Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter, Women & Wellness

Karen Culpepper, Herbalist
As a woman who is always on her own journey for wholistic health, Diva of the Day, Andrea Thompson (AT) recently sat down with Herbalist and Massage Therapist Karen Culpepper (KC) for a chat on Women's Health and how to treat ourselves during this time of winter. What you see below is a result of it, please enjoy, comment, post and retweet it.  

Do you feel more women are moving away from traditionally allopathic medicine? If so why? (AT)

(KC)-As an herbalist with a concentration in women’s health, my answer is a biased yes...slowly but surely.  The awareness that the our current medical system is falling apart is becoming more apparent. I chose a field (or did the field choose me) that is not necessarily conventional in this day and age.  Don’t get me wrong, herbs are mainstream, as evidenced by the topics on shows like Dr. Oz, in mainstream magazines and in blog articles.   People are aware of herbs, they just may not know how to use them properly.  By properly I mean, are you using the correct part, at the proper dose and is this herb energetically the correct herb for you?  For example, during one of my recent lectures I did a call and response.  I said I will say a disease process, you say what herb you would use.  So I said cold and flu, the majority said echinacea.   I said so did you all know echinacea is on the “at risk” plant list, along with goldenseal, which is usually a popular combination for cold and flu.  (Audience was shocked). 

Why should women care about the seasons? What natural parallels can be drawn from that? (AT)

(KC)-Growing up in biracial (or should that be bicultural) household (my father is African American and my mother is Chinese), the seasons profoundly influenced my life on a variety of levels.  Both my father and maternal grandfather were avid gardeners and what came to my awareness as a child was that gardening had a rhythm to it.  During the winter my father planned out his garden.  During the spring my brother and I were responsible for little seedlings that my father germinated, which were eventually transplanted into their section in the garden.  The summer was busy with weeding, flying pollinating beings and harvesting a list of vegetables for dinner.  Fall was a time to wind down and prepare for the next growing season, full of canning and pickling with my grandmother.  Throughout all of the seasons, I was fascinated watching my nai nai (grandmother) prepare healthy food in alignment with each season.  Our food literally went from the ground to the plate.  As I got older I created themes for each season, based on my father’s gardening ritual.  Winter was a time to reflect & retreat, spring was about birth & new beginnings, summer was growth & relationships and autumn was about letting go and preparation.  

So to answer your question, rhythm is about being in alignment with nature throughout the seasons with your eating, living and being.  In fact, let me take the seasons concept to a deeper level.  As women, at some point in our lives, we have all of the seasons within us through our menstrual cycles.  The moon is the ruler of the menstrual cycle or, as I refer to it, the moon cycle.  Ideally, the menstrual cycle is in sync with the moon.  During the dark moon is when a woman bleeds and during the full moon is when a woman ovulates.  When a woman begins to  bleed, they enter the season of winter, a time of stillness and focused intention.  What would you like to manifest this month?  From there your move into spring energy, a time of action and replenishing your body with nutrients and minerals as you prepare for ovulation/full moon energy.  The week following ovulation is summer and peak time of fertility.  Your body/soil is fertile (literally and figuratively) for new beginnings to take place.  And finally, the final week is fall or a time to ground the energy and tend to self through self care rituals such as journaling or a massage.  

In this society do you feel women are encouraged to be their own health stewards? Why or why not? (AT)

(KC)-Unfortunately, I don’t feel like our medical system, or our school systems for that matter, allow anyone (men or women) to be their own health stewards.  I am blown away by people who do not question their doctors, demand more time with their doctors or walk away without a level of clarity about their diagnosis.  Our healthcare system is not a helpcare or a wellcare system that takes a holistic approach to wellness by addressing the whole person: mentally, physically, emotionally, diet, past experiences, spirituality, stressors, movement and childhood diseases and vaccines, in addition to a system by system approach to wellness.  In the amount of time allotted, a doctor gets a glimpse into current symptoms, makes a diagnosis, writes a prescription and sends the patient on their way.  

About a year ago a friend gave me a heads up that his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and that she would give me a call to consult with me.  Naturally, I said absolutely anytime she wants to chat, I will make myself available.  One week later I called him because his sister crossed my mind and I wanted to follow up because I had not heard from her.  He said wow I just got to the hospital because she just had her mastectomy.  Please understand this concept: when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  So if you go see a surgeon, they make their living by doing surgery.  Within a week of an initial diagnosis of stage zero breast cancer, she had her breast removed.  I respect her decision AND I am not sure if she thoroughly researched her diagnosis.  Did she create time  to get a second opinion?  Was she even encouraged to get a second opinion?  Please get that we, as women, are often the souls of our households and communities.  Seek to understand.  Research your diagnosis for your own knowledge and for the sake of your health.  Research your medications and the side effects. Make an informed decision about your health and wellbeing.

In leiu of the current outbreak of Influenza, what daily practices can women institute to work on their immune systems? (AT)

(KC)-First, ladies please make informed decisions for yourself and your families concerning the flu vaccine.  In a nutshell, I would suggest the following as daily practices women can institute to work on their immune systems: 
  • Adequate sleep
  • Fresh air
  • Gentle movement, 
  • Use fresh herbs daily(garlic, onions, astragalus, oregano...just think of your spice cabinet as your medicine cabinet)
  • Cook for yourself and your family
  • Gut support in the form of fermented foods (kombucha, pickled veggies, kimchi, miso)
  • Drink herbal tea daily (nettles, holy basil and dandelion root are my favorites right now)
  • Eliminate all people places and things that do not hold you to your higher self (translation: minimize stress)
  • Avoid foods out of season and I cannot stress this enough
  • Avoid cold drinks
My favorite preventatives include: cod liver oil (fish oil in spring and summer, cod liver oil in fall and winter), homemade fire cider (organic apple cider vinegar with  fresh garlic, fresh horseradish, cayenne and lemon), homemade elderberry syrup and this year I intuitively added vitamin D.

Can you share with our audience one thing you do to keep your own health up, as a woman? (AT)

(KC)-My secret is actually self care, which includes ritual.  I try my best to begin my day with stillness by honoring my ancestors, meditating and designing my intentions for the day.  I eat small meals often and stay hydrated throughout the day.  When I need time to myself, I take it in the form of a massage or warm bath full of flowers and herbs.  I love cooking so I have been on this soup kick with organic meat, onions, garlic, beans, carrots, celery and kale or whatever moves me at the store.  It is just so soothing and grounding for me.  I naturally don’t watch a lot of tv so I spend wintertime quiet and still.  I am somewhat of a recluse and I think that is because it takes a lot of energy to hold space for women.  I am very solution oriented and because I have the honor of spending up to 2 hours with a client during an initial consultation, very deep and intimate subjects can come up from libido issues and digestive concerns to molestation and abuse.  I often unplug around 9pm.  I do not answer my phone after a certain hour and I do not use the computer too late into the evening.  My daughter and husband also keep me grounded so I enjoy my time with them. Sometimes my husband and I just sit in our little listening room and get lost in a jazz album.  This is winter for me.   

Karen Culpepper, CEO/Creatress of Embracing Rhythm, a clinical women’s health and therapeutic massage practice. A fierce advocate for women’s health and wellness, Karen assists women that suffer with PMS, PCOS, infertility, uterine fibroids. She formulates custom blended herbal recommendations and makes effective dietary and lifestyle recommendations so that women heal themselves naturally. 


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