He Shou Wu

He Shou Wu root notably popular for turning gray hair back to its original color is one of the leading longevity Chinese herbs for its liver and kidney tonifying properties.  Also as a tonic for the endocrine glands, it improves health, stamina, and resistance to disease.  Cholesterol reducing due to its lecithin, studies show that it improves the cardiovascular system, enhances immune function, increases antioxidant activity, and reduces the accumulation of lipid peroxidation—making this a powerful herb to help prevent fatal diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, and stroke.

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For the vanity driven, this herb is magic for faster, softer hair growth, thicker texture and preventing gray hair.  It’s also a Chinese remedy for premature aging, boosting hormonal balance to help with night sweats, boosting the libido in men and women, to increase energy, and to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

So what do I do with it?  Add 1 tablespoon into your hot tea, smoothies, and I even add it to my nut butters, as it’s the ultimate longevity powerhouse.

WARM BEAUTY TONIC

1 c tea of choice | steeped for five minutes

1 tbsp Sun Potion Cacao

1 tsp of Sun Potion’s He Shou Wu (and any other herb(s) of choice)

stevia, honey, or sweetener of choice to taste

Dash of cinnamon

PROCESS | add all ingredients to your blender.  Blend for 30 seconds.  Garnish with cinnamon and you have yourself the most divine, beautifying, and warming tonic.

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Elevating Your Mood With Food

So much of what we experience on an emotional, cognitive, and mental level is a result of what we are putting into our bodies. Yet, we often look elsewhere when it comes to bolstering + elevating our emotional states: we up our self-care regime, meditate more frequently, or consult a healer. All of these practices are beautiful, beneficial, and healing, but I think an important piece of mental health that so many people overlook is the diet. What we eat is intimately connected to how we feel, and much of what we perceive to be emotional imbalances actually originate and develop because of what we may (or may not) be feeding ourselves.

Below, I explore my six favorite dietary + lifestyle practices that to create the physiological shifts necessary for an experience of less stress and improved mood.

::: Incorporate more high-quality fat into your diet  My numero uno recommendation for mood support. When I hear a friend dipping below the line emotionally – fat. When I personally feel anxiety start to creep in – fat. It’s a deeply nourishing brain food, as the brain itself is largely comprised of fat. The immense rise in mood disorders and imbalances that we see and experience today is believed by nutritional researchers to be a result of the widespread low-fat craze (and of course, the corresponding rise in our consumption of sugar). That is, perhaps our collective state of declining mental health is not because we are all going crazy, but instead, simply because we are starving for more fat. Increasing our intake of high-quality fats (plant-based and otherwise) will correspond with an immediate increase of energy and elevation of mood, as well as long-term reduction, prevention, and perhaps even elimination of mood imbalances.

::: Stabilize blood sugar levels through regular low-glycemic and protein-including meals  The blood sugar ups and downs that result from skipping meals, eating irregularly, and/or consuming a high-sugar diet are a major (though commonly overlooked) contributor to emotional imbalances. Sharp rises in blood sugar will leave you feeling energized (albeit easily distracted, ungrounded, and generally tweaked out), followed by spans of moodiness, fatigue, and anxiety after the inevitable blood sugar crash. Our moods are intimately connected to the state of our blood sugar, which is, of course, a result of how we feed the body. Eating three daily meals (and I mean like full, substantial meals) comprised of low-glycemic whole foods, protein, and fat, in addition to small snacks in between, will ensure that you keep blood sugar levels and mood elevated and balanced.

::: Support the gut-brain connection with ferments and probiotic-rich foods  Roughly 90% of the bodies’ serotonin is housed within the gut, making the state of our digestive health a massive (and I mean massive) indication of how we will feel mentally and emotionally. Supporting our gut health is a beautiful and powerful way to make a dramatic, lasting change in our mood and mental health. How we do this through diet is by eliminating refined sugars and processed foods (duh) and incorporating more fermented, probiotic-rich foods.

