Archives for posts with tag: health

Over the last few weeks I have made a conscious effort to change my diet. I have been nourishing myself with good food, learning which foods I have sensitivities to, and talking through the entire process with a supportive group of people all doing the same thing. I have lost about ten or so pounds, have lost inches from my waist, and feel like a zillion bucks. How much is a zillion? It is a lot.

The supportive benefits of this experience are untold. I am energised and educated. I am empowered. I have not done this alone; I would not have known where to find trustworthy information. My friend (and yours!) Tammy the Clinical Herbal Therapist has spent years in research and educating herself on this, as well as other health-related subjects. How fortunate we are that she can help us!

I am currently at the stage where I can reintroduce foods into my diet. Who would have thought a yellow pepper would suddenly be so zingy? I have a sensitivity to peppers. I will, therefore try to eliminate them from my diet. Easy to figure this out!

Having learned new recipes over the last few weeks, old standbys that I had been accustomed to buying and eating daily are surprisingly simple to replace. I didn’t think that I could live without cheese. This is one of the things that I will soon be re-introducing. I am looking forward to the experiment, and hope that I am not sensitive to cheese. However if I am… I will still be able to feed myself!

I have learned something new: Organic pumpkin seed butter is my friend.

I wholeheartedly recommend the next Nourishment series, starting up this upcoming Monday the 16th of April. Email Tammy at to register, or for more info.

-Natasha Henderson Montreal

Fleurbain is under construction. Fleurbain is moving… moving in, setting up shop, shifting around, clarifying, distilling, and experimenting to compound our knowledge and expertise.

Fleurbain is no longer only a dream and a website… Fleurbain is a site.

We will have a grand ouverture and vernissage soon (probably in early November), but in the meantime we will have small open-houses, host workshops, and meet with our clientelle in the realms of herbalism and art. In coming weeks we will announce regular opening hours, but for now we are available by appointment.

Tammy Schmidt, Clinical Herbal Therapist, is available for appointments through (at) and Natasha Henderson Artist and felt-making crafty Workshop Instructor is available through We can both be reached through!

See you soon, Montreal!

Tammy Schmidt and Natasha Henderson, Montreal

orange: beautiful in many ways

orange: beautiful in many ways

A few weeks ago, I shared a link to a video that showed how easy and inexpensive (and non-toxic) it can be to make one’s own hairspray.

Shortly after, I went out and bought myself an orange (something that I normally don’t buy) and some rum (another thing I don’t buy… I’m a gin or scotch girl!) and went about making me some home-brewed hairspray.

The results: I find that it maintains a gentle hold, and smells very nice. My head smells faintly like an orange daiquiri! Not unpleasant at all. When it was very hot and humid, and I needed to perk my hair up a bit for a wedding event, I used a blow dryer on my dampened, hairsprayed hair. This added a lot of body. I then styled it, gave a short squirt, and presto I was done. It held its shape pretty well, again not rock solid like an AquaNet net.

Final Words: I would recommend trying this. It took only a few minutes, and the price of an orange and a drop of rum. You can use rubbing alcohol, if you have it, instead. I’ll try boiling it down a little more next time, to see if the hold increases.

I am glad to not support an industry where the bottles have dozens of mysterious ingredients on the label!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

a bit of green everyday

Cats have been a part of my daily life for 14 years now.  During most of this time I have thought of them as little carnivores, little super predators.   While it is true that they rely on meat for their sustenance, they love plants too.  They love green stuff like fresh green blades of oats which are sometimes referred to as ‘cat grass’.   Most people know that cats love catnip.  Cats also respond to other herbs too such as valerian, which will excite them, and chamomile, which will generally calm them down.

For many years I was hesitant to experiment with herbs for cats because I felt that it was naïve to think that cats metabolize herbal remedies in the same way that humans do.  Just look at the way catnip excites cats, while it relaxes humans.  Or the monoterpenes in citrus, called limonene, and in pine, called pinene, are toxic to cats and not to humans.   Other common essential oils used on humans have proved to be lethal to cats.  And, years ago when I tried some of the very safest remedies such as flower essences on my cat, he seemed more annoyed than anything that I was using these calming essences on him.  I gave up on the idea.

