” (McDonough, 2018, para. 1). In our consumer-based world, be wary of brands trying to sell you things with the promise of “hygge-style” happiness. Hygge is a feeling that cannot be bought.

How to Embrace Hygge

While hygge can be challenging to define, there are some basic tenets to this feeling of warmth, comfort, and happiness. To embrace hygge is to appreciate the small things in life and savor what you have rather than focus on what you lack. As author Louisa Thomsen Brits (2017) states, “hygge is about being, not having” (p. 7).

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

Home

Due to the cold and darkness, the Danes spend a lot of their time indoors during the winter, making them particularly aware of their surroundings. Think of your home as your hygge headquarters. But, remember that it’s not just about aesthetics. Your home should have a warm, welcome vibe especially since entertaining is very hygge. Nearly every home in Denmark has what is called a hyggerkrog, which loosely translates to a “nook.”

According to Meik Wiking, author of the popular book, The Little Book of Hygge, as well as founder and CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Institute, “it is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea” (Wiking, 2017, p. 96). When creating your hyggerkrog think comfy cushions, warm blanket, and soft natural light. Although it does not have to be near a window, light is critical to hygge.

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

Light

Lighting is essential in order to embrace hygge. Natural light, that is — particularly in the winter when we get less sunlight (which is in short supply during Danish winters). To embrace hygge during the day, open the curtains and blinds to let as much natural light in as possible. At night, use candles and twinkle lights to create a cozy vibe. A burning fire is peak hygge, but don’t worry if you lack a fireplace, you can recreate the vibe with candles and soft lighting.

Wiking explains that unscented candles are critical in the effort to embrace hygge, simply stating “no candles, no hygge.” He even cites that the Danes burn 13 pounds of candle wax per person, per year, even in places such as classrooms and office buildings (Wiking, 2017, p. 100). “Where Americans see a fire hazard, the Danes see an antidepressant” (Green, 2016, para 10).

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

Nature

Rather than despairing over the long, cold winter, the Danes embrace and enjoy it. In addition to being essential to our overall wellbeing, appreciating nature is very hygge. Instead of dreading the colder weather, welcome it hygge-style by getting out and enjoying the fresh air every day. While you might not be interested in hitting the slopes, a quick walk to the end of the street or short nature hike (even in the snow) can boost your spirits. Just remember to dress warmly.

Beyond spending time outside, bring nature inside by incorporating natural elements into your home — flowers, plants, branches, pinecones, leaves, petals, pods, twigs, driftwood, shells, feathers. This is another way to connect with the organic beauty of the world around you and embrace hygge. 

Senses

Embracing hygge is a sensory experience. It is about being open and aware, embracing and enjoying. Hygge is comfort. While you might not be able to put your finger on it, most of us can recognize a hygge feeling or environment.

“There is no formula, no sum of obvious material parts to be blotted together, but if we create conditions that appeal to our senses, we ground ourselves in the moment and harness hygge” (Brits, 2017, p. 93-94).

Getting in touch with all of our senses allows us to truly appreciate our surroundings. Wiking refers to this as “the five dimensions of hygge” (Wiking, 2017, p.195). Hot beverages, comfort food, natural surroundings, peaceful music, a snuggly blanket, and a warm fire are all elements of hygge that awaken our senses. Cuddling up next to a loved one with a cup of hot herbal tea and a good book is hygge heaven. Anything that soothes the spirit can be considered hygge.

How will you use your senses to embrace hygge?

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

Comfort and Nourishment

In addition to appealing to our senses, food plays a vital role in hygge. Gathering around the table for dinner with family and friends or enjoying a delicious meal both land high on the list of hygge basics. Socializing with others — usually over a sumptuous meal — is the perfect defense against isolation during the winter. “Sharing a meal is the epitome of hygge. It brings us together, nourishing our bodies and spirits” (Brits, 2017, p. 107).

When it comes to food, the Danes don’t stress over calorie intake, so ignore the fear of indulging and think more about savoring. When you embrace hygge, you can balance special meals with plenty of outdoor exercise for happiness and wellbeing.

“Food is merely the vehicle for gathering around a common table to chat and laugh, which is sure to lift the spirits. Spending time with family and friends is the real nourishment” (Elliott, 2017, p. 31).

Embrace Hygge This Winter

Although hygge does not have a definitive English translation, its spirit can easily be translated into our daily lives. Now that you understand the basics of this cozy concept, how will you embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this the winter?

How To Embrace Hygge During Winter | Herbal Academy | In this post, you will discover the basic concept of hygge, and how to embrace hygge to aid in your happiness this winter.

REFERENCES

Brits, L.T. (2017). The book of hygge: The Danish art of contentment, comfort, and connection. New York, NY: Plume.

Elliott, A. (2017). Hygge for all. Vibrant Life, Vol.33, Issue 6. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A512184277/HWRC?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=HWRC

Green, P. (2016). Wintering the Danish way: Learning about hygge. International New York Times. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A474972226/SPN.SP24?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=SPN.SP24&xid=8c149172

Johansen, S. (2016). How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life. New York: NY, St. Martin’s Press.

McDonough, M. (2018). What’s all the hygge? Global habits gain U.S. fans. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A540929851/HWRC?u=mlin_b_bpublic&sid=HWRC&xid=8c023dcc

VisitDenmark.co.uk. What is Hygge? (n.d.) What is Hygge? Retrieved from: https://www.visitdenmark.co.uk/en-gb/denmark/culture/hygge-meaning

Wiking, M. (2017). The little book of hygge: Danish secrets to happy living. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

It’s that special time of year when we open our homes to friends and family from near and far to gather together and celebrate the holidays. During this time of year, we want to make our homes cozy, warm, and welcoming for the holidays. Soft blankets, pumpkin pie spice, twinkling lights, and hot cocoa add to the warmth and cheer of the season.

But for many of us, the aromas of the pumpkin pie, hot cocoa, and fresh pine of the tree wrapped in twinkling lights are what bring back memorable moments shared in past years. Scents are powerful, and these holiday smells add to the comfort we seek to share with loved ones in the present.

I’ll admit, it was only a handful of years ago that I would bring home holiday-scented candles, potpourri, and room sprays galore from big box stores! Little did I know, they were made with artificial fragrances created by chemicals that were harmful to my health.

Since then, I’ve learned how to make my home smell good using natural products. While I still get to enjoy the classic scents of the season, I can do it without the negative impact to my health.

I’d like to share 5 simple ways you can make your home smell good for the holidays naturally!

What to Avoid When Making Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

First, we need to understand what the term “fragrance” means. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), fragrance or “parfum” on a product label represents an undisclosed blend of various scent chemicals (Environmental Working Group, n.d.). This includes dispersants of fragrance which contain phthalates, a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s a health risk to all ages (Powers, 2007). Phthalates have been linked to cases of breast cancer, low sperm count, and other negative health issues (Stuart, 2016).

While we think we are making our homes smell good for the holidays, we are consequently damaging our health. The good news is, this isn’t a case of “the damage is done, so why stop now?” Repeated exposure to phthalates doesn’t mean phthalates stay in the body for long periods of time like many other toxins (Stuart, 2016). This means we can improve our health simply by not bringing these synthetically fragranced products into our home!

4 Natural Ingredients to Make Your Smell Good for the Holidays

Nowadays, to bring the warmth and cheer of the holidays to life, I turn to the direct source instead of synthetically made fragrances. Here’s a look at the natural ingredients I use to make our home smell good all year round.  

Spices

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

What’s not to love when it comes to spices? We use them everyday to add flavor to our meals, but alone, they are incredible just the same. Take a look at a few favorite spices I use to make my home smell good for the holidays.

  • Cinnamon sticks (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Whole nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
  • Cardamom seeds (Elettaria cardamomum)
  • Star anise (Illicium verum)
  • Whole cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Vanilla beans (Vanilla planifolia)

Herbs

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

While I love having fresh herbs within reach to use in my homesteading recipes, I know from experience that not all herbs do well indoors during the winter months. Luckily, the dried version can be just as potent when it comes to scent! Peppermint (Metha x piperita), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and sage (Salvia officinalis) are some of my holiday favorites!

Fruits

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Who doesn’t love the smell of citrus and other fruits? Oranges, apples, grapefruits, and lemons are wonderful to use in holiday decorating, and they smell divine. To use them in holiday potpourri and decor, simply dry them in a dehydrator. If you don’t have a food dehydrator, drying them in the oven is easier than you think!

