The Wellness Ritual with Alyson Fox

Today marks the beginning of a new series for Medicine Kitchen called The Wellness Ritual. This series is about inspiring people who embody what it is to lead a healthy and conscious lifestyle. These are people who value taking care of themselves, others, and the world at large. I ask them questions about their personal healing journey and the rituals they use in their lives to stay balanced and inspired both mentally and physically. I hope you enjoy! 

Alyson Fox is a designer & artist residing outside Austin, TX. She is my friend and my fitness inspiration. She also happens to be an amazing cook and curious seeker of life-enhancing methods of all sorts. 

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MK: So, I know you to be quite healthy in your habits, what is your most tried and trusted ritual for your overall health? 

AF: Honestly, snuggling with Stache (our dog). Hugging our pup close and focusing on his breathing and smelling him really helps to calm me down and makes me more present. Bringing him home from the shelter was the best gift we have given ourselves mentally. He’s so silly and easy. 

MK: When you are able to, what kind of special treatment or therapy do you use to revitalize yourself?

AF: I take a bath that I add mineral salts, baking soda, apple cider vinegar and some almond oil to. I smear a clay mask on my face and soak while reading a magazine. I also get a 10-20  min chair massage before my period.  

MK: Well, I took notes on that bath situation and will be trying that immediately! Do you have a spiritual ritual you practice? If so, what is that for you? 

AF: Laying outside on a blanket with my husband and listening to instrumental music. Stache is usually smushed between us. Also, taking my shoes off and feeling the earth beneath my feet helps me feel grounded.

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Alyson jumping on her mini-trampoline. 5-7 minutes per day for cardio and lymphatic drainage.

MK: Was there a moment in your life or reason you became more devoted to self-care and healthy living? 

AF: I was always focused on pushing my body physically from a young age. All of that caught up to me in my early thirties. I went for a run one day and felt very depleted- I’m pretty sure I cried. I stopped 5 minutes in and walked home. I started to rethink what a strong body is. I always felt that you had to exhaust yourself, sweat and eat very specific things to be healthy. Now I have a much different approach. A gentler approach where I move my body often but with softer movements. I eat whole foods but I definitely indulge. I am kinder to myself overall and listen to my body more. 

MK: Take a quick picture of something healthy you ate this week: 

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Alyson’s Coconut Milk Chia Seed Pudding made with lemon juice, date, and vanilla powder, topped with peanut butter and figs. :)

MK: What are your current favorite 2 superfoods or supplements and how do you use them? 

AF: 1. Dark chocolate- I eat several squares every- single- day!  Sometimes with cashew butter smeared on top and things like sea salt, cinnamon, black sesame seeds, fig……endless possibilities.      2. Ghee or grass fed butter. I add some to my tea with some almond milk and sometimes I smear on my lips. 

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Thanks Aly! Healing hugs for the win :)  

All images (except Aly’s pudding) by Heather Gallagher Photography. :)

2017 Year of the Rooster

As of last week, we are now in the 2017 year of the Yin Fire Rooster! Goodbye to that crazy bonfire of a year last year, 2017 brings a mix of going inward (yin) and expanding outward (yang-fire). 

The Rooster years are known to be filled with integrity and efficiency. Hard work is the key to achieving success in this Chinese New Year. 2017 is a great year to try alternative healing therapies to keep stress at bay so that you can use your potential to the maximum. :)

The Rooster character loves elegance in all things, so refine every arena of your life and every object in it. Lavish your time and attention on completing any task to the best of your ability and take delight in adding small touches of Beauty to each. 

This is not the same thing as decluttering. It is a call to scrutinize absolutely everything that you rely on for life and happiness. How sturdy are your underpinnings–housing, vehicles, savings, etc.? How smoothly do your daily routines flow? How healthy are your sources of food and friendship? This is the year to pour more loving, nurturing qi into the things that truly sustain you.

This yin Fire year means our deeper heart leads the way. Use it for discerning what to keep and what to let go. Expand it by opening up to everyone you encounter throughout your day. Share your feelings about your experiences and ask others to share theirs. Learn to enjoy hearing divergent opinions, realizing that the more variety a community supports with loving kindness and tolerance, the greater its security grows. The more our neighbors feel loved and secure, the safer and happier we all become.

Teething Tea

My 7 month old son has been teething like crazy lately - poor guy is up crying several times each night, chomping at the bit and obviously in a great deal of discomfort. It goes without saying that we are also in great discomfort listening to him and going without sleep ourselves. Morning comes and he is his happy, joyful self again! I came across a recipe for Teething Tea that I’ve been trying the past couple weeks. I drink it myself as I’m breastfeeding him - but you can also give the tea directly to the child by bottle or dropper, and it may work faster that way, too. It tastes very yummy. I also make a pitcher of this tea for everyone at home that has a spoonful of raw honey added to it and my 3 year old calls it “Calming Tea” :) A great staple for toddler tea parties. Lemon Balm, Catnip, Chamomile & Lavender are all soothing herbs that calm irritability and relax the nervous system so it is calming in a true sense, and also good for cooling inflammation. 

Teething or “Calming” Tea:

2 Tbsp dried Lemon Balm

2 Tbsp dried Catnip leaves

2 Tbsp dried Chamomile flowers

2 Tbsp dried Lavender flowers

Place 1 tbsp of mixture into mug or glass jar with 1 C boiling water. Steep for 15-30 minutes (the longer it steeps the stronger it will be - also for very fussy babies try using 2 tbsp per cup). Have mom drink the tea (if nursing) or give to baby via bottle/spoon/dropper 1 oz at a time throughout the day. You can also soak a thin wash cloth in this tea, chill in the fridge, and give to baby to chew on - that’s a big hit! This tea is very safe to take over long periods of time. 

We also use Camilia homeopathic medicine and silicone baby spoons in our house for teething. What about you? Do you have a favorite remedy I’m missing out on?

Getting Sick? My Acute Self-Care Ritual

We all have supplements & vitamins we take on a daily basis for our individual needs… products we swear by and use daily for our health & beauty regimes, but what about when you are dealing with a sudden onset cold, or when you wake up with a golf ball-sized sore throat? At the VERY first signs I may be coming down with something acute - I start a very purposeful, emergency wellness ritual that I have refined over the years. There are so many useful tools for treating a cold or easing acute allergies or ear infections, so as Fräulein Maria would say - these are a few of my favorite things!

Hydrogen Peroxide / I trust using Hydrogen Peroxide almost 100% of the time when I notice an acute cold coming on. I gargle with it, and I also put a few drops down each ear for 5-10 min, then drain onto a towel. You can dilute it by 50%, but I just use it straight and rinse with water after gargling. This is just one of those measures I swear by. It will kill many bacterial microbes and pathogenic viruses that have entered the ear canal. H2O2 is always best to use right away when you notice symptoms in the first 12-24 hours. 

Elderberry, Echinacea, C, Zinc / You can take all these individually, but man that sounds like a lot of pills & I don’t do that very well. So I get these lozenges and have them in the house at all times. They are a powerful blend of healing agents - echinacea, zinc, elderberry & Vitamin C to help reduce the duration of disease and prevent illness from taking hold if you catch it early enough. 

Yin Qiao San herbs / Best Chinese herbs for warding off illness in the initial stages - I take it at the first signs of a sore throat, especially one that feels swollen, hot, raw, or burning. I take 3 capsules 3x/day. 

Raw Garlic Paste / aka my Warrior Wellness Paste. This stuff probably deserves its own post. I mix together 2 cloves of mashed raw garlic, 1 inch of raw grated ginger, 1 big Tbsp raw honey, & ½ tsp turmeric powder into a paste. I use 1 tsp of this paste in a mug of 1 C hot water (I actually put it inside a teaball and pour the water over it like making tea - that way it is pre-strained and you don’t have bits of garlic floating in your mug) and add the juice of ½ lemon to it. I drink this 2x day until the paste is gone. 

What are your self-care rituals? Would love to hear your tried & true remedies! 

Thieves Oil

Have you heard the story of the Four Thieves of Marseilles who successfully robbed people afflicted with the bubonic plague in the 14th Century? It’s rumored that their armor was a blend of herbs and oils diluted in white wine vinegar which they doused themselves with before going out & plundering the community… and they never became ill! A modern-day “Thieves Oil” exists today with numerous uses - household cleaning when diluted into a spray bottle, diffusing into the air for immune benefits, massaging on the feet with a carrier oil to help ward off colds and pathogens during flu season, or even using a few drops in a capsule to take orally for your immune system. If your family tends to get their fair share of colds and germs passed around each Winter, consider using a Thieves blend at home for wellness purposes - diffuse this blend for 30 minutes a few times each day in different rooms of the house to clean and purify the air while making your home smell divine. 

Thieves oil blend:

40 drops of Clove Essential Oil

35 drops of Lemon Essential Oil

20 drops of Cinnamon Essential Oil

15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil

10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil

Can we find Mindfulness in Tech?

My iPhone can be a huge mindless distraction at times and a huge help in others. I’m sure this is the case for most of us these days. I’ve been thinking of ways to make my iPhone work more FOR me than against me lately… so that I’m feeling more of the true usefulness it can offer, rather than the tempting diversions. I’ve come across a few great apps that promote mindfulness and healthy living (beyond your basic Nike & Health fitness apps) and am very happy to share them with you! 

Daily Water: This was just so relevant for me right now I had to download it. It can remind you to drink water / hydrate yourself at different times of day and towards a goal of 8 glasses per day (or however many you want) on average. I set it to remind me 3x a day to drink water - and find that’s more than enough notifications in one day to keep water in my mind  - and mouth. If you have trouble with hydration, I recommend using an app like this for a few weeks to get yourself in the habit of drinking more, then you can delete it! 

Headspace: This is a wonderful mindfulness meditation app for beginners. The free app gives you 10 meditation sessions (they call it the Take 10) that are based in mindfulness of the body and the environment around you. The guide has a nice, relaxed, British accent and his voice is very natural and personable to me. Once you complete your first session, the next one is unlocked for you for the next day - the idea is that starting with 1 meditation, 1x a day, for 10 days will help establish a habit of creating more “headspace” in your life. 

Stop, Breathe & Think / Calm: These are 2 other meditation based apps that I like. Stop, Breathe & Think uses lots of infographics like Headspace but has some nice guided meditations on different topics that may apply to your emotional/mental state - like one on Great Compassion, Gratitude, or Being Present. The guide tends to talk a lot through these sessions - so if you find that a bit much, you can simply use their self-meditation timer that has a lovely gong sound to begin and end your session for the more seasoned user. Calm also has a self-meditation timer, timed guided sessions of any length you may want - 2, 5, 10, 20 minutes - and some nice visual relaxation scenes if you are using it on a laptop or computer. It’s a great break from long hours of computer work! 

Moment: Like I said, the iPhone can provide many distractions and mind-numbing habits. If you find you are checking your phone gratuitously for emails, social media, news, photos, games etc on a chronic basis - consider an app like Moment that will let you know just how many times you checked your phone & how much time you are spending on your device in a given day. Some days will be more than others, but you can start to be more mindful, perhaps, of exactly what you did on your phone and whether it was helping you or hurting you (or others around you). They even have a family plan to monitor the kids phone usage if you feel it’s getting out of control. Their message is “Put down your phone and get back to your life.” Sometimes, I couldn’t agree more! 

As far as apps go, there is a thing as TOO MUCH information - even when it’s trying to be useful or make life more efficient- that can add more stress than benefit to your life. :) So download with care and delete when unnecessary. Oh, the conundrum of technology! 

Breakfast Nut Muffins

I’ve been eating eggs for breakfast for like… ever. Especially while pregnant, I’m always looking for more ways to add protein and healthy fat into my daily meals so I can stay energized while eating for two. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of having some morning eggs, toast, and fruit in our household. This meal has been ingrained in me since childhood! Not to say there is anything inherently wrong with bread and fruit… but they are not protein-rich and tend to lead to energy crashes if it’s the only thing you eat in the morning. To better balance your hormones and energy - we need protein and healthy fat to start the day. I tried out these nut flour muffins this week and have to say, although they don’t feel like a classic muffin, they are tasty and much healthier for you (gluten free as well!) than toast with jam. Try ‘em out with your eggs and a side of wild boar sausage for a mega-fueled breakfast of champions! 

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Nut Flour Muffins:

1 ½ cups raw, organic nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and/or pecans)

¼ cup maple syrup

3 eggs from pastured chickens

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a blender (VitaMix is best), grind nuts until flour-like consistency; use a spatula to scrape sides if it becomes sticky. Add maple syrup, eggs, vanilla and salt and blend together until there is a smooth consistency.

Pour into sprayed or buttered muffin pan. Bake ~12 minutes, until golden brown and your toothpick comes out clean. Slather generously with grass-fed butter and enjoy hot! Makes 6 standard-sized muffins. 

Are there herbal alternatives to Ibuprofen? Yes!

I think I could be pretty confident in saying that just about EVERYONE throws back a couple of Advil on occasion. For pain, injury, surgical recovery, headaches, arthritis… people take it for so many reasons and almost without thinking whether there might be a better solution to their pain. “Just take some Advil!” I know that phrase was commonplace in my home growing up and many others, I bet. Advil certainly has its place in your medicine cabinet - but I wanted to let you know about a few other herbal approaches that deserve similar status. Here are my favorite herbal pain relievers that really work when taken properly:

1. Turmeric Root + Ginger Root: Turmeric and Ginger are relatives of each other and both have big anti-inflammatory properties. They can increase circulation and relieve pain due to inflammation. Turmeric needs to be heated to release its healing benefits  - so use them both in cooking and warm teas for best results, or take as a supplement.

2. Corydalis: Corydalis (or Yan Hu Suo, in Chinese pinyin) is an herb tuber with amazing pain-reducing potential. It invigorates blood, and has been researched to eliminate pain due to inflammatory or injury related causes. Researchers from UC Irvine identified the active compound dehydrocorybulbine (DHCB) in Corydalis which holds special promise for those with persistent, chronic pain. Because of its strong circulatory properties, don’t take it during pregnancy.

3. Fish Oil: Fish oil can also ease the inflammation and pain caused by many chronic conditions. The Department of Neurological Surgery at the Univ. of Pittsburg did research demonstrating equivalent effects in reducing arthritic pain of ibuprofen vs. omega 3 fatty acids in their trials! Their subjects took between 1200-2400 mg of fish oil per day.

4. Boswellia: Boswellia is known as Indian Frankincense. It contains active components which help reduce inflammation and pain, & can be taken as a supplement as well as used topically.

5. Magnesium + Epsom Salts: Magnesium helps to relax stiff or spasmodic muscles and improve circulation. In addition to taking magnesium orally, there are topical forms as well as the traditional Epsom salts added to a bath; both absorb easily through the skin and can be quite effective for reducing muscle pain.

There you have it! Next time you are reaching for that Advil out of habit, ask yourself if it’s time to invest in some of these natural products for your home medicine cabinet instead. :)