Fall/Winter 2017 Book Reviews
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Men: Remedies and Recipes
Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA 2017
Men and boys increasingly want to be active participants in their own health care, and Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Men is a superb resource. Whether you want to tone and nourish your body by making herb “candy” balls, or are feeling depleted and in need of Male-Vital-Tea, this easy-to-follow herbal compendium offers tasty recipes profiling herbs that promote whole-body health while also managing specific male issues. Self-care tips spanning from puberty to andropause (age-related hormone decline) promote men’s total wellness. Along with many new recipes, Rosemary includes an oldie but goodie, her popular fire cider, a zesty immune-stimulating health tonic that’s simply a mixture of horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger, cayenne, honey and raw cider vinegar. “You can buy different versions of it in stores,” Rosemary says, “but I recommend making your own. It’s easy!”
Many men, and others, try to use their bodies in forceful ways, pushing onward through pain and injury, leading to muscle, tendon and ligament injury. While rest and gentle stretching is probably best for healing those types of issues, natural remedies such as St. John’s Wort liniment can reduce pain and trauma. Turmeric is another great choice; it sensitizes the body’s cortisol receptors with its fantastic anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective treatment for chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis and osteoarthritis. Usually turmeric is taken internally in the form of teas, tinctures or capsules; applied topically it turns the skin (temporarily) bright orange. Cannabis is still illegal in many states, which is unfortunate, since it’s by far the most effective remedy for musculoskeletal pain. Scientific studies confirm medicinal varieties of cannabis are more effective than pharmaceutical painkillers, and they’re non-addictive and harmless when used in moderation (and even when not). Topical use of cannabis cream or taking cannabis internally can relieve severe inflammation, and many doctors and holistic practitioners are advocating for its use.
A male health guide certainly needs to include the P’s — penis and prostrate. Prostate Health Formula #1 or #2, taken as a tea or tincture, soothes inflamed, swollen prostate with corn silk, nettle root, cleavers and uva ursi. For potency situations, there’s Pan’s Boner Toner, a tincture featuring horny goat weed, milky oats and rhodiola. The body has its own wisdom and sometimes it’s sending men signals that shouldn’t be ignored. While the herbal therapies covered from heart health to headaches to anxiety are excellent to use at home, there are also suggestions for when seeing a holistic health practitioner, herbalist or medical doctor might be considered. Much of Rosemary’s understanding about men’s health issues and concerns comes from her vast experience as an herbalist, questioning men and then actually waiting for their responses. In her experience, men generally answer sensitive questions about health and healing honestly and candidly, but sometimes struggle a bit in giving their heartfelt replies. She finds that giving time to answer, not jumping to conclusions, and then taking the time to listen carefully is the best way to get men to open up and share their health concerns, which is good advice for anyone, regardless of gender!
WALTER LING, MD
Mastering the Addicted Brain: Building a Sane and Meaningful Life to Stay Clean
New World Library, Novato, CA 2017
Considering the subject matter, Mastering the Addicted Brain is easy to understand and refreshingly hopeful. Neuropsychiatrist Dr. Walter Ling, on the frontlines of addiction treatment since the Vietnam War heroin epidemic, calls out addiction for what science has proved it to be: a chronic, relapsing brain disease. Altered and diseased through repeated drug exposure, the addicted brain can be treated, says Dr. Ling. Understanding the true nature of addiction tells us why people don’t, or can’t, stop taking drugs. It also helps us understand the detox process, the power of drug memories, and a way to establish new patterns for a meaningful life.
Memories get etched in the brain with each drug use. The more frequent the drug use, the more powerful the memories. It’s these drug memories that create the must-have-it-now-no-matter-what drug seeking behavior. Erasing the drug memories would end the addiction, but unfortunately there is no way to erase memory. So the drug memories need to be outnumbered by nondrug memories. Even if you’re not doing drugs, if you’re around drugs or places you did drugs or people you did drugs with, you’re reinforcing drug memories. Willpower or trying to be stronger than the drugs can’t change the brain memories. You need to overpower them by creating more nondrug memories. While some disagree with using the diseased brain as a framework, it’s only a framework for solving the problem of addiction, and currently, says Dr. Ling, it’s the best one we’ve got. If a new framework arises, then we’ll modify or replace the framework. “If you live long enough, practically everything that you think is true will probably be proved wrong, but so what?” says Dr. Ling. As his wise mother told him, people once thought the world was flat, and they still fell in love and enjoyed happy productive lives, despite being completely wrong about the cosmos.
Mastering the Addicted Brain is about putting a plan in place to create a sane and meaningful life. The hard work of recovery depends on creating a healthy mind and a healthy body, but that’s not enough. Staying off drugs — relapse prevention — is primarily what overcoming addiction is about. Triggers need to be avoided as much as possible. Difficult emotions can benefit from using STOP, an acronym for Stop what you’re doing, Take deep breaths, Observe what’s going on, and Proceed with consideration of others. Also, try smiling. Though it sounds simple, maybe even unreasonable, it interrupts charged emotions and releases a bonding hormone. The only way to stay off drugs is to turn chaos to order.
Before the addicted brain can be mastered it needs to detoxify. Most people assume the process of detoxification is so difficult because nasty toxins and drugs are purging from the body. In reality, detox is simply just allowing the effects of the drugs to wear off. Usually taking a few days to a week or two, people initially get sicker during detox, not healthier. The severity and length of the addiction is what determines the magnitude of brain change and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. There are short-term meds for relief of some of the symptoms, but mostly the brain needs time to heal. And that’s the beginning. Detox is the first step toward brain change, and it’s a great accomplishment. Sadly, it’s where most people stop. “Detoxification may be good for a lot of things, but staying off drugs is not one of them,” says Dr. Ling. The rest of the life-long journey requires relapse prevention. His simple wisdom is instructive to anyone, on any journey, searching to create a meaningful life: “Nothing lasts forever, life is full of hassles, and you can’t take anything with you. Love yourself, but give others equal consideration.”
Divine Love Affair: An Akashic Journey
Angelscapes Publishing, North Andover, MA 2016
You are loved more than you can imagine and your soul has a plan for your life. The Akashic is the energy of creation supporting us throughout our lives and beyond, the constant brain wave that pulses within us. Akashic energy is divine love; it helps us find our way, guiding us exactly where we need to go. The Akashic records are stored in a vast library, accessible by going deeply into your soul, meeting your angels and guides, and listening for guidance. In the Divine Love Affair medium and artist Nancy Smith shows you how to connect to this loving guidance through the Akashic records. Nancy’s journey began as child in touch with helping angels. But her religious upbringing, like that of many, told her she wasn’t worthy of the love God was giving her. As an adult in search of divine love, she let go of many things besides the conflicting messages of her childhood religion: her health, her marriage, and for a time even her mediumship abilities. Recovered, she learned the principles of prayer and meditation to open the Akashic records, confirming what she’d always sensed: she was gifted with seeing the divinity in others. She also learned that angels, most often associated with religion, existed long before religion did, and can be called on at any time.
The protocols for working with the Akashic take time and repetition, with most exercises taking somewhere around twenty to forty minutes to complete. With your team of angels and experts around you, which may include Quan Yin, Jesus, or White Buffalo Woman — the specific master will come to you when the time is right — start your exercise with deep breathing. Establishing a rhythmic breathing pattern creates calm and relaxation, reminding your mind, body and spirit that all is well, that you are safe in the present moment, the moment where all creativity, awareness and healing happens. Each journey into the Akashic begins with a five-part prayer. Repeating the opening prayer often while staying honest and open hearted will strengthen your connection to the Akashic. Once connected, the meditations and inspiring exercises in the Divine Love Affair will guide you step-by-step to meet your many personalities, reclaim disowned parts of yourself and even take a quick journey to a past life.
NADA MILOSAVLJEVIC MD, JD
Holistic Health for Adolescents: How Yoga, Aromatherapy, Teas and More Can Help You Get and Stay Well
W.W. Norton and Company, New York, NY 2016
Adolescence is a time of amazing growth. Body and brain changes combined with external societal pressures, including today’s constant bombardment with technology, can leave teenagers fatigued, stressed and depressed. For some, these symptoms are severe and require intervention. Many treatments delivered to adolescents are based on adult research. Parents question the potential long-term effects of medications their kids are taking, and for many of the new meds the answer is, “We just don’t know.” While a firm believer and advocate of western medicine’s ability to save lives, allopathically trained Dr. Milosavljevic says there is a moral quandary in “prescribing health solutions with short-term benefits that might produce more long-term problems.” Intuitively, she felt there was another option for improving adolescent mental health, but her science mind needed proof. Holistic Health for Adolescents is a toolbox for teen wellbeing full of evidence-based holistic treatment methods that work. They are cost-effective, versatile, and, since teenagers can learn and apply these methods on their own, empowering.
