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

The Buddha & The Borderline

Several weeks ago I became interested in Buddhism. Long story short, all the various types of meditations and mindfulness practices my counselor had spoken with me about months ago seemed more appealing to me now. One of them, walking meditation, I continued to do on a fairly regular basis. So I was kind of looking online for “other tips” or other practices when I somehow stumbled upon a review of the book “The Buddha & The Borderline” here. This led me to purchase an online course to learn about Mahayana Buddhism from The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). It is a two year program that is meant to be a way of life, not to study academically.

It is just what I needed and falls in line with what my counselor and I were discussing in our last episode. I may not be able to make this internal chaos go away but I can recognize it and make it bearable. Recognizing it is what I am currently attempting to do in therapy and meditation and contemplation…”looking within” as she once told me is one way to achieve that.

Strange that Buddha means to be fully awake. Made me think of a song by Katy Perry, so I added below. The song can be interpreted many different ways. But as for being awake, I have just realized that I am asleep.  And so here is to my journey…

-Shadow

Preparation for abandonment

A few months ago, my counselor asked how I can prepare myself for when she is no longer available.  She assured me this does not mean she is leaving right now.  I have seen enough county mental health counselors to know, they all leave eventually.  They move on to other jobs…to other cities or states.  And I have difficulty dealing with what I call “being abandoned” especially if it is a favorite person.  My mind interprets it as “they are no longer available” but my emotions interpret it as “they have abandoned me”.

When my mother died in November 2017, I didn’t feel abandoned.  Although, to be honest, I still don’t know how I feel about it.  When my father died in November 2018, I imagined that this must be what it feels like to be an orphan.  Although I suppose an adult can not be orphaned, emotionally I think I am still six.

In any case, below is the list of “how to prepare yourself when a favorite person abandons you” that I came up with December 2018.

  1.  Don’t take it personal.
  2. It may open the door to meet another favorite person in the future.
  3. It is okay to allow yourself to cry about it.
  4. Realize and believe you are not helpless or worthless on your own.
  5. You do not have to blame or punish yourself.
  6. It does not mean you are unlovable.
  7. Pray you don’t come apart at the seams.

Then, this month I came up with this:  O, good grief!  Stop being so dramatic!  It is not the end of the world.  Change is the only thing that is assured.

Numbers 3-7 from the December list comes from a place of emotion.  Numbers 1, 2 and the January 2019 comes from a place of rationalization.  I hope when the time arrives I do not engage in what historically, I seem to automatically do…ignore the emotions.  In the past, I have handled them by telling “self”: “What are you doing here?  Go away, I am busy and have more important matters to attend.”  They go away only in the sense I can no longer recognize them.  If I can not figure it out through reason and logic, it is discounted as unreliable.

Time will tell how I will respond when the moment arrives and I will see if this preparation has been worth it.

-Shadow

Borderline Psalm 54

My internal chatter leaves me no peace
It shakes me like a rattling can full of coins.
My inner noises and conflicts consume me
Like a roller coaster from hell.

I love you
I hate you
Happiness beyond measure
Sadness beyond consoling
This one
No, that one
It’s good
No, it’s evil…

If I had the wings of a bird
I would fly to the highest tree top and be at rest.
I would flee to the wilderness
To get away from this world.
I would escape
If it did not chase me.

Where can I flee from its presence?
If I sit among friends
I am consumed by thoughts of insecurity and judgments
If I sit alone
I drown in my own sadness.

I am like the blind person
Groping in the darkness
Unable to reconcile
All the pieces within.

-Shadow

In chains

My life spinning out of control

Feeling nothing but pain

Giving it all, body and soul

Locked up in these chains.

 

Feeling like I can’t break free

Not wanting to say good-bye

Eyes clouded, I cannot see

Always being high.

 

Living life day by day

Going through the motions

Slowly turning into clay

Engulfed with emotions.

 

Beginning to see the light

Giving me wings to fly

Always feeling in flight

Then taking away the sky.

©Shadow