Meditation and yoga are more popular today than ever and whether you choose a practice of yoga, which includes meditation or just meditation alone, it’s inspiring to learn how accessible meditation really is and the physical benefits that go along with the practice.
Meditation, from Latin word meditatio meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder, is a practice where an individual uses a technique to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Classic meditation techniques focus the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity. The term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Hinduism and Buddhism, and comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate.
Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions, yet as a yoga practitioner and teacher, I know meditation as the seventh limb in the eightfold path to self-realization and enlightenment described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Each limb is to be practiced sequentially as one step prepares the practitioner for the next moving from forgetfulness to illumination, from unhealthy to health, from sadness to happiness, from constriction to happiness. Practicing the limbs of yoga foster the idea that impurity is destroyed and the radiance of wisdom (jnana) leads to discernment (viveka).
When this concentration is prolonged through an uninterrupted flow, it becomes dhyana. In dharana, we experience release, expansion quietness and peace, freeing us from attachment. This freedom results in the indifference to the joys of pleasure or the sorrows of pain. The repeated continuation, or uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana). Not to be confused by Sanscrit words, but rather decipher that mediation comes out of a process of preparing the mind for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness and to develop your inherent potential.
Meditation may be used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, thereby increasing peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being. Continual scientific research aims to define the possible health effects on our psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular systems along with other effects on brain and immune function.
For these reasons, meditation attracts not only spiritual seekers on the road to enlightenment, but anyone looking to explore different ways of being- through physiological changes in the body that create more joy, more happiness, and more ease in daily life. Meditation helps to cultivate the middle path by increasing and enhancing one’s ability to allow, tolerate, and observe the complex world and relationships around them without attaching one’s self or an expectation or outcome to any person or event.
In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response" after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system”, the fight or flight response. Studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:
Lower blood pressure / Improved circulation / Lower heart rate
Slower respiratory rate
Lower blood cortisol levels
More feelings of well-being
Scientifically, meditation has been proven to:
Simplified, meditation is an approach to training the mind and training implies practice. The idea of meditating can be quite intimidating and even unfathomable for a beginner to sit for long periods of time and think of nothing. The easiest way to approach meditating is to keep it simple and straightforward by focusing on the breath- creating a fixed point of concentration and not go for the distance. Quality over quantity is the idea and sitting for 5-10 minutes to start with is an accessible approach. Focus and concentration is challenging, so start by meditating for only a few minutes and then work up to longer periods of time. Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point like the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, trataka ( i.e. staring at a candle flame), listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. The trick to meditation is each time you notice your mind wandering, you draw yourself back and refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention. As thoughts arise let them pass by like clouds in the sky. Know that even the most proficient meditators do this. This is the practice and in this process your ability to concentrate improves.
Another variation is mindfulness meditation which encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind without passing judgement or labeling. Here the intention is not to get involved, but to be aware of each mental direction as it appears. Mindfulness meditation reveals how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Through this process you can become more aware of the tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant and with practice, an inner balance develops, so as not to be driven by your perceived “likes” and “dislikes”.
Various techniques make meditation easier to embrace and takes the pressure off of what is seemingly the impossible or daunting for a beginner. One of my favorite meditation techniques is the cultivation of compassion which involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. I also subscribe to moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation, especially accessible to a beginner because intrinsically and physiologically one is balancing the brain with each swing of the opposite arm in movement with the opposite step hence working across the center line of the body and balancing the left and right brain hemispheres. The balancing effect is readily calming to the mind clearing way for concentration.
However, the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits, but to simply to be present. The goal of meditation is no goal, but rather to defragment your thoughts so you can step back and make sense of them with a clearer prospective. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calm mind and sense of inner harmony. Meditation is said to increase the blood flow to the brain and “rewire the circuity” of the brain. In the movie What The Bleep Do We Know, science showed the more we repeat the same thought patterns in our mind the stronger those brain synapses become. Sort of like the more chocolate you eat, the more chocolate you crave. Meditation invites us to strengthen positive feel good neurological pathways and weaken or break the cycle of negatives disruptive patterns.
How To Start
A Monsoon Nectar Aromatherapy Facial merges beauty and the healing arts to impart your skin with a radiant glow and reset your sense of joy, comfort, and ease.
Aromatherapy, the combination of aroma- meaning scent or smell and therapy- meaning treatment, is concerned with the psychological and physical health of the individual on a holistic mind, body, and spirit level. Natural aromas from essential oils are the basis for aromatherapy which we experience through our olfactory system, our sense of smell. Another word for our sense of smell is olfaction which affects the limbic system of the brain, our feel good mood center. Involved in sensory perception, motor function, and olfaction, the limbic system is also responsible for controlling various other functions in the body including interpreting emotional responses, storing memories, and regulating hormones.
Limbic system structures are involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those that are related to survival such as fear and anger. The limbic system is also involved in feelings of pleasure that are related to our survival, such as those experienced from eating and sex. The limbic system influences both the peripheral nervous system and the endocrine system.
Regina Bailey ThoughtCo.com
I like to think of aromatherapy as a portal, since it can evoke memory and influence our mood and behavior. Likewise, it can be repelling and indicate a caution or warning to our surroundings and environment. One of the most powerful of the five main senses, our sense of smell guides us through a complex process between sensory organs, nerves, and the brain making our olfactory system remarkable in detecting, identifying, and perceiving molecules in the air and therefore, closely related to our sense of taste.
Through the ages evidence shows that essential oils have been used by civilizations for medicinal, therapeutic, spiritual, ritualistic, culinary, hygienic and cosmetic purposes to support good health and treat ailments. The Egyptians were known for massaging their bodies with fragrant oils after bathing, while the Greeks used the oils medicinally and cosmetically. However, the practice of burning incense as a mood enhancer for harmony and balance dates back to China, where the oldest surviving medical book (dated around 2700 BC) was found to contain information on over 300 plants. As plant remedies were discovered, different methods of extraction evolved from burning/smoke, infusion in an oil, the process of distillation, and chemical extraction. An Egyptian papyrus dated around 1555 BC depicts infused oils and herbal preparations for spiritual, medicinal, mummification, fragrant and cosmetic uses. Egyptians are acknowledged, in fact, to have coined the term perfume from the Latin per fumum which translates as through the smoke.
The term aromatherapy only came about in the 2oth century, in a 1928 article written by French chemist Rene`- Maurice Gattefosse`. In the article, he describes accidentally burning his hand in his science lab, then randomly dunking his hand in a vat of lavender oil and how rapidly the burn healed. Gattefosse` went on to write a book that was translated into English called Gattefosse`s Aromatherapy, which is still in print and widely read today.
Pleasure is potent healer and, naturally, we are attracted to aromas and experiences that make us feel good, which is why an Aromatherapy Facial is one of the best ways to reset your mind, body, and spirit.
The Aromatherapy Facial that I offer combines ayurvedic principles with modern cosmetology to create a truly sensational and pleasurable experience during your sedona spa retreat. My signature skin care Monsoon Nectar Chakra Aroma Skin Care is formulated with essential oils and botanicals from the main aroma categories below:
Citrus - fresh, clean, refreshing, inspiring- think lemon, orange, and grapefruit.
Floral - flowery, soothing- think lavender, geranium, chamomile, and rose.
Herbaceous - herbal, energizing- think oregano, thyme, rosemary, clary sage.
Spicy - not hot, but spices of fall and winter, grounding- think nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamon.
Woody - grounding, soothing, stabilizing- think sandalwood, fir, cedarwood, cypress, juniper.
Earthy - more masculine- think patchouli, vetiver, angelica.
Resinous - reflective, grounding, inspiring- think frankincense, myrrh.
Camphoraceous - unmistakably heady scent that is strongly aromatic, energizing- think tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint.
