heat stress lip care

Long hot summers effect our lips in many ways: the heat dehydrates the lip surface, we may be prone to lick them more often which is not helpful and actually causes chapping, lips are devoid of the skin hormone melanin – the body’s natural defence to sun and UV damage and so prone to UV damage and sunburn easy and then if we are in the middle of a heat stress such as the current heat wave then be it dehydration or heat exhaustion, our immune system can be compromised and underlying issues such as cold cores can arise.

So the 3 big complications of this weather are inflamed lips , chapped lips and cold sores

1. Inflamed lips aka Cheilitis – lips can easily inflame via through allergy, medication or injury – including over licking, sunburn or severe dehydration. The inflammation of lips can develop into sever chapping, crusting and even bleeding sores if not treated appropriately. the answer is a lip balm

Boost a beeswax lip balm with some Lip friendly essential oils such as Lavender, German chamomile, tea tree, lemon, lemon thyme, sandalwood, peppermint, rose and rose geranium. simply warm up to soft add a few drops and allow to reset.

2. chapped lips – chapped is the next stage, when the swell stretches the lip and damages the surface skin layer resulting in tears or chafing. Resist repeatedly licking your lips – saliva just evaporates off quickly, and can leave your lips even drier than before -instead apply a balm and drink plenty of fluids to keep self and mouth and all skin hydrated – Avoid citrus juice and fruits –as they aggravate chapped lips….

Many commercial balms and lipstick contain alcohol and/or petroleum products which can aggravate the condition of chapped lips rather than remedy it – Try the hydrating and skin replenishing sap of Aloe Vera or make a pulp of cucumber or avocado flesh for the same effects.

Severe or persistent chapped lips can be a case of Perlèche aka Lip sucker syndrome – A form of exfoliative cheilitis (crusting and ulceration) directly related to the habitual sucking, chewing, picking and licking of lip – sometimes considered as a nervous tic or symptom of stress yet is common amongst teenage girls and young women. Passion flower tea is as effective as a more natural benzodiazepine antianxiety medications – but without the side effects.

honey lip scrub – A smear of Honey is great as apart from its moisturizing properties it functions as an antiseptic. A mix of both oil and honey with a little added sugar grains can exfoliate the dry skin and soothe the exposed new forming skin.

3. Cold sore. A cold sore is a viral infection manifesting as a small blister or cluster of blisters occurring on the lips and nearby skin. It is caused by – herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Tingling, itching or burning sensations generally herald the blistering to come. As a virus it is highly contagious and as a virus it has its own lifecycle.

Some people get a cold sore once and it never returns but with most, once contracted the virus remains with you for many years if not lifelong. Thankfully it is predominantly dormant with possibly one or two flare ups each year but it is also easily triggered into activity by sunburn or other damage to lip surface and also by stress or fatigue. So looking after yourself is the best way to keep it repressed.

Outbreaks generally clear up without any intervention or treatment within 7-10 days, there are plenty of OTC lip balms and topical creams to suppress the viral activity and soothe the soreness and there are lots of home cures too to make it more manageable.

Topical tincture or tisane of lavender, chamomile, selfheal, St John’s wort or hyssop are antiviral. Internal tinctures of thyme, echinacea or astragalus are immune boosting and antiviral. A tea of Liquorice root contains glycyrrhizic acid that can inhibit and fight viral spread. A dusting of cinnamon is a great antiseptic and dries up ruptured blisters and bleeds.

One of the best things you can do is to avoid acidic or salty foods as they not only sting but can suppress your immune system just as it attempts to fight the virus flare up. The mistake is to lessen eating and drinking for fear of bursting a blister or cracking a scab but do drink plenty of fluids to keep the lip hydrated and functioning normally in unaffected areas

Four essences medicated lip balm
The veg butter and oil are moisturizing and absorbing of the essential oils and their antiviral and healing principles while the thickening agent – bees wax – is naturally antimicrobial and wound healing.
1 tablespoon shea butter or cocoa butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
2 shakes each of the essential oil of lavender, German chamomile, tea tree and thyme
Method: In a bain-marie (or jam jar resting in hot water), melt the shea butter/cocoa butter and beeswax into the olive oil, once melted remove from heat stir with a chop stick or swirl around, add essential oil at last minute, decant to a suitable container – small glass jar or tin – cover to retain volatile oils and allow to cool and set naturally. Store in a cool place and use as often as you need to soothe and treat.

Cold sore blitz paste
All ingredients are antiviral, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving.
Method: Simply blitz together 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon of lavender foliage, 1 tablespoon of chopped chamomile tops (flowers or foliage) and 1 teaspoon of honey. Use a dab treatment throughout the day, each day until virus subsides. Stores in fridge for 1 week.

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Summer protection and treatments for Neck and Décolletage

Other than the face, wrinkles are most prominent on the neck area due to the thinness of skin and paucity of underling fatty tissue, similarly the thinner skin of the décolletage can crinkle (crepe) with age and UV damage. Décolletage here refers to the front neckline to the cleavage/chest – in other instances it can include any area exposed by the open neckline of a garment.

Both places can be prone to sunburn and other consequences of exposure to the elements. Neck and décolletage can be treated the same. A strong spf is key during the day and night-time regime of cleansing and moisturizing will maintain healthy and more toned skin

Garden spa – as a night mask treat why not pick some parsley and plaster it on – the skin replenishing Vitamin C in parsley is four times higher than that of oranges, make a compress of will also leech into the skin magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, iodine and trace copper. The chlorophyll is also beneficial to cellular repair.

Borage and evening primrose flower make excellent petal moisturizers and their seed oil is great to rejuvenate skin. Elderflower has that capacity to fade age spots soothe sunburn but also decrease the appearance of wrinkles it makes a great ingredient for any ‘neck and dec’ treatment.

Lady’s mantle helps prevent skin from sagging. Both purple and yellow loosestrife make really good skin treatments. Once the seeds are removed, Hawthorn berries are edible and with their pectin content cook up nicely with other jam fruit and preserves – hawthorn phytochemicals and its pectin support the production and function of collagen.

Kitchen spa – An apple a day – free radicals prematurely age our skin but Vitamin C in citrus fruits can mop up those free radicals. Apples can also prevents dry, flaky skin via their juicy hydration, healthy pectin and Vitamin A but their calcium content also helps skin regenerate.

Eat more but also pulp up a fruit mask for all of those benefits in an external application. Green and white tea inhibits collagenase and elastase from destroying collagen and elastin. Grape, fig and passion fruit make great body blends and 20min masks for neck and dec.

Helpful Home Treatments

White tea and parsley décolletage gel- Make a ½ cup white tea with boiling water and 1 tsp of veg gelatine, then blitz it with ½ cup parsley decant to storage contain and once set apply to creppy areas

Peppermint and sage toner – peppermint which is an astringent in its own right can be soaked or blended with witch hazel to tighten skin; the addition of sage cleanses and tightens pores

Pectin neck and décolletage mask – the pith in the rind of a lemon is packed with skin tightening pectin and the Polysaccharides in apple can slow changes to the skin structure associated with UV damage and aging. Peel, core, dice and cook an apple with ½ lemon chopped in 1 cup of boiling water. Blitz all together and cool enough to apply to skin. The lemon juice in the mix is also beneficial in supplying extra vitamin C.

Milk and two sugars lotion – Cows and goats milk are packed with cytokines (listed on expensive creams as peptides) lift dead skin cells and repair tissue damage underneath while also stimulating the production of collagen and other connective tissues – basically restructuring the skin to a healthier younger looking form. Simply whip up one cup of milk in a blender with 5tablespoons of sunflower oil 2 table spoons of almond flour, I tablespoon of honey and I tablespoon of glycerine. Stores in fridge for one week. Use as a cleanser or add more almond flour for a mask consistency.

for similar check out: The Holistic Gardener: Beauty Treatments from the Garden. Fiann Ó Nualláin. ISBN: 9781781173510. €12.99

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Anti-spirochete herbs to treat Lyme disease

Modern science is still at the very early stages of understanding Lyme disease but medicinal botany and herbalism has been here before – Borrelia the bacteria at the centre of Lyme is a spirochete just like syphilis and leptospirosis – two diseases successfully and contemporarily treated with herbs that attack or affect the spirochete directly rather than just carpet bomb the whole system with antibiotics.

I am not saying discount antibiotics altogether and I acknowledge that if antibiotics are deployed in time – close to bite/infection or for sufficient duration (several weeks) then it will save a lifetime of multiple symptoms and medical frustration and when it comes to chronic Lyme, that has been misdiagnosed as Fibro or M.E or other, then once given correct diagnosis and follow up with antibiotic treatments – the antibiotic regime is still the most effective cure in the stats of those recovered.

What I am saying is that there is a whole other arsenal too that should be deployed to destroy the Borrelia before it takes hold or to diminish it when it flares up from a latency. And those big guns are the anti-spirochetal herbs. Before we get into them or them into us, here’s how it works.

A spirochete is a corkscrew-shaped bacterium that can and does bores into vessel walls and even into tissues and cartilage – so bunkering itself out of reach of most antibiotics. Unlike other bloodstream trapped bacteria, spirochetes can screw their way through the blood vessels and escape the blood stream beyond the natural immune system and the prescribed antibiotics.

This is why that other famous spirochete –syphilis – was so difficult to eradicate for so long. It was bunkered beyond the reach of medicine. Currently syphilis and leptospirosis are treated very effectively in China with anti-spirochete herbs and many of those herbs have moved into Lyme treatment protocols.

Part of what these anti-spirochete herbs do is to unscrew the bacteria back out of cells and tissue and into the blood stream to be met by your own immune system and any combination of antibacterial herbs and antibiotics deemed effective.

Notable anti spirochetes include Green chiretta aka Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), Chai Hu (Bupleurum spp), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) – all utilized to warm the cells and muscles thus encouraging the bacteria out into the bloodstream but also to exert analgesic and anti-inflammatory action for chronic Lyme arthritis-like pains.

In medicinal botany evaluations of TCM, the ‘spirochete killers’ include Allicin – the active antibiotic agent of raw garlic; Coptin and berberine, two active antibiotic and neuroprortective agents of Chinese goldthread (Coptis chinensis) and Houttuynin an active antibacterial from the chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata)

One of the most potent choices you can make is sarsaparilla (Smilax glabrae) a killer of spirochetes and a natural anti-inflammatory but perhaps even more importantly it is and endotoxin binder. So as all the other herbs kill and disrupt the Borrelia bacteria as it breaks down and reacts to its agitation it releases harmful substances into the body tissues and blood stream potentially triggering toxic overload and prompting bad reaction – if we can clump and mop up then we lessen the damage and clear the toxins quicker.

Sarsaparilla would be beneficial too to Herxheimer reactions – those adverse reactions to conventional antibiotic treatments for spirochetal infection that result in fever, chills, headache, myalgia, tachycardia, hyperventilation, etc.

Liver detox herbs would we useful and lymph prompting herbs too – to fully cleanse the system. It is currently thought that ‘Lyme arthritis’ may be more a result of the dead bacteria than living damage – so catching, killing and detoxing early should be on the radar.

It is never a good idea to self-medicate with only half the picture so do visit a qualified herbalist and find a regime that compliments your constitution and doesn’t clash with current medications.

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Sugar alternatives – How sweet it is or isn’t.

We know sugar is bad… but what are the replacement options. Some seem to be worse than sugar and with others the jury is still out or the trials not yet complete. As it stands we have two options; ‘artificial sweeteners’ or ‘natural sweeteners’. So what’s the difference in health terms.

Artificial sweeteners: in some quarters they are a health revolution and in others considered to be excitotoxins and disruptive to the nervous and endocrine systems. Personally I am not a fan. More research needs to be carried out on dosage, duration of use etc. The two most utilized are aspartame and saccharin.

Aspartame is much lauded as having zero calories to its sweet taste( some brands up to 200 times that of sucrose/sugar) but the compound breaks down in the human system into Phenylalanine which inhibits the activity of a gut enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (IAP) which is known to slow the progression of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.

Saccharin aka Sodium saccharin (benzoic sulfimide) is a manufactured sweetener, approximately 300–400 times as sweet as sucrose/sugar (some brands up to 700 times). It can however have a bitter or metallic aftertaste. It will raise glucose levels but not as strikingly as sugar. It belongs to a class of compounds known as sulfonamides, which can cause allergic reactions in some.

‘Natural’ sweeteners: there are increasing numbers of natural choices on health store and supermarket shelves. Here are some of the more popular ones.

Agave syrup (extracted from Agave tequilana) is sweeter than honey and table sugar but with a low glycemic index and oft promoted as a healthy alternative for diabetics. It is predominantly made up of fructans and fructose rather than glucose and so absorbs more steadily and slowly into the bloodstream. Caveat – fructose is calorie high and while theoretically less damaging than table sugar it is no ‘health compound’ and can contribute to raised triglycerides and fat accumulation. The syrup however does contain quantities of Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium

Erythritol is a derivative of a plant based sugar alcohol (occurring naturally in some fruit and fermented foods) that is processed into a low-calorie sweetener. It is roughly 60 – 80% as sweet as sucrose (table sugar) but it does not spike blood glucose or insulin levels and has no impact upon cholesterol or triglycerides either. Over use can cause some digestive upset.

Honey is so sweet because it consists almost completely of pure glucose and levulose (a fructose) and it will spike blood glucose and insulin – this is often overlooked as it has so many other health benefits; mainly due to its mineral-rich and organic acid profile that supports liver function and intestinal health. Darker-coloured honey is higher in mineral and acid content.

Maple syrup (extract of the sap of Acer saccharum) is sweet by virtue of being approximately 2/3rds sucrose and with that all the links to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is seen as a healthier option in that as a replacement option, gram for gram, it technically cuts sugar consumption by 1/3 and also because it is slower to trigger a spike. Maple Syrup is a good source of Manganese and Zinc and can potential yield around 20-30 different antioxidants, the darker ones more so.

Stevia (an extract from the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana) comprised of two particularly sweet compounds – Stevioside and Rebaudioside A – each being around 100 times sweeter than sugar, gram for gram. It has zero calories and a zero rating on the Glycemic load index. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol. Before its use as a sweetener, the herb had a medicinal value in reducing arterial plaque buildup.

Xylitol is a plant based sugar alcohol. Traditionally found in birch trees but also in other sources that contain the plant fiber xylan. Its sweetness is on a par to sugar but with 2/3rds of the caloric value. Xylitol does not spike blood sugar or insulin levels some scientific studies have shown that it can improve bone density and so lower the risk of osteoporosis and it is fast becoming a replacement in dental care products as supports remineralization of teeth.

Yacon syrup – New ‘healthy syrups’ come on the market all the time but Yacon Syrup looks promising as a natural sweetener; beyond its potential to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, it is quite high in fructooligosaccharides –a set of soluble fibers which feed and nurture bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (the good bacteria) in the intestines. It can however exert laxative properties in doses above sweetening a tea.

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How to poison mum for mother’s day

It’s easy to poison mum for mother’s day if you are getting her certain types of perfume, make-up, toiletries or other beauty products – here’s what to check for in the ingredients of the gift product.

Acetone found in cosmetics is a solvent also utilized to dissolve plastics, thin printing ink, as paint remover.

Alcohol is drying on skin and thinning/eroding of skins natural barrier and regeneration mechanisms.

Artificial colours sometimes listed as e-numbers, are often derivatives of coal tar and can contain heavy metal salts (including trace arsenic and lead), others are synthesized by chemicals that can thin skin and block pores.

Benzyl-dimethylstearyl-ammonium-chloride has industrial application is to boost the efficacy of detergents and industrial cleaners. A skin and eye irritant associated with occupational dermatitis.

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is a toluene-based cosmetic preservative populating shaving gels and many male products. Toluene is a toxic chemical linked to eye and lung irritation, hormone disruption and carcinogenic implications.

Butylene glycol is utilized as a solvent and viscosity-decreasing agent to thin product for easier application. When absorbed through skin or ingested it metabolizes into “gamma-hydroxybutryic acid,” a depressant that slows down the activity of brain and central nervous system.

Carbamic acid- see Iodopropynyl butylcarbamate.

Carbomer is a chemical or class of chemicals made from acrylic acid or petroleum oil – is a plastic with all the endocrine altering implications of plastics.

Coal tar a by-product of bituminous coal, there are associated fears and potential risks of its mutagenic potential and the carcinogenic implications upon liver, skin and lungs.

Cocamidopropylbetaine was named allergen of the year in 2004 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.

Diethanolamine (DEA) is also a feature of industrial cleaners, pesticide sprays and other and agricultural chemicals and also in the rubber processing industry.

Esters are compounds formed from an alcohol and an organic acid. In terms of the really scary ones, see parabens.
Formaldehyde Prolonged exposure can stimulate asthmatic like symptoms and increase cancer risks.

Glycol, glycol alcohol and Glycol ethers short-term exposure to glycol ethers can results in fatigue, stupor, headache, shortness of breath to pulmonary oedema, skin irritations and irritation of eyes, nose, and throat. Prolonged or chronic exposure can result in neurological changes and physical tremor as well as blood effects such as anaemia.

Iodopropynyl-butylcarbamate(IPBC) is a suspected teratogen, which means that it can increase the risk of birth defects and lower fertility. In large doses and over prolonged exposure it is considered a gastrointestinal and liver toxin. In smaller does it can be a dermal allergen. Sometimes listed as carbamic acid

Isopentane is a beauty product solvent linked to dry skin and contact dermatitis as well as nose and throat irritation.

