“Free and Happy Wanderer”: Traditional herbs for depression and stagnation

2014-04-02 10.12.16Spring is Liver time, according to Chinese medicine. Time of the Wood element, which means sometimes we can get physically and mentally ‘stiffer’ at this time.

The Liver is often out of balance in modern times. If so, we can feel emotionally depressed, stuck, lacking in vision and creativity, or prone to anger, irritability and frustration. We may experience irregular digestion, moods, and menstrual cycles.

Click here for a very traditional way to make a very traditional formula from scratch, for exactly these problems.

Advertisements

Emotions and Your Body: A (mostly) Traditional Chinese Medicine view

Joyeuse1What, if anything, do our emotions have to do with our physical health?  In recent years, Western medical researchers have increasingly acknowledged the links between emotions and physical symptoms. Since I first studied cognitive neuroscience, the neurobiology of emotions has become a much hotter topic (thank goodness!)1

Western science is still in the early stages of understanding how our mind and body interact. Other healing traditions, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), draw from millennia of experience and systematic observation of emotional­/physical links.2

This article on emotional health draws from my experiences with:

  • the clinical practice of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine
  • meditation that trains the mind to notice extremely subtle energy throughout the body, and
  • various forms of therapy I’ve experienced myself

The topic of how emotions affect the physical body (and vice versa) is immense, so here are just a few ideas to start with:

YOUR ENERGY FLOW

In Chinese medicine, good health results from adequate and balanced energy (‘Qi’) flow. Illness results from imbalanced or inadequate energy, or blocked circulation. Much like physical blood, energy has to flow in the right directions and amounts throughout the body for it to function well.

Feeling an emotion = feeling a certain wave of energy in the body that has physical effects. Have you noticed this? With practice, you can sit quietly and watch the wave come and go. This emotion might feel like an intense buzz, another might pull your chest in tighter, and another might make you warm. So, emotions and a change of ‘physical’ Qi flow go hand-in-hand. Chinese medicine has observed this systematically since ancient times; the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, one of the earliest medical texts (~2500 years old), states that “anger makes Qi rise, joy slows down Qi, sadness dissolves Qi, fear makes Qi descend… shock scatters Qi… pensiveness knots Qi.”

The emotional wave doesn’t have to last long, but we generally hang on. According to Buddhist psychology, we aren’t in the habit of letting go of emotional experiences. If it was a pleasant wave of energy, we tend to hang on and enjoy it. If it was unpleasant, we tend to hang on and stew in anger, hurt, or sadness about it.  This happens by automatic habit, subconsciously replaying the situation in our mind, and reacting to our reactions. Without realizing it, we compound things – feeling angry that we’re hurt, sad that we’re angry, angry that we’re sad, etc. It’s even more difficult to let go when strong residual emotions are triggered.

IMBALANCE AND ILLNESS

Prolonged, repressed or extreme emotions can cause illness. In Chinese medicine, the major causes of imbalance and illness in adults are: environmental, food/lifestyle habits, trauma, and…emotions!

Let’s use an example:
Someone says “you’re totally selfish”, and I react with anger. Immediately my chest subtly tightens, shoulders tense up, breathing becomes shallow, and face feels warm. I may not realize this, but if I can’t face, process, and let go of this mental and physical reaction, if I keep replaying the event and re­generating the same anger, the built­-up tensions and imbalances may lead to health issues. For example, it may reduce energy flow within, say, my intestines (or other internal organs) and cause constipation and/or diarrhea (or other internal problems), eventually weakening my digestion and causing food sensitivities. We see these consequences every day in the clinic.

The above is just one example of many possible consequences of chronic emotional tension. Chronic pain, for example, could be another development. Some doctors believe that most chronic pain/ health problems are caused by held, repressed emotions in the unconscious.3 I believe the causes of chronic pain/illness are more complex – injuries, repetitive strain, environmental toxins, genetic issues, etc. all play a role… but agree that emotions can be a powerful factor, as Chinese medicine understands.

Emotional memories can be held in the body and ‘re­triggered’. The above example may seem exaggerated, but what can happen is that a simple incident (like being called “selfish”) can actually trigger old emotions “held” in our body. It’s like our Qi system (think of it as our nervous system, in this situation) ‘remembers’ strong reactions from earlier life. Any stimulus that touches a similar ‘memory circuit’ can result in hugely amplified emotional reactions. This is how I believe triggers work, for those of you interested in trauma recovery. (More on trauma and triggers in a future article.)

MANAGING EMOTIONS

Affecting one’s emotions changes the Qi flow in the body.  By managing my emotions, I can also make changes in my physical Qi. So by thinking differently about the situation, letting go, confiding in a friend or counsellor, meditating, journalling, or talking things out respectfully, I can change my thoughts, emotions and the qualities of the energy flow I’m feeling.

For example, in the above situation, maybe I realize I misheard and she’d actually said “you’re totally selfless.” My anger fades, I let my breath out, my shoulders relax, my face cools down, and I might get a light feeling in my chest. Or maybe I talk things out with another friend, who reassures me that I’ve done the best I can and the offender just has their own misconceptions. I relax and feel calmer (as long as I can catch myself before going back into the ‘angry’ belief about being wronged).  If I can release my emotional tension often enough, I can avoid some of the longer­term health effects of a chronic Qi reaction pattern.

CHANGING YOUR ENERGY FLOW

Changing Qi flow also affects emotions. In Chinese medicine, cause and effect often go back and forth. That means physically manipulating Qi flow can change your emotional state. You can change your Qi flow countless ways, e.g. by: deep or conscious breathing, relaxation, yoga, exercise, food and drink, hanging out with others, taking a hot bath, getting acupuncture or a massage, etc.

For example, have you felt really angry and then gone for an intense workout, or an acupuncture treatment?  Were you ever anxious and then had a delicious meal?  Were you ever feel frustrated and tense, and then soaked in an epsom salt bath?

Once I was feeling wired, hyperactive and rushed on a long­-distance cycling trip. We’d done half of the 100 km for the day, and I was raring to finish as fast as possible. After a 15 minute massage, though, I was a completely different cyclist. I glided along serenely, gazing at ducks and flowers, drinking in the fresh air like it was my favourite summer cocktail.

Releasing body tensions can help release old, stuck emotions – as many who have experienced or given bodywork can attest to. Emotional releases during acupuncture, massage, body­-based meditation, dance and yoga, are fairly common. I’ve even had a number of people recall specific memories when massaging or needling certain areas of their bodies.

But if we don’t change our thoughts and beliefs, those tensions may recur – it’s like the tensions and physical symptoms are ‘branches’ and the thought patterns that are hurting us inside are the roots. This is why I believe bodywork is especially powerful for emotional healing, when done along with working on one’s thinking (through meditation, talk therapy, etc.). For resources on meditation and talk therapy in the Greater Toronto Area, check my More on the topic of ‘Emotions and the Body’ in future articles. Your feedback is 110% welcome, as this is a huge topic to explore!

For a free personal 20 minute consultation on how emotions may be affecting your symptoms, contact me today!

Like this article? Click here to receive free articles, resources and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once a month – I don’t have time to bombard you.

1. Daniel J. Siegel, The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2009).
2. TCM Doctors Take on Emotions, http://www.china.org.cn/english/Life/173064.htm
3. Sarno, John E., MD, The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (Warner Books, Inc., 1998).

Simple Winter Recipes

Winter Warming Breakfast Cereal

Winter Warming Breakfast Cereal

This quick breakfast can warm you from the inside out, strengthen the foundation of your body’s energy, and having you ready to face the cold weather outside!

Chinese Medicine agrees with the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 7:00 to 9:00 am is the time of the day when energy concentrates in our Stomach. Our Yang (active, warming) energy is growing at that time in the morning, and we need good fuel to support the rest of the day. Here’s some basic steps to make a quick, nutritious hot cereal to support your Kidney-Adrenal system and to warm the body.

Optional prep: 

  • Soak 10-15 goji berries for 5-15 minutes, if desired (to remove red dye on many of the commercially available berries). Discard the soak water and rinse again. I find if I use organic berries they don’t seem to have much colour come off. Recently popularized in Western nutrition, Goji berries (a.k.a. wolfberries) have long been used in Chinese medicine to support the Kidney-adrenal system, longevity, vitality, and the eyes in particular.
  • Also optional: in a pan, dry-fry almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and/or unsweetened coconut flakes until lightly toasted to use as toppings (don’t do all these all at once as they take different amounts of time to toast well). You can toast a larger quantity at once and keep in the fridge, ready to go in the morning.)

Main recipe:

  1. Put 1 cup of water in a pot on to boil
  2. While boiling, add the goji berries.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of steel cut oats and add to the water (while or after boiling), with a pinch of sea salt or seaweed (e.g. dulse, ground wakame – excellent for minerals and to support the Kidney-Adrenals… don’t add too much if you don’t want the fishy sea taste!)
  4. When water boils, turn down to a simmer
  5. Add 5-10 raisins or other small dried fruit pieces
  6. Add dried and ground warming spices: cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon best if you can find it), dried ginger (change to fresh if you’re coming down with a cold), nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, etc.
  7. Cut up an apple (or half an apple, depending how large it is). If you are really trying to minimize Dampness (mucus, Candida, etc.) in the body, berries may be better.
  8. Depending on the cut of the oatmeal, it will cook in approx 5-12 minutes
  9. Add apple (and coconut, if using) to the pot 2 minutes before you take it off the stove
  10. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds (yellow sesame is okay too, but black is even better for the Kidney-Adrenals), almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc. to taste.
  11. If desired, can add almond or rice milk, and/or sweetener (honey, maple syrup, unsugared jam, etc.)

Variations

  • Dry-toast the actual oats, or toast with a bit of coconut oil, before adding the water to boil – this adds a really hardy, delicious flavour, and increases the warmth of the grain from a Chinese medicine point of view.
  • Vary the grains (I like whole grain kamut, quinoa, millet, rice cereal, etc.)
  • Vary the toppings and the flavours (e.g. banana is nice if you don’t have too much Dampness, i.e. excessive mucus symptoms – ask your practitioner. Pear is moistening if you have a dry throat or cough, etc.)

Cooked Pressed Winter Salad
From Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods.

  • Use one or more leafy greens: kale, bok choy, chard, watercress, cabbage, or parsley.
  • Plunge whole leaves into scalding water and cook 2-3 minutes.
    • Method 1: Roll leaves in a bamboo mat and press out excess water.
    • Method 2: Place leaves on a plate. Cover with a flat dish. Put a weight on top. Let stand 30 minutes. Pour off water.
  • Chop finely.
  • Add miso, toasted nuts or seeds, or salad dressing.

2014-01-22 17.37.15Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Did you know brussel sprouts can be absolutely delicious? They’re a perfect winter green, hardy and hearty, and I’ve surprised many people by making them delicious and desirable.

As members of the Brassica family (including broccoli, kale, turnip, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.), in Chinese medicine’s view, they help move Liver Qi Stagnation – this means they have a mild effect on improving and unblocking energy circulation. Qi Stagnation is a very common factor in imbalances, pains, and chronic illness. The National Cancer Institute in the US recommends Brassica vegetables for its anti-cancer, antioxidant properties.

Generally, you wash and cut the brussel sprouts in half, season them, and roast for about 25 minutes on 375F, turning once or twice for even roasting. Check on them: you’ll want them tender and still somewhat bright green, not overcooked and dull-looking. Here are my favourite ways of seasoning (do this before cooking):

  • coconut oil or butter, plus garlic (in whole cloves, or diced and mixed in), salt and pepper (generously)
  • toss with a splash of balsamic vinegar and then toss again with olive oil (or coconut oil, but I prefer olive oil with the balsamic), then salt and pepper
  • toss with red onion slivers, olive oil, salt and pepper for the first 20 minutes. Then 5 minutes before done, add a drizzle of maple syrup and some chopped walnuts. Yum!

Like this article? Click here to receive free articles, resources and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once a month – I don’t have time to bombard you.

Two Anti-Anxiety (vegan, gluten-free) recipes

Vegan soup with mung bean and kaleI’ve chosen and adapted two vegan, gluten-free recipes below, for their anti-anxiety ingredients (based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine analysis of these foods).

Mung Bean and Kale Soup (serves ~6)

  • 1 tablespoon refined organic coconut oil
  • 20-25 small crimini (or white) mushrooms, cubed
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 organic red pepper, cubed
  • 1 bunch organic lacinato kale, deveined, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 organic roma tomatoes
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch basil leaves
  • 11/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried seaweed (wakame, dulse, etc)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional – omit for increased anti-anxiety benefits)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup small green lentils
  • 1/2 cup mung beans
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy deep pot or dutch oven, then add and sautee the cubed mushrooms, onions, and red bell peppers with turmeric and cumin until tender, about 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, mung beans, crushed pepper, seaweed, salt and about 3-4 cups of water (or broth of choice), and allow them to cook (simmer) covered for about 30-35 minutes (check to make sure they are cooked and tender-you may need to adjust your water, as in, add more).
  3. when the lentils and mung beans are cooked and tender, add the quinoa, cubed tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, kale, and most (3/4) of your coconut milk.
  4. simmer another 10-15 minutes. add your freshly squeezed lemon juice (adjust amount to your taste, or omit). top with chopped basil and your remaining coconut milk. serve hot.

Modified from this recipe

Calming and Balancing Congee (2-3 servings)

  • Job’s Tears / Coix Lacryma-Jobi (yi yi ren) 薏米 – 30 g
  • Longan Fruit (long yan rou) 桂圆 / 龍眼肉 – 30 g
  • Chinese Jujube / red dates (da zao) 大枣 – 4 to 6
  • Lotus Seeds (lian zi) 莲子 – 30 g
  • Dried lily bulb / Bulbus Lilii (bai he) 百合 – 30 g
  • Brown rice (can pre-blend in blender to encourage it to fall apart more) – half cup
  • Raw honey, to taste

1. Soak all herbal ingredients for about 15 minutes and rinse.
2. Rinse rice and put all ingredients in a pot with about 6 to 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium to cook for about 70 minutes to about 3 cups of congee.
3. Add some raw honey, if preferred.

Modified from this recipe.

Like this article and want more?  Click here to receive a monthly newsletter with free articles, resources, recipes, and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once a month – I don’t have time to bombard you!

Treating Colds, Flus and Coughs with TCM: A ridiculously well-kept secret

cold and fluAs the temperatures continue to change suddenly, one of winter’s challenges is fending off the colds and flus that makes their rounds in our communities. Most people don’t realize how effective Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is for preventing and treating these ailments, so keep reading for info, tips and nutritional advice. Years ago, I had a severe cold almost monthly, followed by coughs that would persist for weeks. Now, thanks largely to TCM, I only get a mild almost-cold once or twice a year, and am usually able to ward it off very early. Less sick days = more productive and fun days!

We take colds, flus and coughs seriously!

Out of all the audacious claims any medicine can make, I feel it’s safe to say that TCM understands colds, flus, and coughs well. One of the earliest medical texts in China (and the world) analyzed colds and flus, it’s causes, stages, levels in the body, and consequences if left untreated. The text has 397 sections and 112 herbal prescriptions – just to give you an idea of the level of detail! Modern research continues to update this knowledge and has also examined the anti-viral and anti-biotic properties of specific herbs, some of which are incredibly effective.

While many people consider colds to be temporary annoyances, TCM has also analyzed what happens when the original pathogen (i.e. the virus or bacteria) manages to lodge deeper into the body. This can lead to well-known complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, but also to lesser-known, chronic struggles with allergies, ear infections, insomnia, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, chronic coughs and sinusitis, anxiety or depression, lympatic congestion, digestive difficulties, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, cancer, MS, diabetes, and much more. Indeed, some biomedical research has also begun to find evidence that some of the many illnesses classified as idiopathic (without known cause) may actually be traceable to an initial infection.

This is not to alarm you, but to explain why even the common cold is taken seriously in TCM! Today we have acupuncture, herbal and even tuina (therapeutic massage) prescriptions for the many different types and stages of colds/flus/coughs, and always take into account the individual’s pre-existing state of health. These approaches go beyond simple symptomatic treatment, address the ‘whole picture’, and bring your body back into overall balance without side effects such as impaired digestion (a frequent result of antibiotic use).

Prevention: Protect your Qi!

As usual in this medicine, one size doesn’t fit all: frequency, type and severity of your cold/flu will depend not only on the ‘bug’ you’ve caught, but also largely on your pre-existing balance and state of immunity. Catching a cold or flu is seen as a situation where outside pathogens (we call them “Wind”, “Cold”, “Heat”, “Dampness”, etc.) manage to overcome the body’s “defensive Qi” (similar to the concept of “immune system”) and end up battling the body’s own “righteous Qi”.

Because the pre-existing condition of your body’s own Qi is so important in this analysis, you can help prevent colds and flus by:

  • Protect your body’s Qi – dress warmly! Many people in our car-oriented culture don’t wear many layers in the winter. This horrifies some of my colleagues from China, where apparently they layer much more. In my practice, I’ve noticed many clients’ symptoms worsen in the winter, partly because Cold reduces circulation (increases stagnation/pain, etc.) and requires more Qi to warm the body and maintain functioning (so problems due to weak Qi get aggravated).

  • Breathe through your nose. Not only does this help warm and ‘filter’ the air, but breathing through your mouth is said to gradually exhaust your digestive (i.e. Qi-producing) organs in TCM
  • As winter is the season of the Kidneys, it’s especially useful to wear warmer layers on the legs and lower back.

  • Cover your skin to protect yourself from wind exposure, especially your neck and upper back.

  • Get lots of rest and sleep, and get it earlier if possible (if you can be in bed by 10 pm, that is excellent for the body, especially in the winter). Slow down – are you so busy that you’re always using more Qi than you replenish (through sleep, good whole foods, etc.), and relying on coffee to keep going?

  • Emotions are a major factor in the state of your Qi. Minimize any Qi-draining relationships, social obligations, etc. Let go of emotional stressors as much as possible, or find tools and resources for coping with them (see my Resources page for Counselling and Meditation resource lists).

  • Minimize spread of pathogens by washing your hands regularly, and being mindful not to rub your eyes or handle food without cleaning them

  • Exercise moderately and regularly to keep the Qi and Yang flowing, and to keep your pores opening and closing properly.

  • Using moxibustion on yourself, taking an appropriate Chinese herbal formula, or going for acupuncture sessions regularly can also make a big difference in supporting your Qi

  • Eat with the season. As the weather gets colder, eat more warm, cooked foods, and cook them for longer periods of time (e.g. roasting, baking, slow-cooker). Raw salads, cold sandwiches, and cold cereals in the morning can all impair your body’s ability to produce strong Qi.

  • Minimize mucus-producing foods such as dairy; alcohol; sugar; wheat; refined breads, pastas and rices; fried foods; cold temperature and raw foods, etc. Pre-existing mucus in your system is a major factor in developing stuffy noses, phlegmy coughs, etc.

  • I have other general lifestyle tips, and a qi gong exercise, for Winter Yin/Yang balance in my handout on “Winter Wisdom from TCM

Coming Down with Something? The Early Stage

congbaiSore or scratchy throat? Fatigue, headache? Feeling under the weather and wanting to avoid windy areas? Maybe a mild fever or chills? It feels a bit different for everyone, but when you start to feel the very beginnings of a cold/flu, the best strategy is to ‘sweat it out‘. Certain foods such as “cong bai“, i.e. scallion / green onion (see picture — the most important part is the white part of the stalk), peppermint or mulberry leaf (good for when you have an early stage sore throat or early cough), ginger (good for when you feel chills, thin phlegm, and have no sore throat), etc. are used at this stage. Make a hot tea out of some of these ingredients, take a warm bath and then get under the covers to sweat sweat sweat! Make sure you replenish your sweat with lots of fluids.

