The psychology of flowers and why they make us so happy
These days, as our lives go through ups and downs due to the changes we are living through, more self care is called for. We may need more exercise, a healthier diet or more sleep. We might find peace in moments wandering through nature or in meditative quiet time. And we might receive a much needed emotional lift from Flower Power.
In 2005, the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University conducted a 10 month behavioural study, looking for links between flowers and life-satisfaction. They found that “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.”
“What’s most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and lead researcher on the study.
In the study, subjects received deliveries of flowers and other gifts such as fruit, candles and pens. While most deliveries of gifts received a positive response, the highest response rates came from receiving flowers. The studies showed that these positive responses lasted two to three days.
But honestly, we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us what our bodies intuitively know (though confirmation is sometimes nice). According to the Rutger’s study, the presence of flowers:
Why do Flowers Make Us Happy?
Flowers are connected to the release of some seriously happy-forming hormones in our systems.
Dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical, helps regulate movement, learning, motivation, attention and emotional responses. It is released by the expectation of a reward. Flowers, back in the day, were a huge reward signal in our brains because they promised abundance after a hungry winter. While we may not link flowers so directly with food anymore, flowers can still trigger that sense of anticipated excitement.
Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical often called the “love hormone”. It creates feelings of social trust from mother-infant bonding, to romantic connection to group cohesion and belonging. These bonds are crucial not only to our survival as a species but also to our capacity to thrive and grow. When we give each other flowers, oxytocin is released. Flowers then serve as talismans, communicating the strength of our bonds, and our intention to invest in caring for the relationships that form them. Because of the evolutionary connection of flowers to physical survival, we are also underlining the importance of social connection to our well-being.
And then there’s serotonin, the neuro-chemical crucial to mood, well-being, happiness and our spiritual lives. Scientists have found that serotonin receptor activity in the brain correlates with a capacity for transcendence or bliss. From the lotus to the rose, lowers have long been associated with spiritual paths since ancient times. It is both the colour of the flowers AND their scent that trigger serotonin and lift the Spirit.
That brings us to the Chromotherapy and Aromatherapy. That’s part 2 of this blog post. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here's a lovely bouquet to help your happy.
Reflections on the past year; reality check from Krista Tippett in conversation with clinical psychologist Christine Runyard; and imagining a future based on cooperation and care
Happy Vernal Equinox, 2021 everyone. In my culture, this is actually New Years Day, called Navroz. Traditionally, it’s a time for communal feasting, dancing and letting go of all the unnecessary and dark while calling in light, peace and prosperity for the new year. And Dancing...did I mention dancing? This year’s Navroz has gone slightly differently than in the past. All the feasting, dancing, letting go and calling in has been more contained, more personal “bubble” sized. Such is our current reality.
The other day I was reflecting on the past year and the pandemic situation, with my friend and artist, Norma Jean McCallan. One of her observations was that this year has felt like tiptoeing around an abusive relationship. In such a situation, we are in fight or flight and survival mode, rolling from one crisis to another until such time as we have a moment of relief to process, and make choices as to how we want to proceed.
One of those moments came for me in January of this year. While my head recognized that “normal” is not something I can (or want to) return to, the rest of me needed some time to catch up. I disappeared into a bit of Cave Time to deal with the depression feelings that seemed to overtake me after the holiday season. My physical energy was low, I slept a lot and tried to focus on facing the fears with some heart tools - like appreciation, grounding breath work and visualization.
It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Then last week I came across an interview with clinical psychologist Christine Runyan on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. Here’s the blurb that introduces the interview.
“The light at the end of the COVID tunnel is tenuously appearing — yet many of us feel as exhausted as at any time in the past year. Memory problems; short fuses; fractured productivity; sudden drops into despair. We’re at once excited and unnerved by the prospect of life opening up again. Clinical psychologist Christine Runyan explains the physiological effects of a year of pandemic and social isolation — what’s happened at the level of stress response and nervous system, the literal mind-body connection. And she offers simple strategies to regain our fullest capacities for the world ahead.”
Christine Runyan put words to what many of us around the globe have been feeling this past year. Her coping strategies are simple yet effective. It was a valuable hour spent. I realized that I use many of these strategies already, but it was really necessary for me to have them confirmed and validated. Equally important was the confirmation that I’m not crazy or alone in this experience. Naming it, talking about it and doing the work to come back to a grounded, balanced center, are crucial to moving forward.
It all comes down to the story we tell (meaning believe) about ourselves, each other, our world and our place in it. When I was at school, Science taught us a story about the earth and the relationships between all living beings. It was essentially that the earth is based on competition, the survival of the fittest, a win-lose story. If you think about it, this is the story upon which our world, our economies and our lifestyles have been crafted in the past few millennia. But we are seeing that story crumble around us as our impact on the Earth has exacerbated the climate; as our economies are slowly failing, as the nation state system created by conflict slowly falls apart.
Science is revising its approach. It is now saying that the earth and the relationships between all living things is cooperative. In this model, one that aboriginal peoples all over the world have known for millennia, we all survive, thrive and evolve when we cooperate and work together. Its a part of Nature, right down to our very cells. According to evolutionary biologists, without cooperation we wouldn’t be here.