Essential oils are known to soothe the skin and make it glow, maintaining moisture and radiance. They have a small molecular weight allowing them to penetrate deep on the surface of the skin. Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties in the oils alleviate redness and irritation in the skin, while healing properties make essential oils ideal for use in facials.
1. The facial begins with oil cleansing and massage using essential oils that are mixed into a carrier oil. This is a pre cleanse step that softens congestion, absorbs dirt on the skin, and sets the mood for relaxation.
2. Deep cleansing involves removing the oil and debris from the skin with a foamy cleanser.
3. Steaming the skin swells the pores to further release congestion and debris. A few drops of an essential oil in the facial steamer produce a variety of effects such as:
4. During the 5-10 minute steaming process a hand and arm massage is given.
5. Exfoliate to remove dead skin cells and make the skin smoother and more receptive to moisturizing and nutrients.
6. Massage to exercise and relax muscles in the decollate, shoulders, neck and face. Stimulates detoxifying and regenerating.
7. Masking the skin is customized to further draw out impurities, impart vitamins, and/or hydrate and moisturize the skin.
8. Final moisturizing to plump and protect the skin against pollution and environmental elements. A hydrated cell is a defensive cell.
How often to get an Aromatherapy Facial? Cellular turnover, or cell renewal factor, refers to the constant shedding of skin cells and the subsequent replacement of new, younger cells coming to the surface. This process takes place every 28-40 days. When the new cell makes it’s way up from the stratum germinativum, deepest layer of the epidermis, it eventually reaches the uppermost layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum. Here the cell has become rough, dry, and flaky and is sloughed off. As we age this whole process called desquamation slows down. Finding the right amount of exfoliating and nourishing the skin is the secret to a smooth youthful appearance. Once a month or at least once a season is the ideal frequency to give your skin professional attention from an esthetician, particularly in more arid environments like Sedona, Arizona. Refresh and renew with an Aromatherapy Facial during your Sedona spa retreat and get in touch with your skin!
In the land of Arizona, Bisbee has become my get-a-way when I can take time away from Sedona. I used to live here and run my business in this eclectic artist enclave, reminiscent of Jerome, but more populated by locals. And when I left, I had no idea that my visits would feel as if I never left at all.
Returning frequently, I still feel like a local. I stay with various friends, sometimes house/dog sit, and see clients in their kitchen or on the patio for old school hairdressing. I can meet up with friends or just let the days unfold serendipitously, as it’s easy to run into people you know. I eat at my favorite restaurants and make sure to bring back the best coffee in the world and maybe a jar of honey from over the line. Every visit feels like coming home and this town’s specialties are just that!
While I’m here, one of my favorite things to do is go to The Garden’s At Mile High Ranch and get an ozone sauna. Today, Maggie (one of the family owners), gave me the option of music or a meditation and I opted for the "moving beyond fear" meditation.
In a private setting, I can look out through a window and see the garden and the large trees that surround the property. Th ambiance is soothing. The therapy consists of 30-45 minutes of steamy warmth that detoxifies your body and can be done once in a while or as part as a detoxification program. The steam sauna with ozone allows the steam to surround the body and ozone can be introduced through the skin. Just your head remains outside the sauna for easy breathing.
The goal is to increases the eliminative, detoxifying, and cleansing capacity of the skin by stimulating the sweat glands and increasing blood circulation and this further promotes healthy skin tone and texture.
Humid heat swells the pores which allows the ozone through the skin into the bloodstream where it travels to the fat and lymph tissue. Cleansing the lymph tissue of toxins is important to any detoxification therapy and the ozone/steam sauna is the easiest and best way to accomplish this.
The combined action of moist heat and ozone cleanse the lymphatic system, which you can think of as the garbage system of the body that carries 90% of the body's fluids. Raising your body temperature artificially induces a fever-like effect and results in the destruction of bacteria and viruses. Combined with heavy sweating and the cleansing effect initiated by ozone, this “fever" results in the elimination of toxins accumulated mainly in the lymphatic system and gives your liver a huge break. Ozone brings oxygen to the tissues for enhanced health and vitality and the combination of steam and ozone is a natural, effective way to promote a refreshing sense of well-being.
Part of Bath Culture, the use of ozonated steam purifies the skin, soothe sore muscles, boost circulation and imparts deep relaxation.
Reducing lactic acid build up
Increases muscle flexibility
Oxidizes toxins so they can be eliminated through the skin, lungs, kidneys and colon.
Stimulates blood circulation, helping injured muscles to repair quicker.
Stimulates vasodilatation of peripheral blood vessels relieving pain and speeding the healing process.
Eliminates bacterial and viral infections of all kinds.
Speeds up the metabolic processes of the inner organs and endocrine glands resulting in a loss of 200-450 calories in a 20 minute session.
Research shows steam hyperthermia as an effective treatment for:
* Detoxification programs
* Immune system deficiencies
* Pain management
* Stress and muscle tension
* Increasing body metabolism
* Elimination of toxins
* Blood circulation
The Gardens at Mile High Ranch is for sale!
Pet Friendly Hotel | Bed & Breakfast | Bisbee, AZThe Gardens at Mile High Ranch is high-desert country with two acres of lush gardens, wildlife, and beautiful 150-year-old cottonwood trees. BLM wilderness is located just beyond our boundaries. The Gardens is located only one mile from the Historic District of “Old Bisbee”, and we offer peaceful evenings and a healthy breakfast served in your own apartment.
What is a chakra? A Sanskrit word meaning wheel or disk. In yoga philosophy the chakra system refers to spinning vortexes in the energetic or subtle body that correlate to the glandular system in the physical body; not physical entities but they do affect the body just as thoughts affect the breath and emotions affect behavior. These meeting points between the mind and body are concentrated consciousness. Passed down from ancient India through yoga philosophy, the chakra system is a path of connection to the divine energies of consciousness. A path of connection between Heaven and earth, spirit and matter, mind and body. This path runs through the core of each of us and is accessible and available at all times.
Specific essential oils also correlate to these energy centers and can be inhaled and or applied topically for grounding and balancing effects to create a sense of well being and ease. Amazingly, these natural essences facilitate reconnecting with your true nature devoid of the anxiety and stress that cause blockages. Blockages, emotional or physical, affect our esteem, confidence, ability to love and communicate, physiology and sleep, and so on. In essence, we are our healthiest when are energy is balanced. Out of balance creates disharmony and that sense of feeling "off" that can be felt in relationship issues, emotional turmoil, dis-ease and even illness.
Nature Knows is an adage to consider since plant essences are the original apothecary with medicinal merit and efficacy. Throughout all cultures man's connection to the earth leads to the connection with the Divine, so through these plant essence we can connect to the Divine within ourselves tapping into our true nature of ease and comfort and love.
The Living Beauty Detox Program by Anna Louis Gittleman, has been my beacon to health for many years. The book purports "eat right to clear out toxins, manage your hormones, and bring out your best looks". Based on Chinese Medicine each season is connected to different organs in the body. Each season has a dietary, mental, and physical protocol so that by the end of four seasons you have cleansed your major organs with herbs, teas, and foods specific to each season, toning and cleansing those corresponding organs.
I advise everyone to buy their own book, especially at the current affordable rate! You won't want to loan it out either, because you'll need to reference it regularly -or when you do you will want to be sure and have it. Dare I say a bible to your health!
Admittedly, it had been a while since I had done a cleanse religiously, but menopausal symptoms were setting in with night sweats becoming tiresome (no pun intended) and kind of creepy! I was motivated to clear out my system and rid myself of a major sleep disturbance.
I pulled my book off the shelf, made a grocery list, and because Valentine’s Day was approaching and then my birthday, I decided I would do the short version of the cleanse and cycle through it a couple of times. The cleanse is based on eating, so it’s very easy.
Omitted are the classic culprits of dairy, caffeine, alcohol, or sugar, but rather the diet consists of fruits, veggies, lean protein (a vegetarian protocol is available), teas and herbs. Based on the principal that a cell does not give it up unless nutrients are coming in, the protocols are based on bringing in superfood nourishment to detox your body.
The duration is 3 days up to two weeks with a maintenance plan to follow that introduces more favorite foods. So, who can’t do anything for three days? Plus you are eating! It’s so easy and you feel so good you just naturally want to keep going, especially with the small investment in supplements.
I always suggest splitting the supplements with a friend the first time, try a 3 or 4 day cleanse, and then figure it our for yourself. Make it easy and prove to yourself how doable it is.
Like I add a little more salt than she suggests and for this past winter cleanse and I allowed myself a morning cup of very weak ceylon tea that has caffeine.
Aside from following my seasonal cleanse, internet research on my current issues led me to adding Ayurvedic herbs into the mix. I included a triphala, shatavari protocol in the morning and ashwagandha at night. (see Natural Herbal Remedy For Western Menopause)
The first round of my winter cleanses started on a Sunday and worked wonders. My digestive issues disappeared, my body felt great, my sleep smoothed out, zero pms, and no night sweats. I broke the cleanse on a Thursday evening, took a long weekend off, then returned on the following Monday through Thursday again. I finished my round of cleanses with a three day version right before my 50th birthday. All of February went smoothly and I am still celebrating, really the rebuilding of my adrenals and kidneys. The big self nurturing protocol was rest! Minimizing stress through meditation, yoga, massage, self-care body treatments, and most importantly, as much sleep as I can possibly get, even still allowing myself to sleep in as late as possible.
As I continued researching my symptoms during this time I discovered kidney energy deficiency is one root cause of menopausal issues. Kidney energy powers the many functions of the body. Learning this connection definitely prompted my winter cleanse!
Another organ that is important is the Liver. It’s the number one organ in terms of women’s health. The Liver meridian runs through the reproductive area, so when Liver Qi is stagnant or weak this area will be impacted. The Liver also regulates the smooth flow of blood and emotions. It’s easy to see the connection between the Liver’s role in promoting regular blood flow and menstrual health, but most women are unaware of this organ’s function when it comes to regulating emotions.
In Chinese Medicine meridians are invisible energy pathways or channels that run through the body. Our vital life energy, or "qi", is thought to flow along these meridians, and anything that disrupts the smooth flow of chi is said to cause illness. Our life essence or vital qi is stored in our kidneys and apparently the herbs that tone and support the kidney also are major bone fortifying herbs. An interesting connection when you consider low kidney qi is common to menopause and osteoporosis occurs in menopause and the latter years. Since the skeletal system controls the endocrine system this seems to be the connection with the particular herbs prescribed for bone fortifying and menopausal symptoms that I write about in my blog Natural Herbal Remedy For Western Menopause.
In that blog I outline and attribute the cessation of night sweats and other symptoms I was having to the Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs I have started taking and the herbs and dietary protocol outlined in The Living Beauty Detox Program.
Here is the herbal protocol according to the seasonal diet for winter from The Living Beauty Detox Program with the addition of Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs for menopause. Hopefully, this will motivate you with an idea of the cleanse, but is no replacement for having the book as a direct resource.
I mix 1 tsp shatavari and 1/2 tsp of triphala with a couple of ounces of hot water first thing in the morning. Shatavari is an excellent herb for cleansing the gut, like triphala, so it made sense to take them together. Before bed I take 1/2 tsp ashwagandha with a couple ounces of hot water.
Nothing iced or cold
Breakfast- Lunch - Dinner: Cooked warmed foods from the meal plan lists - low glycemic - organic- lean proteins - veggies - warm/cooked fruit
nettle tea - alkalanizing minerals for kidney cleansing and adrenal support - 2 x per day
unsweetned cranberry juice mixed with a green supplement and fiber
Morning and night in teas or tinctures, capsules or as a food seasoning :
flaxseed oil - lignan-rich
juniper - diuretic/bladder infections
ginger - warming/ increases circulation in kidneys
marshmallow - sooth mucus membrane/urinary tract
horsetail - antioxidant and anti-inflammatory/diuretic
miso and sea salt - sodium and electrolytes assist both kidney and adrenal function. enzymes, calcium, iron
tamari - aides digestion
raw plain sauerkraut -
apple cider vinegar
A side note: I am working with my western doctor and going to a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to cross check what I am doing. I am not prescribing for you, but rather sharing my research, personal experiment, and experience using these particular herbs. Please do your own research according to your symptoms, as the information is dense and I have only included what was pertinent to me.
Oh, and now it is spring and you bet, I’m starting a liver cleanse next!
Too much info? Go straight to my protocol by scrolling down- just before "Definitions".
A month ago, I turned fifty and I’m still celebrating! You don’t know how your going to feel or who you’ll be with for that landmark birthday, but it has been special and I had no idea turning fifty would be so fun! However, as a woman turning fifty my body is definitely changing, even though I am not technically in menopause (I still menstruate regularly) and according to my blood tests I am not even perimenopausal.
However, changes are occurring and most notable during this past year was the frequency of night sweats disturbing my sleep. Clear, odorless sweat would pool on my chest and soak the nape of my neck. Waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat became a super drag.
I remember my first night sweat about eight years ago and they progressed, randomly since, sometimes even skipping a year or months at a time. Having a night sweat was actually kind of novel, at first. Sometimes I would get up for a hand towel to dry off or just roll over to the other side of the bed where the sheets were dry, fall back to sleep and wake in the morning completely dry.
In the last few years, though, this routine got to the point that if I sensed a pattern, I would sleep in a thin t-shirt and have an extra t-shirt at the side of the bed. Peeling off a cold wet t-shirt in the middle of the night was kind of gross, but having a dry shirt handy was the answer to warming up and falling back to sleep quickly.
During my 47th and 48th year, the night sweats occurred more often until about mid-way through my 49th year. Suddenly the frequency and intensity came with a new force that sometimes I would have to change my shirt three or four times a night. Yikes! This prompted me to start sleeping with a few extra t-shirts next to my bed, just in case. Ultimately, I decided the t-shirt was just creating an eventual cold scenario and not wearing a shirt was the more comfortable. Instead, I laid on a terry cloth bath towel and placed a terry cloth hand towel flat against my chest. This actually worked for comfort as the terry cloth never got soaked and felt warm and dry. I did this set up three or four times and knew I had to find an answer. I laughed after a friend and I were sharing notes and she revealed she slept in a terry cloth robe! Even still, terry cloth was no real solution to the annoyance.
Night sweats had officially become a nuisance and disturbance to my sleep. I was feeling tired during the day and the stress started mounting. My night sweat had always been clear and completely odorless to the point that I would marvel at how fresh my shirt smelled the next morning. I attributed it to perimenopause and listened closely when my friends would describe similar stories or even commiserate about hot flashes- something I feel lucky not to have experienced and hope I never will. But there is nothing lucky about night sweats as they seriously interrupt a good nights sleep.
Right before I turned fifty, however, the nature of my sweat changed. I wouldn’t call it a bad odor and nothing like BO, but my shirts did not smell completely fresh the next morning. Then I noticed my sheets and pillow cases were tinged with an orangish yellow color from the sweat- WTF! I started to wonder what was going on with my nervous system and body in general as my internet searches indicated all night sweats are some form of detox, menopausal, disease or otherwise. One thing I knew for sure is that I was stressed out and I needed to take action.
All of my internet searches for my symptoms brought forth particular anti-stress herbs that happened to be in my pantry! I hadn’t linked my night sweats to stress and hadn’t taken the herbs ashwagadha and triphala for a while. Luckily, they were on hand, so I started taking these adaptogen and balancing herbs, but learned they shouldn’t necessarily be taken together like I had been doing. I refined my protocol according to newly learned directives taking triphala in the morning (as it is indicated to take on an empty stomach) and ashwagandha at night (as it is indicated to help with sleep).
Around the same time, I mentioned to a friend that my libido had tanked and he suggested shatavari to the rescue. I looked it up and saw “The Queen Of Herbs” was also recommended for night sweats and menopausal symptoms and immediately ordered the powder off the internet.
Up until two months ago, I was experiencing night sweats regularly throughout each month, particularly around my moon (I am exactly regular in my menstrual cycle). Within the first month of taking these herbs my night sweats subsided.
I mixed 1 tsp shatavari and 1/2 tsp of triphala with a couple of ounces of hot water first thing in the morning. Shatavari is an excellent herb for cleansing the gut, like triphala, so it made sense to take them together. Before bed I take 1/2 tsp ashwagandha with a couple ounces of hot water.
Another piece to this puzzle is that I had a low back attack in December, just a few months ago, during the peak of these night sweats. As a yoga teacher, hiker, and all around physically active person, my body has weathered the aches and pains that go along with constant physical activity. Yet, another change in the last few years had been that my joints flared up with major discomfort (another symptom associated to menopause). I had a patellar cartilage tear in my knee, an avulsion in my pinky, bursitis in my elbow along with chronic neck pain. A couple of times I had a low back attack, but nothing like the one in December. An x-ray in January revealed I had spinal degenerative disc disease and a potential kidney stone. Whoa, whoa, whoa...what!?
I took a urine analysis and the possibility of a kidney stone was negative, but I had already begun researching kidney stone on the internet and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) links came up first. Delving into those TCM sites brought forth a plethora of low qi symptoms that I related to, symptoms like: blurry vision, low libido, tinnitus (minimal but existent), low back pain, digestive issues, teeth issues, joint and arthritis pain, NIGHT SWEATS, hot flashes, sleeping issue- either trouble getting to sleep or waking up, depression... well, night sweats caught my attention and so did everything else! Suddenly, I felt like I had an answer.
This is where things got interesting. The more I researched my overall symptoms, menopause, and night sweats on the internet the same Ayurvedic herbal recommendations kept coming up: ashwagandha, triphala, shatavari- all of which are referred to as Rasayana herbs for their wide ranging health benefits. Among the Ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, Ashwagandha holds the most prominent place. Triphala is classified as a tridoshic rasayana, meaning that the energetics are appropriate for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas or all types of patients. Shatavari, also known as Asparagus racemosus- a well known Ayurvedic rasayana which prevents aging, increases longevity, imparts immunity, improves mental function, vigor and adds vitality.
Completely inspired, I kept taking the three Ayurvedic herbs and by the end of February I hadn’t experience a night sweat. However, I kept researching TCM and that led me to an obscure Chinese herb called eucommia, yet, I was already familiar with eucommia! I had taken it for my knee pain the year prior and raved that it was derived from the “rubber tree” plant in China that claimed to fortify your bones, joints, and tendons with a latex quality. Wow! I remember the first article about eucommia had the tagline, “Great for athletes and yoga teachers.” At that time I was suffering a tear in my patellar cartilage that had occurred just from kneeling on the floor too long. Patellar tears can take up to 9 months to heal and mine did take that long, but when I added eucommia into my diet during the last few months of that time period, I felt my healing accelerated. I noticed the ridges in my fingernails smoothed out and I felt stronger. The pain in my knee went away.
Learning about eucommia enlightened me to the importance of focusing on the skeletal system. I always focused on the liver, the heart, or digestion, but my achy joints were a wake up call and reminder that the skeletal system is where we make our red and white blood cells, the foundation of our immunity. The skeleton serves six major functions: support, movement, protection, production of blood cells, storage of minerals and endocrine regulation. I was surprised to remember our bones regulate our hormones and then it made sense that bone fortifying herbs were coming up in my search to ease menopause, as the skeletal system seems to be compromised by this time of hormonal change.
I continued to research the benefits of eucommia herb and TMC and discovered two new Chinese herbs were recommended as well: dipsacus and drynaria, respectively known as teasel and go sui bu. Aside from bone fortifying and regenerating qualities, these two herbs also deal with pain and that caught my attention right away.
I am already taking D3-k2, iodine, and magnesium on a regular basis after a mammogram scare a few years prior, and that is another pertinent story. I only mention it because those supplements are keystone building blocks to this process, as well. In the same vain as I write this blog, I wrote Needless Biopsies ~ How I changed My Mammogram And Avoided A Surgical Breast Biopsy again, sharing my experience in hope of helping others with a like situation.
And what is this process? I’ve hustled to catch up and am learning women need to prepare for menopause. Or is it just the western woman? Just as I point out in my Needless Biopsies blog, Asian women fair differently from Western women in breast cancer statistics, as they do in menopause statistics. Apparently, the phase of menopause is relatively unknown in Asia and the Chinese and Japanese don’t have a word for it.
The word “menopause” isn’t even in the traditional Chinese medical vocabulary. Actually, TCM calls the various symptoms that some women experience when their cycle ends simply “menstrual cycle ending symptoms.” So you may be surprised to learn that menopause is essentially a Western concept. This stage of life is a natural part of a woman’s life-cycle and is a gateway to an enriching and fulfilling time of her life. You may be surprised to learn that during this transition period a woman has a great opportunity to enhance her health. More on menopause
Reading this actually gave me hope that I could change my symptoms.
I kept researching Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicines plus menopause and kidney related sites and they all led to the same herbal recommendations for my symptoms: triphala, ashwagandha, schisandra (another Chinese herb), eucommia, and the newly introduced shatavari, dipsacus and drynaria! I really felt like I was onto a remedy with everything cross checking and relating to my symptoms.
Interestingly, though, I also read studies specific to Asian and Chinese women that correlate the lack of these “menopausal symptoms” to a plant based diet high in phytoestrogens, herbs, green tea, and positive aging psychology, very unlike in the west, where American and British women suffer these “symptoms” the most while consuming more red meat, coffee, alcohol, and sugar with anti-aging self deprecation.
Similar studies on cancer attribute the iodine rich seaweed and seafood along with phytoestrogen rich diets prevalent in Asian cultures to be the reason for a lower percentage of cancer, particularly breast cancer, in those regions as well.
So why aren’t we doing what they are doing? And are the phytoestrogens and iodine why I crave a poke bowl every day?
Research indicates that soy, significantly consumed in the traditional Japanese diet, may be useful in preventing hot flashes in women. Edible beans, especially soybeans, contain the compounds genistein and daidzein, which are estrogenic and help control hot flashes. That may explain why only 7 percent of menopausal Japanese women suffer from hot flashes, as compared to 55 percent of women living in the United States, according to the estimates in Dr. Lindsey Berkson's writing, the "Hormone Deception" where he sites there isn’t even a Japanese word for "hot flashes.”
So, why have we been told that the jury was out on soy and it is best avoided based on reports that estrogen feeds cancer? Soy is a phytoestrogen and I’ve come to learn phytoestrogen foods are beneficial for women looking to rebalance their hormones as they approach menopause, and of course they are a staple in the Asian diet. Familiar and favorite foods, other than soy, are phytoestrogens and it is better to ingest unrefined phytoestrogens through food sources than highly refined sources, like soy milk or supplements. Americans have been misinformed to steer away from phytoestrogen foods, while a comparison study shows other cultures eating these foods for centuries and having lower cancer rates.
Further investigation did, however, show an increase in (breast) cancers where a western diet has infiltrated these regions.
Certainly, there are different kinds of cancers as there are different types of estrogen. Caution should be taken concerning the consumption of estrogen rich foods in high risk people, but the statistics can’t be ignored, and it’s worth exploring with your doctor.
I was so consumed with all of this new information, I suddenly realized it was winter and the season of the kidneys and adrenals. According to my Living Beauty Detox Program book, which is based on Chinese Medicine, it was time for a seasonal cleanse!
