EVEN IN THE HEAT, SEASONAL FLORALS ARE ONE OF NATURE’S MOST GLORIOUS CONCOCTIONS
We are lucky enough here in South Florida to be able to appreciate flowers at almost any moment and in any season. While I work with flower essences and leverage their healing potentials every day, it feels so good to put my professional gratitude aside and take in the etheric lushness of the floral world. Sitting in contemplation with a single bloom is one of my favorite forms of meditation, wondering at the buoyant beauty of the petals and inhaling each one’s unique aromatic qualities.
That human-to-flower connection is ancient and deep. With their delicacy, flowers bring us into full awareness and compel us to savor every moment. Maybe that’s why we include flowers in life’s most important milestones and celebrations, from Mother’s Day to Valentine’s Day, births to graduations, weddings to funerals. Flowers are our ceremonial offerings of love.
My favorite summertime blooms include not only the medicinal flowers I work with, but those that grow so abundantly in our garden. There are gardenias, which I love to set out in ice bowls throughout our home, and also jasmine, which boasts a dizzyingly delicious perfume and makes a great wedding gift. Another favorite is passionflower, which grows along my fence. You can lose yourself looking into the hypnotic depths of a passionflower. For me, each bloom is full of fascinating poetry.
Scientific studies have shown that just looking at an image of a flower can help to regulate negative emotions, decreasing the signs and symptoms of stress by lowering blood pressure and cortisol levels. Researchers have also found that having flowers around the home increases positive energy and supports feelings of optimism and compassion.
When we take a moment to recognize their subtlety and grace, flowers provide a spectacular connection with nature. Even in one of the most heavenly places on earth, their special potency is a reminder of all that is beautiful in the world.
SWEET AS HONEY
MORE THAN JUST POWERFUL POLLINATORS, BEES ILLUSTRATE THE NATURAL RECIPROCITY THAT SURROUNDS US.
The honeybees populating the three-thriving hives in our home garden are some of nature’s true teachers. Sitting in the soothing hum of their busyness is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever known—just basking in that energy is like sound therapy—and there is nothing more fascinating than watching them come and go. Our garden became home to our second hive by chance, when a swarm of bees suddenly swooped into the break room at the Spa. They needed to be removed, to be sure, but where? I was reminded of all the blessings that bees bring, with the etheric nature, and, rather than send them anywhere else, asked the beekeeper to bring them to our place.
After all, honey is a wonderful natural remedy, and one that is so versatile in treating the skin, whether helping to calm and clear active breakouts or by restoring moisture in depleted skin. A tiny scoop of honey and a spritz of rose water make a beautifully fragrant facial cleanser. You can blend a bit of honey into a favorite facial mask to boost its hydrating effects. But I also enjoy eating a little spoonful of honey each morning. Recent studies have shown that honey may possess natural mood-boosting properties that help us regulate our emotions and could help protect the aging brain from decline.
Living with bees in the garden, however, changed my experience of that place and deepened my respect for bees. I had thought I was an astute gardener, but the bees have brought nuance to my awareness. The bees show me what’s in bloom, what’s thriving, and how our plants are faring. We grow over 35 types of fruit trees on our property, along with a butterfly garden, a medicinal herb garden and some hearty vegetable beds. I’ve learned to distinguish honey harvested after the bees have enjoyed pollen from the eucalyptus plants from that I’ve tasted after the orange blossoms have bloomed. The bees have invited all of my senses to the garden.
But they’ve also taught me about reciprocity. Every taste of honey also offers an opportunity to muse on the way that the plants absorb the sunlight and convert that energy, eventually, into pollen. The bees flit through their days collecting the pollen a grain at a time, helping the pollen spread plant to plant, while converting those thousands of grains, harvested from thousands of flowers, into each precious drop of honey. I’m often awestruck to participate in the magical beauty of that cyclical exchange, and I’m humbled by the natural generosity found in both the plant and animal kingdoms.
For me, our connection to the element of water goes far beyond good hydration. There is a certain immeasurable peace of mind that surrounds me as I paddle board out across the glassy sea in the early mornings at our family getaway in the outer islands of the Bahamas. It’s immersive. The early morning light sparkles over the vastness of the sea and makes me feel like anything is possible. Just being there creates space around any worries, while beckoning towards fresh, expansive creative thinking.
In centuries past health practitioners prescribed ‘taking the waters’ as a cure for depletion of all sorts, and these days environmental psychologists have confirmed what our ancestors knew, that regular visits to the seaside generate not only more happiness, but also greater health overall. While we are lucky enough here in South Florida to have easy access to the ocean, where we’re cradled by the sound of the waves, researchers have found that visiting a fountain, pool, lake, pond or river can also have a restorative effect on mental health and the nervous system, reducing negative emotions and dissolving stress. It’s as easy as a warm bath before bedtime, which has measurable effects on sleep.
Perhaps one of the reasons it feels so good to sit quietly near a body of water is that, beyond those soothing effects, water is so crucial to our vibrant health. Good hydration supports the immune system, delivers essential nutrients to our cells, keeps our organs functioning well and even makes thinking itself possible, carrying electrical impulses within the brain. It’s been shown that even 1-2% water loss can impair cognitive performance. In my practice, of course, I also see how beautifully consistent hydration supports the skin, our largest organ, and a great reflection of our overall wellbeing. Along those lines, I love rich, plant-based moisturizing creams to seal in the benefits, but it’s also important to hydrate from within. Cucumber, celery and watermelon are three of my favorite food choices for boosting hydration, in salads, fresh squeezed juices, or just luscious and raw, as they’re also full of minerals that help us retain hydration. (And in my book coconut water is better than any sweetened drink.)
So next time you find yourself looking out over the water, take an extra moment or two to meditate on our incredible connection to this essential element, and one that makes up our very being. We came to be in the internal oceans of our mothers, and, on the deepest levels, water fills us, connects us with each other, and with all of nature. It’s beautiful to feel that flow.
Spring Cleaning - Embrace a time of environmental and personal renewal
The tradition of spring cleaning resonates with me on so many levels. The early spring is a great time to detoxify the body, releasing the built-up stodginess of the winter months. I like to focus on my diet, eating fruits and vegetables in their most natural, raw state, while making sure I drink lots of water. Over the years I’ve found that for many drinking fresh cucumber and antioxidant-rich celery juice can help flush out the system of potential toxins, as does Dandelion tea, celebrated in traditional herbalism for its ability to support the kidneys and liver, while also boasting a range of vitamins and minerals. Of course, I love bringing this feeling of freshness to the skin directly too, with treatments and protocols designed to gently polish away dullness. Dry-brushing, which activates the lymphatic system and encourages healthy detoxification, also brings an alive suppleness to the skin. At the same time, I include in my routine plenty of mineral salt baths to cleanse away fatigue and restore depletion.
However, as the days grow longer and brighter, it’s also a moment to awaken to new ideas, to pull together new plans and to activate new habits, whether that means getting serious about your exercise plan, committing to foreign language lessons or booking time with friends for an exciting weekend retreat. In the same way, the turning of the seasons offers an opportunity to clean up your thoughts and words, eliminating self-deprecating talk, unsympathetic criticism or unkind sentiments about others from what you say and think. See how much lighter and more open that makes you feel! And if you catch yourself in negativity, don’t worry–it’s a practice that can take a few weeks to build. Yet I’ve found over time that initiating these small shifts absolutely can change your perspective so completely. After all, these are the small moments that create our days, and, ultimately, become the content of our lives.
In order to start out, what best supports all your small and mighty efforts is to weave in a little symbolic spring cleaning, aligning everything else you do. Using a diffuser spiked with a cleansing blend of Eucalyptus, Lemon and Thyme essential oils refreshes the air and wakes up your senses in the most subtle and invigorating way.
Then, embark on an energetic cleansing ritual using sound vibration to clean stagnancy out of the home. First, open a few windows to let out any staleness. Next, with a bell, chime or crystal bowl, wander through your space and re-energize every corner of your home, ringing your environment into perfect harmony. It feels so good to unify all your cleansing and clarifying in a beautiful way that amplifies your intention.
As all these enlivening efforts build momentum, I think you’ll find they gain the power to shift our emotions, too, ushering in a time of more bright ease.
Tea for Two - From the garden to your cup, herbal teas have vast benefits for well-being
The simple act of growing, brewing and sipping herbal tea is an ancient cure for the modern lifestyle, and a ritual that soothes both the body and the mind. While I tend to drink tea throughout the day, the cup I cherish most is the last, the one I prepare as the day winds down and I move slowly through my nighttime skin routine, before finally settling in with a book. That said, there are few things I love more than wandering through the garden with my daughter and picking herbs for our tea. In the mornings, we go for Mint or Tulsi. If it’s evening, we drink Tulsi or Chamomile. We talk about the day, what’s in bloom, and Savi has hers with milk and honey from our beehive.
