A Field in Which to Frolic**

How I cured my PMS
October 20, 2015, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Health & Wellness, Herbs

Does a cure for PMS exist?

I’ve always been someone who suffers from a broad range of PMS symptoms: extremely short patience that leads to bursts of fiery anger, deeply low moods that border on depression, quick to react to anything and everything, heavy cramps, sore breasts, bloating, and unquenchable hunger. Some of these carry through during my period, namely the all-over-the-place moods and debilitating cramps. I assumed I was one of the unlucky ones who was made to suffer monthly, and that was that. Little did I know that there was a cure out there, and a pretty simple one at that.

It’s a weird statement to make – that I cured my PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is something we think of treating, not curing. But to say I “eased” or “treated” it would be lacking. I didn’t soothe symptoms upon their appearance, I prevented them from occurring at all.

What modern-scientific breakthrough brought about such a change for me, you might ask? Turns out, I don’t have science to thank, but rather, nature. The fruit of the Vitex agnus-castus tree, otherwise known as the chasteberry, is the wonder-herb that changed my life.

Vitex agnus-castus: miracle berry

Dried chasteberries

Historically, its use has ancient roots (some say as far back as 2500 years ago). Monks chewed it to reduce libido and you can even find it mentioned in the Iliad as a symbol of chastity, capable of chasing off evil.

Although not many controlled studies have been completed, the limited research on Vitex shows it to have a hormonal action that is beneficial for female hormonal imbalances. It increases progesterogenic activity, thus helping to balance progesterone and estrogen production by the ovaries throughout the menstrual cycle. It has been shown to regulate the menstrual cycle, improve fertility, and reduce the intensity and even the occurrence of PMS.

Chasteberry was one of the herbs I learned about in my first year in herb school. When I read that it could reduce PMS symptoms I was skeptical. I assumed it worked for women with slight symptoms, but not for people like me with much more severe experiences. In order to test my theory, I chose it as one of the herbs I would work with on an individual level. I read that I could take the herb in tablet or tincture form, but being that it was suggested to take it for 90 days, I wanted to make the experience a little more enjoyable. So I got my Lily Potter on, and went about potion-making. I extracted the herb not only as a standard alcohol-based tincture, but also into honey and into wine. I then mixed the three together to make my own little chaste berry elixir. It turned out to be actually quite an enjoyable mix, so taking it daily was not a problem for me. In retrospect, I was taking way too much per dose (about 5x – eek!) but that probably also explains why I didn’t have to wait long to notice results.

Chasteberry protocol for a happier period

I started the elixir about a week before my period was to start, because it’s also an emmenagogue (it can bring on menstruation) and I didn’t want to mess up my cycle. I wasn’t expecting anything to be different this go-around, as everything I read says it takes a full 90 days to see the real benefits. However, for the first time in my entire life, I barely had any cramps at all. I didn’t need to take anything for the pain I experienced, which was slight and only lasted for the first half of my first day. I was sold.

Chasteberry ElixirBut like I said, I was taking way too high a dose, and it soon became clear how powerful this spicy little berry really is. (Please note that this isn’t a common symptom, and I’m positive that I wouldn’t have experienced this had I stuck to a much lower dose.) To my dismay, about 6 weeks after I started taking it, I started losing my hair. As soon as I realized something was off, I contacted someone from my school and explained what was going on. She said to quit taking it long enough to make sure the hair loss wasn’t due to something more serious (a thyroid issue, for example) and if it stopped, to feel free to start again at a lower dose.

I did exactly that, and now that I’ve completed a full cycle of use, I couldn’t be happier. I just found out what it’s like to have a period and not feel like a crazy person beforehand. As I’m writing this, I’m on the first day of menstruation, and I honestly didn’t even realize it was time for it to start. I’ve been experiencing a little bit of breast tenderness (which is usually my first symptom), but that’s as far as it got. I have almost no cramps at all, and as far as the insane moods go – I didn’t get so much as a hint of that. I’m really amazed.