It's easy to see how we might flourish in such an environment. The stresses we experience of survival and isolation just wouldn't be a thing. Within a cooperation model of human organization, our individual talents and gifts would have more chances to be expressed and flourish. See it as a group of intersecting circles, as in the Flower of Life design, as opposed to a pyramid scheme model. In the pyramid model, there is only one peak, one “best” of anything. But in the intersecting circles model, there would be more opportunities for sharing and collaborating. Every circle, or community, would have a possible place for your specific talents and gifts and many places and opportunities to be your best self in what you do.
Imagine a human world in which cooperation and care of self and others was the governing principle. Oh but wait! We’ve had glimpses of what that world could be this past year. Health professionals pulling together in crisis situations to help others, often at personal cost; entire cities of people following masking, distancing and other protocols to help flatten the virus curve; many people sharing their skills online to help others in various areas of self-care and personal growth--from online courses to exercise programs to Arts experiences; the growth of online communities that transcend borders; governments releasing funds to its citizens and cooperating on vaccination acquisition; communities of people doing the very difficult work of naming points of trauma that need healing in our society so that we can do the repair work needed to come together; the continued commitment of so many of us to repair the damage we have done to the Earth; and the Earth herself showing us it wouldn't take much time for her to repair, if we would only stop our destructive behaviours. There will always be those who have difficulty cooperating. As oceanographer Danny Grunbaum says, “Cooperation never means the absence of conflict of interest. It means a set of rules for negotiating conflicts of interest in a way that resolves them.” I would add, “for the highest good of everyone involved.”
At the start of this Solar Year, we are on the cusp of huge changes, which can be both exciting and scary. How we meet them will depend greatly on how we change the story we believe about ourselves, our relationship with the planet and with all living things. I, for one, hope we continue to choose the win-win options.
5 natural headache remedies to consider before reaching for the pills
We're all going through a lot of stress and change right now; which means headaches may definitely be a part of your day to day experience. Many of us pop a pill and carry on. But a headache is really your body speaking to you through nerve signals sent from the blood vessels and muscles in your head. Your body might be telling your it's missing something--like a breather, a drink of water or some essential nutrients. Or it might be sensitive to something in your diet or your environment. Headaches can be triggered by a number of things: stress, fatigue, allergies, eyestrain, poor posture, a hangover, low blood sugar, hormones, or gut issues.
So, how can you help your headache go away or prevent one from happening? And are there natural ways that can help? Answer? YES, of course there are! And here are 5 of them to consider trying before you reach for a pill.
1. Get Hydrated
Often a headache is a sign of dehydration. Being dehydrated can cause irritability and interfere with concentration, making symptoms seem even worse. In fact, studies have shown that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines. But the good news is that still other studies have shown that drinking water relieves headache symptoms in most dehydrated individuals within 30 minutes to three hours.
So, the first thing to try immediately is to drink a couple of glasses of water or an electrolyte drink. The latter are especially useful in the case of a hangover headache, as alcohol dehydrates. Ideally, choose an electrolyte beverage without artificial colors and sweeteners as these can add to a headache. My favourite electrolyte option is Hydralyte fizzy tabs. Not too sweet, easy to use and carry with you. Bonus: it’s made in Canada, my home on Native land.
To help avoid dehydration headaches, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day and eating water-rich foods. Between the two of these, aim to consume 2 litres a day.
Your headache could be your body telling you it’s low on magnesium, needed for over 600 cellular reactions from making DNA to controlling how your nerves and muscles work. Magnesium keeps your bones strong, heart healthy and blood sugar normal. It also plays a role in your energy levels. In the brain, Magnesium is the gate keeper for NMDA receptors which are involved in healthy brain development, memory and learning. Without enough magnesium, your nerve cells become overstimulated and could be damaged.
Experts think Magnesium helps to block or lower pain chemicals in your brain while keeping blood vessels from tightening. It may also prevent the wave of brain signalling called cortical spreading depression, which produces the visual and sensory experiences that come with a headache, especially a migraine.
And really, who can say no to dark chocolate with nuts?
3. Get Some Exercise
A little bit of exercise can make big difference in decreasing headaches. Going out for a walk or a bike ride can help oxygenate your system which can reduce headache pain. Not to mention releasing an endorphin or two, which help decrease your sensitivity to pain while boosting your mood and increasing your sense of well-being. Exercise and fresh air can also help promote a healthy sleep pattern, which also lowers the stress that can lead to headaches.
Yoga poses and other forms of stretching can help ease tight muscles and tension in the head, neck and shoulders. This, plus flowing breathing, helps ease headache pain. You can go one further by doing deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help you focus on the present moment and not on your pain body.
My mother swears by Reflexology. Ask her for advice on healing a headache and she’ll tell you to go massage your big toe! And no wonder... because it works.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi (pronounced "chee") is your life force energy. Just as your body has a blood circulation system, so too does it have one for the flow of Qi. When Qi is not flowing smoothly, it may eventually show up as physical symptom, like a headache. So, if you have too much Qi gathering in the head, you might experience intense headache pain. Too little Qi in the head, and you might experience a milder, and achy headache. The key to relieving the pain, intense or mild, is to get the Qi flowing smoothly through your head. That’s where Reflexology comes in.