::: Supplement with adaptogenic tonic herbs  Adaptogens quite literally assist the body in adapting to stress, creating a positive shift in the way we respond to internal and external stressors on a chemical and physiological level. They make powerful, nourishing additions to the diet, especially for those of us experiencing emotional highs and lows, anxiety, mood imbalances, and high levels of stress. My top picks for mood support include mucuna pruriens, Rhodiola, maca, and ashwagandha – though each of us is a bit different, so feel free to experiment with what makes you feel most vibrant and aligned. Aloe vera is also an adaptogen I take daily for emotional support that definitely proves much easier (and less expensive) to source than tonic herbs.

::: Eliminate trigger foods  It’s important to note that food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies present themselves as an array of symptoms, many of which are not physical. Mood and cognitive imbalances may be a reaction to a food that triggers an inflammatory response within your body. If you suspect this may be the case, the best course of action is to work through an elimination diet with a nutritionist, naturopath, or holistic doctor to pinpoint what food(s) are creating the adverse reaction. Common culprits include corn, eggs, the gluten protein, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, seafood, processed foods high in preservatives and additives, and animal products treated with antibiotics.

::: Increase vitamin D production via natural sunlight  Less of a dietary tip and more of a lifestyle practice, getting enough vitamin D is absolutely crucial for thriving mental + emotional health and I felt I just couldn’t exclude it from this list. Unlike any other vitamin or mineral, our bodies have the ability to produce D, though only in the presence of sunlight. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and synthetic sources and supplements are neither recognized nor bioavailable for use by the body, making it of utmost importance that we just get outside and soak it up. Every tissue within the body contains vitamin D receptors – including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system – making it necessary at virtually every level for the body and mind to function optimally. There’s a direct and well-established link between depression (among other emotional and cognitive issues) and vitamin D deficiency, making a bit of sunshine a true + powerful antidote to an imbalance in these realms.

Navigating Through Your Cravings

Navigating through our cravings can sometimes be tricky, but when we are able to tune in and get clear on where the cravings are coming from, we become empowered to make choices that support our health & wellbeing.

Cravings always carry important messages for us. There is often something lacking in our life that needs attention and nurturing. In our culture, we are working too much, doing too much, and not taking the time to rest. We push really hard to feel a sense of achievement and success, and the overwhelming we experience leaves us feeling constricted. We crave foods with expansive properties, like sugar, chocolate, coffee and alcohol (hello happy hour!), to give us a feeling of openness and expansion.

The more in the moment we are, the more we can fully enjoy the experience of our meal and the beauty of creating it. Connecting with our food to make it a gratifying sensory experience gives us a deeper sense of connection to the world around us. Tasting all of the flavors, textures, and nutrients in our meal offers a deep sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure. We just need to slow down enough to fully savor the experience.

There are a few key factors that trigger cravings ::::

A huge factor that almost always triggers strong cravings is dehydration. If you are not hydrated properly, you will automatically crave food, even when you’re not hungry. Next time you are ravenous between meals, ask yourself, “Am I hungry or thirsty right now?”

Another huge component is sleep. When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which generally makes us crave food all day long if we haven’t had proper rest. You will also notice that when your sleep isn’t the best you end up craving more carbohydrates and sweets to soothe the body & uplift you in some way.

There are several different types of cravings, but here are a few of the most common ones ::::

There are nutrient cravings – This is when our body literally craves what it’s lacking physiologically. This is our innate body wisdom seeking support for healing and balance. This often times is why women crave chocolate around their menstrual cycle – raw chocolate is very high in magnesium, which a woman’s body needs more of during her menses to support her cycle.

There are emotional cravings – When we are trigged in some way that really hurts us, we experience an alienation from ourselves. We reach to food to soothe ourselves the way a baby would with mother’s milk. We are all emotional eaters in some way, but it’s important that we pay attention to what’s happening beneath the surface. Check in with yourself- is it really emotional or is it that I skipped breakfast or have been choosing foods that under nourishing me? This is your body craving nutrition. Get clear with yourself.

Lastly, there are cravings for balance – The body is a balance-seeking instrument. If you consume lots of expansive substances (like sugar and coffee), you’ll crave contractive substance (like salty foods & cheese). This is the body’s natural attempt to create internal equilibrium.

If you are stressed or working too much this will also cause you to feel contracted. This triggers cravings for expansive “foods” like sugar, alcohol, and coffee which give us a temporary feeling of openness. We also tend to reach for chocolate and sweets when we are lacking sweetness in our lives. The key here is to eat more neutral foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds to help keep you centered instead of constantly moving from one extreme to the other.

 Here are some healthy ways to move through your cravings ::::

Ask yourself- Am I hungry or thirsty right now? 

Go for a walk or do something physical to engage your body.  

Journal to get in touch with your feelings.

Call a friend or loved one if you’re craving sweets, love or connection.

Meditate, get a massage, take some deep breaths or listen to soothing music to help alleviate stress and get closer to yourself.

Use essential oils topically, aromatically or internally (food grade) to center, uplift and reground yourself. Here are a few of my favorites: white angelicasandalwood & frankincense.

Make a sugar free tonic or warm water with lemon.

Eat more neutral foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. To ground, regain balance, and keep us from moving from one extreme to the other. (expansive/contractive)

Reach out for the support of a therapist or healer to help work through emotional patterns and triggers.

Let’s tune into our senses & ourselves and look deeper to understand where our cravings are coming from & why. This is extremely important in transforming our bodies, healing, and creating harmony with our relationship to food and our relationship to life.

Creating a Sleep Routine

Every aspect of our mental, emotional, and physical health is affected by the quality of sleep we get each night.  Proper sleep is essential to deep healing, vitality, and life force. Modern times demand us to be clear, motivated, and well rested to complete a multitude of tasks each day. This requires almost constant energy output, and most of us find slowing down to be quite challenging.

Creating an environment and routine that supports deep relaxation and fully restorative sleep is a key component of feeling & looking our best. It’s also imperative for increasing our immunity, decreasing overall inflammation, and supporting our long-term health.

Use the following tips to support deep sleep

::: Create a supportive sleep environment  Remove all electronics from the bedroom. If you need an alarm, use one that is battery operated, but if you can’t leave your smartphone, make sure to put it on do not disturb mode.  Keep room temp between 60-67 degrees as it helps to regulate body temperature throughout the night. Use a fan or white noise to block out sounds and simulate the womb; this offers a deep sense of safety and comfort to the unconscious mind. I love to use Spotify playlists of ASMR rain sounds.  Clean the air and soften the lighting with a Himalayan salt lamp. Keeping the room as dark as possible enhances melatonin production. If need be, use a sleep mask to block out the light.

::: Set a sleep schedule  We get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10pm to 2am. If you’re sleeping from 1am to 9am and getting eight hours of sleep, you are still missing that prime time when beneficial hormonal secretions like melatonin and HGH (human growth hormone) are at their peak. Clocking a solid 8 hours (from 9-6, 10-6 or 11-7) always feels best for me, but see what works best for you! Shoot for the same time every night, so your body gets into a routine. The goal is to wake up feeling refreshed and energized before your alarm clock goes off.

::: Limit your caffeine intake  Caffeine is highly stimulating to the nervous system and overconsumption increases cortisol and adrenaline production. Do your best to consume any caffeine in the morning, before noon is best and never later than 2pm! This will give your body ample time to metabolize and fully detox the caffeine from your system.

::: Move your body  Regular exercise lengthens and deepens sleep. Our ancestors spent most of the day moving and slept when the sun went down. Movement is necessary for connecting our body to the natural rhythm of nature and aligning with our internal circadian rhythm. Be sure to workout 2 hours before bed as movement generally spikes adrenalin and cortisol.

::: Incorporate magnesium-rich foods  Magnesium is the anti-stress mineral. It helps to balance blood sugar, optimizes circulation & blood pressure, relaxes tense muscles, reduces pain, and calms the nervous system. By incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diets, such as dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, and brazil nuts, you instantly reduce internal stress and improve your quality of sleep.

::: Avoid screens before bed  Artificial blue light emitting from your electronic screen triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep. Programs like Iris are fantastic ways to protect yourself from too much screen time. To get your body into a deep state of relaxation, shut down all electronics 60 mins – 2 hours before you hit the hay. Allow your mind and body to shift from work mode to sleep mode. This will improve your sleep quality almost immediately. If you have trouble doing this, try turning off your notifications. This is a simple way to detach yourself from your tech device.

