Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Herbalism School Experience: Improve Health, Prevent Ailments, Increase Focus

Do you suffer from low energy or lack of focus? Are you trying to lose weight, prevent illness, or heal the ailments of loved ones? Of course you are! We all are. When I found Green Lotus Studios I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about holistic remedies. I'm a trained gourmet raw vegan chef, I'm vegan, and I've experimented with creating my own natural body care products, but I never delved into deep study. My little experiments were nothing, my mind is blown by what I'm learning from formal training!

I have months until I'm a certified master herbalist, and I know my experimentation, growing, and learning in this field will be lifelong. Here are my takes from my experience thus far:

1) New Experiences Improve Memory- Take Classes. Never Stop Learning.

Brain fog is a common complaint among people from all walks of life: blue or white collar, artists, or stay-at-home moms, we're all suffering from it. When you set your own rules and deadlines, it's hard to feel challenged. After years of working for myself doing the same things every work day, my writing skills atrophied, I was in a haze. My routine had become "too easy". Time flew by too fast, everything ran together.

Nueroscientist David Engleman explains it this way:
"This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older, why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we're dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass. Time is this rubbery stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,' it shrinks up."

Taking herbalism, soap making and teaching cooking classes at Green Lotus Studios has opened new pathways in my brain, it’s slowed down time. My skills are sharpening again, creativity's returning. Take classes, try new things all the time, exercise your brain: it's like any other muscle, if you don't use it, you lose it.

The test run for my first raw vegan glass: mushroom lettuce wraps, kale chips, kale salad, mango cobbler, pad thai, creamy banana smoothie and spicy dipping sauce

2) Spices and Culinary Herbs Are Extremely Healing, Not Just Delicious 

Nearly every natural spice is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.  Now I know that rosemary and lavender can help you focus, turmeric is one of the best pain relievers you can eat, and peppermint will relieve gas. You can sprinkle delicious flavorings on your food that will heal and nourish you from the inside out!

3) Getting Creative with Herbs in Culinary Creations

Some would assume I got into raw veganism purely for health. When I first picked up a book on it and started reading it seemed like the perfect fit for me because of the ease and creativity. I love re-creating a popular dish healthfully and limiting myself to plant ingredients, it's an addictive (delicious) challenge. Adding herbs to my experimenting takes it to the next level. You can make an elderberry (amazing for colds, full of vitamins) syrup for your pancakes or bake "focus" rosemary flaxseed bread for studying, the possibilities are fascinating and endless.

We have botany and anatomy coloring books, they're good for memorization.

4)  Herbs are a Legit Medicine

I was on the fence on herbs as medicine when I started studying. I was mostly interested in learning about herbs for tea, which I'm obsessed with blending for flavor. I knew there was some health-boosting benefits, but underestimated it. During my earliest months studying I knocked out a mean cold fast and I know it was from the powdered sage and rose hip tea I'd blended up. Seeing and feeling is believing!

Herbs and essential oils we've ordered to keep on hand. I'll do follow-up posts with details on herbs.

Although Americans as a whole will trust an aspirin over a willow bark tincture for their migraines, we’re seeing a slow return to holistic approaches locally and worldwide. In other countries, it never stopped. Countries like Japan and China have used traditional herbal and dietary healing methods for centuries. Okinawans in Japan enjoy the longest lifespans in the world and the lowest obesity rates. Herbal medicine is mainstream in Germany, and general practitioners are all trained in herbal approaches. After Aspirin, Ginko is the most common prescription in Germany! I'm not saying we don't need modern medicine, but adopting the view of most modern herbalists (like David Hoffman): we need modern and herbal medicine to exist symbiotically for health and healing. 

5) Infusing Your Natural Body Care Products with Herbs and Essential Oils for Healing...Hard to Learn. Totally worth it.

Making a high quality bar of soap is hard and expensive. There's a definite learning curve for developing your own product line. Sure, a basic lotion or body butter isn't too hard to make, but creating your own signature formulas and systems takes months. My old homemade body care products were effective, but I keep learning how to take them to the next level of incredible healing and effectiveness. It's challenging, and exciting!

Highly nutritious powdered herbs I ordered to develop a homemade protein and energy powder.

6) Coming Out of my Shell

I was invited to teach classes at my school and developed some classes on making raw vegan cheeses, crackers and fruit leathers, smoothies and juices, and four-course meal classes. I used to be wild and brazen and loved public speaking, but years working alone have made me awkward. (The Oatmeal depicts the phenomenon perfectly in his working from home comic. I, too, grew a beard and spoke gibberish to bewildered bystanders. 'Tis true!) Like I said with the brain, if you don't use a skill, you lose it. I had minor trip-ups along the way, but eventually got comfortable with my classes. I've always wanted to do online videos and I know I can train myself into being that comfortable again; there's a bit of fake-it-til-you-make-it in there, just do it, and you'll get used to it. I'm taking a hiatus from teaching, but I'll keep challenging myself to public speaking and "hosting" situations in the meantime.