Utilizing all five senses, the exercises combine acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga and sound/music therapy to address such issues as low mood, headache, focus, and substance abuse. Along with exercise, regular nutritious meals and enough sleep, the common problem of low mood responds well to the smells of clary sage, bergamot and tangerine. Acupressure points to use are LV3 Liver Channel (at the base of the first and second toe where the bones meet), PC6 (two thumb widths down from the crease of the wrist) and the Stomach Channel ST41 (on the front of the foot in the crease of the ankle joint). Saffron, though very expensive, used in small amounts is very effective for mild depression, and ginkgo tea increases serotonin levels and restores optimal brain function. Listening to upbeat tempos and energizing music is good for lifting mood. Though still unclear why, actually participating in music making, for example just clapping along, is even better. Yoga postures for low mood are Fish Pose and Legs Up Wall, while Downward Facing Dog is a chance to see the world from a fresh perspective.
Mandalynths: Celtic Art for Stress, Anxiety and Attention Management
Ravensdaughter Design, Crestline, CA 2015
What do you get when you combine the endless patterns of mandalas with the woven paths of labyrinths? Created by Ravensdaughter, an artist with a decidedly Celtic influence, Mandalynths is a visually engaging experiential tool for focusing and calming the mind. To work with a mandalynth simply use anything that points, a capped pen, stylus, or even your finger to trace along the twisty unbroken lines of the design. You can begin the tracing at any point on the design, retrace your path or move ahead in any direction. Switching hands and tracing the mandalynth with your non-dominant hand is a great mental exercise, and easier than you may think. By isolating hand-to-eye coordination, tracing focuses the mind. Just like walking a labyrinth, there is no hurry or instruction, no right or wrong way to experience this easily accessible meditative art. With no decisions to make, you are simply quiet and observant. Mandalynth designs include the relaxing and somewhat hypnotic Simple Trinity, good for stress and panic, the more complicated Wolf pattern for attention issues, and the tightly woven Celtic Eagle for individuals with intense but curious mindsets. Clinical psychologists, working in both individual and group settings, find that combat veterans in the stabilization phase of treatment can be assisted by mandalynth work. Among the complex issues of combat trauma is emotional disregulation — emotional responses that are poorly modulated and don’t fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response. Combat veterans report feeling able to quickly regain calm and focus simply by tracing a mandalynth design. Children with a range of attention issues are also drawn to working with the designs.
Self-Love Through the Sacred Feminine
Expression of the Goddess, Harrison, NY 2016
Artist Jo Jayson intuitively traveled through time and the cosmos gathering strong Goddesses to guide and heal herself and other women. Working within the archetype of the divine feminine, Self-Love Through the Sacred Feminine reveals the thirteen powerful Goddesses Jo painted, channeling their wisdom. The process was an unfolding of meditations, prayers and healing stories, and lead to the discovery of self-love and self-compassion. The first in the series is Guinevere, formidable Queen to the legendary King Arthur. Guinevere teaches self-respect. She holds the sword of truth close to her naked heart. As a crown-wearer, Queen Guinevere reminds us to honor our own majesty. We are each born wearing our own crown of divinity. Guinevere calls to us each day to put on our crown, and keep it on our head, being mindful not to let it fall to the ground. Our crown slips every time we bow our head in shame, or carry feelings of unworthiness, blame or fear. The key to keeping our crown secure is to walk as Guinevere does, not with arrogance or superiority, but with awareness that our daily actions and thoughts are in accord with our magnificent and self-compassionate birthright. She is closely connected to the faerie kingdom, and though her day of honor is spring’s Beltaine, May Day, you can tap into her noble energy anytime your crown needs adjusting.
Brighid, Goddess of fertility and midwifery, is the Goddess of cycles and change. She is the Goddess of Sun and fire, hearth and home, healing and plant medicine. She represents all aspects of womanhood — maiden, mother and wise one. Her warrior energy protects us as we go through the various cycles of womanhood. The youthful maiden learns through trial and error and grows in hope for the future. In the mother stage we become less self-engaged, and whether we have our own children or not, we give of ourselves and possibly care for another. As we cycle from maiden to mother we find many blessings, but also challenges. Caring for others is hard, and includes loss of freedom, yet through the relationships we forge and deepen during our mothering stage we find our biggest growth. As we move on to wise one, we live from experienced gained. We know our own truth. For many, this is the stage of liberation. Goddess Brighid carries the lesson of nature and her changing seasons. Pain comes from resistance, so do not cling. Brighid encourages us to flow with the spiraling cycles of life, embracing the creative force of womanhood.
Gail Lord is a freelance writer living in Massachusetts. Please send book review copies to 51 North Street, Grafton, MA 01519 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.