Spring Plant Spotlight 2012

Spice bush, Lindera benzoin, is one of the two members of the Lauraceae family found on mesic sites throughout the Eastern Deciduous Forest. This multi-trunked shrub can be easily recognized in every season once you learn its individual characteristics. Know as “forsythia of the forest” because its waxy yellow flowers brighten the sleeping woods before any other woody shrubs have woken up. It is an important early insectory and nectory plant for the immerging insects buzzing about.

Lean in close and take a whiff… Ah, the light spicy flora essence is what attracts these critters and subtly spikes our interest in the changing season. It’s waxy deep green, simple leaves are also a recognizable characteristic creating a rounded or arched configuration and deepening the forest shade where it is found growing in dense clumps. Early explorers looking for rich farm land used this shrub as an indicator for rich moist soil and sadly removed the forest for farming and the bergeoning western expansion of a growing nation. We now see them an indicator for ginseng and goldenseal or other woodland medicinals that prefer A moist quality site. It’s bright red barrel shaped berries are easily recognized and a cheery contract in the autumn understory. These fruits provide food for many forest species and have been dried and used for centuries as a spicy cooking condiment. (Don’t forget to crumble, scratch, sniff and taste the leaves, berries and twigs to help you place this plant in your herbal memory!)

The aromatic twigs and leaves have long been used in blending delightful teas and medicinally as a strong tea or decoction for mild, colds, flu’s or fevers. It has a mild diaphoretic, stimulant and expectorant action (Howell 2006) and has been used for delayed menses and as a spring tonic. Foster and Duke (1990) also reference the use of the berries as a carminative and the oil from the crushed fruit as a rub for sore muscles, bruises and rheumatism.

One of my favorite tea blends, created by my students is 50/50 spice bush twigs and white pine needles. It’s so light and sweet it doesn’t even need honey. But experiment, it’s tasty with sumac berries, sassafras and raspberry leaves too! Spice bushes light and sweet taste makes it a good choice for children or those of us with delicate tastes and olfactory senses.

Another recent use of the dried berry is in scenting candles, soaps and sachets. I would gander it would add a “spicy twist” to any bay rum recipe. Regardless of how you use it, it is important as with all plant allies to have a positive Id, know when and how to harvest and prepare and use all ethical aspects of wildcrafting. It’s also important to share your personal experiences and discoveries…….happy exploring. If you want to Get the Green Spark and learn more about Spring treasures in the Appalachian forests join us May 13th at the Goldenseal Sanctuary follow the link Love Your Mother for information on the United Plant Savers Mothers’ Day Celebration for hikes, workshops and more, more, more.

Rebecca Wood
Herbalist & Educator
Hopewood Holistic Health
14411 Rocky Pt. Road Athens Ohio

Sources: Peterson Field Guides, Easter/Central Plants, Steven Foster and James A. Duke 1990. Medicinal Plants of Southern Appalachians by Patricia Kyritsi Howell 2006 and many, many years in the woods.

A Journey of Yoga-Dance Your Dance


By Rebecca Wood

            Being drawn to yoga in my early 20’s was natural.  I came to it from youthful endeavors of dance, gymnastics, swimming and good body awareness.  I also brought all the early injuries incurred from those activities but hidden in youthful exuberance and vitality.  Coupled with a few auto accidents, a predisposition for excess and the need and ability to be able to ‘do it all’ and you have a great recipe for deep injury and chronic pain.  I looked to yoga as a way to keep my flexibility, to lessen the pain in my back and neck and yes to be in a part of the ‘now’.  I discovered I was quite able to do the postures, but the breath work and mediation… eeehhh really do I have to?  I wanted the asana, so the asana I got, but I soon drifted back into other sports and work related venues-running, backpacking, weight training, rock-climbing, biking, paddling and the back to land movement…Oh my aching back.  I still did my asana, but not with awareness, not with breath, really just as another sport.  I pushed through this and every activity- get this mostly ‘holding my breath’ and yes exacerbating old and incurring new injuries.