Reflexology involves the physical stimulation of specific acupressure points on the feet and hands to promote Qi circulation to optimize body function. Reflexology points are thought to be connected to the internal organs, brain, blood circulation, and nerve function by your Qi. Massaging those points on your foot or hand unblocks the flow of Qi and brings the body back into a healthy balance. And yes, you guessed it, one of those pressure point lives in your big toe!
Visit Chinese Reflexology with Hollie Tse for a more detailed explanation of how to give yourself a headache relieving Reflexology massage,
5. Head Massage using Aromatherapy
Plants and their essences have been used for centuries for their medicinal and healing properties. Certain oils are known for their ability to ease aches and relax the accompanying stress. Our Head Balm is formulated with four of these for their headache relieving properties.
Peppermint Essential Oil is known for its cooling properties and ability to help relax muscles and ease pain. It also stimulates circulation, which brings more oxygen to the brain which helps ease tight muscles.
Lavender Essential Oil is commonly used for stress relief and relaxation. There’s also strong evidence that lavender can help treat headaches and migraine.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil will open up the nasal passages, clear the sinuses, and help relieve sinus tension that causes the headaches. If your headaches are caused by sinus issues, eucalyptus essential oils can become your new best friend.
Rosemary Essential Oil has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It’s been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years for stress reduction, pain relief, and improved circulation, which can all help headaches.
We put those powerful essential oils into a salve which allows for good massagability. The beeswax in the salve does a brilliant job of holding those oils to your head for a longer period of time than a roll on, oil only headache remedy.
Half the magic of our Head Balm is the essential oils; the other half is the massage you give yourself. Rachel Richards walks you through the massage technique in the Video below. Melt some Head Balm between your fingers and thumb in both hands and then follow along with Rachel. Add more Head Balm as needed.
What are your favourite natural headache remedies?
8 AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS; 4 WAYS TO HELP YOUR BODY ABSORB TURMERIC AND 1 YUMMY TURMERIC MILK RECIPE
When I was young, Mum used to make Hardar Waro Doodh (Turmeric Milk, known on the internet these days as Golden Milk or a turmeric latte) to help boost our immune systems. She'd also spice her curries with it, make tea with it and use it medicinally and in skin care. I use turmeric in much the same way, because I've experienced its efficacy in my health and wellness since childhood. Turmeric powder has an intense taste, which is nature's way of telling you not to have too much. Wise woman wisdom that I grew up with places the consumed limit at about 1 teaspoon a day.
A QUICK LIST OF 8 AMAZING TURMERIC HEALTH BENEFITS
So what makes Turmeric such a health boosting all-star?
Quite a list of benefits, is it not? Hooray, Turmeric!
I’m not sure turmeric, or its active ingredient curcumin, should be taken as a supplement, honestly, due to poor bio-availability. This means that in order for turmeric to be effectively absorbed into the body, it has to be combined with other ingredients or prepared in particular ways, as my mother’s old school methods of using turmeric show.
I see curcumin supplements more as a last resort than the best option. I’m more in the camp of incorporating healing plants into diet and skin care in their most simple form. It is my belief that if we live in alignment with nature, her cycles and her gifts, then we are most likely to experience significant improvements in well-being, from the inside out. That means living more holistically and taking care of all aspects of health and happiness, rather than trying to fix a problem with a pill. Of course this is only my opinion and not intended as medical advice.
4 WAYS TO HELP YOUR BODY ABSORB TURMERIC
USE THE WHOLE ROOT
Turmeric is more than just curcumin. There are over 100 compounds in the turmeric root which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties. When the root is processed, many of these compounds are lost, and some supplements contain only extracted chemical curcumin. Old school Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking has always used the whole turmeric root because the various compounds in turmeric work synergistically together and can aid in the absorption of curcumin. This reflects the belief that whole plants are usually better for health.
Mum would use Turmeric in its dried and powdered form, mostly because, back in the day, it was more easily accessed in North America than fresh roots. If you're using turmeric powder, choose organic. Use less as it’s more concentrated than fresh root. If using fresh roots, add much more to your cooking. Rule of thumb: 1tsp of turmeric powder is equal to 3 tsps of fresh turmeric root.
ADD BLACK PEPPER
My mother’s curries, as in most of Indian cooking, are a complex blend of spices that support each other’s efficacy for health and healing. One of her ingredients that directly helps your body absorb curcumin directly is black pepper. According to UMass Medical School’s Center for Applied Nutrition:
“Curcumin only makes up about 5% of turmeric, similar to black pepper where the active ingredient, piperine also makes up about 5% of the spice. Piperine is responsible for black pepper’s rich flavor and helps inhibit drug metabolism. For example, the liver gets rid of foreign substances by making them water-soluble so that they can be excreted, and piperine can inhibit this process so that curcumin is not excreted. This explains how piperine can help to make curcumin more bioavailable. With just 1/20 teaspoon or more of black pepper, the bioavailability of turmeric is greatly improved, and turmeric’s benefits are further enhanced.”
MIX WITH HEALTHY FATS
Mum would make her curries using ghee or high fat oils like coconut or sunflower. She would make Hardar Waro Doodh (Turmeric Milk) with full fat milk. This makes sense for bio-availability. Curcumin has limited solubility in water, but it does like to attach to fats, which are then more easily absorbed into the bloodstream by the gut.