Isopropyl is utilized industrially as a solvent, windscreen de-icer and fuel additive. It is also utilized in the production of explosives and herbicides.

Lead acetate in hair products and some cosmetics. It is lead – do I need to say more. In case I do – lead is toxic, carcinogenic, and damaging to the nervous system.

MEA (monoethanolamine) features in shaving products and bathroom items that foam. Linked with hormone disruption and the formation of cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines

Mineral oil is obtained from petroleum by-products and thus can cause allergies and skin irritations.

Nitrogens as Nitrosamines are the carcinogenic compounds created by the reaction of two or more nitrogen containing substances. If there is more than one ‘–amine’ suffix on the list – it is possible that reaction may take place.

Palmitic acid is utilized in many beauty products as an emulsifier— it has been linked with contact dermatitis.

Parabens (notably Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben and parahydroxybenzoate) have an xenoestrogenic effect – meaning that they are shaped quite like estrogen and once absorbed into the body they end up filling up receptors located in your cells normally reserved for real estrogen – the consequence being that other neurotransmitters and glands mistakenly start relaying messages and making adjustments based on the presence of what they assume is real estrogen.

Paraphenylenediamine (PPD) can impact upon the effect of some diabetic and blood pressure medications (particularly sulfonamides and hydrochlorothiazides).

Paraffin or paraffin oil is a coal oil – as petroleum based product it is used as fuel or fuel component, as a solvent for greases and also in insecticides.

Phthalates are considered “obesogens” – they disrupt the normal hormonal activities of the body, disrupt the endocrine system and trick the body into fat storage.

Polyvinyl-pyrrolidone Copolymer (PVP) features in the production of cosmetics such as foundation, lipsticks etc. Allergies and dermatitis are potential side effects.

Propylene glycol an emulsifying agent in skin creams and body lotions, cause contact dermatitis long term and short-term surface irritations.

Polytetrafluoroethylene often simply as “PTFE”, is the chemical agent used to make Teflon and other non-stick cookware – it is linked with osteoarthritis, early-onset menopause and breast cancer.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation and over longer term exposure it can produce a drying effect on skin and pathway other skin irritations.

Sodium polyacrylate is a synthetic polymer from the crude oil industry, found in face masks, moisturizer, hand cream and sunscreen as well as eye shadow and other cosmetics.

Sulphates/ Sulfates are potential triggers of dry skin and other irritations including dermatitis.

Tetrasodium EDTA (ethylenediaminetetra acetic acid) is a product preservative made from formaldehyde, ethylenediamine and sodium cyanide.

Triethanolamine (TEA) is associated with the formation of cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines.
Urea is sourced from ‘mammalian urine’ – yes that’s wee that’s not your own. Used as a penetration enhancer for product it can cause reaction in sensitive skin and sensitize other types.

Vinyl acetate in mascara and eyeliner and also nail varnish is like all plastic – potential trouble with estrogen receptors and disrupting too of DNA.

Xylene is a central nervous system depressant available in nail varnish and nail varnish remover.

If you want a fuller list of the toxins in cosmetics, or methods and recipes for poison free alternatives and interesting facts about foods and herbs for skin and hair, nails and teeth – beauty treatments from the garden is available in all good stores and usual online suppliers.

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Spring allergies and histamine intolerance

Sometimes what we may think is the back end of a cold – a runny nose, red eyes, and sinus irritation – may in fact be the onset of an allergic reaction. Closed windows and constant central heating over winter can amp up the dust mite population to be an issue in early spring and plug in humidifiers, electrical devices and the static electricity of humans moving around can cause more dust particles to be suspended in our air at the height of our nose and throat, while outside spring brings tree pollen – a serious allergen with some.

‘What happens in an allergic reaction’ – when the body perceives a foreign body or allergen, it sends histamine to the site of intrusion. The role of histamine is to cause an initial clearing action and/or make a marker to where the immune system can travel and so sort the problem quickly. So histamine to a nettle sting is inflammation and a flush of blood to get the toxins dissipated while histamine to pollen grains in the nose triggers a sneeze or a runny nose to flush out the foreign body.

Normally histamine is good and for the majority it rids the foreign body or potential allergen effectively but with allergy sufferers it’s not just that the foreign body irritates, it’s that the histamine goes into overdrive and causes more of a problem – so the tiny nettle sting becomes a large rash or the short burst drip of a runny nose become a waterfall with inflamed sinus and puffy eyes.

The more histamine released the stronger the reactions. So while it is important to know your triggers and to spring clean away the common causes of allergies including animal fur, dust, mold, and also avoid pollen, nettle stings, insect bites etc, it is also an option to decrease your histamine production. Histamine is released from mast cells and several common herbs and foods inhibit the mast cells from opening and releasing.

Antihistamines are agents that inhibit histamine production or slow histamine release. Funnily enough, nettle tea or nettle soup is the traditional spring tonic to help the body better regulate its histamine production. The cooking or heat kills the sting and inflammatory agents but the other beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals remain intact.

Other antihistamine options
• Chamomile, thyme, fennel, rooibos are amongst the best herbal teas suitable for all round stabilization.
• In terms of targeted specifics, peppermint is particularly effective with mast cells related to allergic rhinitis while echinacea has an affinity for upper respiratory tract reactions.
• Ginger works brilliantly on hive and rash reactions.
• Quercetin rich foods – Many of the antihistamine herbs have either high quantities of quercetin or help with quercetin absorption. Quercetin is abundant in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower etc) as well as in garlic/onions/shallots, citrus fruits and also in green tea. The benefit of including more leafy greens is the enzymes they contain that assist detoxification and also help reduce inflammation.
• Probiotic-rich foods — support immune health and can help to balance reaction/response – your gastrointestinal tract is responsible for more than 80 percent of your immune function. So more kefir/yogurt, miso and kombucha.

Detox – I’m not talking shedding the kilos – these are the guys that can flush toxins and excess histamines out of the system.

• Lemons — are natural detoxifiers and help the body rids itself of impurities – riding the triggers and also lessens the pressure on your immune system.
• Apple cider vinegar has benefits in both reducing mucous production and in supporting lymphatic system removing toxins and so leaving the body fitter to fight seasonal allergies.
• There are several specialist diets you may want to investigate – an elimination diet, alkaline diet, GAPS, an immunology diet etc – to cleanse the system before allergy season.

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seldom is spring without cold

According to Irish tradition the first of Feburary aka Imbolc (Imbolg) marks the beginning of spring. This morning there was blue sky and sunshine and an collection of spring flowers on offer in the local shops. And while this morning I got up to celebrate my cultural heritage and the rejuvenating energy of believing it is spring, I also know we are a good twenty days or more away from soil temperatures conducive to planting and gardening proper.

So while today I will potter and weed a bit and wish I wore gloves under my gloves, I know we are getting into a more positive place – longer, warmer days and productive early starts. And as to the setbacks – they will come – but they won’t seem so bad when you can munch an apple or a strawberry you have grown while viewing your domain from vantage of your garden seat. Being true to your self overrides people and circumstance less true to you.

It is not always easy to jump into spring and get the zest for life, sometimes the bitter taste in the mouth of past experiences or on-going dramas can undermine enthusiasm. The trick is not to expect that spring will instantly eradicate winter. Spring is the germination, the bud emerging. Patience is required but flourishing is on its way. I live by the saying ‘god bless the intent’ and I am grateful to every signpost.

There is also the old Irish proverb Is annamh earrach gan fuacht – Seldom is spring without cold. It speaks of taking the good with the bad – equal measure and in your stride. It is about setting your expectations. A bit of winter can linger into spring. Enjoy the new leaves emerging, enjoy the birdsong, feel the warmth of the sun on your face but don’t sell your scarf and gloves just yet.

In a way this one also reminds us that you cannot have good without bad, just as you cannot have day without night, cold without hot, or joy without pain – they are not a consequence of each other but the frame of each other- we understand hot by knowing cold, we know daylight by its difference to night-time and we appreciate joy all the more for having had the experience of pain or sorrow.

The proverb reminds me of Zen sayings. My favourite Zen saying being “Before enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” Enlightened or not you still need to fend for yourself, you will still need firewood and water to drink and bathe with. The spring still has cold in it – it’s no time to slacken off.

Enlightenment does not stop life and life’s necessities in their tracks. Life goes on, enlightened or not. The transformation is in your perception of the world and your expansion of consciousness, not a new realm where the mundane realities no longer apply. We still have to chop wood, weed the garden, brush our teeth.

Life goes on. We sleep and we wake – we are alive in both states – hearts beat, blood flows, lungs breathe – life is intact. Life is as intact in sorrow as it is in joy – we need not fear the cold day in spring. And while you are mindful of each step on the journey, do not be daunted or caught off guard by a cold day in spring – a minor setback – no panic if the path is frozen for a time. Chop some wood. Warm your toes.

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