4 Quick Steps to Drying Fruit for Holiday Decorating:

  1. Slice fruits around a 1/4 an inch thick with a paring knife.
  2. Arrange sliced fruit on a bakers drying rack and place in the oven.
  3. Bake at the lowest setting possible, usually between 150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and using an oven safe spatula, scoop dried fruits on the lined sheets to cool before use.

Essential Oils

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

This ingredient list would not be complete without the powerful scent of essential oils. When kept in a cool place away from direct sunlight, spiced essential oils can last for years — making their investment worth it! They also provide a great refresher to fruits you may have decorated with before that aren’t as fragrant as they once were.

To refresh dried fruits such as grapefruit, place dried grapefruit slices in a sealed bag or container. Then add 10 to 20 drops of their corresponding essential oil. Shake well and remove fruit to release their renewed scent. Use caution not to get undiluted essential oils on your skin.

Now that you know some natural ingredients that can be used, let’s look at how to put them together to make your home smell good for the holidays.

5 Clever Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays

#1 – Holiday Citrus Diffuser

Skip the pricey holiday flower displays and save money with a gorgeous aromatic centerpiece of citrus bowl diffusers. Pick a few sprigs of peppermint from your herb garden along with sea salt and fruit from the kitchen, and you’ll have yourself a one-of-a-kind centerpiece. Your holiday guests will rave about the sweet, fresh aroma and creative presentation!

Holiday Citrus Diffuser

[recipe_ingredients]

4 oranges
1 cup coarse sea salt
8 drops peppermint essential oil (Mentha x piperita)
8 drops sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
12 fresh peppermint leaves

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Slice each orange in half and hollow it out using a spoon or paring knife.
  • Pour 1/8 cup sea salt into each orange bowl.
  • Add 2 drops of peppermint and orange essential oil to each orange bowl. Mix well.
  • Garnish with fresh peppermint leaves.

[/recipe_directions]

Enjoy the aroma from each holiday citrus diffuser for five to seven days. When you are done, remove the leaves and pour the sea salt into a glass jar. Grate the rind of the orange halves into the salt, add a teaspoon of carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil), and use as bath salts.

#2 – Holiday Non-Toxic Candles

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Did you grow an herbal garden during the warmer months too? If you answered “yes,”  then you likely have a good amount of dried herbs to savor during the winter months ahead. So why not use them to make holiday herbal candles? All it takes is a few essential oils, natural wax, and a handful of herbs. Learn how to make your home smell good for the holidays with DIY hand poured herbal candles in our post, DIY Hand Poured Herbal Candles.

#3 – Orange Clove Carpet Powder

One of the biggest challenges to living a more natural lifestyle is cleaning the home. During the holidays, frequent guests can really give our carpets a lot of wear and tear, and you can bet carpet cleaners with all their odor-masking fragrances likely contain phthalates, too!

I’ve found essential oils and baking soda make the perfect solution for keeping carpets fresh and looking new! Orange essential oil, also called sweet orange oil (Citrus sinensis), does wonders on odors and tough stains. Derived from the outer peel of the common orange, it, like most citrus oils, acts as a natural degreaser and combats stains without harsh chemicals. I’ve used it in my natural carpet stain remover on new and old stains with great success! Combine it with a spicy holiday favorite essential oil such as clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum), and you’ll have yourself a non-toxic tool to refresh your carpets and make your home smell great!

Orange Clove Carpet Powder

Yields: 1 cup

[recipe_ingredients]

1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 teaspoon clove bud essential oil (Syzygium aromaticum)
1/4 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
1 airtight 8-ounce container

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Combine a half cup of baking soda with a 1/4 teaspoon each of clove and orange essential oils in a small mixing bowl. Stir until all baking soda clumps have dissolved.
  • Pour orange clove carpet powder into an airtight container.
  • Sprinkle Orange Clove Carpet Powder over rugs and carpet and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Vacuum the powder to reduce odors and release the warm spicy scent of clove and orange.

[/recipe_directions]

#4 – Christmas Tree Room Spray

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

Don’t you love how a mist or two of a room spray can make a space smell amazingly better in seconds?

After learning about the hazards of synthetic fragrances in mainstream room sprays, I began to make my own, and surprisingly, all you need is three ingredients instead of a label full of questionable ingredients!

I’ve been using this natural Christmas Tree Room Spray recipe for a few years now. You’ll love how it brings to life the fresh scent of pine (Pinus sylvestris; Pinus strobus L.). You can literally spray it on your Christmas tree or keep a bottle in the bathroom to freshen the air when needed.

Christmas Tree Room Spray

Yields: 5 ounces

[recipe_ingredients]

3 ounces distilled water
2 ounces vodka
12 drops of pine essential oil (Pinus sylvestris)
1 fine mist five-ounce spray bottle

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Using a funnel, pour water and vodka into a spray bottle.
  • Remove the funnel and add 12 drops of pine essential oil into the bottle.
  • Close the lid and shake well to combine.

[/recipe_directions]

Note: Not for topical use!

#5 – Holiday Spice Potpourri

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

What I love most about potpourri is that it not only creates a lovely aroma, but it’s also visually pleasing. Making potpourri is a great excuse to go foraging for acorns, pine cones, and berries. (For an autumn inspired potpourri, why not bring home brightly colored leaves?) You can even customize your potpourri to match your home decor, current season, or holiday you’re celebrating.

Holiday Spice Potpourri

[recipe_ingredients]

5 whole nutmeg
6 cinnamon sticks
3 dried apple slices
3 dried orange slices
1 tablespoon whole cloves
3 bay leaves
2 pine cones
5 star anise pods
4 drops sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
6 drops of cinnamon leaf essential oil (Cinnamomum verum)
4 drops of nutmeg essential oil (Myristica fragrans)
6 drops of clove bud essential oil (Syzygium aromaticum)

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • In a metal or glass bowl, combine all spices, fruit slices, and pine cones. Carefully mix together.
  • Add essential oil drops and scoop into a bowl or two for display. You can even package your Holiday Spice Potpourri in small linen bags to gift for the holidays.

[/recipe_directions]

Whether you are opening your home to guests for the holidays or wanting to bring the joy and warmth of the season to light, these five methods to make your home smell good for the holidays will not only make a great impact on your guests but a good impact on your health as well. Start with a quick carpet refresher, then create one-of-a-kind citrus diffusers, candles, and more to make your home smell good all season long.

5 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Good for the Holidays | Herbal Academy | Make your home smell good this holiday season without having a negative impact on your health. Here are 5 safe and natural ideas to get you started!

REFERENCES

Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Fragrance: Health concerns of the ingredient. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/702512/FRAGRANCE/#

Powers, J. (2007). Common air fresheners contain chemicals that may affect human reproductive development. New York, NY: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Stuart, A. (2016). Go lo tox. Available from https://www.lowtoxlife.com/

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

A core ayurvedic teaching is that all things in nature are comprised of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The five elements exist in a very real way and also represent qualities or energies within us and within the natural world. When it comes to choosing appropriate foods, herbs, aromas, and other remedies, it is vital to understand the qualities of the individual, as well as the energetics of the foods, herbs, etc. that are being received.

Chromotherapy and gemstones are wonderful tools that can be utilized in order to bring about harmony and balance. This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance

Before we dive into the use of gemstones, let’s take a brief look at the role of chromotherapy (color therapy) in Ayurveda. Chromotherapy and gemstones are closely linked, as gemstones are a more potent form of chromotherapy. However, just like gemstones, colors may either have an aggravating or harmonizing effect on the doshas (Frawley, 2000).

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

Chromotherapy: Balance Through Color

As mentioned earlier, Ayurveda teaches that all things in nature are made of a combination of the five elements. The particular balance of the five elements within a color, scent, or herb is its energetic expression. The table below outlines the energetics of the major colors in terms of each colors associated elements and doshic effects. When you see a “+” sign after a dosha, it means that the color increases or aggravates that dosha. A “-” means that the color decreases, reduces, or pacifies that dosha. A “=” means that the color has a neutral effect on that dosha (Halpern, 2012).

Color Elements Effect on Doshas
brown earth, water kapha+ vata- pitta-
red fire, air vata+ pitta+ kapha-
orange fire, air, water pitta+ vata = kapha-
yellow fire, ether, air, water pitta+ vata- kapha-
green air, water, fire pitta+ (ex)* vata- kapha-
blue air, ether vata+ pitta- kapha –
purple fire, air, ether vata- kapha- pitta+
violet air, ether, fire pitta- kapha- vata+
gold fire, water, earth vata, pitta, kapha=
black all elements, predominantly earth vata+ kapha+ pitta+ (ex)*
white ether, water pitta- kapha- vata+ (ex)*
  • Aggravates the dosha only if used in excess.

As you can see, each color possesses complex qualities and has the power to impact one’s energetic balance by either increasing or decreasing the doshas. It may also be helpful to view these colors grouped according to their impact on the doshas. If a color is listed as pacifying to a dosha, it means that if you predominate in that particular dosha, that color is helpful to you because it balances or reduces that dosha (Halpern, 2012).

Pacifies Vata Pacifies Pitta Pacifies Kapha
orange, yellow, green, gold, brown, purple gold, blue, white, brown, violet, black yellow, green, gold, blue, white, violet

Practical Ways To Play With Color

In terms of how to incorporate chromotherapy into your everyday life, the sky (or shall I say the rainbow) is the limit! Here are a few ideas (Halpern, 2012):

Attend to Your Painter’s Palette

If you are thinking about repainting the inside of your home or workplace, use the doshic color guide to help inform your paint selection. The colors that we wake up to and come home to on a daily basis can have a tremendous effect on our outlook, as well as the overall mood and feeling of a room.

Furniture and Upholstery

While I am not suggesting that you do a complete home and office makeover today, the next time you decide to replace your furniture, curtains, bedding, and other home decor items, you can make a smart selection based on what you now know about colors and the doshas.

Clothing and Accessories

The next time you go shopping or swap for new clothing, jewelry, or accessories, you may want to bear in mind the colors that are most balancing for you. It is also interesting to observe the colors that predominate in your closet right now. By scanning over your wardrobe to observe its color pattern, you can reflect on whether or not your current choices are optimal.

Make a Color Chamber with Tinted Lights

You can choose a single room in the house with which to do this. Colored lights are relatively inexpensive and may be less of a hassle than purchasing new furniture or repainting your home interior. Simply fill the room’s light fixtures with bulbs in your focus color. Additional lamps can be brought in to amplify the effects.

Drink in Color!

Colored glass mason jars are available for purchase both in stores and online. Fill a colored mason jar with water and let the water sit for a few hours to absorb the color’s energetic vibrations. Then enjoy your water! If you have trouble finding a glass jar in your particular desired color, you can achieve a similar effect by wrapping colored paper or fabric around a water-filled jar. Place the wrapped water-filled jar in the sunlight for an hour so that the sun rays can help transmit the color vibrations into the water. You will want to make sure that the paper or fabric is thin enough so that the sun rays can reach your water through the wrapping.

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

Flowers and Other Decorations

Natural objects can really light up a room. Not only do flowers and other natural decorations add life, warmth, and vibrancy to a space, but by carefully selecting these objects, you can work on balancing your constitution.

Gemstones: Let There Be Light

Gemstone therapy is classically an important aspect of Vedic Astrology, the astrological system that stems from the ancient Vedic culture of India. Ayurveda deals primarily with physical health. However, Vedic Astrology is used to balance prana (life force), the mind, and the subtle body (Frawley, 2000).

In order to fully appreciate how to use gemstones for their harmonizing effects, an understanding of astrology is needed. As mentioned earlier, gemstones can be viewed as supercharged colors. Due to their potency, it is helpful to consult with a jyotish (Vedic astrologer), particularly before working with the more valuable gemstones such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. However, even without specific astrological knowledge, we can make strides in incorporating gemstones for their harmonizing effects. By learning about their inherent qualities, we can begin to see how these beautiful natural wonders can be used as part of a doshic balancing protocol, especially when it comes to working with the mind and subtle realms.

Renowned ayurvedic teacher and practitioner, Dr. Vasant Lad, eloquently summarizes the interplay between light, energy, and gemstones: “Light is energy. Light is vibration…The different frequencies of light are responsible for color…Gemstone crystals are frozen light” (Lad,  May 5, 2017, part 2 ). In this same lecture, Dr. Lad goes on to discuss how gemstones work on the subtle, energetic realms, and at the same time, are quite potent for their power to influence our lives and well-being over time. Dr. Lad reminds us that, much like Ayurveda as a whole, gemstones are not a quick fix. Rather it is their cumulative effect over time that makes a difference (2017). Below is a summary of some of the major gemstones along with descriptions of their doshic and energetic attributes.

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

Gemstones For Your Dosha

Ruby represents the sun and solar energy and is made of fire, air, and ether (Frawley, 2000). Its warming energy is balancing for vata and kapha doshas, but pitta doshas should take caution with ruby. This lovely red colored stone is warming and pungent. It is said to be good for the heart, circulation, and memory. Ruby may also be recommended for enhancing self-confidence (Frawley, 2000).

Pearl, on the other hand, represents the moon and is made of water, earth, and ether (Frawley, 2000). It pacifies pitta dosha, calms vata, and increases kapha (Lad, 2017). With its cool, nourishing, lunar energy, pearl is said to calm the nervous system and promote the increase of bodily fluids. It is a good general strengthener for women and infants (Frawley, 2000).

Emerald has a slightly cool energy and is said to be made of water, air, and ether. It increases kapha while harmonizing vata and decreasing pitta. Emeralds relate to the planet Mercury, and thus, communication. Emerald is said to improve speech, intelligence, and ease of communication (Frawley, 2000). It is a good stone for speakers and writers (Lad, 2017).

Diamond is a very powerful stone. It is considered to be an ojas builder, ojas being the subtle essence of the immune system. Diamond is good for love and intimacy, but to be sure one should consult with a jyotish for a recommendation on a good marriage stone. Another option is to choose a ring without a stone (Lad, 2017). Diamond has a slightly cool energy and is made of ether and water. It increases kapha and decreases vata and pitta (Frawley, 2000).

Yellow sapphire has a slightly warm energy. It is made of the ether, fire, and water elements. It decreases vata, balances kapha, and may increase pitta due to its warming energy. Like the diamond, yellow sapphire builds ojas and is considered to generally promote vitality, energy, and general health (Frawley, 2000).

Blue sapphire possesses a cold energy and is comprised of ether and air. Being that vata is also made of ether and air, blue sapphire increases vata, yet decreases pitta and kapha. Blue sapphire is used in Ayurveda for promoting calm and peace. Also, the color blue is special in Ayurveda as it is considered to have anti-tumor capabilities. This, of course, does not mean that those with tumors should treat their illness exclusively with blue sapphire (Frawley, 2000). However, working with gemstones can provide a wonderful complement to other alternative or conventional treatments.

Some other noteworthy stones are amethyst and citrine. Amethyst is tridoshic, meaning that it is suitable for all three doshas. According to Dr. Lad it is helpful for safety in travel. He recommends putting a small amethyst in your pocket to assist in trouble-free travel. Citrine is broadly considered to be the stone of success. It correlates to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Dr. Lad recommends wearing citrine on Fridays, the day of luxury, or placing a citrine stone in your money box (2017).

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

Though gemstones are a very appealing and beautiful tool, you are likely not alone if your jaw is dropping at the potential cost. Rest assured there are less expensive analogous options for each of the precious stones mentioned above. When looking for alternatives, let color be your guide. For instance, garnet is a suitable alternative for ruby. Blue topaz or amethyst may be used in lieu of blue sapphire, and peridot or jade for emerald. Clear stones such as quartz crystal or white sapphire may be substituted for diamond (Frawley, 2000).

If you really want to make a gemstone work for you, it is important that the stone is of ample size and that it touches the skin. For instance, if you decide to wear a citrine ring, you want the stone set in such a way that it touches the skin. A simple stone pendant worn as a necklace also works well, as do bracelets. The most valuable gemstones, such as emeralds, should be two or more carats, whereas the less expensive options, such as jade, should be four or more carats (Frawley, 2000).

Again, gemstones and colors work with your mind and your subtle, energetic aspects. This means, if you are looking for a silver bullet or a quick fix, you will likely be disappointed. However, bringing awareness to how you incorporate color and light in your life may have a profound effect over time. Also, chromotherapy and gemstones can be a delightful and beautiful way to experiment with the impact of vision, light, and color in your life.

How To Use Chromotherapy And Gemstones For Mind-Body Balance | Herbal Academy | This article will explore chromotherapy and gemstones that are beneficial for your dosha, and ultimately, mind-body balance.

REFERENCES

Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing: A comprehensive guide. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Halpern, M. (2012).  Principles of ayurvedic medicine. Nevada City, CA: California College of Ayurveda.