The ritual of preparing tea creates a portal, carving out a space for quiet conversation. Meeting with a friend in the garden for afternoon tea, serving it in a beautiful way, delights the senses and slows down time. It’s an experience full of ceremonial intention. I can stop and take in the lushness of the garden, the scent of the brewing leaves, the way my Japanese tea cup fits the palm of my hand, the stories my friend has to share, and it all makes our time together that much more precious. It’s nothing like meeting in a busy coffee shop. You clear away the noise and forge a heart’s connection—with the friend, with your own thoughts, with your surroundings, with the plants themselves. The delicious medicinal teas I grow in my garden impart the beauty and wisdom of the plants, but there’s also an exchange between us. I take care of my garden, and my plants generously offer a vibrant bounty of the stress-dissolving support that I need.
And it’s easy to do in South Florida where aromatic herbs like Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) and Mint grow so readily. Tulsi—known as the ‘Queen of Herbs’ is a tea that I recommend most often to clients. In ancient Indian Ayurvedic traditions Tulsi, also called Holy Basil, is celebrated as a sacred herb, and one that brings energetic lightness, clarity and warmth. Tulsi helps bring the body into balance and promotes an overall sense of wellbeing, whether you infuse your tea water or even add a few leaves to a hot bath. But scientific researchers are also intrigued by findings that show the positive effects Tulsi has on memory and cognition, and on relieving stress of every kind, from the physical to the emotional and psychological. In my own practice I’ve seen the gentle and effective relief that Tulsi tea can bring to those for whom more powerful interventions would be disruptive. It’s perfectly soothing.
Another favorite, and a true classic, is Mint (and especially Spearmint) which is lovely to serve to dinner guests after your meal to support digestion and refresh the mind. Revered in so many ancient Mediterranean cultures for its ability to relieve tension, Mint’s natural compounds are also of particular interest to scientists interested in promoting relaxation. It seems that science is catching up with what herbalists have known all along.
Simple Things - Make 2023 The Year of Peace and Clarity
As is the tradition, at the turn of the New Year we bring focus back to our goals, ourselves and our future. I love this yearly ritual of introspection that can bring a feeling of renewal, recommitment and fresh growth to daily life and to our visions of what we’d like our lives to be. Of course, working so closely with so many in the treatment room, I hear a lot about what we all want—all the many ways we want to look good and to feel good—year in and year out.
At the foundation, however, I’ve learned that there are two baseline goals that make all the rest possible: peace and clarity. Finding ways to shore up each of these essential pillars is what allows us to expand into everything else. Science will back me up on this. Researchers have found that just having a smile on your face can release the neurotransmitter serotonin, which calms the brain and soothes the nervous system. A long deep exhale helps the body come into relaxation. And time spent in silence, without any input, and with nothing to do, helps you make better decisions.
As a holistic practitioner, I see the clients who benefit the most from their wellness practices are those who make time for each experience—and savor those moments. When they leave a facial treatment, they don’t put on makeup right away but they make time for the more subtle levels of the process to integrate and settle. After yoga or pilates, they don’t scramble out the door, they flow. And it shows. While we all want to slow the aging process, these clients who have learned to pace themselves and look younger to me than they did when they first started coming to see me, even if years have gone by. On the physical level, it makes sense—research has suggested that stress hormones like cortisol directly affect the body’s ability to produce collagen.
My resolution is to bring more clarity and peace to every other goal I undertake this year. In the smallest ways, that will mean starting my days with a single intention, one that I can revisit on a short break between meetings. And every now and again that will mean leaving a day completely open—letting go of the schedule and just seeing where life takes me. For you it might mean taking the dog for an extra long walk, canceling an appointment or tucking in for an extra hour of sleep. Sometimes we forget the power found in these small, simple kindnesses towards ourselves. But we can’t undervalue their impact. There’s potency in each small moment of peace, which is what really makes every other New Year’s resolution come into being.
It’s a Beautiful Day - Embracing the natural world can improve mental, emotional and physical well-being
There is almost nothing as glorious as a Palm Beach sunrise, a gift that is there for us all to share—incredibly—every single morning. What an invitation to ease. It’s so stunning there on the sand as the sky lights up at the horizon. And it all happens in an instant. Your worries melt away as you allow yourself to be captivated by this wondrous and gentle beauty. When I leave for work early, sometimes I just have to pull over to enjoy it. Time stops in the stillness. Then—completely restored—I’m off again.
