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Silver Nautilus Book Award Winner for Health & Healing An antacid or an aspirin may soothe your pain, but it doesn’t cure the cause of your symptoms. Headaches, indigestion, fatigue, allergies, anxiety, eczema, high blood pressure, and other conditions are clues to a deeper imbalance in your body, and learning to read those clues is a key step in maintaining optimal health. Herbalist Maria Noël Groves shows you how to read your body’s signals and support your own wellness with herbal remedies and other natural treatments. You’ll learn how each of your major body systems — respiratory, digestive, immune, nervous, memory, reproductive, circulatory, and more — optimally functions, and you’ll discover how to use natural remedies to nourish and repair problem areas, restore lost vitality, support your body as a whole, and prevent future problems. Groves includes in-depth instructions, with step-by-step photographs, for making your own herbal remedies, as well as expert guidance on buying and effectively using commercial preparations.
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About the Author
Maria Noël Groves is the author of Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies and Body into Balance. She is a clinical herbalist and herbal medicine teacher with more than two decades of experience, and a registered professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. She writes for numerous publications including Herbal Academy’s The Herbarium, Taste for Life, Remedies, Herb Quarterly, and Mother Earth News. Her business, Wintergreen Botanicals, is based in Allenstown, New Hampshire.
Read an Excerpt
Your Body's Basic Needs
To really make vital changes to your well-being, look beyond a simple "take some herbs" approach. While herbs alone can dramatically improve health and alleviate disease and discomfort, they work much better as part of a multifaceted, holistic approach. Diet, lifestyle, and mind-body balance are the pillars of health, and no amount of tinctures or capsules can take their place. Attending to these key areas will resolve or improve almost any health concern.
You Are What You Eat: Diet and Nutrition
Everything you eat or drink influences your body. Your digestive system breaks food and drink down into tiny bits and absorbs or eliminates them. The bits that enter your bloodstream serve as the building blocks for skin, bones, organs, blood, hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, glucose your body uses for fuel, and so on. Specifically what you consume — and how it's balanced in the context of your overall diet — in large part determines your overall health, good or bad. Sometimes the effects are immediately noticeable, and sometimes they accumulate gradually and don't become apparent until years or decades later.
Aiming for dietary perfection may be futile, and fortunately the human body can handle a surprising amount of junk. But strive for good habits, and listen to your body to figure out what your body likes best. No one rigid diet works for everyone. Your constitution, taste buds, food sensitivities, cultural training, budget, and food availability will all play a role in which diet makes you feel most vital. That said, let's talk about some general "good diet" principles to keep in mind.
Balance Your Plate
Enjoy good-quality produce, protein, carbohydrates, and fat at every meal and ideally at snack time, too. Avoid dietary ruts — which get boring and can cause you to miss out on essential nutrients over time — by eating a rainbow of (natural) colors and mixing things up regularly. In general, your plate should comprise the following:
* One-quarter protein. Protein helps you feel satisfied, reduces the glycemic effect of your meal, and ultimately serves as building blocks for the structure and chemicals of your body. Focus on fish, seafood, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, beans, poultry, hard cheeses, yogurt, eggs, mushrooms, and seed "grains" (quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth). In moderation: dairy products, meat (preferably from pasture-raised or wild sources), and whole or fermented soy. Vegetables and whole grains provide some protein as well.
* One-quarter carbohydrates. Carbs primarily serve as fuel. Complex whole-food carbs eaten as part of a balanced diet provide a steady energy source without a blood sugar roller coaster. Focus on root vegetables, winter squash, beans, fruit, whole grains (wheat, corn, oats, rice, barley, rye, teff), and seed "grains." Most forms of dairy also provide carbohydrates, and vegetables provide some as well. In moderation: whole-grain flour, white potatoes, honey, and maple syrup. Avoid or limit sugar, refined and white flours, and fried potatoes.
* A little bit of fat. Fats are a key component of cell membranes, and they have a profound effect on your entire body, particularly your nerves, brain, heart, hair, skin, and nails. Fats help your body absorb fat-soluble nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, carotenoids, and more) and are building blocks for various essential compounds, including hormones and cholesterol. Focus on fatty fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, extra- virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, tea seed oil (a.k.a. camellia seed oil), avocados, olives, and eggs. In moderation: whole-fat dairy, meat, and butter from pasture-raised sources.
Add Herbs for Nutritional Punch
Adding tea, herbs, and spices to your daily cuisine amps up your antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other key compounds that help keep you healthy. Everyday seasonings and tea blends can improve digestion, fight inflammation, fend off cancer, enhance the benefits of other foods you eat, and even counteract some of the detriment of certain foods like sweets and grilled meat. So enjoy herbs liberally, fresh or dry, in teas, in salads, in smoothies, as seasonings for your meals, as flavorings for your beverages.
Keep It Real
As much as possible, work with foods in their whole, unprocessed form. Limit or avoid flour, sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, anticaking agents, preservatives, monosodium glutamate (key words that reveal its presence include "hydrolyzed," "glutamate," and "natural flavors"), and ingredients you can't pronounce. Purchase seasonal, fresh, local ingredients when you can.
