Monday, March 28, 2016

Herbal and Natural Treatments for UTIs


UTIs blow. And if you’re like me and have had more than you can count, you can understand the unmistakable feeling of dread and doom that settles over you like a stinky cloud of doo doo when you feel a urinary tract infection coming on (or wake up with one). Because I firmly believe in natural medicine, I’ve done significant research into natural remedies. But, per the usual, I have to tell you to talk to your doctor or naturopath before trying any of these. If you have a fever or your symptoms don’t clear up in a week (or get worse), get to a doctor. If you have back pain, see a doctor. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m not a doctor.

…but I have seen enough of them. And I know that sitting in front of a male doctor who has most likely never experienced the cruel pleasures of a UTI is a second punch to the bajango when you’re already feeling like poo. It’s not their fault they have longer urethras and therefore rarely encounter the sweet agony of bladder infections. But it does seem like some cosmic joke, doesn’t it? And please don’t send me e-mails that I’m sexist. I have deep sympathy for ANYONE who’s had to go through this torture. I’m just making a simple observation…

Anyway, on to the cures!

Uva-Ursi**
Remember this name. By God, remember this name! This beautiful, magnificent, sent-from-Summerland herb is *drum roll please!* a bladder cleanser! 

I prefer to buy this as a tincture (which you can get here), but you can also buy the straight herb and make a tea. But I will warn you, this herb will make you THIRSTY. Like, spent-a-fortnight-in-the-desert, forgot-my-canteen thirsty. But that is precisely how it works. It clings to bacteria and flushes it out when you tinkle. Crazy, right?!  Isn’t nature miraculous?

If I feel an infection coming on, I take a 1/4  dropper (about 15 drops) of the tincture 2-3 times a day until the symptoms resolve. If I have a full-blown infection, I take about 30 drops 2-3 times a day. For tea, use a Tablespoon of loose herb to one cup water, let steep for 15-20 minutes and drink 2-3 times daily to treat an infection.

Uva-ursi should not be taken for longer than a week. Uva-ursi can inhibit the breakdown of insulin and therefore should not be used in individuals who are hypoglycemic or diabetic. Also, do not take when pregnant.

Uva-ursi will treat a UTI, but it won’t soothe your irritated bladder, which is why I recommend…

Cornsilk**
Cornsilk is literally that stuff you shuck off corn and get annoyed with because it sticks to your hands and clothes and everything else it touches. That’s because it loves you. Embrace it. Once you experience the calming transcendence that is cornsilk on an angry bladder, you will want to hug it back. I buy mine by the pound HERE (though you can easily purchase smaller amounts) and never get caught without it. It won’t cure a UTI per se, but it will treat all the lovely irritation that accompanies one. 

Cornsilk is an extremely gentle herb, so I throw a hefty pinch into a couple cups of water, steep until I remember I left it on the stove, and drink, drink, drink my bladder into a calm, tranquil state. But if you’re looking for the real directions: 1 Tablespoon to every cup of water, steep for 15-20, and drink. To me this has a sweet, indescribable-but-not-unpleasant taste, but if you don’t like it feel free to let it cool and chug it down. That’s how I consume most medicinal herbal teas. Two-three cups a day will do a body good.

Note: People who have corn sensitivities may be nervous to try this. Obviously if you’re genuinely allergic use something else, like Marshmallow Root. I, personally, avoid corn because I don’t feel that spectacular after eating it, but I’ve never had any difficulties with the tea. As always, use common sense and decide what is best for you.

Plantain Leaf**
I’ve never used plantain leaf solely to treat an infection, but throw a hefty pinch into your cornsilk or uva-ursi tea to give it an added boost. Plantain leaf is great for general infections, but is also used specifically for cystits and UTIs. I really like to use it topically as a drawing agent, but that’s a whole other post.