Lad, V. (2017). Vibrations of light: Using gemstones and crystals for healing and protection. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.ayurveda.com/videostream/

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

Ayurveda teaches that we each have an inherent prakruti, which is our natural, unchanging nature. Our prakruti is our unique balance of vata, pitta, and kapha doshas and is unaffected by phase of life, seasons, or any other external factors. If you’re interested in finding out what your dosha is, read our article, Introduction To Ayurveda: What’s My Dosha.

In addition to our prakruti, each of us also has a vikruti. Our vikruti is our current balance of the doshas. The vikruti may be influenced by situational factors, such as time of day, age, and the seasons. The seasons, in particular, have a strong influence over the doshas, causing an ebb and flow of the doshas throughout the year.

Since summer is the hot season and pitta dosha embodies the hot and fiery side of nature, summer is associated with pitta dosha. This means the qualities of pitta are amplified in summer. As late winter and spring are cool and moist, kapha dosha is more influential at that time of year. However, autumn and early winter, with their dry and cool weather, relate to vata dosha. Vata also correlates to the end of the life cycle. As fall and winter signify the waning of the calendar year and a time when landscapes become bleaker, this is a time to focus on balancing and managing vata dosha.

As fall approaches, those of a predominant vata constitution should take special care that their inherent vata nature (prakruti) does not become imbalanced — leading to problems such as dry skin, insomnia, nervousness, restless sleep, and constipation.

One of my dear Ayurvedic teachers, Mary Thompson, summarized the vata pacification protocol with these three overarching practices: warmth, oil, and regular routine. As a practitioner, it is a mantra that I return to again and again when working with my vata clients on managing vata dosha and when helping people to achieve balance in autumn.

Let’s take a closer look at some Ayurvedic practices you can adopt when it comes to managing vata dosha in the fall.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn

1. Warmth

Remember that one of the chief characteristics of vata is coolness. Vata types tend to run cold and are prone to weak circulation, which results in cold hands and feet and an overall aversion to cold temperatures. Even if you are a pitta or kapha type, as summer turns to fall and temperatures drop, it is important to take extra care to keep warm. Warmth means more than putting on a sweater or coat. Heat is most powerful when it radiates from deep within.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

One’s agni, or digestive fire, is one of the main sources of heat, so maintaining a strong agni is important for staying healthy and managing vata dosha in the cooler months.

While salads and juices may be suitable for summer — warm, moist, cooked foods are better for stimulating agni during fall and winter. In general, root vegetables, grains, protein-rich foods, and lipids such as ghee and coconut oil are good to eat in the fall. However, the foods that are suggested for the beginning of fall are slightly different than those for deep fall and winter (O’Donnell, 2015).

Since early fall signifies the transition from pitta to vata season, it is helpful to first dispel excess accumulated heat before nourishing the deep tissues of the body with heavier, anabolic foods. The bitter and astringent tastes are helpful for doing just this.

Examples of foods that are bitter are leafy greens such as kale, dandelion greens, collards, and mustard greens (O’Donnell, 2015). Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a great food supplement that embodies the bitter taste, and aloe juice or gel is very good for clearing excess heat from the liver and blood (Dass, 2013). Astringent foods include cranberries, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. These foods may be consumed freely during the transition from summer to autumn. However, it is wise to eat mostly cooked vegetables rather than raw at this time of year, since the body needs to prepare for the heart of vata season. Large quantities of light, dry, and raw foods are difficult to digest and will also aggravate vata dosha. Thus, it is wise to avoid dry, raw foods as autumn approaches, and certainly, in the heart of autumn.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

As the transition from summer to fall becomes complete and mid-autumn sets in with cool temperatures and drier air, it is the perfect time to incorporate heavier, denser, moistening foods. These are the essence of a vata pacifying menu. Foods such as carrots, parsnips, pumpkins, turnips, squash, oats, dates, and nut butters ground vata dosha’s cool, light, and mobile nature.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

It is important to use suitable digestive spices with these foods (O’Donnell, 2015). Carminative (gas-dispelling) spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and black pepper are great spices for warming the agni. Incidentally, these spices also encompass the cozy aromas of autumn and are the perfect spices to accompany the heavier foods of fall.

Here is an example of a simple fall recipe that can be prepared and enjoyed by even the novice cook or the busiest of bodies.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

Masala Fried Apples

Inspired by Kate O’Donnell

[recipe_ingredients]

2 whole apples
1 tablespoon ghee
1/8-1/4 tsp garam masala powder

[/recipe_ingredients][recipe_directions]

  • Thinly slice two apples. I like to use honey crisp apples, but a number of varieties will work.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder (depending on your spice threshold) to the heated ghee.
  • Add the apples and cover, stirring occasionally. Allow the apples to cook for five minutes or until tender and soft. This is a great stand-alone light meal. You can also consider adding dates and/or walnuts alongside the apples.

[/recipe_directions]

2. Oil

Since vata is light, cool, and dry in nature, oil is one the best remedies for managing vata dosha, and the use of oil, both internally and externally, is an especially helpful practice for managing vata dosha in the fall. If you can imagine a thousand-petaled lotus, there are probably as many Ayurvedic uses for oil as there are petals on that lotus flower. Here are a couple of simple ways that you can incorporate more oil into your life.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

External Oils

Abhyanga, an Ayurvedic form of oil massage, is not only a wonderful spa therapy, it’s also one of several practices referred to as dinacharya, or daily practices. The process of abhyanga can be as simple or as luxurious as you would like it to be. In terms of choosing a good abhyanga oil, raw sesame oil is the oil of choice for pacifying vata and is a good option for fall. Coconut and sunflower oil are appropriate for the warmer months or for those who run very warm, i.e., pitta types. Almond oil is nice for late winter and spring as it is a bit more stimulating and helps to pacify kapha dosha.

Self-abhyanga is classically performed before bathing using a gently warmed oil. To do this, simply place a glass or heat-resistant plastic bottle filled with oil in a pot or bowl of hot water until the oil warms. You can do this while you are brushing your teeth, feeding the cat, or performing other morning tasks. Next, apply the warm oil from head to toe, massaging it into your skin. Ideally, it is best to let the oil seep into your skin for a good twenty minutes or so before rinsing off in the bath or shower. During this time you can put on old clothing and read a book, relax, or do some mild yoga practices. When it’s time to bathe, there’s no need to soap the whole body down. Apply soap where needed and allow the warm water and steam to assist your skin in absorbing the oil.

If you feel like the above process is a bit too much to fit into your morning routine, you may be wondering what the busy person’s version of abhyanga is. As a busy working person myself, I am happy to share the good news — something is better than nothing! Fortunately, Ayurveda is not a list of rules that are right or wrong. For those who don’t feel they have time for a long abhyanga on a daily basis, even a bit of oil massaged into the skin after bathing will help to nourish the skin, calm down vata dosha, and provide a subtle protective force field around the body that will last all day long (O’Donnell, 2015). Once you get used to doing abhyanga, you will see that it is more than skin food; abhyanga is soul food!

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

Internal Oils

As I mentioned earlier, autumn is a good time to increase the use of oil, both inside and out. In addition to daily external applications of oil, Ayurveda recommends fairly liberal consumption of oil for pacifying vata dosha. Of course, one still must bear in mind constitution and personal health. For instance, if you are a strong kapha type or are kapha imbalanced, liberal consumption of oil may not be the best idea because it may aggravate the already heavy and moist qualities of kapha dosha. However, generally speaking, the cool dry months of autumn are a good time to enjoy a little more lipids.

If you’re wondering which oil to choose, ghee (clarified butter) is highly revered in Ayurveda and is generally the number one oil of choice. Ghee is wonderful because it is tridoshic (benefits all doshas), stimulates the agni, nourishes the brain, and is one of the easiest oils for the body to digest and assimilate (Dass, 2013).

In terms of incorporating ghee into your diet, the possibilities are truly endless! Ghee is wonderful for sauteing and frying veggies since it has a high smoke point. You can also spread it on your toast instead of butter or stir a teaspoon of ghee into warm, milky beverages or soups. Another magical aspect of ghee is that it helps to carry spices and herbs more deeply into the body. For more ideas, you can read more about Ayurvedic uses for ghee and oil in our post, Ayurvedic Uses of Herbal Oils.

To summarize what has been covered so far on managing vata dosha in fall, the foods of autumn should be warm and moist. It’s advisable to begin fall with higher quantities of bitter and astringent foods, but as the season progresses, it’s wise to increase consumption of heavier, more grounding foods, such as ghee, grains, and root veggies (O’Donnell, 2015). Also, if you do not currently practice abhyanga, fall is the perfect time to start as abhyanga is a prime practice for managing vata dosha in the fall.

