Monday, March 30, 2015

Tai Chi ~ What, How & Why

By Marcia Wyman, 
Meditation & Tai Chi Instructor & Co-op Wellness Educator

Tai chi is a moving meditation that was created 2,500 years ago. It is based on observations of nature. The moves imitate the movements of the wind, the animals, and the cycle of the seasons.

Tai chi has been studied for more than 30 years by scientists who have concluded that the art form is the best form of non-jarring exercise.

Some of Tai Chi’s Benefits Include...

  • Balance: Participants focus on sinking symbolically, their roots into the ground. Warm-ups strengthen the legs, feet, and even the toes for better awareness and gripping power. The slow gentle rocking motion allows the “monkey mind” to be conscious of subtle shifts in posture.
  • Flexibility: The moves are slow and graceful, allowing the body to adjust to more movement. The adaptation comes about slowly and is non-abusive to the body. Neurological connections slow down and are more complete and solid through use of the form.
  • Strength: An hour of slow moving is much more effective that an hour of jumping around or moving weights to a beat. Tai chi works according to your own ability, which makes it safe and user friendly. 
Each person grows and matures to their own level and at their own pace. Such a progress allows the body to say, “Okay, I’m ready for more strength, more flexibility, more balance,” versus forcing the growth.

I have experienced the recuperative benefits of tai chi. In 2010, I had a stroke due to business and personal pressure. The stroke paralyzed my entire left side. The tai chi instructor suggested that I continue with my lessons. Though I was frustrated, angry, and skeptical, I found that within six months, my body began developing new neurological connects that bypassed the damage of the stroke. I continued taking classes weekly. The total recovery time, for both the body and the mind, was five years. I am living proof that tai chi works.

How Does Tai Chi Work?

Neurological connections are reenforced, and the body adapts according to its own healing timeline. There are no sudden moves to jar the body nor prolonged repetitive moves that might injure the body. Tai chi is not an overnight success. However it has been used to heal, maintain, and improve whole body wellbeing for more than 2,500 years; it must provide relief on some level.

Daily, in the parks in China, people join groups of tai chi practitioners in order to improve, maintain, or boost their immune systems. Using their own life-force energy, participants move their bodies and their minds gracefully, slowly, and serenely, interweaving effective postures that have shown to benefit both mind and spirit.

Marcia runs Inner Peace Tai Chi. Learn more by emailing

The statements made on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, prescribe, recommend, or offer medical advice. Please see your health care practitioner for help regarding choices and to avoid herb-drug interactions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Easy-Growing Herbs for Medicinal & Culinary Use

By Maria Noël Groves, RH (AHG), Registered Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

As an herbalist without a green thumb, I assure you, only weeds surpass herbs in ease of cultivation. Many thrive in spite of terrible soil, varying sun, and infrequent watering. Hungry critters lurking in your garden? Not to worry, most herbs rank low on the taste buds of bugs and other browsers, yet they’re utterly delicious to us. Here are some of my favorite herbs – some common, some less well known – that grow easily and provide a bounty of flavor and medicine for your kitchen.

Korean Licorice Mint & Anise Hyssop

These two Agastache mint relatives offer sweet anise-like flavor and tall, beautiful purple blooms that attract beneficial pollinators. (I prefer Korean licorice mint’s flavor, but anise hyssop is a little easier to find.) Snip fresh leaves into salads, add sprigs to flavor seltzer, and dry the leaves and edible flowers for tea or as fennel seed stand-in on your spice rack. It’s amazing infused in honey. Medicinally, it improves resistance to the cold and flu, settles the stomach, and offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil but will grow almost anywhere. It self-seeds rampantly but is easy to pull out or move. Allow a few baby plants to stay around to keep this short-lived perennial going.

