Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

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Month: December 2009

The Price We Pay

I haven’t figured it out. New Year’s Eve seems to be a universal excuse for partying and overindulging. Why does everyone party hearty this one day of the year? Problem is, most people pay for their revelry the next day – me included.

Hangovers aren’t a new thing. It’s said that the Romans ate roasted canaries as a hangover remedy. (Tweetie, you’re safe in my house.) Today we know scientifically why most people get hangovers … the alcohol changes into a toxin as your body processes it and the hangover effect is the fight to get all that crap out of your system. In addition, alcohol dehydrates you which also isn’t a good thing. What science hasn’t figured out is why some people can overindulge and not get a hangover. (I’m jealous.)

The best cure for a hangover is not to get drunk in the first place. However, we know that’s not going to happen so the next best things are:

1. Eat a full meal before you start drinking. The food in your stomach will absorb some of the alcohol. That’s not to say it’ll absorb all of it but it’s a slight buffer between the alcohol and your really-absorbent stomach lining (and bloodstream). Keep nibbling during the party, too. “Coating your stomach” beforehand with a stick of butter doesn’t work and only raises your cholesterol levels.

2. Stay hydrated and rehydrate. Try to drink a glass of plain water between drinks and as much water as you can handle before you go to bed.

3. You lose a lot of electrolytes and vitamins while drinking so a sports drink designed to replace these things can help. However, sports drinks can also dehydrate so add plain water in there, too. Fruit juice will replace lost vitamin C as well as some water.

4. Get some exercise. As abhorrent as it may sound when you’re having problems staying erect, exercising can help move the toxins out of your system faster. While you might not be able to balance on a bicycle, a brisk walk will help clear the cobwebs.

5. Avoid caffeine. You’ve heard the term “wide awake drunk”, I’m sure. Well, caffeine will just make you a wide awake miserable person. Caffeine is dehydrating, too, and just makes the situation worse.

And,

6. Sleep. Most people don’t have to work tomorrow and sleep is one of the best things you can do to help your body recuperate. If you wake and can’t go back to sleep, as long as you don’t have any bets riding, you can doze during the football games.

A lot of hangovers are simply bad headaches. Stop before you reach for the bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen. Aspirin is a blood-thinner (as are the herbal equivalents) and ibuprofen can harm your already-overworked liver. In most cases, the headache is the result of dehydration so drink juice and water instead.

For hangovers with nausea, try ginger tea or a few slices of fresh ginger. Ginger is a well-known help for nausea. However, there are those for whom ginger just won’t be enough. Go ahead and pray to the porcelain god. You’ll feel better for it.

Above all, have a safe New Year’s Eve. Have a designated driver, take a taxi or don’t go out at all. If you’re the host of the party, please confiscate car keys. Hangovers are much, much worse to deal with in jail.

Enjoy your evening … I’ll see you next year!

Wishing You Smiles

‘Tis the holiday season. Even for the non-religious, it’s a time to gather with family and friends and be thankful for what we have.

I usually use the Midwinter Solstice as a time for reflection on the past year and planning for the year to come. This year it started a wee bit early. Mother Nature woke me about 4am Monday morning – I think it was on purpose. Waking that early, I had the opportunity to look at the night sky which was full of bright stars. (We live in the country with no light pollution. However, it’s been at least cloudy if not raining for quite some time so this was the first night in awhile that we had a clear sky.) The sight of all those stars usually awes me but this time it went a bit deeper.

As I climbed back into bed, I started thinking about the fact that had we still lived in the city, I wouldn’t have been able to see such a sight. I love where we live. Then I got to thinking about my wonderful husband and how lucky I am to have someone so loving and supportive. While scratching the head of one of our cats who, noticing I was awake decided she needed attention, I thought back on the past year.

Despite the world’s economic woes, we’re OK. We’ve both seen a reduction in our income which has meant cutting back on some things but we still have a roof over our heads and food on our table. My book was accepted by a publisher which means I won’t have to go the self-publishing route … no out-of-pocket expenses there.

The love and support of my friends is incredible. Two of them had to move house after the floods in Atlanta in September yet, through it all, they celebrated every happy occasion in my life as if it had happened to them. The emails I exchange with friends far away keep me on an even keel.

As I finally drifted back to sleep with Smudge curled next to me, I thought about how lucky I was. I fell back asleep with a smile on my face.

Tuesday I had to make my usual run into Atlanta to see clients. Atlanta traffic isn’t the greatest at any time and is worse during the holiday season. Because of this, I was rather grumpy by the time I got to the salon I’ve patronized for more than ten years for manicures (one of my self-indulgent luxuries).

One of the reasons I’ve been going to this particular place for so many years (even after moving 2 hours away) is not only do I get a good job for a fair price but because the salon owner helps immigrant Vietnamese make a life for themselves here in the US. She sponsors them for their green card, teaches them a trade and helps them with English. Working with the public, they improve their language skills rapidly. It’s fun to see the progression in the language with each visit. The young lady that did my nails on Tuesday obviously hadn’t been here very long and her lack of English severely limited the normal chit-chat that goes on when ladies congregate anywhere.

When she was done, she looked at me and, somewhat embarrassed, said “Merry Christmas”. It didn’t come out perfectly but you could tell she had been practicing that phrase and it’s the thought that counts, anyways. I wished her Happy New Year back and waited as she digested that phrase and repeated it back to me. As I nodded and smiled, her face lit up – she got it right.

That smile, to me, is something more to be grateful for. The joy on her face was as precious as that of a child on Christmas morning. It drove the grumpiness right out of my mind and I smiled during the whole traffic-filled drive home, thinking about her smile.

Other things have happened this year that have been wonderful and yet others that haven’t been so good. But it’s the little things that bring a little sunshine to each day that I love.

Hanukkah and Yule have passed. Christmas and Kwanzaa are yet to come. However you spend this holiday season, I wish you smiles each and every day.

A Wonderful Trade-off

Lately I’ve been having a lot of problems with my eyes – blurriness, fatigue, headaches brought on by eye strain – things that aren’t good if you make your living either staring at a computer screen or reading books. My eye doctor told me it’s because the drugstore glasses I’ve been using for the past several years don’t correct each eye individually and may not even be the correction printed on the bow. Until my new prescription glasses arrive, she suggested I severely limit my time at the computer and not read in the evenings as is my wont.

Watching old movies in the evenings isn’t a sacrifice but daytime television isn’t my thing at all. It’s winter and there’s not a lot to do outside (not to mention it’s been too wet to do much of anything) so I was rather hard-pressed to come up with something to occupy my time. Thankfully, the woodland critters in our neighborhood solved my problem with an added bonus.

Last Saturday I was sitting in my chair, watching the birds at the feeders. A couple of deer decided that part of our yard needed investigating. I had just put out a new block of suet and really didn’t want them eating it but didn’t want to scare them off, either. I do enjoy watching our woodland friends meander through – it’s rather calming and the more you watch, the more you can tell individuals apart from their markings.

I read Dr. Dolittle as a child and subsequently saw the movie (no, not the ones with Eddie Murphy, the one with Rex Harrison) and always thought that being able to talk to animals would be one of the coolest things in the world. I have the ability to speak to plants which is pretty neat itself but I could use a little help talking two of our cats into getting more exercise!

One doe was standing right in front of the window just a step or two away from where the suet cage hangs. I started sending out a bit of energy to her … trying to incorporate a little love and a message of “stay away from the suet” at the same time. Imagine my surprise when, as I was sending out the energy, the doe pricked up her ears and looked straight at me through the window. My husband even noticed her reaction. Not only that but I got something back – a feeling of curiosity! We did this for nearly five minutes before she gave me a mental shrug of her shoulders and slowly walked away … bypassing the suet!

I was dumbfounded but rather skeptical. So, I tried it again Monday afternoon with another doe that was in approximately the same spot. This time the the feeling I got back was “what the H?” and she darted off immediately. While I wouldn’t consider this “talking to the animals” it certainly is something worth exploring further.

DJs Deer

I probably would never have even seen the first doe (or probably the second one, either) because I would have been staring at the computer screen or had my nose stuck in a book. So I’m thankful (sort of) that my eyes are in bad shape and I had time to do nothing but stare out the window. It reminded me once again that there are wonderful things in our world to see and feel if you take the time to notice them. Even after my glasses arrive I’m going to curtail my computer use and book reading and stare out the window instead. Who knows what will happen next?

Conflicting Information

After seeing my health insurance rates skyrocket over a two year period without filing a single claim, I decided it was time to change. After some investigating, I found a policy that was (relatively) inexpensive and met my needs. Their underwriting department wanted me to go to a doctor and get my height, weight, blood pressure and blood glucose levels tested. No problem. Except for a couple of minor muscular issues, I’m healthy. I went to the doctor and the results were: height-short, weight-skinny, blood pressure-normal for me (that is to say, low for most anyone else), fasting blood glucose-102 mg/dL.

I’ve always been told that a fasting blood glucose level of less than 110 mg/dL was normal. So imagine my shock when I received a letter from the insurance company denying my application because my blood glucose level was too high!

Immediately, this was a concern. Pre-diabetes can mature into full-blown Type II diabetes easily because as we age, our bodies don’t metabolize glucose as easily. Complications from diabetes range from retinopathy to neuropathy to heart attack and stroke. Doing some research, it appears that in 2002 the American Diabetes Association lowered its “acceptable” fasting level to less than 100 mg/dL. That information apparently hasn’t trickled all the way down to the medical community. As recently as two weeks ago, the doctor found no problem with my test results. However, if above 100 mg/dL is considered pre-diabetic, I wanted to nip that problem in the bud.