3. Regular Routine

Another key feature of vata dosha is irregularity and mobility. Vata is that which moves, meaning it is the force behind all movements of the body and mind (Frawley, 2013). Vata dosha is essential because it is responsible for the beating of our hearts, the pumping of our blood, the movement of our thoughts, and the transit of food through the digestive tract. Movement is necessary and healthy. However, too much movement is problematic. Practically speaking, when vata becomes excessive, this manifests as feeling nervous or ungrounded, difficulty sitting still, trouble quieting the mind, and issues such as restless sleep, rapid heartbeat, irregular digestion, and erratic bowel habits.

The solution is regularity and grounding routines. For strong vata types, this is easier said than done. Yet, the more regularity you can bring into your life, especially during vata season, the greater the odds of facing the cool, dark months of fall and winter with strength and resilience. Here are a few ways to incorporate grounding routines into your life.

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

  • Go to bed and arise at the same time every day. Establishing good sleep hygiene and regular sleep routines will go a long way toward boosting emotional outlook and immune health.
  • Eat meals at the same time daily or within the same one hour time frame. Recall that excess vata dosha is related to irregular digestion and elimination. Ayurveda considers improper digestion to be the root of all diseases, so maintaining optimal digestive health through proper food choices and regular eating habits is key in overall wellness and longevity.
  • Be consistent in your daily self-care practices. For example, commit to doing abhyanga daily, even if it is just for 3-5 minutes.
  • Be regular in your exercise habits. This doesn’t mean that you need to do the same exercise daily. However, create a weekly schedule and stick to it. Have a buddy to hold you accountable if necessary.

If you are someone who thrives on spontaneity, you may be reading the above list of routines and thinking boring, boring, boring. Or, for the routine-loving pitta and kapha types, you may be gaining further justification for your habitual ways. Whatever your stance on routine is, it is generally helpful for everyone to have anchoring practices in their day.

This doesn’t mean that every day needs to be Groundhog Day, eating the same meals, and greeting your neighbors at the exact same time. However, simple practices are tremendous in creating a sense of stability and grounding. That sense of centeredness translates into a more balanced physical functioning and ultimately greater ease and peace of mind, especially for those managing vata dosha. Also, the healthier your body and mind, the more fit you will be for facing the challenges of life and for embarking on the grand adventures of fall, winter, and beyond!

3 Tips on Managing Vata Dosha During Autumn | Herbal Academy | As fall approaches, here are three tips that those with a predominant vata dosha can follow to maintain balance.

REFERENCES

Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic herbology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing: A comprehensive guide. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

O’Donnell, K. (2015). The everyday Ayurveda cookbook. Boulder, CO: Shambala Publications, Inc.

6 Best Places to Find High-Quality Herbal Studies

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist, but knowing where to look for high-quality herbal studies can be a challenge. To find relevant research on herbs for your practice, consider the following six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

6 Places to Find High-Quality Herbal Studies

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

1. The Herbarium by Herbal Academy

A good place to start is at Herbal Academy’s membership site, The Herbarium. For a small yearly fee, you get access to a plant monograph database featuring detailed summaries of more than a hundred herbs. Each monograph includes plant identification and harvesting tips, traditional and modern uses, safety information, suggested applications, and other valuable information backed by science.

The Herbarium won’t cover every single herbal study on the planet, but it’s curated for modern herbal practice. The entire database is routinely updated with new monographs, too.

2. Herbal Industry Associations

Herbalists are fortunate to have a number of established herbal associations to turn to for professional support. Herbal associations like the American Botanical Council and the American Herbal Products Association frequently publish science-based guidance for operation practices like proper herbal collection and storage, botanical safety, and compounding and dispensing of herbs.

These groups are also great at gathering high-quality herbal health studies and sharing them with the public. The American Botanical Council publishes a free herbal scientific database called HerbMed, with access to even more plants with a paid subscription, as well as a monthly scientific magazine called HerbalGram. Likewise, the American Herbal Products Association offers its own educational resources for your researching needs.

Again, herbal associations are numerous. With a little browsing, you may find one that addresses your business best while providing scientific research to improve your herbal knowledge and practice. The Alliance of Aromatherapists, for example, promotes on its website a number of aromatherapy-specific science publications.

Whether you work for a large-sized herbal company or you run your own business, you’ll find that the information from these associations is very useful.

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

3. PubMed

If you’re looking for especially unique information on herbs, or you’re just curious to see a greater scope of what’s out there, visit PubMed. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -supported website contains literally millions of scientific citations spanning hundreds of journals and health and medicine topics as well as phytotherapy research.

The sheer scope of PubMed can make the site almost too comprehensive, but it does open up opportunities to access a wide variety of high-quality herbal research that you might have a hard time finding elsewhere. Use a keyword search, filter results by categories — complementary medicine, dietary supplement, history of medicine, toxicology, etc. — and your searches get a bit easier. You can even make an RSS feed to notify you when new research on a particular ingredient or plant is published.

Although PubMed houses millions of scientific citations — and many that you may want to read — they’re not always available for free, full-page viewing, or what the scientific publishing community calls “open access.” In some cases, only an abstract is available on PubMed. Alternatively, the full study may be available free or for purchase at the original publisher’s website, so be sure to look for links to original journals on any PubMed study page.

For exclusively free, full-study reading on PubMed, searches can be filtered to only include results from PubMed Central (PMC), PubMed’s open access archive.

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

4. Independent Publishers

What PubMed doesn’t make available, independent publishers are sure to provide either free or for a price. Big scientific publishing houses like Springer, Elsevier, and Wiley now control a majority of global scientific journals, and you’ll find yourself on one or more of their sites if you’re especially keen on reading full-text herbal studies over summaries published elsewhere.

Access to herbal studies from independent publishing houses is at the publisher’s discretion. Sometimes, open access is granted but only after a period of time has passed. Where full studies aren’t available free of charge, viewing an abstract or even the (sometimes available) first few pages of a study can be beneficial.

If you find that a journal is especially relevant to your practice, consider subscribing or looking into other modes of access such as a local library or university subscriptions. You can find a shortlist of scientific journals below.

5. Open Access

In response to what many consider woefully high prices for journal subscriptions, open access journals have emerged as an alternative method for free distribution of scientific information to the world. In addition to PubMed Central mentioned above, PLOS One, PeerJ, and BMC Central are noteworthy examples of publishers and journals that have achieved completely open access, whether through government subsidies, private grants, and/or other means (Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon, 2015; Van Noorden, 2013). They’re full of high-quality herbal research, too.

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

6. Herbal Research Journal Shortlist

Are you looking for scientific journals catered especially to high-quality herbal research? Courtesy of the American Herbal Products Association, here’s a short list of herb-centric scientific journals to get you started.

  • American Journal of Botany
  • Economic Botany
  • Fitoterapia
  • HerbalGram
  • The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine
  • The Journal of AOAC International
  • Journal of Ethnopharmacology
  • Journal of Natural Products
  • Pharmaceutical Biology
  • Phytochemical Analysis
  • Phytochemistry
  • Phytomedicine
  • Phytotherapy Research
  • Planta Medica

Now that you know some of the best places where herbal studies are collected, it’s time to start learning more about the herbs and ingredients that matter to your practice and finding herbs to support the uses of those herbs.

Stay tuned for future blog posts here on the Herbal Academy blog about how to better understand herbal studies and to determine their strength and integrity.

6 Best Places To Find High-Quality Herbal Studies | Herbal Academy | Staying abreast of herbal research is a worthwhile undertaking for any herbalist. Consider these six places where high-quality herbal studies can be found.

REFERENCES:

Larivière, V., Haustein S., & Mongeon P. (2015). The oligopoly of academic publishers in the digital era. PLoS One, 10(6). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127502

Van Noorden, R. (2013). The true cost of science publishing. Nature, 495(7442), 426-429. doi: 10.1038/495426a

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

We are a part of nature, and nature is wise. The Vitalist tradition of herbalism honors this innate wisdom and connection.

The Vitalist tradition is a type of herbal practice that looks at the whole person — deeply investigating, looking beyond surface symptoms alone, until the root cause of why a client has come to work with you is found. Vitalist herbalists do not work in a heroic manner, meaning they do not push the natural energy and wellness abilities of the body with allopathic suggestions. Instead, they honor and support the process of wellness through food, water, exercise, meditation, and positive affirmation (Ganora, 2016).

