Homeschooling & Unschooling- the Why & the How?

It is amazing how you can look at any situation and think “This is happening for me” which, in a way, all of life is happening for you not to you. If you take a step back and see that there is power there – knowing that there is a plan for you and it’s time to embrace it.

Due to COVID-19 our family martial arts school in NYC is closed, we’ve left the city and are experiencing a major refocusing. It is uncomfortable and there have been times when I’ve woken up crying, spiraling down the poor me tunnel and wishing things were easier. HA, how embarrassing and ungrateful that is….everyday I make a conscious effort to dwell in GRATITUDE and abundance for the things I’ve been given, so I can avoid the self – indulgent path. People have had (and are having) far greater challenges than this. We are blessed with complete abundance of health, family and faith.

It’s been said that the quality of your life is determined by the questions that you ask yourself. (Thank you Tony Robbins). Asking empowering questions motivate people to move forward, lame questions – like “why me?’ make one a victim of circumstances.

What are your empowering questions that are steering you towards a better version of yourself? Mine are:

  • How can I help my children tap into their power and be as great as they can possibly be
  • How can I be a better wife & mother?
  • How can I love myself more fully and completely?
  • How can I serve more people? How can I be more disciplined?
  • Can I defend myself and my family if need be?
  • Can I provide food for my family?

The uncomfortable and undeniable answer to the last two questions is NO. Although I’ve spent years learning stuff, I have very few actual life skills. I cannot hunt, I cannot fish, I cannot build shelter, I cannot make fire and I cannot identify the plants in my area……in other words I am completely reliant on others for my basic human needs. This is completely unacceptable. Thank God, we’ve been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for years, which has helped me have a platform for understanding strategy and practical hand to hand combat skills.

Rather than wallow in the idiocy of this predicament the realization has sunk in that there is no time like the present to arm ourselves with REAL LIFE SKILLS.

What better time to homeschool or Unschool? No work, fewer distractions and the intense and burning desire to get some life skills and avoid the indoctrination of subjects that are absolutely irrelevant. My husband has been talking about homeschooling for a long time but we never pulled the trigger. It is amazing what you will put up with because it is easy. Sometimes it take a major life event to shake you from your duldrum. Although I didn’t love the education the kids were receiving, I felt that it was sufficient enough to get the job done. This is not a reason to offer up your most treasured resources to the state.

Reasons we chose to avoid the public school curriculum for 2020 – 21:

  • Individual choice for curriculum
  • Want the kids to explore their unique passions
  • Want them to spend more time outdoors / less time on screens
  • Do not want them recorded in any classroom
  • Want to avoid unnecessary anxiety about covid
  • Do not want them wearing masks in school

Now that I know Why we are homeschooling, the next step is How?

Step I. The first thing that I did once we made up our minds to homeschool was to go online and join a bunch of facebook groups for homeschooling in our area. All of the following information came from parents who have been doing this for a while and are eager to help. Finding a community is by far the most important first step in my opinion.

Step II: Let your Superintendent know that you intend to homeschool. Here is an example of the letter that I sent:

Step III. Submit an: Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) Required # of hours:  Grades 1-6   900 hours per year / Grades 7-12   990 hours per year.

Here is an example of an IHIP for a 7th grader. I have been informed to not cite any specific programs and / or resources in case you change your plan mid – way you do not want to be locked into anything too specific.

Grade Level: 7

Quarterly reports will be submitted November 2020, January 2021, April 2021 and June 2021.

Basic curricula and resources: Freya will use a variety of methods and tools in her education this academic year, in compliance with Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education. The topics will include, but may not be limited to the subjects required by the Regulations. Freya will attend the equivalent of at least 990 hours of instruction. Instruction will be provided by Freya’s mother, your name here, and other instructors as necessary.

Mathematics: Freya will continue to learn mathematics through a hands-on approach using resources including but not limited to games, workbooks, online programs, apps and worksheets.

English: 7th Grade Freya will continue improving her reading skills by using books suited to her interest and reading level. While some books will be from home, she will also use the public library as a resource.

Grammar: Freya will continue to improve her grammar using workbooks, reading & games/ games, correction and review of misspelled words in everyday writing, and use of the dictionary to learn the spelling and meaning of words.

Writing: Freya will create stories, poems, lists, notes, cards, letters and emails. She will continue her formal writing course and add creative writing this year.

