Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's Goin' On: lies we've been fed about food; Part One of a smallish rant

Check it out -- a user-friendly blurb about the latest buzz in regard to food. Or rather, what we eat and why it's bad for you. I haven't followed the food pyramid guidelines for a few years now, and this helps to explain some of the reasons why:

Human nature is such that we easily start to believe-- trust, even-- something that we have been told again and again, whether it is true or not. Familiarity breeds comfort. Even when there is mounting evidence for years that something ain't right, we trust what we have grown comfortable with. One of these things is that grains are necessary and good (great!) for us, another is that saturated fat is bad (awful!) for us. Remember before you scoff at this-- we also were told for generations that hydrogenated oils were fine (great!) for us. If you've been keeping up on the latest news in food lately, we now know that this is absolutely not true. Whole foods are best, chemical or processed foods are bad (BAD!).

(Case in point: Have you ever thought about why there is the phenomenal rise in auto-immune disorders? Heart disease? Autism? For brevity I'm slopping these all together, but my point is that we are indeed what we eat. And most of us grew up on processed, chemical based food. Which our bodies treat as foreign and therefore have to try and fight to get rid of it, since it is not designed to process it... and this, coupled with all the environmental toxins we are also exposed to but the body cannot process leads to inflammatory issues and various diseases such as those I just listed... whew...taking a breath, here...but I digress...)

It gets really scary, though, when we assume "experts" are telling us the truth: often, they are either offering their agenda as truth, or they are merely presenting a hypothesis that we want to be truth. In the first case shame on them-- in the second case, shame on us (well, in both cases, really - -buyer beware and all). The food pyramid has been touted for decades as the Golder Rule, although with new information they recently "updated" it. This is because They understand more now than They did before. Be clear here: our science is only as good as the questions we are capable of asking. And if we aren't even bothering to ask more questions, how can we know that our original question was sufficient? In the case of food, more and more people for instance are coming up with Celiac disease. More and more people are having issues with wheat. So now, we are asking more questions. We are finding that maybe grains aren't the next best thing as, sliced bread. Maybe we are wrong about the Greatness of Grains, eh? And maybe it is worth considering that we are wrong about saturated fats as well.

Can you tell I'm a bit of a rebel? Or maybe I'm smart -- you decide, research all of this for yourself, don't take my word for it.This is the so-called Age of Information, but is it the Age of Knowledge? Can it be? I believe so. More than ever, it is essential that we educate ourselves in order to have the knowledge to make the best choices for ourselves, for our families. With the onslaught of cloning animals on the horizon and on your dinner menu-- and GMO's already found at your local market-- we need to wake up and pay more attention. And it's not about more regulation to protect us from ourselves (which is insulting at best) it's about simply not buying into it. Literally.

I didn't mean for this to sound like a rant, but there you go. I'm feeling a bit saucy today!

What do you think?

Eat well,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Daily Dose: spilanthes

One of the reasons for this blog endeavor is that I wanted to show how easy it is to use herbs in your daily life. Whenever I meet people who are not familiar with herbal benefits I find they tend to shy away from using them at all, thinking it's just too "difficult," or "confusing."

In truth, it can be if you are dealing with a more complex situation or specific pharmaceuticals, for instance. But it certainly doesn't have to be. In the posts titled "Daily Dose" I'll be offering up examples of how I use herbs in day to day life. I won't get much into the details about an herb (although I will include any specific contra-indications, or warnings), but I will try and come back and do so in a later post that will focus on that specific herb's qualities. Daily Dose is meant to be a quick reference, an herbal inspiration for the herbally impaired.

Today, it's Spilanthes (acmella oleracea).