HEAT IT UP
Many spices become activated by heating, which can be the key to releasing their best effect. Research shows that heating turmeric increases its solubility in water, enhancing the overall antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Turmeric is moderately sensitive to heat, so there is no need to boil it for a long period of time. Short cooking times (under 15 minutes) do not destroy turmeric, but will in fact increase the bio-availability of turmeric's many compounds, inclduding curcumin. So heating turmeric in Turmeric Milk or a turmeric wellness tea, or adding it to your cooking, such as in curry or scrambled eggs, will maximize its absorption by the body.
1 YUMMY TURMERIC MILK RECIPE
This is a fabulous drink to help boost your immune system. My mother would give it to us regularly as a preventative measure. More cups would be downed in the event of an illness. You can incorporate Turmeric Milk into your day as your morning drink or in the evening, after a meal or before sleep.
A WORD ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
Milk - Choose the milk that works best for you. If using dairy, choose grass fed and full fat; or give goats milk a go. If not, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to increase fat content for better absorption of turmeric into your body.
Black Pepper - Packed with manganese and Vitamin K, pepper stimulates the taste buds to get hydrochloric acid going, revving up digestion. When combined with black pepper, turmeric becomes 5,000 times more bio-available.
Ginger - Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, ginger is pro phytonutrients, especially potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. Loved all over the world as a digestive aid, it calms upset stomachs while improving nutrient absorption and circulation.
Cardamom - Loaded with naturally occurring minerals calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C, cardamom is the go-to spice for mellowing out respiratory ailments, colds and flus, and sluggish, unhappy guts.
Turmeric - Already ‘nuf said above!
Coconut oil - Helps your body absorb curcumin while adding more fatty acids that that are beneficial brain food.
1 cup milk of choice. If using dairy, choose full fat. If not, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to increase fat content.
¼- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
A Pinch to ⅛ tsp black pepper
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
⅛ tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp honey or to taste
Place all the ingredients into a pan. Whisk together into the milk. Simmer on medium to low heat until the milk starts to steam (not so hot) or bubble (hotter). Whisk again to foam milk (optional) Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy!
A few little things you can do for yourself everyday to enhance your wellbeing while replenishing and protecting your skin
The secret to being naturally beautiful rests not in a jar of expensive creams. Rather it is in a few little things you can do for yourself everyday to enhance your wellbeing while replenishing and protecting your skin from damage. So here are seven healthy habits that will leave you feeling and looking your best, naturally.
1. SLEEP IT OFF
A night of tossing and turning and a mirror check in the morning is all you need to understand just how much your skin needs a good night's sleep. A 2013 case study says as much. In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, physician-scientists found that sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. The study, commissioned by Estee Lauder, demonstrated that not having enough sleep increased signs of skin aging and slowed recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Those were just the physical symptoms. Not having enough sleep also decreased energy levels and sense of confidence and self worth. It was easier for a tired person to look in the mirror and find fault than someone who was de-stressed by complete rest. So in short, sleep well because it will help your skin, mind and spirit regenerate.
2. SWEAT IT OUT
Your Skin is your body's largest organ. Just as exercise keeps your other organs, like the heart, in healthy form, it also enhances the skin's ability to repair the effects of aging and other damage. In fact, the moment your heart starts beating faster, muscles pump out more of a protein (IL-15) that powers your skin cells' mitochondria to act youngerâover time, that can make skin some 25 years younger at the microscopic level, according to a study at McMaster University in Ontario.
You don't have to go crazy on cardio for your skin to get the benefit of exercise and increased oxygenation in your body. Pick something that works for you and do it regularly. Consistent exercise will likely help on the sleep front, too.
Also, consider hitting the sauna or the steam room on a regular basis (though in this COVID period, a steaming hot shower could do the trick, too). It's a lot like having a facial but for the whole body. Fifteen minutes in the steam room opens pores, increases sweating, stimulates circulation, and eliminates toxins. The elevated heat and the increased sweating and circulation stimulates the reproduction of collagen and deeply cleanses and rejuvenates your skin.
3. WALK IN THE SHADE
Protect your skin from the sun with sunscreen, yes. But also by covering up with long flowing garments or a sun parasol. Don't forget your sunglasses for UV protection (and the fashion factor). And when you're outdoors, seek shade, especially between 10am and 4 pm. It would be a good time to go for a grounding forest bathing walk. Here are some summer shading suggestions from our Wild Beauty Blog, Three Chill Ways to Protect your Skin from the Sun.
4. STAY HYDRATED
Keep the water going all summer long. If you're not a big fan of plain water, add fruit to create a lovely tasting fruit infused beverage. Or add a little bit of fruit juice to your water in a 1:4 proportion.
If you're feeling a bit weak out there in the sun, your body may be low on electrolytes. Stay away from the Gatorade, though--it's full of sugar which causes other skin issues. Instead, consider throwing a Hydralyte tablet into your water bottle. Hydralyte is a Canadian made fizzy tablet, formulated with the right balance glucose and electrolytes for rapid rehydration. Thom uses it frequently through the summer, as heat and dehydration can exacerbate his MS symptoms. But it's brilliant for anyone who needs a little boost in the hydration department.
5. DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
When you're stressed, cortisol goes up and does a number on your collagen proteins, causing dry skin and wrinkles. So find ways to bring your stress levels down.
Meditation with deep breathing helps calm your cortisol count while oxygenating your body. It can also help you get a good night's sleep. Book a massage or a hair cut or any other self-care service that you find relaxing. Hit the yoga mat at home or join a socially distanced Tai Chi class. Sing out loud or dance up a storm all over the living room furniture. Binge watch something hilarious. Or get on computer and hilari-chat it up with your besties.
Again, choose your stress reliever (one or more) and engage regularly and consistently.
6. SCRUB AWAY THOSE DEAD SKIN BLUES
Skin cells turn over constantly, and sometimes they need help to fully slough off. Give your skin an assist and exfoliate once or twice a week. For a scrub and polish, try Free Lion Namika Salt Scrub. It's formulated with some old-school Japanese beauty care ingredients like adzuki bean flour, rice flour and seaweed. The scent is a delightful blend of green tea and jasmine. Or try our Lavender Salt Scrub. This one is blended with clay and apricot kernel shells. The scent is pure relaxation as only Lavender can deliver. If you have sensitive skin, try our Rose Garden Sugar Scrub. It's blended with some skin soothing oat and chickpea flour. The scent is both grounding and uplifting. And you want to wake up your skin and smooth out that bumpy cellulite look, give our Espresso Sugar Scrub a go. It's a caramel macchiato for your skin!
7. CULTIVATE KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE
When you can, reach out to someone to lend a hand, an ear or your heart. Things are difficult for many people these days and a kind, friendly word can help make all the difference--to them and to you. When we give of ourselves and connect with others, we get to step out of our own stories for a while and experience the reality of our interconnectedness. This is especially important during this COVID period when isolation feelings can be overwhelming.
Bookend your day with all the things in your life you are grateful for. Write them down or simply affirm them to yourself. This simple ritual will help clear the anxiety clouds of future thinking and open you up to receive the best the universe has to offer in this moment now. Your heart (and your skin) will thank you.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
3 benefits of drinking mint tea; Make your own from fresh mint
I first met Mint tea in Morocco and I was smitten. I loved the sweet, hot, pungent flavours of the tea and could completely understand why it could be drunk all day long. Mint not only tastes good, it's good for you. And it's an easy perennial to grow in small gardens, outdoor or indoor, giving you your own organically grown supply. Making your own mint tea leaves from scratch? Easy, you've got this.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DRINKING MINT TEA
1. AIDS DIGESTION. Mint tea can help settle an upset stomach, calm nausea. reduce bloating and gas. It's a wonderful drink to have after a meal to help your stomach calmly digest.
2. ANTIOXIDANTS. Mint tea contains a large amount of antioxidant compounds that help your body protect against and repair damage caused by harmful molecules that can lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In the skin department, these antioxidants can help in the anti-aging process, as oxidative stress breaks down skin collagen, without which wrinkles happen. Antioxidants also help the skin repair itself by reducing inflammation.
3. REDUCES STRESS AND HELPS SLEEP. Mint tea can help decrease anxiety and improve sleep. The menthol in the plant has a relaxing, sedating effect on the body.
MOROCCAN MINT TEA RECIPE
If you have fresh mint growing, you can make Moroccan Mint Tea, . Cooking with Alia has a recipe to make it, authentic style, using Gunpowder Green Tea and fresh mint. She offers the recipe from her home country in text as well as a video. You get the foam on top by raising the tea pot spout 2 feet above the glass and pouring in a steady stream. This way of pouring also helps cool the boiling tea to a temperature comfortable for your mouth. By the way, this is also how chai is served, old school, foaming in a glass.
DIY YOUR OWN DRIED MINT TEA
While we love the convenience of buying a box of mint tea, the potency of the leaves fades the longer that box sits on the shelf. If the mint tea leaves are looking brown, they're old and stale. But no worry, it's easy to make your own from fresh mint that you grow or buy. And tea leaves made from fresh mint is hands-down tastier than store bought.
Mint is such a hardy perennial that loves to propagate itself. Our mint growth has doubled over since last year. By the way, I don't consider myself a gardening genius. This is just Nature doing her best work, for which I'm grateful because I really like drinking mint tea right through the year. Especially on those nights I'm having trouble sleeping. So I'm taking this time, while it's freshly growing in the ground, to make the most of our mint harvest, which will likely continue through the growing season.
We're growing both Spearmint and Chocolate Mint. We harvested about a 1/3 of our small bed. But you don't have to be growing the mint to make the tea leaves. You can buy fresh mint. You'll need 4 -5 bunches to get a decent amount of dried leaves out of it.
Here's what we did to dry the mint leaves for tea:
1. Separate the leaves from the stems
2. Lay wax or kraft paper on a flat surface, like a cookie sheet or cutting board or even a piece of cardboard.
3. Spread a single layer of mint leaves on your wax paper. Make sure the are not over lapping.
4. Leave them to air dry completely. This should take a few days.
5. Once the leaves are dry, run them through a food processor or chopper.
6. Put your dried mint tea leaves into a clean, dry bottle.
Now it's tea time! I put a tablespoon of the dried mint leaves into a drawstring paper tea bag. My son uses a tea ball. Or you can put it into your tea mug and strain out the leaves after the tea has steeped. I came across Bonesa Honey from Bulgaria who make a simply delicious rose flavoured honey. I add a teaspoon to my mug and then pour boiling water over my leaves and honey, letting it steep. If you want a stronger tea, boil the leaves (with or without teabag) in a pot of water on the stove on a roaring boil for 3-5 minutes. ENOY!