English language: Freya will explore the English language through the writing and dramatization of original plays, stories and poems. She will participate in discussions on various topics of interest, including, but not limited to her current reading and ethics. She will research topics of interest on the internet and in the public library.

Logic: Freya will begin an introductory Logic course this year, using a formal textbook course with extra activities online.

Geography: Freya will learn world and New York State geography through travel and studies of both maps and the globe. Emphasis will be on local and New York State geography and history.

Modern World History and NY State History: Freya will continue her chronological study of world history while adding in-depth New York State history this year through the use of local hiking and tours, books, videos, and online sources.

Science: Freya will study science by participating in online classes, workshops and special events, as well as home experiments.

Health education: Freya will learn by studying healthy living practices, nutrition, planning healthy meals, shopping, cooking and cleaning.

Music: Freya will study music through online learning, usage of Garage band and tutoring from a professional. 

Visual arts: Freya will create arts and crafts projects at home and will study great artists and their works from books and other resources. She will also receive private instruction from a Professional artist. 

Physical education: Freya will continue martial arts training with her family at home, namely Kickboxing & Jiu Jitsu. 

Freya will learn about the following subjects in classes, books and through home instruction: patriotism and citizenship, alcohol, drug and tobacco misuse, highway safety and traffic regulations and fire and arson prevention and safety.

Sincerely,

Laurel Carroll

Parent and Instructor

IV. Speak with the school liason. Our school liason has been extremely helpful & supportive. She has made general suggestions about resources (because I asked) and was very encouraging about the homeschooling process and results. She encouraged me to RELAX, do not obsess about curriculum and have fun.

I’ll be following up with more tips and tools that I’ll be learning on the ground. Would love to hear what you have going on?

8 Virtues of Bushido and why they are relevant now more than ever.

Bushido is translated to mean the Way of the Warrior. The Eight Virtues of Bushido are the core values of the Samurai that were essential to the warriors way of being and action.

The Samurai were an elite class of warriors that lived in Japan from about 900 to the 1800’s. Being a samurai was a noble and coveted position in society. The Samurai, or bushi, were trained in the arts of warriorship, including physical and mental strategy and were fiercely loyal to their Lord. Not only did the Samurai need to be the most effective and well – trained warriors, they had to abide by a code of moral behavior that was as strong, if not more so, than their physical skills.

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 8.16.22 AM

There were also female warriors called Onna-bugeisha  “female martial artist”. These women engaged in battle, commonly alongside the samurai men. They were members of the samurai class in feudal Japan and were trained in the use of weapons to protect their household, family, and honor in times of war.

That code of behavior is called Bushido or the Way of the Warrior. There are 8 Virtues of Bushido and has a similar structure and tone to

The Ten Commandments from the Bible, the Ten Commandments of Chivalry, the Nine Noble Virtues for the Vikings and the 7 Core Values of the US Army.

The Eight virtues of Bushido define the road map for making a great human being. I will list the eight virtues and give my perspective on how these virtues are severely lacking in our culture today.

  1. Justice or Rectitude
  2. Courage
  3. Benevolence
  4. Respect
  5. Honesty
  6. Honor
  7. Duty & Loyalty
  8. Self – Control

#1: Justice or Rectitude:

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 8.45.37 AM


Considered the most important virtue of all the virtues, Rectitude means having a good overall moral character. Without this trait, the others could not exist. It is the core of all Samurai and Onna – bugeishi because warriors make a full commitment to their decisions.

“Rectitude is one’s power to decide upon a course of conduct in accordance with reason without wavering, to die when to die is right and to strike when to strike is right”.

“Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. Without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move nor feet stand”.

In today’s society we are having a Prison Crisis. The US Bureau of Justice states:

  • Over 2 million people or 1% of the American population is incarcerated.
  • There has been a 500 percent increase in the number of inmates over the last 40 years.
  • The United States has 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
  • Local spending on prison is 3 x as much as spending on education.
  • 80 billion spent annually on prison.

These figures do not include the mental incarceration of living lives that do not fuel the soul or being locked into a way of thinking about yourself that is not beneficial such as low self – esteem and weak self – worth.

Could this issue be curbed by people adopting early a strong code of justice within themselves?

#2 Heroic Courage:

“Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. A true warrior must have heroic courage. It is absolutely risky. It is living life completely, fully and wonderfully. Heroic courage is not blind. It is intelligent and strong.”

Having the courage to get up every day and face the challenges presented to us takes courage. You can live in a first world country, have all your physical needs met and still need heroic courage to navigate the day to day struggles of life.

Now more than ever, one needs courage to stand up for what you believe in – to challenge the status quo. The courage to know thyself and to be yourself,  to think differently and to trust that suffering is an essential part of developing and growing stronger.

This is where the spiritual or mental or physical practice comes in – adopting a practice helps anchor the day and set goals for improving oneself.

The sad reality is that suicide rates are increasing exponentially.
The NIH reports on suicide are that nearly 47,000 people died from taking their own lives in 2017. Males have a higher rate than females.
Among people ages 15 – 34 suicide is the second leading cause of death. I shudder to think what the numbers will be for 2020…

#3 Benevolence: Love for the good of the whole.

Be individual and love thy neighbor. “the bees surrender themselves entirely to Venus, unfolding a life of love throughout the whole hive. This life will be filled with wisdom; you can well imagine how wise it must be!” ~Rudolph Steiner

The pharmaceutical companies are not taking a benevolent approach to healing. Did you know that one family owns Purdue Pharma, who make OxyContin. The Sackler family earns 3 billion annually from the sale of OxyContin!

Forbes ranked the Sackler family, the sole owner of OxyContin, one of the richest families in the United Sates, having earned $35 billion from the sale of OxyContin since 1999.

When OxyContin hit the market in the 1990’s it was misrepresented as an opiod that was less habit forming than other opiods. It was considered a “product to start with and to stick with”. This article in the New Yorker entitled “The Family that Built an Empire of Pain” details the Sackler’s Family involvement in the opiod crisis.

Opiod abuse & overdose statistics according to the NIH.

  • 115 people die daily from opiod abuse
  • 80% of the people who start using heroin do so after opiod abuse.
  • nearly 200,000 people have died from opiod overdoses from 1999 – 2014.

Question: Why isn’t this being talked about on the news?

#4. Respect. The ancients knew that respecting the Earth was critical for longevity of our species. Today people are thinking short term and have lost the thread.
Respecting the Earth

Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 9.42.04 AM

Half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced each year is used only once.

Plastic Oceans: More than 40 percent of plastic is used to create packaging, including the hundreds of billions of plastic bags used around the globe. Each minute, one million of them are used, and the typical bag is used for 15 minutes before being discarded.

Of the material in the collection of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, 80 percent comes from the land (coastal deposits of plastic from North America take six years to reach the patch), and 20 percent comes from oil rigs, boaters, and cargo ships – most of this is fishing nets. Shipping containers lost at sea dump plastic items such as parts of computer monitors, and even LEGOs, directly into the water.

#5. Honesty:
There is so much untruth out there. Listen to your instinct, observe your reality & draw your own conclusions. Following unthruths and taking information into your heart from the news can having detrimental effects. Know your Truth.

#6. Honor:

According to economist, author & politician, Nitobe Inazo, “The sense of Honor, a vivid consciousness of personal dignity & worth, characterized the samurai. He was born and bred to value the duties and privileges of his profession.”

How many people you encounter who exhibit great honor? This needs to be restored.

#7. Duty & Loyalty:

Have a purpose & serve that purpose.

The US Army defines duty as one of it’s core values:

“Fulfill your obligations.
The essence of duty is acting in the absence of orders or direction from others, based
on an inner sense of what is morally and professionally right….
Duty begins with everything required of you by law, regulation, and orders; but it
includes much more than that. As a professionals do your work not just to the minimum standard, but to the very best of your ability. Commit to excellence in all aspects of your professional responsibility so that when the job is done they can look back and say, “I couldn’t have given any more.”

Take the initiative, figuring out what needs to be done before being told what to do.
What’s more, take full responsibility for your actions and those of your subordinates.
Never shade the truth to make the unit look good—or even to make others feel good.
Instead, follow your higher duty to the Army and the nation. “

#8: Self – Control

One place to look at for a lack of self – control is the obesity epidemic in the USA. The latest estimates are that approximately 34% of adults and 15–20% of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obeseObesity affects every segment of the U.S. population.

Good questions to ask yourself are:

What are the Tenets that you live by?

Which virtues do you excel at?

Do any of the virtues seem to be lacking in your life?

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

White Belt journey into Vegetable gardening.

The quarantine has been an eye opener for many reasons. One major realization is that I realized that with all my education I have very little knowledge about the basics of survival. That is real. I decided that it is high time that we learn – or at least start to learn how to develop a garden. Although I am not planning on growing enough food to feed a family of four with a 4 x 8 garden plot – I am determined to LEARN something about horticulture and armed with that knowledge develop larger vegetable gardens in the future.

Part A: Planting seeds indoors. I am a complete gardening novice. This video shows our learning process and is trial and error. Goals: Nurture the seedling – build character – toughen up & plant outdoors.

WHITE BELT MISTAKES:

Make sure seedlings are warm enough

Get grow lights

Do not over water

Do not pot up too soon

Do not touch the roots of the seedlings

Part 1: Assemble & Align

Here we assemble a garden bed and prepare it for the next steps. This is for novices & people who have teenagers at home and are looking for a way to engage them in nature.

Raised Garden Bed: Part 2: “Secure & Prepare for Battle”

We are building a raised garden bed to increase our life skills. In this video we are adding fence poles, bird & deer proofing, mulch & garden soil. So far it is a labor of love.

Raised Vegetable Garden Bed Part 3: Gathering Momentum

My family and I assembled our first 4 x 8 raised garden bed. In this third video of our series we plant vegetables in the ground, stake the tomato plants and supplement the soil.

The Power of Mugwort and its Role in Traditional Medicine

Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, is a Traditional Chinese Medicinal Therapy using dried Mugwort.  The tips of the mugwort plant are pulverized into a fluffy substance which is then burned over specific points on the body to promote healing.

Mugwort or Artemisa Vulgaris in Latin, has a long history in Traditional Medicine and has been used throughout China, Tibet, Korea and Japan. Additionally, mugwort is regarded as a sacred plant of divination and spiritual healing by traditional people of North and South America.

All of the parts of the plant can be utilized; leaves are consumed as tea or added to food and according to medieval practices, placed under pillows for dream enhancement. Mugwort was also referred to as a traveler’s herb and was traditionally used to strengthen and protect travelers. Additionally, Chinese Folklore recommends draping a bunch over the door to promote health for the entire year.

In Notes on Bian Que’s Moxibustion, it says, “When a healthy man often has moxibustion to the points guanyuan, qihai,mingmen, and zhongwan, he would live a very long life, at least one hundred years.”

Why:

IMG_1452

Moxibustion is a panacea. Moxibustion has the power to travel to all of the channels of the body, which means that moxa can systemically warm the body and stimulate circulation.

Moxibustion Uses:

  • Moxibustion treats “cold conditions”, which may manifest as pain, reduced circulation and arthritis.
  • Moxibustion has an ability to support the immune system and decrease inflammation, this makes moxa useful for the treatment of chronic illnesses, fatigue, allergies and lowered immunity.
  • Additionally, moxa has the special ability to guide to the uterus. Often called a “woman’s herb” moxa is effective for the treatment of delayed, painful and irregular menses.
  • Turn breech babies. This is an empirical usage for moxibustion and have been proven an effective treatment for cephalic positioning in numerous clinical trials.

Moxibustion for Fertility:

Moxa is considered an emmengogue, which means an herb that stimulates blood flow to the uterus.

Moxa is particularly useful for treating “cold” reproductive health conditions that manifest as:

  • Irregular menses
  • Painful, clotty periods
  • Stagnation

Cold, stagnant conditions could be considered endometriosis, fibroids and cysts in the allopathic paradigm.

Using pole moxa or direct moxa over the uterus brings warmth and Qi into the organ. Blood flow quickly increases and pain diminishes.

A moxa box can also be utilized. Moxa box is literally a box stuffed with fresh moxa and burned over the abdomen. This can help concentrate the warming powers of moxa into the uterus.

Types of Moxibustion

Indirect Moxibustion:

IMG_1455

Indirect moxa can be applied by using Pole Moxa. Moxa is pressed and rolled into sticks that are waved over the acupuncture points or regions of the body. Pole moxa comes in smokey and smokeless forms. Smokeless Pole moxa is useful for pregnant women.

Sticky Moxa:

photo (88)

Stick-on moxa is a great modern day product created in Japan, Korea and China. The base is a self-adhesive to the treatment point.

“Warming Needle”:

  • Fresh moxa is rolled into a ball and placed in the end of an acupuncture needle and lit. This drives the heat into the acupuncture needle, which is transmitted deeply into the acupuncture point.
  • “Shish-kebob moxa” are pre-rolled cones of moxa that can be applied to the tip of the needle.