In Chinese Medicine meridians are invisible energy pathways or channels that run through the body. Our vital life energy, or "qi", is thought to flow along these meridians, and anything that disrupts the smooth flow of chi is said to cause illness. Our life essence or vital qi is stored in our kidneys and apparently the herbs that tone and support the kidney also are major bone fortifying herbs. An interesting connection when you consider low kidney qi is common to menopause and osteoporosis occurs in menopause and the latter years. Since the skeletal system controls the endocrine system this seems to be the connection with these particular herbs prescribed for bone fortifying and menopausal symptoms.
As of this writing it has been two months since I have experienced a night sweat and the contrast to what I was experiencing before is profound. I’ve continued this conversation with girlfriends and hear the same frustration and dismay that I had, so I’m sharing what I have discovered and how easy it has been to create a different experience.
Here is the protocol I have given myself with the side note that I am working with my western doctor and going to a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner to cross check what I am doing. I am not prescribing for you, but rather sharing my research, personal experiment, and RELIEF that I have found using these particular herbs. Please do your own research according to your symptoms, as the information is dense and I have only included what was pertinent to me.
Oh, and now that its spring, you bet I’m starting a liver cleanse next!
Daily Protocol, my latest recipe for success:
I take Tri-Iodine a couple of times a week and D3 K2 daily. more info
MORNING: 1 tsp shatavari + 1/2 tsp of triphala powders with a couple of ounces of almond milk warmed with 1 tsp raw honey and cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cloves pinch of salt + 2 gel caps evening primrose oil.
BEFORE BED: 1 tsp shatavari +1/2 tsp ashwagandha powders with a couple ounces almond milk warmed with 1 tsp raw honey and cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cloves pinch of salt + 2 gel caps evening primrose oil.
In the morning and again at some point on the day:
1 Eucommia capsule (2 x’s a day)
1/2 dropper full Teasel (dipsacus) (2 x’s a day)
1/2 dropper full Go Sui Bu (drynaria) (2 x’s a day)
2 capsules Adrenal Support capsule (eleuthero + schisandra 1 x morning)
1 teaspoon Flaxseed Oil (daily- part of the Spring Cleanse in the Living Beauty Detox Program)
In the above flaxseed link are the 50 highest natural sources to help you identify what to include in your diet (or not) depending on your preference. Many women swear by estrogen rich foods for menopause symptoms. Some medical opinions go so far as to “emphasize the need for the intake of foods containing” them because they reportedly “can take out the postmenopausal indications to a large extent” such as hot flashes (8). Whether or not they can help hormonal imbalances is something you need to discuss with your doctor before ever using them for that purpose.
Whatever your opinion on them may be, you should have a right to know if you’re eating a food with high amounts of phytoestrogens. Males are more likely to avoid them, while some females want more in their diet and others may wish to minimize or avoid consumption due to safety concerns. Unfortunately, manufacturers fail to disclose this information and U.S. labeling laws do not require or even allow it to be stated within the nutrition facts box.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, fam. Solanaceae) is commonly known as “Indian Winter cherry” or “Indian Ginseng”. It is one of the most important herb of Ayurveda (the traditional system of medicine in India) used for millennia as a Rasayana for its wide ranging health benefits. Rasayana is described as an herbal or metallic preparation that promotes a youthful state of physical and mental health and expands happiness. These types of remedies are given to small children as tonics, and are also taken by the middle-aged and elderly to increase longevity. Among the ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, Ashwagandha holds the most prominent place. It is known as “Sattvic Kapha Rasayana” Herb (Changhadi, 1938). Most of the Rasayana herbs are adaptogen / anti-stress agents.
Ashwagandha is commonly available as a churna, a fine sieved powder that can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey. It enhances the function of the brain and nervous system and improves the memory. It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body's resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body's defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
In addition to laxative action, Triphala research has found the formula to be potentially effective for several clinical uses such as appetite stimulation, reduction of hyperacidity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, antibacterial, antimutagenic, adaptogenic, hypoglycemic, antineoplastic, chemoprotective, and radioprotective effects, and prevention of dental caries. Polyphenols in Triphala modulate the human gut microbiome and thereby promote the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus while inhibiting the growth of undesirable gut microbes. The bioactivity of Triphala is elicited by gut microbiota to generate a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds.
Triphala is classified as a tridoshic rasayana, meaning that the energetics are appropriate for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha or all types of patients. Charak describes rasayanas as having the qualities of supporting strength and immunity.
Triphala (Sanskrit; tri = three and phala = fruits) is a well-recognized and revered polyherbal medicine consisting of dried fruits of the three plant species Emblica officinalis (Family Euphorbiaceae), Terminalia bellerica (Family Combretaceae), and Terminalia chebula (Family Combretaceae) that are native to the Indian subcontinent. It is classified as a tridoshic rasayana in Ayurvedic medicine as it promotes longevity and rejuvenation in patients of all constitutions and ages.
Shatavari means “who possesses a hundred husbands or acceptable to many”. It is considered both a general tonic and a female reproductive tonic. Shatavari may be translated as “100 spouses”, implying its ability to increase fertility and vitality. In Ayurveda, this amazing herb is known as the “Queen of herbs”, because it promotes love and devotion. Shatavari is the main Ayurvedic rejuvenative tonic for the female, as is Withania for the male. Asparagus racemosus (family Asparagaceae) also known by the name Shatavari is one of the well known drugs in Ayurveda, effective in treating madhur rasam, madhur vipakam, seet-veeryam, som rogam, chronic fever and internal heat,. This herb is highly effective in problems related with female reproductive system. Charak Samhita written by Charak and Ashtang Hridyam written by Vagbhata, the two main texts on Ayurvedic medicines, list Asparagus racemosus (A. racemosus) as part of the formulas to treat women's health disorder–. A. racemosus is a well known Ayurvedic rasayana which prevent ageing, increase longevity, impart immunity, improve mental function, vigor and addvitality to the body and it is also used in nervous disorders, dyspepsia, tumors, inflammation, neuropathy, hepatopathy. Reports indicate that the pharmacological activities of A. racemosus root extract include antiulcer, antioxidant, and antidiarrhoeal, antidiabetic and immunomodulatory activities. A study of ancient classical Ayurvedic literature claimed several therapeutic attributes for the root of A. racemosus and has been specially recommended in cases of threatened abortion and as a galactogogue. Root of A. racemosus has been referred as bitter-sweet, emollient, cooling, nervine tonic, constipating, galactogogue, and aphrodisiac, diuretic, rejuvenating, carminative, stomachic, antiseptic and as tonic. Beneficial effects of the root of A. recemosus are suggested in nervous disorders, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, dysentry, tumors, inflammations, hyper dipsia, neuropathy, hepatopathy, cough, bronchitis, hyperacidity and certain infectious diseases.
Eucommia ulmoides (EU) (also known as “Du Zhong” in Chinese language) is a plant containing various kinds of chemical constituents such as lignans, iridoids, phenolics, steroids, flavonoids, and other compounds. These constituents of EU possess various medicinal properties and have been used in Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) as a folk drink and functional food for several thousand years. EU has several pharmacological properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, antimicrobial, anticancer, antiaging, cardioprotective, and neuroprotective properties. Hence, it has been widely used solely or in combination with other compounds to treat cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, sexual dysfunction, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and neurological diseases. This review paper summarizes the various active ingredients contained in EU and their health-promotin
Eucommia ulmoides (EU) (commonly called “Du Zhong” in Chinese language) belong to the family of Eucommiaceae, a genus of the small tree native to Central China . This plant is widely cultivated in China on a large scale because of its medicinal importance. About 112 compounds have been isolated from EU which include lignans, iridoids, phenolics, steroids, and other compounds. Complementary herbs formula of this plant (such as delicious tea) has shown some medicinal properties. The leaf of EU has higher activity related to cortex, flower, and fruit [2, 3]. The leaves of EU have been reported to enhance bones strength and body muscles , thus leading to longevity and promoting fertility in humans
Modern research has identified the physiological actions by which traditional bone-knitting herbs work to rebuild bone tissues. Over time a large body of contemporary research has focused on one particular herb that is particularly effective at restoring bone loss arising from periodontal disease. The herb, Drynaria fortunei, is referred to in China as GuSuiBu, literally meaning “mend broken bones.”
