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When Life Becomes a Bit Much, Try This!

What could be more luxurious at the end of a long day than soaking in a nice, warm mineral bath surrounded by heavenly aromas? Fancy European spas have known forever that this kind of pampering will revitalize you, body, mind and spirit. But you don’t have to jet off to Paris to discover this for yourself.

One of the key requirements for rejuvenating the physical body is relaxation. This is not a new concept, but could life be any more hectic or disconcerting than it is these days? And how long has it been since your last trip to the spa?

In my recent research, I’ve discovered that the degree to which we need to release the tension in our muscles and tissues to stay healthy is much greater than most of us realize. The internal body mechanisms that rebuild and replace worn-out cells do their job while we are at rest. Without deep relaxation on a daily basis, they are not able to do the job well. This leaves us heading for chronic disease rather than youthful vitality.

The more challenging life is, the more we need to relax, so here is one of the easiest, most pleasant things we can do to stay healthy:

 

Relax and Rejuvenate with Herbal Epsom Salts

Epsom salts start to release muscle tension and promote deep relaxation the moment you ease into the tub. Herbs can increase these benefits while they add their wonderful fragrance and rejuvenate your skin.

But which herbs to chose? Well, that depends on what you need at the moment, so keep reading to find out.

 

What To Do

Choose one or more of the herbs listed below. If you have some growing nearby, clip a few stems and gently rinse them in cool water. Then just tuck them into a small muslin bag and tie it up.

Dried herbs also work well. To get their full benefit, put the bag of dried herbs in a pan of hot water for about ten minutes before adding both the bag and the pan of water to the bath.

While running the bath water, put 2 cups of Epsom salt into the tub and swish it around to dissolve. Add the herb bag, and get in the tub while it’s still filling, to monitor and adjust the temperature. You want it to be as warm as possible but still comfortable.

When the tub is full, soak for fifteen to twenty minutes, adding hot water when needed to keep the bath warm. Mentally see your body relaxing. Notice your muscles letting go. If thoughts of your to-do list enter your mind, imagine them dissolving and floating away. This is your time!

NOTE: If you start to feel dizzy or your stomach feels upset, you’re a bit overheated and it’s time to get out!

 

Why you might want to go start filling the tub now:

  1. To relax muscles and relieve tension and anxiety.

Lavender is the traditional choice for both its relaxing effect and fragrance. It is antispasmodic and sedative, and relieves depression.

Skullcap, passionflower and valerian release muscle tension, but don’t provide much fragrance. If you use one of these, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Catnip, lemon balm, rose petal, and violet are milder, yet still calming.

Peppermint has an interesting mix of effects. It is calming to the visceral, deep core muscles, yet stimulating in ways that relieve migraine and tension headaches.

 

  1. To reduce inflammation.

If you have sore muscles from over-exertion, soak in an Epsom salt bath as described above, adding some anti-inflammatory herbs. You can also use these for inflammation following a mild injury, but do wait twenty-four hours. Don’t soak any open wounds or areas with stitches, and follow your health care provider’s instructions.

St. John’s Wort is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory herbs. If you have access to some growing fresh, that will give you the most benefit. But the dried herb maintains most of the medicinal properties, and you can also use a prepared extract.

 

Avena sativa is the Latin name for oats. Yes, it’s what’s for breakfast, but it also reduces inflammation, nourishes nerve cells, and relieves insomnia and anxiety. You can use dried stems or whole grains in the muslin bag for a calming effect. It also moisturizes the skin, and you can’t complain about that!

 

  1. To soothe irritated skin and insect bites.

Epsom salts baths can be used to relieve redness, itching, and irritation of the skin. It can help mosquito and other insect bites, and that après-garden itching from working outside.

Plantain leaf (the plant, not the fruit,) and marshmallow root, (not the kind used in s’mores,)  are soothing herbs, excellent for quick relief of dry or itchy skin when added to the bath.

Jewel weed is the best herb for relieving poison ivy.

 

 

4. To get your daily magnesium.

I read recently that many of us are deficient in magnesium due to soil depletion and processed foods. This adversely affects heart health, and can cause fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, type-two diabetes, memory loss, and more. Foods with magnesium include kale, spinach, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish.

If you don’t feel like cooking, just have a nice soak with Epsom salts, whose scientific name, after all, is magnesium sulfate.

 

Using Epsom salts with herbs is a quick and easy way to relax and rejuvenate! Have you ever used Epsom salts in the bath? If you added herbs, which ones and what were the results? Leave a comment in the contact section!

… something that looks impressive on the table, is weak-in-the-knees delicious, and healthy enough to enjoy without guilt. Does such a thing even exist?

Yes, it does! And here it is:

Laura’s Holiday Chocolate Torte

 

paleo-flourless-chocolate-cake-4This decadently rich chocolate dessert has very little sugar, and no wheat or other grains, so it’s gluten-free. My dear friend Laura Miklowitz made one of these for my birthday last year, and I’m still thanking her! For holiday occasions, I serve it on a pedestal plate and decorate it with a very light dusting of powdered sugar and a few small holly leaves and berries. You can use fresh mint, raspberries, nuts or other decorative touches at other times of the year.

 

Cake:

1 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp almond or hazelnut extract

5 large eggs

1/4 cup turbinado sugar, equivalent stevia (check label), or real maple syrup

Optional: toasted slivered almonds and/or pomegranate seeds

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9” spring-form pan with butter; line bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. (This recipe serves a crowd, so for a smaller group you can use two smaller pans and freeze one for later.)

 

  1. Melt & stir chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat until smooth.

 

  1. Whisk in cocoa. Cool 10 minutes.

 

  1. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer at high speed until thickened, about 6 minutes.

 

  1. Add extract and fold in the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.

 

  1. Bake about 42 minutes until cake is dry and cracked on top. A tester inserted in the center should come out with moist batter. Cool in pan on a rack for 1 hour.

 

  1. Remove spring form, place a plate on top of the torte and carefully turn the cake over onto the plate. Remove from pan and discard the paper. Let cool completely.

 

Glaze:

1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 T. fruit preserves (pear, fig, raspberry…)

 

  1.  Stir chips and butter in small pan over low heat until smooth, just a few minutes.

2. Whisk in one Tablespoon preserves.

3. Cool 15 minutes, then pour in center of torte and smooth over surface with spatula. You may sprinkle toasted slivered almonds over torte while still warm. Refrigerate uncovered until glaze is set. (Can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.)

 

Serve torte at room temperature. Cut in small slices (remember, it’s rich!) wetting the knife with each cut. Freezes well and keeps up to one month. To divide the batter into two tortes, use one 5.5 “ springform pan and one 7” pan.

 

ENJOY!

 

mulleinI love it when things turn around just when you’ve given up all hope.

I’d noticed some unusual swelling in my left leg and ankle. Luckily it turned out to be a minor circulation issue, but still, one that needed some attention to avoid getting worse.

I was wearing compression socks as the doctor had recommended, but what I really needed was some fresh mullein leaves. Hey, don’t laugh. A mullein poultice would reduce the swelling, and more importantly, strengthen the veins to reduce or eliminate the problem.

It was late in the season, and sure enough, as I hiked around looking for mullein, every plant I saw was thin, dry, and lifeless. I was worried about my leg, and starting to feel pretty depressed. Was this the official start of my becoming an old person with all the health problems to prove it?

I scolded myself for having neglected to gather a good supply of this herb in early summer.

 

A Lighter Approach

old-mulleinWhen I noticed myself having all these critical, unhappy thoughts, I remembered my goal of approaching challenges by raising my energy and being open to a new solution.

I took some deep breaths, relaxed my shoulders, and imagined my awareness moving up and settling near my eyes. A few moments later I felt peaceful. I started to imagine myself using some dandelion and cleavers to reduce the swelling.

 

Darkness Returns

Well that’s just great, I thought, with growing anger and resentment, those would in no way be as effective as mullein! My face became a scowl.

I was told I should keep my feet up; maybe I should just lie on the couch all day and watch TV!

Oh no! Now I’m getting crotchety.

 

Going With The Flow

That afternoon I had some errands to run. As I drove down the driveway I noticed the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in the fall landscape. I found myself turning right instead of left to take the back roads into town.

young-mulleinAs I drove past a neighbor’s farm I saw a tall, withered mullein stalk like all the others I’d seen. But low in the grass surrounding this one was a circle of fresh new plants.

My foot hit the brakes as my eyebrows shot up and I jolted to attention. AM I REALLY SEEING FRESH MULLEIN? YES!!!

Together the plants looked like a mom having a picnic with her twelve children. Her summer flowers had matured and dropped, and thanks to our unusually warm fall weather, the seedlings had come up and kept growing long enough to produce their first leaves.

Feeling a thrill rushing through me, I grabbed my bags and clippers from the back seat, and went trudging through tall grass and up the steep hillside to claim my reward. I was so gleeful I hardly noticed the needle-sharp briars scraping against my legs. The mullein plants were farther up than they’d looked from the car. Did I care? I scrambled up that hill and kept going, even though my sandals slipped again and again on the loose, dry soil, leaving layers of dirt from my knees on down.

Back home, after rinsing off the dirt, I got out my dehydrator to dry some of the leaves to make tea and poultices throughout the winter. I was happy that my intention to see things from a higher perspective had nudged me to drive in a different direction and find what I’d thought was not to be found. How fun is that!