My mom is a retired registered nurse (RN). She has always (even before becoming an RN) worked in the psych wards, and although she’s Asian by birth and culture, all her training and experience has been in the Western medicine traditions. Growing up, we took OTC pills. We went to the doctor. We got prescriptions. I grew up very much in the Western medicine tradition. Yes, I sometimes got some traditional home remedies: chicken noodle soup for colds, honey and vinegar or a warm salt water gargle for sore throats, Tiger balm for bug bites. But for the most part, it was Tylenol and Psudophed and Dimatapp, or a doctor visit.
I have moved over to more natural medicine over the last few years, and it has become an integral part of my life. A quarter of my pantry is lined with jars of dried herbs and tinctures (homemade and purchased) and salves. I have medicinal plants dispersed throughout my garden. I know what the wild things that grow here are, where to find them, and how to harvest them. And I think about every meal I cook in a way that not only focuses on taste (very important), but also what ingredients will provide the most nutritional and/or medicinal benefit, as needed.
Last summer, my mom came out to visit and I began sharing some light herbalism and wild foraging with her. We gathered some wild greens and cooked and ate them (delicious). We foraged for mushrooms and looked up the qualities of each, and cooked and ate them (delicious). We checked out my garden herbs (and weeds) and what is helpful in what way, and cooked and ate them (there’s a trend here somewhere). And then we started talking health and healing.
My mom had a total hysterectomy 14 years ago due to fibroids, which put her into immediate menopause. When she came last summer, she was still suffering the effects: mood swings, hot flashes, inability to sleep. She also has a certain…personality to her: high strung, a bit bossy at times, stressed… which tends to build into physical symptoms (as well as driving my step father crazy). So I began “dosing” her with motherwort tincture.
I do not recommend “dosing” anyone with anything without their consent or awareness of what it is they are taking. Everyone has to make their own decisions and everyone is different!
I actually did ask her if she wanted to try something that might help. She said yes, so motherwort it was. I also made her chamomile tea before bed with a bit of valerian. Within days, with those two things, she was sleeping a solid 6 hours at night, and her hot flashes were gone. And with that, she was convinced…mostly.
So I introduced her to nettle. I drink nettle infusions on a regular basis, along with comfrey, oatstraw, red clover, and linden. I love some more than others (and tend to drink them more often), but I try to keep all 5 in regular rotation. While visiting, my mom was curious, and I started her with nettle, partially because it’s what I started with, but mostly because she, despite the allergy shots she got in the late 80’s, still suffers from pretty bad seasonal allergies. She liked it. My step father liked it. They commented on the energy boost, thicker hair, more supple skin, and just feeling good all around. Yay!
Shortly after returning home, my stepfather was due to have neck surgery…a couple vertebrae fused due to an old injury. I suggested my mom get the other 4 herbs I rotate and do the same for both of them. There was some back and forth confusion over the “what medicines are you currently taking?” part of the pre-surgery questionnaire (these 5 herbs are food, not “medicine,” per se…), but they both began drinking all 5 pre-surgery and following surgery. Meanwhile, I convinced my mom to stop taking her tablet vitamins (she’s been taking high dose calcium and magnesium for years to try to fend off her osteoporosis) because she should have been getting all the vitamins her body needs from the infusions.
At my stepfather’s 1 month post-op check-up, the doctor actually verbalized his amazement at how quickly and well my stepfather was healing.
At my mom’s biannual check-up, she had blood work done to check her levels. They came back perfect! Sans vitamins for over 4 months, all her vitamin and mineral levels were exactly where they should be (…as recommended by someone somewhere for the average American woman in her 60s…).
Now, my personal belief is the infusions are making all the difference in their wellbeing, BUT I’ll admit that there are potentially other explanations for the results above (but I really think it was the infusions).
They both continue to drink them daily. And they both have nothing but good things to report as far as their health goes. My mom does now take a low-dose calcium supplement once a day (instead of the horse pills she was taking 3X a day previously), and that’s fine. It’s what makes her comfortable. We are all individual and we all need to listen to our body and make our own decisions.
She also keeps chamomile and valerian around for when she can’t sleep, and I taught her to tincture herbs, and she has her own motherwort now for when she needs it. She calls or texts me regularly to ask about herbs and plants and how to use them or prepare them, or for help on any particular ailment that pops up for her or my step father. It feels good to have opened this world to her. It feels good that I’ve been able to help her, and still can. It feels good to know she is doing something for her own health.