Eventually, I tried again and I looked into many different books on herbs for pets.  Many of them are mostly written for dog owners.  After discovering a book called Herbs for Pets: The natural way to enhance your pet’s life by Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff, I began to experiment more with herbs for my cats.

One of the most impressive things that my cats have taught me this year is that they love herbal tea.  I make up one day’s worth of nutritive herbal tea made with nettles, red clover, burdock, dandelion and a very small amount of licorice and I mix it with their wet canned food.  They love the tea so much that they will lick up all of the tea before starting in on the canned bits.  When they take their tea, they seem to have stronger constitutions, they seem to be in better moods.  My oldest cat seems less frail and he has a better temperament.  I have read about the benefits of herbal remedies for years now, but these furry little guys have taught me so much about the importance of herbal tea.

If you want to experiment with herbs for cats, be sure to pick up at least 3 good books on the subject and talk to someone who knows more about this than you do.   My local library has dozens of books on this topic.  Take notes and pursue inconsistencies in the information in these books.  It is best to trust people who have practiced for a long period of time.  Be aware that there are many popular books written by people who write well and have collected all of their information from other books.  These books are generally not the best place to collect information because they are not necessarily backed by practice.

Finally, if you are making something for your cat, even if it is a nutritive tea, remember that they only require a very small dose.  A typical dose for humans is made for someone who is 150 pounds.  A cat is usually less than a tenth that size.   My cats are getting 1-2 tablespoons a day of tea and this seems to be enough.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Dust bunnies

dust bunnies, just in time for Easter

A Sweeping Epic: An Epic Sweeping.

In recent weeks I’ve been feeling a stirring, an urge… and it cannot be denied much longer. Obsession. Thoughts drifting off at highly inappropriate times. Should I do it? Am I ready? I break into a nervous sweat. Getting ready to… clean.

In pre-Spring-cleaning mode, I am thinking about my methods of attack. To tackle the more persistent dust bunnies before, or after dusting the shelves? Should I just sweep really well, or invest in having my vacuum fixed? The little details are something of a luxury for me, details that for a different type of person would be more of a necessity.

I am not a slob! I do not embrace a messy lifestyle, nor do I endorse living amongst personal rubble. However, it might appear that way. I call this: Being Busy. I also call this: Putting On The Necessary Blinkers. Sometimes we have to “put our blinkers on”, so that we don’t see things that we can’t deal with at the moment. I think everyone does this. Perhaps not everyone does it in regards to dust bunnies and heaps of miscellaneous papers, but I do.

I am inspired to use natural, home-mixed cleaning agents this year. Earlier, Tammy had written an article that gave the recipes for them, and it’s most certainly time for me to give it a whirl. Thus far I’ve been non-toxic, in that I really haven’t cleaned properly since moving into my place… a while… ago.

ah, my pretty floor. Soon you will be seen and gleaming again. The same goes for the other surfaces in my home, sweet home.

While cleaning, I am going to re-arrange my home. I like to increase functionality (and feng shui, if I can manage that too, well, bonus!) in my home whenever possible. There are so many inspirational magazines (paper and on-line) as well as home-decor books from the library! I could look at painting a wall, getting some more shelves… Wait. This smells faintly of procrastination. Right, I’ll just start with the cleaning and let the decoration happen later. Willpower, be mine!

Two things are made a lot easier by warmer weather: leaving windows open, and leaving “stuff” out on the street. A small sign: “A Donner, Free” and I’m happier and so is someone else.

A win-win situation, this de-cluttering. Hello, Spring! Bye-bye TV! Bye-bye VCR!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Christopher Hobbs at the American Botanical Council Garden imparting knowledge to other herbalists attending the AHG 2010 Symposium

I just read a very silly article in the Globe and Mail called The promise and perils of backyard herbalism by Adriana Barton.  In this, she tries to pit herbalists against ‘real’ science and research.  I love how this article reveals how bound-up we are in our respective beliefs.  Some people are thoroughly disgusted with anything beyond the allopathic medical model.  Why is this?

