Alternative medicine: Kava root

Disclaimer:  This post is in no way meant to diagnose or treat any mental or medical illness.  The views expressed here are solely my own.  If you are pregnant, nursing or on medication, you should always consult a health care professional before taking any herbs.

 

In the last episode, I mentioned that I was going to stop taking some of my medications and try supplementing more “natural” alternatives.  In short, when I stopped taking just one pharmaceutical medication, I was wound up so tight I felt the only way to release my rage was to bludgeon someone to death.  Just to be clear, I started taking that medication again before someone experienced an unfortunate accident.

Through my experiments with herbs, I have found one herbal remedy to be useful, in combination with the other prescription medications I currently take.  But before I get into that, it is worth mentioning some background information.

The herb: Kava root

Without getting into the history of the use of Kava root (which you can research yourself), I am going to begin with the current trend of this ancient herb.  This herb is sold all over the internet, in the form of powders, capsules, tinctures, pastes, etc. Various companies make all kinds of promises about what this herb is good for and why you should buy their product rather than the other guy’s.  Just like CBD oil, which I have never tried, some of these companies make some wild claims about what Kava can do. Some of these companies seem to be targeting people who want to use Kava in order to get high. It’s whatever, but as an amateur herbalist, I use it for it’s better known benefit: relaxation.  

It is important to mention that the FDA has warned about potential liver damage associated with the use of Kava root.  Although I question those claims of liver damage since it lacked evidence that the few people that had liver damage actually got it from Kava root.  Another thing I questioned was if it could be proven they received liver damage from Kava root usage (no proof was offered), then how much were they taking and for how long?  As mentioned above, many people are using it in higher than recommended dosages to get high. So although I am not completely discounting the claims of liver damage, I do question them.  Because I question the ingredients of what the companies of some herbal supplements promote. For example, read this 2015 article about the ingredients of supplements from the New York Times.

With that said, Kava root has become so popular in the US that Kava bars have been popping up everywhere during the last several years and they are particularly popular in Florida.  

I have been taking Kava root off and on since 2016 (off and on because long term use side effects are not known).  I don’t use capsules, powders, pastes, etc bought off the internet because I don’t know what’s in them.  At best, it might have no benefit…at worse, I might end with the above mentioned liver damage because it was made in China and has ingredients no one can pronounce.  

I use a tincture made by Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon. This is a company that I personally trust and that is why I buy from them.   In the future, I plan to make my own Kava tincture with the dried root that I purchase from the above mentioned company.  It is a pungent, bitter, soapy flavor followed by a numbing of the mouth. In other words, it tastes so much like shit that it makes me gag.  But the good thing about tinctures is if you can’t stand the taste, you can put it in any liquid to mask the horrible flavor.

I have found it to be very beneficial when combined with my other pharmaceuticals.  And because Kava root interferes with a good bit of medications, I check Wed MD before taking any new drug…over-the-counter, herbal or otherwise.  The only possible interference with my current medications is it could increase the side effects of them (which is dizziness and drowsiness…side effects I did not have anyway).

So overall, I have felt more relaxed during the day (I don’t take it at night), more carefree, have less head chatter and feel happier overall.  It does not leave me feeling stoned, drugged, or hazy.  Kava tincture (from Mountain Rose Herbs) simply works well with the combination of psychotropic medications I already take.  How it would work alone or in combination with other herbs like Valerian, Skullcap, German Chamomile, Lemon Balm or Passionflower, I do not know.

In the future, I hope to experiment with others herbs that I am currently growing and post my findings in future blogs.  Stay tuned for the next episode.

-Shadow

 

Project: Alternative medicine

My posts have been lacking because I have been busy working outside.  I got off the Netflix binge and now on to something else. I go to work, come home, work out in the yard…I have been busy tending to plants, including herbs I’ve planted from seed.  I’ve even creating an “herbal flower bed” from rocks that I gather around the property.  I’ve planted things like Lavender, Skullcap, German Chamomile, Valerian, Nettle, Primrose, Lemon Balm, etc. All medicinal plants. When I am not tending to these things during daylight hours, I am running around the property foraging for wild plants…or sometimes crawling on the ground looking at bugs, until I remember I am supposed to be foraging. When I am indoors, I am preparing tinctures or other preparations and writing it all down in a notebook.  Yes, in a literal notebook with actual paper, not on a computer screen where it gets automatically saved in the wild blue yonder.

I have been using herbal remedies and making my own remedies/care products for some time.  I have an entire apothecary of various “remedies” and products I’ve made. But this is the first opportunity I’ve had to actually grow herbs from seed.  Gardening has also been very therapeutic and I am finally at a point where I want to see what happens when I stop taking psychotropic medications (again) and replace them with herbal alternative (again).  Now might be a good time to mention I was on herbal remedies when I was in that god forsaken noisy apartment a while back. They had became ineffective to all that was going on there that I turned to modern treatment.  I take a Kava tincture during the day but at night I am still taking an antipsychotic. Oh, and I still take a low dose of Lexapro during the day. I question its effectiveness as my racing thoughts seemed to stop only after I began taking Kava again.

So, my first experiment will be to see what happens when I stop taking Lexapro.  I will post the results at a later date.  Then after I have made tinctures from Valerian, Skullcap, Lemon Balm and Evening Primrose, I will see what works best for helping me to be able to sleep at night.  That is, of course, after I make sure they don’t interact with the Kava tincture.  And in case you don’t know, after the herbs are gathered and ready to use, it will take an additional six weeks to make them into a tincture.  

So for now it looks like a season for experiments…and I just love experiments.  Let’s see what happens.

Shadow

Debt owed to the past

I have been silent for a while because I did not have anything to say. I don’t have that much to say now, but writing is supposed to help a person sort out shit or something. So I am writing.

First, I abandoned meditation. All my interests are short lived so it should not come as a surprise to anyone. I also stopped learning about Buddhism.  Perhaps because it takes way too much effort for me to “play nice” all the time and not say what immediately comes to mind.  Internally (and sometimes externally) I am somewhat intense and the calm, go with the flow Buddhism approach is a lot of work.  Too much right now.  Besides, I had gotten distracted by binge watching Netflix and bookbinding…again. Creating illuminated texts…again.

After a few weeks of this, I began to feel restless and I could feel boredom beginning to creep in. Emptiness soon arrived, followed by depression. By this point, I felt compelled to do something different. I felt as though I had to fight against these feelings.  To get rid of them somehow.  So I went outside, began observing nature (again) and recording it in my nature journal. I spend several days working on my flower bed, planting herbs, plucking weeds…anything to be outside in nature. When I would come back into the cabin, I would sit in silence staring at the walls. I suppose one could say this all occurred because I gave up those wonderfully inspiring Buddhist teachings that were attempting to show me a better way to live.  So I could be happy for the rest of my days and I threw it all out the window when I stopped listening.

Old ways of being are really hard to change.  I must like being miserable…of being in chains…of being bored, never sticking to an interest long-term and feeling empty.  Otherwise, why would I keep returning to it?  It reminds me of the Norse myth concept of the Norns (spinners of fate) and the great world tree, Yggdrasil.  At the root of Yggdrasil is the well of Urd (past/memory) from where the tree gets its water.  The waters of the past/memory are absorbed by Yggdrasil (symbolizing the present) and then fall from its leaves as dew (symbolizing a debt owed to the past) back down into the well.  This same idea can be seen in the meaning of the names of the three Norns who are considered to be the spinners of fate: Urd “past”, Verdandi “present” and Skuld, often translated as “future” but some suggest that “necessity/intention” or “debt owed” is more accurate.

Whether we realize it, the past has made us what we are today.   Whether we believe by an outside entity or by ourselves does not matter.  In my current state of boredom, emptiness and depression, I must ask myself what I willing to do…what debt am I willing to pay to the past so that I can be more balanced in the present?  Because up until now, all I have been doing is returning over and over again to the well of the past without ever really paying the debt that is owed.

Shadow

A response from Gwennie

Dear Shadow,

Do you remember how hard I tried to fit in?  To just be like everyone else? Even before then I wore that blanket of shame and guilt that he poured onto me like melted plastic.  I know I was unlovable but no one noticed my pain. Even you threw me in a box and tried to bury me alive. You would beat me up on a routine basis.  You screamed at me, disfiguring me with razors, and poisoned me. Are you that afraid of me? I wanted someone to listen to me but you thought you knew better.  Did I deserve this injustice? Am I that evil that someone had to teach me a lesson?

You speak of forgiveness?  I was abandoned and left to rot in all that fear, anger and confusion that drowned me like a flood.  I had a one way ticket to hell. I was helpless and afraid. I couldn’t even speak or stand up for myself.  I know it was my fault that he continued to abuse me for years. I looked up to him and even though I trembled with fear that he would touched me, still I wanted to be around him.  All the while, wanting to stay away but couldn’t.

Do you remember that time when he cared for me?  I was sick…vomiting. He got a cold wash cloth and wiped my forehead.  In that moment I thought he liked me. As soon as I recovered, I realized that believing he really cared was only so he could take care of his own selfish needs.  I knew I was not safe with anyone no matter how much they pretended to like me. All of them are just like him.

So you want forgiveness?  Tell me Shadow, do you think I trust you?

Gwennie

Dreams and emotion possession

I think what we dream while we are sleeping gives significant insight into what we are experiencing during our waking hours. In fact, interpreting my own dreams is so important to me, I have been keeping a “dream journal” for more than 20 years. I will admit that some of these dreams have been very powerful and insightful, while other dreams remain a mystery to me.

Last night, I had a dream that I lost control of my car that was suddenly being swept away by muddy flood waters. I somehow managed to escape from the window of the car before it was swallowed up by what looked like violent rapids on a rushing river. I woke up gasping for air.

Interpretation:
Car losing control symbolizes anxiety about a loss of direction in life
Water symbolizes feelings and emotions; muddy water symbolizes a lack of clarity about those emotions/feelings
Flood symbolizes that these emotions are overwhelming and I am guessing that because it was violent rapids it probably also symbolizes chaotic emotions.

It is no secret that I ignore my emotions/feelings most of the time. Obviously, I fear them or else I would not ignore them. I have often imagined negative emotions to be akin to what some call “demon possession” (not that I believe in demons or possession)…but, you know? The way it is portrayed in the movies. Negative emotions seem to be like this outside entity that comes around to possess me at random times and just takes over my mind. It is the only way I know how to make sense of it.

And although I do not know what flooding emotions this dream was referring to, I do feel like negative emotions are flooding…and chaotic…and usually turns me into someone I do not recognize…someone who scares me…so yes, I am afraid of them. But to say that these negative emotions are an entity outside of myself…well, that just keeps me from being accountable, doesn’t it?

-Shadow

The voice in the head

In early Feburary, I mention in the post The Buddha and the Borderline that I was exploring meditation and mindfulness techniques. I wanted to know what was going on inside, behind the constant chatter in my head. Those thoughts that are always running, like a commentary on everything I see and experience.

I began with five minute meditations…at first guided meditations as outlined in a journal by Habitnest called The Meditation Sidekick Journal: A Practical Guide to Exploring Mindfulness. I had decided that if I could not change all that was going on in my life, at least I could get to the point that I could accept it. More importantly, I could get to know myself, whoever “self” is.

From the beginning of these meditation practices, I became acutely aware that more mental chatter lied beneath the surface. Now that I am aware that this running commentary is even worse than I could of possibly imagined, it is rather annoying. Because now, I am more aware that there is more commentary swirling around in my head even when I am not meditating. Sometimes I even think I was better off before I became aware of this. At least before meditating, I didn’t know there was THAT MUCH chatter.

As annoying as that is, according to Buddhist nun Ven. Robina Courtin, being aware of the above mentioned excessive chatter is a sign of success when beginning meditation. And since she has been doing it for a very long time and I am a beginner –and I have no way to rebuke her claim…I have to conclude that she is probably right.

So my goal now is –strange that I am setting a goal as I have always lived life flying by the seat of my pants –my goal is that eventually I will be able to use some of this internal chatter to make adjustments and changes in my life. To date, I have discovered that I make A LOT of judgments about every single thing and A LOT of assumptions to which I have not empirical data to back it up. All of it is solely based on the voice in my head. But I must keep going to see what else I might discover on the path.

So this journey continues…

Shadow

It takes courage

TRIGGER WARNING: The contents of this post may contain triggers for those who have suffered childhood traumas.  Proceed with caution.

In each of us, there is a young, suffering child. -Thich Nhat Hanh

Letter to inner child part 2

 

Dear Gwennie,

I remember the first time he abused you. Well, it is the first memory I have of the abuse. You were standing in your grandmother’s bathroom with your pants down around your ankles and he whispered in your ear “If you tell anyone, I will tell them it was your fault”. I saw everything from outside of you. I saw the terror on your face but I felt the fear inside of me that had frozen you. I watched you as you walked into the living room where you saw your grandmother rocking your baby sister…she was an infant. Terror still on your face, but no one noticed. You couldn’t of been older than six since you were that age when your sister was born.

It was not your fault Gwennie. You were just a kid. And it does no good for me to keep blaming him. Blaming him will not erase this pain. You just need to know it was not your fault. You didn’t do anything to provoke him.

It wasn’t your fault that you didn’t tell anyone. You were afraid and you believed him when he said he would tell everyone it was your fault. Because you believed it was your fault and some part of you still believes it.

You suffered in silence for a long time, but as you got older, you found the courage to change everything.

Like one time when you were 12 and he was invited on a family camping trip. You had returned to the camper earlier to sleep while everyone else talked and laughed around the campfire. He awoke you from sleep by fondling you. You had on those red and white striped pajamas you loved so much that unzipped from the back. It was very convenient for him since you had your back turned to him. When you realized what he was doing, you turned to face him and then punched him with all the strength within you. Your brother was there too but he could not see because everything was dark. Again, he touched you and you attacked him, punching him over and over in a fit of rage. He said to your brother, “she keeps hitting me”, to which you yelled, “Tell him why I am hitting you!” He fell silent and that was the last time he ever abused you.

It took courage for you to stand up to him after all those years. I am proud of you. He can’t hurt you anymore and you are safe now.

Shadow