II am absolutely fascinated by medicinal plants, the gentle gifts of our Creator to help us to improve our lives, treat health conditions, and optimize our health and fertility. One of my favorite ways to enjoy beneficial plants is through essential oils. If you don't already know, essential oils are a big health trend these days, and for good reason! These super concentrated essences of plants are aromatic, potent, healing, and just plain fun to use. I have slowly graduated from cautiously smelling the cute little bottles to incorporating many different ways of using these oils in my home and daily healthcare.
The essential oil industry however, can be quite contentious. There are dynamic debates on safety, optimal use, and quality. Having a pure and high quality oil is very important if you want the product to be safe and beneficial. It's certainly vital to know and trust your essential oil manufactures and educators.
Everyone and their brother seems to have an opinion on what brand is best, which is great! A competitive marketplace ensures that consumers have options. However, this particular industry becomes so heated and the competition downright brutal, and it can be just a bit ridiculous. So what essential oil brand do I recommend?
I don't. I don't recommend any particular brand, because no one brand has the corner on quality and value. I could tell you which low quality brands to avoid, but that's another conversation. Let's talk a bit more about your basic options and where to start in choosing a good brand.
Store Bought vs. Direct Sales
The biggest contention seems to be between the store-bought-only crowd and the direct sales diehards. Those part of a big mulit-level marketing (MLM) company might fear that any oils bought off the shelf at stores or on Amazon are diluted, additive-ridden garbage. On the opposite end, those who dislike the MLM model may see any direct sale company as predatory and their products overpriced. Both viewpoints are far too generalized and unfair.
Both MLM and store bought essential oils can be excellent products. No one company has the corner on quality oils. You just have to do your research and find a brand that's best for you. Or pick several! Who says you can't enjoy more than one?
Here are a few things to consider when deciding on what to buy:
So talk to friends, read reviews, books and articles, and try as many different brands as you can. Good oils should smell good and have noticable effects. They should be enjoyable to use and worth their price.
One website I love for non-brand specific essential oil information is Using Essential Oils Safely. Check out your library as well - there are lots of essential oil books with reference information, recipes, and creative ideas on how to use oils for health and wellness.
I'm always on the lookout for alternative therapies to improve menstrual cycle health. So many women turn to powerful artificial hormones such as oral contraceptives for symptoms such as irregular periods, period pain, and even hormonal regulation. While therapies such as the Pill may mask symptoms temporarily, they do nothing to address the root cause of women's symptoms or balance a women's own hormones.
I've long been aware of a unique kind of abdominal massage called Arvigo® Therapy, but practitioners with this kind of specialized training are few and far between. So I was delighted to discover that a homebirth midwife in my area is a certified Arvigo® practioner! She graciously agreed to an interview so that all of us could learn more about this fascinating modality and how it can benefit cycle health, fertility, and childbearing.
Rebecca Menning: Hi Anja! Thanks for chatting with me. Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what you do?
Anja Farin: I'm Anja Farin, Certified Professional Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Certified Arvigo® Practitioner with Advanced Training. I’ve been involved in birth and breastfeeding support since 1996, doing independent childbirth classes and doula work, and then eventually becoming a midwife in 2010.
RM: What is Arvigo® Therapy?
AF: Arvigo® Therapy is a type of Maya Abdominal Therapy that has been codified and taught by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, a napropathic doctor who trained with indigenous healers in Belize including midwives and herbal doctors. It works the abdomen as well as back, hips and sacrum to improve flows of blood, lymph and nervous system messages into the abdominal and pelvic regions. It is beneficial for digestive issues,
menstrual issues, preparation for pregnancy, fertility, pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Several other treatment types including herbal remedies from the Rainforest, vaginal steaming, castor oil packs and use of a supportive wrap called a faja may also be included in Arvigo® treatments.
RM: What drew you Arvigo® and what has your training been like?
AF: As a midwife, I had one pretty challenging year with a lot of difficult births, and I started looking for additional training to see if there was something that I could do to help laboring clients have an easier birth. As I read more about Rosita and her adventures as well as the treatment, I began to see how useful it could be for any pregnancy, and especially for postpartum recovery.
My training has been four separate workshops, all of which required traveling. The first class in the series is Self-Care, and I really think it’s a brilliant way to start teaching a healing modality to practitioners. So often, we don’t practice what we preach, and we give and give until we burn out. It’s been great to have this frequent reminder to take care of myself, too.
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When looking for resources about women's health and fertility, the sheer amount of information available can be overwhelming. There are countless books, blogs, magazines, websites devoted to the topic, some of which offer conflicting advice. I'd like to start writing some reviews about resources that I've found to be informative, research-based and useful. The first one I'd like to share with you was easy to pick - I use this book as a reference on at least a weekly basis! It's called Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon, M.A., and it is by far my favorite book on menstrual health that I've ever read. The author holds a master's degree in human physiology and biochemistry, and she has a special interest in nutrition and reproductive health. She is also a natural family planning instructor with decades of experience.
Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition could be read through from cover to cover, but it may be more suitable as a reference guide for everything related to nutrition and menstrual health.
Part One of the book consists of basic nutritional advice - useful for everyone, not just women! Chapter titles include Twelve Rules for Better Nutrition, Obtaining and Preparing Nutritious Food, and Basic Supplements to Consider.
Part Two, which encompasses the majority of the volume, is titled Overcoming Reproductive Problems and Challenges. Shannon describes a number of ways that nutritional deficiencies can lead to or exaggerate reproductive issues, and how proper nutrition, supplementation, and other natural remedies can provide significant improvement. This section deals with a variety of topics including PMS, painful periods, thyroid function, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, luteal phase deficiency, yeast and vaginal infections, low sexual desire, endometriosis, infertility, miscarriage, and more. There are also sections focusing on optimal health for pre-conception, pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding.
Throughout her book, Shannon gives specific vitamin recommendations, including dosage, to support various conditions. Her advice is clear, practical and easy to implement.
Best of all, Shannon's background as a natural family planning instructor means that she readily understands and describes how charting fertility signs and interpreting that chart can provide valuable clues to a woman's overall health.
I highly recommend this book to any woman of reproductive age, whether avoiding pregnancy, trying to conceive, or simply looking to improve her menstrual cycles and general well-being.
The latest edition can be found here.
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You may be familiar with raspberries as a favorite summertime treat. But you may not know that the red raspberry plant (rubus idaeus), particularly its leaves, has long been celebrated for its reported health benefits. Naturally full of nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C and E, this versatile plant is especially appreciated as an effective support for many aspects of women’s health. This plant is considered to be safe for women of childbearing age, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Here are just a few of the ways that red raspberry leaf has traditionally been used: