Category Archives: Natural Healing

Natural Healing–Coriander Cilantro tea

Continuing with my free Herbal Academy Materia Medica Course, I decided to try teas made from the other local herbs I was investigating.  (See Hibiscus Tea, Feverfew Tea)

Coriander, known as cilantro in Mexico, is used in an endless variety of local cuisine.  I love cilantro!  It has such a fresh flavor! I was amazed to discover that not everyone has the same reaction when eating cilantro.  Some people taste soap, metal or dirt instead of freshness.  Apparently, it’s a genetic thing. (See A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference) How unfortunate!

Coriander has quite a number of health benefits.

cilantro-tea

Coriander seeds contain zinc, which helps with digestion, copper, which is used to produce red blood cells, potassium, which helps control blood pressure and heart rate. They contain bioactives that have antimicrobial, antiepileptic, antidepressant, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory and anxiety inhibitors.

Coriander seeds have been shown to lower blood sugar, ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome, decrease blood pressure, contain an antibacterial compound that fights Salmonella choleraesuis, thus useful in cases of food poisoning,  lower cholesterol, be useful in treating urinary tract infections, and been shown to prevent neurodegenerative disease when included in diets high in turmeric, pepper, clove, ginger, garlic, cinnamon.

Coriander Seed Tea is recommended for cystitis relief. Simply steep one teaspoon of whole coriander seeds for 5 minutes for each cup. Strain and add honey or sugar.

Cilantro (coriander) leaves are also jammed packed with good stuff.  It’s rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber and is a good source of vitamin K, which helps in building bone mass, vitamin C, and vitamin A.  Cilantro has been shown to bind the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury together which helps the body eliminate them altogether.  Cilantro has also been proven to regulate the body’s oxidative defense systems which in turn protects us from oxidative stress. Cilantro has been shown to be as effective as valium in lowering anxiety and improving the quality of the sleep cycle.  Like the seeds, the leaves also lower blood sugar levels and help protect against cardiovascular disease because of its high potassium level.  Cilantro lowers total cholesterol and triglycerides. It can prevent oxidative damage associated with cardiac damage and prevent myocardial infarctions. Cilantro can help prevent colon cancer.

And that’s just the tip of the benefits iceberg!

cilantro-tea-cup-elixir

So in line with my herbal classes, I decided to make cilantro tea. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of fresh leaves per cup.  Steep up to 10 minutes.  Remove leaves.  Add sugar or honey.  I also added a bit of orange peel to the concoction.  

I’ll be honest and say that the taste was ho-hum.  It tasted, well, like cilantro tea.  I think I’ll get all the goodness in solid form like maybe salsa, pico de gallo, on tacos with onion, and so on.  In any form, it’s a tasty part of our Mexican diet and not too difficult to grow.  I’ll post more information once I harvest my first batch this year!

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This post was proofread by Grammarly.


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Natural healing–Hibiscus tea or agua de jamaica

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, I decided to enroll in a 6-week online herbal course through Herbal Academy.  As the program’s aims included sustainability, stewardship, and affordability, I knew this was the place for me!

So I jumped right into the Herbal Materia Medica course. The lessons and a number of print-outs were free.  The herbs I would be studying were left up to my discretion.  I decided to learn more about plants that I had readily available here in Mexico.  So I chose cilantro (coriander), jamaica (hibiscus), sabila (aloe vera), feverfew and wandering jew.  It was more than I bargained for, probably because once I started researching herbs, I couldn’t stop.  I kept adding more and more herbs to my list of useful local and medicinal plants.  

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Find more herbal courses here!

I’d like to share some of what I learned about the hibiscus flower today.  

Agua de flor de jamaica is one of my favorite aguas frescas here in Mexico. When this is an option, who would every choose a coke? Its deep red color reminds me of Kool-aid, although the flavor is a bit on the tart side. Making it is nearly as easy as Kool-aid as well.

calyx

The calyx (the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud) are added to boiling water until thoroughly wet. Strain the mixture, getting all the juice out, add sugar to taste and stir.

Dried jamaica (hibiscus) calyx are easily obtainable at the market, so I went out and obtained some “for my class project.” I opted to add piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) and canela (cinnamon) to my tea. My son said it tasted more like ponche (fruit punch) but drank an enormous quantity of it. I only used a handful of flower petals, so I have plenty left to perfect my own agua de jamaica.

hibiscusteainfo-700x525

Not only is it delicious, but it is good for you too.  Agua de jamaica has citric acid, malic acid (giving it its tart flavoring) used in treating fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome because of its energy increasing properties, tartaric acid which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound useful in treating inflamed joints, pancreatitis and liver inflammation. Tartaric acid has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and intestinal absorption of nutrients. The flower also contains polysaccharides which aid in reducing fatigue, regulating healthy blood pressure and blood sugar, encourage a positive mood, soothe irritation, support the immune system, and increase libido.  No wonder this is a drink recommended to reduce menopause symptoms! (See also  A Beautiful Transition In Life: Dealing With Menopause Naturally Without HRT and Health Benefits Of Hibiscus)  It’s been used to reduce pain from menstrual cramps, restore hormonal balance which reduces mood swings and depression.

Furthermore, jamaica has cyanidin and delphinidin, antioxidants found to have anti-carcinogenic properties found to be effective in skin, breast and colon cancer prevention.  

Studies have shown that extract of hibiscus (jamaica) is toxic to cancer cells. Why isn’t everybody drinking this?

As if that isn’t enough, flor de jamaica contains anthocyanins which have long been used to treat high blood pressure, colds and urinary tract infections.  As the drink is a natural diuretic, it’s easy to see how it could be just the thing for these all-too-common ailments.

Jamaica has been used to successfully treat obesity and head lice. Drinking agua de jamaica can reduce anxiety and depression.  This tea is low in calories and caffeine-free and can be enjoyed hot or cold. What more could anyone ask for?

hibicus-tea-life

So how much should you drink?  Superfoods Scientific Research recommends a typical adult should drink one cup of hibiscus tea twice daily.  Take 2 tsp of dried blossoms or 1 tsp of crumbled blossom with 1 cup of boiling water, steep for ten minutes.

There you have it, folks!  I would be lax if I failed to mention that there have been reported side effects from drinking this tea.  As mentioned above, it lowers hormone levels which is great for menopausal women but might not be what someone trying to get pregnant would want. So avoid this drink if you are undergoing fertility treatments or are in the first trimester of pregnancy.  As it lowers blood pressure, if your blood pressure is already low, don’t drink it.  As it reduces anxiety, you may feel utterly relaxed or drowsy after drinking it.  In fact, some people have reported hallucinations, although I have yet to experience that particular side effect myself.

Did you know you can make taquitos out of flor de jamaica too?  Check out this recipe!


Well, I have my packet of organic hibiscus seeds and am going to give it another go this year.  I made an attempt before, but the seeds didn’t sprout (See Failing at Container Gardening.)  Once I get my first batch, I’ll walk you through the drying process.  If you can’t wait until then check out the steps at HIBISCUS: A TASTY ADDITION TO YOUR EDIBLE LANDSCAPE OR GARDEN.

So, as you can see, I learned quite a bit as a result of my free course at Herbal Academy. Totally worth it!  Stay tuned for more informative herbal posts in the future!

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Modern Day Marias–Jamie Miranda the mother

December 24 marks the end of Las Posadas in Mexico. On this night, the infant Jesus figurine is placed in the manager in line with the belief that he was born on this night.  (We know better, but who can argue with tradition? See also When was Jesus born?)  In Las Posadas song, we are assured that Maria was finally granted a corner to shelter in after being recognized as the Queen of Heaven, as Mexican Catholics still refer to her.  However, unlike a true queen, there was no mention of attendants to assist her in her delivery.  Maria gave birth alone.  As those male bible writers neglected the details, today I’d like to share the birth story of Ona, born to Jamie in the mountains of Michoacan, yet another inspirational Modern Day Maria.

I never tested, I just knew. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone, not even V. Several months passed as this mysterious potency grew within me. Like the sky just before dawn, the light was building and would soon spill out over the mountain tops. And so it did.

baby-belly
I spent the first five months on our land in central Mexico. I live in the tropical mountains of Michoacan, in the Sierra Madres. Surrounded by lush avocado and banana trees, green hills rising out of the valley full of ancient corn. Here, there is more hard, physical labor than one could ever imagine. Though this is my fifth full term pregnancy, it has been completely different than the others. Nothing could have prepared me for how emotionally, spiritually and physically challenging this pregnancy journey would be. A true reflection of my climb up the butterfly mountain.
This is my second completely unassisted pregnancy. Meaning no prenatal testing, no ultrasounds, and no doctors. I chose not seek out a midwife or anyone else outside of myself to check in or tell me how I was doing. I did not even use a fetoscope to check heart tones at any point as I had in my last pregnancy. Instead, I listened to my intuition and to my body, felt baby’s positioning with my hands and cultivated an unwavering sense of trust. I deeply surrendered to the perfection of whatever was unfolding before me.
I did choose to allow the use of a doppler one time to check heart tones, as it was required for a pregnancy confirmation. Because I would be birthing outside of the US and declaring a birth abroad, claiming baby’s US and Mexican citizenship, I felt it would be wise to have my pregnancy documented and on record somewhere in the US. So when I visited family in the states for a month, I also visited a good friend who is a CNM, at her office, to put myself officially on the radar before heading south again.
After returning to Mexico, I had a few episodes of preterm labor, which was a first for me. Once around 29 weeks and again around 33. We got through it and baby stayed in. Stress, workload, and dehydration were contributing factors. I also had a day with some bright red bleeding around that time which resolved itself. Baby was favoring the breech position as well, as had two of my other babies (one resulting in a natural frank breech delivery). When she finally swam head down around 34-35 weeks, she stopped moving for a few days. This was one of many deep lessons in trust and following my intuition. I felt her head wedged at an angle on my pubic bone. I gently lifted ever so slightly, she shifted a little and very soon she was active again as usual. Once I made it to 36 weeks, I felt myself relax a little, knowing that I would feel comfortable delivering this baby at home now, whenever she chose to arrive…
Around the middle of the 38th week, I began noticing regular waves as soon as I laid down to put the kids to sleep. They were mild with only minutes between them. As I lay there, all I could think about was planting onions! It was very dark and quite cold outside, yet I could barely contain the urge to put on my boots and sweater, grab the hoe and till the dirt by the light of the moon and my headlamp. I reluctantly stayed in bed, not wanting my youngest to wake up alone, and rode the waves until they fizzled out around midnight. I planted the onions the next morning, and I distinctly felt the baby move down as soon as I stood up from planting the last row.
Soon the men were in the field, harvesting the corn under a thick blanket of fog. I had the feeling that the baby would be here as soon as all the heavy sacks were stacked up under the red brick arches. She would be “hija de la maiz”, child of the corn, in the most literal way. Conceived at the time those seeds were buried and born just after the harvest…
The day after all of the corn was picked up was my “due date”. I was sure I had at least a week or more until the baby would actually arrive, and had a shopping trip to the city planned for the next day. That evening I lay down with the kids to go to bed, and as soon as everyone in the house was sleeping, the first wave came. It was strong but not painful. A few more rolled through me and I got up and went outside to the bathroom. When my headlamp revealed pink tinged toilet paper, I wondered if I would have to cancel my shopping trip…
I lit a candle in my kitchen and sat down for a while. The quiet was nice. After having several rushes in the chair, I decided to do what the wise women say, and try to ignore it and get some rest. I thought it would fizzle out soon and staying awake would leave me exhausted for the big trek in the morning, so I climbed back into the bed. Each time a wave washed over me in the bed, however, everyone in the room would toss and turn. This happened every time and began to irritate me after a while, so I went back to the kitchen. I sat there in the candlelit darkness for a long time. Thinking, feeling, wondering, waiting… Never believing that I was truly in labor. My mind felt too clear. I was far too present and aware for this to be labor…
To understand how this is all unfolding, picture that our home is quite small inside. There are three rooms with serapes hanging in the doorways between them. Our bathroom is outside… I wandered in and out throughout the night, in my sweater, skirt, and sandals, silently. The stars were bright and the crescent moon hung in the sky. After an elongated stretch of time spent pondering the possible reality, I finally decided that I should get my stuff together just in case this baby was really coming tonight.
Between rushes, I moved through the house like a thief in the night, gathering blankets and towels and remedies. Barefoot, silent, stalking. Let them all sleep deeply, I prayed. I made a nest on the concrete floor in the kitchen, lit two more candles and burned some cedar. I drank water. The last thing I grabbed was the oil heater. This was not easy. I had three rushes on the way to the bedroom and three more on the way back pushing the heater. It made me laugh to think of how I must have looked…
With everything set up, I decided to lay down and see if I could sleep a little. At this point, the sensations shifted and became much more intense. I began breathing like an animal and heard myself making noises. V woke up and came in to see what was going on. He stood there for a while watching me, said something odd and then went out to get wood for the fire. This was the best thing he could have done. He kept himself busy in the next room with the fire and left me alone.
I continued to move in and out of the house. The bathroom was nice and though it was cold, felt very comfortable. My water broke while I was staring at the stars and I heard myself say out loud, “GO BACK IN THE HOUSE NOW”. That was a long walk back to the door. I stood bracing myself on the table, watching the flickering candle flames through a few all-encompassing waves. I had the very clear thought that I needed to get down closer to the ground. I sank down onto my knees and hung over the woven straw seat of a chair. As soon as I did this there was a long pause. I felt completely normal and even had the thought that this would be a good time to go back to sleep! As if perhaps it was suddenly over. Then an indescribable force rocked through my body. Downward energy flowing like a raging river. Fluid heat, crashing and swirling and pulling everything down with it. Gripping the rough wood, I felt burning. The door was opening. The birth force was bringing the baby through. I heard myself unleash a wild sound and felt myself stretch. “Head!” I yelled… “Baby!” I quickly corrected, as I felt everything pass through me at once. Then suddenly I heard V behind me, in shock saying, “Oh Shit! Get the baby!”
I gave birth on my knees wrapped in a blanket. Shrouded in the darkness of my candle lit kitchen, my third daughter flew through the door like lightning into a nest of blankets. There was no time to catch her. I heard the wailing in the blackness and turned around to scoop her up, slippery and still connected to me. It was only at that moment that we realized the baby was really coming that night.

baby-knot
Valentin turned on the light in the middle room where the fire was blazing. He pulled the serape (blanket) to the side allowing enough light to come through to where I was sitting with the baby. He found dry towels and blankets for us and he was the one to notice the rare, true knot tied in her umbilical cord. After examining the knot we realized we hadn’t checked to see if it was a boy or girl. We both thought boy for sure, and were very surprised to see that she was a girl!
After a while, I felt like I was ready to release the placenta and move to a more comfortable spot. It came out easily and then the kids started waking up. All three crowded around us on the kitchen floor in amazement. My four year old said, “Oh, hi baby. Now we get to eat the yummy things in the freezer!” And so at 2:30 in the morning, we put the lasagna and the pear-apple crisp into the oven and got back into bed to rest while they baked.
I took some motherwort tincture and homeopathic arnica. V brought me a cup of hot coffee. I drank what felt like gallons of water. Baby stayed connected to her placenta, which was draining in a plastic strainer inside a bowl next to her. She and I were both very alert and awake while the others slept until sunrise.
After breakfast, I sat by the fire and washed the placenta with warm water. When I took off two chunks with my fingers to make medicine, I noticed she startled a bit. I thanked her and her placenta and dropped the pieces into alcohol. I packed the placenta front and back with Himalayan pink salt, ground lavender and cedar and calendula flowers from the garden. I wrapped it up in a cotton diaper and placed it in a little basket next to her. She seemed to enjoy it and the kids were taking it all in as well.

baby-placenta
Over the next several days, we kept the house hot. I repacked the placenta in salt and herbs and new dry cloth diaper twice a day. I let the sun streaming in the windows shine on it and the cord as we lay in front of the fire. By the third day, the cord was dry except for the knot, which I coated with dried ground cedar in the morning. By sunset, the knot had dried out and turned brown like the rest of the cord.
The fourth day was challenging for me. The cord became completely stiff but was still very much attached. It was difficult to move her around, and at that point, I felt ready to move a little more. A real lesson in patience. After contemplating severing the connection, I began asking myself why I felt the need to rush this or move it along at my pace? This was hers. This beautiful brand new birth space will never come again. So I asked my medicine cards what was happening with her, her cord and her placenta. I drew the Deer. Regeneration and renewal. Finding your calling. The picture speaks volumes… To me it looks like the tree of life transferring all that you will become, through the ring of your own eternal history unto a child with open arms… All overlaid on the head of a deer.
I had a dream on the fifth night that she let go of her cord. The sixth day I saw that it was hanging on by a thread. I sat watching her most of the day as she slept peacefully. She grabbed her cord several times and I wondered each time if that would be the moment, but each time she let go. Part of me was ready to be able to pick her up easily and carry her around. But part of me felt sad knowing that these sacred days of sitting by the fire, building altars to the wholeness and beauty of creation, were coming to an end. Everything woven in this new beginning is woven within us and will live through each new dawn…… That night I wrapped her and her placenta up in a blanket, still connected, and went to sleep.
The garden was full of giant white calla lilies that had just bloomed when I went outside in the morning. Baby seemed much more awake and alert as she took in her surroundings. She kicked off her cord as soon as I unwrapped her blanket. She shivered and let out a little squeak, and smiled. Lotus-born on the seventh day.

baby-sleep
They say that anyone who witnesses a lotus birth is healed. I believe that this is true. Valentin was against the idea and asked me several times in the first few days to cut the cord. Then one day, while she was laying there with her placenta unwrapped in the basket, with flowers and crystals and shells, and the morning sun streaming in… I saw him stop to watch her. I could see that it touched him deeply and saw something shift and soften. Not that he was less masculine, but that the masculine element had taken in a deep healing. The wound of separation was no longer active and needing to prove itself. I could see this new reality manifesting in many subtle ways over the next several days. My children would gather around her placenta and say how beautiful it is and my four year old even told me he loves it. This birth has been a blessing for our whole family.
I used to read birth stories about women moving through labor, with these amazing, supportive partners, and feel like I was missing something. It made me angry in a way that my kids’ dad was so reserved and didn’t offer loving words or counter-pressure or massage, we never stared into each others’ eyes and didn’t experience that bonded connection that I so often read about. It took me five births-four with him present- to figure out what I really needed. I didn’t need to borrow his strength, I needed to find my own. I didn’t need him to love me and tell me I was doing great, I needed to find a way to deeply love and encourage myself. I needed to claim my own truth and beauty and surrender completely, instead of falling into the safety net of somebody’s waiting arms. This time, I needed everyone and everything to step out of the way. And he did. He allowed me to find my way while holding his natural place. I finally came to honor his natural place because I learned to hold my own. This too is a dance. I finally feel like I got it right. I feel whole and complete. I had my dream birth down to the details, and I am in awe that it really happened.

sleeping-baby
My labor was five hours from the first contractions until she was born. This was my fifth birth after having a natural breech birth, an unnecessary cesarean, and two hospital VBACs. I free birthed my baby, alone in my candle lit kitchen, in the rural mountains of Central Mexico. Like the climb into the butterflies, I suddenly found myself in a place of raw and potent power. The space between worlds where new life enters, wrapped itself around me like a blanket of stars, holding me and my new daughter as I too came through the hoop and was powerfully reborn.

Onatah Tecolote Miranda
Born December 3rd, 2016
Michoacan, Mexico
Walk in Beauty…

For the full story and countless other inspirational adventures experienced by Jamie and her family,  please go to The Way.

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Fruits and Vegetables

Did you know that in addition to corn and chocolate being native to Mexico, avocados, peanuts, squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and papaya are all Prehispanic delights?

avocado pictograph

Aztec pictograph indicating “the place where avocados grow.”

Avocado is thought to have originated in the state of Puebla. The oldest evidence of avocado use dates to about 10,000 BC, found in a cave located in the town of Coxcatlan. The word avocado comes from the Spanish aguacate which comes from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl which goes back to the proto-Aztecan word *pa:wa. The Nahuatl word also can be translated as testicle.  Since this fruit was considered an aphrodisiac, perhaps because of its similarity to male reproductive organs, young girls were kept indoors during the annual avocado harvest.

Aguacate maduro, pedo seguro.  Ripe avocados–farts for sure!  

Without the avocado, there would be no Guacamole! The name Guacamole comes from the Nahuatl work āhuacamolli which translates as avocado sauce (see Mole).

The tomato also comes from Mexico. The name comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl which translates as “fat water.” The Aztecs cultivated the tomatl and came up with a new species they called xitomatl which translates as “plump thing with a navel.”

A la mejor cocinera se le va un tomate entero.   A whole tomato can escape the best cook. Meaning everyone makes mistakes.

And what would salsa be without the tomato?

The papaya was also a common domesticated fruit in Mexico before the arrival of the Spanish. It was called chichihualtzapotl in Nahuatl which meant zapote nodriza (mothering or nursing zapote.) The papaya had medicinal value to the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The Aztecs applied papaya fruit to their skin for relief from insects bites. Asthma was treated with boiled papaya leaves applied to the chest.

cacahuate

Nine flowers of Mexico

The modern day name for the zapote fruit, papaya, comes from the Mayan word páapay-ya which means zapote jaspeado (marbled or spotted zapote).

Peanuts may have been domesticated in Argentina or Bolivia. However, its cultivation in Mexico was well-established before the arrival of the Spanish. Peanuts were called tlalcacahuatl or tlalli auh cacahuatl in Nahuatl which gives us the Mexican Spanish word cacahuate that is used today.

peanut seller

One of our local peanut vendors in Moroleon, GTO

Me vale un reverendo cacahuate.  It’s as important to me as a holy peanut. Meaning it’s not important to me at all.

The oldest pumpkin seed found was in the Guila Naquitz Cave in Oaxaca and dates as far back as 7000 BC.  Squash has been cultivated in the Tehuacan and Oaxaca valleys and in Tamaulipas since 6000-5000 BC. Its cultivation predates the domestication of maize and beans by about 4,000 years. (See Las Tres Hermanas)

Squash was a ritual offering presented in honor of the dead during the month of Miccailhuitontli by the Aztecs and is still considered an appropriate addition to the altar during El Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico in the form of calabaza en tacha (candied pumpkin).

Sweet potatoes are native plants that are found from the Yucatan on down south to Venezuela. The Maya domesticated the plant at least 5,000 years ago.  In Mexico, sweet potatoes are known as camotes which comes from the Nahuatl word camotli. Camotes enmielados (honeyed sweet potatoes) are yet another specialty food traditionally made and served for El Dia de Los Muertos.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little week-long foray into traditional eats in Mexico as much as I have!  And remember–La vida es un camote agárrese de donde pueda.  Life is a sweet potato.  Hold on to it where you can.

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This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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