Meditate: It Does a Brain Good!

Amazing changes happen to mind and body when you meditate. During meditation, there is a physiological shift called 'the relaxation response' (RR). This response is exactly opposite the stress response that so many of us have a hard time avoiding in our daily lives. You may think you have lots of ways to relax-sleeping, watching TV, reading-but these activities do not produce the same physiological changes that happen when you meditate.

In addition to changes in brain waves, heart rate and respiration rate, meditation results in disengaging from the thinking process. You become a detached observer of the clutter that fills your mind and learn to let go of it all, one breath, one moment at time. Your troubles won't magically disappear, but your perspective about them will shift, even if you meditate just a few days a week. 

How does Meditation work?

When you are stressed, your body releases hormones that can have a negative effect on your health. Research shows having stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) circulating through your body for prolonged periods is associated with certain diseases. Meditation brings about the RR and reduces the levels of stress hormones. Now, your immune system is better able protect you from illness, recover quickly, and restore optimal wellbeing.

What can Meditation Do For You? A lot!

Reduces tension-related pain Strengthens the immune system Improves quality of sleep Strengthens neural pathways Improves emotional stability Enhances creativity Boosts brain chemicals associated with mood, memory and learning

Start a Meditation Practice

Begin with 5 minutes a day and progress to 20 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. Use sounds of nature, music, a candle, or a guided imagery to help you get started. Meditation is often done seated or lying down. Use cushions or a chair to support your posture. Eyes closed or open is up to you. 

You'll soon discover that meditation is a state of mind involving awareness and acceptance, that you can do in the midst of any activity.


Boost for the Brain? Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa monniera (Brahmi, water hyssop) is an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used to enhance learning, memory and attention span. It has been used for centuries in India as a treatment for epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, and disorders of memory and attention. Brahmi has not been as widely researched in modern scientific studies as have other Ayurvedic treatments. Through case studies and long-standing Ayurvedic and naturopathic approaches, it's worth noting that scientists  are now interested in Brahmi as a therapeutic intervention for ADHD, Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and age-related memory loss.

How Does It Work?

The way medications work, especially those that affect brain function, aren't always fully understood by doctors. Brahmi is believed to have an effect on certain brain substances called neurotransmitters, which are involved in thinking, learning, mood, and memory. Some research suggests that Brahmi may have a protective effect on the cells, keeping them from either failing to function properly or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process. A few clinical studies with healthy adult participants showed an improvement in their ability to retain new information over a period of time. Improvements in memory have also been seen in children from a rural Indian village. Further studies, including long-term studies, are necessary to fully understand these effects in adults, young people, and for various health concerns.

Precautions

Be careful not to confuse Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) with other natural medicines that go by the same name. It may interact with other medications. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if Brahmi is appropriate for you, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or recovering from surgery or illness.


Clear Your Mind with Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage, with its woody stems, grayish leaves, and lovely purplish-blue flowers, is a native perennial of the Northern Mediterranean coast and an herbal member of the mint family. If you're only familiar with Sage for seasoning savory dishes, you're missing out on a fascinating botanical remedy. 

Ancient Greeks and Romans burned sage in ceremonies, believing it would impart wisdom. Early European herbalists used Sage to clear congestion, purify the blood, and cleanse the teeth. In Native American and indigenous cultures around the world, shamans use White Sage to cleanse both persons and spaces of evil influences. Priests still burn Sage in religious ceremonies. Even though we can't prove Sage will raise your consciousness, many people burn Sage to facilitate relaxation during yoga or meditation. 

Today, we know that Sage leaves and flowers contain chemicals with antibacterial, astringent, and antiseptic properties. At your local holistic market, you can find Sage in a variety of products. It is used in natural deodorant, and in mouthwash because it fights bacteria responsible for gum disease. In herbal remedies, a sage tea or tincture can help ease sore throat, congestion, digestive cramping, and support mental wellness. In aromatherapy preparations, sage is most often used as an essential oil in an air diffuser or in candles. Dried White Sage is most commonly burned (known as smudging) as incense with the intention to clear the lungs, ease mental stress, and enhance mood.

Using Sage as a botanical remedy is very different from cooking with the herb. Medicinal preparations and essential oils derived from Sage contain thujones, a naturally occurring chemical in the plant. If you take a higher dose of medicinal Sage than is recommended, it could cause serious health problems such as tremors, rapid heart rate, vertigo and vomiting. Consult your holistic health practitioner for guidance on the safe use of any Sage remedy.


Lisa Roarke