Many of us have experienced the healing and relaxing effect of being in nature. Fresh air, trees, water, mountains can do so much to bring our overstimulated brains and emotions back to center.
This is not a new phenomenon, but we are seeing more research confirm what we have already experienced. National Geographic featured several research project outcomes, confirming this healing property of being in nature. Most notable in this article, researchers at University of Exeter Medical School found that when people simply lived closer to green spaces, they experienced less mental distress. Also noted in this article, David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, finds that the brain can restore optimal cognitive functioning and attention when we replace technology with nature for short periods of time.
Strayer also has reported findings that show spending time in nature increases creativity and flexibility in the brain. Nature appears to calm the prefrontal cortex- the part of the brain that is best known for multi tasking and higher order thinking (worrying?). When this happens we increase our ability to access memories, solve problems, and process emotions. In addition, creativity is increased and we can find new, positive ways of viewing the world.
Nature can even be used to treat and prevent worsening of depression. Researchers at Stanford University, found even short walks in nature can reduce rumination, a strong contributing factor to depression. When interviewing the research participants, Walking in nature was found to increase feelings of a “sense of belonging” and a “sense of being away,” that helped alleviate rumination and negative thoughts.
So, if you needed more reason to get outside and enjoy nature, you have it here. Try to make some time to get out for a walk, sit by a stream or adventure into the mountains- your brain will thank you for it!
We are fortunate to have neighbors who share our interest in promoting healthy foods as part of a healthy lifestyle. Haley from Happy Leaf Kombucha shares her knowledge of how fermented foods can add a great benefit to our heath. Never tried kombucha? Check out the Happy Leaf tap room next time you are in the neighborhood!
Happy Leaf Kombucha
Fermented foods are foods that have gone through the process of lactofermentation. This is a food preservation technique that adds probiotic goodness to raw foods. It breaks down components in the food, making them more easily digestible and creates beneficial enzymes and b vitamins as well as various probiotic strains.
Kombucha is a lightly fermented tea, rich in probiotics and b vitamins. Ours begins with a green and black tea and organic sugar, and a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). This floating colony then eats the sugar and turns the sugars to probiotics. The end result after the open air fermentation is kombucha! The majority of sugar is processed out during the ferment, leaving only 0-2g on average per glass. Kombucha is a wonderful alternative to alcohol and sodas alike, as it has a fizzy, sparkling quality but also an interesting fermented flavor. We flavor ours with organic cold pressed juices and infuse herbs, there are endless flavor combination possibilities!
Fermented foods and kombucha seem like the latest fad to some people, but the truth is, fermentation is an old tradition practiced all over the world and has been preserving foods and keeping people healthy and balanced for centuries, it’s only just now sparked an interest in our modern society. The process and tradition of fermenting and eating live foods has sharply declined in recent years, in which we drink pasteurized milk instead of raw milk, and quick vinegar pickles and krauts instead of aged and fermented alternatives.
Fermenting food and drink is a means of preservation, as well as introducing probiotics, vitamins and enzymes to the body to aide in overall health. Fermented foods are super easy to make at home, and cost a fraction of what they cost in stores!
~Haley Burkhall, Taproom Manager
It may seem early to start thinking about allergy season, since spring time weather is likely more than a month away. However, in Chinese Medicine, we like to promote prevention and thinking ahead as a way to mitigate the struggle that comes with trees, grass and flowers blooming. Below are some tips to help you plan and prepare for spring and hopefully avoid the sneezing, itchy eyes and headaches that are so common for some of us with seasonal allergies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine: This may go without saying, but acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas are a great way to boost the immune system to fight seasonal allergies. These methods are particularly helpful when you begin about 6 weeks prior to the start of spring weather.
Nettle Tea: Nettle tea (urtica dioica) has been used for hundreds of years to strengthen the immune system. Modern science has found that nettles are particularly high in vitamins and minerals such as quercetin and vitamins C and Bs, that help our immune system manage histamine responses to allergens (i.e. itchiness, runny nose etc). Drinking 1-2 cups of nettle tea at the first sign of allergies can help keep them at bay. If symptoms have already begun and are in full swing, nettle tea may help but will be less effective. Tea bags can be found at any local health food store.
Quercetin: This is a flavanoid, full of antioxidents and found in many fruits and vegetables and has been found to help reduce the response the immune system has to allergens. This results in less production of histamines and therefore, runny nose, itchy eyes, etc. It also has been found to protect the mucous membranes, especially in the sinuses, preventing them from becoming inflamed. A mid level dose of quercetin is about 200 mg but always check with your health provider to find a dose that is good for you.
Local Honey and Bee Pollen: If you are fortunate enough to be able to find local honey (raw, unfiltered) or bee pollen, you can highly benefit from taking these once a day to hold off allergy symptoms. The honey and bee pollen hold small amounts of the local pollen from trees and flowers. These small amounts can be used to train your immune system to learn that these pollens are not harmful so that when the trees and flowers do bloom, your immune system is less likely to react (the concept is similar to our modern day vaccines). This is also good to start ~ 6 weeks prior to allergy season. 1 Tablespoon of honey or 1/4 teaspoon of bee pollen once a day is a good dose to start with.
Sinus Rinse: Netti pots and other types of sinus rinses can help keep inflamed nasal passages and sinuses hydrated and less irritated. These can be used before and during allergy season to manage symptoms.