Homemade Apple Tea Recipe for Spring Season Blues

Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter 

You may be thinking, “Why a hot tea recipe at the start of the spring season?”. Well, if you live in the Midwest like I do, you know that weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Temperatures fall and rise so sporadically, even meteorologists have a hard time keeping up. However, it can be rather pricey to constantly adjust one’s HVAC settings between heat and air conditioning from day-to-day. These frequent changes can be a challenge for our immunity and general health. This is where I insert a nice and versatile beverage to help keep me healthy, save my pockets and warm my spirit.

More on spirit, any concoction can be enhanced with the magic touch of intention. Just stir the tea in a clockwise motion while pondering on the holistic benefits of your ingredients as if they have already began working on you. A significant aspect of nutritional effectiveness is mental receptivity. Considering the nature of our mind-body connection, choosing a more positive outlook on potential outcomes may have beneficial results on overall health and, therefore, can only serve to assist any ingested nutrients.

Apple Tea has recently joined my repertoire for cold weather enjoyment. Here is my recipe along with a few reasons why:

Photo by Brittney S. Atkinson

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan

It’s easy to overlook water as being a just the base of a concoction but it’s so much more than that. Water is a transporter, the stage that gives the other ingredients space to play their part. Especially when heated, it’s the activator that moves the flavors out to be drinkable. It’s what hydrates us.

2 Apples

I used 2 small fiji apples, each cut into 4 equally-sized pieces. Add or reduce amount depending on how sweet (or apple-y) you’d like your tea to be. Apples are not only good for the immune system, they also contribute to heart health and may prevent other kinds of diseases. Spiritually, apples are considered a feminine herb ruled by the planet Venus and, therefore, can be used for intentions regarding love and healing. Apples also go by the folk name “Fruit of the Underworld” and are used as an offering for the dead, usually during the fall.

1 Tsp of Clove

A teaspoon is a rough guesstimate as I tend to go by feel of what I might like to taste at the moment I’m making. Clove is an Indonesian spice known to be high in antioxidants and even serve to help diabetics against insulin resistance. Spiritually, clove is considered a masculine herb ruled by the planet of luck, Jupiter. For this reason, it is often employed for matters of protection, love and money.

2-3 Cinnamon Sticks

This amount is also an approximation. Add as much as you think you might like to taste. Cinnamon is also a spice packed with antioxidants and can help lower blood sugar levels. Energetically, it is a masculine herb ruled by the sun with versatile use. It is considered to assist with tuning in to one’s Higher Self as well as matters of healing, protection, success and lust.

1 Anise Star

Anise has a distinct licorice flavor so not much is needed but, again, it’s entirely up to you. If you are not a fan of licorice, feel free to treat this ingredient as optional. However, studies on the effects of anise, when consumed regularly, may prove it to be uplifting to individuals living with depression. Another masculine herb ruled by Jupiter, anise is also known for protection and purification.

Place all items in the saucepan and bring back to a boil

Set your intentions here. Stand over it, look into it, or just carry out each action of making it with joy and mindfulness. This is the magical ingredient!

Turn off the heat and allow to steep

When the color of the water begins to change to a reddish-brown, you know you’ve got a decent brew going. This may take at least 10 minutes but can be left in longer for a fuller taste. Be mindful of how you’ve packed in each ingredient as this should be considered for steep length. This is also time to further set your intentions for your tea.

Reheat, sweeten and serve

By the time you’ve decided your tea has steeped long enough, it may have cooled down quit a bit. If it’s warm where you are (or, like my husband, you’d rather have cold tea in any case) and you’d prefer a cool drink, add honey or another sweetener of choice while hot and pour it over a glass of ice after it cools down. If you want it hot, you may need to reheat the tea in the pot before pouring it into your favorite mug. No matter what you choose, I recommend a small strainer or funnel to transfer the tea as smoothly as possible and adding an apple slice from your original brew for added flavor over drinking time.

Enjoy!

Traditional Chinese Medicine at a Glance

Thousands of years ago, Chinese medicine practitioners had enough insight to develop the understanding we could not simply be composed of flesh and bone alone. Instead, they regarded the human body as a microcosm of Universe and, therefore, the state of our overall health and well-being is subjected to same Universal laws with harmony and balance being the ultimate goal.

Like the macrocosm of existence, the body is capable of sustaining itself through the carrying out of various cycles and activities that operate in an interconnected flow, vitalized by what is referred to as “qi” or “chi”. This is the energy that flows through and connects all forms of life as the animating force that ignites us beyond pure mechanical functioning and bodily existence.

