We are part of nature. The seasons and cycles that transform our natural world, also move and create changes within us. Look around and see and smell the burst of vibrant flowers and leaves.  Imagine that powerful life giving energy is rushing forth within you. It is your time to bloom! New ideas, visions, plans, expressions may flood you. As much as possible, create space to allow these vibrant new beginnings to take root in your life. Open to the possibilities; create strategies and actions plans to nurture them.  Be open to the springs and creeks teeming with life within you.  And set clear, loving boundaries.

Through the 4000 year old lens of  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we are a microcosm of nature. We can look to nature to understand the processes and cycles going on within us. In TCM, there are 5 elements that encompass and create life as we know it: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. These elements correspond to the seasons. The season of Spring represents the Wood element and is a time when the energies of the Liver and Gallbladder organs are most active. In TCM, Liver and Gallbladder have slightly different functions than their Western specifications. I will capitalize the name of the organs when I refer to them from a TCM context. Just to be clear: if someone is experiencing symptoms of TCM specified Liver stagnation, it does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with their liver function from a Western Medicine perspective. TCM often picks up on subtle fluctuations and imbalances that would not be detected under a western lens. This sensitivity is what allows it to be a truly preventative health modality. However, it is important to keep in mind that balance is a dynamic process and our ability to tune in and listen at a subtle level empowers us to course correct or seek professional help as needed.

In TCM, the Liver organ stores blood, and controls the flow of Qi (vital energy) throughout the body. If this Liver and Gallbladder energy gets stagnant, we may experience irritability, headaches, redness in the eyes, and/or tendonitis. Many of us are familiar with the complementary opposites conveyed in the yin yang symbol. This balance or lack of balance also shows up in our bodies. For example, if we do not have enough Liver Yin in the body to ground the Liver Yang, we may wake up in the night with our mind racing unable to go back to sleep.

Over the past 15 years practicing Shiatsu, I have seen my clients come in with an increase of Liver related complaints: more headaches, increased irritability, and tighter shoulders and necks are common symptoms. Here are 5 self-care practices that I suggest for balancing the flow of Liver and Gallbladder qi:

  1. Begin the day with meditation, exercise or yoga. This helps to get your energy moving smoothly.
  2. Drink a glass of water with fresh lemon (squeeze up to one whole lemon).
  3. Increase raw foods and add cooling, bitter greens in your salads – dandelion leaves, French sorrel and endives are great additions.
  4. Hold this acupressure point: Liver 3
  5. Allow yourself time to be truly present, enliven your senses by spending time in nature and receiving some bodywork or acupuncture.
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Image result for mosquito pictures
I was sitting at my desk chatting with a friend last week in the evening hours.  The weather had been warmish that day, so my ankles were bare.  I finished my conversation and realized my ankles were itchy.  Taking a closer look by drawing my legs up into my lap, I discovered multiple mosquito bites!  Then, up from the depths, a mosquito hummed…

Realizing I was not prepared for mosquito season, I quickly jumped online and tapped into my Young Living account.  Must order oils to make repellent!  In my opinion, we (Minnesotans) have more than the traditional four seasons here: winter, mud, spring, mosquito/summer, and autumn.

In what seems like another lifetime, I was an outdoor educator, spending many hours of the day outside, and often 24 hours per day while leading wilderness trips.  I never liked bug repellent, finding it stinky, oily and just gross.  I would often wear warmer clothes than the weather warranted just to keep covered and inaccessible.  But I distinctly remember the time when I could no longer use conventional/chemical repellent anymore.

I had been working for a YMCA camp as the Adventure Learning Center Coordinator.  My days were spent outside, facilitating groups through the high ropes courses and low adventure elements, training others and doing course maintenance.  The camp, being in a somewhat boggy area and situated on a lake, proved to be a major breeding ground for mosquitoes, often jokingly referred to as Minnesota’s other state bird.  The camp was generous enough to provide us with “bug dope” for personal use as well as for our group members, who often were under-dressed and without their own repellent.  Dousing ourselves in DEET-based sprays was de riguer during the summer (mid-May through August) months.

The first summer I worked at this camp, I began noticing the consistent effects of DEET-use on my body.  A pattern of gut-problems began to emerge:  I would spray, and within a few hours, terrible bowel cramps would ensue, followed by diarrhea. It began to affect my ability to do my job.  All other things being the same, it correlated to use of bug spray.  I did a little experiment and used plant oil-based sprays, and my symptoms disappeared.  That was enough for me! I never looked back, and that was 15+ years ago.

If you are noticing curious symptoms following DEET use, research it.  You will run across a huge variety of responses, but don’t dismiss your own experience.  Trust the sense that something is not right, and look for alternatives to support you.

Here are some other links to further your education on DEET:

https://off.com/en/education/active-ingredients/7-myths-and-facts-about-deet

healthcenter.indiana.edu/answers/insect-precautions.shtml

I figured if it will melt plastics, it is probably not so good for my skin, my internal systems or my nervous system.

Now, a few years older and somewhat wiser, my general rule of thumb is, if I won’t put it in my mouth, it doesn’t go on my skin.  What?!?  Yes.  Our skin is our biggest organ, and it is extremely effective in transferring things into our systems.  To maintain my health and well-being, that is the guide that I use and ask my kids to use.

In my research to find safe, effective mosquito/bug repellant, I have come across many plant oils that contain energetic ‘disruptors’ that disturb the mosquitoes antennae enough to discourage biting.

Neem oil is one of those.  Widely used in India for centuries to thwart biting mosquitoes (as well as other healthcare uses), Neem has also proved very effective in reducing malaria cases in India.  Now consider: India has many tropical regions and mosquitoes are rampant.  Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes (actually there are more!), and mosquitoes are rampant.  I figured if Neem is effective against malaria on the other side of the world, surely it can help me not get bitten here.  And it does!  Admittedly, it is not the most pleasant smelling oil, but I have found it to be effective.  I have watched as mosquitoes even land on me, but within moments fly away, bite free.  The way I use it is to mix it with olive oil or coconut oil and we smear it on our skin.  This summer I may also try to add a few other essential oils that will make it a little more yummy smelling.

Speaking of yummy smelling, these are some of the essentials oils that can go into Homemade Bug Spray: choose from Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Cajeput, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Catnip, Lavender, Mint, Cinnamon, and Rose.  Below you will find several suggestions for combinations.

This one is borrowed from Amanda Soule’s book The Rhythm of Family:

1 teaspoon of lemongrass oil

1 teaspoon of eucalyptus oil

1 teaspoon of citronella oil

7 ounces of witch hazel

8-0z spray bottle (amber or blue glass is best for the stability of the oils)

Mix all the ingredients in the spray bottle.  Shake well before each use.  Avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth.  Reapply as desired.

And Katie of WellnessMama has some great recipes with techniques on her website:

https://wellnessmama.com/2565/homemade-bug-spray/

Finally, I have read that taking Neem internally, increasing garlic consumption (or garlic capsules), or increasing the B vitamins all help to reduce bites.  Since everyone’s chemistry is unique to them, carefully experiment with a variety of spray mixtures or supplements to find the one that works best for you.  After you find the combination that works for you, come back here to share what is effective so others can be bite-free, too.

Don’t allow the mosquitoes to hold you hostage this summer.  Get outside and soak up all the beauty this season has to offer you, body, mind and spirit.  And have fun!

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