In her first few paragraphs, she takes Kyle Patton as a typical herbalist. His training is sited as a 7 month course in Ithaca, New York.  I would say that Patton may be passionate and he might have learned a lot during this course, but he is relatively new to herbalism with only a 7 month course under his belt.  I am curious to know how he is already prepared to lead courses in herbal medicine.  Judy Nelson, of Dominion Herbal College, is right to say that a credible herbalist is someone that people might go to for teaching or advice. Nelson notes such a person should have studied at the very least for 4 years, and this should include a good deal of supervised clinical hours.  Herbalism is both an art and a science.  I personally believe that you need many excellent mentors to be your teachers.  Kyle Patton states that herbalism is not book learning.  I will give him a break, he is new to it all and hopefully he was misquoted, because any credible herbalist I know will tell you it is both book learning and experience with plants and practicing traditional methods.  It takes many, many hours of study of both the human body and plants. It takes practice in working with/being-with both the plants and humans.  I think clocking about 10,000 hours in total is about right before anyone should really call themselves an authority on herbal medicine.  And guess what?  You have to keep going with it if you want to stay fresh!  This is not to say that people can not learn along the way and work towards becoming an herbalist.  It is just that if you are choosing mentors or experts in the field, look for one whose dedication to herbal learning can be respected.

a mentor of mine, Christine Dennis, as she leads a class

Today’s popular culture is in a bit of a DIY state of mind.  DIY is trendy.  But Adriana Barton is quite frankly out of touch to write that all herbal medicine is a DIY trend.  Over 80% of the world uses herbal medicine as their primary medicine. The World Health Organization recognizes this!  Herbal medicine is not just one tradition.  There are many, many traditions around the globe for producing effective herbal remedies.  People learn what is passed down in their families, people practice herbalism around the globe.  This is quite simply anything but a Do-It-Yourself type trend.

Barton’s article gives examples that make herbalism look wacky.  She states that researchers, “caution that “natural” doesn’t mean necessarily “safe”,” AND she states that these “researchers” have evidence of misdiagnoses, incorrect preparations and heavy metal contamination amongst other contaminants. These sages also informed Barton that St. John’s Wort interacts with everything.  I would like to challenge this and say that “researchers” are not the only ones saying this.  Credible herbalists know this too.  We learn about plant constituents, their actions and compare this to pharmacological texts and pharmaceutical industry manuals. A comprehensive knowledge of interactions and contraindications is fundamental to herbal medicine. Had Barton asked me, I would have told her as much as her researcher did. We have been saying and using this information too!  Good herbalists stay up to date with the latest research on herbs. Our vocation is to work conscientiously with the remedies that grow on our planet.

Also, as a herbalist, I agree with the researchers that mistakes do happen in terms of dosage, plant identification and plant remedy suitability.  Westerners are highly urbanized, and we should not kid ourselves that our oneness with nature is sometimes no more than a mere feeling. Few of us have this sense due to actual relationships to plants and the land.  Adulterations do happen.  From time to time, people do not identify plants properly.  It turns out that one time a commercial producer ended up picking plantain and toxic immature foxglove plants and putting them in the same batch.  Oops!  If a commercial producer can do this, there is a chance you could too. I learned this account from Roy Upton’s presentation at the 2009 American Herbalist’s Guild annual symposium, “FDA Good Manufacturing Practices and Community Herbalists.”

