Slowing Down to Find Joy

 Enjoy this post by special guest FreeDom Flowers - yes! That is really her awesome name! Contact info for her included at the end of the post. 

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This year has been one of many transitions for me.  Cross roads that I have come to and that required big decisions.  There is a common theme in each of these choices I find myself faced with.  They seem to be a choice between simplifying my life, so that I tune into the things that bring me joy and fulfillment, or things that bring me more chaos but paint a pretty picture of the perfect “American Life”.  Now this must seem like an easy decision to some but, to be real, I have found it to be quite challenging. I have grown up surrounded by chaos and it’s familiar.  I think it has become my habit to gravitate towards it.  Chaos isn’t always terrible.  It can mean lots of social interaction, being driven to succeed in business, always having fun things to do and places to go.  It’s the thrill of excitement of having a full life.  However, as you can imagine, it has its downsides, too.  I have sometimes overextended myself, dropped the ball because of juggling too many things, time away from family due to working long hours, and, ultimately, burn out!

Over the past two years I have wanted something different.  Something that gave me space to slow down and enjoy my life and the simple pleasures within it.  I’d prefer to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.   I have been making the efforts to choose joy and the soul-feeding goodness that comes from the art of slow living.  I recently downsized my successful massage therapy center with several employees so that I could put more of my energy into my family, clients, and focusing on building my herbal medicine practice.  We recently sold our fixer-upper home in the congested Lehigh Valley and bought a home in the hills of Berks County’s countryside with a home that does not require a lot of fixing up.  We will have a modest plot of land and that means gardens, medicinal plants, bees to keep, possibly chickens, and definitely waking up to do some bird watching while I sip my tea.  A slower way that resonates in my soul so deep that it feels older than me.  Perhaps it comes from my great grandparents or even older generations.   I crave a return to the simple pleasure once considered normal, pre modern convenience and all the noise.

I am grateful for the cross roads that I happened upon.  They are empowering me to choose the kind of life I want to live and give my kids.  Times like this when transition and mental exhaustion are a prominent theme, I turn to my adaptogens and other supportive herbs to support me through. Below is a light summer recipe that I created that has been helpful to me in my transition from chaos to calm. I also wrote a list of each herb and their benefits. It is helping me to restore my energy and strength from the exhaustion I have endured over the years and my hope is that it also helps you!

Benefits: Tulsi (aka Holy Basil) is a mild adaptogen in cases of fatigue and the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis deficiency. It stimulates cerebral circulation and therefore is beneficial for those with foggy brains and poor memory. It enhances immune function, has antiviral properties, and is an immune amphoteric. It is beneficial in cases of allergic asthma and allergies, helping to regulate blood sugar levels, useful in gas and nausea. Regular use of Tulsi helps lower LDL/VLDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Another bonus to this amazing plant is that it can act as a galactagogue, stimulating breast milk production in nursing mamas.  When nursing moms drink it as a tea, it can also help ease colic in babies. I have also been drinking Tulsi tea for headaches during this pregnancy.

Lemon Balm is a mood elevator, helps reduce anxiety, and soothes the nerves. It is beneficial in times of stress or when your brain is foggy from overload. It may be taken by nursing mamas to reduce colic in their babies. It is a good choice for little ones having temper tantrums (or adults for that matter). Lemon Balm supports digestion by reducing gas, burping, nausea, and reduces excess stomach acid.

Linden Flower is beneficial in cases of mild depression, anxiety, and irritability. It basically calms the nerves and spirit. Linden is useful in reducing stress headaches, sleeping difficulty, and mild hypertension. It's a sweet and pleasant tasting flower. One of my favorites in tea. :)

Hibiscus supports mild hypertension, elevated blood sugar, and cholesterol. Hibiscus is rich in antioxidants and is an anti-inflammatory. It helps regulate the immune system and reduces histamine production, which makes it a nice choice to use as a preventative or to reduce allergies.

Rosehips are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. They are helpful in musculoskeletal discomfort such as lower back pain, osteoarthritis, and, rheumatoid arthritis. The seeds in the hips are a good source of vitamin E.

