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ISSUE 54  |  SEPTEMBER 2018 | QUESNEL, BC

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WELLNESS Inspiring a Healthy You

Herbal

COMPRESSES & FOMENTATIONS:

What they are & how to use them

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Published by Jennifer Reed R.H.N.

Hello! I’m a Registered Holistic Nutritionist residing in Quesnel, B.C. where I was born and raised. I’m passionate about living in a healthy community, which is what inspired me to create Discover Wellness Magazine and the annual Discover Wellness Health Fair & Market. Both are platforms to showcase and bring together our local health and wellness leaders, many of which have become dear friends to me and continue to inspire me every day. I thank you for taking the time to read on and treat yourself to a little TLC. Take care, Jennifer

Discover Wellness is a monthly publication distributed in Quesnel, B.C. featuring various health and wellness articles from professionals and enthusiasts, delicious recipes from holistic nutritionists, and a professional directory. CONTACT US - ADVERTISING & ARTICLE SUBMISSION Discover Wellness Magazine 252 Gardner Street, Quesnel, B.C., V2J 3G6 Telephone (250) 255-2449 Email info@discoverwellnessbc.ca facebook.com/discoverwellnessquesnel SUBSCRIPTION To subscribe for free online please visit: www.discoverwellnessbc.ca Disclaimer The opinions expressed within are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Spiral Health. Those with health concerns should seek professional advice from a healthcare provider as all content found in Discover Wellness is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional healthcare advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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Herbal

COMPRESSES & FOMENTATIONS:

What they are & how to use them

- by Angela Justis - courtesy of the Herbal Academy

Pulled muscles and painful spasms, a bad run-in with the pavement or a nasty cough all call for a little extra loving care and gentle touch. The somewhat lost art of topical herbal applications can offer that loving care in the soothingly useful form of herbal compresses and fomentations. These applications are simply made by soaking a cloth in a strong herbal solution and laying it over the area needing attention. They are often applied warm. Herbal compresses and fomentations can be used to help soothe injuries and inflammation and allow the body to focus on healing. They work by helping to bring blood to the area or directing it away depending on the temperature used, while the addition of herbs can help to enhance these actions (Tilgner, 1999).

How to Make Herbal Compresses and Fomentations Herbal compresses and fomentations are simple to make. Both preparations start with a strong herbal infusion or decoction. Herbal infused oils or vinegars can also be used. If you wish, you can even add tinctures to the blend. This can be especially helpful for using what is readily on hand, as many times we are guided by what we have available in the moment.

Basic directions for making herbal compresses and fomentations: * Use 3 to 4 tablespoons of herbs per cup of water. * If you are using roots, barks or berries, begin by making a decoction of this hard plant material. Next, add lighter plant material (such as leaves and flowers) to the finished decoction

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and cover with a lid to keep any volatile oils from escaping into the air. Let steep for up to 30 minutes. * If you are just using lighter herbs such as leaves or flowers, place the herbs directly in a heat-proof container, cover with boiling hot water, and cover with a lid. Let steep for up to 30 minutes. * Strain the herbs out of the liquid. Use cheesecloth to strain out any particles if making a compress for skin issues. * Add up to 30 drops of tincture per cup of infusion. * Dip a piece of clean cloth in the warm infusion and then squeeze out excess liquid. * Apply the compress or fomentation and feel the soothing relief! * When the compress cools, dip it into the warm infusion again, squeeze out excess and reapply. Follow the directions above as a guideline, using the herbs that best suit your situation. You can make a large batch if you wish. This is a good idea if you have a larger area to cover or want to do repeated applications. Extra liquid will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. It can be re-warmed as needed, making repeated applications easier.

Applying a Compress Cold Compresses: Cooling compresses are wonderful when pain presents with inflammation and heat such as headaches, burns, bruises, bites, sore throat and road rash (Mars, 1999).


This type of compress constricts the blood vessels and eases inflammation to soothe the area (Tilgner, 1999). To apply a cold compress, simply wait for the tea or decoction you have made to cool. Then soak a clean cloth in the solution, wring out the cloth, and apply to the area. As the cloth warms to body temperature, it should be changed out with a new clean, freshly-soaked cool cloth. Hot Compresses: A hot compress helps to bring blood to the area while easing muscle tension (Tilgner, 1999). This makes hot compresses helpful for soothing strained or pulled muscles, muscle spasms, menstrual pain, headaches, breast pain such as mastitis, sore throats and even congested lungs (Romm, 2003). To apply a hot compress, let the herbal brew you have made cool to a temperature so that you can safely work with it. Soak a cloth in the liquid until saturated and carefully wring out the cloth. Gently apply to the affected area. Be sure that the compress is not so hot that it will burn the skin or make the person uncomfortable. Leave the compress on until cool and repeat as needed. Let the situation and person guide you toward the best choice of temperature to use when applying a compress. As herbalist Brigitte Mars explains, “the best indicator [of which temperature to use] is to ask the person needing treatment if they think cold or hot will give best relief” (Mars, 1999, pg. 130). Leave the compress in place for at least 10 minutes. Longer application can be even more helpful. The cloth can be changed out as it cools (for hot compresses) or warms (for cold compresses). Repeated application 2 to 3 times per day may be especially helpful for bringing soothing relief in persistent situations.

Applying a Fomentation Fomentations are generally very relaxing for muscle spasms, pain, and can help to ease strained muscles. The definition of a fomentation is varied among herbalists. For example, herbalist James Green says that “A fomentation (a.k.a. compress) is a form of poultice that is composed of liquids or lotions, absorbed in woolen or cotton cloths and usually applied hot” (Green, 2000, pg. 471). Rosemary Gladstar explains that a fomentation is made by rotating hot and cold compresses (Gladstar, 2012). I was taught that a fomentation is a compress that is kept hot. This is the definition of a fomentation that will be explored. Fomentations are applied in the same way a hot compress is applied, with the herbal infusion-soaked cloth placed first

on the affected area and then covered with a towel or even a piece of plastic wrap. Follow with a hot water bottle (not too hot), a hot rice pack or heating pad. Cover this with a towel as well to seal in the heat and keep everything in place. As with the hot compress, be sure that the fomentation is not so hot that it is burning the skin or uncomfortable. Strive to leave this whole set-up on for 20 to 30 minutes. Longer is fine, especially if it feels good.

Herbs to Choose Recently a family member took a hard fall while going over a ski jump. He came home banged up with badly bruised ribs and a pulled muscle in his shoulder. Wanting to help soothe him as soon as possible, I made a quick visit to the herb cabinet to see what herbal allies I had on hand. A quick search yielded powdered ginger (Zingiber officinale), St. john’s wort flowers (Hypericum perforatum) and lavender blossoms (Lavandula spp.) which I made into a strong infusion. A few squirts of both Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) tinctures also found their way into the brew. We applied this as a hot fomentation to help bring blood to the area and ease the painful muscle spasms he was experiencing. Herbs with antimicrobial and vulnerary actions can be employed for soothing rashes, abrasions and other skin afflictions. To help soothe the skin and encourage healing, you might employ marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), rose (Rosa spp.), Calendula (Calendula officinalis) and lavender (Lavandula spp.) (Rose, 2007). To ease pain and encourage relaxation, consider anti-inflammatories and antispasmodics like meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), mullein (Verbascum thaspus), ginger (Zingiber officinale) and linden (Tilia spp.). Circulatory stimulants such as arnica (Arnica montana, not for use on broken skin), ginger (Zingiber officinale) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) are used by herbalists to help bring blood to the area and clear stagnation such as with bruising (McDonald, n.d.). Please keep in mind that some herbs can cause contact dermatitis and may also have contraindications for use in certain situations such as with medications or pregnancy. It is important to research the herbs you choose before use. Herbal compresses and fomentations may be easy to overlook as an herbal preparation in our rushed modern schedules, however, they have great potential for helping to ease discomfort. Keep these age-old preparations in mind for the next time you find yourself in need of that little extra touch. A bit of herbal loving care goes a long way!


