This summer didn’t exactly turn out the way I thought it would. If you don’t already know, at the end of July I had an accident or what I like to refer to as a wrestling match with a Taxi in Florence. The taxi won, leaving me with a broken wrist and in a cast during the hottest month of the year. A humbling experience to say the least.
Healing from injury can be a long and arduous process. But It can also be empowering, and shine light into dark places that are easily ignored when everything is functioning properly. The trick is being an active (and mostly willing) participant in the healing process.
Having spent years studying holistic health and wellness, I rarely seek support from Western modalities, opting for a different bag of tricks when ill or injured. So when I broke my wrist, I felt confident about supporting my own healing. Of course, I went to the hospital for a variety of tests, x-rays and cast, but I also embraced the chance to rest, practice gentle yoga and meditation, and prepare nourishing, vitamin rich foods and herbal concoctions.
With regards to my yoga practice, I was forced to spend more time focusing on the niyamas, especially svadhyaya (self study). Also, as a yoga teacher I felt confident that I would be able to modify my physical practice and still maintain my daily practice… just slightly different.
The thing about inner practices and injuries is they generally don’t provide just the lessons you were expecting.
I began dreaming up asana sequences that wouldn’t require putting weight on my hands and researching best practices for healing and preventing wrist injuries with yoga. Through the fog of pain and pretty serious pain killers I found my way to my mat daily and practiced Yin and a very modified ashtanga vinyasa flow sequence.
I also sort of created a little challenge for myself. I embarked on a very clean diet (no alchohol or sugar and only whole foods from the garden or locally grown) and added a ton of Indian and Chinese herbs, algae, and adaptogens to my diet. I wanted to see what could happen in the course of one month.
I’m happy to report that it worked. A prognosis that went from very bad went to “no big deal”. When I went back in for progress x-rays my Doctor said that I’m lucky to be so young and that a in a couple of weeks time the cast would come off and that the fracture was healing beautifully. Of course, he had no idea what I was doing at home to support this healing.
I’ve always believed that food is medicine and here was my chance to experiment on my own body and see what kind of results I could achieve using food.
With that said, several of you have asked what I supplement my diet with so I thought today I’d share just a few of my favorites. My breakfast mostly consisted of interesting smoothie bowls and I drank a variety of smoothies and nut milk lattes made with herbs throughout the day. The trick was to make the recipes delicious so that I couldn’t tell I was eating or drinking medicine; in hind sight it was an opportunity to play and use my creativity.
- Irish moss: Irish moss is amazing and I’m convinced it should be a part of our normal everyday diet. Especially, if we’re over 30 years old. It isn’t actually moss, it’s seaweed that grows along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and especially in Ireland. It is typically used as a thickening agent in vegan deserts but more than that it is a pure source of collagen which is important for our skin and joints. As we age, our body naturally produces less collagen.. one reason why we develop wrinkles and joint pain. Irish moss is like a miracle.. eat enough of it daily and chances are you won’t need botox (just sayin). It is a natural source of antioxidents to fight free radicals and has a large array of ionic minerals such as Iodine which supports our thyroid and many problems associated with poor thyroid function.
I order the moss online and when it arrives I wash it well, soak it overnight in a bowl of cold water, than wash it again and blend it with just a little water creating a sort of cream which I keep in the fridge. I then use at least one tablespoon of it a day in my smoothies or smoothie bowls. It has no flavor so it will disappear in your smoothie but make it a little thicker. If I made a smoothie for you with Irish moss you’d never know it was in there.
- Astragalus: one of the most powerful immune-building plants on the planet. This adaptogen herb lowers cortisol, aka the stress hormone, while fighting disease at the same time. How effective can it be? Turns out, In addition to pumping up your immune system, studies show it’s vital for cardiovascular health and can even fight off tumors and alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy! I get it in powder form and add it to smoothie bowls and smoothies. It doesn’t taste like anything so you can easily hide it in your normal diet and boost your immune system.
- Maca: Another adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, but due to it’s unique properties it considered one of the world’s natural “super foods.” Maca is grown high in the mountains of South America, mainly in high altitude regions of Peru. The pleasant tasting root is usually available in powder form after being harvested and grounded down. The maca root benefits include a positive effect on hormone balance, energy levels, and a health booster.
And not only is it a natural source of healing nutrition, but it also has a long history of being a safe superfood that has been consumed for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years in regions of the Andes Mountains.
- Spirulina: A natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder that is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available. It is largely made up of protein and essential amino acids, and is typically recommended for vegans and vegetarians due to its high natural iron content.
The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal during pregnancy, after surgery, or anytime the immune system needs a boost. The flavor can be a little strong, but I’ve learned to hide it in smoothie bowls and delicious tasting summer smoothies. I’ll try to add some recipes in the Food section of the site soon.
- Ashwaganda: One of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing, has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of conditions, and is most well-known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness.
Ashwagandha is frequently referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its rejuvenating properties, even though botanically, ginseng and Ashwagandha are unrelated. Again, I get it in powder form and add it to various food and drinks.
- Tulsi tea: Tulsi is the Sanskrit name for the holy basil plant. It is a member of the mint family and grows wild in India. The traditional medicinal uses for tulsi are many, particularly in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition, but it is primarily known today as an adaptogen — meaning it helps the body cope with stress. Modern research has found that tulsi has many constituents, including those with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. I like to order organic tulsi powder and make the tea myself rather than buying a premade tea.
- Rehmannia: One of the most important herbs in the Chinese system for disorders related to the kidneys and adrenal glands. Kidney imbalances can cause weakness in the legs and lower back, and also hearing loss. Because rehmannia is used to restore adrenal function and purify the kidneys, it is considered a helpful tonic for these conditions. Rehmannia is said to ‘cool down internal heat’ and help decrease blood pressure.
In Asia, it is often used as a helpful tonic for the liver, kidney, and heart, and to treat many other ailments, such as anemia, diabetes, constipation, dizziness, urinary incontinence, and for women experiencing menopause, hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, and other hormone deficiencies.
Another modern day problem—blood sugar balance—can also be helped by regular use of rehmannia.
- Acai: There are many healthy berries you can add to your diet, but the acai berry is one of the healthiest berries you will ever find. Acai is an indigenous berry found in the rain forests of the Amazon. This fruit has been heralded for centuries as a healing, immune-stimulating, energy-boosting fruit. Research reveals this antioxidant-rich berry may help suppress and repair oxidative damage and it tastes delicious. You can purchase it as a powder or frozen at the grocery store. I usually use it to make tasty acai bowls or smoothies during hot summer months.
There are others of course, but these I the main ones I ate during the month of August.
I still have a way to go and probably won’t be able to do a proper chaturanga for at least a few more weeks, but the cast is off, I can dress myself, feed myself, and even teach yoga. Hooray for the small things we normally take for granted.