Over time, it came to be understood that this life force energy flows in specific patterns called channels of meridians, each making their way through certain body parts and organ systems. When these pathways are obstructed due to injury, illness or stress, we face associated physiological and psychological ailments. When blocked for long periods, these issues are considered chronic. It is believed that working through these blockages via “alternative” therapies and practices, such as acupuncture, herbalism, massage and yoga, can help the flow of our energy to run smoothly and bring us back into balance.

The concept of balance in Traditional Chinese Medicine stems from Taoism. This ancient philosophy is founded on the principle that the Universe operates in an inherent flow and in order for one to live a whole and effortless life, they must live in the Tao, or The Way. The Tao, however, is just as indescribable as the complexity of Universe itself and, therefore, is physical as well as non-physical – much like the mind-body. In each case exists dual complimentary forces visible throughout nature. These forces are called yin and yang. Yin describes more feminine qualities (cold, receptive, dark) whereas yang describes more masculine qualities (heat, forceful, light).

TCM also acknowledges that there are five fundamental elements of nature that interact with each other within the principle of yin and yang and categorize our organs, systems and structures. The elements are fire, wood, earth, water and metal. Fire represents our physical warmth , creativity and feelings such as passion and happiness; associated with the small intestines and heart organ. Wood represents our ability to regenerate and restore as well as feelings of anger or contentment; associated with the liver and gallbladder organs. Earth is regarded as the measure of our connected-ness and ability to receive and digest; associated with the stomach and spleen organ and feelings of compassion . Water represents stillness and the physical moisture necessary to lubricate our systems for proper functioning; associated with the kidneys and bladder organs and feelings of fear. Metal represents the minerals we produce and need for structure; associated with the lungs and large intestine (air element in Western culture).

In a generative (yin) cycle, Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth, Earth bears Metal, Metal collects Water, and Water nourishes Wood. In a degenerative (yang) relationship, one element is being destroyed by another: Wood penetrates Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water puts out Fire, Fire melts Metal, and Metal chops Wood.

It’s important not to perceive one process as good or bad as both construction and destruction serve the overall purpose of harmony in health and in nature. For instance, destruction is necessary in order for the food to be broken down for digestion and nourishment. Rather, it is best to avoid overwhelming extremes for excessive periods of time. Imbalance can be caused in the case of overproduction as well. For example, the overproduction of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is responsible for the condition known as Gigantism, a disorder of excessive growth during childhood that lead to a variety of other health issues.

In conclusion, TCM focuses on the maintenance of the flow of vital life force energy in the body, mind and in connection with all living beings. Surrender and accordance with natural cycles will allow for an effortless balance resulting in overall harmony and satisfaction. The approach is prevention of disease and disorder opposed to only treatment of symptoms. A complete path to wholeness.

The Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

All my life I’ve felt out of place, even if only a little. In my family, I was the abnormally picky child with an unusually heightened level of physical and emotional sensibilities, comparatively.

Even in my group of friends and associates, I’ve always felt way more aware of the energy in a room or the look on someones face when they were offended (which only multiplied the discomfort when I was the inadvertent offender). Thankfully, these observations came in handy in making a pretty decent mediator during conflict.

On my own, I couldn’t help but notice that movies and songs made me more emotional than the average girl. I related to the content so personally regardless of lack of actual experience. Even music without words had a way of affecting my moods, for better or worse.

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, at age 29, that I learned about the term Highly Sensitive Persons and what it meant to be one. Much to my relief, there was a name for it and I was not the only one!

You see, the unfortunate thing about being an HSP is that, even though it’s not new, it isn’t exactly a well-known or a widely accepted psychological concept. Not to mention, as an 80s baby and member of the stigmatized millennial generation, heightened sensitivity is still considered a major flaw to many; one that needs correction if there is any hope to surviving our dog-eat-dog world.

Well, it turns out that being an HSP is an innate trait in which the nervous system is genetically hardwired to pick up on subtle changes and stimuli. This means we are born this way and it is not something we need to “fix” or be ashamed of! Much like any other category of personalities, High Sensitive Persons have their own set of tendencies that, while it may make for some aspects of living more challenging, also has it benefits. Here are 7 of them:

1. They can smell danger!

Due to the unique wiring of their nervous system, Highly Sensitive People have heightened senses, including smell. If ever to walk into a space with subtle notes of gas or something burning in the air, an HSP is likely the first to notice and therefore the first to know if it’s time to flee or stop immediately.

2. They are likely more organized.

Clutter can be annoying to the average fellow but disorder can be particularly disturbing to Highly Sensitive Persons. A poorly organized and dysfunctional environment can cause an overwhelming amount of stress so they tend to keep their homes and work spaces neat and conducive to functionality.

3. They have the necessary insight for being a good mediator.

As I mentioned before, HSP are blessed with having intuitive insight. Although tense situations can cause anxiety for an HSP, their ability to understand and empathize with people can make them more aware of the nuances in a conflict and, therefore, more compassionate as well as better equipped for helping reach an agreeable resolve.

4. They understand deep concepts more easily.

HSPs are more reflective and introspective which allows them to see the depth of people, concepts and situations. This is valuable for personal development. However, they must be mindful not to become too obsessive about these thoughts as it will create more anxiety.

5. They are more aware of when their bodies are in need.

HSP are more likely to notice changes in their inner environment just as much if not more than their outer. Due to this, HSPs experience intensified discomfort when they are hungry, thirsty or have other cravings. Although, this can have a negative impact on their mood, they are not as likely to neglect themselves when sustenance is necessary.

6. They experience art and beauty more deeply.

Films, music, good food, art work and pleasant aromas have a more profound affect on HSPs, sometimes even to the point of a physical reaction such as happy crying or other outbursts of excitement. This may be perceived as strange to many, but when in the company of other HSPs, it can be quite the euphoric experience. This is why we tend to see artists (a group usually considered to be more emotional) gravitate towards other artists.

7. They are in their element when being creative.

Speaking of artists, HSPs are very in tune with their inner world which makes being creative very important for them. It’s necessary to have an outlet as HSPs can be withdrawn to avoid over-stimulation. Activities such as drawing, singing, painting, dancing and even formulating strategies can be good outlets for HSPs as hobbies if not careers.

In spite of all the “symptomatic” characteristics that come with being a Highly Sensitive Person, we perceive the world on what, sometimes, seems to be on another dimension from what others do. Although it may sometimes feel lonely, it can also be pretty wonderful; alone or not.

Turmeric: The Golden Herb

Years ago I decided to make some changes to my health which included the use of various herbs in my diet. The earth providing such a wide variety of options for nutrients, I knew I would need to do some research. Book after book and article after article, I noticed that turmeric was almost always on the list, so I went for it. I experimented with it in food, homemade beverages and suggested it to anyone looking to start on their natural wellness journey. Before I knew it, I was having turmeric nearly daily for months when I noticed a few things:

  1. I do not get sick nearly as much as I used to. Every now and then I may experience a bit of “crud” but it is usually pretty slight and lasts for a short period of time, even during the flu seasons.
  2. Wounds heal faster. Between the paper-handling at work and playing with my puppy at home, I would inevitably end up with scratches, cuts and bruises. The scarring time has been significantly reduced and my skin, in general, is clearer and healthier.
  3. Weight management is easier. Drinking turmeric as a tea daily helps curve my appetite and support my digestive health.

So let’s talk about what makes this golden root so special …

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.

Although inflammation is necessary to protect the body from infection, scientists are now concerned that low-level chronic inflammation may be a huge factor in the majority of Western illnesses, including atherosclerosis, obesity, and even cancer. Turmeric contains compounds that actively blocks inflammation-causing molecules, preventing the onset or worsening of numerous chronic diseases.

Turmeric is an antioxidant.

Much of the fear of growing old is the seemingly inevitable deterioration our bodies face, from wrinkles to poor bone health. We can thank free radicals and their oxidative damage for these effects. However, turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and antioxidant enzyme promoter that neutralizes free radicals in the body.

Turmeric supports gut health.

Some of the aforementioned inflammatory diseases start with nutritional habits that cause stress on the digestive tract. The bioactive compounds in turmeric promote an overall healthy digestive system by not only reducing cholesterol but also relaxing the muscle walls of the intestine so it can it properly push food down. It can boost the secretion of stomach mucous to prevent acidic damage and helps prevents gas and bloating during digestion.

These are just some of the fantastic benefits of turmeric. No wonder it is one of the more popular medicinal herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is easy to use and has little to no side effects as long as not consumed excessively, much like anything else. However, it is recommended one always consult a doctor or nutritionist before changing diets, especially if there are any concerns about the side effects or possible allergies.

For those who have used turmeric, what is your favorite way to prepare it? What health benefits have you personally experienced? Please share in the comments.

4 Tips I Learned for Supporting Another Depressive

Approximately 14.8 million Americans suffer from Major Depressive Disorder. That’s nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population and it only takes into account those who have been officially diagnosed. This does not account for the seemingly functional adults who deal with depression regularly but manage it on their own nor the many unknowns who have no idea they should be seeking help. With these considerations, the likelihood is that if we do not experience clinical depression ourselves, we know someone who does. The most significant person in my life, my husband, is one of those people.

So am I.

As you can imagine, this set up has high potential for emotional explosions and implosions. Believe me, we have been through our share. Fortunately, we have been able to not just survive but thrive as a couple in many way because of our approach to each other struggle. We are not always successful in our execution but we have picked on some valuable tools along the way with one another one.

Here are are some tips to help each other deal with depression:

Give each other space to be depressed.

My husband and I have both learned this the hard way. I recall a time I would put too much pressure on myself to be the one who could keep my guy happy; if he were down, I felt it my job to cheer him up as quickly as possible. When I failed, my own sadness was triggered, putting pressure on him to support me. This, of course, made him feel like he had to mask his depression for my safety which only made his situation worse. On the flip side, my husband is sometimes a tough love kind of guy which didn’t always give me the space to be in my sadness. Needless to say, this didn’t work for us long-term.

When our loved ones are hurting, it is natural for us to want to run to their rescue. We want them to feel supported and let them know there is no reason to be upset on your watch. However, the reality is often that people need a chance to feel what they are feeling, even if it’s irrational, and even when they know they are supported by you.

Communication is key.

The emphasis on communication may sound cliche but that doesn’t make it less true. No matter how well you know your loved ones,  you cannot read their minds. Sure, we sometimes develop a knack for recognizing the predictability of their personality but so often do deep thoughts and feelings go unsaid and even completely hidden away. When suppressed long enough, seemingly explainable behavior patterns may develop as a result which can have negative consequences of their own. This requires not only for the us to listen better and be more attentive when our depressed beloved does speak or show signs but also for our us who are suffering to find the time and courage to speak with the opportunity presents itself.

Be patient. Give growth time.

Even when we have the tools to cope and comfort we will run into moments in which those tools seem useless. Some days, a good yoga session, healthy meal or comedy show may do the trick. Other days, it’s a good cry or a chance wallow in the sadness. You may even fell like depression is completely behind you in one moment, only to be faced with an abrupt emotional decline the next. It’s important to know that not everything works every time.

Use the tools in your joint wellness arsenal when you can but don’t feel all is lost if a method is not producing the same positive response. Tenacity and patience will help with bounce-back when motivation falls short; the more you practice the easier it gets later. Remember there is not reason to rush as life is a marathon, not a race. As long as you are moving, if even a little, you can and will be okay if you keep it up.

Lastly …

Do not create expectation out of comparison.

I’m totally guilty of having the thought, “If we could just do [insert activity] like [insert another person’s success story], we would be so much better off.”

Seeking hope from other stories of overcoming can be an inspiration and uplifting. All the same, it can be very damaging. We see it all the time in other scenarios, from weight loss to career building – especially on social media. So badly do we want the fairy tale ending of someone else’s story without having all the facts when the truth is there is no such thing as an ending. As long as someone is alive, they are going to experience hard times, what works for them may not work for you, and your story may not look like the illusion of their story. Comparing the process and progress of another to our own or someone we know and love creates further heaviness around the ebbs and flows of the other journey to be had.

Stay in your lane.

Namaste.

 

Using the Virgo New Moon Vibes for Wellness

It is likely you have already been experiencing effects of the onsetting new moon in Virgo this month. The zodiacal Virgo is typically represented by the image of a female virgin sometimes wearing or handling plant life. As one of the three earth signs, Virgo energy encourages us to embrace nature and to get in touch with our nurturing side. Virgo is ruled by the planet Mercury which is associated with how we communicate and relate to others. When harnessed successfully, Virgo energy also helps us become more mindful of how we take care of our mental and physical bodies.

Since new moons are an opportunity to make changes in our lives, it would serve us well to start building new habits to establish the life that each of us desires. Here are a few ways we can use utilize the new moon in Virgo energy for creating a healthy lifestyle:

1. BEGIN A FAST

As the Virgo zodiac corresponds with gut health and the digestive system, this would be a great time to begin a cleanse. Fasting has been scientifically proven to improve physical stamina and mental clarity. Spiritual leaders over history embarked on long meditative journies in which they limited their substance intake to strictly water, or even nothing at all. Of course, these are extreme. However, there are other cleansing diet options that are also beneficial to overall health; it’s all about what works best for you!

I have recently begun a fast myself in which I primarily consume fruits and vegetables in smoothie form. The intake of natural foods is in proper alignment with the current energy as Virgo corresponds with the earth element. I allow myself one solid meal a day along with one cup of tea or coffee and a light snack (usually a handful of almonds or celery with hummus). Just after one week, I have experienced a number of changes including more energy throughout my day, deeper meditation, and even some weight loss.

2. DE-CLUTTER

The virgin represents purity and simplicity. It is likely that all that may have accumulated with summer fun crossing over with “back-to-school” vibes, there could be some disorder and/or a sense of anxiety. This new moon may be urging you to clear out the things you no longer need in order to create space for the things you could use. Give away that 10-year-old blouse in the back of your closet that you never wear, scrapbook those photos using most of the space in your camera phone, file those receipts that you’ll need for tax session.

My husband and I purchased several pieces of art over the last few years that have been sitting around unframed until recently. I finally decided to put my foot down and find a place for them. Now that they are up, my home feels tidier and, virtually, more complete which brings me peace as I am a firm believer that my home space is a reflection of me.

3. PAY IT FORWARD

If you have considered participating in community service, now is a good time to roll up your sleeves! Get into that mindset of selflessness. This contribution can be something as huge as building a home in for those victimized by a natural disaster and feeding the homeless, or as small as treating your co-worker to lunch or giving your spouse a foot rub at the end of a long day. Like the virgin, give the best parts of yourself without expecting anything in return. Whether or not you believe in karma, you may notice it pay off for you in one way or another, be it someone returning the favor or simply a boost in how you feel about yourself. Helping others does well for your mental health!

Have you noticed some changes in your thoughts and feelings with this new moon energy? What are some ways you are using it to better yourself? Share in the comments below! Namaste.

 

Peace vs. Depression

I have battled depression and anxiety for quite some time and for the most part each day gets better and better. There are those moments that creep upon one who have experienced mental and emotional struggles before; sometimes we can stop it in its tracks and other times it hits us before we know it. Depression, in particular, is a tricky sensation. Unlike anxiety which characterized by obvious feelings of heightened overwhelm, depression mimics natural physiological occurrences such as fatigue, hunger, and/or boredom. Everyone experiences it differently and there are various triggers from poor nutrition and hormonal shifts to traumatic or transitional life events. Then, there’s the sensation of peace which is just as complex to the untrained mind which probably speaks to most of us in the Western world.

Having experienced both, the onset can be quite similar. Like depression, peace may look different from person to person and may even be misunderstood by people around us. Recently, I was facing an emotion I thought was negative somehow, although I knew it was not sadness nor anger. It was not joy as I could also describe myself as feeling detached; oddly careless of what my responsibilities were in that moment but without animosity. It took a mentor of mine – who happens to be Buddhist – to explain it to me best as I grasped for answers from anyone who could help me. He told me it was peace and when I told him I assumed peace to be more joyous, he said:

“Peace is peace. As such it is neutral. Still. Quiet. Otherwise it is joy. It is a myth that we need to be having euphoria to be at peace. Joy is not emptiness. It is biased. We like it better because it feels better, but it should never be considered sunyata. Notice how having no emotion can leave us with the sense that something is wrong. This is mental bias as well – that the only valuable state of mind is euphoric or happy. All states of mind are equally valuable including pain, maybe, especially pain. We have a tendency to be mentally lazy and only want to eat ice cream in our minds every day, but that is not inherently healthy. The ability to be with what is with no responsive emotion and yet full awareness is the highest state of mind.”

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I admit, it was a difficult concept to accept when just before someone suggested it was depression. I agreed to that notion as it was the closest I perceived to being right at the time but the truth is, it didn’t fully sit with me either. Then, I thought about my mentor’s comment for a couple of more days and finally it started to resonate. Indeed it was peace! Worldly things had little value to me in that moment of the present. All I cared about was being and not even my husband could fully have my attention. That may sound wrong, but from a spiritual and even natural standpoint, there are some happenings inside of us that are simply impossible to share. We must have them on our own just as our loved ones will have theirs without us.

Now, I still emphasize the importance of monitoring our well-being. However, I realize that I should not always assume a fault in my psychology when I lack joy. Not every moments requires feelings that we perceive as positive, nor is it realistic. Going forward, I will keep in mind that the foundation to having consistent well-being is to just be from time to time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Namaste.