Facing the Cycle - by Jesse Haber, MA, RCC Fellow Traveller Counselling www.fellowtravellercounselling.com In a recent training that I attended, the negative emotional-reactive-attachment cycle that couples get into was described as an infinity loop. Imagine: each partner’s name is scrawled in hand written letters on a large whiteboard above each of the rounded edges of the horizontal figure 8. Under each name are three lists, entitled perceptions, behaviours, and reactive emotions.

Behaviours The response to your perceptions about a situation is usually a set of behaviours. This part of the cycle is the “what do I do” section. When you see your partner as cold, what do you do? Do you get closer to them to make a point, raise your voice? Or do you take it as a hint and retreat, into your room, the shop, or in front of the TV?

One of the things that struck me during this training was that our most emotional, heart-wrenching, world-ending feelings really can be summarized by such a simple system. The aim of this therapy was not to dissect and analyze every odd glance, misspoken word, hurt feeling and lie, but instead to attempt to see the cycle that a couple gets into whenever there are real stakes on the table.

Behaviours tell us not only how we react to our perceptions, but they also give us a clearer image of how our partner may be seeing us. In your mind, you are simply leaving to stop a fight, but to your partner, this retreat may be the hurt that has helped keep the cycle turning (their perception being something like “they don’t care enough to stay and figure this out!”). Remember, behaviours themselves are not the problem, it is the way they play into and perpetuate the cycle. We must know what they are before we can change them.

The first part of trying to disentangle a negative cycle is to recognize it. By laying out how we play out the same “game” over and over again, it gives us a way to see our partner not as manipulative, scheming, cold or aloof, but rather as someone who sees the world through a different set of eyes. It allows us to recognize that it is the cycle a couple must face together, instead of facing off against each other.

Reactive Emotions Reactive emotions make up the “How do I feel when I perceive my partner’s behaviours” part of the cycle. Here, we are looking at the main way we react to the common behaviours we see in our partner.

The following is a primer on how to begin to conceptualize a relationship from the attachment model (also known as Emotionally Focused Therapy). This is a good way to start some of your work, but I would highly recommend seeking professional help to do the “dirty work” of healing a negative cycle.

When your spouse begins to raise their voice, how do you feel? Angry, scared? When they turn away from you and walk out of the room slamming the door behind them, what is going on for you? Does this bring up feelings of shame, hopelessness or abandonment?

Perceptions Perceptions are the “how do you see your partner” part of the cycle. When your spouse doesn’t respond to your stories about work that day, how do you see them? Do you think they are being cold, thoughtless, or just plain mean? Perhaps they respond with something like, “oh yeah, that’s not so bad, you want to know what I did today…?” In this case, maybe you see your partner as simply not listening, making it about them or brushing you off yet again.

Reactive emotions are called “reactive” because they tend to be more surface emotions. They are the response to the here-andnow between partners. In understanding your reactive emotions, you can eventually begin to dive deeper and explore what drives these emotions. (These are called “core emotions.” It is important to note that this is more long-term work.) Additionally, these emotions, once you have a name for them, can be helpful in explaining to your partner how your negative cycle makes you feel.

Perceptions are an important part of the story. They begin to give you a sense of why some of the other behaviour and emotions come later. In looking at your relationship, ask yourself “when my partner does _________ how do I see them?”

As you can see, intimate relationships can be quite complex. These cycles are typically years in the making (and repeating) and often develop from earlier relationships and hurts. In exploring your own cycles, it is best to approach with a sense of curiosity and openness. Learning about how we relate to others can be a powerful and effective motivator for change.

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Discover Wellness September 2018 Issue 54  

Discover Wellness September 2018 Issue 54  

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