Direct Moxibustion:

A practitioner will roll small balls otherwise known as ‘Rice Grain Moxa” and place them directly on the skin, typically over a salve to prevent accidental burning. The moxa is often lit with a stick of incense and removed when hot.

Additionally moxa can be pressed into cones that are also applied to the skin and lit.

How:

Pole Moxa:

  • Light the pole
  • Hold the pole approximately 1.5″ from the skin. Make small circles with the pole or a pecking motion with the pole.
  • Do not touch the skin.
  • Heat each point for 3-10 Minutes.
  • Extinguish in a mason jar.
  • Do not attempt direct moxa at home.

Moxibustion for Immune Support

For Turning a Breech Baby:

Use smokeless moxa at UB 67, the lateral tip of the pinky toe for 10 minutes on each side daily. Start between 34 weeks and 38 weeks for best results.

Seed Cycling

Seed Cycling is a natural way to support female reproductive hormones. This is great if you are not cycling (amenorrhea) or if you are having irregular cycles & PMS.

If you are not cycling at all – or having extremely irregular cycles – use the Lunar phases as a guide for regulating your own flow.

The New moon will be Day 1 of your cycle. This will be your Follicular Phase, which is dominated by the hormone estrogen. Take 1 tbsp. daily of crushed Flax seeds and Pumpkin seeds (also known as Pepita seeds).

At the Full Moon switch to the Luteal Phase. The Luteal phase is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is secreted from the corpus luteam of the egg after ovulation. To support progesterone take 1Tbsp. daily of crushed sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Do this until the New Moon.

This make take a few months but stick with it!

Castor Oil: The good, the not so pretty and the downright deadly uses of the castor plant.

Castor Nut

Castor Oil is an incredible substance that is obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor plant, Ricinus communis (Euphorbiaceae). It is a clear oil that has been used for medicinal use in Ancient Egypt, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome, and in 17th Century Europe and the Americas. Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. This association likely arose out of people’s reverence for the plant’s healing abilities.

Castor oil is now widely used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, machinery and industry. Even Castrol motor oil for machinery is derived from castor oil….must be good for the joints?

 The Good:  Always start with the positives!

One of the more compelling health benefits is castor oil’s ability to support the immune system. This healing property does not require you ingest the oil, rather apply it externally. Castor oil “packs” can be an economical and efficient method of infusing the ricinoleic acid and other healing components of castor oil directly into your tissues.

Popularized by psychic and intuitive healer, Edgar Cayce in the 1930s and 1940s, Castor Oil packs became widely utilized. Some say Edgar Cayce was the father of the New Age Movement. His work with castor oil was later researched and proven by primary care physician William McGarey amongst others.

Even Ancient Yogis and modern day yogis of the Ashtanga tradition follow a Saturday ritual of a castor oil bath. This helps reduce any inflammation in the joints while providing a ritual during the day off from training. In this tradition castor oil is applied liberally while the practitioner lays in corpse pose (shivasina) for 10-15 minutes. Afterwards wash the castor oil off in the shower.

Castor oil packs applied topically can:

  • Stimulate and support the immune system
  • Drain the lymphatic system
  • Increase lymphocyte production
  • Increase circulation
  • Have an antiinflamitory effect
  • Have an antiviral effect
  • Have an antifungal  effect
  • Improve painful conditions and swelling

Some conditions treated are GI complaints, ovarian cysts, menstrual issues, irregular menses, painful menses, fibroids, acne, arthritis, lymph edema and chronic infections.

Topical Application: You can rub castor oil into the skin but if you truly want the most therapeutic effect try a “Castor Oil Pack”.  Packs are the most common and effective way to apply topical castor oil.

In order to make a Castor Oil Pack You will need the following supplies:

  • High quality cold-pressed castor oil
  • Hot water bottle or heating pad
  • Plastic wrap
  • Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel
  • One large old bath towel

Fold flannel three layers thick so it is still large enough to fit over your entire upper abdomen and liver. You can also treat over a local area, like swollen lymph nodes on the neck, ankles, knees…anywhere that needs additional love. Soak flannel with the oil so that it is completely saturated. The oil should be at room temperature. Place the flannel pack directly onto your abdomen; cover oiled flannel with the sheet of plastic, and place the hot water bottle on top of the plastic.