My tooth has been hurting for a few days now, and it occurred to me that I may have a cavity. Since I can't get to a dentist right away, I pulled down my tincture of Spilanthes and placed a teaspoon in a shot glass with a bit of warm water. I swished this around my mouth for a good 30 seconds or more (just like when you use mouthwash), and then spit it out. (Yes, you could swallow it if you like; t has other benefits as well, I'll get to that in another post). My mouth quickly had that trademark tingly sensation that Spilanthes gives, like hundreds of miniature little firecrackers exploding in there. Then a gentle, soothing light numbness.

Within about 5 minutes, my tooth no longer hurt. Now I can get back to fixing Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, I will need to go to a dentist next week --if I have a cavity there's no way around needing a filling-- but until then, I will gargle probably about three times a day using the same method.

If the pain gets really bad, I will also put a little drop of clove essential oil in my palm, add 5 drops of olive oil, and then take a cotton swab and put that right on the gum (no open wound of any kind, please! clove oil is a potent irritant) above the hurting tooth. This works fantastic (!) for pain, and the relief is immediate.

The Wrap Up: Spilanthes, the "toothache plant" is a potent anti-bacterial and immune stimulant (known to even fight E. coli and staph). This plant is specific for issues of the gums and helps to numb them when you gargle with it, while offering relief for inflammation and infection of the gum tissues. It raises blood flow in the tissues, thereby helping to carry away the waste created by infection/inflammation -- all around, it's helping to keep any nasties I might have going on in my mouth at bay until I can get it taken care of. And that's just some of what this plant brings to the table. Good stuff!
none I've come across, however I've heard it can with high or regular use stimulate auto-immune issues (because it stimulates the immune system), so use with discernment if that's you.

Be Well,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's Goin on: Vaccines

Wow. This is fascinating. I'm wondering if this will hit the media, and if this is a well-done study. The numbers are startling, however I'm not surprised. I am wondering if the areas that the surveys were done in were chosen to best reflect one another (meaning, to keep the results from being skewed due to environment, etc. If you survey children on say toxic levels in the city compared to in the country, I'd expect different responses).

(thanks, Janine, for sharing this!)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What's Goin' On: exposure to environmental toxins lately?

My friend Lauren has a great site, blog and yahoo list -- that I love (!). This blog entry of hers has a link to check your 'body burden' in terms of what you are being exposed to. Fascinating and educational. Worth checking out:

Why does it matter to know, you may ask? For one thing, we are being exposed to far more chemicals and overall environmental toxins than any previous generation. Let me say that again, it bears repeating: we are being exposed to far more chemicals and overall environmental toxins than any previous generation. Many believe this may be a link to the rise in breast cancer over the years, for one thing. To our children reaching puberty at earlier and earlier ages. And my own pet theory: the unbelievable rise in allergies and asthma in both adults and children (how? Because in a nutshell this exposure creates waste in our bodies that cannot be processed and therefore causes a rise in inflammatory response, which in turn equals auto-immune issues, allergies, etc). I know that this kind of information is scary at best, and therefore easy to ignore. But if we don't educate ourselves-- if we don't know-- we can't change it.

Are you worth it? Is your child worth it? Is your world worth it?

(who is now thinking about how I can actually be more active in what I want to do about what I know. Y'know, walk the talk and all...I'd love ideas...)

I Spy: kindling for the fire


There are vital experiences in any person's life-- events, music, relationships, memories, etc-- that provide what I call kindling for the fire. These moments warm your heart, inspire you to persevere, or simply make you smile. This is the stuff of life that makes it worth living, makes the world magical and enchanting.

I find things to 'light my fire' everywhere, especially in quotes or poetry. This is a poem by Antonio Machado that hits me in my gut every time I read it; my bones tingle with awareness and the beating of my heart vibrates through my being like a clear bell. The part in particular that has greatly inspired me in difficult times I highlighted. I'm a perfectionist, a real Type A driven kind of woman -- and I am very hard on myself when I have not achieved what I thought I should. The imagery of delicate bees creating honey from my efforts that failed speaks to the power of surrendering to metamorphoses in my life.

What does it make you feel? What does it invoke for you? I would love to know.

