Essential Oils- Some of My Favorites

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Essential oils can be a powerful health tool, and they are known for their subtle and gentle effects.  I love essential oils and have used the extensively in my life and in my clinical practice, but I do not proclaim myself as an expert in essential oils.  Many of my colleagues and teachers are more knowledgeable than I am in this area.   That being said, here are some of my favorites!

Notes:

*This information is from my personal experience and from my education in naturopathic medical school.  I don’t have any references for this material, it is mostly been verbally passed down from the experts.

*Essential oils are generally safe to try for people of all ages and most health concerns, but it is best to speak with a holistic medical provider before using.

* If you know that you have an allergy to any of these plants, then DO NOT use the essential oil.

*Also, essential oils are generally safe when used externally, and most should be diluted before applying to the skin (best diluents include almond oil, jojoba oil, your lotion/moisturizer, olive oil). With very limited exceptions, it is usually not recommended to take essential oils internally unless properly diluted.

Lavender- the good-for-everything oil.  Great for mental health, helps with nervousness, anxiety and depression.  It can either bring up the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) or bring down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), it is very balancing.  Apply it to the inner wrist or bottom of the feet for relief.  Can be applied directly to minor skin burns, as it helps decrease the sensation of pain and heat and can prevent blistering.  It can relieve migraines when combined with peppermint.

German Chamomile- great for bug bites, skin injuries like scrapes/rugburn, hives and eczema.  It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it is great for any skin condition with redness.  Mix with calendula oil for a powerful healing oil, or mix a few drops into your moisturizer.

Tea Tree- a potent antimicrobial.  This works well for skin and nail fungus, but can be too strong for the skin if not diluted.  This is a great addition to liquid hand soap or shampoo.  It can also be used in a diffuser to clean the air in a room, although some people do not enjoy the smell of this oil.  Interestingly, manuka honey is honey from bees pollinating the tea tree, and has many healing properties.

Peppermint- Great digestion tonic, helps to stimulates digestion by increasing saliva and bile production. It can also relieve gas and nausea. For these uses one drop followed by a glass of water is sufficient.  Topically it is good for hot flashes because it gives the skin a cool sensation. This is also great in a diffuser to clean the air in a room.  Almost everyone likes this smell.

Eucalyptus- This is great for respiratory infections and allergies.  It has antiviral activity, and is cooling to swollen, irritated tissues.  Add a few drops to a pot of hot water to breathe in the steam when you’re sick.  You can also apply one drop to the bottom of your nose when allergy season hits to keep your sinuses clear.

Rose Geranium- Great for women’s health conditions.  You can rub a few drops on your lower abdomen for menstrual cramps.  It may be able to balance the female hormones if used regularly, and it is one of those “feel good” smells which may be related to increasing the parasympathetic nervous system.  Good for those who crave sugar during their menses.

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

New Workshops Coming Up!

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Book now as space is limited!  Dr. Ward-Selinger and Dr. Herman are teaming up to present on these exciting topics.  Please reserve your space at www.sellwoodyoga.com

April Workshop:
Intro to Cleansing, $10 to reserve your space
In this workshop we will discuss the benefits of cleanses and and outline different protocols, as well as how to choose a program that’s right for you.  Dr. Kai and Dr. Lauren will provide tips for a safe and effective cleanse program, as well as ways to incorporate these healthy habits into your every day life.  Attendees will also receive a discount to use towards the group cleanse scheduled at Elixia Wellness Group in May 2014.
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May Workshop:
Conquering Allergies, $10 to reserve your space
The incidence of food and skin allergies is steadily increasing. In this workshop we will discuss the causes and prevalence of environmental and dietary allergies.  Dr. Kai and Dr. Lauren will discuss how to limit your exposure to allergens and will discuss effective, natural allergy treatments that provide long term allergy control.

“Obamacare” from My Perspective

ACAThis post is more of an editorial than usual, so bear with me.

There aren’t many other topics lately that spark such a heated debate as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  People love it and hate it, some think it’s socialist and some think it’s long overdue.  Some think it’s completely overboard and others think it is not nearly enough.  Some think it’s expensive others think it’s only a mere fraction of our actual healthcare costs.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and no one can really expect us all to agree on whether it is right or wrong.  Surely we will not agree on what is “enough”, as the scale varies wildly from “provide nothing to nobody” to “provide everything for everybody”.  This post is only to provide an inside scoop from a Naturopathic Physician’s perspective.

ACCESS TO CARE: Since January 1st I have seen an influx of patients coming in to the clinic for general checkups or to take care of their known health problems.  Some of them have been without health insurance for years because they could not afford it. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, psychiatric issues, and other conditions have been without medications, labwork and imaging for extended periods of time.  For those of you lucky enough not to have any chronic health conditions, let me stress how critical it is to get regular care.   Unmanaged health issues can result in heart attacks, blindness, pain, nerve problems, and much more.  It has been truly amazing to provide care to these patients who are so greatly in need.  I’ve also seen patients who have insurance for the first time in their lives, and are being diagnosed with serious conditions that they did not know they had.  The sooner we diagnose a problem and address the cause, the healthier they will be.  It is LONG overdue that everyone has equal access to healthcare.