7) Shared History

My grandmother (born in the 1800s in "Old World" Mexico, she was crazy old-fashioned, a story for another day) grew her own herbs for ailments, passing the knowledge to my mom. I grew up loving herbs and plants and now we're both being formally trained in it. Everything we know about herbalism was passed down from person to person, from tribe to tribe, it's a fascinating history I'm proud to share and continue.

Daily smoothies and some homemade kombucha. I'm gonna sign off and make a smoothie now...

Getting back to school has helped my well-being, and training in the art of healing with herbs is rounding out my holistic training. I feel like a new person with this knowledge, it truly was the vital missing puzzle piece for subjects that are the focal point of what I share here: creativity, productivity, and health. I'll continue to share more detailed bits from my training in blog posts, eBooks, and of course, with my soon-to-be-launched body care line.

Any questions? Any similar experiences on new "awakenings" or healing naturally to share? Let's discuss in the comments, I'd loved to hear your experiences!

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  1. Thank you for sharing this, Vanessa:) I'm a big follower of aromatherapy, and have looked into holistic subjects which I find fascinating.

    1. No problem Emmy. I'm moving to the chemical side of studying Aromatherapy next. It's all super fascinating, no sub for the doctor of course when needed, but I think it's something every family should know. :D

  2. Yummy, the food from your raw vegan class looks tasty! I haven't really gotten into the herbal thing - yet my cooking involves more and more herbs every day. I love that you come from a long line of strong women who used herbs for health reasons. In the old days, that's all there was!

    1. I wasn't looking to explore it for health but either but have been surprised to learn how much it helps conditions and keeping getting my mind blown every day. The stuff you've been using in your recipes may be more healthful than you think ;)

  3. I have congenital anosmia (born without a sense of smell) and while I do have a sense of taste that serves me just fine, things where the flavor is mostly aroma are tasteless to me. That goes for most herbs. Since I can't taste herbs, I never cook with them. On the other extreme, I'm extremely sensitive to spices, and I don't like them at all. I can't tolerate any food that's even remotely spicy. I can taste it if there is one single grain of pepper in a dish.

    Oddly enough, ginger, horseradish and mustard are okay in small amounts. I think it's because they affect a different part of the palate.

    Anyway I'm afraid I must mostly miss out on the health benefits of herbs and spice since they are not ever going to be part of my personal cooking repertoire.

    1. I personally feel that healthy eating is more important than adding supplements/herbs to cooking for sure. An interesting thing I learned was that you shouldn't use any one herb every single day in normal cases which was wild to me, since I could drink peppermint tea every day. Turns out doing that your body will get used to it and it won't heal you as well, or at all, if that's what you're looking for. Likewise, we don't need to load up on "preventive herbs" like I've heard before, it's better to use 'em when you need 'em. If you have any need in particular you can toss herbs on your dish not for flavor but for a health boost. Thanks for sharing your story/experiences with me!

  4. By the way, just out of curiosity, was your grandmother born in the 1900's (along with everybody else on the planet over the age of 15), or the 1800's (which would be pretty awesome)?

    1. Yeh, that's a typo there ;) late 1800s, she adopted my mom when she was already pretty old. Thanks, will fix that.

    2. I figured ;-)

      So, pretty awesome then!

    3. Yes yes. Many interesting tales and stories have been passed down to me from her.

  5. Wowza, that is a LOT of info! Learning to love new things is definitely a good way to stay sharp. I try not to treat food as a pseudo religion, but I am trying to be inclusive of a greater range of things on my plate. I love all kinds of fruit and veg but have vowed to try more seafood and game this year. Really hoping to learn to love sardines and anchovies!

    1. That's just the tip of the iceberg, I've learned a ton about the chemical make-up of plants, their parts, the chemical make-up of essential oils, classifications of herbs, their uses, compounding herb formulations, and on-and-on. :) Up that veg and seafood game, you will see a world of difference. Sardines and anchovies are so good for you! I don't like to treat it as a religion and don't follow the "spiritual" aspects of raw veganism, at all, I have no spiritual side (yet) but I do believe health starts in the kitchen and it's one of the most important aspects of our overall well-being.

  6. I really should start cooking more with fresh herbs, both for taste and the other benefits. And I loved this post and admire your writing skills. When I was a kid (a long time ago....) we needed to do research for school on all sorts of subjects. I always loved going to the library and collecting different books on the subject and sucking in all of the information, and learning new things. Maybe I should start doing just that, but as an adult now! Might be fun.

    1. Thank you. I've been doing the same as an adult, loved it as a kid, love it now. Nerd life! I didn't schedule library study days like I was supposed to, but it's not too late...

  7. What an awesome post, dear Van!
    I like what you wrote about keeping the brain active. Since beginning of this year I've been noticing that I'm too familiar with my job, practically functioning on automatic.
    I've always been interested in using herbs to improve health. My migraine attacks have improved since eating basil :)

    1. Thanks, Duno. Glad the basil's been working for you!

  8. I am very bad at technology, it is lucky that I have found out about delete apps which helps me a lot.


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