AHG 2010

Folks that have been interested in herbal medicine for a few years now; Christopher Hobbs, Mark Blumenthal, Roy Upton, Robin Marles

I am not saying that the people are not qualified to participate in herbal medicine.  I am saying that we need skilled experts, including herbalists, to guide us.  It is terribly interesting how Barton’s article goes so far as to quote the researcher on how it is so impossible to reason with backyard herbalists because,  “It is like a religion to them.”  I think that there is a serious issue here if we get locked in ideological camps and cannot reason with each other.  There are times when allopathic medicine is the most effective, efficient and humane of medicines.  There are also times when people find healing with herbs.  There are times when allopathic medicine is not effective. Sometimes herbal remedies work best.  Not only that, but many herbalists are researchers, they study medicine, some go on to becoming doctors.  For these folks, it might have began as a seven-month course, but it continues to grow.

Things get even worse when I read Barton’s other article, When it comes to herbal medicines, buyer beware.  It should be titled: “The obvious reasons journalists are not necessarily the best people to do summaries on herbal medicines.”  Not only is the information misleading, but there is no mention of the Latin names for precise plant identification. Only the common names are used.  She lists feverfew, milk thistle and lavender as safe for most people and black cohosh, licorice root and pennyroyal to be used with caution or not at all.  I would counter this and say that to use any of them, you are better with counsel from a credible herbalist.

As far as summaries go, there might be better ways of describing the herbs she mentions.  Yes, most herbalists would agree, feverfew has brought great results to some who suffer from migraines. And yet every herbalist should know that one needs to take this remedy over a long period of time in order to see an effect.  If you use it like an Advil, it will not work.  Milk Thistle is not a primary herb used to reduce blood sugar.  It is known to be one of the very best liver remedies.  Most herbalists will tell you that black cohosh is not the menopause herb.  It is in fact an antispasmodic, pain reliever and it is used to relieve muscular pain. Licorice root is usually not used in high quantities in formulas and when used in the right context, for the right people, it has a long history of safe use.

Lavender is not primarily used for hair loss.  And why is Barton suddenly talking about aromatherapy with the mention of thyme, rosemary and cedarwood oils to mix with the lavender?  Any aromatherapist would ask the simple question when seeing this formula; which thyme oil are your talking about?  Which rosemary oil are you talking about?  Also, it’s irresponsible of Barton to hastily state that lavender might disrupt hormones in young boys without giving context or information on studies. The effect is to create fear of something that simply cannot be understood in a few paragraphs of news text.  And then, with the pennyroyal example, she compares leaves of pennyroyal to concentrated essential oil of pennyroyal.  This, too, is really silly.  Anyone who has tried the famous oil of oregano, made with the essential oil of oregano, typically sold as a product already diluted with olive oil will tell you that it is not the same experience as a cup of mint or oregano tea.  The leaves of pennyroyal are not the same as the highly concentrated essential oil of pennyroyal.  To say that pennyroyal oil is most famously known for liver and kidney damage, seizures, lung failure and brain damage is really obscuring the story.  I mean, this is true, but that is not the story!  It was used by young women trying to induce abortions on their own.  No credible herbalist that I know would ever, EVER recommend this!  I am not sure a credible herbalist recommended this in the first place.  It is a sad cautionary tale.  You don’t forget it.

Another part to the article that bothers me is that there is no mention of the ethics of picking wild plants in an urban environment or any environment.  Wild plants growing in the wrong places can be toxic due to the soil and the plants being exposed to toxins.  Also, plant diversity in cities is already at risk.  If we start to recommend that everyone living in a small area start picking wild plants for medicine, this will further destroy an already perhaps exhausted and not exactly healthy environment.  Ethical production of herbal medicines needs to consider sustainability.  Isn’t this one of the best reasons to choose herbal medicine, it can easily be made sustainable and accessible?  I think it makes more sense for people in the urban settings to grow what they can in the community gardens (without pissing off the other gardeners because herbal medicines, such as milk thistle, st. john’s wort and others are naturally robust in gardens), and partner with interested local organic producers outside of the cities before we start recommending wild crafting.  Who wants to look at a bald Mont Royal in Montreal?  Do you want to be the herbalist responsible for creating something like this?

