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At a pot luck gathering for an organization promoting environmental activism, I found myself setting my plateful of colorful foods at the table where I didn’t know anybody, just to get to meet someone new. Nearly everyone was chatting with one another. I found an empty spot beside a young lady of about fifteen years. Her long, blond hair flowed in loose pigtails across her shoulders and down her back within inches of her waist. She smiled shyly as I greeted her.

As we sat quietly, I sipped broccoli soup and ate a delicious couscous – chick pea salad. After several minutes, we began to speak, first about the weather and the adorable small children playing nearby, and then about how nourishing the food felt that we were enjoying. And then Sahanna winced. “Are you ok?” I asked her.

“I’m getting another bad headache. It feels like a vise tightening across my temples and the sides of my head. I’ve been getting these a lot lately,” she told me. She paused. “My Dad’s had me at the doctor’s office and the hospital for all sorts of tests, but so far, nothing.”

Sahanna’s dad, Robert, approached from behind and fluffed her hair as he sat down in the chair that someone had just vacated on her other side. “Hey, Dad! We were just talking about you! I was just telling her that you can’t resist dragging me to every doctor in Boston to see what’s causing my headaches!”

Robert’s soft smile transformed immediately to concern. “Got another one?” he asked.

“Yeah. But don’t worry, Dad, it’s not that bad.” Sahanna got up, tickling one of the toddlers as she passed by them.

“Raising a daughter alone is a full-time job… and then some,” Robert offered as he began to sip his soup.

“Yeah; I have two daughters. I know what you mean.” There was a moment of silence as we ate. “Hey, I don’t want to butt in,” I said to Robert as he nibbled at his fried rice, “but I may have some insights I could share with you about chronic headaches, if you’re interested. I’m an herbalist and I’ve worked with several young people with various health concerns, including chronic headaches.”

“You’re an herbalist? I just got a card from Gina… Is this you?” He pulled a flowery business card from his pocket.

“That’s me!” I said.

“I was going to call you later to make an appointment for Sahanna and me to discuss her health and what might help her headaches. Gina said you may be able to help her with the teenage acne, too!” Robert and I planned a consultation for the next morning.

After asking several questions, then hearing Sahanna’s story of enduring her mother’s almost two year struggle with breast cancer, promising to always be good for Daddy, then watching her pass while she and her Dad held her Mom’s hands, tears dropping from their cheeks, I was beginning to get a sense that this sweet, soft, gentle young lady was tied in knots inside.

“You’ve both been through a lot. When did your wife pass?” I asked, looking toward Robert.

“It’s been almost two years ago now.” He reached over and held his daughter’s hand. “Sahanna’s headaches started about six months later. Nothing serious at first, but then she had a bad reaction to baby aspirin and was hospitalized for four days! That just about did me in! I couldn’t leave her side. I don’t think I even used the restroom the first day! I couldn’t move or even look away for a second.” He slowed and took a deep breath. We all sat and breathed long, slow deep breaths for a few moments.

“Sahanna, do you drink much water?” I asked.

“Not really,” she answered quietly.

“Do you drink soda?”

“Mom didn’t let me have soda. We didn’t ever eat white sugar or anything with corn syrup when she was with us. She used to tell me to drink water all the time. She’d say, ‘It’s gooooooood for youuuuuuu’ with her funny pursed lips!” She paused, deep in thought; then smiled. “I forgot about that… until now. Does water help with headaches?” she asked.

“It sure does!” I answered. “In fact, most headaches are due to either dehydration or excess stress. And water is excellent for both! Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it!” Their eyes widened. I went on, “I know how teens think it’s cool to drink soda, but it can be quite hard on our bodies. Drinking soda can increase dehydration, especially heavily caffeinated ones like cola.”

“Wow. Mom was right!” Sahanna looked directly into Robert’s eyes. “You know, I think I was kind of mad at her for not being here, so I wasn’t going to do what she always told me to do. I kind of stopped drinking water. Dad, I’m sorry; I’ve been drinking soda with my friends, too. I know you and Mom always said it’s bad for me. I’m really, really sorry.”

“That’s ok, Hon,” Robert whispered as he hugged her. “I’m just glad you didn’t stop brushing your teeth, or putting on clean clothes in the morning, too! That would have been bad!”

We talked about the importance of drinking pure, fresh water. They were concerned about sediment and mineral contamination in their well water. I told them about the two superb quality water filtration systems that I sell. Robert was certain that he would invest in one of them, especially when I added that the clean, pure water they’d be drinking would only cost them six to seven cents per gallon and no plastic jugs to pollute our beautiful Earth.

Here are a few of the facts that I shared with them:
Our bodies are composed of 70 to 80% water.
Brain cells are 75-85% water. Drinking clean, fresh water is believed to improve the mind and brain function.
The brain prefers to use electrical energy generated by hydrolysis, rather than by blood sugar (glucose).

“There are other major benefits to drinking enough water when you’re a teen, too.” I said. “You may get less PMS and less bloated and possibly even less acne. And you may feel less sad and blue, too. That’s because water helps to plump up and nourish our cells and wash away the toxins so they don’t build up and make us feel bad.”

“I feel like I’m stressed all the time” Sahanna blurted out. “I have school, and soccer, and piano, and my friends… and way too much homework! My bag’s too heavy when I come home every night. It all feels so stressful sometimes. My stomach feels tied in knots.”

“Yeah, I remember when my daughter, Kaia, felt that way, too.” I responded, and then paused. “There are some great herbs to help us feel calm and feel less stressed and anxious. They make a nice tasting herb tea that you can drink warm or cool.”

“I could use something like that, too,” Robert said. “Could the same herbs work for my stress?”

“I would think so,” I assured him. We decided to walk over to the co-op so I could show them the various possibilities. As we walked, I explained to them that herbs really only work effectively if we use a high quality product. I suggested that they read my articles called “Quality is Everything” and “Seven Steps to a Worry Free Day” when they had a few moments.

We first looked at the Ginger Honey Tonic (also called Ginger Wonder Syrup and Digestion Ginger Honey Tonic; same great product with differing names for different sections of the supplements department) made by New Chapter. I suggested that my daughters and I have found it very helpful whenever stress tied our stomachs in knots or caused us to feel indigestion (reflux). We usually mix it into mineral water or a warm tea, but sometimes we enjoy it directly from the spoon.

We looked at all the new flavors of Tulsi Tea from Organic India.” Tulsi,” I explained “is the Sanskrit name for Holy basil (a cousin of culinary basil), and excellent for assisting us with attention, focus and completion of tasks. It helps to calm the mind, giving us a break from that endless loop tape that plays over and over when we’d prefer to rest, meditate or relax. It’s great for the immune system, for when we feel overwhelmed and over stimulated by light or noise or touch or anything; and it helps to calm a nervous stomach, too. Holy basil tea may be sipped throughout the day to protect against excess stress, and is soothing just before bedtime to support restful sleep.”

“Sounds like the whole world could use that!” Robert piped in.

“I know I could use everything you just mentioned,” Sahanna added.

“Robert, you may prefer the capsules from New Chapter. This product here.” I pointed to the Holy Basil in the 90 v-caps bottle. “New Chapter makes two excellent Holy Basil products, but the one that seems to work best for the stress, anxiousness and irritability is the one in the veggie caps,” I explained. “I pop one when I’m feeling really stressed and in about seven minutes, I feel renewed and revived!”

I suggested that Rhodiola, Bacopa, Ashwagandha or Eleuthero (formerly called Siberian ginseng) may also be helpful. I explained the nuanced differences in the effects I have observed with each of them so that they could make an informed choice.

“I find that I choose Rhodiola if I need to cram for a test, when I need to retain a lot of organized or random information, or if I need to perform some task in a very exact manner. I can be a bit clumsy,” I laughed as I thought about it. I suggested they read “Attention and Focus Go to School with our Kids”. I showed them the Rhodiola Force 100 from New Chapter, and suggested that a capsule emptied and stirred into hot water makes a refreshing pick-me-up. It’s good in tulsi, peppermint, chai or other teas, too.

