Thursday, February 7, 2008

Herbal Remedies For Women

Throughout most of history, women have been the guardians of the family or community's health, using nature's gifts of plants, seeds, roots and berries to soothe, energize or heal the ailments of their families and neighbors. The knowledge about these herbal remedies which were their only medicinals was then carefully passed down to the children, at least until 2-3 generations ago when Western medicine - and its emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs and surgery - became the norm. So much information was lost or forgotten in our rush to 'modern' medicine.

This is less true in some of the European countries, such as Germany, where herbals are frequently prescribed. They even have a government commission (Commission E) which evaluates the effectiveness and safety of herbs from around the world. There is currently a groundswell of interest in the US and other countries to bring herbals back into our lives, particularly when they can maintain and even improve a person's health and vitality.

Although the use of herbal remedies has not been recognized by the traditional Western medical community, their advice is not as revered, given the scientific research that is now substantiating the benefits of many herbal remedies. Unfortunately, many of the plants which were part of some old herbal remedies may not even be available anymore.

However, just because they're natural, don't assume that all herbs and botanicals are safe. They are not!!! Ever heard of the Hemlock Society?? Even those herbs that are safe for one age group may not be safe for a different age group - or for women during their reproductive years. So let's focus on those herbal remedies that have been shown to be both effective and safe for women. They really can provide benefits that are most helpful to women.

To say it very succinctly, herbal remedies are sought by most women for 2M's and 2P's. 'M' stands for Migraines and Menopause. 'P' stands for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Pregnancy. For instance, women seek herbs and herbal formulations to avoid the multitude of unpleasant changes that occur right before menstruation when hormones create such havoc - leading to sugar and carbohydrate cravings, bloating, breast tenderness, uterine cramping, headaches, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, depression and sleeplessness. That's a lot to ask from a plant! But there are some very effective herbal remedies for women.

Here are examples of herbs that are very effective in women, their benefits, and how they act in the body:

Cramp Bark - prevents or reduces uterine cramping and discomfort, especially helpful for PMS

Dandelion Root - acts as a mild diuretic and a tonic to relieve the fatigue a woman often experiences when her hormone levels are high

Red Raspberry - uterine tonic, helping to nourish yet relax uterine smooth muscle and reduce or eliminate painful menstruation

Valerian Root - helps to reduce anxiety and provides a mild sedative effect for better, sounder sleep (especially helpful in PMS and menopause)

Chaste Berry (Vitex) - reduces prolactin levels and allows the hormones to return to normal, balanced levels; very valuable for PMS and menopause

Kava Kava - a Pacific island plant that offers anti-anxiety, analgesic (pain relief), muscle-relaxing, and diuretic benefits

Feverfew (parthenolide) - exceptional for preventing migraines, and ameliorating them if they occur; to be effective there must be 250 micrograms of parthenolide, the active ingredient in feverfew

There are many other herbs and botanicals that are beneficial to everyone, including women - such as echinaceae, ginseng, garcinia cambogia, gymnema sylvestre, ginger, butcher¹s broom and chamomile. But be careful! There are many herbs that are referred to as 'women's herbs' found in over-the-counter preparations that are dangerous and should not be used.

Herbs Women Should Avoid

There's a balance in what we want a government to do for us. On the one hand, we want it to protect our food, drug and water supply. On the other hand, we want freedom of choice in selecting home remedies and over-the-counter drugs. In that balance between protection and freedom, there is a 'buyer beware' area where some potentially harmful agents may be found in the herbal preparations and nutritionals which we can purchase. So let's review the list of herbs that women shouldn't use.

Some of these herbs should never be used, and some of them should not be used by women during their reproductive years or when they are pregnant. Pay careful attention to this list: many of these herbs are contained in herbal preparations you can buy legally at the health food store. Remember, just because they¹re legal doesn¹t mean they're safe - especially for women.

Here are examples of herbs that may be found in available products, yet should not be used by women. The reasons why are also given so you can be more knowledgeable about them.

Alfalfa - can aggravate SLE (systemic lupus erythematosis) and other auto-immune diseases, which women are more likely to develop (3:1 vs. men)

Angelica (dong quai) - absolutely not to be used during pregnancy or if you experience a heavy menstrual cycle! (Who's left?!) Extreme caution required at all times because excess dosage can negatively affect blood pressure, heart rhythm and respiration

Ephedra (ma huang) - just can't recommend this drug (ephedrine) because of its effects on the heart and blood pressure; women in particular are at risk of stroke when using the amounts found in some popular weight loss potions

Pau D'Arco - this herb has been used in many herbal preparations, but its active ingredient has been shown to be toxic in human studies

Borage Seed Oil - contains levels of unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids, a substance whose long-term intake may cause toxicity

The following list contains herbs and botanicals that may be beneficial, but should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Cascara - a useful mild laxative but since it enters the mother's milk supply, it shouldn't be used by pregnant or nursing women

Aloe - the gel can be used on the skin, but the liquid is a very potent laxative that should not be used internally by pregnant women, children or the elderly

St. John's Wort - provides a mild anti-depressant effect; but because it is an MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitor, users should avoid tyramine-containing foods such as red wine, cheese, yeast, and pickled herring. Not to be used during pregnancy, or concurrently with other anti-depressant medications

This is certainly not a complete list, yet does emphasize the herbs that women could get into difficulty with because they didn't look at the label of an over-the-counter product. Make it a practice to read the ingredient list of every herbal or natural product. Remember, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What is Reiki?

Reiki is Universal Life Force Energy. The Japanese word Reiki consists of two parts--Rei, which is universal and boundless, and Ki, which is the vital life force energy that flows through all living beings.

Through much searching, it was rediscovered by Dr. Mikao Usui at the end of the nineteenth century. The Usui system is one of the simplest and most natural healing methods of treatment that can be utilized for the health and well being of people, animals, places and things.

Through a gentle laying on of hands the practitioner transmits the healing energy. It can also be transmitted through absentee healing. The Reiki channel does not use their own energy but allows the divine lifeforce to flow through them. Know that as you give, you receive the benefits of Reiki.

Reiki works through the following:

  • Balancing energy points on the body to create harmony and relief of tension and stress, due to our busy lives of today.
  • Builds a focused source of energy to allow for the natural healing to occur, bringing forth the compassion we all as a whole need.
  • It enhances and nurtures self and others back to a general state of well being.
  • It is an opening up of doorways into a greater awareness of our connection to the deeper self.
  • Eliminates toxins from the body.
  • Stimulates the mind to the greater accesses of the universe.
  • Can be used on animals and plants and even thought forms.
  • Enhances all when combined with other forms of healing modalities.
  • Reiki senses within its flow the application of where, when, and how it is to be utilized.

The study of Reiki:

  • With the clear intent of the student a conscious decision is made to take Reiki I. Through the attunement of a Reiki Master and after experiencing the wonderful benefits from applying Reiki I to self, family, pets and friends, the practitioner may choose to continue to the next degree which is Reiki II.
  • With the build up of Reiki energy being transmitted through the practitioner's body there will be many positive changes in their world. In Reiki II the student receives the absentee symbols which amplify the sending of the healing energy.
  • The next step which will complete the Reiki degrees is Reiki III (Mastership). You will receive the master symbol and further instruction into the world of Reiki. The opportunity to teach after completion of the third degree is now open to the individual. Using discernment you are to allow a proper amount of time between your completion of the third degree and you as the teacher if you so choose.