with Melinda Rodriguez

Posts tagged ‘wellness’

Glorious Sleep & Hormonal Harmony

How well do you sleep?  I hear so many people complain that they aren’t sleeping well, particularly women, especially women between 30 and 60.  What I come across commonly is that they can fall asleep, but have trouble staying asleep.  There are also those that have trouble getting the mind to shut down so they can nod off.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, I am no stranger to difficulties in sleeping.  However it has improved significantly in the last few years with only a few days out of a month that I might have trouble.  I have contemplated regularly what the right recipe is for good sleep.  Sometimes I think I have it, only to encounter one of those rare nights where I either can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep.  Then I heard an interview recently with my favorite herbal mentor, spilling the beans on what she believes to be the secret sauce for good sleep…Stinging Nettle!

Doh!  Are you slamming your palm against your forehead right now thinking “here we go again with the Stinging Nettle?”  Yes, I have written on this topic before.  And if you know me personally, you know I praise this weed like it is gold and have probably encouraged you to make some.  It is gold!  But I have new information that may not only lead you to better sleep, but what if I told you that Nettle, along with other nourishing herbs, are the simple, affordable pathway to hormonal harmony.  Friends, when I hear something that I know can empower and assist people, and they probably don’t even know about it, I want to sing it from the mountaintops!

I’m not going to repeat myself on the surplus of nourishing components to Stinging Nettle infusion.  You can read about that here https://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/stinging-nettle-how-i-love-theeand-so-should-you/.  Instead, I want to share how this weed can lead you to the sleep you lust for along with its ability to support your body in proper hormone production, and throw in a few other golden nuggets of wisdom.

infusions2First let me say that I LOVE my nourishing infusions!  What is an infusion you ask?  It is NOT a tea!  I repeat, NOT A TEA!  Nettle tea, or any other herbal tea might be delightful to drink, but there is no nutritional, nourishing, or healing value (besides the enjoyment factor).  There is simply just not enough herb in a tea and it is not steeped long enough to extract all of the goodies that any particular herb contains.  An infusion is a large amount of nourishing herb “steeped” for an extended period of time, 4 to 10 hours, allowing the hot water to extract the gems our body requires.

It is also important to note that a not all herbs can be made into an infusion.  The term “nourishing” indicates the type of herb that is used.  There are four main categories for herbs – nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating and potentially poisonous.  For further information, you can check out my blog post https://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-wisdom-of-healing-allies/.  One must be mindful and respectful when working with the Earth’s healing jewels.  All but nourishing herbs should not necessarily be taken excessively or indefinitely.  Nourishing herbs however are essentially food and there is no known risk of overdose, nor unwanted side effects.  The above referenced blog post also explores herbs in food form such as infusions or tinctures vs. capsules or pills as well as the importance of working with them one at a time.

So how does Stinging Nettle help us sleep?  Well, it is an extraordinarily powerful adrenal ally.  When we wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, it is often due to adrenal burn out, or what is commonly called adrenal fatigue.  Your adrenals are supremely important to the overall health of your entire body.  Yes, all organs are important and they are all connected, but the adrenals are not holding up well with modern, western societal demands.  Simply put, the adrenals manufacture certain vital hormones, such as cortisol, the stress hormone.  Too much stress over long periods of time leads to too much cortisol, which leads to sleep impediment (along with a slew of other symptoms).  Taxing the adrenals in that way with an over production of cortisol and other stress hormones exhausts the adrenal glands rendering them dysfunctional and therefore altering the appropriate balance of hormones in the body, including those that keep sex hormones stabilized.  The adrenals were just not designed for an overly stressed life style.

Now Nettle won’t dissolve your stress.  Only you can do that.  But you can certainly support your adrenals along your journey of lowering stress in your life and continue to nourish them for the unavoidable stressors that will always be present from time-to-time.  I love my Nettle infusion and have been drinking it for several years now, along with other nourishing infusions.  But I too encounter busyness or forgetfulness and miss it some days.  I have finally connected the dots and now notice that when I do miss it for more than a few days, my sleep is not as sound, even downright sucky if I’m gong through periods of high stress.  Putting this puzzle together has motivated me even more to keep on top of my nourishing infusions, which includes Nettle.  In fact, I rotate through the various nourishing herbs, but I drink Nettle daily; sometimes several glasses a day during extended activity demands or periods of high stress.

So by now I’m guessing you are also starting to recognize the connection between Nettle and hormonal harmony.  Over production or under production of sex hormones, as affected by the adrenals, also impede sleep along with causing a landslide of other unpleasant experiences.  Again, stress is an important factor in harmonized hormones, but we can also nourish and support our body, providing optimum nutrition that goes beyond food.  Food is important of course, but most of us don’t eat perfectly each and every day.  Nourishing infusions provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals our body needs without any need for further supplementation.  It is also affordable, doesn’t require fancy machinery, or gobs and gobs of organic produce.

But Nettle certainly isn’t the only nourishing herb that is helpful to hormonal harmony.  Here is an excerpt from Susun Weed (my favorite herbal mentor) in an article she wrote on how minerals make the difference:

“By 2015 half of the female population of the United States will be post-menopausal. But this group of post-menopausal women won’t be old fuddy-duddies with broken hips, heart attacks, and failing memories. Women of today expect to emerge from menopause energetic, zesty, and passionate! Are hormones necessary? No! Wise women nourish their hearts, bones, and spirits with simple, safe mineral-rich herbs.

Herbs, especially the weedy ones, are minerals powerhouses. Getting those minerals isn’t as easy as taking a tincture (alcohol extracts little to no minerals) or swallowing a pill (minerals are poorly utilized from encapsulated herbs) but it isn’t difficult either. At the Wise Woman Center we include mineral-rich herbs in our daily diet; it’s easy, tasty, and very rewarding. How do we do it?  Drink 1-2 cups nourishing herbal infusion each day.

Herbal infusions differ from herbal teas: They are darker in color and richer tasting because their long brewing extracts many more nutrients — especially minerals. My favorite nourishing herbal infusions for menopausal women are oatstraw, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle leaves, and comfrey leaves.

To prepare your infusion: Put a quart of cold water up to boil. Weigh one ounce of dried (not fresh!) herb into a quart canning jar. Go brush your teeth and count your grey hairs until the teapot whistles. Pour the boiling water into the jar with your herb (only one herb at a time, please!), screw on a tight lid, turn off the light, and go to bed. Next morning strain out the herb and drink the liquid: cold, hot, or at room temperature. Add honey, tamari, or milk if desired.

Oatstraw (Avena sativa) has a mellow taste. It eases frazzled nerves, lowers cholesterol, improves circulation, strengthens bones, eases headaches, relieves depression and encourages us to be sexy old ladies!

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) infusion not only builds bones, and prevents cancer, it reduces serum cholesterol (protecting heart health) and helps maintain strong pelvic tissues –thus preventing incontinence, lowered libido, atrophic vaginitis, and uterine prolapse. Red clover contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy, without soy’s bone-damaging, thyroid-impairing side-effects.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) infusion contains more than 500 milligrams of calcium per cup. (Nettle tea has none, neither does the tincture.) Nettle strengthens adrenal functioning, promotes sound sleep, increases overall energy, prevents allergic reactions, strengthens the blood vessels, and prevents hair loss.

Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) is controversial. Ingestion of its roots can cause severe liver congestion. The leaves are safe, though labeled otherwise. Comfrey leaf infusion helps maintain good vaginal lubrication, strengthens the bones, protects against cancer, soothes painful joints, and improves mental functioning.”

I have not tried comfrey or oatstraw yet, but have an order on the way.  I’ll let you know.  I love the taste of red clover.  Red raspberry, which is not mentioned above is also a great nourishing herb for infusion, and I drink that regularly.  It has a strong taste, but a little peppermint mixed in helps, which does not interfere with the medicinal qualities of the herb.  I use ample peppermint with my Nettle, and I will admit it was an acquired taste.  It has such high chlorophyll content that it tastes a little like a fish tank at first.  But within a day or two of first trying it, you’ll notice level energy throughout the day and excellent sleep at night, which is what we all want isn’t it?

So cheers <clink> to you!  May you be blessed with hormonal harmony and a beautiful night’s sleep.  And please do leave a comment and let me know your experiences with nourishing herbs.

Harmonious Blessings,

Melinda

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The Four Elements of Harmony and Wellness

Over the weekend I had the great pleasure of presenting a drum circle to a group of ladies at a women’s retreat that I have presented at twice a year for the past three years.  The first three events were held on the beach around a fire pit, then last year they moved this retreat to another facility and we now do these drum circles indoors.  The intent around my particular segment of their retreat is conjuring up the fire from within – hence the fire pit on the beach.  Now that we do this indoors (which wonderfully omits lugging drums through the sand, cold hands and soggy, beach-air drums) the retreat leader takes the women through some exercises to help them tap into the element of fire without any flames present.  For many women (and men) this can be a challenge.  Here in the West we have become so disconnected from our bodies, nature and our innate connection to the elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire.  This disconnect leads to a lack of harmony, wholeness and can even lead to illness.

The German physician Max Gerson said “Stay close to nature and its eternal laws will protect you.”  This is such a Imageprofound statement on so many levels.  Although this declaration refers to diet, it really goes deeper than just food and can be applied to all aspects of life.  When we are aligned with the four basic elements of nature and seek to balance these elements within ourselves we will step onto a path of blissfully basking in a state of balance and wellness.  It’s quite simple really; yet simplicity does not always equate to ease.  When we have been out of touch with the natural world for extended periods of time we tend to develop habits and patterns that are familiar, perhaps even comfortable, yet incongruent with nature.

We can break down each element and see its direct connection to an aspect of our life.  This helps us to reveal where there may be an imbalance as well as suggest a solution.  On a very basic level, we can look at this esoteric poetic statement to begin to associate the four cardinal elements with our being:

Air My Breath

Water My Blood

Earth My Body

Fire My Spirit

If you’re into drumming, chanting or spiritual endeavors, this is a great chant to help align with the elements to create balance.  A more linear approach that is also advantageous is to also look at the four aspects or “bodies” of the human being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual and see their correlation to the elements.

Earth/The Physical Body – there is an obvious connection between the earth and our physical body…at least it’s obvious to me.  There is no denying the physical effect the earth realm has on our bodies.  Our moon affects the tides and the fluids on the human body – particularly the blood and a woman’s reproductive cycle.  Many women bleed and ovulate with the new and full moon.  Think about how good you feel when you are in an especially beautiful place in nature.  That feeling is a balancing happening within you.

The element of Earth helps us ground, provides us food and nourishment and connects us to water and our need for it.  When our Earth element is out of balance we might find ourselves eating the wrong foods or not getting enough nourishment; under or over exercising; being over or under weight; feeling spacey and ungrounded.

An easy-to-access application that can help re-connect you to your Earth element is to walk outside barefoot or sit directly on the earth.  Even a few minutes can foster essential energetic sustenance for the body as well as the mind and spirit.  Wonderfully, just doing this simple little exercise and allowing the Earth’s healing energy to fill you can help you hear your inner wisdom more clearly therefore knowing and even desiring that which will create an elemental balance within your being.

Air/The Mental Body – Although science connects the mind with the brain, I have found in my work that the mind is also connected to our energetic field or aura.  Not only do our own thoughts affect and even create our reality, but so to does the collective mind, that we all tap into unconsciously, affect what we perceive.  One of the sayings I use with my students to help them understand this is “whatever you believe you will perceive.  When our Air element is out of balance we might find ourselves thinking negatively or being affected by someone else’s negative thoughts/energy.  We also might find ourselves experiencing difficulty around breathing.  I commonly see people who have tapped into negative thought, be it there own or another’s, suffer from nasal allergies, asthma or anxiety which causes us to breath incorrectly.

So what can you do to disconnect from negative thought…first and foremost – TURN OF THE NEWS!  Sorry to yell at you like that, but weather you believe it or not, I promise you, the garbage that is spewed from news casts, which are altered facts with additional fluff to affect ratings, infiltrates your awareness.  I do not have TV/cable service in my home.  Sure there are programs I like to watch, and that’s what Hulu or Netflix is for.  Although I originally made the decision to drop the cable for budgetary reasons, the peaceful affect in my home is priceless.

Another very effective tool you can utilize to balance your Air element is affirmations in conjunction with breath.  I recommend using a few deep belly breaths before speaking affirmations out loud to activate the Air element and clear your mind.  Then, speak an affirmation out loud such as “my world is peaceful and calm.”  Breathe it into your being, slowly.  With the exhale, let go of any blockages to that affirmation.  Repeat this process at least three times.  You will notice an immediate shift in your energy.  That’s the Air element coming into balance.

Water/The Emotional Body – It is the water in our body and environment that connect us directly with our emotions.  Water can cleanse away painful emotions and enhance joyful feelings when it is balanced in our being.  Too much water can lead to a manic kind of state where we feel huge emotional highs and deep depressing lows.  Too little water can lead to a sense of numbness and feeling disconnected from our emotions.  Think about the whole concept of PMS or even a high tide, which is affected by the full moon.  During a full moon statistics show that emergency rooms are fuller, storms are stronger (Sandy happened during a full moon), and people’s emotions can be erratic.  Then there is PMS and it’s accompanying emotional rollercoaster when a woman is full of blood and often retaining water.  Men get their own kind of PMS which although not related to menstruation, is likely related to a high water ratio in their being/environment.

To balance the Water element in our bodies it is essential to take a pause and go inward and ask your wisdom where there may be lack or excess.  If you live near a body of water, spending time near that juicy mass will automatically help balance your Water element, particularly if it is salt water.  Similar to the grounding technique described in the Earth section, connecting with a natural water source can flush out excess fluid in your being or open the damn that might be keeping you parched.  If you or not near a body of water, (or even if you are) a fantastic ritual to mimic the effect of actually being near a body of salt water is to take a salt bath.  If you don’t have a bath tub, you can make your own salt scrub and use it in the shower, but a bath is preferable to get the soak.  Of course, drinking appropriate amounts of water for your nourishment is essential.  And, when you feel you are retaining water or have too much of this element in your being, foods that have a diuretic effect can help bring balance such as asparagus or dandelion leaf.  There are also nourishing herbs that used in the form of an infusion or tincture can have natural diuretic constituents such as Burdock Root and of course, my favorite Stinging Nettle.

Fire/The Spiritual Body – regardless of our spiritual path, even a lack-there-of, science has proven that we are all energy which is connected to the element of Fire.  Our fire element is associated with our passion, our faith, our inner wisdom and our psychic senses.  When our Fire element is balanced in our life there is plenty of soul food to nourish our spirit.  We regularly engage in passionate endeavors and feel a strong connection to Source, Universe, God/Goddess, Great Spirit – whatever you want to call it.  When that Fire element is not balanced we find ourselves feeling apathetic, depressed, lost, without faith and disconnected from our intuition.  There is a reason why lighting a candle is one of the most common acts of prayer or intention-setting across all faiths.  It ignites our Fire element and on a deep subconscious level reminds us of who we really are and the power of our faith and intent.

Bringing balance to your Fire element requires getting in touch with your passions as well as allowing yourself to believe that your intuition is a natural gift and when followed will always lead you in the direction of your highest good.  Lighting candles and setting intent is one way to invoke this element within you as well as using fire on a grander basis in ceremony such as utilizing a fire pit for a bond fire or an indoor fireplace.  When connecting with fire literally is not possible, which was the case for the women I drummed with, your intent and movement will always conjure your inner blaze in a way that is amazingly healing.  Dancing and drumming are two of the most powerful tools I’ve experienced in summoning our inner inferno.  However, Yoga, jogging, walking and certain forms of breath work are superbly effective in balancing the element of Fire.

When we engage in balancing our elements there is usually a cross action that occurs in that balancing one naturally brings the other three into wholeness as well.  Connecting with nature frequently will formulate regular maintenance of your inner elements as humans are irrefutably and fundamentally a part of nature. Reaffirming that connection awakens a glorious sense of freedom in our lives as we surrender to natural cycles and rhythms.

Speaking of rhythm, the group of women that I drummed with last weekend had clearly done an outstanding job of connecting with their inner fire.  Not only was the energy in the room absolutely electrifying, but there was not a dry bone in the house.  We were all drenched in sweat.  This is a good thing.  I call it sacred sweat.  It reminds us that we are alive and healthy and operating from a state of balanced elemental wholeness.  Our Body/Earth feels the rhythm that gets us moving.  Our Mind/Air utilizes breath and expands and contracts without trying.  Our Emotions/Water pumps our blood and moves toxins out of the body.  Our Spirit/Fire is ignited and engaged in joy and passion.

How do you bring elemental balance into your life?  Do you need support in this endeavor?  Leave a comment or question and let’s get the conversation going.

Harmoniously Yours,

Melinda Beth

 

Stinging Nettle – how I love thee…and so should you!

As any nature-loving gal can share, if you hike on a warm day in shorts, watch for Stinging Nettle!  If you rub against it, it can feel like you swiped your shin on a barbed wire fence, without leaving a trace of blood.  It doesn’t last long, but those few moments you wont’ soon forget.  Nor should you forget for it is Mother Earth’s way of getting your attention and saying “Hello lovey!  I’ve got this amazing defense mechanism that likewise creates amazing defense against a plethora of ailments of the body and mind.  Did I get your attention with that sting?  Good!  Now respectfully harvest this blessed herb, or do the urban harvest and order online and brew it up my beloved!”

ImageWomen (and men) have an innate connection to the earth.  If we tune in to that connection, we will find that she offers a wealth of medicine for our personal needs.  My reference to medicine here does not refer to a pill or other pharmaceutical.  Rather, it encompasses an essence that brings personal power, understanding and healing to the body, mind and spirit.  This kind of medicine is often associated with a specific trait connected to an animal, insect, plant, or human.  That medicine has a way of showing up in your life in a variety of ways.  That fact that you are reading this indicates you are magnetizing to the medicine of Nettle.

Several years ago I experienced my own magnetization to Nettle.  I kept seeing brief references to it here and there over and over again.  My wisdom was actually hounding me about it.  I even discovered it was growing wild in my own backyard.  I did a little research on the herb and became quite intrigued.  Not intrigued enough to harvest it myself from my back yard, but enough to embark upon an urban harvest of ordering online.  Hey, you gotta start somewhere!  Someday I’ll dive into the next phase of herbal exploration and actually pick it and build a further relationship with what has become a most powerful ally for me.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of the most potent healing and nourishing herbs I have experienced. I began making infusions (which I will explain how to make below) and drinking several glasses daily.  The first thing I noticed was my energy level went through the roof!  I was amazed that I did not need to rely on adrenal taxing caffeine to provide me the vigor I needed to get though my day, but rather this exhilarating elixir supplied me with all the vitality I desired – without impeding sleep!  Then came all of the other more subtle, yet immensely powerful effects of this supremely powerful herb.

Susan Weed, one of the greatest and wisest herbalist and teacher on the subject, says “stinging nettles nourish and support the entire body, particularly the endocrine, immune, urinary, respiratory, and circulatory systems. Nettle root is also a kidney ally and lymphatic/immune strengthener.”  Well of course, Nettle is chock full of necessary nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, B complex vitamins, C complex, vitamins A, D and K. She has protein, cobalt, trace minerals, potassium, zinc, copper and sulphur and is especially rich in chlorophyll.

Corinna Wood, another noted herbalist says “Nettle has long been revered for its benefits to the kidneys and adrenals. The kidneys allow us to expel toxins and the adrenals help us to respond to stress (think adrenaline), so given the challenges of modern life, most folks can benefit profoundly from nettle’s medicinal properties. Additionally, she offers relief from seasonal allergies, strengthens the bones, hair and nails and nurtures the lungs, nervous, hormonal and immune systems – that covers a lot of ground.”

That does cover a lot of ground!  And no wonder Nettle can do all of that, According to Susan Weed a quart of nettle infusion contains more than 1000 milligrams of calcium, 15000 IU of vitamin A, 760 milligrams of vitamin K, 10% protein, and lavish amounts of most B vitamins.  There is no denser nutrition found in any plant, not even blue green algae; and nettle is much more reasonably priced than any supplement, especially if you buy more than an ounce at a time. My favorite resource is mountainroseherbs.com.  In fact, I have purchased Nettle from a local merchant and for whatever reason, even though the Nettle came from the same place as does the stuff you get at Mountain Rose Herbs, it just didn’t have the same impact on me.  Maybe it was in my mind, I don’t know, but that is certainly one of my authorities so I’m sticking with Mountain Rose until I harvest myself.

One of Susan Weed’s students reports “After drinking a quart of nettle infusion daily for only four days, I now have more energy then my toddler! Now, when he goes to sleep, I get some time to myself, instead of falling asleep with him. I can’t thank you enough for the gift of nettle.”  Nettle builds energy from the inside out by nourishing the adrenals. Nettle smoothly and persistently carries optimum nourishment to every cell in the body. Weed reports “Because the minerals in nettle infusion are polarized to the blood, they are literally magnetized into the blood stream without needing to be digested. Drinking a glass of cold nettle infusion pumps so much nourishment into the blood; you’ll feel invigorated in just a few days.”

Susan also says that regular use of stinging nettle (2-3 quarts a week) not only increases energy, it brings a shine and swing to the hair, strengthens fingernails, clears and firms skin, restores elasticity to blood vessels, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, counters incontinence, improves digestion, reduces cancer risk, and strengthens the lungs.

One woman reports “My doctor is astonished. He insisted that I had to take drugs to deal with my severe osteoporosis. Instead, I drank two quarts of nettle infusion a week for several years.  According to my latest bone scan, I now—at the age of 67—have the bone mass of a woman half my age. Ha, ha, ha! With nettle, I get the last laugh on modern medicine.”

But wait, as if you haven’t heard enough about how awesome Nettle is, if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant or nursing, check this out:  Many midwives consider Nettles a primary fertility promoter and one of the richest plant sources of folic acid, which is vital for fetal health. The vitamin K helps prevent hemorrhage and the protein, vitamins and minerals in nettle enriches breast milk.

What is important to understand is that we must consume lots of nettle to get this kind of mighty nutrition.  A simple tea, capsule or tincture just won’t cut it!  An infusion is required.  I infuse a full ounce of dried nettle to a quart of water to make my brew.  Infusing nettle maximizes its energy-enhancing effects as well.  Taking the time to make a real infusion is NOT difficult or even time consuming and if you consider the benefits, any time invested is an investment in yourself which in my opinion is an account we should all be making huge deposits into!

To make a nettle infusion: Measure out one ounce of the dried herb into a quart jar (I like mason jars). Boil a quart of water and pour into the quart jar and fill to the top with the boiling water. Stir, then put the lid on tightly and set aside to brew for at least four hours, or overnight. Once brewed, strain and squeeze the liquid out of the herb. Be sure to refrigerate your infusion, as it will go bad at room temperature once it is done brewing. If that happens however, you can use it as plant food!

I also like to add two large pinches of mint to the nettle for taste.  I must admit, the first time I made it, it smelled like a fish tank.  But it tasted better thankfully.  I don’t sweeten it, but many people do.  Some mix it with a little apple juice to enhance the taste.  Experiment with what works for you.

Some tips on making an infusion – put a stainless steel knife into the jar with the herb BEFORE you pour in the hot water and don’t take it out until you have poured all the water into the jar (watch your fingers, it will be HOT).  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had jars break on me from the heat – and oh what a mess!  Granted, those were not mason jars, but I don’t risk it anymore.  The knife acts as a conductor for the heat.  Thank you Dad for showing me that trick!  Also, again as extra caution, put the jar in the sink as you pour the hot water into it.  This way, if for whatever reason the jar does break, the mess is in the sink instead of all over your floor.  Lastly, I prefer to infuse over night.  You can make the infusion as your making dinner then let it infuse over night, or do it as you do your other nightly kitchen rituals.  And that’s just what making an infusion is to me – a ritual.  My kitchen is a healing space and on the counter is a small alter (items of sacredness to me) that represent the healing that goes on there through preparations…like infusion making!

If you haven’t already, are you ready to take a stab at making an infusion?  Let me know if you have questions.  I’m here to help!

Harmonious Blessings,

Melinda Beth

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