So, it might be that herbalists, ones that are really interested in practicing as herbalists, are needed in many different domains.  Professionals such as pharmacists and researchers from universities have studied alongside me, so I know that they are picking up a few things from the herbalists.  If you are choosing to use herbal medicine, seek out many books, seek out many experts, and keep exploring. Herbalism is not an easy field to master.  At the same time, small steps and good advice from credible folks will give you the courage to keep exploring and to do this responsibly.  Yes, it can be like cooking, it can be like art.  But we have all heard of food poisoning.  Cooking and herbalism is not all so common sense.  The plants may be communicating, but would you not want to test the message?  Science and intelligence through practice helps, in both the areas of cooking and herbal medicine.

Tammy Schmidt, CHT.

some of the herbs that were used

The first Herbal Creativity Spa Weekend workshop was held this last weekend. It was a thoroughly delicious, educational, creative and fun experience.

in the midst of making Herbal Truffles

Participants learned to make succulent herbal truffles, beautiful felted soaps, and pretty Boudoir Boxes.

fancy felted soaps, made by participants

They enjoyed some herbal teas, made a bath tea, and tasted a Healthy Hot Chocolate.

making some Boudoir Boxes from scratch

They made (and some dared to sample…) a true Love Potion.

pouring something good...

A relaxing, yet invigorating, time was had by all!

finishing touches, choices being made... a Boudoir Box

Stay tuned for the next Herbal Creativity workshop, which will be announced in March…

les pieces des resistances... herbal-infused truffles

Guest Contributor Beata Sobolewski shares her transformation from a person who takes yoga classes to becoming a yoga instructor.

A few weeks ago I finished a course to become a Yoga Instructor. This journey, which spanned five months, would open my mind to a world of possibilities. From the lessons I learned to the people who I met, I have walked away with a grander meaning of life. I did not have much yoga in my life prior to the course, but now it is part of my daily living.

Yoga showed me the union of mind, body and spirit. Yoga introduced me to the things around us we cannot always see but greatly influence our lives; Einstein and other great philosophers spoke about the great-interconnected world in which we cannot always perceive with our five senses. Yoga allows you to tap into this world of potentiality. I’m beginning to understand that as a human being each one of us is an energy being of pure potentiality.

We have been conditioned from childhood to believe that we are not powerful beings and are meant to live a mundane life of 9-5 five days a week. Throughout the course and what my instructor quoted as “the Unlearning Process”, I began to shake off some of these beliefs. If I had learned some of these attributes in my earlier years, I feel I would have greatly benefitted. However, I still greatly appreciate this knowledge. It is never to late to learn if one is open-minded and willing to stir up some beliefs.

The greatest thing yoga did for me is to allow me to have an open mind. I’ve come to realize that not one person has the answer; this is a journey of self growth. We all have our own interpretations of situations, but by being able to listen to everyone and not always judge, we are beginning to change some of the programming of the Ego self.

The Ego, I learned, is the greatest illusion in our lives. “We are the same being in different disguises” is a quote spoken by my instructor that I always review and keep in my mindset. This quote is powerful, and when repeated frequently changes self-perception and perception of the people around us. The Universe is a living organism with full awareness of itself. The five senses allow us to have the illusion that we are all separate individuals when we are really all interconnected in a web of life.

I’ve learned that life is holographic and when you affect one part of the hologram you also affect all the other parts. We can see the pain, insanity and chaos in the world around us. This is due to the fact that people are lacking self-love and knowledge of who they really are. If we knew, then we would not be harming our planet and ourselves. We are a global family and a new system needs to be implemented to fix some of our errors. I feel Yoga is a tool that can help heal the world we have created through our misperceptions about our reality.

I believe our world is a reflection of what we have inside of ourselves. When we begin to purify ourselves, we begin to purify our environment and everything around us. Yoga shows not to repress our pain, but to acknowledge, accept and forgive it. Truly we are Energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. We are infinite and timeless. It is only the identity in our life that creates the world around us. I began to learn this is for a higher purpose and it is part of the one divine mind. This false ego keeps us trapped in our own delusions and blocks truth from the “real self”, which is not of the physical world. Yoga has allowed me to reclaim some of my true self beyond the physical means around me. We are more than the job, car, money, bank account, and title in society. Beyond the things we think make us happy lies a world of truth. Life has a natural flow and we must give to receive, love to be loved and care to be cared for. Our fears, anxieties and confusions are created due to the lack of knowledge about our true identities. This reality of our true self is kept purposely from us in order for us to rely on a system built of fear of our world and ourselves.