ACCESS TO NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: On a more political level, the ACA contains a clause which states that insurers cannot discriminate against medical providers who practice within their scope.  Therefore, medical providers will be reimbursed the same rate for similar services.  This is a huge step for Naturopathic Physicians who practice in primary and specialty care.  First of all, many insurance companies do not cover Naturopathic services, which excludes a large population from seeking our care. Second of all, if it is covered, often times the reimbursement rate is significantly lower than if the patient saw an MD (sometimes as low as 15% of the typical reimbursement rate for an MD visit).  Interestingly, Naturopathic visits are often twice as long and therefore much more in depth, and also involve much more counseling and education (such as dietary advice, supplementation, herbal medicines, exercises, physical treatments, etc).  This makes it extremely difficult to have a sustainable business.  Although much of the population does not know what Naturopathic Physicians do, and maybe wouldn’t choose to utilize our medicine, we deserve to be reimbursed at the same level for those who choose to use our services.  I take great pride in offering my patients safe, effective and thorough care, which should be reimbursed as such.

It has been truly inspiring and motivating to see so many people take charge of their health since January 1st.  I imagine that this year will continue to bring many new people to healthcare, and hopefully more people to Naturopathic Medicine.  I know the plan isn’t anywhere near perfect. I know that it is expensive.  But, if you have been fortunate enough to have access to healthcare and insurance your whole life (such as I have), you may not realize how life-changing the ACA is.  It has taken me seeing it through the eyes of my patients to realize this. I hope that sharing my side of things has helped others see the benefits of the ACA.

Here’s a great link about the ACA and Naturopathic Medicine: http://www.bastyr.edu/news/general-news-home-page/2013/01/health-care-reform-extends-reach-naturopathic-medicine

4 Steps for Mindfulness

This time of year many of us are caught in the rush.  It is often a combination of the holiday celebrations, preparing for the year end at work, or tackling the never ending to-do list.  The holidays can also bring up a lot of emotional and financial stress.  To help get through these exciting, stressful and sometimes exhausting days, I recommend bringing a mindfulness practice into your daily routine.  Here are some steps on how to start.

BE GRATEFUL:

It sounds so simple, and it is.  Take 5 minutes every day to think about what you are grateful for in your life. This can be done as formal meditation, during your shower, during your bus ride, lying in bed, etc.  Close your eyes and think about the roof over your head, the warm fuzzy animal in your house, the clothes in your closet, the food in your pantry, the fact that you have to get up and go to your job (because you have a job).  Most importantly, take a moment to think about the important people in your life.  No one is perfect and it is easy to focus on someone’s flaws, but without them you wouldn’t be who you are and where you are.  I truly believe that people feel positive energy when you send it towards them.  So go ahead, send them some mental and energetic love.  Maybe they will send it back to you!

SLOW DOWN:

We live in a society of instant-everything.  All of the answers are at the touch of a screen, food can be ready in 1 minute, and our cars take us across town in an instant.  Although I’m thankful for this technology and it has greatly benefited my life, I think it has led us into a trap of less satisfaction.  Take a moment to put down your electronic device and talk to a stranger at the coffee shop or the lady at the checkout counter.  Walk or bike to work to see the neighborhood in a new dimension.  Cook dinner with a friend and don’t worry about how long it takes. You will likely find pleasure and satisfaction from these activities.

LET GO:

So often we hold onto things that do not serve us.  It doesn’t serve anyone to carry around a load of grief, grudges and disappointments.  Things happen in our lives that hurt or leave us with a burden.  I can’t explain why these things happen, but I know that the sooner you can come to terms with them, accept them for what they are, and move forward, the better off you will be.  You are alive to greet another day, so don’t let something that went wrong hold you down.  By greeting the day with the wisdom from your experiences and by setting clear intentions for the future, you will be successful.  Seek assistance if you need help letting go- counseling, psychiatry, energy work and body work can be very powerful.  Remember, every ending is also a beginning.

FIND A MANTRA:

A mantra is like your spiritual theme song.  It is something you can play in your head when you need a little motivation or are faced with a challenge.  Historically, mantras have been used for thousands of years in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and are often incorporated into yoga practices.  I am not an expert in these traditions but I have found this to be extremely powerful in my life.  It doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy, just something that resonates with you and allows you to refocus.  Finding a mantra may help you to incorporate the other three steps above into your life.

Here are some examples:

I will greet everyone with love
Patience and compassion with all people
I choose to be healthy
I am good
I will get through this
Breathe
Slow down and smile
Today is going to be a great day
I will be successful

In Naturopathic Medicine it is important to support the mind, body and soul.  I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and allow you to face the end of the year with more grace, gratitude and compassion.