I recommend wearing old pajamas as the oil stains and is difficult to remove. Leave pack on for 45 to 60 minutes. This is a great time to do meditational breathing, reading or just relax.  You can reuse the pack several times, each time adding more oil as needed to keep the pack saturated.

The “not so pretty” but effective Internal Uses of Castor Oil:

Castor oil has been an internal remedy for thousands of years. Remember Spanky from The Little Rascals being spoon fed castor oil?  Castor oil can even be seen on Tom and Jerry as a way to harass Tom. Centuries of ingesting Castor oil by myriads of cultures have shown us that castor oil is a formidable laxative.

Castor oil has been proven to stimulate the intestines and the uterus and is often recommended to stimulate labor. I however do not recommend  castor oil for labor induction unless in very specific conditions as castor oil as it can cause violent vomiting and diarrhea which can really be tough on a laboring woman.

The”Downright Deadly” but infrequently seen use of the Castor nut:

Unless you go into the business of manufacturing castor oil you will not come into contact with Ricin. Ricin is a highly toxic, naturally occurring protein and even a dose the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. Heating during the oil extraction process denatures and inactivates the protein rendering castor oil harmless.

In a few occurrences since the late 1970’s ricin has been utilized as a biological toxic weapon.  As a matter of fact even this year,  an envelope addressed to President Obama tested positive for ricin.  All that being said, castor oil has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA so do not worry.

 Castor Oil is an ancient and effective way to improve your health. Give it a try for yourself.

The Power of Propolis

Bee-Propolis

My family of Beekeepers recently paid a visit and I was so excited to chat with them extensively about the power of Bees and their extraordinary products. My cousin Gustav is a third generation of beekeeper and I have fond memories meeting his Grandfather (my great, great Uncle Einer) in Sweden when I was eight. I have an image in my head of my Great Uncle in his bee suit and huge drums of creamy honey in the basement. Maybe that started my deep love for honey?

Gustav had a lot of information to share. Sadly a lot of the discussion was about the disappearance of bees. He has been working extremely hard over the past ten years developing ways to keep his beehives healthy.

There were so many fascinating medicinal facts and bee products that I was inspired to write a 4-Part Piece on Bee products including Honey, Propolis, Bee Pollen and Royal Jelly. I’ll start with Propolis.

The Power of Propolis

Gustav called Propolis “the anti” because of  its antiinflamitory, antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor and antiseptic properties. Honey bees are “propolis harvesters”. Bees collect resins from treebuds and mix the resins with a little honey, wax and enzymes to create propolis. Propolis essentially contains resins, balsams, essential oils, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals and pollen. Analysis shows that bees don’t significantly change the resins they collect which makes propolis an herbal medicine similar to other medicinal gums and resins such as boswellia and myrrh.

Propolis is a Greek word that translates to “before the city” and is used by bees in the hives to line the hive to keep the hive clean. Propolis also acts as an adhesive as it assists in gluing the hive together and protect the hive from inclement weather. Bees not only line their hive with Propolis but leave Propolis as a “doormat” at the entrance. Gustav mentioned that bees step their feet in the Propolis before entering the hive to “clean” their feet before entering. Additionally Bees embalm invaders. Ancient Egyptians followed the bees knowledge and used propolis to embalming agents for their mummies. If a pest were to enter the hive and die the bees cover the dead animal in Propolis to keep the hive and the Queen Bee protected from germs.

Even The Gracie Diet, a diet created by Grandmaster Carlos Gracie, the forefather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who lived and trained into his 90’s, listed Propolis as one of the 10 foods that should be eaten daily. Following the Hippocratean maxim “Let your food be your remedy”, Grandmaster Carlos Gracie aimed at founding a system that would primarily prevent illness on days of competition.The basic principle of the Gracie Diet is to keep blood pH level neutral by consuming only compatible nutrients at each meal.

A study on PubMed reported that “More than 15 Greek and Roman authors report on the preparation and application of the so-called third natural product of the bees (besides honey and wax). Aristoteles described the fundamental issues of its biology in his ‘Historia Animalium’ correctly.” Propolis has been utilized since ancient times as a topical antiseptic used for open wounds. It is said that Propolis is the most natural antibiotic man has ever discovered. The remarkable thing about this statement is the fact that this discovery took place some 2000 years ago.”

Integrate Propolis into your daily regimen:

In cell culture tests Propolis extracts have been shown to significantly inhibit the growth in the Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Staphyloccocus, clostridium, corynebacterium diptheriae and some streptococcus species.

