When people study herbs and natural medicine they tend to focus solely on physical health. And yet the health of one's spirit is just as important to one's well-being. After all, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spirits having a human experience!
This is one of the times of year when people in the West pay attention to their spiritual health. While emphasis is placed on love, peace, generosity, and in general, thinking of others, this can easily be interpreted commercially. TCM has long recognized the importance of the spirit to health. Spirit, or Shen, is linked to the Heart, and reflects the entire physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the body. It includes the capacity to think and act coherently and appropriately, the personality's magnetic force, and the joy to live life.
Shen is distinguished by the sparkle in the eyes, an overall vivaciousness, and a will to live. It is our enthusiasm, innate vitality, and charisma. Spiritually, it is the dynamic faith, vitality and force of our personalities that are able to surmount obstacles and make things happen. Thinking, long-term memory, sleeping and dreaming are all included here as well.
There are no disharmonies of Shen in and of itself. Yet, because they are connected with the Heart, Deficient Heart Qi or Blood can weaken Shen. This appears as a lack of joy or enthusiasm in life, dull eyes, dislike of talking, muddled thinking, forgetfulness, insomnia, lack of vitality, depression, unhappiness, confused speech, or excessive dreaming. In extreme, a Shen disharmony results in irrational behavior, incoherent speech, hysteria, delirium, unconsciousness, inappropriate responses to people or the environment, or violent madness.
We are not only in the Kidney time of year, but through December we are also opposite the Heart time of year. This means the Kidneys should flourish in energy now while Heart energy is at its weakest. Perhaps having major holidays this time of year is no accident to help feed our spirits and the weaker Heart energies. It also means that heart attacks often occur this time of year. Many people believe this is due to holiday blues for one reason or another, and this can definitely be true, but it can also be due to a Heart-Kidney connection issue.
According to Chinese Five-Phase theory, a Kidney disharmony may adversely affect its grandchild, the Heart. For example, if the Kidneys are Deficient in Yin with symptoms of low back pain, tiredness, scanty, dark urination, night sweats and malar flush, it may cause Deficient Heart Yin, as depleted Kidneys may be unable to care for their grandchild. The consequence is palpitations, anxiety, mental restlessness, forgetfulness (especially long-term) and insomnia (can't stay asleep). As well, a "hyper" Heart (Excess Heart Heat, for instance) can overtake the Kidneys (its grandparent), causing low back pain, scanty, dark urination, exhaustion, dry mouth at night, mental restlessness, insomnia and dream-disturbed sleep.
Take care of your Spirit this season with:
Herbs that nourish the Shen:
- zizyphus seeds
- biota seeds
- longan berries
Other Shen Remedies:
The true remedy for Shen problems is addressing emotional and spiritual issues using counseling, prayer, affirmation, meditation, play, changing jobs, taking holidays and whatever else is needed to nourish the Spirit and Heart. And the very best ways to boost the Spirit and Heart are gratitude and giving to others. So be sure to rest now, laugh with friends and find en-joy-ment in the holiday season.
FOR YOUR BODY:
I have written several blogs in the past about how to harmonize with the Winter season, including the Kidneys, so I won't go in to that now. Instead, here are a couple of herbal gift ideas you can make and give and even do with that someone special! May they put a smile on your face and laughter in your heart so they nourish your spirit as well as your body!
Herb Gathering Bags
Why not sew your own bags to put your herbs in when you wildcraft or harvest them? As well, you can gift them to your clients, friends, herbal mates and so on. Anyone can sew these bags, men and women and children alike. All you need is your desired fabric or cloth, a needle, thread, and string. You can make a simple bag from the directions below, or decorate it further as desired. Here are the directions.
Take a long rectangular piece of fabric you like and fold it in half inside out. Sew around the two long edges within 2" of the top. Fold the top down 1/4" and sew. Fold this top down the other 1 3/4" and sew down along the two edges, leaving it open at the side seams. Turn the bag right side out. Slip a cord through the open seams at the top and tie its ends together. Voila! You now have an herb gathering bag!
I have long loved salt rubs. Salt not only exfoliates skin, but it "kills" any bacteria by absorbing their fluids so they "blow up." After rubbing salt on my skin and hair and rinsing it out, both feel silky smooth and lustrous. Adding olive oil and a drop of your favorite essential oil will turn anyone into a Tahitian god or goddess within minutes! In fact, that is why this is sometimes called a salt "glow" because the oil also moistens the skin.
A salt rub is very simple to make and quite inexpensive. You can get quite expressive and creative, including the jars and labels you choose. The following is one simple recipe. Keep in mind that the amount of salt used will vary according to its grind and there are tons of different salts from which to choose!
- 3/4 - 1 cup salt
- 1/3 cup oil - try olive oil since it is so good for the skin
- Oil from 2-3 Vitamin E capsules
- 1-3 drops essential oil
- Mix all together and put in jar.
To use, rub or massage salt mixture into desired skin area. Rinse off. Leave on for 20 minutes if disinfecting the skin.