As a trained Vitalist herbalist, I often start by suggesting vitalist practices to my clients. Vitalist practices pair well with herbal protocols because they both address the foundation of wellness as well as support any presenting symptoms.

Most traditional systems have given due importance to Vitalist practices. Nowadays, you might see these types of approaches labeled as “lifestyle” or “self-care” practices. Because Vitalism aims to integrate mind, body, and spirit into the path of wellness, incorporating simple practices into one’s daily life can help support well-being before herbs become part of the picture. This is often referred to as nature cure.

Nature cure has been part of the Vitalist tradition since nineteenth century Europe. At its most basic, Nature cure is a system of approaching conditions with natural elements such as water, air, diet, herbs, and sunshine (Kirchfeld & Boyle, 1994). This modality incorporates the whole person — the physical body, the mind, and the spirit.

The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove the obstacle to wellness. Though the word “remove” signals taking something away, I often find that initially adding to one’s lifestyle boosts vitality in an encouraging manner. In this way, when or if something needs to be removed, it is much less jarring since that space has already been filled up by something else that feels good.

This is where Vitalist practices come into play. In this post, I’d like to share 10 simple Vitalist practices that can have a big impact on one’s well-being. I have found these simple practices to be supportive in increasing the vitality and well-being of the clients I see in my personal practice.

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support One’s Well-Being

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

1. Nutrition

One of the primary places I like to investigate when thinking about ways to increase vitality is our source of nourishment. Our food, after all, truly is the building blocks for our muscles, bones, and emotional landscape. Embedded in Hippocrates’ philosophy was a focus on the power of wellness in everyone and that one of the most profound tools for wellness we have is our food.

We live in a time where food allergies and sensitivities are acknowledged and honored by many. It’s also not uncommon to go years without realizing there may be a food in our diet that does not serve us. On the other hand, there could be a food that we are not eating, or not eating enough of, that could greatly benefit the way we feel.

Within the Vitalist tradition, removing the obstacle to wellness could mean removing food allergens or reducing sugar consumption. It could mean building your system up with leafy greens, animal protein, and fermented foods. It could also mean incorporating herbal bitters into your diet. Digestion is often viewed as the seat of wellness. If we can support our digestion, we can support how the rest of our body feels, while honoring our physical constitution, phase of life, and nutritional needs at the same time.

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

2. Sleep

When we are stressed, feeling blue, or under the weather, our sleep is often the first thing to diminish. We might stay up too late, wake too early, or find our minds racing at 3 AM.

Supporting a kind relationship with sleep is deeply impactful on one’s well-being. In moments when life feels like it’s building up, I try to offer myself and others the suggestion to sleep 10-12 hours for three days in a row. If you can do this once a week, brilliant. If you can only do it once a month, this is a great start, too!

The systems of our body process, restore, and replenish during our sleeping hours. To incorporate this Vitalist practice into your life, try to go to bed just one hour earlier, give yourself an hour of screen-free time (more on this below) before getting into bed, have a cup of chamomile tea, or take a bath with Epsom salts. Better yet, try all four!

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

3. Burst Exercise

Have you ever had a stressful interaction at home or at work and then sprinted around the block or found a private space to jump up and down a handful of times? This type of burst exercise allows us to move the adrenaline out of our system when we find ourselves in a flight or fight response, which in modern day society, we feel a lot.

The beauty of burst exercise is that it’s quick! It doesn’t deplete you or bring about more stress to your system. You can take 10 minutes just a couple times a day to boost your vitality. Burst exercise is just that — a burst of exercise. Often our long stints at the gym can tire or stress our bodies even further. Practicing burst exercise allows calisthenic-like movement, sweat, and release in shorter bursts throughout the day.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate burst exercise into my day and increase vitality through sweating, laughing, and releasing emotion is to put together a playlist of five of my favorite upbeat songs and dance wildly around my house. I jump, shake, bring in authentic movement, and boogie! Below are some other ways to incorporate the Vitalist practice of burst exercise into your day.

  • Run around the block
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Lunges and squats
  • Jumping jacks

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

4. Emotional Health

Supporting our emotional body is important for our overall well-being. Just as important as the physical body, the emotional body also needs tending to. According to Henry Lindlahr, “Every thought and every emotion has its direct effect upon the physical constituents of the body. The mental and emotional vibrations become physical vibrations and structures. Discord in the mind is translated into physical disease in the body, while the harmonies of hope, faith, cheerfulness, happiness, love and altruism create in the organism the corresponding health vibrations…” (Lindlahr, 1913, p. 27).

One Vitalist practice we can incorporate into our lives is the use of flower essences to support our emotions. According to Dr. Edward Bach and other flower essence practitioners, flower essences address the emotional side of wellness through identifying and shifting habits and patterns that may no longer serve us.

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

5. Hydrotherapy

Our bodies are made of water. We live on a planet with a high concentration of water. Water is a true wellness resource that I highly revere and feel gratitude for. Often when our digestion is sluggish, or we feel hungry or find ourselves with a headache, we can support that by drinking more water. Plus, water is a menstruum for our beautiful herbal teas.

  • Drink half your weight in ounces (or, to begin, just drink two more glasses of water a day).
  • Alternate between hot and cool water in the shower or bath.
  • Splash your feet in cool water before you get out of the bath.
  • If you can, indulge in a hot springs adventure to revel in the mineral pools.

Have you noticed the soothing, uplifting, and energizing effects of water on your system?

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

6. Positive Thoughts & Words

I find that repeating a positive affirmation or mantra can be a grounding experience. This Vitalist practice can help reframe daily stressors and bring you back to a place of positivity and gratitude. Positive affirmations can be as simple as saying, “I gratefully take this food into my body for nourishment,” or “I see so much beauty in the world.”

A thorough study from Yale University on “Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention” has shown that people that hold gratitude experience more joy and enthusiasm and stronger ability to cope with everyday stress (Emmons, 2013).

Another idea is to take some time at the end of each day to write down three things you were grateful for that day. This daily practice increases positive thinking by attuning yourself to the good things in your life.

Repeating positive thoughts out loud, to yourself in a mirror, quietly in your head, or just as a gift you send out to the world feels great. I often notice that I can’t hold gratitude and fear at the same time. Do you notice this too?

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

7. Meditation

One of the beauties of meditation is that you can do it anywhere: Stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the market, in an intentional space, or walking in the woods. Meditation supports both the mind and body and can take the form of a traditional sitting meditation, a guided or group meditation, or walking meditation. It is commonly, and with high success, used in modern society as a way to navigate stress and release tension. This stress reduction allows you to find a deeper state of relaxation, which, let’s admit, we could all benefit from (Mayo Clinic, 2017).

Meditation can look different to everyone but, however it looks, taking time to get quiet is beneficial.

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

8. Connection with Nature

There is no doubt that we live in a very tech-heavy time where most jobs have us sitting in front of a computer. It can feel hard to get outside and experience the creek rushing by, the blooming wildflowers, or the cool, moist morning grass. Studies have found that having a view of nature through a window while working has a positive effect on overall mood, stress, satisfaction, and productivity (Shin, 2013). Spending dedicated time in nature increases these effects even further and decreases anxiety, anger, and depression (Li, 2009).

By connecting with rhythms in nature, we are connecting to the nature within us. It feels enlivening to spend a weekend camping, half a day hiking, or an hour sitting by moving water. Can you create a little more space to connect with nature on a more regular basis?  

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

9. Screen-free Time

In our modern society, it’s likely you spend a fair amount of time in front of a screen. This can be a computer or computer-like device, a phone, or a television. We are bombarded with information from many sources, all at once. It’s understandable that overwhelm, racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, or overstimulation might begin to creep in. Have you ever given yourself a break?

  • Can you dedicate a day or even just an hour before bed to be screen-free?
  • Can you leave your phone or computer outside of the bedroom and wait until you have really stepped into your day before checking email, social media, or texts?

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

10. Incorporating Creativity

Are you finding time in your day to do what you love? Do you enjoy writing, reading, or painting? Do you express yourself through dance, playing music, or being in nature? Can you create a routine for yourself so that you play guitar or dance in the kitchen to your favorite music while dinner is in the oven? How can you touch back in with the simple pleasures in life that you love?

Psychologist and health care practitioners are noticing a strong connection between artistic and creative expression and enhancement in overall wellness. Giving yourself time to engage with creative practices has shown to offer an improvement on stress, depression, and a reduction in chronic illness symptoms (Stuckey, 2010).