Propolis Salve:
Treating open wounds it is superior to use a blend of propolis as a topical salve rather than a single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Antibiotics are overused and their overuse are creating a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. The complex bend of compounds in propolis is superior to the single antibiotic in petroleum jelly. Gladiators know how to treat wounds!

Propolis as mouth wash:
Propolis mouth wash inhibits the growth of common human oral bacteria which helps the body heal after surgery, prevent bad breath, gingivitis, tooth decay and gum disease.

Upper respiratory conditions:

Propolis can be added to saline for a sinus irrigation. In many Eastern European countries widespread use of antibiotics is less common than beekeeping. Washing, gargling and irrigating the sinuses with propolis rinses are more commonly used.

Promote heart health. Propolis has been demonstrated to be an antiinflammatory.

Emollient: Studies also indicate that Propolis may be effective in treating skin burns.

Immune Support: Propolis exhibits immunostimulant effects in numerous clinical trials.

Propolis is available in powder, lozenges, tincture, capsules and pills.

As my family was heading back home they were eager to hug and kiss everyone of us before boarding the plane. Gustav waved a hearty goodbye as he popped some Propolis in his mouth.

Stay tuned for Bee Pollen!!

Fire Cupping

Cupping has been around for thousands of years and have been used by numerous traditions to support healing. Cupping reduces inflammation, reduce toxins and improves circulation. It also promotes a feeling a calmness and reduced anxiety. Many feel this is because it helps regulate the autonomic nervous system and reduce the “flight or fight” sensation that many people experience on a daily basis.

The earliest records of cupping date back to the Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC), one of the oldest living medical documents preserved today. Even Hippocrates mentions cupping in medical literature from 400 BC. Cupping has roots in the Middle East, Asia, Northern & Eastern Europe and North American traditional peoples. Cups can be made from glass, bamboo, animal horns and shells.

Cups are applied to the skin using a flame to create a vacuum, this is referred to as Fire Cupping. Cups can also be applied with a pump like suction that draws the air out of the cup. The skin literally draws up into the cup creating tightness.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.50.26 AM

REUTERS/David Gray

Reduce Toxins:

Cupping is known to draw out toxins and purify the body. Some theorize that cupping promotes health by facilitating the removal of toxins. The cupping action draws toxins to the surface of the skin where the immune system is better able to eliminate them.

Others theorize that cupping helps reset the fascia that lies under the muscle and helps keep the shape of the muscle. Tension and stagnation can alter the tone of the muscle and fascia and create “knots” and trigger points. Cupping helps disperse this stagnation.

Regulate Qi flow:

Others believe that cupping works with the Traditional Chinese Medicine notion of Qi flow. Typically cups are applied along the Yang Channels of the back such as the Gallbladder, Urinary Bladder and Small Intestine channels. These channels are often tense and hold a lot of stagnation.  Cups along the channel can help improve the Qi flow and reduce pain.

There are many Cupping Techniques that can be utilized.

Tonifying Cupping: Cups are applied for approximately 10 minutes and then removed.

Draining Cupping: Cups are applied for up to 20 minutes and then removed.

Flash Cupping: Cups are applied and then removed immediately.

Sliding Cups: Cups are applied over oil and slid across the muscle or acupuncture channel.

Bleeding Cupping or Wet Cupping (Hajimah or Haracat): The skin is pierced and then cups are applied. This is no longer legal in the USA but is widely used in Turkey and Islamic countries. 3 slices are placed on the skin, to represent Allah, and bled for 3-8 minutes.

cac9dda41233b61150f56960f08bcc6b

Finnish Traditions also utilizes wet cupping in a warm environment, typically after a sauna.

I stick to sliding cups or flash cupping. Typically, I place an oil on the back and then apply the cups using fire to create the vacuum. I usually work with four cups and slide them along the channels to create a deep massage. People often feel very relaxed afterwards. In keeping with the ancients I avoid cupping if a woman is menstruating or if someone is weak or recovering from an illness. I also avoid cupping if someone has plans to drink excessively that evening as it could make people more susceptible to catching a cold.

Cupping is an extraordinary, sacred tradition that has withstood the test of time. Check it out for yourself!

Chili Peppers: Euphoria or Torture?