“Bacopa helps us to become ‘complete’ with those things that can drain our energy. This can help us get into the deeper REM sleep, the restorative sleep that is so important for good health. It was very helpful for me after a traumatic experience a few months ago,” I shared. “It helped me let go of the fear and return to being a good, deep sleeper.

“Ashwagandha and Eleuthero, both adaptogens, help to restore the deep well that most of us have long ago let run dry. Ashwagandha is a very popular Ayurvedic herb that helps us deal with physical, mental and emotional stress, and it supports immune and nervous system health. Most people take it during the day, which also helps us sleep more deeply at night.

Eleuthero, formerly known as Siberian ginseng but not truly in the Panax ginseng family, is well known the world over to be helpful for stress, too. Research shows it to help folks with headaches, sleep problems, clear thinking, inflammation and strenuous physical performance.

“Organix South makes a great product that I find helpful called Day Stress Formula. It contains Ashwagandha and another cool herb called Shatavari. Their Night Stress Formula is mostly Bacopa,” I explained.

They picked up a couple bottles of the Ginger Honey Tonic and several bottles of mineral water. Robert thought that he could use both the Day and the Night Stress Formulas. He also figured he should have some of the New Chapter Holy Basil (in the v-caps) on hand for when they needed it.

Sahanna liked the idea of the Tulsi Tea a lot. She chose three flavors; Chai, Pomegranate and Honey Chamomile. I mentioned to them that when we make a medicinal herbal tea, we must put a lid on the tea cup (or pot) while the tea steeps, if we want the full benefits. She also wanted to have a bottle of Rhodiola Force 100 on hand for exam time, to take some of the pressure off.

“The Omega 3 essential fatty acids are shown to be an essential part of good brain and nerve health, too,” I continued. “We must consume the Omega 3 fats; we cannot produce them in our bodies. Found in fish, hemp seed, flax and algae, my favorite source for consuming Omega 3 fatty acids is organic hemp seed. It’s delicious! Hemp seeds are a rich source of many important nutrients, including complete protein, one of the only vegetarian sources; a perfect balance of the essential fats and they’re rich in several important minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese and potassium. Magnesium’s great for helping with stress, too. You can sprinkle the seeds on salads, veggies, toast, soup, in smoothies, anything, even ice cream!” I showed them the organic hemp seeds from Nutiva, and pointed out the hemp oil and protein powder, too. Robert tossed two bags of the whole seeds and a bottle of the oil into the cart. “Is it better than flax?” he asked.

Organic Hemp Oil provides the ideal ratio of the Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, helpful for virtually all cells in the body. It is easier to digest and more shelf stable than flax, and we don’t need to worry about heavy metals like we do with fish. And hemp protein powder is not very processed, high in fiber and has no added sugar. It’s great in smoothies or baked into muffins.” We walked over to the café and sat down to sip some tea.

“There is a wealth of research showing that the practice of meditation is helpful for reducing excess stress. Quieting the mind for just twenty minutes a day, whether walking in the woods, jogging along the river or sitting peacefully with closed eyes, is found to relax the body and reduce inflammation and pain.” I sat back and took a deep breath. I sighed, smiling, as I exhaled.

“It all sounds so easy! We can do this!” Sahanna exclaimed. “Dad, this’ll be fun! We can help each other, right?” They hugged one another. I’m sure I was smiling ear to ear; and I’m pretty sure a felt one tear leap from my right eye as I watched them.

A week later, Robert, Sahanna and I did a private whole foods cooking class. I taught them how to make a basic miso vegetable soup, sautéed garlic and greens and my famous rice-quinoa salad. They enjoyed learning these basics and worked quite well together in the kitchen.

Three months later, I spoke to Robert and Sahanna. She had had only one more headache, and she told me that when she felt it coming on, she filled a large glass with the delicious filtered water that now flows from their tap, drank most of it and a few minutes later she realized that her headache was gone! “And no more soda for me,” she added proudly.

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