How do you feel when you create? Creativity does not have to mean pursuing the arts professionally. It can be a way to process without any pressure. Remember how great it felt to color, draw, and paint as a child?

Finally

The Vitalist focus on the body is wide spreading, deeply connected, and springs from a place of honoring the deep, innate wisdom of the vessel we inhabit. The body knows how to heal, the body listens, the body speaks. The body — just like the earth — is a wisdom holder. If we listen deeply, we can hear the feedback. What feels good? What is your body asking? What happens when you eat specific foods? What does it feel like to have time to rest? This information is profound on the path of wellness. The Vitalist tradition allows you the space to sit with a practitioner as you unpack and discover what your body has to say and support you in a process of bringing your vital force alive.

10 Simple Vitalist Practices To Support Well-Being | Herbal Academy | The main tenant of Vitalist herbalism is to remove obstacles to wellness. Here are 10 simple Vitalist practices that can positively impact one’s well-being.

REFERENCES:

Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 69(8), 846-855. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22020

Kirchfeld, F., & Boyle, W. (1994). Nature doctors: Pioneers in naturopathic medicine. Portland, OR. NCNM Press.

Li, Q. (2009). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), 9-17. doi: 10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3

Lindlahr, H. (1914). Nature cure. Chicago, IL. Nature Cure Publishing.

Mayo Clinic. (2017). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

Ganora, L. (2016). Vitalism. [Word document]. Lecture notes from Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism.

Shin, W. S. (2007). The influence of forest view through a window on job satisfaction and job stress. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22(3), 248-253. doi: 10.1080/02827580801262733

Stuckey, H. L. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

One of the most commonly asked questions new and old herbalists ask themselves is “what is the best herbal preparation to use in this situation?” With so many traditional and modern ways to prepare herbs, determining the best herbal preparation to use can feel overwhelming. In this article, we’re here to help break down some of the key distinguishing factors between various types of herbal preparations and learn how to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs.

Herbal Preparations To Draw From

A good rule to go by when deciding the best herbal preparation to use is to focus on getting the desired herbs as close to the area of the body they are needed through the most efficient means possible. If you have a splinter, for instance, chances are you wouldn’t think to just focus on drinking herbal tea until, hopefully, it pops out! Instead, you would probably focus your attention directly on the splinter itself, its location, and what methods you can use to effectively get it out.

The same logic applies to other situations when choosing the best herbal preparation to use. Here is a list of some of the more common herbal extraction methods out there, when they are most indicated to be used, and a few key factors to keep in mind.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Infusions and Decoctions

Commonly known as “tea,” infusions and decoctions are water-based extractions that work well for most, but not all, herbs. Since decoctions require a longer extraction time using constantly hot, simmering water on the stove, they are better to use for thicker and tougher roots and barks. Infusions are more ideal for softer aerial plant parts including flowers, leaves, and stems. Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica), is one exception to this rule, where using a light decoction or overnight infusion is best.

Depending on what nutrients you would like to extract, using an overnight infusion with room-temperature or cool water may be ideal since heat can actually destroy some of the nutritive value present in the herbs. Overnight infusions are also ideal for herbal tea formulas which combine roots, barks, and/or aerial parts of plants all in one. Read our article A Deeper Look At Herbal Infusions for more specifics on choosing hot versus cold infusions.

Once prepared, infusions and decoctions serve as a base for many other herbal preparations including enemas, douches, herbal baths, steam inhalations, and fomentations among others. Water-based herbal preparations, in general, are more ideal for extracting mucilaginous herbs, as opposed to tinctures.

Which kinds of herbs would you not want to extract in water? Plants that are highly resinous tend to be more oil soluble and are not as ideal to extract in water. Some of these herbs include hemp (Cannabis sativa) and myrrh (Commiphora myrrha).

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Tinctures

Tinctures are a more concentrated form of extraction made with alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and water, that are best used to help extract resinous herbs or those rich in volatile oils. Alcohol-based tinctures are also preferred over other herbal preparations for their ability to better pull out certain constituents (Tilgner, 2009).

For many people, tinctures are far more convenient and easy to take than preparing infusions, decoctions, or other methods. Bitter and pungent herbs are also best taken in tincture form for palatability. Learn how to make a tincture in our post here.

Vinegar Extractions

Vinegar-based extractions are popular for drawing out more of the nutrient and mineral profiles in addition to certain alkaloids in herbs (Green, 2000). Like alcohol-based extractions, vinegar extractions have a longer shelf-life than other preparations.

Commonly used for upper respiratory support, including a sore throat or congestion, vinegar extractions can be used just like other tinctures or added into infusions and decoctions after preparing separately. Not to mention, herbal-infused vinegar is a tasty way to enhance the taste of your meals when used in cooking!

Vinegar herbal preparations can also be used as a hair rinse to help restore your hair’s pH balance and alleviate dry or itchy scalps. Learn about making herbal-infused vinegar in our post here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Glycerites

Glycerin-based extractions, also known as glycerites, are becoming increasingly popular to use for children and adults who are sensitive to alcohol. The flavor is also much sweeter and more palatable to take directly on the tongue than alcohol-based tinctures. Although glycerites are not as potent as alcohol-based tinctures, they can still be effective.  

Note that glycerin-based extractions have a much shorter shelf-life and are best kept in the fridge. Read our post on How to Make Herbal Glycerites here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Honey

One of the sweetest methods on the list, herbal-infused honey is fabulous for supporting sore throats, clearance of viruses, and complaints involving a compromised immune system. Honey in itself is emollient, demulcent and nutritive among other beneficial qualities.

Its demulcent property makes it superb for calming a cough and soothing dryness or pain in the throat. This makes it especially useful for when there is difficulty swallowing due to a sore throat or hoarseness (Green, 2000).  

What’s the difference between honey and syrup? They both carry similar actions for soothing the throat and upper respiratory system while supporting overall immunity. The main distinction is that honey carries nutritive value and the inherent property of helping clear viral conditions, while sugar does not (Green, 2000).

Raw honey also carries beneficial bacteria (which is preserved if a non-heated method is used) and raw honey local to your area can help with allergy relief. Note that for some beehives, it is difficult for bees to supply enough honey for themselves, let alone all of us, too (Green, 2000), so be sure to choose local honey from an ethical beekeeper.  

Honey pastes and pastilles are both great mediums to take herbal powders in. Watch our video: How To Make An Herbal Honey to learn more.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Herbal Powders

Since powders are a highly concentrated form of herbal preparation, a much smaller amount is needed when taken orally. If encapsulated, herbal powders are convenient and easy to take for many people. Certain herbs can be irritating to the mucosa of the throat and/or gastrointestinal (GI) system so be sure to do your research beforehand.

A loose herbal powder can be taken in a variety of different menstruums depending on what the desired action is and what is easiest, most accessible, and palatable for the person taking it. For instance, if you are using an herbal powder to support imbalances or irritations in the lower GI, using a mucilaginous menstruum like applesauce would be more indicated than simply taking it in water.

Pastilles, also called rolled herb pills, are another traditional herbal preparation made from finely powdered herbs and honey. They are quick and easy to make and are either chewed or sucked on. Learn how to make pastilles in our video here.

Suppositories

Suppositories are ideal for delivering herbs right to the vaginal or rectal canals (Tilgner, 2009). Although they can be quite messy once they dissolve and the remainder starts to leak out, they tend to be more convenient and easy to use than douches and enemas.

Suppositories are often chosen before douches for vaginal infections since the pressure of the infusion in the douche could potentially push the infection further up through the cervix. Suppositories are also more ideal to deliver more resinous herbs that do not extract as well in water-based methods.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Poultices

Made from fresh or dried herbs that have been moistened, poultices are an ideal herbal preparation to use on insect bites, stings, burns, rashes, sprains, strains, and inflammations. Depending on the herb used, poultices can carry vulnerary, heating, and/or astringent properties (Tilgner, 2009).

Astringent poultices are typically used to help tissues contract and draw out foreign objects, such as thorns, splinters, or glass fragments. They can also help stimulate circulation of the skin and draw out pus or debris from wounds.

Heating poultices can help relax muscles and promote circulation and warmth to an area. Typically heating herbs are made into poultices for bruises, strains, sprains, muscle cramping, or congested lungs. Heed caution when preparing a heating poultice since they can burn the skin if not prepared or used correctly.

Demulcent herbs are used in vulnerary poultices for their soothing effect on the mucous membranes. Fresh herbs are more ideal for this type of poultice although dried can be used as well. Typically demulcent poultices are used for rashes, inflammation, sprains, or abrasions (Tilgner, 2009).