Chilis are a diverse fruit that bloom on the nightshade family of plants. Not only do chilis enhance the flavor of food, they also have a dual function of nurturing life by treating pain as well as halting humans in riot control. In this sense, chilis embody the the Daoist nature of the Yin Yang symbol where opposites are intrinsically connected.

Chilis are also a natural and safe way to protect crops from vermin, dogs and even elephants by adding it to feed or lining the perimeter of fields with chilis. This diverse fruit boasts a variety of macabre names and grow in numerous grades of intensity and shades of greens to red. From topical salves for arthritis to euphoria inducing salsas to legendary 90’s rock band, chili peppers attract millions of people worldwide.

Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. Some historians credit Chrisopher Colombus for “stumbling” upon peppers in the Caribbean and disseminating them throughout Europe and the East through trade routes. Others believe that the Spanish missionaries were drawn to the chilis widely used in Mexico and South Americans. Today chilies are at the core of many cuisines worldwide, namely Asian and South American cuisines.

The hottest portion of the chili pepper is the white membrane, or placenta, that surrounds the seeds. This protective sheath keeps mammals from destroying the seeds in the wild whilst they do not affect birds at all, which helps spread the seed. The placental portion contains capsaicin that has been identified as a compound that elevates the body temperature, produces sweating and increases heart rate. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. Capsaicin in the eyes and nose produces extreme discomfort, which is what makes it effective for crowd control.

Chilis are so hot that they are graded on an international scale called the Scoville Scale. The Scoville number refers to how much dilution would be needed to render the heat imperceptible. Currently Wikipedia lists the world’s hottest chili peppers as:

Carolina Reaper: 2.2M SHU
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2.0M SHU
Bhut Jolokia: 1.58M SHU
Trinidad Scorpion Butch: 1.463M SHU
Naga Viper: 1.4M SHU

Defense: 
Many sources credit the Bhut Jolokia as the hottest pepper on earth. It is also known as the “Ghost Pepper” because presumably one “gives up the ghost” after consuming it.Just to put this into perspective, the Jalapeno measures 2,500 – 8,000 SHU.

In other words, the Jalapeno could be pulverized and used as baby food compared to the aforementioned chilis. These peppers listed above are pure gut wrenching, havoc-wreaking torture that create legends (or ER patients) at chili eating contests worldwide. Alternatively, these peppers are used as non-lethal weaponry such as the Bhut Jolokia grenades used by India’s Defense Ministry against protesters in Kashmir. Pepper spray is still widely accepted as a useful & powerful tool for self – defense.

Medicinal uses:

When capsaicin touches the skin it creates a numbing effect, which is why it is used in topical ointments, dermal patches and nasal spray to temporarily relieve pain. This can be used to treat arthritis, psoriasis, muscle strain and peripheral neuropathy. Internally capsaicin increases blood flow and promotes sweating.

In Traditional Chinese medicine chilies are considered Yang in nature because they are hot and stimulate heat within the body. Taken internally peppers are effective for the treatment of “exterior” conditions such as the common cold. Cayenne pepper has been traditionally used to create a sweat at the onset of a cold. An early sweat can help release the pathogen and prevent the cold from settling in.

Additionally, chilies and spicy food in general is considered tonifying for people who tend to be cold, sluggish, phlegmy…chilies eaten can stoke the digestive fire and increase metabolism.

Aesthetics:

The Calabrese region of Italy boasts the Calabrian pepper, affectionately dubbed the Devil’s Kiss, which has been appropriated into a pendant called a “cornicello”. Some people consider the “cornicello” to be a horn and others a calabrian pepper. Either way, the pepper is used a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits.

This is one of my favorite Italian American symbols, as a kid growing up in the Bronx in the late 80’s Red peppers dangled from the rearview mirrors of cars…(mostly IROCs or cars of a similar nature). Of Italian American decent myself, I began donning a pepper in high school and have been wearing one on and off ever since. The pepper is a big part of my life both past and present.

To eat a great meal and sense both pleasure and pain in one dish is what some people (myself included) consider real gastronomic pleasure. When my mouth feels like it will ignite into flames…as my heart rate increases and I start sucking air through pursed lips and beads of sweat accumulate on my forehead, I think “aaah…I’m alive”. I can’t help but enjoy the little bit of torture, it’s that little bit of reality that sharpens my focus and helps me remain on my toes. Since adrenalin rich sports have taken a back burner in my life, habanero-rich meals help keep the day-to-day a little more dicey.