I’ve given the tincture to my sister and to a good friend of mine, and I’m excited to hear what their experiences are like. They both have it like I do did, and I’m hopeful they see as much improvement as I have. I’d also like to share this wonder herb with anyone else out there who can relate to my experience, so if you’re interested, you can find my one-of-a-kind elixir on Etsy. If you do want to give Chasteberry a try, here are a few cautions:

  • Do not take if you are on birth control
  • Do not take if you are pregnant
  • Do not take with pituitary tumors or breast cancer (or any
  • Should not be combined with antipsychotic drugs as it counteracts them
  • Do not take more than the recommended dosage

I have also made public my full materia medica on Vitex agnus-castus for complete details on the herb. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.


Juicing and Storing Fresh Juice
March 6, 2013, 12:05 pm
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

How to Store Fresh Juice
During a Juice Fast

How does storage affect fresh juice?I decided to look further into the debate on storing juices and what effect this has on the nutritional value of your juice. As I mentioned in a previous post, some people say you must drink it immediately, in like 15 minutes or less, or your juice suddenly loses it’s nutrients. This is a serious misconception, and it keeps some people from even considering making juicing a part of their lives. I found a study on the longevity of nutrients in stored, fresh juice, and want to share some of those findings here.

The purpose of the study was to answer several questions, including the following:

  • How much “life” is in the juice after extraction?
  • Does one type of juicer deactivate more enzyme activity than another type?
  • Do certain juicers preserve the enzyme activity longer?
  • Is it better to refrigerate or freeze juice overnight?

The study tested enzyme levels in carrot juice, using a variety of different juicers. Measuring enzyme activity is a good way to determine how much “life” remains in the juice, because it takes into consideration “the destructive effects of oxygen, heat, electromagnetic forces, and other factors.” This study focused on the enzymes amylase and peroxidase. Amylase aids in digestion by breaking down starch into sugar, and is present in saliva. Peroxidase reduces hydrogen peroxide to water, this protecting our bodies from oxidative damage.

Retaining Nutrient Content in Fresh Juice

The study states, “in this particular test neither enzyme (amylase & peroxidase) was degraded to a large extent after four days (of storage)” Additionally, freezing the juice preserved the peroxidase better, while refrigeration was better for preserving amylase. The biggest take-away regarding which juicer to use and whether to store it was the introduction of air to the juice. Juicers that produce a lot of foam are the juicers that are introducing the most air to the juice. And as far as storage goes, “the presence or absence of oxygen in the bottle may be the most critical factor. Without oxygen, nutrients are quite stable.”

The study showed that a press-type extractor is the the “best” way to prepare juice, i.e. this method retains the most nutrients. Next would be a twin-gear juicer, then a  masticating juicer, and last would be a centrifugal juicer. In fact, the enzyme activity in the press extractor was 50% higher than that of a centrifugal juicer. Not only that, but you also get more juice from a press than from any other kind. What does this mean to me? I will absolutely be investing in a more expensive juicer as soon as I possibly can!

So there you have it. A study that shows that stored juice does not equal “dead” juice, no matter what kind of juicer you use. In fact, if you’re concerned about the nutrient content in your juice, you should be way more concerned about the type of juicer you use, rather than how long you store your juice.

I thought this study was really interesting, and in sharing it, I hope to help clear up the confusion about storing juice. Be sure to read the whole study if you really want to get the most out of juicing.

7-Day Juice Fast – The Juices
March 5, 2013, 9:44 am
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

7-Day Juice Fast Recipes

juice ingredientsPlease note that these recipes are not magic cure-alls, or recommended by anyone but me. These are just the juices that tasted the best to me, and provided an assortment of veggies and fruits. If you’re trying to lose weight specifically, I’d recommend using less fruit than what I used here. Also, because I bloat significantly when I drink pure juice, I diluted all of these juices.  I’d say for every 8 oz glass I drank, about half was juice, half was water.

Better Than V8

  • 4-5 kale leaves
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 large tomato or 2-3 roma tomatoes
  • 4-5 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 2 red pearl onions (the tiny ones)
  • 1 small beet
  • 1/3 jalapeno

This made me about 24 ounces of pure juice.

Glorious Green

  • 1 cucumber
  • large handful of spinach, with stalks
  • 1 large green apple
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger

This gave me about 16 ounces of pure juice.

Orange Delight

  • 4-5 carrots
  • 1 medium-sized orange
  • 1/3 jalapeno
  • 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger

This yields about 8-10 oz of pure juice.

Looks Gross Tastes Great

  • 1/2 cucumber
  • large handful spinach, with stalks
  • large handful blueberries
  • large handful red grapes

This yields about 8-10 oz of pure juice.

Should you store fresh juice, and if so for how long?

If you’ve done any research on juicing, you’ve probably heard that it’s really important to drink the juice while it’s fresh, as opposed to letting it sit for a long period of time. Some people say you must drink it immediately, while some say a few hours in a mason jar is acceptable. The reasoning is that when oxygen and light hit your juice, you start to lose some of the nutrients due to oxidization. While this is true, I’ve found a process that helps me extend the life of my juice to get me through a day at work. For more on the topic, read this post on retaining nutrients in your juice.

amber jar

  1. Get the right container: – I bought 9 of these 8 oz amber jars from someone on Etsy. Amber glass keeps the light out and helps extend the life of your juice.
  2. Prepare your juice in the morning, not the night before.
  3. Fill the amber jars all the way to the tippy top. I actually made mine slightly overfill, so I knew I had no room for air on the top. If you don’t have enough juice to fill the jar all the way up, then add water until it’s full.
  4. Place the jars in the freezer until you leave the house. For me, this was about 2 hours.
  5. Use a small cooler to transport your juice. Yes, you look like you’re carrying a transplant organ around, but that just makes you more interesting to strangers.
  6. Keep the cooler of juice in the fridge all day, and only remove 1 jar as you’re going to drink it.
  7. For some reason, drinking out of a straw was easier than drinking without one. I bought one of those hard, reusable cups with a screw-on lid and accompanying straw. It’s since become my best friend at work.
  8. I also recommend keeping your juice on ice as you drink it, and not letting it sit too long as you’re drinking it. It will start to separate after a while.

You may find that this is too much juice for you, or maybe it’s not enough. Do whatever works for you, not what works for someone else. Good luck!

7-Day Juice Fast – Day 8
March 4, 2013, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

Juice Fast Day 8 – Food is Glorious

I love food!

I love food!

Firstly, let  me apologize for my delay in writing this post. Friday night I was so preoccupied with eating that I simply didn’t think about it. This weekend was super-busy, and to be honest, I wanted to spend as much time cooking as I could. I have some great recipes to share, but that will have to wait for a bit. Let’s get to the final day of fasting.

Pretty much, I was worthless all day long. Needless to say, I was so looking forward to eating that I could think of nothing else. I was also excited to spend the weekend cooking, so most of my energy was spent meal planning.

It didn’t take long for me to prepare my dinner Friday night. It was a simple, yet delicious dish of black beans, rainbow quinoa, avocado, tomato, almond cheese, and non-dairy sour cream. Of course, I ate too much for my tiny, shrunken belly and ended up uncomfortable, but I was really okay with it. I was surprised to find that I needed to go to bed pretty early, perhaps because of the energy spend to restart my digestive system.

The Results of the Juice Fast

This may be TMI, but it’s no joke that your digestive system will work much better following a juice fast. I’ll just leave it at that. That’s just one of several things I’ve noticed as direct changes since the fast. Others, in no particular order, are:

  • No headaches. I have always had pretty regular headaches, ie a couple a week. From a dull ache to piercing pain, it’s just something I’ve come to expect. Since I started juicing (prior to the fast) I can’t recall a single one. I’d say it’s been at least three weeks since I’ve had a headache.
  • No sugar cravings. My sweet-tooth has been out of control for all of my life. I could easily put down an entire box of Hot Tamales, bag of gummy bears, or package of (gluten-free) Oreos. Some days, I would eat anything with sugar that I could get my hands on. I’d go from desk to desk at work, scavenging  whatever sweet treats happened to be available. Now, not only do I not think about wanting sugar, I am pretty easily able to ignore the treats that I see around.
  • Waking up is easier. Normally, getting out of bed is a major struggle. I’ll hit snooze for at least an hour, then fumble around the house trying to get ready, pissed that I’m going to be late again. Saturday, I woke up at 9 (which is very early for me on a weekend) and Sunday I was up at 7:15. I’m amazed
  • Food tastes better. Clean, simple, healthy things like seeds, beans, veggies, etc. all seem to taste so much better than they did before. See the recipe at the bottom of this post for my superfood salad for an example.
  • Staying away from processed food is easier. I attribute this to the mental aspect of the fast. I know that I am much cleaner on the inside, so I don’t want to put chemicals, additives, and other crap into my body. When I grocery shopped this weekend, the only things I bought that were pre-packaged were hemp seeds, agave, and acai powder. Everything else, I bagged myself (produce, dry goods, nuts).
  • Going along with the previous one, I am more committed to making noticeable changes to my body. Previously, I don’t think I fully believed in my ability to change. I accepted the parts of me that I wasn’t particularly happy with, not because I’m all zen-like, but because I didn’t think I had a choice. Now, I do believe that if I work hard enough, I can change those stubborn parts of me. I’ve decided to commit to a 6-day gym routine, and I’ve actually really excited about it.
  • And last but not least, a noticeable reduction in body fat. My favorite pair of jeans, which normally fit snugly at my hips, required a belt to stay up. Today (four days post-fast), I re-measured myself to see what the exact difference was. I wanted to wait a couple days so I had food in my system before measuring my waist/belly. Here are the results:
    • Waist – before: 27.6 inches, after: 26.5 inches
    • Belly – before: 32, after: 30.25
    • Hips – before: 33.5, after: 32.1
    • Thighs (average) – before: 21.4, after: 21.1
    • Butt – before: 36.5, after: 35.5.

Is a juice fast worthwhile?

In my humble opinion, absolutely. Not only because of the reasons I listed above, but also because it was great for me to set a goal and reach it. I questioned whether I would be able to do this, and I surprised myself that I made it without cheating (although my friend Matt says a 4oz glass of seltzer water was cheating). In fact, it’s something I will for sure do again, and probably regularly. I think I’ll wait until the summer to do another one, though. I figure at that point, I’ll be happy to freeze from the inside out 🙂

If you’re interested, here are the juices I drank throughout the fast.

Superfood Saladsuperfood salad

  • 1/3 cup black beans
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 tbsp hemp seeds
  • as much lettuce as you want, any variety

Acai Vinegrette (whole bottle, not per salad!)

  • 6 oz olive oil
  • 2 oz apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp acai powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
Superfood Salad Recipe

*includes about 1 tbsp of the acai vinegrette

7-Day Juice Fast – Day 7
February 28, 2013, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

Juice Fast Day 7 – Why Did I Commit to One More Day?

I should be rejoicing that tomorrow, I get to taste food again. But no, I had to go and commit to one extra day. I have battled multiple times, in the past few hours, whether to just give in and eat something now. Tonight I am just as hungry as last night, probably more. No amount of juice seems to take away the physical hunger pangs that evaded me the first 5 days of this. I believe this is my body’s way of saying that enough is enough. I will push it one more day, and I may even consider eating dinner tomorrow. If I feel like I do now, I’m fairly certain it will happen. I still consider it an 8-day fast, since I stopped eating last Thursday night.

Black beans and quinoa

I can’t wait for this delicious meal!

I’ve already got some black beans simmering in the crock-pot  My first meal back will be those beans (seasoned with chili powder, garlic, onions, celery, and parsley) with some cilantro quinoa, avocado, and tomato, and possibly some dairy-free yogurt in place of sour cream.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

New Month, New Goal

In other news, I’ve decided to go dairy, alcohol, and sugar free for the month of March. I may extend one, two, or all three further, but that is TBD.

I apologize, but I don’t feel like describing my day. It was pretty much exactly like yesterday, except I didn’t go to the gym. I am now trying to pass the time catching up on shows on Hulu, until it’s late enough to let myself go to bed.

I do wonder how I’ll be able to resist those beans once they’re done. Tonight and tomorrow will really push my self-control to the limits. I look forward to reveling in the victory, while feeling warmth in my belly once again. Good night, ya’ll.

7-Day Juice Fast – Day 6
February 28, 2013, 11:25 am
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

Juice Fast Day 6 – Is This Over Yet?

Day six did not go as well as I’d hoped. In fact, I went to bed without even posting, so I’ll do my best to recapture what I was feeling.

I noticed after I got dressed that I must be dropping at least a little body fat. While I still can’t see a six-pack on myself, my pants fit more loosely and my little belly that I hate so much does seem to have shrunk a bit. I did take measurements of myself before I started, so at the end of this I will post the difference. I didn’t take a “before” picture because I’m not really a “post semi-naked pics of myself on the Internet” kind of girl, but now I wish I would have, for my own reference. Today (day seven) I do see a significant difference in my little belly, so it would have been nice to compare.

At work, I did not have a good day. I couldn’t focus on anything. In terms of self-control, day six was the hardest. I considered taking back my commitment to an eighth day. I even considered just quitting right then. But in the end I’ll stick with the full eight days. I am not, however, considering going any further than that.

I did manage to get to the gym, but I cut it short. I did a moderate ab routine and skipped the HIIT sprints I’d planned, instead opting for 10 minutes of walking on a treadmill. I really didn’t feel I could do any more, and by the time I got to my mom’s to pick up Chewy, I was regretting going at all.

By the end of the day, I’d reached the point of hunger where I was a grumpy, exhausted wreck. I went to bed at 8:30 and even had dreams all night long of trying not to eat, and then finding food in my mouth and desperately trying to spit it out.

Thinking back on it, I believe it got so out of hand yesterday because I let myself get a little dehydrated. I didn’t drink much water in addition to the juice, and I even forgot to drink my final bottle before I went home for the night.

Another thing that might have added to my misery yesterday is that I might be pre-menstrual. That’s another reason I’ll be breaking the fast on Saturday; not eating + PMS = nightmare scenario.

So the goal for day seven is to not get discouraged, and be sure to keep a steady stream of juice and water during the day. I’ve been allowing myself tea as well, because I need a way to stay warm, and green tea can help with the PMS.

7-Day Juice Fast, Day 5
February 26, 2013, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Health & Wellness | Tags: , ,

Juice Fast Day 5 – Suddenly, This is Amazing!

So much energy!

Kind of how I felt

Today was by far better than the previous four. I still crave food, but not as severely. And at about 10 this morning, I got the most astounding burst of energy that lasted until I made it to the gym in the evening. It faded gradually throughout the day, but for a few hours I was totally amped. I felt like I’d drank three red bulls but without the miserable crash that comes after. I repeatedly found myself thinking, “this is amazing!” It was such a good feeling that I for a few hours, I didn’t think about food at all.

I made it to the gym again today and completed a normal workout. I really am happy that I’ve been able to maintain the gym routine. Not only do I not want to sit out of physical activity for  a week, but it’s a good way to pass the time while I’m trying not to think about what I want to eat.

I’ve now extended this fast to at go 8 days, and I’m considering going further. How far I go will depend on how I feel, so after day 8 I’m taking it day by day. The one extra day just makes sense, as it’s a Friday. When I do break the fast, I want to be able to enjoy what I’m eating. I’m usually so rushed in the mornings, especially on Fridays before the weekly meeting. It just makes more sense to do it on a Saturday when I can take the time to cook something great, and sit down and slowly enjoy it.