The problem is, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I’m definitely not overweight (quite the opposite), I exercise regularly (which not only helps weight but also the metabolism of sugar) and, despite a terrible sweet tooth, I really don’t ingest that much sugar over the course of a day. I don’t sweeten my coffee or tea, I like what a friend calls “rabbit food” (raw veggies), I prefer whole grains to refined ones and don’t eat that much fat or animal protein. Looking through my herbal notes, I could take some herbal supplements such as defatted fenugreek powder or extract of Gymnestra sylvestre; or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before meals but I wanted further information before I started anything.

Now, here comes the interesting part: I have a friend who is non-insulin-dependent diabetic and asked him about it. He was pre-diabetic for nearly 40 years before the disease matured and was never denied insurance coverage. He also said that since blood glucose levels fluctuate, the insurance company should really take a 30-day average. (Despite his being diabetic, sometimes his morning glucose levels are hypoglycemic and he needs to take in a bit of sugar in the form of dark chocolate or a glass of orange juice.)

My friend happened to have a spare meter and kindly loaned it to me. For the last several mornings, I’ve been pricking my finger when I get up and I haven’t even come close to 100 mg/dL, much less go over it. I’m wondering if the doctor’s meter was coded properly.

So, I’m going to keep a 30-day record and then see if I can appeal the denial, saving myself over $100 per month. For the moment, I see no reason to add any herbal supplements. I’m also going to speak to my doctor about his interpretation of the results versus the ADA and insurance company’s. It bothers me that not everyone concerned with my health care is on the same page.

Herbal Gifts

Did you find everything on your shopping list on Black Friday? Or, are there still quite a few folks you just don’t know what to get? In today’s economy, buying presents is stressful in more ways than one. Here are some herbal gifts from the heart (and your kitchen) that don’t cost a lot and the personal touch can’t be beat!

For the ladies in your life, make some lightly-fragranced Rose Water. Pour two quarts boiling water over one cup tightly-packed rose petals (see if your florist will sell you day-old roses at a discount). Allow this to cool completely, strain and pour into a pretty bottle. This won’t be as strong smelling as a rose hydrosol (considerably more time-consuming and difficult) but is a nice, quick alternative.

For anyone who likes their sweets, Herb Honey make a gift that gives for quite awhile! In a saucepan, combine a teaspoon of dried herb that has been slightly crushed and one cup honey. Warm the honey slowly (on very, very low heat), stirring constantly. After it’s been warm for about two minutes, pout into a jar, cap tightly and put in a cupboard for about a week. After a week, strain out the herb and put in a jar – a jelly jar works well. Tie a ribbon around the cap and voila! a nice present. Some herbs to use here might be thyme, lavender, any of the mints or rosemary.

Ads on TV are touting all sorts of air fresheners nowadays. Simmering Potpourri has been around for ages and everyone loves how it makes the house smell. A recipe I got out of Herb Companion a year ago still floats my boat:

2 cups star anise
1 cup coriander seed
2 cups dried orange peel
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/2 cup crushed nutmegs
10 drops cinnamon essential oil
10 drops allspice essential oil
20 drops sweet orange essential oil

In a gallon jar, layer the ingredients, adding in the orange essential oil with its herb and the other two with a different layer each. Shake well once a day for a week, then stir well to mix everything together. Makes about 2 quarts. Don’t have all the ingredients? It doesn’t hurt the recipe at all to omit one or two.

Many people love Bath Salts. Mix together 1/3 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup epsom salts and 1/3 cup finely-ground sea salt. To this add up to 15 drops of your chosen essential oil, or a combination thereof. Mix very, very well to get the oil distributed all the way through. You can add a few drops of food coloring if you like. Put in a jar (clear if you’ve used food coloring), and tie instructions to the jar with a ribbon. 2-4 tablespoons in a full bathtub is what you want to tell them. Depending on who you’re giving this to, lavender or rose are sweet-smelling, rosemary & peppermint together make a nice pick-me-up or try a combination of citrus oils for a fresh smell.

Other folks (including guys) like Bath Powders. The recipe I found makes 16 ounces:

5 ounces cornstarch
2 ounces fine rice flour
8 ounces orris root powder
1 ounce selection of dried herbs, powdered (use your clean food processor, blender or coffee grinder)

Combine everything well. For the herbs, see the selection for bath salts. Guys might like patchouli or sandalwood as well.

I know communication today is just about all electronic but there are those of us who still actually write letters. If you have someone like that on your list, how about Scented Stationery? Purchase a box of stationery (yes, you can still find it in stores like Walmart). Add one drop of essential oil to a corner of each piece of paper. Rebox. Try Rosemary essential oil for someone writing her sweetheart stationed overseas (Shakespeare: “There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance”) or Lavender for your grandmother. I’d say use Rose essential oil but that’s expensive.

Other ideas include Drawer Sachets, Dream Pillows, and Herbal Vinegars. Do some internet research – you’ll be surprised just what ideas you might find!