Blueberry Juice
You know how everyone says to drink cranberry juice for UTIs? Well, this is cranberry juice’s best gal pal. I’m not a fan of cranberry juice. First off, it actually irritates my bladder more when I’m under the weather. Secondly, to get the natural benefits you need sugarless (NOT sugar-free! By God, do yourself a favor and avoid chemical alternatives to sugar. I’ll forgo the lecture, but I feel obligated to let you know sugar substitutes are a bladder irritant.) I’m talking STRAIGHT cranberry juice. That S#@! is bitter. Blueberry juice, on the other hand, is extremely palatable and is quite soothing on the bladder. I usually drink about a cup a day (half in the morning, half in the evening) to soothe irritation, but this can vary per individual.

Generally it is best to avoid sugar when treating a UTI, but one of the naturally-occurring sugars in blueberry juice is D-mannose, which brings me to my next point….

D-Mannose
D-mannose is a powdered supplement derived from berries that can be found in most health food stores. It’s easy to take and can be used to treat a UTI. I’ve tried several brands, but I prefer this one.While it takes a little longer than uva-ursi (I find generally a week for fully developed UTIs), I have absolutely eradicated infections with this stuff. Directions vary per company, but generally the dose is a scoop (included in the container) in a glass of water every 2-3 hours, during waking hours. I keep some on hand in my herbal cupboard.

If you’re prone to UTIs after sex, this is a good supplement to take post coitus to prevent one. (Also, not to get too personal, bathing  for both partners is always advised before sex if you’re struggling with recurrent UTIs. And make sure you tinkle when you’re done knocking boots!).

Some sensitive individuals may find D-mannose has them hitting the bathroom for a whole different reason. If that happens, try decreasing the dose to ½ scoop. Or you can always use uva-ursi.

NOTE: Since a main factor in treating and preventing UTIs involved lots of drinking, you can accidentally lower your potassium levels since potassium is excreted in urine. Try adding high potassium-containing foods to your diet when treating a UTI, such as bananas, dark leafy greens, and mushrooms.  

General tips for treating and preventing UTIs:

-If you’re not wearing cotton panties, do yourself the favor and make the switch. And I don’t mean cotton thongs.

-While you’re at it, rethink those skinny jeans. Some women have no issues with tight clothing and vaginal/bladder complications. Others do. If you’re having a reoccurring problem, try giving the tight clothing a break and see if that helps.

-Frozen rice packs are great for sitting on or keeping between your legs on those days that you feel like you want to die just a little.

-Avoiding sugar is important to someone who is prone to UTIs, even natural sugar. I’m not saying you can’t have a scoop on a hot summer day. I’m just saying be mindful of your intake and see if there is a connection between a sugary day and an infection.

-Vaginal support supplements like this and this have been very helpful to friends of mine who struggle with UTIs, though I’ve never personally used these.

-REST!!! For some reason, because UTIs are so common, women feel the need to go about their daily life business-as-usual style when they have a crippling infection. Listen ladies, just because it’s common does not mean it isn’t stressful to your body (or your mind, for that matter). Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break. Sleep if you’re tired. Call out of work if you’re miserable. Ask the hubby to help with the dishes. You feel like $@*! to begin with. Don’t make matters worse by berating yourself for not being Perfect Patty. Give your body time to heal. You’re worth it. ;)

**Some information is cited from the wonderful Brigitte Mars, AHG. Check out her fantastic herbal reference guide, The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine, for more information!

Have you tried any of these natural treatments for UTIs? What’s your experience? Have you found a miraculous cure I didn’t mention? Let me know!

By using this site, you agree you have read the full DISCLAIMER.
NOTE: As with any recommendation found on this blog, consult your doctor or naturopath before use.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Full Moon Tea: Emotional Well-being



With the full moon just a couple of days away, I thought I'd share with you a recipe for full moon tea.

Making moon tea is a lot like making sun tea, only it imbues different properties. With the moon being a feminine energy, this is a method to use if you're looking to balance feminine hormones, inspire self-love, or to harness the Goddess's nurturing attributes. Today I decided to focus on emotional well-being, because who couldn't use a boost?

Between everyday stress and random junk life throws at us, it's not uncommon for us to need a little pick-me-up now and then in the emotional realm. And who else better to make us feel safe and loved than the Moon Goddess herself?

Here's what to do:

1. Gather your herbs
2. Place them in a clear glass jar
3. Fill jar with gently warmed (NOT boiling or steaming) water 
4. Loosely cover with lid or cheesecloth 
5. Leave outside in the moonlight
6. In the morning, strain herbs from tea (perfect for composting!)
7. Enjoy a glass while reflecting on how awesome you are.

Easy peasey, right? Below are the herbs I selected. I like to use what I have on hand and encourage you to do the same. No need to make life more complicated, especially if you're making a tea to help you relax! If you're looking for a great, comprehensive reference for magickal herb properties and meanings, I recommend Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs



Michaela's Get Your S#!@ Together Tea 
(AKA Emotional Well-being Tea)

A hefty pinch of each:

Catnip
Magickal properties: Love and happiness
Medicinal properties: analgesic, sedative, moves chi (energy), calms nerves

Chamomile
Magickal properties: love and self-love
Medicinal properties: calms nerves, eases digestion, soothes anxiety, stress, nightmares

Self-Heal
Magickal properties: Promotes self-care
Medicinal properties: Encourages convalescence, clears heat, cleanses heavy metal toxicity

Because herbs are so beautifully versatile and comprehensive, I only listed a few applicable medicinal properties of each. Herbal medicine is invaluable and wonderfully vast. Even after years of study, I'm still in awe of how all of our needs can be met through herbs, even modern and unnatural needs, like herbs to combat the side effects of chemotherapy. The more I explore nature, the more I come to realize we truly are taken care of by this beautiful planet. It's humbling and breathtaking and truly miraculous. 

...I'm just going to enjoy that thought for a moment.

.....

..........

Okay, back to tea! If you don't have the herbs above, see what speaks to you from your pantry. Once you've selected three or four, look them up and see what your intuition is telling you. Kind of fun, hm?! Happy Full Moon, everyone!


Enjoy this spell? Why not stock up with a whole YEAR of full moon spells?! Check out By the Light of the Moon: 13 Simple & Affordable Pagan Spells & Rituals for a Year of Full Moon Celebrations!

Have you ever made Moon Tea? What's your favorite blend? 

By using this site, you agree you have read the full DISCLAIMER.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ten Ways to Celebrate Ostara (The Spring Equinox) Without Spending a Dime


I’m going to tell you a dirty secret, one that may get me banished from the pagan community.

You know those pretty altars you see so many pagan bloggers set up? The ones that have about fifteen different items, many of which are store-bought, that probably took those poor people at least an hour to arrange, let alone find just the right lighting for that perfect photo?

Yeah, I rarely set those up.

Does this mean I don’t acknowledge sabbats? Absolutely not! But I do prefer a more natural approach, one that doesn’t take me half a day and a trip to my local metaphysical store. (Especially since I live in Middle of Nowhere, New Mexico where there isn’t a metaphysical store within a hundred miles. Trust me, you ain’t done middle of nowhere until you’ve done it New Mexico style…)

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not declaring a blog war on those motivated individuals who take the time to set-up a full altar. Why in the world would I criticize such dedication? Especially when I enjoy pinning the crud out of their pretty pictures?! But spirituality isn’t an all or nothing endeavor. So, for those of us who prefer a more simplistic, nature-based approach, or for those who are just too tired to create an altar after a long day at work, I’ve got some easy earth-based suggestions for you! (And make sure to check back for more simple approaches to other sabbats!)

But first…

What is Ostara?

Generally occurring on March 20, 21, or 22, Ostara is the spring equinox, the time of year when the hours of daylight and nighttime are equal. But unlike Mabon, this is when the light is overtaking the darkness, when the days following Ostara begin to grow by one minute or so every day. In ritual, this is a time of beginnings, a time when the earth is waking after a long slumber, when nature is coming into fertility and abundance. This year, Ostara is taking place on the 20th. 

Symbolically, Ostara is represented by rabbits (a symbol/manifestation of the Goddess ) and eggs (fertility and life).

It is appropriate to mark this sabbat by including seeds, leafy greens (especially dandelion and nettle), young meat (like lamb or game hen), spring vegetables (especially asparagus), and of course chocolate into your Ostara feast.

Looking to decorate for Ostara? Don’t forget to include light green and light yellow accents with your bunnies and chicks!