Within five months of my Yoga journey I am beginning to reclaim some of the power I have within me. However, this is not an easy process, it is a life-long work. As human beings on a physical journey, we have many layers that need to be undone and cleansed. I have greatly benefited physically and mentally on my journey to become a yoga instructor. A reward is that once I have started to find my own inner peace, I may then do the same for the people around me. It is a great gift to be able to teach people about this metaphysical world they may not have been previously introduced to.

I will forever be grateful for this experience, and now know the journey will not end here. The choice is ours about who we decide to be in the world, and I am grateful that yoga is allowing me to get to know my true self.

Montreal, Canada 

Bikepath in parc Lafontaine, towards the south...

Parc Lafontaine... a place for springtime (and year-round) jogging...

Several months ago I spent a couple of hours in the gym injuring myself. How did I injure myself? In between running on the track and doing some weights, I used a stubborn elliptical machine for half an hour, and then I used a stairmaster afterwards. The inflexible machinery, made for a certain body with a particular stride and length of legs and arms, created a big ball of stress that centred on my knee. This stress was compounded by a tough workout on the stairmaster. I hurt myself from overuse on these machines that day. The injury created an awful tension in my left knee… so I lost a lot of flexibility and strength. I babied it, naturally, so that it became standard for me to limp slightly. I didn’t run anymore.

In the last couple of months, however, I have been attending regular yoga, dance, and classical stretch classes. I haven’t done very much “free elliptical” (that’s my term for the machines that allow you to choose your own stride, rather than having an awkward one prescribed to you) nor have I set my sights on anything like a stairmaster. I avoid the rigidly paced elliptical machine like the Plague. I have been using some free weights and doing a few lat-pulldowns every once in a while. That’s been pretty much it for exercise lately. Anyhow, the other day, I thought that I’d improved enough to allow myself a little run on a treadmill. I booked in about a half an hour on the treadmill, and maybe 20 minutes of that was spent jogging or running.

I went faster, faster, and faster. I felt like I could fly, again. It was a liberating feeling, a wonderful experience. I hope to be able to run through the Parc Lafontaine again this spring… there is nothing quite like flying amongst the blossoms and singing birds. Makes me even more glad to be alive.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Last night I viewed a compelling documentary called Living Downstream.  It follows the American ecologist, poet and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber as she tours throughout North America educating people about the links between the environment, industry and health.  I found it was a great documentary because it was sensitive to the real issues that must be faced by individuals, industries and governments.  Steingraber presents complex information in a clear manner.  She talks about her firsthand experience in dealing with cancer, without becoming overly sentimental.  A line that has stuck with me from the film was when Steingraber talks about her mission, saying that she does not want to put a happy face on cancer.  She then calls cancer a “serial killer”. I think that her boldness is a tacit critique of the pink-ribbon hype seen almost everywhere. Steingraber doesn’t busy herself with conspiracy theories or finger-pointing.  At the same time she very clearly shows how we should not delude ourselves into “pink-washing” products, foods or cosmetics. She visits her cousin’s Illinois corn-farming community without pulling any “Michael Moore” punches.  She narrates her visit to a chemical industry city in the same state with a calm commentary on a scientifically-unsound survey of the population. As a whole, the documentary is a statement that reflects her real desire to use her scientific background and personal experience to make a real change in this world.  Be sure to check out her website.  It is full of important information and hope.

People from Breast Cancer Action Montreal were also at the event.  Are you looking to make a difference?  Breast Cancer Action Montreal is always looking for more members, so make sure to check out their website too.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

%d bloggers like this: