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Want a natural way to get rid of menstrual cramps?

For most women, menstrual cramps are a terrible experience. It can feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out. For myself, it is as if my hip bones are being pulled in two opposite directions and my lower legs go completely numb. In other words, it’s hell. In these moments, all I want to do is sink into a pile of chocolate and cozy blankets for a few days, but alas I must continue through the daily grind.

Unfortunately, most of us can’t simply stay home and wallow — we have to continue working and living our lives. Traditionally, women have used herbs to help with menstrual cramps before drugs become available in convenient little pills. Medications don’t always relieve all of the pain or symptoms associated with our time of the month, so why not try some natural remedies. They worked for our ancestors and they will work for us.

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One of the best herbs for cramps is ginger. It is easy to find in grocery stores and is known to soothe menstrual cramps as well as aide in bloating. Simply shave a few slivers of ginger and place into a cup of boiling water with a spoonful of honey and a splash of lemon. Having a mug of homemade ginger tea nightly will help alleviate menstrual pain substantially.

Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.
Halloumi salad with fennel, croutons and pomegranate.

Another option to help ease cramps is fennel. Fennel contains anethole, which is a compound that helps to ease pain. There are many ways to eat fennel both raw and cooked, and it has a celery-like texture. Slice the fennel into thin pieces and add to a salad. Use the leafy fronds (the top of the fennel) to add to salad. You can also cook chopped fennel and put it in a delicious tomato fennel soup. Roasted fennel is simple, but delicious if you like the liquorice taste.

Cherry tomato and sage pasta.
Cherry tomato and sage pasta.

Another herb that has truly magical qualities is sage. Along with helping menstrual cramps, it also lifts the mood and increases memory. Sage goes well with asparagus and can be added for extra flavour in a variety of Italian pasta sauces. It also pairs well with pineapple. Sage tea also helps with sore throats and in the summer, frozen sage in ice cubes makes a refreshing drink during your menstrual cycle.

Common pain relievers can have negative health side effects for some people, and natural remedies can provide an alternative. By incorporating ginger tea into your evening routine and sage into your pasta sauce, some of the symptoms of cramps may be alleviated. Any solution to helping get rid of cramps is a welcome one, and using herbs is surely a delicious way to get rid of pain.

Cleansing your new home with a sage smudging ritual

A common Cherokee proverb is “Listen with your heart, learn from your experiences, and always be open to new ones”.

Moving into a new house often feels like the beginning of a new chapter. This can be incredibly exciting, but also incredibly scary. Building a house full of love and comfort is no easy task and rituals often help to make me feel more at home. Each time I move, I have a smudging ritual to cleanse my home and begin anew.

Smudging is an indigenous tradition also known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. It has been a tradition for thousands of years in many clans across North America, and I was fortunate to be taught about the ritual from a Cree friend in Western Canada when I was a child.

Smudging has become a popular tradition among spiritualists as well. At the risk of it sounding like cultural appropriation, and with permission of my aboriginal friend, I have also used it for many years. The tradition differs depending on the region you live in. For example, in Western Canada, people traditionally use desert sage, sweet grass, pinion and tobacco. In the East, it is more common to use cedar, juniper, pine needles, cypress, sage, tobacco and sweet grass. Using an Abalone Shell, a traditional bowl in First Nations culture, to hold the sage while it burns is recommended because it signifies water in the ritual.

For my new home, I decided to bring desert sage from a small native arts & crafts shop near Calgary, my birthplace. Sage often comes in bundles, but can be burnt as loose leaf as well. I prefer the bundle because there is less chance of the embers spreading in your home. Find a feather for the ritual and then you are set to begin the smudging. By lighting the sage in a bowl, it releases smoke that is said to soak up all of the negative energy and bad thoughts, cleansing your space.

Once the sage is burning (embers only, no open flames needed), take the feather and cleanse yourself by moving the feather from your feet up to your head. Try to think of all the negative thoughts being dispelled in the smoke to rid yourself of negativity. If the sage lights on fire, blow out the flames and leave the embers burning. The smell of sage is earthy and has an incense-like scent. It is not for everyone, but I personally love it because it reminds me of where I’m from.

There are a variety of smudging prayers that you can say or you can complete the ritual in silence while meditating over the negative thoughts leaving your body and home. I prefer to complete this part of the ritual in silence. Be sure to cleanse anyone else taking part in the ritual. Next, I begin cleansing the home of any negative energy. Begin in the eastern corner, which represents air and the fresh breath of the rising sun each day. Move slowly to the south that symbolizes earth, and the creative inner child within. The west represents sun set and the deep introspection of darkness and water. Finally, end the cleansing ritual in the north, which is the direction of fire and knowledge, compassion, and the future of your home. Continue in a full circle ending back in the eastern corner of your home and be sure to fan the smoke in each direction. I also play drum music, which is believed to imitate the sound of the heart and say a prayer while completing the ritual.

The prayer is as follows:

May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly.

May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.

After the ritual is complete, I make a feast and have friends and family over to celebrate the ritual and my new home. Because the house is cleansed, it is a good time to create positive and loving energy in the home, with the added benefit that the smell of sage cleanses everyone who attends. Another common custom is to burn sweet grass after the smudging ritual to encourage kindness and peace. I have not tried this before, but may try it this time.

The smudging ritual is a custom that causes one to pause and consider what energy we want to bring and sustain in our homes. Oftentimes, people are so busy trying to move their furniture in and continue their lives that we forget to meditate on how to create love and happiness in our new dwelling. Every new beginning is an opportunity to cleanse and recreate the ever-desirable feeling of peace in the midst of urban life. The peace of mind and renewal that comes from the ritual is worthwhile and leaves me refreshed every time.

Disclaimer: You may want to disengage the smoke alarm temporarily, or it may go off. Don’t forget to turn it back on!