Learn how to make a poultice with dried and fresh herbs in our post here.

Fomentations

Also known as a compress, fomentations utilize herbal infusions or decoctions in a topical form. They can be prepared hot or cold depending on the desired action of the herbal preparation.

Hot fomentations help relax tight muscles and draw blood to the skin through promoting vasodilation. This action can help reduce internal congestion and soothe pain from sore muscles. Cold fomentations help constrict blood vessels in the skin, making them useful for acute burns, bruises, or other inflammations (Tilgner, 2009). Both hot and cold preparations can benefit the skin it touches, making it a useful herbal preparation for supporting irritations of the skin including mild rashes, eczema, and psoriasis.

Learn all about herbal fomentations in our article here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Salves

Herbal salves typically incorporate an infused herbal oil in beeswax with other kinds of topical butter for their skin-nourishing qualities. Due to its beeswax base, herbal salves tend to be much thicker in consistency than other topicals (Tilgner, 2009).

The thicker consistency of salve helps keep the herbs on the skin for longer (as opposed to oils or liniments), which increases their ability to penetrate deeper into the muscles and tissues local to the area. Note that herbal salves are contraindicated to be used on open wounds since there is a risk of pushing any present infection or bacteria deeper into the skin.

Learn how to make a calendula salve in our video here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Syrups and Cordials

Herbal syrups and cordials are age-old preparations to support sore throats, coughs, colds, and boggy, mucous-related upper respiratory conditions. Both are tasty ways to prepare bitter and pungent flavored herbs or to mask the flavor of an unpleasant-tasting tincture or tea, making them easier for children to take (Green, 2000).

Their soothing action makes them an ideal herbal preparation for supporting sore throat and cough relief (Chevallier, 1996). As noted above, syrups are favored over herbal honey when honey cannot be sourced sustainably or the beehive at hand is threatened. Additionally, syrups are a great sweet and soothing option for those who are vegan or do not eat honey.  Make an immune stimulating elderberry syrup with our recipe here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation is a type of herbal preparation commonly used to support the clearance of respiratory congestion related to colds or sinus infections (Tilgner, 2009). They are also commonly used to support relief of sinusitis, hay fever, and bronchial asthma (Chevallier, 1996).

Herbal steams are easy to prepare and an effective way of getting beneficial aromatic herbal constituents onto the respiratory mucosa. Steaming can also benefit the skin by promoting blood flow to the surface of the skin and opening the pores to help clear congestion (Gladstar, 2014). Learn how to make your own aromatic herbal steam in our post here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Liniment

Liniments are a much thinner topical herbal preparation (compared to salves) and use vinegar, ethyl alcohol, or denatured rubbing alcohol as a menstruum for herbal powder. Typically liniments are used topically to warm and dry an area of skin or to soothe strained muscles or ligaments. Liniments can also be used for bruises, sprains, or burns (Green, 2000).

As opposed to salves, which are contraindicated to use on skin that is broken open, liniments are a great herbal preparation to use to help clean cuts and wounds (Green, 2000). Learn how to make Jethro Kloss’ herbal liniment in our post here.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Infused Oil

Herbal-infused oils form a protective covering when used topically on the skin, ideal for soothing dry skin and general irritations, inflammations, or muscle pain (Green, 2000). Even though oils absorb faster on the skin than herbal salves do, they are also not indicated to use on open wounds. Burns are an exception to this for using herb infused oils depending on the stage the burn is in.

Herbal oils can also be prepared to be taken internally, usually in cooking, to enhance the flavor of dishes while simultaneously receiving benefits from the aromatic herbs used. Note that herbal-infused oils are not the same as essential oils and they are used with entirely different guidelines. Read all about herb infused oils in our post here.

Oxymel

Oxymels are simply an herbal extraction of apple cider vinegar and honey (the Latin word oxymeli translates to “acid and honey”). This herbal preparation is great for masking the flavor of pungent aromatic herbs such as garlic (Allium sativa) and cayenne (Capsicum annuum). Apple cider vinegar and raw honey are both common kitchen aides for calming a cough, soothing the throat, and supporting the immune system through colds and flu (Green, 2000).

Essentially, oxymels combine the benefits of herbal honey and vinegar-based extractions in one. While you can simply combine separately prepared herbal-infused honey and herbal vinegar extractions to make a crude oxymel in a pinch, traditional methods use different means.

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

Herbal Baths and Sitz Baths

Herbal baths are an excellent way to combine the benefits of hydrotherapy with herbs. Herbs can be incorporated into bath time to relax sore muscles, calm the nervous system, and support more restful sleep.

The whole-body transdermal application of herbs in a bathtub can lend a faster effect of relaxation as opposed to using herbal preparations which must be taken orally and pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) system first. Herbal baths can also be used for mild skin conditions, such as dry and itchy skin or mild rashes that affect more than just a small area (which is when a fomentation would be more indicated) (Tilgner, 2009).

Sitz baths, also known as a hip bath, can help stimulate blood and lymph circulation to the pelvic region, lower abdomen, and upper legs. This type of herbal preparation is useful for soothing vaginal and rectal tissues and helping break up congestion in the pelvis (Tilgner, 2009). Sitz baths are commonly used in conjunction with suppositories to help clean out any residue without force.

Make your own Warming Bedtime Herbal Bath with our recipe here.

Choosing The Best Herbal Preparation

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When it comes to choosing the best herbal preparation for your specific needs, let’s look at an example.

Imagine you (or your friend) have a vaginal infection. You started feeling symptoms a couple of days ago, went to your gynecologist for a professional exam and culture, and they confirmed you have a yeast infection. What’s your course of action? Although drinking an herbal infusion could help slowly with addressing the yeast infection and preventing it from returning, the infusion has to travel all the way through the GI tract and then you must hope that the herbs direct their attention toward the pelvic region and not toward some other imbalance in the gut along the way. Not that supporting the gut is a bad thing, it just does not directly address the acute symptoms at hand.

Using an herbal suppository is a more indicated herbal preparation here since it gets the herbal actions needed directly onto the tissues that are affected by the present infection. Perhaps after a couple nights of using suppositories, you start to feel a bit of pelvic congestion and the vaginal tissues are feeling a bit irritated from all of the combined discharge coming out. What would you use next?

You could use a tincture to help effectively clear the pelvic congestion, but that would not directly soothe the vaginal tissues. Instead, a sitz bath would be a more indicated type of herbal preparation to use here to help break up pelvic congestion and soothe the vaginal tissues at the same time.

Now, what if the yeast infection keeps occurring? This protocol above can be helpful to use as needed for clearing acute vaginal yeast infections, but not necessarily addressing the root cause.

After looking more into your health patterns and triggers, you realize that you have always had gut issues and notice that your yeast infection symptoms flare-up after you indulge in sweets for a day or two. Now’s the time you would turn back to using an herbal tincture to help support healthy gut function and clear unwanted bacteria (as well as amending your diet and lifestyle until things begin to regulate again!)

Although in this article we are focusing on distinguishing and choosing between different types of herbal preparations, there are many cases where several different methods could be used effectively or combined together for increased effects. In this case, using an herbal tincture would be more helpful at delivering bitter and pungent microbial balancing herbs to the GI tract. However, using an herbal tea at the same time could help soothe, nourish, and relax the tissues of the gut, allowing healthy bacteria to flourish and supporting your body’s efforts to stave off yeast infections.

An herbal powder in a mucilaginous menstruum like applesauce would also be a great way to soothe the tissues of the lower GI tract and promote healthy intestinal function. There is not always one right answer when it comes to choosing which type of herbal preparation to use. Stay informed and draw from your education and intuition when you are stuck between several different, equally viable options.

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Do Your Research

Since every herb is unique, it’s important to do your research to find out which methods of extraction work best for the herbs you are using and the reason you are using them for. While many herbs can be prepared using many, if not all, of the methods described above, some preparations provoke specific herbal actions to come out more than others.

Ready to put your knowledge of herbal preparations to the test? Take our online quiz here!

This Versus That: How To Choose The Best Herbal Preparation For Your Needs | Herbal Academy | Learn to choose the best herbal preparation for your needs by understanding and applying key distinguishing factors of preparations to your situation.

REFERENCES

Chevallier, A. (1996). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley.

Gladstar, R. (2014). Herbs for natural beauty. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-maker’s handbook. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Tilgner, S. (2009). Herbal medicine from the heart of the earth. Pleasant Hill, OR: Wise Acres LLC.