The herbs in this recipe can be used as we do here in ice cube form. You can also make an ice tea or refreshing popsicles by mixing it with a favorite fruit purée. Get creative....and as always, enjoy!

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Tulsi Late Summer Elixir

Ice cubes

Holy basil 4 tsp

Lemon Balm 3 tsp

Linden flower 2 tsp

Hibiscus 1 tsp

Rosehips 1/2 tsp

Short pour of maple syrup 

1. Mix herbs into a blend

2. Add 2 tsp of herb to a tea ball 

3. Steep cup of tea in boiling water for 20 minutes. Then strain.

4. Add maple syrup 

5. Pour into ice cube trays

ummer Elixi

Strawberry puree 1/2 cup

Lemonade 1 1/2 cups

Rose infused water (splash to taste- careful, a little goes a long way)

1. Mix all ingredients together in a jar

2. Pour into cups and add your herbal ice cubes

Contact FreeDom for a consultation or to learn more about her work, visit



photo credit Paul Morris

photo credit Paul Morris

I am a veggie snob.  All winter I suffer, forced to shop in the produce section of the grocery store, instead of the bounty of my backyard.  Greens, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, no matter what it is, lose flavor and appeal with every mile they travel.  To me they taste more like the cooler they were stored in, than anything like the outdoors where they were grown. Perhaps I shouldn’t gripe, since our selection and quality of winter vegetables has improved a great deal since I was a child, but I live on a produce farm, so I am genuinely veggie-spoiled.  

With spring’s arrival, and the greening of the fields, I can simply walk across a few acres and graze.  The cultivated lettuces, spinach, baby radishes and beet greens taste sweeter to me than a pan of brownies, but the real thrill comes in the flowering tops of the wild mustards, last year’s arugula, dandelions, violets and all manner of weeds, waiting to be foraged.  Within seconds of harvest, their nutrients hit my digestive tract and await assimilation.  Something deep and ancestral stirs in my bones when I engage in this “hunter-gatherer” ritual. The world around me right now reverberates the most intense golden green life and the tender succulence of the plant matter appeals to both palate and belly.

For at least 90% of the time that humans have walked the earth our ancestors foraged for plant matter.  Roots, greens, berries and seeds created a rich diverse source of fiber that sustained life, not only the human consumer but also the microbial residents of the human's digestive tract as well.  A special relationship between human and microbe evolved around the consumption of 80-150 grams of fiber/day. Gut microbes feast daily on our leftovers: the fibrous portion of our diet that we are unable to digest. These fibers travel through our small intestine and arrive in the large intestine as a bug’s smorgasbord. Bacterial digestion (aka fermentation) of these fibers release nutrients, such as short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that we would otherwise miss out on. SCFAs, notably butyrate, provide fuel for colon cells and protect these cells with it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Roots such as burdock, dandelion, chicory and radish are rich in a soluble fiber called inulin that our beneficial microbial residents love.

Remember, gut microbes thrive on your leftovers.  Competition for bug food in the colon is stiff, and if fiber is scarce, they will turn to their second favorite food: your intestinal mucus. If that sounds gross and unappealing, you are right, it is. That mucous lining provides an important barrier between what’s in your gut and what’s in your blood stream. If bacteria are starving for nutrients, they will dine on what they can get their hands on, if they had hands, that is.

If you’re like me, you want to keep your mucous lining in tact. A vast array of supplements can support you in this endeavor, especially if you are already in trouble. Licorice, L-glutamine and zinc carnosine are some of the most popular supplements for symptoms of leaky gut. However, before you spend big bucks on magic pills, evaluate your fiber consumption.  A handy fiber calculator, available online  can give you a good idea if you are eating enough.  If you daily fiber total is less than 50 grams, consider boosting fiber, especially soluble fiber.  If you have access to fresh local produce, commit yourself to consuming more vegetables with every meal.  A search online will help you find creative ways to prepare vegetables so that your task becomes a delicious endeavor.  Joining a CSA is a fantastic way to encourage healthier eating: your box arrives each week, and you set a personal goal to eat the entire contents before the next one arrives.

As is often the case, the remedy is as simple as following your Mom’s advice: "Eat your vegetables!”