Last Night As I Lay Sleeping
Last night as I was sleeping I dreamt a marvelous illusion
that there was a spring breaking out in my heart.
I said, "Along what secret aqueduct are you coming to me
Oh water, water of a new life that I have never drunk."

Last night as I was sleeping I dreamt a marvelous illusion
that there was a beehive here in my heart.
And the golden bees were making white combs
and sweet honey from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping I dreamt a marvelous illusion
that there was a fiery sun here in my heart.
It was fiery because it gave warmth as if from a hearth
And it was sun because it gave light and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I was sleeping I dreamt a marvelous illusion
that there was God here in my heart.

God, is my soul asleep?
Have those beehives who labor by night stopped, and
the water wheel of thought, is it dry?
The cup's empty, wheeling out carrying only shadows?
No! My soul is not asleep! My soul is not asleep!
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches, its clear eyes open,
far off things, and listens, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.
It listens at the shores of the great silence.

~ Antonio Machado ~

translations by Robert Bly)


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's Goin' On?: picky picky

Good Morning,

I want this blog to be a place that offers all kinds of information pertaining to the holistic health and well being of you. Keeping that goal in mind, here are some tidbits I came across worth checking out, from inspiring to educational:

Some educational information:
Scroll down to read about Drugs ads on TV; fascinating but not surprising who is in who's back pocket (say that five times fast!):

This is scary, for those of you who question vaccinating your children. I'm constantly amazed at how ignorant and presumptuous society can be about vaccines:

Some lovely herbal inspiration/education:
A wonderful blog about mugwort, also known as dreamwort.

More later!
Green Blessings,

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Dreaded M -- Mastitis and ways to naturally treat it

I promised to talk about herbal remedies for mastitis—The Dreaded M – so here we go:

Mastitis-- caused by either a form of Staphylococcus infection or even a Candida infection-- can come out of nowhere, usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms (achy, head-throbbing, bone tired, fever, etc. I have heard some mother’s even speak of vomiting).

Its partner in crime is the plugged duct. A plugged duct usually has symptoms of a red and (very) sore area on the breast, often it feels as if someone has punched you very hard in chest. If you explore the area (you should, and will have to if you are going to get rid of it), you may feel a hard little ball that is tender to the touch. Usually, if you have progressed to mastitis it began with a plugged duct that is now infected. You need to address any of these symptoms straight away, as mastitis can progress rapidly.

When I first had it, my fever climbed to 104 in a matter of hours. I had ignored the soreness in my breast assuming it was merely my breasts acclimating to nursing. But that kind of soreness is more akin to a tingling sensation running down through the breast, usually when your milk comes in, sometimes described as little crystals flowing down. A plugged duct is stationary, often hard and noticeably sore to the touch.

There are various natural treatments, and I’m hoping some of our lovely readers will offer suggestions of what they have done as well, but until then I’ll fill you in on what I have personally found to be tried and true.

Here is a list of approaches:

The Ginger Compress
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is warming and stimulating; one of nature's premier anti-inflammatory herbs, the heated ginger infusion will help to open up the duct as well as get things moving and releasing down and through the duct. The skin on our breasts is very delicate and will rapidly absorb the healing benefits of Ginger’s properties.

- fresh ginger root
- a pot filled with at least a quart of water, set to a low simmer with a cover
- a grater for the ginger, or at least a good knife
- a cloth (flannel or even t-shirt material works great)

Grate up the fresh ginger until you have a good 4 tb, add this to your water starting to simmer. Cover this and keep an eye on it, you don’t want it to boil (I sometimes leave the cover slightly askew so as to let only a little steam escape). Let this simmer for maybe 10 minutes, then turn it off and let it sit for a bit. You will want this to cool enough only so that it is bearable to apply to your breast. It needs to be hot, but let’s not burn the boobies, please. Whole other issue!