Oat Straw

Though more often used as a cover crop, oats can be planted in your unused plots or the back of your garden as a tonic herb. Harvest, dry, and chop the green stalks and tops for pleasant -tasting nutritive tea with more vitamins and minerals than oatmeal. It’s particularly high in calcium, magnesium, and silica and, as such, is often used as a “super infusion” for strong bones. When the seed heads begin to mature, squeeze them and see if you can find some that exude a milky latex. These “milky oats tops” contain alkaloids that calm and nourish the nervous system and are perfect for stress, anxiety, adrenal exhaustion, addiction withdrawal, and attention deficit/hyperactivity issues. This is safe enough for children and blends well with lemon balm and holy basil. The sedative/nervine properties are lost once it’s dried; infuse fresh milky oats in alcohol (tincture) or vinegar. Buy oats in feed stores or get organic oats in seed catalogs as a cover crop. It prefers moderate to full sun and regular watering as it gets established.

Lemon Balm

This lemon Pledge-scented mint family herb spreads by underground root runners and usually survives our winters with gusto. Harvest the leaves for tea (fresh or dry), tincture, infused honey, etc. Lemon balm quells the nervous system while lifting the spirit. Studies have found that just one dose improves both cognition and mood. It also aids digestion and blends well with mint, Agastache, and lemon-flavored herbs.

Holy Basil/Tulsi

This Ayurvedic herb can be grown just like culinary basil – it loves rich, moist soil, heat, sun, and is perfectly fine in a pot. The leaves and flowers provide calm energy that helps your body adapt to stress by balancing the stress hormone cortisol as well as blood sugar. It also reduces inflammation and has many other benefits. Great fresh or dry in any form, and particularly fabulous as tea.

Bee Balm

Any Monarda with a good oregano/thyme flavor and bite will do, but M. fistulosa will knock your socks off! Use leaves and flowers (before powdery mildew overwhelms it) just like oregano for infections – colds, stomach, topical, respiratory, yeast... For coughs and sore throats, a lot of honey softens the bite. Use the flowers as a tasty edible garnish. Bee balm will grow anywhere and can get weedy but is gorgeous and attracts pollinators.

My favorite place to get seedlings 

is at Herb & Garden Day on June 6, 2015, in Concord. Click here for details.

For more details, recipes, and where to get seeds and seedlings, download the lengthy “Backyard Medicine” notes at or come to the class.

The statements made on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, prescribe, recommend, or offer medical advice. Please see your health care practitioner for help regarding choices and to avoid herb-drug interactions.

Gluten-Free & Food Allergies: Fact or Fad?

With Chef & Author Oonagh Williams, Naturopathic Doctor Jacqueline Rho, and Health Coach Kelly Lang

I’m sure you’ve noticed the gluten-free signs in stores, seen allergens listed on food labels, and heard all the media hype about going gluten free. And wondered? Some of you are saying, “It wasn’t like this growing up. What’s happening?"

For a start, regardless of what far too many people say, gluten intolerance/sensitivity/allergy (now known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity) and celiac disease are, in fact, real. BUT, the media and Hollywood have caused problems by touting a gluten-free diet as being healthy (not necessarily!) and as being a weight-loss diet (no, it isn’t). So even though the amount of people medically needing to be following a gluten free diet is under three percent, according to food trade estimates 18 percent of the Americans are now seeking gluten-free fare.

So what’s going on? The way the media has jumped on gluten-free as the latest “thing” has encouraged people to think they need a gluten-free diet for a variety of reasons. On YouTube there is a very clever piece by Jimmy Kimmel asking people if they’re on a gluten free diet and do they know what gluten-free means? Yes, they were on a gluten-free diet. No, they didn’t know what it meant.
For those of us with any form of food intolerance, this is beyond annoying and diminishes the severity of a food intolerance. Reactions can range from death from a peanut reaction to hives from fruit, stomach ache or headache, and many other symptoms.

Dr. Jacqueline Rho, Kelly Lang, and Chef Oonagh Williams will try and help you make sense of the confusions surrounding food intolerance. What tests are available, what tests can tell you, what tests can’t tell you, and possible symptoms. Literally listen to your gut telling you it’s not happy. Listen to your body; everyone reacts differently to different stimulus/stimuli. Empower yourself to live a happier, healthier life.

Spring is here, a good time to relax from some of the stresses of life. Eat healthier, tasty foods, and discover what a difference can be made in your body if you discover that certain foods are not for you. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean a restrictive diet.