Perhaps it was a personality thing? I was fun, reckless, daring and definitely ‘type A’ in all pursuits and ultimately an unhappy camper.  Relationships started and stopped, jobs came and went, I completed advanced degrees, but happiness, self-satisfaction and a sense of myself did not come, and the injuries and pain continued.  I found peace nature and only in nature is where I could slow down, focus and get a glimpse of who I was.   So, I spent many years paddling, backpacking and working in outward bound type jobs ‘being ‘in nature, but still not being me.   That sense of place, that sense of peace eluded me.

In my late 30’s my life was a train wreck, one more foundered relationship, my back and neck issues were at a peak, numbness, tingling, pain.  I should have bought stock in chiropractics and  MRI’s but no relief was in sight and still I pushed on -run, workout, play hard and luckily,  fell back into to yoga.

It was a local Iyengar class, and interestingly I still practice and study  with Linda today (I just turned 56).  Within a few months of regular practice my heart began to open and my body responded.   However, after months of steady practice my old personality traits took over and I began to embrace yoga with vigor and Iyengar was it.  While flexibility returned and a new circle of friends emerged, I still struggled with the breath and mediation unless I was outside.  I still really only embraced the postural aspects of yoga and the yoga talk.   I pushed, and let teachers push me even when joints where screaming, I realized  I was embracing yoga as a type A- egocentric practitioner and new injuries began to occur.  I wasn’t paying attention though  healing some aspects, getting stronger and more flexible (perhaps flexible to the point of instability), I was also getting older.  Ignoring that bodies change with time, I continued to push ignoring what one needs before real healing can occur.

Luckily,  I found workshops with Angela and Victor, a playful, inward and restorative yoga and immersed myself in the partner practice of Letha and Thai yoga.  My perspective and need was shifting  I was fortunate (or was I ready) to find my way to Nosara Yoga in Costa Rica on sabbatical from stress about five years ago.  Stress is one of the key factors in healing injuries, it is imperative to find a way to manage stress. I feel like it was here my practice deepened.  It was through the insight and instruction, the care and love in which Don and Amba facilitated their classes,  I began to understand the need to go inward for the answers.  I liked that their approach meshed with Angela and Victor’s which encouraged yoga from the inside out, to witness, to take responsibility, to play.

Continuing my journey and dance with yoga has recently brought me to Yin and Self Awakening techniques.   This has given me the freedom to embrace who I am, where I am and to give myself permission to explore, to be and to share.  I feel this is my Yoga.  It facilitates the union of mind-body-spirit and nurtures how we embrace and interact in community, in nature and our surroundings.

As my yoga journey continues to unfold, I feel it’s a dance and that I have come full circle.  I now  do a regular Iyengar practice but with a self explorative twist. I embrace restorative with a Yin and SAY perspective and spend many hours in nature-walking, breathing, listening, observing.  I still cope with injuries, but as I witness them, explore them and honor them, I usually find my way around them.  As we age, some things need to be fixed, some things can’t, but we can learn to live with grace and dance with these issues, not fight with them.  I share this approach with my yoga and holistic health clients with a technique I now call Integrated Body Alignment (IBA).  Here I glean from all the amazing teachers I have had the joy and opportunity to study with.  I can incorporate reiki and energy work in the beginning or ending of a session and I can just touch in a caring, safe manner. This brings the person home, back into their body.  I love hands on assists and the Pranassage and Letha adjustments and sequences.  This I believe, has opened my work to a new level.  As I work with people, love, laughter and joy seems to move through both of us and stress, toxins and pain seem to flow out with every twist, palpitation or inquiry.

I look forward to continuing this dance of yoga, this dance of life. I hope the journey will be this, just being, being present every day, in my practice, in my decisions, in my work with others and in how I live my life, embracing every new step th

Get the Green Spark; Food for Health


Your Backyard and Beyond 2012 series
By Rebecca Wood
hopewoodholistichealth.org
Winter 2012

Tired of diets, handfuls of supplements, confused as to what herbs or pharmaceuticals are helpful or harmful? Here’s a way to get a handle on nutrients, not nutri-ceuticals. First step; Get the “Green Spark”, go for plant based, whole food, seasonal food and food prepared with love and joy. We certainly are what we eat and we are a culture that loves to eat and drink. So why not “eat, drink and get healthy”, you’ll find merry falls right into place. When all systems (circulatory, integumentary, respiratory, digestion, immune, etc.) are in sync; we feel better, move better, look better and better things just come our way. Whole plant based food can do that for us, it also opens the door to cultures, colors, taste, texture and health.
What, how and when we eat positively or negatively affects our health, so why not pack as much Fiber, Phyto-nutrients, Anti-oxidants and Water into every meal. Read the stat’s: most American’s and especially the elderly are chronically dehydrated and constipated. Processed food, STOP; research reveals a 51 % increase in type II diabetes if you eat processed meats like coldcuts , a 19% increase if you eat just one serving of unprocessed red meat per day (Delicious Living 2012). Even the young are suffering, overweight adolescents have tripled since 1980 and 16% of children ages 6-19 are now considered overweight (ASPE.hhs.gov). What we eat is key, but it’s more, according to the recent book The Metabolic Diet Effect (Harper Collins 2010), diet along with age, menopause and chronic stress greatly affects our health and healthy outlook, that’s why just slashing calories and increasing exercise doesn’t equate to weight loss and fitness. Real food, whole food, when and how you eat, and managing stress must be considered.
Two films that have a broad appeal and present simple ‘how to solutions’, are Forks Over Knives, directed by Lee Fulkerson and Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselsytn. Other films that will shake your socks off are Fast Food Nation and Food Inc. The data is there and it’s SAD, yes and it’s mostly the result of the Sad American Diet! If you’re not into movies and you’d rather snuggle up to a book, try any of Michael Pollan’s, Food Rules, The Omnivores Dilemma (or the Kid’s version), In Defense of Food or one of my all time favorites, The Botany of Desire. Barbra Kingsolver’s , Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is also informative, inspirational and fun.
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician (and you) must start from nature, with an open mind” Paracelsus.
Understanding the ins & outs of health and healing are also key. These wise words from an ancient healer offer insight to health and healing. It’s not just the right combination of foods, but adopting healthy habits including fresh air (nature), walking (or your choice of regular exercise), sitting in a quiet, contemplative setting, regular small meals at the table, focused breathing (at least three
times a day for 5 minutes), creative outlets and community. These suggestions coupled with an open mind and compassion will insure a path to enhanced wellness.
Yes, we can improve our health and it starts from a ‘podium of positivity’ and acceptance of who we are. Personal responsibility and action are also key, because if we don’t do it, it never happens. Case in point, in the past, I spent a lot of time on good diet, healthy habits and exercise but I noticed I always measured my progress by what I didn’t achieve. For example: if I missed a workout or yoga class or had that extra glass of red wine, I felt just dog-gone guilty. Then a friend shared a simple suggestion: focus on that ‘I do’ vs. the ‘I didn’t’.
So – I created a list of all the healthy things I did every day, hummm . . . simple but what a shift, instead of ‘shoulding on myself’, I started looking, daily at all the positive things I did. That shift in outlook, along with positive affirmations and time in nature, really helped me accept myself and move forward in my goals of health and wellness. Now I share that bit of advice with all my students and clients.
Give these simple solutions a 30 day trial. Consider shopping at farmers markets, food coops or local grocery stores when possible. Fresh is better and the shortest path from garden to table will always be a healthier choice, there are many studies comparing the nutrition of organic and fresh to processed and transported foods. Common sense tells us that healthy soil, fewer chemicals, shorter shelf live and knowing the source of your food leads to greater health benefits. It also supports your local community and economy.
Make preparing your meals as much fun as eating your meals. Sit down, share meals and chew, ponder, take it all in; the smells, colors, tastes. Eat the colors of the rainbow, later we’ll discuss phyto-nutrients in detail, but suffice it to say, plant based chemicals and nutrients are those vitamins, proteins, minerals, enzymes that are essential to health, you can reduce your supplement list to a few key needs. Assess how many colors are on your plate. How many flavors? Try to incorporate the 5 Flavors – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. Yep- the Sad American Diet (SAD) usually includes two flavors, Sweet and Salty, and is heavily processed- canned, boxed, bleached, additive enhanced and preservative dense, that is not food.
So, Get the Green Spark, take a tour of your local farmers market or grocers’ produce section. Notice the colors, read the labels, and if most of the calories are from fat and sugar, put it back. Look for words like Whole Grains, Certified Organic and talk to your local farmers and growers, become a part of the slow food, local movement and read that ‘I Do’ list – I bet in 30 days your health, outlook and livelihood will improve.