::: Relax with a bedtime ritual  Slow down with a bedtime routine that promotes deep relaxation. Take a hot bath with lavender essential oil & magnesium bath salts. Sip on a warm cup of chamomile tea. Take a pump or two of CBD. Incorporate some slow stretches to relax your muscles. Listen to calming music, meditate or use hypnotherapy to release your mind from its stressed cycles of endless thought. Practice deep breathing to soothe the nervous system and prepare your body for a deep slumber.

::: Give thanks  Part of the reason people have anxiety and trouble sleeping is a fixation on the things they haven’t done or what they don’t have. Take a few rounds of deep breaths to center yourself and reflect on the day. Think of all that you have to be grateful for in your life right now & write or recite 5 things. Drawing your awareness to a sense of gratitude before bed sets the tone for a peaceful rest.

::: Use calming scents  Aromatherapy oils like chamomilejuniperlavender, marjoramrose, and sandalwood all have sedative effects when inhaled. Rub a little bit on the insides of your wrists, on your temples or on the bottoms of your feet and allow the scents to carry you off to sleep.

Enhancing Digestion

Digestion is quite possibly one of the most important factors of health. About 70% of our immune system lies in the digestive tract, and, as a result, maintaining digestive health is the key to keeping you healthy all year long. Healthy digestion also means a healthy metabolism, weight regulation, and proper assimilation of nutrients.

This time of year, our digestion is generally overburdened in some way. This happens from too much food, too many sweets, and lots of overindulging. It’s all fun & festivities until you start feeling run down and you feel illness coming on.

Here are a few key elements to keep your digestion flowing & your body glowing. Create sustainable patterns now, to support the way you look & feel all year long.

::: Drink plenty of water (but not with meals). At least 30 minutes before or after is best. This ensures that your digestive fluids can do their job. Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day for proper hydration. If you choose to drink alcohol, stick to organic wine or champagne, and make sure to increase your water intake that day.

::: Load up on probiotic-rich foods like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, organic miso, tempeh, and coconut yogurt & kefir. This will establish a healthy environment for your gut-flora, directly affecting your immune system.

::: Add lemon or apple cider vinegar to your water or meals to increase digestive stomach acids. Begin your day with warm water & half a lemon to elevate stomach acid and stimulate gastric juices. Digestive bitters work in a similar way, take ¼ tsp before meals.

::: Try to eat fruit on an empty stomach not with or directly after a meal as it ferments in the stomach & can disrupt the digestive process.

::: Have a cup of Chamomile tea at night, it soothes and relaxes the bowel wall and aids constipation. Peppermint tea & Fennel tea help to relieve gas.

::: Soak your grains, nuts and seeds for optimal digestion.  Soaking them removes the nutritional inhibitors & phytic acid that the body struggles to break down.

::: Stay present at mealtime, eat slowly & mindfully, and try to avoid unconscious eating. Eat slowly in a relaxed environment & chew your food . Remember that digestion begins in the mouth! Taking deep breaths before, during, and after meals & putting your fork down every few bites helps to keep you present.

::: Supplement, when necessary, with digestive enzymes to replenish your natural reserves. This is helpful when consuming a heavy holiday meal or animal products. This enhances stomach enzymes and relieves gas, bloating & discomfort. If your system is feeling overburdened, try a 1-day cleanse to give your digestive system a break.

::: Cut back on gluten-containing foods. The gut has a hard time breaking down the protein found in gluten. This can cause gas, inflammation, bloating & constipation. There are so many tasty alternatives out there like quinoa, brown rice, or amaranth!

::: Aim to eat 2-3 hours before bedtime. Stay in alignment with the natural rhythm of your body. Late evening is for resting & digesting.

Six Reasons To Go Meatless One Day A Week

Going meatless, even just once in a few times a week, can make an amazing impact on your health. You don’t have to cut all animal products out of your life cold-turkey, but decreasing the amount of meat and increasing the number of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and grains that you eat can do wonders for your health and the health of the environment. Continue reading “Six Reasons To Go Meatless One Day A Week”