While so many of us move from one busy week to the next, and from one busy season to another one that’s just as full, living here surrounded by such a wealth of nature offers a rich opportunity to stay grounded and in the present. You don’t need a formal meditation practice. Walking on the beach at sunrise guides so naturally into a contemplative state of mind. Tuning into the sound of the waves, and taking in long, deep breaths of the sea air while feeling each foot fall on the sand, benefits body, mind and spirit. Research has shown that listening to water sounds can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol after just ten minutes. Greeting the morning light activates the pineal gland, and helps set our circadian rhythms, which is so beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing. Walking barefoot on the sand, we can absorb trace minerals through the feet.
But in Palm Beach we have opportunities to tap into nature's therapeutic beauty everywhere we turn. Walking along the lake trail I’m reminded of the generosity of this place. A mindful stroll through the Four Arts Gardens restores me to myself, and, of course, studies have shown that spending time in nature—even in an urban setting—triggers physiological effects that lower stress. Feeling peaceful like that allows me to see the good all around me. Perhaps you have gazed at the amazing kapok tree at the Royal Poinciana Chapel. Every time I pass a kapok tree, if I take the time, I can notice how the branches reach out so enticingly, almost as if you could get pulled into its embrace. I’ve also noticed that when I take time to recognize the little things, and to bring my awareness to the natural world, it makes a big shift in my perception. Living in deeper appreciation just feels so good. After all, this is the core of every meditation practice, sinking into the moment and finding our gratitude.
But when I’m moving too quickly, I miss out on these experiences, and the flow-on effects that follow. Every meal tastes that much more delicious when I’ve spent some time in the garden. It’s easier to sleep at night when I’ve taken a swim in the ocean that day. I laugh more after I steal away for a few hours to go horseback riding with my daughter. Nature makes it easy to thrive.
And yet, we can also see slowing down as a community-wide gift to one other. By leaning into nature and moving at a pace that allows for renewal and recognition, I know that the peaceful feeling I generate allows me to participate in gratitude and giving with the people around me, as well as those who matter most.
We could say that nature itself is a natural source of energy here in Palm Beach, and when we tap into that with our awareness, it has the power to radiate and to enrich our lives every day.
Flower of Love - Ylang Ylang Boosts Calming Properties Beyond It’s Wonderful Aroma
In Palm Beach we’re surrounded by so much natural beauty that we can take it for granted—almost. My prettily blooming ylang-ylang tree reminded me of our good fortune recently when I was taking a stroll with my husband Marc and we were both stopped in our tracks by its mesmerizing scent. That moment in itself was a gift. But over the years and throughout the tree’s long, cyclical blooming, ylang-ylang has been the lucky aroma surrounding us when giving our youngest daughter a roller-skating lesson in front of the house, or when the boys take our dogs for a walk. After a recent family trip to Portugal, it was the scent we arrived to—the lush tropical perfume of ylang-ylang’s sunny yellow blossoms carrying us home on the breeze.
The plant world beckons to our senses, creating connections through its beauty, but also through a long legacy of healing. So many powerful medicines have grown from the plant world—aspirin, with its roots in willow, or the compounds used in chemotherapy, some of which come from the yew tree. As a holistic practitioner, I love to nurture both sides of that bridge, because to me the aesthetic splendor of the plant kingdom is not separate from its healing strength.
While ylang-ylang is treasured by perfumers for its intoxicating, lightly-fruity sweetness (it’s a key ingredient in Chanel No. 5), I’ve seen over the years not only how effectively ylang-ylang helps tone and balance the skin, but also how miraculously it dissolves stress. It’s the essence I recommend in times of grief, or to help reduce anxiety, properties which have intrigued medical researchers studying the plant’s capabilities. In the same way the roses in my kitchen garden offer rejuvenation to the skin while opening up the heart to joy. The essence of sweet orange not only helps balance active skin, but it's celebrated as a mood-booster. In that way, the orange calamondins bringing their charm to the entry of our home offer an uplifting scent to welcome our guests with happiness.
This is why I’ve also planted so much night-blooming jasmine underneath our bedroom windows. Research has shown that the scent of jasmine can help improve sleep and calm restlessness. For those interested in starting a meditation practice, there is nothing quite like sitting in peaceful silent contemplation surrounded by the aroma of jasmine at the end of a long day. It’s all part of an ancient, intricate and inspiring relationship we have with the plants.
Working in my apothecary, I rely on all of these plant extracts and essences to create skincare formulas that transmit their transformative potency. But here in South Florida—incredibly—this is also the world we live in, graciously surrounded by nature’s healing wonders.
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