For children, you can make a paste out of cong bai and fresh ginger, and put it in their belly button or rub it onto their chest. To encourage them to eat it, you can combine with brown sugar. These foods also work well in a chicken soup with garlic.

Some people swear by Vitamin C, Vitamin D, etc. but as this is not exactly Chinese medicine, I won’t speak much of these here, other than to say some non-citrus food sources of Vitamin C include sweet bell peppers, tomato juice, sweet peas, berries, potatoes, watercress, brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. Citrus fruits and juices, which many take for the Vitamin C, can contribute toward phlegm.

You can also help ward off the cold, or make it pass faster, by getting daily acupuncture for 3 days in a row, and by getting an herbal formula prescribed to match your symptoms. Many Chinese herbs have much stronger diaphoretic and cold-dispelling properties than the foods listed above, if you’re willing and able to search beyond a regular supermarket!

Too late? The full-blown cold and the cough that never ends

 When your cold involves some kind of phlegm or mucus (in your nose, throat or lungs), it’s best to avoid mucus-producing foods, as mentioned above (dairy; alcohol; sugar; wheat; refined breads, pastas and rices; fried foods; etc.).

Rest is most important, as is an adequate fluid intake. Herbs, acupuncture (and other hands-on treatments done by TCM acupuncturists, such as cupping and guasha) can be extremely effective, especially for colds that turn into a continuous cough. (There are days in the winter when I do cupping on several coughing people in a row!) Nutrition can go a long way too, such as a congee or chicken soup that includes certain foods and herbs. Congee is excellent for recovery from many types of imbalances.

Especially if your cold doesn’t go away on its own after a couple days, or even gets worse, go to a TCM practitioner to get an assessment and personalized prescription for exactly your type of cold, flu or cough. Even a few days of herbs can often make all the difference in your pace of recovery.

As I mentioned, Chinese medicine has identified many different types and categories of these illnesses, so giving general advice is difficult for me.

snow pearHowever, for those who end up with sore throats and coughs, try this soothing Pear Tea Recipe:

  1. Cut up 1 pear (ideally a snow pear or Asian pear. If not, a barlett pear should be fine)
  2. Boil enough water to cover the pear
  3. Simmer the pear pieces about 15 minutes
  4. If you have a lot of clear to light white phlegm, add ginger slices and tangerine or pomelo peel while simmering (fresh). If you have a dry cough or dry throat, skip this step. If you have yellow or green phlegm, go to see your TCM doctors and get other, more specialized herbs.
  5. Drink the tea. You can eat the pear too if you want!

Self-Acupressure for Cold Symptoms

  • Press the sore spots on either sides of your nose to reduce stuffy and runny nose symptoms. Even better if your acupuncturist can insert sticky-tack needles you can keep in (e.g. overnight, to help you breathe better while sleeping). Acupuncture point names: LI-20 and Bitong
  • Squeezing the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger can help with many head and face symptoms (stuffy/runny nose, runny or painful eyes, headache, etc.) Acupuncture point name: LI-4
  • For sore throat, use your fingernail to press the sore areas right below your thumbnail (when you’re holding your thumb upward as in “thumbs up”). Even better, ask your acupuncturist to prick / bleed this point. Acupuncture point name: LU-11
  • For headaches (and may also help with nasal or eye symptoms), press the sore areas on the back of your neck, right below your skullbone/occiput. Acupuncture point name: GB-20

Less time feeling sick means more time having fun

Colds and flus are a reality in our climate, but they can be less of a drag on your and your family’s well-being. Protect your Qi, or even boost it with a incorporating self-care into your lifestyle, getting regular treatments, and eating appropriately for your body’s own balance. Take care of your body, mind, emotions and spirit year-round, and you will find it easier to cope happily and energetically with the change of seasons.

Like this article and want more?  Click here to receive a bi-monthly newsletter with free articles, resources, recipes, and workshop/event announcements. My emails won’t be more often than once every couple months – I don’t have time to bombard you!