Integrative Dream

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My last Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) revealed that certain ratio results were so low they didn't even register in the lowest range. The consultant told me she wondered how I even got out of bed in the morning!

So, at my next yearly check-up I asked my doctor ... "Hey, do you know what Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis is?"

"Nope, never heard of it", she said. "But I wouldn't put much crock in it! I mean stock... I wouldn't put much stock in it!"

Talk about a Freudian slip! She confesses to not knowing what it is and yet dismisses it as nonsense all in one short eye-rolling exchange.

My mother had a similarly disappointing encounter with her doctor one day when she wanted to discuss some research that sounded hopeful. She was thinking it might shed some light on her thyroid difficulties.

But alas, her attempt to play a roll in her own health-care was quickly rewarded with a terse... "You need to stay off the internet!" 

I can't begin to grapple with all the potential reasons why such attitudes are so prevalent. I'm just sad for all concerned that it happens at all. I'm sure you've got your own stories that can be told.

As one good family doctor (and thankfully, there are many) recently stated.. "So often today, doctors just rely on routine tests for common problems. They don't want to really 'get in there and get their hands dirty', so to speak. They don't have time to take the time... "

I believe that's part of it, but also, doesn't this seem like a prime opportunity for doctors to just say, "You know what? I haven't been educated in the field of nutrition, homeopathy, herbalism, acupressure or ________ (fill in the blank). I'd love to refer you to someone I think could help though!"

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

I believe in mutual respect, bio-individuality and integrative health. No one can know it all, no matter who you are or what field you practice in. Why not share, refer and build great resources and outcomes? You know... for the person seeking help!! Isn't that what it's suppose to be about?

It could happen someday. I hope it does...

Candied Cardamom Seeds

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) of the Zingiberaceae family is a lovely seed within a pod much loved for its unique pungent yet sweet flavor. The uses for cardamom are numerous and I hope to do my own monograph soon, but for this little recipe I’m turning to it for its well known digestive benefits.

Cardamom stimulates the gastrointestinal tract by means of absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body. It influences liver and pancreas function, and as a carminative, cardamom assists in relieving GI discomforts such as burping, acid reflux, nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, it tastes good and refreshes breath!

One of my favorite herbalists, Julie James does a wonderful lesson on Cardamom. It was her mention of using cardamon in lieu of fennel this way that got me curious about it. As a humorous but worthy side note, she also dropped a hint that it’s great for your old dog’s bad breath and stinky farts too! 

You don’t have to candy the cardamom seeds to get their digestive benefits but they sure taste good prepared this way. Just a good pinch after a meal to chew on until fine enough to swallow is how I use it. 

Candied Cardamom Seeds

4 Tbs organic sugar
4 Tbs water
¼ cup cardamom seeds (not the pod!)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small pan over med-high heat. Stir until the mixture gets thick and bubbles. Lower the heat to medium and add the cardamom seeds. Keep stirring until the seeds are coated, dry and separated. Immediately remove from the heat and stir a bit more to make sure there are no clumps. Store in a small container with a lid.

Safety considerations – Avoid intake when a person shows strong signs of heat. Also, if consumed in excess, cardamom may overstimulate upper gastrointestinal secretions. Avoid use beyond mild culinary applications in those with blocked bile ducts. And of course, avoid if allergic to any of the ingredients in this recipe.


Julie James – Green Wisdom – Cardamom. FB live Plant Exploration 11.05.18. Retrieved from

Herbal Academy. (n.d.). Cardamom monograph. Retrieved from

Castor Oil Packs ♥ How and Why

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I want to confess right up front. I LOVE castor oil packs! I know that's not something you hear everyday. As a matter of fact, when it does come up in conversation I often get responses similar to this one...

"Castor oil packs, really? Isn't that something people did in the olden days? You're pulling my leg right?"

Or, a recent favorite...

"When I think of castor oil I think of Tom and Jerry cartoons!"

The inquiries and expressions I've received over the humble castor oil pack are truly a thing of mutual wonder. I'm guessing it fell out of use because of a perception that it's complicated and takes too much time. Fortunately, that is NOT true!

It's Not Complicated

If you're like me, sometimes a new thing seems complicated when really it's just unfamiliar. Do the thing a time or two and it's a breeze. Same with castor oil packs. If I can do it, so can you!

It Doesn't Take Too Much Time

I don't want to get all philosophical here but honestly... what IS too much time? Sure, giving yourself a castor oil pack takes some time, but so does preparing a meal, walking the dog or reading a good book.

Many of the best things for us take a little bit of effort done with intention. After I experienced  the benefits and even enjoyment of this simple but amazing application I was hooked. Now I look forward to making my little nest, setting the atmosphere and gathering my comforts for a nice relaxing hour. Not to mention feeling better afterwards!

Okay, So What Is Castor Oil?

Castor oil (Ricinus communis) comes from the castor seed. Topically, it's often applied over an area of inflammation or injury, or in the form of a castor oil pack to promote a gentle movement of the bowels and/or detoxification of deeper tissues such as the liver.

Topical applications are safe because the main toxic ingredient, ricin is NOT extracted from the seeds into the commonly used oil. However, please note this warning: Internal use is not advised unless under medical supervision. 

I Do Castor Oil Packs Because...  

Two words - Gentle Detox. My digestion has been an iffy friend for many years. To make things worse, my gallbladder was removed one night when it suddenly and painfully took me to the emergency room! Not too many years later I found out that I have a MTHFR genetic mutation which causes poor methylation and enzyme production. My ability to detox is greatly reduced compared to someone without the mutation. I suspect (meaning I have no proof) that my gallbladder failed due to an 8 day detox fast I did just a couple weeks prior. Was the fast too harsh because of the mutation? I wonder...

Nevertheless, I've concluded that for me, most of the popular detox regimens are a little too demanding for my system. Maybe for anyone's. My motto is "low and slow", especially when starting any new form of self care. Our bodies are marvelously created and are designed to support us. Why force it to work outside its comfort zone! If my digestion is being a little on the cranky side or my liver is hurting I turn to the castor oil pack!

Make Your Kit With The Following Items

Castor Oil. Make sure to purchase oil that's hexane free. I got this 2 pack to make sure I had plenty.

A clean glass quart jar with a lid. It doesn't have to be fancy or new but a wide mouth jar will be easier to work with.

A thin towel, dedicated to this process (it may get oil on it which stains).

A small sheet of plastic. I cut up a plastic garbage bag to the size I wanted.

A heating source. You can use a hot water bottle or a rice bag but someone will have to heat it up for you when it cools. I use an old heating pad just like this one, with the cover removed.

When I do mine, I lay on a cheap shower curtain liner. They work perfectly and I don't have to worry about getting oil all over my bedspread.

Note: you will not need to buy new oil and cloth each time. It lasts for quite some time.

Once you have your supplies, take the flannel cloth and fold it so that it will fit nicely into your glass jar. Pour the oil over the cloth (start with just one of the bottles) and put the lid on. Let is sit (turning over occasionally) until thoroughly soaked. Add more oil if you need to. I allowed a full 24 hrs for this process.

Get Set!

This is my routine but once you get the hang of it you can tweak it to your own liking. As long as you keep the main elements on board... applying the oil and heat.

Lay the shower liner down on the bed and adjust the pillows. I like to use one under my knees; it helps my back when laying flat.

Put down the heating pad (plug it in), and a light blanket.

Lay out the thin towel, the piece of plastic and the castor oil pack.

Get the things you want to have at arms length for an hour. I usually get the timer, my phone and a pair of glasses.

Set the atmosphere. I lower the blinds, turn off the light and sometimes burn a bit of frankincense.

Now Let’s Do It

Get onto the bed and position your knees under the blanket and heating pad but over the knee pillow.

Lay back so that a few inches of the thin towel and plastic is under you, held secure by body weight on the right side.

Make sure your head and pillow are arranged for a comfortable position.

Now, put the castor oil pack into place (I have mine set to go over abdominal/liver area).

Next, put the piece of plastic over the pack.

Then put the heating pad over the plastic.

Finally, pull over the thin towel, rolling your body up just enough to secure it underneath your body weight on the opposite side. You should feel nice and snug wrapped up and ready. Turn the heating pad on, set the timer, pull the blanket over you and settle in for a nice relaxing hour. I often fall asleep!

When the timer goes off, simply unwrap, unplug and head straight to the shower to wash off the oil. It's that easy!

Tips: Don't wear anything you don't want to get oil on. Or better yet, just don't wear anything. Also, you might want to use the restroom prior to getting settled in – really aggravating to get all tucked in and then feel the need! Lastly, my personal preference is to wait at least 2 hours after eating before doing a castor oil pack. 

Box It Up For Next Time

When I'm finished I just roll up the liner, the heating pad, the towel and plastic and put it all in a little box I keep just for these supplies. The oiled flannel gets rolled up and put back in its jar which goes into the box also. This makes for a nice little kit ready to go for the next time. 

Next time for me depends on how I'm feeling. If I'm feeling the need (pain) I may do a pack 3 times a week. If I'm keeping to a preventative plan it's once a week. Sometimes, it's once a month. We are all individuals and if we're paying attention to what our body is telling us each of us will find our own routine. 

This process may feel a little awkward the first time out but after a time or two, you will hardly have to think about the set up. I hope you'll come to know and enjoy the benefits of the gentle but amazing castor oil pack as much as I do!! 

Note: I've heard some people say that they can only do 15 minutes at a time. That's not been my own experience but nevertheless, remember the motto when starting anything new... LOW and SLOW. You can always work up to more time. You'll find your way.


Botanical Medicine. Ricinus communis (Castor bean) by Dr. Marisa Marciano & Dr. Nikita Vizniak. p. 368-369

Dr. Jill Carnahan. MTHFR Gene Mutation: How to Know If You Have It and What to Do. February 23, 2014. Retrieved here: