with Melinda Rodriguez

Posts tagged ‘women’s health’

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

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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