Drynaria and Dipsacus
yang tonifying herbs for bones, tendons, and brains
Drynaria and dipsacus are extensively used in modern Chinese practice for the same purpose as over the previous centuries: treatment of injuries and various disorders of the bones, tendons, and joints; frequently, they are combined together for these applications. Because of their history of use, most research on formulas that include them, the individual herbs, or their isolated active fractions has focused on the treatment of osteoporosis or bone fracture. Studies in laboratory cell cultures and in animals support their beneficial effects on bones in terms of stimulating the osteoblasts (1-3). Recent reports indicate that these two herbs may be of value in prevention of senile dementia, including dipsacus used for Alzheimer’s disease.
Known as an adaptogenic agent, schisandra helps balance hormones naturally and therefore improves our ability to deal with stressors, both physical and psychological. Adaptogenic herbs and superfoods have been used for thousands of years to naturally raise the body’s resistance to environmental stress, anxiety, toxin exposure, emotional trauma, mental fatigue and mental illnesses. Because schisandra helps nurture the adrenal glands and turns down an overproduction of “stress hormones” like cortisol, it’s linked with better mental capabilities, physical endurance and metabolic health.
Research shows that schisandra is beneficial for fertility and hormonal health, helping promote a strong libido, preventing sexual dysfunction like impotence and positively affecting the reproductive organs, including the uterus. (9)
Because it positively impacts hormone production, including estrogen, it’s capable of helping with bone healing and forming bone mineral density. This is useful for preventing diseases like osteoporosis, which are common among older women as they experience changes in hormonal levels.
Because it impacts nearly every organ system within the human body (what TCM refers to as the 12 “meridians”), it has dozens of uses and benefits. TCM views schisandra as an herb that helps balance all three “treasures” within the body: jing, shen and chi.
Historically in TCM, schisandra was used to promote a balance between yin and yang. It’s said to help “calm the heart and quiet the spirit” by positively affecting the brain, kidneys, liver and lungs.
Eleuthero The plant is mostly used in traditional medicines as an adaptogen, a compound that helps the body better handle and adapt to stress. Eleuthero also acts as a stimulant, increasing nervous system function.
When I think about women, I think about their breasts: small, large, round or oblong- they come in so many shapes and sizes.
The identity of “female” has been directly linked to breasts: plunging necklines, lingerie ads, magazine covers, movies. We can imagine the voluptuous pillow of her breasts and deep cleavage in all of these images. Breasts are everywhere we look, sexualized as the ultimate feminine. Our psychology, sexuality, and self-esteem relate to our breasts, whether we realize it or not.
In harsh contrast to all of this soft lighting, lace, and allure is that modern medicine states that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer and they say hereditary factors, like having fibrocystic breasts and a maternal grand mother that had breast cancer, put a woman at a higher risk.
From that July experience, I want to tell my story in hopes that it might empower women during a fearful time that research finds has lingering effects. When I first shared my story with friends, they all told me about their own similar situations or that they had a friend that was going through some kind of breast cancer scare or trauma. My friends shared my story with their friends and then women started contacting me. In that vein, I felt it was my duty to write a testimonial. I am reaching out to women with fibrocystic breasts and clustered micro calcifications with information that I discovered through my own research. I am not prescribing anything but rather reporting how I changed my mammogram picture for the better. I acknowledge that breast cancer exists and that medical intervention has prolonged many lives, so I am specifically writing about fibrocystic breasts and micro calcifications and not diagnosed cancer.
I encourage women to trust your bodies’ wisdom, consult with your doctor, do your own research, and really consider the Cancer Machine that so dominates Western Medicine. Cancer Machine? Ribbons and bracelets and slogans like Fight For A Cure all packaged pretty in pink. We are aware of breast cancer now. We know breast cancer exists, that it is rampant, and the likelihood of getting it seems strong. All of this “awareness” has desensitized us to the disease and our “probability” of getting it. So, women go along with their doctors advice and go through with the recommendations - just following orders - reciting the mantra “better safe than sorry” just like they have been told. After all, nobody has died from a breast biopsy. As I learned about breast cancer diagnoses and procedures for patients, I also learned that doctors pass along huge markups for the prescription/sale of every chemo treatment they prescribe. I learned there are actually biopsy quotas and that studies of breast biopsies found that surgery was used too extensively. Are doctor’s intentionally diagnosing patients with cancer?
February 19, 2011 New York Times:
“A study in Florida found that 30 percent of the breast biopsies there from 2003 to 2008 were surgical. The rate should be 10 percent or less, according to medical guidelines. The figures in the rest of the country are likely to be similar to Florida’s, researchers say, which would translate to more than 300,000 women a year having unnecessary surgery, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of these women do not even have cancer: about 80 percent of breast biopsies are benign. For women who do have cancer, a surgical biopsy means two operations instead of one, and may make the cancer surgery more difficult than it would have been if a needle biopsy had been done.
The reason for the overuse of open biopsies is not known. Researchers say the problem may occur because not all doctors keep up with medical advances and guidelines. But they also say that some surgeons keep doing open biopsies because needle biopsies are usually performed by radiologists. The surgeon would have to refer the patient to a radiologist, and lose the biopsy fee.”
In the midst of all of this pink, though, you have to wonder why breast cancer is so prevalent in some countries and not in others. What do they know that we don’t know?
Breastcancerchoices.org cites, “The incidence and severity of breast cancer is less in Japan than in Europe and the US, and it’s attributable to the diet. Japanese women consume 25 times more dietary iodine than North American women and have lower breast cancer rates.”
Seaweed and seafood are high in iodine and a regular part of the Japanese diet. Yet Iodine is nothing to take lightly and can have serious, negative side effects depending on your health. Case in point, one friend who had been successfully managing her symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease started taking Iodine. One month later and she reported back that she had completely gone down hill, lost all her energy and was exhausted. She then looked up iodine and Hashimoto’s disease and read about all of the negative implications. She quit the iodine, returned to her protocol for managing Hashimoto’s Disease, and resumed her previous level of energy and well-being. I researched Hashimoto’s and selenium (best source Brazil nuts) and discovered selenium must first be administered to prepare the body to receive iodine. Here again, I encourage women to consult with their doctor and do their own research, credible information is right online. The links throughout this testimonial will get you started!
So, this is how my story unfolds with the eventual discovery of iodine. When I was a teenager in the late 80’s, maybe 17 years old, I discovered a lump at the top of my left breast. I went to a doctor, an old man. I was nervous to open the drape and expose my bare chest to him. He felt the lump and proceeded to take a ballpoint pen from his lab coat pocket and draw an inch and a half line horizontally across the top of my breast. He said I had fibrocystic breasts and that I would feel the discomfort and tenderness my whole life. The scar would look something like the blue line he had drawn on my skin. There was no mammogram, just a physical exam. He sent me home to decide if I wanted to remove the cyst or not.
My parents and I talked about it around the dining room table. My mom had fibrocystic breasts. She said at one point she had a lump and the doctor wanted to perform a core needle biopsy on her breast. She and my father decided not to do it. She had regular exams and the lump never changed so it was considered benign. My parents were calm and really left the decision up to me, but my dad said the unforgettable words, “You know, once they start cutting on you that’s when problems can start.” I dismissed the lump, bolstering myself that I had fibrocystic breasts; my mother had fibrocystic breasts; that was normal for some people.
A few years later, I started going to gynecological appointments with low-grade anxiety. My fibrocystic lumps and dense breast tissue always caused great alarm to my doctor which was further exacerbated by the fact that my maternal grandmother had died from breast cancer when she was 59 years old. The pre-visit questionnaire always asked about the maternal grandmother and the doctors emphasized this every time. According to modern medicine I was a strong candidate for breast cancer due to this hereditary factor alone. During each appointment I bolstered myself against believing it would happen to me. Yet, when I was prescribed my first mammogram, I was 31 years old and I followed their recommendation.
Later, still in my early 30’s, I discovered a definitive lump in my outer left breast, towards the underarm. A marble size lump that I reported was more sensitive depending on my coffee consumption and during my menstrual cycle. I consoled myself that cancer would not fluctuate like that, but the lump did worry me. During the exam, the female doctor said that it was palpable but not adhered to the chest wall and that was a good sign. After that, I was scheduled for a mammogram every six months. The doctor was always concerned and additional images were always taken.
In the spring of 2011, at age 42, my mammogram coincided with the time frame of a scheduled knee operation, a scope procedure for a torn meniscus. A 30-minute operation followed by a few weeks on crutches and a six-week recovery. The standard breast screening turned into a diagnostic screening and this time, I was referred to a new doctor. She was young and very assertive in suggesting a metal micro chip be inserted into the area for monitoring. I told her about my knee surgery and that I would be on crutches. I was thinking about underarm pain and pressure around the area of the lump. She said a thin needle would be inserted into the breast and that a metal chip would be inserted into the area indicated on the ultrasound image. That was it. She persuaded me to make the appointment. I considered that my mother would be with me, since she was flying in for the knee operation, so I agreed with great trepidation and made the appointment.
I started my menstrual cycle the day I had my knee operation. The operation went smoothly and a few days later my mother and I went in for the chip implant procedure. Laying back on the table, my arm raised over my head, the young doctor could not locate the lump as she performed an ultrasound. She left the room and returned with an older woman, clearly her superior. She, too, massaged the wand over my breast as the younger doctor stood poised behind her holding a different wand, only this wand had a long thick needle protruding out the end. I had imagined a very fine, hairlike needle when she had described the procedure, but this needle was the size of a bamboo skewer! Fortunately, the older doctor could not locate the lump either and dismissed the procedure completely. The whole thing happened so quickly that my panic was brief. She left the room as the young doctor followed in dismay. I hopped off the table, dressed, and escaped on my crutches! I had told her the lump was affected by coffee and my period!
The next year, after another diagnostic test, I was told by another doctor not to worry. Eight years of unchanged pictures had convinced that doctor it was not cancer. I was told if it was cancer, at this point it would have spread all over. At last, I put my worries to rest. I felt validated that I trusted my innate sense of knowing, never believing it was cancer, yet my low-grade sense of worry and anxiety had always been present. However, I was still “high risk” and continued getting mammograms every six months. The protocol was the same, the initial screening and then more pictures and an ultrasound. Over the years the consensus was that I have very dense breasts.
In July 2016, at age 47, one of these screenings alarmed the radiologist when small micro calcifications were seen in the mammogram image. The technician started my mammogram saying all I really needed was a standard screening and not a diagnostic exam. She wanted to “save me from extra radiation “ since things hadn’t changed in so long.
She took a few pictures and then indicated, that actually, she better take a few more. Our chatty conversation petered out fading back into the formality of the exam. Midway through our appointment she saw something and said that she had better stick with the diagnostic imaging. When she was done, I covered myself and went over to her computer screen. I wanted to see what she was seeing and it was quite definitive. She pointed to the area on the screen and I saw a cluster of small white specs, like a constellation of stars. She said I would probably have to stay and get an ultrasound, which I expected, but this was different. I had never heard of a “small cluster of calcifications”. The look on her face was serious as she ushered me back to my dressing room. I waited in my cubical until I was called back to another room for an ultrasound. The lights were dimmed. I laid back on the table and raised my arm above my head. The technician opened my gown exposing my right breast and applied the conductive gel to my skin. She touched me with the wand and massaged it over my right breast, particularly the area where the calcifications had been identified by the mammogram. Images of black and white bubbly cysts appeared on the screen. I craned my neck to look up and over my shoulder to see the images. After she was done she left the room to get the radiologist.
The young man who analyzed the images came in alongside the technician and explained that he strongly encouraged me to get a surgical biopsy. He rubbed the gooey wand over the center of my breast and then he looked down into my eyes. He reiterated that I should get a biopsy. I could feel complete denial wash over my body and harden my face. There was a pause. I stared back into his eyes and played along. Okay. What does a biopsy entail?
He told me they would take another picture to identify the area and insert a thin wire into the breast to mark the area. Then I would walk over to the surgeon’s office in another building, with the wire hanging out of my breast, and have the procedure to remove the calcifications to be tested. Once that was done there might be more depending on the margins and if anything had gotten into the lymph nodes. Whoa! Margins? Lymph nodes? I thought to myself. I knew about a needle biopsy and wondered if I could get just that? No. The radiologist told me that I was going to need the surgical biopsy. He could tell I was resisting and he looked a little surprised.
He asked if I could feel the lump as he placed my fingers just left of my nipple, my fingers sliding over the goo, over the lump. Yes.
I hated him. I wanted out of there. I vowed to myself that I wouldn't do anything he described. He and I had a stare down, of sorts, in that dim light, his expressionless gaze looking into my eyes with pure medical urgency. When I asked what the probability was he told me 1 in 5 of these scenarios turns out to be cancer. Did I want to take that chance?
I felt as if they’ve wanted to chop on my breasts my whole life and I had continually slipped through their recommendations and remained intact. This time I felt a decision was going to have to be made. One that I had wrangled with since I was 17. Would I take a cancer treatment? Would I follow medical protocol if I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to. Could I resist chemo and radiation if cancer was indeed identified. Would I do major surgery? I got dressed and drove home. I had missed meeting a friend for dinner, sending her updates of my prolonged appointment instead. By the time I got home, she had emailed me three different internet links on calcifications in the breasts.
I devoured the information she sent and felt there were connections to my lifestyle and some physical conditions that I had recently experienced. What had changed since my last mammogram?
A new house and harder water came to mind. When the dishes and laundry turned white from higher calcium in the water, I switched my water consumption from the filtered water out of the refrigerator to alkaline water from the local water store. I took more hot, detoxifying baths. I pulled out my magnesium chloride gel from under the counter and slathered my breast and underarms daily. I applied diluted frankincense gum resin and sometimes frankincense essential oil to the same areas. I took a frankincense tincture and CBD oil everyday until the containers were empty. I drank more herbal teas and switched to green tea instead of coffee. I ate less meat and more fruits and vegetables always opting for organic food choices. As a yoga teacher, I backed off teaching classes and focused more on my own yoga practice and meditation. Before the appointment, I had just
finished a month of taking blue-green algae from Klamath Lake and a mushroom complex tincture. I buried my fear in the thought that I didn’t have to do anything they said. When I followed up with my primary doctor she told me they never force anyone to do a biopsy, you have to decide that for yourself. I told her all of the protocols I had enlisted and I was on a mission to gather information. I agreed to see a surgeon.
One step at a time.
My brain was reeling with ideas and different approaches as to what I could do to reverse my situation. I remembered my mother had shrunk nodes on her thyroid by alternately applying topical sandalwood and frankincense essential oils. Each oil was mixed in a carrier base of grapeseed oil and she applied sandalwood one day and frankincense the next. I had looked it up online, essential oils for thyroid, and found the prescription. She applied the oils for four months and by the time the next picture was taken, the nodes on the left side of her thyroid had shrunk. The surgery to remove half of the butterfly-shaped gland was postponed. She continued the protocol and by the second year, the nodes had continued to shrink and her surgeon discharged her completely.
As I spoke with my mother about her thyroid, she remembered she had thermal imaging done when she was investigating a lump in her breast many years ago. She suggested I get thermal imaging as a comparison. Learning about thermal imaging revealed some of the negative effects and inaccuracies of mammograms. I quickly located Northern Arizona Thermal Imaging through a friend and made an appointment. The diagnosis was low risk/concern. I felt much better and slightly confidant.
Next, I met with a female breast surgeon in Phoenix. Her office was elegant and very feminine. She looked at my mammogram pictures and said I had very busy breasts. Ductal carcinoma in situ was mentioned during the appointment as a non-invasive cancer, a precursor to cancer located in the milk ducts. After performing a manual examine we sat and discussed my options. In fact, I was a candidate for a needle biopsy over the more invasive procedure originally suggested. She described how the breast would be clamped flat, held still for the procedure. My breasts were small but since they were so dense she didn’t think the needle would go through to the other side. This was the reason the radiologist had recommended the other type of biopsy which she went on to describe, as well. She said she was comfortable waiting, that it was early enough to wait and do a follow up mammogram in six months. If there were no changes we would watch it every six months for two years before they would disregard it. Otherwise, if there were changes she would not be comfortable waiting and would recommend the needle biopsy. I liked her approach. I had six months to change my picture!
I continued to increase my healthy protocols. I had 3 months until the recommended follow-up with thermal imaging and 6 months until the follow-up mammogram.
Months passed. Then, one day a good friend gave me seven capsules of Terry Naturally Tri-Iodine. I was continually complaining of being cold and she suggested that I try iodine. I knew a little about iodine but it was out in the periphery of my nutritional acumen and I had never tried it. The next morning I took the first capsule with a little food as she suggested. She said it would help regulate my body temperature and give me a little kick, as if I got my pilot light lit. That first day I felt improved mental clarity and an upbeat mood. By mid-week I had turned into a rocket! My words were quick to come and I became more verbose and energized. I was making jokes and feeling like my “old self”. I was getting my lists done and long hours spent on the computer weren't as grueling as they had been. Something was happening. At the same time I started waking up in the middle of the night. I have always been a light sleeper, but this was clearly associated to the iodine. I was totally energized, full of ideas and creativity; I half-joked it was like Kundalini Rising! By the fourth day, however, I was only sleeping 4-5 hours a night. I loved the effect yet knew it could never trump the power of sleep. I notified my primary doctor that I was taking iodine after my online research described different kinds of iodine and cautions - all of the reasons I hadn’t self-prescribed it for myself in the past. In six days I had taken one capsule per day in the morning, having shared one with my boyfriend who reported the same effects.
I bought my own Terry Naturally Tri-Iodine 3mg over the counter, at the local health food store, and right on the box it said:
I reported back to my friend and discovered that she had given me 12 mcg iodine capsules! No wonder I had turned into a rocket! I continued taking the lower dosage and smoothed out my sleepless nights. Two weeks after taking the iodine daily, I started my menstrual cycle with no PMS or tenderness in my breasts. It was remarkable. The results prompted my extensive research of iodine linked to breast health.
The second thermal imaging appointment was scheduled right after my period, the time when the breasts are naturally less swollen. I had only taken the iodine for two weeks before this follow-up appointment and reported that to the technician. She assumed it was for my thyroid and added it would be good for all of the radiation that I had from mammograms. I told her I was taking iodine for breast health. Nothing more was said and we continued the exam. The report was mailed to me within days and the images had improved! The report recommended vitamin D3 and selenium.
I saw my primary doctor shortly thereafter and, as she performed a manual exam, she exclaimed that my breasts felt totally different, like normal breast tissue - words never associated with my breasts before. She prescribed vitamin D and said she would start telling patients about iodine for their breasts. I told her the info was all over the internet. I looked up vitamin D and found a new combination of vitamins D and K2 - the latter being associated with moving calcium scattered throughout the body back to where it belongs in the teeth and the bones. I started taking vitamins D (5000 IU) and K2 (180 mcg) in addition to the iodine.
Three months later, I had the 6 month follow-up mammogram. I had called to reschedule the appointment to occur just after my menstrual cycle and I was told that the appointment scheduled wasn’t a mammogram but a biopsy. I rescheduled the biopsy as a precaution that my follow-up mammogram showed a negative change and made an appointment for a mammogram.
During this follow-up mammogram I told the technician I had been taking iodine. She too assumed it was for my thyroid. I explained it was good for breast health. Nothing more was said. She took pictures and afterwards, I quickly looked at the final picture on the screen. I couldn’t see the “constellation” I had seen before. I was hopeful. I waited in a private cubical with nervous resignation that no matter what they said I didn’t have to get a biopsy. When the technician returned she changed the game with one quick report. The calcifications had shrunk. Tears welled up in the corner of my eyes as I whispered, “It was the iodine.” The technician continued, saying the radiologist was shocked; he had never seen this before. In that moment, I vowed I would never do a biopsy on my breasts.
I left the office with a wave of relief, sadness, and anger swirling within me. Why hadn’t any of these practitioners and specialists known about iodine related to breast health? I wanted to call everyone and tell them my good news, at the same time, I didn’t want to flaunt what could change down the road. I thought of friends that had gone through a lumpectomy or some variation of a biopsy on their breast just to be told it was nothing. They were fine. Only they were left with the scar and the physical and emotional pain from the procedure. I thought of women who had been diagnosed with cancer and gone through mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. Everything I had read about Iodine was that it was anti-cancer and that the old guard knew this. Doctors of yore had prescribed iodine for many ailments.
Remember the Rust Belt? When an increase in goiter - a thyroid malfunction based condition - became prevalent in the 1920’s due to the soil levels being extremely low in iodine, the U.S. government called for iodine to be added to salt. Iodine had decreased in certain regional soil and the respective agriculture was deficient of this element. Additionally, people weren’t eating iodine rich foods. Iodine was known to be critical for the ability of the thyroid to synthesize certain gland secretions which influence the heart, metabolism, and nerve responses, among other things. A lack of iodine during pregnancy and in the baby’s diet after being born can cause significant health and developmental problems. Iodine deficiency has also been linked to increased difficulty with processing information, diminished fine motor skills, extreme fatigue, depression, weight gain, and low basal body temperatures. U.S. research copied the Swiss by adding iodine to the salt and the goiter rate decreased drastically. In 1924 the U.S. government requested the Morton Salt Company add iodine to salt as an easy, spoil-free, economical way to bring it into the food chain. Iodized salt became a simple, highly effective way to deal with the health imbalances caused by not getting enough iodine. Today, however, processed and fast foods don’t contain iodized salt and many people prefer the taste of gourmet salts that only have trace amounts of iodine.
Iodine had been used to treat anything and everything with high success rates only to be discarded in the wake of Big Pharma. As the earth’s soil has continued to lose it’s iodine content, cancer rates have soared and pink ribbons flourish - it all seems so connected.
The next day I called the breast surgeon’s office to cancel the biopsy and I was immediately asked to reschedule the appointment. When I told her I was just canceling the appointment because my tests came back normal, she replied quickly, that I could call back when I was ready to reschedule. She was on auto- pilot and hadn’t heard me.
The synopsis of my ordeal is that I took Terry Naturally Tri-Iodine 3mg and Dr. Mercola’s vitamins D (5,000 IU) with K2 (180 mcg) daily, for just over 3 months until I had my second mammogram. I read that once you saturate your system you can drop back to taking iodine 2-3 times a week, which I do now, and I still take the vitamins D and K2 daily. I am sticking to my daily protocol of hot baths, massage with essential oils, eating healthily, and loving my breasts! I don’t know if I will get a six month follow-up mammogram or not - probably not. I will get thermal imaging instead. I respect modern medicine, yet I believe in the medicinal apothecary of nature and the less invasive approach before relying on the other. I sincerely wish to instill inspiration and hope to women who have fibrocystic breasts and challenge the current medical approach on how fibrocystic breasts should be treated.
Here the links to get you started on your own research. Please, do so with discernment.
https://holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-o-z/vitamins-a-supplements/343- iodine-a- breast-health-think-beyond-the-thyroid.html
Pulling from the mental archives all the musings, philosophy, and travel behind the creation of Monsoon Nectar Skin Care, I collectively call these ideas, experiences, sensations, and lifestyle choices, Bath Culture.