Select Better Animal Products
If you eat animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs, opt for pasture-raised, wild, or organic sources that have been treated humanely. This improves the nutrient profile dramatically while minimizing the problematic fats and chemicals associated with "factory farm" production. Limit grilled meats (grilling causes cancer-causing compounds to form), and marinate them when you can. A homemade watery marinade based on tea, wine, beer, honey, or vinegar can reduce carcinogen formation in grilled meats by up to a whopping 90 percent. Why watery? Watery marinades do a more thorough job (compared to thick marinades) of penetrating the meat to deliver antioxidant compounds throughout. An antioxidant-rich marinade — with plenty of herbs and spices — is even better.
Take a Hint from Healthy Traditions
The diets most closely linked with disease prevention and longevity include the Mediterranean diet, Indian and Asian cuisine, and the vegetarian or (especially) vegan diet. But we're not talking chain restaurant fare here. Instead, opt for the traditional cuisine consumed by long-lived common folk. There are a lot of great cookbooks and blogs focusing on healthy cuisines. (One of my favorite sites for recipes iswww.eatingwell.com.)
Adequate water intake keeps everything running smoothly. Aim for half your body weight in ounces daily — so a 130-pound person should drink 65 ounces of liquid, or about eight 8-ounce glasses. Focus on water, unsweetened all-natural seltzer, tea, herbal tea, soup, broth, and juicy fruits and veggies. Drink juices (especially high-sugar fruit juice), alcohol, and coffee in moderation. Avoid or limit drinking from plastic containers, which can leach toxins, in favor of glass, stainless steel, and ceramic containers.
Listen to Your Body
As mentioned, no one diet fits all people, and no one food is friend or foe to everyone. You might do better with more or less protein, vegan or flexitarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, raw or cooked veggies, and so on. The perfect diet for you will depend on your health issues, your constitution, and even your genetics. Don't get too stuck on diet dogma and trends. Simply eat a balanced healthy diet based on whole foods; then listen to your body to determine what specifically works best for you. Keep a food diary to help you sleuth things out. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat a particular food, or a food prepared in a particular way. Do you feel more or less vibrant? Do you have digestive distress? Mood, inflammation, energy levels, and specific disease markers can all serve as clues. Some effects are immediate, while others take time to build. And of course, your needs and food sensitivities may change with your health status and as you age. (See Common Food Allergens and Sensitivities for more discussion of food sensitivities.)
You Are How You Live
Lifestyle is more than an important piece of the health puzzle; it is the table you piece the puzzle together on, the foundation upon which all aspects of well-being are built. You can take all the herbs in the world, and you can work with the finest doctors in the land, but if, for example, you never get outside and are chronically stressed out, you still won't feel well.
Basically, lifestyle is what you do, day in and day out. Fitness, sleep, work, relationships, activities, point of view, your connection with nature, and the environment you live in all play a role in determining your overall lifestyle. Even your spiritual practices play a role because they affect how you spend your time, think, feel, connect to others, and find spiritual solace.
Improving your lifestyle habits can yield significant improvements to your health and energy levels. Some people plunge right in, letting the momentum of big life changes carry them forward. Other people find lifestyle changes overwhelming, and they may prefer to start slowly or to tackle different aspects of their life one by one. Small changes can lead to more small changes that, over time, build up to new perspectives on life and living and well-being. But whether you're making big leaps or taking baby steps, focus on the following biggies.
Exercise — or lack thereof — has an enormous effect on your overall well-being, equal to or surpassing diet. Human beings were meant to move, yet modern culture has made it tricky. Most of us don't have to physically harvest our food, wash clothes by hand, walk around the village to do our daily errands, or make our living from manual labor anymore. Unfortunately, our bodies weren't meant to sit in front of a screen and push papers around a desk all day. Enter exercise. Setting aside specific times to move and working activity into your daily routine help compensate for a more sedentary lifestyle.
The advantages of regular movement go beyond a slim physique and increased muscle mass. If you need motivation to take that midday walk around the block or plan a more physically active weekend, consider the following perks of regular activity:
* Improved cognition and brain volume
* Resistance to the effects of aging
* Longer life span
* Better energy levels
* Improved mood (exercise is equal to or better than antidepressants in this regard!)
* Better sleep
* Decreased stress levels
* Improved metabolism and weight management
* Decreased pain
* Balanced blood sugar
* Improved markers of cardiovascular health, including circulation, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure
* Reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer
* Improved reproductive health and sexual vitality
* Stronger bones
* Better balance and a reduced risk of falls Exactly how much time should you spend moving around? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 2/ hours of moderate physical activity (e.g., walking) each week — for example, 30 minutes 5 days a week — plus muscle- strengthening activities (e.g., weight lifting, lunges, sit-ups) twice a week. That's about as much time as it takes to watch a movie, once a week. For more vigorous activity like jogging and running, you can cut that time in half. Doubling your fitness time beyond the recommendations provides even more benefits. You still reap the rewards if you break it up into 10- or 15-minute blocks.
Also remember that some exercise is always better than none. Use the recommendations as a guide, not a guilt trip.
Sleep is the ultimate panacea. During a good night's sleep, your body has the chance to relax muscles, repair damage, detoxify, fortify your immune system, balance out hormones and neurotransmitters, and restore itself. If you're coming down with a cold, dealing with a stressful period in your life, or trying to diet and lose weight, your day will go much more smoothly if you slept well the night before. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, and at least one-third of Americans live in a bleary-eyed state of sleep deprivation.
We deteriorate with chronic sleep deprivation: heart health, blood sugar metabolism, libido and reproductive health, psychological health, and skin appearance all go to pieces. Just one or two nights of sleep deprivation diminish your cognition, mood, and immune function. Sleeping less than 7 hours a night triples your risk of viral infection. On the other hand, if you get extra rest when you're sick, you'll recuperate more quickly. Sleeping for just 5 hours per night can cause you to up your calorie intake, make it harder to stick to a healthy diet and make good self-care decisions, and cause you to gain a whopping 2 pounds in a mere 5 days compared to sleeping 8 hours a night. Worse, British researchers found that workers who slept 5 or fewer hours per night had double the risk of death from all causes versus those who averaged 7 or more hours.
The flip side of this dismal scenario is that getting adequate sleep (which is really quite enjoyable and free!) improves almost every aspect of health. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. You'll begin to reap the rewards almost immediately. Having a hard time getting to sleep and staying there? In chapter 4 we'll discuss sleep remedies and good sleep hygiene tips.
The Healing Power of Nature
One of the remarkable aspects of nature is its ability to nurture and heal the human body. Herbs and good food are elements of nature, but so are sunlight, clean air, and beautiful restorative vistas. Forget taking herbs — sometimes all you need to do to feel better is sit under a tree for 15 minutes, walk by the river, or dig your hands in the garden.
Studies now suggest that many of the ills of our youth trace back to "nature deficit disorder" and lack of unstructured playtime in natural environments. Stress, depression, anxiety, and attention issues creep up when kids go from school to screen or an endless stream of lessons. I'd argue the same is true for adults.
The natural world calms, intrigues, and challenges us. Temperature fluctuations in your environment give your thyroid (which regulates your body temp) a mini workout. Sunlight helps your body make vitamin D and keeps your endocrine system in sync with the day's cycle. Exposure to minute amounts of bacteria and soil organisms refocuses a wayward immune system, reducing the tendency for autoimmune disease and allergies.
Children and adults alike benefit from daily time outdoors, if only a 15-minute walk in the woods or through a park. While actually getting outside is ideal, you can also reap rewards by infusing nature into your indoor space at work and home. Improve window access to natural or garden views, decorate with houseplants (even artificial ones), and hang pictures of beautiful views like mountains, trees, or water, which studies show improve work performance and well-being. As someone who spends a lot of time in front of my laptop, I can personally attest to the advantages of incorporating houseplants, pretty pictures, and beautiful window views. It helps that my chickens come by periodically to knock on my office window, reminding me to take a break and, on good days, get out for a quick midday walk in the sun ... oh, and toss my sweetie pies some treats! No chickens? Set a reminder on your computer or phone to take a break, even if it's just to sip tea and look out the window for a few minutes.
Clean and Green Living
The truth is, you are constantly bombarded by low-level toxins that can increase your risk of cancer, mess with reproductive and metabolic hormones, and damage your nervous system. They may also cause skin rashes and respiratory issues like asthma. The individual toxins may not pose a big threat on their own at low exposure, but they can accumulate and work in synergy with one another. Common sources of problematic toxins include processed and factory-farmed food, plastic (especially in food and drink packaging), pesticides and herbicides, personal- care products, home renovation products, flame retardants in furniture, and cleaning products.
The good news is that you can drastically limit your exposure to these chemicals by choosing products with more natural ingredients. We have more options than ever before. Even if you can't change everything, here are some easy places to start.
Excerpted from "Body Into Balance"
Copyright © 2016 Maria Noël Groves.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Achieving a Natural Balance Part 1: The Foundations of Good Health 1. Your Body’s Basic Needs 2. Herbal Nutrition 3. Stress and Energy 4. Relaxation, Mood, and Sleep 5. Digestion and Elimination 6. Detoxification: Cleanup Time! Part 2: Going Deeper and Tying It Together 7. The Immune System: Tending Your Inner Army 8. The Respiratory System: Breathing Deeply 9. Blood Sugar: Not Too Sweet 10. The Cardiovascular System: Your Body’s Superhighway 11. Memory and Cognition: Sharpening Your Mind 12. Managing Pain: Listening to Your Taskmaster 13. The Thyroid: Butterfly in Balance 14. Your Skin and Connective Tissue: Keepin’ It Together 15. Reproductive Vitality: The Canary in the Coal Mine 16. Longevity and Vitality: Aging Gracefully 17. Children and Animals: Herbal Medicine for the Whole Family Part 3: Buying and Making Herbal Remedies 18. Harvesting, Buying, Storing, and Using Herbs 19. DIY Herbal Remedies Appendix I: The Latin Names of Herbs Appendix II: Learn More Index