Strain the ginger bits out, although I have been known to not even bother (why? Because it was simply too much effort while feeling sick and trying to tend to the baby and house, the phone ringing, and oh, yeah-- the dog needs to be fed as well!, etc).

When ready, dip your cloth and saturate well with the ginger infusion. Apply this to the sore area on your breast, and leave there until it cools. You can also place the compress under your bra, so that you can still chase around the wee one while tending to the bigger issue. This needs to be done on a fairly regular basis, at the very least a few times a day. This works best if accompanied with other approaches as follows:

Breast Massage
In between compresses, which I would do off and on throughout the day whenever possible, is breast massage. This hurts if you are doing it right. You need to get in there and find the lump causing your soreness, and really press good and hard to try and release it (my first bout with mastitis, my CNM actually pushed and popped my plugged duct with a distinct sensation as it released), massaging the area and then squeezing down, pushing all the way down and out the nipple... Imagine a cross between pumping breast milk manually and squeezing toothpaste down and out the tube (yeah; great visual, no? Motherhood ain't pretty, folks!). You want to make sure that you see milk coming out as you do this. You are literally helping to clear the duct, as it were. This is much easier to pull off in a hot shower, by the way.

It helps for some women, especially well-endowed ones, to massage the breast while their child is nursing, even when you are not addressing this acute issue. For a month after my mastitis, I would take my breast in a vice-like grip (again with the wonderful visual!) and squeeze as I massaged my "hand vice" down the breast in rhythm as my babe fed. This helps to stimulate the process of milk releasing readily from the ducts and moving down and through efficiently. When I had my second babe recently, I started out the first month doing the same so as to er, prime the pump.

Now the hard part: You need to rest, mama. The one thing They are clear on is that mastitis is usually a symptom of exhaustion. (Who are They, anyway? I don’t know either, but They seem to know everything about us. Some They’s I trust, some I don’t. And it’s in direct proportion to what I already know, thank you). This is a situation that calls for you to put your feet up and at the very least sit around. Let the children crawl all over you, let the dishes pile up in the sink, forget the dog hair dust bunnies floating in every corner. REST. When people squawk at you for their needs, tell them Ms. Thistle said so.

The main cause of mastitis and plugged ducts is an over-worked body. Any new mama knows that this simply comes with the territory, and you have my greatest sympathy. But if you are not well, you cannot mother well. You know how after birth you are told by your practitioner that if you continue bleeding it is a sign you need to rest? Same with mastitis or plugged ducts. Our bodies are already being very taxed dealing with a newborn. Sleep is one of the most simple and proficient forms of healing in the body. If you are not getting enough sleep at night, see if there is family or your husband who can relieve you for a few hours – even one hour a day! – so that you can lay down. If you can’t sleep, at the very least laying down will help to calm the body. There are herbs as well to assist you in being calm, listed next:


  • Tincture of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) in glycerite. You may use an alcohol tincture, but since you are breastfeeding you really need to sweat off the alcohol first (to do this, you place a dropperful in a shot glass and add steaming hot water. Let this sit until cooled. The alcohol will evaporate, leaving the medicinal benefits intact. Drink deep. You can add this to juice if you find the taste unsavory). While you are resting, take a big dropperful of Lemon Balm. Lemon Balm is a wonderful nervine, so not only will it assist in calming down your Central Nervous System; it also helps to keep fevers down while being anti-bacterial. When I first had The Dreaded M, I went straight from a sore red spot to a high fever that kept climbing by the hour, pushin 104E. Knowing its wonderful affinity for lowering fever, I started to take one dropperful of Lemon Balm every 20-30 minutes, and within 1-2 hours my fever was in check. Not gone, but manageable. The fever is a sign that your body is working to fight infection – it’s a good sign, but a concern when your temp begins to rise rapidly. The anti-bacterial benefits also help to fight off the infection that is trying to take root in that duct. Lemon Balm has other benefits, soon I will put up more info on its properties and give a link.
  • Tincture of Echinacea (E. purpurea, preferably in this case or E. angustifolia) or Usnea (U. wirthii, U.californica, etc). It is worth it to also take doses of Echinacea tincture, to help support the immune system in fighting any infection in your duct. I have had great success as well with Usnea (a personal favorite that grows in abundance where I live), a powerful anti-bacterial herb (that is also anti-fungal/viral, by the by) and considered to be “nature’s antibiotic.” In fact, I use these two herbs in combination so often while nursing that I make a tincture of 50-50% with them. They marry well, and are safe while nursing and pregnant. The one caveat would be that a person with auto-immune disorders in general will not benefit from Echinacea, and may even feel worse with its use. If this is you, you can use the Usnea alone and/or the Mushroom complex. A dropperful, 4x a day during the acute phase of your ailment should do the trick.
  • Mushroom complex blend. I have used one made by Pure, although I believe that Eclectic also carries a line. You are looking for a mix of Reishi (ganoderma lucidum), Shiitake (lentinus edodes) and Maitake (grifola frondosa) . This blend is fantastic, hands-down. I loves me some Echinacea, but I have to say that this complex has kicked a cold or infection out of my body in record time. I cannot believe how efficient it is. Theses adaptogenic mushrooms have potent immune stimulating properties: Reishi for instance has potent anti-inflammatory properties and has been known to aide in supporting the liver, fighting cancer and creating luminous skin, to name only a few (another herb that I will post about with links to more info in the future). This mushroom complex stimulates macrophages, which in turn eat up the infecting-causing bacteria. For this, taking 4 caps in the AM and PM should work.

Additional Methods & Info

  • Nursing positions: Another thing that helps is to position the baby’s mouth so that the chin is aligned with the plugged duct. The suction, from what I’m told at Le Leche League, is strongest at the chin, and therefore best helps to draw out milk through the troubled duct. This meant for me, since my plugged duct was up high on the top of by breast (lucky girl!), I was straddling my sweet wee one as she lay on the floor essentially upside down in position to me, dangling my sore boob over her face on my hands and knees whilst she fed. It was the only way to have her chin facing my plugged duct, you see? This is why women seem to not usually get a plugged duct on the underside or bottom of their breast, because the babe’s chin is usually thereabouts. Now do you see better? During all of this, it is vital that you keep nursing. It is important to keep milk flowing and moving through the ducts, and there is no harm for the child. It can be rare that you are recommended not to nurse, and this is when it has advanced to serious stages of infection (at this point, you have hopefully gone to your practitioner, as the infection and pain would be great, more below).
  • Lecithin supplements: I have not tried this myself, but have been told by a Le Leche volunteer that for women who seem to have chronic bouts with mastitis or plugged ducts, taking lecithin (available in both soy and egg derivatives) on a regular basis helps to keep the issue at bay. This makes sense to me, since Lecithin helps to bind fats (such as cholesterol) to water in the body, more readily assisting their travel and exit out of the body. Breast milk is heavy in fat, and actually starts out in something similar to powder form in our bodies that synergizes into breast milk and flows through the duct. Lecithin helps to ‘grease’ the ducts, as it were. The more I read about Lecithin, the more I think it is worthwhile to take regularly. It also aides memory, which countless new mama’s can attest to suddenly losing: “Mommy Brain” is frustrating and common.
  • Candida? It is worth considering, if you believe this to be a yeast-based infection (usually a burning sensation down and through the nipple with extreme pain and cracking on the nipple while nursing; possibly you already are aware that you are prone to yeast infections such as vaginal?) it is worth looking into your diet further, as well as keeping away from any unnecessary sugar.
  • Antibiotics Sometimes these conditions will advance to the point of an abscess forming with pus in the breast. If you have any of the symptoms I’ve listed, and you do not see a quick response from the methods listed here, get thyself to a doctor, as my herbal teacher liked to say. While I am in no way an advocate of the use of antibiotics, sometimes they will become necessary. If you do elect to use them, make sure to take a good and potent probiotic 2-3 hours after each dose of the antibiotic, as this helps to re-establish good bacteria that is killed off in the intestines by the medicine.
  • Water -- drink large amounts (the average recommended amount is 64 oz per day). You should be doing this anyway, but it bears mentioning just in case.
  • Finally, WARNING: With the recent surge of staph infections and resistance, we must be very careful how we address staph. I have seen it beat with these natural methods but sometimes the use of antibiotics becomes necessary; only you can decide how you want to treat your maladies so please EDUCATE YOURSELF as you attempt to treat yourself, never assume. If the situation continues to advance, please seek the advice of your health practitioner. Any of the information I supply here is never meant to replace the advice of your health practitioner, nor am I a Doctor. All FDA disclaimers in regard to alternative medicines apply. I will soon be listing many wonderful books, links and references to help you in your education.