What are your favourite plant leaves to make tea? Do you grow your own? Please share any tips or experiences you have in the comments.
CHOOSE CALM AND CONNECTED THROUGH COVID19
As the COVID19 story unfolds, many of us are feeling a little stressed out and scared. The words "lock down" have a decidedly negative, trapped feel to them. I came across a wonderful, positive alternative today in my internet travels: Safe Harbour. We are currently anchored in the safe harbour of our homes until the storm passes.
Humanity has an amazing ability to rise above adversity and be our best selves. I see so many examples out there of people pulling together and reaching out in different ways to help and support each other, often without even being in the same room. I’m feeling hopeful.
Here are a few some resources to help you and your loved ones keep stress levels down and some feel good articles to keep your spirits up.
TURN OFF THE NEWS FOR A WHILE
Words illicit feelings which in turn affect our bodies and frame of mind. So in a time such as this one, it can be a good idea to download less negative information and open yourself up to more positive messages. Happiness hormones really help us on the health front. So turn off the news for a while. That doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore what’s going on in the world. It just means give yourself a break from stressful mass media messages. Check in once a day for a short period of time just to be updated and then get on with the rest of your day.
SING, SING OUT LOUD
According to Uplift Connect, “The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified”.
People in Europe know the score on this one. Here are some feel-good stories from Europe of people joining in song together. In Italy, people have been singing or jamming together across balconies. In Milan, a DJ played music for the neighbourhood, while in Florence, a tenor gave a beautifully moving concert of Nessim Dorma.
Inspired by the singing in Italy, Bono has written a new song called Let Your Love Be Known. The song was released on St. Patrick’s Day so that people could continue celebrating despite not being able to gather in the same room. It was posted on U2’s Instagram page.
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING
Get yourself and the kids moving. Random acts of dancing (my go-to) can be really helpful in times of stress. From Arthur Murray Dance Centers, “...dance has the ability to act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does, too. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep, so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after dancing!” So put your favourite tunes on and let ‘er rip!
In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a workout for quarantined citizens. Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, VYVE is hosting a virtual dance party on March 20. Turn up the tunes and have a romp around the living room.
PRACTICE PEACE, GET GRATEFUL AND HELP WHERE YOU CAN
Meditation and deep breathing techniques are really useful right now. These are practices that allow us to connect with our intuition and inner knowledge. It also helps keep us calm. This would be a great time to teach these tools to your kids. According to the Chopra Center, meditation gives “…kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.” They offer three kid-friendly meditations to try.
Practicing gratitude in times of uncertainty is a really great way to stay focused on the positive. Try journaling, writing down all the people and things in your life you are grateful for. Take the time to expand your list with why you are grateful for them. When you feel anxiety, return to your list to remind yourself of what’s most important to you. And when its possible, share your gratitude. Let people know what you appreciate most about them.
In Spain, people felt it important to express their gratitude for their hardworking, dedicated health professionals. They came out collectively onto their balconies at 10pm to applaud and thank them.
There are many of us coming together in the community to help each other out. In Vancouver, Canada, a FaceBook group, Caremongering YVR - Vancouver Community Response to COVID19, offers a place for people to connect and help each other. A similar one has been set up in North Vancouver, COVID19 Coming Together. Look for similar groups in your neighbourhood. I’m sure they are out there. Because kind and giving is just who most of us really are!
Don't feel like you have to help in a big way right now, unless you feel called to do so. Every little thing helps, like calling your friends and family and checking in with them; and observing self-isolation protocols and your self-care rituals. Don't let fear over take you, even in the grocery aisle. Take only what you need and leave some things for others, even the toilet paper! Be as considerate and loving as you can.
As for me, I’m at home looking after my loved ones, checking in with family, friends and neighbours and helping where and how I can. At home, we’ve divided up chores and responsibilities and we’re doing a lot more cooking (also a time for Kitchen Dance Party and Sing A Long). Davida and Zak just made a most beautiful, tasty braided cheesy garlic and herb bread. Thom and I are spending time in the garden. He needs those Vitamin D rays; I’m getting ready for planting season. I find it reassuring that despite all this, Mother Earth just keeps going. If you pull the camera out a bit, you might see a silver lining: all of us staying at home is giving the Earth some space to clear up some of our mess. Let's not get in her way.
I wrote a poem that I want to share with you, if you don’t mind.
Birds have come to life in Wuhan
Singing the earth back into health
Swans and the dolphins frolic in the canals
loving the earth with their joy
Smog rolls away in Shanghai
Letting the light back in
Neighbours sing to each other from balconies
Reminding us that we are in this together
Families dance around the living room
Snatching fears back from the unknown
This love that powers our planet
This is who we truly are.
Stay healthy, stay calm and keep singing! We are in this together.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
A TOOLKIT FOR STAYING RATIONAL THRU COVID19
I have been reading a lot about COVID19 lately, as, no doubt, have you. It feels like we're being bombarded by information and a lot of fear and uncertainty that seems pretty confusing at the outset. But I’m not one to panic easily in the face of illness. I mean, I’m the woman who chose to be with a man with MS, knowing he would need care-giving as we aged together, right? And I have to say, after having done some research, talking to people and checking in with my own intuition and heart, COVID19 doesn't call for a change in our approach. We are treating it with the same kind of calm and common sense that we apply to any flu that crosses our threshold.
I'm not a medical practitioner, so none of this is meant as medical expertise. I just want to share some resources I've found in my internet travels with you that are helping me stay sane during this time period. Hopefully they do the same for you. Take only from this what serves you, and leave the rest.
Before we get to the Toolkit, here is a word from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. I found his words a reassuring reality check.
“...we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic...This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours.”
From a speech given in the Congo on February 15, 2020
On that note, here's our Staying Rational Toolkit
1. If you are looking for a medical paractitioner with a voice of reason, here is an article from holistic pediatrician Dr. Elisa Song on the medical implications of COVID19. Her intention is to meet fear with facts, helplessness with pro-activity. Of course, the fact that she cites some of the same resources I found in my internet searches only helps my trust-in-her factor. She updates the article periodically, including new stats and information as the virus story unfolds.
I’m finding it more comforting hearing from alternative and holistic practitioners at this time because they seem to be more focused on on logical and achievable solutions. They speak about boosting the immune system in a number of ways that don’t rely on a non-existent vaccine cure, but rather on the natural healing wisdom we as a collective whole have been using for centuries to stay healthy.
2. Here is some information from doctors in Shanghai about recommendations to use high doses of Vitamin C to treat the virus as well as this one containing some anecdotal evidence from a family in China that survived the virus.
When my friend Cat, (who lives in a wheelchair due to a virus that attacked the motor centers of her brain 18 years ago) called in an understandable panic, I sent her these articles. They helped, at the very least, to ease her anxiety and bring her back to calm. More importantly, they alleviated the feelings of helplessness that can come up in the face of pandemic talk. In short, there are things we can do that have been proven to work in a high diagnosis zone.
3. Here is a link to the John Hopkins Hospital’s world map on the virus.
I found this resource particularly helpful in keeping things rational. It tells us how many cases have been reported across the world, by country. It also tell us how many people have died. But more importantly, it tells us how many people have RECOVERED. The number of is significantly high in comparison. This map and its number charts were particularly calming. Isn't it amazing, the power our minds give to numbers? And the trust we have in them? If you want to geek out some more on COVID19 reports and guidance, John Hopkins has a resource center that you can explore
4. Follow common sense advice from experts to help protect yourself from the virus. Some of these measures include:
• Monitor for symptoms and if you are symptomatic, stay home and take care of yourself. I'll be exploring more on these in more posts to follow.
• Minimize social contact and avoid large groups.
• Postpone non essential travel for the moment
• Frequent handwashing. Here’s a video from The National Health Service in the UK on how to thoroughly wash your hands. It's a little corny but it gets the message across.
• If you're going to leave the house, make sure you're wearing Personal Protective Equipment, especially a mask and gloves. Maintain a six foot social distance.
Washing my hands thoroughly is definitely a part of my daily routine of ensuring the products I make meet Health Canada’s safety standards. But because I have sensitive skin and eczema on my hands, I have to choose gentle soaps. Our Thieves Foaming Soap is a great option. The soap in it is effective yet gentle. The essential oils in it have antibacterial properties that can help kill germs. I usually follow up with a light coat of Free Lion Body Butter to keep my hands nourished.
Above all, when the fear hits, remember that it is just another flu virus. Stay calm, follow health professional's suggestions, and take care of your immune system. You've got this.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are you doing to stay sane at this time? Please comment below.
PAYING IT FORWARD WITH GRATITUDE
We dream of a peaceful, kinder world for us all. And we believe that starts at home, helping women and their families to heal and thrive, not just survive. Coming out of the ravages of war, at any scale—in the country or the house in which you live—is not a journey for the feint-hearted. It takes courage, hope and determination to rebuild. Learning to love and value yourself is a huge part of that journey. And so is self-care.
So, within that spirit, in December I delivered a large Free Lion Body Care care package to Atira Women’s Resource Society. They do some amazing work. In their words,
"Atira Women’s Resource Society is dedicated to supporting women and children affected by violence by offering safe and supportive housing and by delivering education and advocacy aimed at ending all forms of gendered violence."
In a crisis, self-care is usually the first thing to go, yet it is so important in the road to rebuilding a life torn apart. Safe spaces, Legal Advocacy and other support services, like the ones offered by Atira, are critical at this time. In my time of need, Amber Prince, Legal Advocate at Atira, was there for me.
When I called Amber to arrange for the donation, she said that it was such a pleasure to get some good news for a change. Doing the kind of front-line work that Amber and her colleagues do can be exhausting to spirit, mind and body. So a little nurturing and appreciation can go a long way. A few days later, she wrote saying, "We’ve started giving out your wonderful products and women are loving them! Such a nice treat, especially this time of year."
Free Lion donates our products to non-profit organizations that support women and children. You are a part of this, too. For every purchase you make, we make a donation. It's our way of paying it forward, for the good of us all.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
KEEP THE BUGS AT BAY, THE NATURAL DIY WAY
Every year I can't wait for summer to arrive. Life gets taken out side, put on the road, in the garden or the swimming pool. Longer sunny days bring with them a sense of freedom and holiday. Nature is in her stride, exploding in colour everywhere! So much beauty, bloom and buzz in the air.
Yes. Buzz. Of the bug variety.
Bug bites are definitely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. So of course we want to repel those bugs, right? But how? By using chemicals or natural ingredients? Which direction to go in?
EWG, (Environmental Working Group) surprisingly, leans heavily towards the use of chemicals over natural ingredients. When I first read this, I had to give my head a shake. What?!? Then I read a little closer, between the lines. They focus on an increase of tick-born diseases since 2004 as the basis of their recommendations. As such, they are erring on the side of blanket-blasting all ticks and bugs with everything in the arsenal. This feels like a panicked overkill to me, given the research on DEET being potentially damaging to brain function.
Bug repellents in Canada are regulated by Health Canada. They recommend everything from DEET (in concentrations ranging from 10%-30%, depending on the age of the user) to blends of specific essential oils. Their approach seems more evenhanded, taking into account safety considerations and individual preferences--allowing something for everyone. How Canadian, eh? I just love that!
My preference is to go natural, as much as possible. I also want to empower you to DIY. So here are a couple of recipes that can bring and your family some relief.
1. NATURAL ANT KILLER
My son, Javid is no fan of the creepy or the crawly. So when the neighbourhood ants started conducting long parading visits through the house, something had to be done. Our research took us to WikiHow, where we found the recipe that did the trick.
Its a simple but effective blend of three ingredients--Borax, sugar and water. The sugar attracts the ants, the ants ingest it. The borax interferes slowly with ant digestive systems, giving enough time for an ant to get back to its colony and share it with its fellow ants. Once shared, the borax can take out the whole colony. Most humans don't have major reactions to this small an amount of Borax. That being said, handle the Borax carefully and follow the cautionary advice on the Borax box.
What you'll need
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoon Borax
1-1/2 cups warm water
A Jar for mixing
Stir stick or chopstick
Cotton balls or pads
Shallow dishes or Yogurt container lids
Pour the sugar and the borax into the jar. Cap the Jar and shake, shake, shake the sugar and borax together. Uncap the bottle and pour in warm water. Use stir stick or chopstick to stir water until borax and sugar are completely dissolved. Place cotton ball or pad on container lids. Pour ant killer liquid onto cotton ball or pad until it's saturated. Place the container in a high ant traffic zone indoors. Give it a few days, and then buh-bye ants!
2. NATURAL MOSQUITO SPRAY
This recipe is from Scratch Mommy. It's a simple, four ingredient blend that relies mostly on the wonderful properties of Tea Tree and Geranium Oil. I've adjusted the amounts of essential oils in the formula to reflect Health Canada safety standards and metric volumes.
Tea Tree or Melaleuca has been used for centuries by Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It's really a superpowered plant, known for its antimicrobial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps human wounds heal, and it is toxic to many insects, including mosquitoes. Its some pretty stong stuff, so Health Canada recommends that it make up only 1% of your total formula.
Geranium Oil has some of the same properties as Tea Tree Oil (anti-bacterial, wound healing). It's also known for its ability to keep mosquitoes away. Health Canada recommends between 1-5% of the total formula.
Vegetable Glycerin helps hold the essential oils to your skin.
Combine the following ingredients in a 113ml spray bottle.
Glass or metal is best. I get some of my supplies from here.
• 1.5 ml (22 drops) Tea Tree Essential Oil
• 0.5ml (8 drops) - 5ml (110 drops) Geranium Essential Oil
(Scratch Mommy recommends only 0.5ml. Health Canada says you can go up to 5ml. My recommendation is somewhere in the middle--2.5ml (55 drops). The choice is yours, depending on your skin and scent sensitivities.)
• 15 ml (1tablespoon) Vegetable glycerin
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water and shake until well mixed. Spray on as required and reapply as needed.
IN CASE YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE MAKING IT YOURSELF...
If you don't feel up to making it yourself, I'm happy to do that for you. My Shoo Fly! formula has a number of extra goodies that make it useful for keeping more than just mosquitoes away. It also has soothing ingredients that can help in after-bite care.
So here's some anecdotal evidence about Shoo Fly! and its efficacy. Free Lion Body Care was at the Mission Folk Festival, enjoying both sunshine, music and meeting people who were trying out our products. Along came a little guy with a sad face.
"Why so glum, chum?" I asked. he told me he had been stung by a wasp. He showed me a huge, angry red welt on his forearm. His mum asked if I had anything for that.
"Try our Shoo Fly!" I suggested. I told her more about the formula. In a nutshell, Shoo Fly has witch hazel and aloe vera in it to help soothe the itchy feeling and speed up healing. There's Tea Tree, Geranium and Peppermint essential oils to help heal and cool the wound. These, plus the rest of the essential and carrier oils in it, work together to help keep other bugs away.
So Mum sprayed some Shoo Fly! on his red, swollen sting and off they went. The next day they came back. The little guy was smiling and eager to show me his wound. It had almost disappeared! Thank you, said Mom. She bought a bottle for the rest of the summer. And I had the satisfaction of a job well done.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Do you have a favourite natural way of keeping the summer bugs away? Please share it with us.