How you can celebrate without spending a dime:

1. Take a walk. But, like, really take a walk. Notice the birds twittering. Take a moment to study a budding flower. Take your shoes off and feel the grass. (And while you’re at it, take a moment to ground yourself) Let the breeze dance in your hair. Take a deep breath of the first exhale of spring, and take a moment to thank the Goddess and God for the beauty that is nature. Bonus points if you spot a rabbit!
     
2. Meditate outside. Find a quiet spot in your backyard, a park, the woods, wherever you feel most comfortable. Take a seat, close your eyes, and just breathe. Relax and allow yourself to be open to whatever message Mother Earth has for you. She’s always speaking; you just have to listen.
     
3. Plant something. What better way to celebrate fertility than to garden? Whether it’s a single seed or full blown tree is totally up to you. After you put the plant in the earth, take a step back and appreciate the living essence you just connected with. After all, there is no better way to commune with the earth than getting your hands in some dirt!
   
Courtesy of Pannonnique
4. Lay under a tree and just be. One of my favorite things to do is to lie under a tree and watch the way the sun illuminates the leaves. This isn’t a chance I often get living in the Southwest, but when I do get the opportunity I always feel grounded and more at peace afterwards.
     
5. Bird watch. Of course you can always sit quietly in your yard and watch the birds, but if you’re really in the mood for a gaggle throw a handful of seed onto the grass and wait for the party. Or if you downed some coffee this morning and are really feeling motivated, you can make bird seed eggs to hang in the tree!
     
Courtesy of Blankdoll
6. Pick flowers. Preferably not out of your neighbor’s garden. But if you live in a place that isn’t the Southwest (I’m counting the days until I live in green again!) take a walk and pick some wild flowers. Just make sure to thank the earth for her generous offering!
     
7. Have a picnic. You can plan a special Ostara meal filled with Ostara foods (anything fresh and vibrant is appropriate!) or throw together a couple of PB and Js. The point is to be outside, observing the fertile turn of nature and connecting with the earth.
   
8. Smudge yourself. I think you should smudge yourself often, but if you haven’t done so in a while take the time to do so now. Ostara is about casting off the old to make way for the new. Just as the earth sheds its icy cloak, it’s time for you to shed that funky energy! Grab yourself a smudge stick, a twig of rosemary, or a handful of sage leaves and get rid of the stagnant energy of winter! And while you're at it, spring clean your home's energy!
   
9. Dye eggs using natural coloring. Gone are the days of buying a chemical-ridden egg-dyeing kit from Walgreen’s with those funky wire egg scoops. Now you can do it at home using food from your fridge!
       
10. Have an Ostara feast. Plan a special meal that honors the fertility of nature. Roast chicken. Sautéed asparagus with lemon and butter. Nourish your body with a fresh spinach salad. Ostara is a great time of year to cook because produce is bountiful and colorful. Try something new or stick to an old favorite. Either way, take a moment to reflect on the burgeoning spring as you chop, stir, and season. And as always, make sure to say a blessing and show gratitude for the sacrifices made for your meal, especially if it includes meat!


How do you celebrate Ostara? Do you prefer a simplistic approach or a full circle? What's your favorite thing about spring?

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Anxiety Journaling: How to Ditch the Worries and Get Back to Happy



I once read that 85% of what we worry about never comes to fruition. Obviously this is something that is difficult to prove scientifically, but I bet that margin is even narrower than 15% accuracy.

I don't know if it's part of being a woman (because women seem to fret endlessly) or being raised by a mother who made Chicken Little seem chill, but my mind is constantly stirring with all the things that could go wrong in life. Which, let's face it, the list is endless. The car might breakdown. Our career choices might lead us down a rocky path. Our savings account is too small. Korea might grow a pair and launch the nuke. (Happy Endings, anyone? God, I miss that show!)

But when I take a step back and evaluate the last decade of my life, one thing stands out about all: 

I spend more time worrying about S#@% that never happens, and that's a lot of wasted time.

So how do you combat that? Of course there's drugs and alcohol, but that generally leads to bad decisions and hangovers, combined with that small nuisance of legality. Exercise is powerful, but not always successful. What do you do when your mind is spinning and you feel like Atlas with the weight of the world perched on your shoulder?

Me? I journal.

I'm not talking about sitting down with a cup of tea next to an opened window, the gentle summer breeze wafting in as I carefully and calmly form each letter in my handmade, recycled, natural-ink, eco-friendly diary. I mean the antithesis of that.

I'm talking messy, sloppy, sometimes angry, often nail-biting, scribbling-across-numerous-pages-in-illegible-words-that-I-have-no-intention-of-ever-reading-again journaling, which is precisely the point.

An Anxiety Journal isn't a diary. It's not something you're supposed to go back and read, nor should you. It's an outlet for every unfiltered worry and concern, a place where you can unleash without having to feel judged or ungrateful or overly sensitive. Don't critique or limit your thoughts. Don't wonder if you have the right to feel a certain way. That is not the point of this exercise. It's not the type of journal you reflect on and evaluate. It's sole purpose is for you to pour all that irrational worry out of your mind so it doesn't eat away at your peace and happiness. It's a way for you to purge without judgement or filter. 

I can't stress this enough: Don't filter. 

I say this because when we allow our thoughts to pass through us without processing and evaluating, we open the channel into our subconscious, which many times will reveal what you're REALLY worried about. It's not rare for me to be scribbling about one thing and have something else entirely pop up. And when you discover the true root of your fears, it's much easier to ground your concerns. 

For example, just yesterday I was worried about a novel I'm working on. I feel scattered and unmotivated and I knew I needed to discharge or else I'd never produce anything useful. As I was writing, a sentence that came out was: I don't want to be the reason our plans fail.

...or something like that. As I said, I don't re-read the journal. 

My husband and I have a deep longing to own a farm. Right now we are stuck in the desert and have a contractual obligation to spend 2 1/2 more years here. There's a bigger reason for us being here, I have to believe that, but it doesn't change the fact that I feel spiritually starved. I am at peace among the trees with my feet in the grass and my hands in soil. The desert is not a thriving climate, and while some people adore it, this country chick does not. So while my mind is overthinking plot lines and blog posts and feeling like a general failure (I did remember to tell you I was human, right?), my true worry lies 2 1/2 years into the future, a realm of space I have zero control over. 

Once I realized what my real concern was, I was able to make peace with it. I can't control what happens in the future. Hell, I can't control what happens tomorrow or even in an hour. I can only control this moment, right here, the one in which I'm spending with you lovely souls. And since I am working on my future right now by working on this blog, I'm doing the best I can in this very moment.

Because that's the thing about worry: Worry always lies in the future. We're never worried about right now. We're in right now. We have a handle on right now. We only worry about down the road, whether that be a minute, a day, a month, a year down the road. But we have no control over that. The only influence we have on the future is to do something right now this moment that will have a positive influence deeper in time. Sometimes that's as simple as preparing a healthy meal or putting $10 in the piggy bank. Sometimes that's casting a money spell or saying a healing prayer.

And sometimes, that positive influence is purging the negative thoughts so we can make room for clear, productive thinking.

Here are my 3 easy steps for Anxiety Journaling:

1. DON'T FILTER! This isn't the time for you to berate yourself. Don't worry about whether or not you're acting spoiled or being overly sensitive. That's not productive. Nor is it treating yourself with kindness. What comes out comes out. Giving yourself a chance to vent without pause allows yourself to really explore what is bothering you.

2. Don't wait until you "have time." Take a few moments to write the moment you realize you're feeling overwhelmed. It's generally a quick 5-10 minute process anyway. Trust me, you'll be better for it.

3. Don't worry about handwriting or legibility. In fact, don't go back and read it. That will just put you back in a negative mental space. You may even want to rip the sheet up or burn the page when you're through, which can be very cathartic. If you're trying to be eco-friendly, open up Word and go to town. Just make sure you DON'T save it!

For extra Pagan points, give yourself a nice sage smudging or a few moments of earth grounding to really clear out the bad juju.

Ahhhh! Now don't you feel better?


Have you ever anxiety journaled? What is your favorite method for clearing your head of worry?

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