Whew! That’s all for now. Since this blog is all new, I will be adding info as we go. I plan on also having a Materia Medica on our website (, where I will go into more of the diverse healing properties of specific herbs, including all of those listed here. Please feel free to comment with suggestions/ideas/questions, or email any suggestions or questions directly as well:

Green Blessings of breast health!


Friday, November 2, 2007

Maiden voyage...

Welcome to the Thistle's blog ~ I've been hoping to get this up and running for many months now. Why so long, you ask? I'm a SAHM with two wee ones running around, and that math equals crazy days and sleepless nights! I am going to commit to posting here two times a week, and am crossing my fingers I'll be able to do that. I'm planning (ohhhh, I use that word with great caution!) on Tuesday and Thursdays as my update days...we'll see.

But let's get to the point and why you are probably here: I've wanted a place for a long time where I could share wellness and healing information, how-to's on herb use, spiritual paths, ritual and it's importance in healing --as well as chronicle the journey of running a small, woman-run business, to name only a few of topics you may find here.

Right now, I am in the throes of prepping for the holiday season. I'm trying to be more organized about it this year for once (although, in my defense I was known for being the Queen of Organization in various jobs many years back now, refer back to the two wee ones aforementioned, lol!), which means that I am bagging hundreds of samples of the tea blends to put into many, many boxes of the Sampler's Special (hope these links work, scroll up from Brigid's Flame to see the Sampler's Box... I'm new at blogging!). I love this box, and it is our best seller. But when I had my brilliant idea to create a sample box it didn't occur to me at the time all the labor that would go into it! We bag and label everything by hand, being a small business ~ which means when you pick up a bag of tea from one of our boxes, when you pull that mantra out and are (hopefully) inspired by it, when you drink deep of our delicious tea ~ myself or my volunteer created that entire package, from cutting the mantras out and folding them, to placing the label on each and every bag. I even run a burnisher over each and every label on the boxes to ensure they are on good! I want each and every box to be created, not merely made. And yes, I put just as much mindfulness into each and every single-dingle batch of tea that I make.

So I'm rambling a bit here, but the point is that I care very much about what we do, and have a great passion to try and create something for our customers - you!- that not only tastes good, and serves a health full purpose, but that hopefully evokes passion and joy for you when you partake of it. It is my attempt to 'pay forward' some passion for life and living. Why else are we here?

I've got to get back to it, but I wanted to mention that we have three new blends right now - Maeve' Favor, a delicious mint tea; Dark Mother's Winter Solstice Blessing Tea, which is rich and spicy and only available until Imbolc (Feb2 2008); and finally a pregnancy tonic, after much request: Mari's Mama Tonic. We are really excited about these new blends, and think you will be too. To make room for these, we are sad to say that it was time to discontinue some other blends. Etains' Aide, Grainne's Prize, and Mari's Cup will no longer be available, however I do have a bit of each left, so if you are dismayed then contact us and I can get some to you.

Next post, I'm going to talk about herbal treatments for mastitis, for all you mama's out there.
Green Blessings,