Today on the blog, we have an interview with Melanie St. Ours, an author and Baltimore clinical herbalist who specializes in women’s health and mental health.
How did your clinical herbalist passion ignite?
Even though I'd had a lifelong interest in natural healing, I didn't have the courage to turn to herbs until I ran head-first into the limitations of our current healthcare system. It was 2008, and by day I was working as a massage therapist at a busy physical therapy clinic in downtown DC where I was the go-to person for clients with chronic illnesses, trauma histories, and other complex cases. Even with weekly treatments, I could see that they needed more options and that pharmaceuticals often didn't work for their needs. Meanwhile, I was getting sicker and sicker with Ulcerative Colitis --- and was shut out of the system because my "pre-existing condition" made it possible for health insurance companies to deny me access to a policy in those days before The Affordable Car Act had passed.
Seeing the ways that the system can fail people --- both those with access and those without --- made me passionate about becoming an herbalist so that I could teach people how to care for themselves with the medicines the Earth herself provides. I think of herbal medicine as a powerful complement to the medical system. The combination of both approaches is incredibly powerful, and we all deserve access to the best of both worlds.
How has this professional journey helped you in pregnancy?
More than anything, my herbal knowledge allowed me to enter into pregnancy in great health. I'm convinced that being well-nourished and well-supported was a big part of what made it possible for me to conceive right away at age 35 and to have a pregnancy that's been pretty comfortable and uneventful. I'm at 34 weeks today and still feeling good!
What has been the most helpful natural remedies for you while facing typical pregnancy ailments? Inflammation? Constipation? Decreased energy levels? Leg cramping? (Feel free to add any others)
It was a shock when I started experiencing constipation since I'm a vegan and am fantastically regular outside of pregnancy, but my favorite flax seed stool softener has been a huge help! (And I plan to drink this during labor and early postpartum to help make that first BM after birth as easy as possible.) If you want to try it, here's the recipe:
Flaxseed Stool Softener
(from The Simple Guide to Natural Health by Melanie St. Ours)
1 heaping TBSP whole flax seeds
8oz room temperature (or cold) water
1. Combine flax seeds and water in a cup or jar. Stir until all of the seeds are wet.
2. Let the cup or jar sit undisturbed at room temperature or in the fridge for 6-12 hours.
3. After steeping it complete, strain the seeds from the water. (You'll notice that the flax water is thickened and gel-like, especially toward the bottom of the glass/jar. This is what you want!) Drink the water/gel. You can use the soaked flax seeds in a smoothie or on food, or simply discard/compost them.
4. To prevent constipation, drink 1 serving per day. To reverse constipation, drink at least 2 servings per day -- one in the morning and one in the evening. You can increase to up to 4 doses per day if needed, and/or use this remedy in combination with Magnesium to enhance results.
I hope this will help you get some relief in the near future! If you try it for 2-3 days and don't notice much change, I'd add some liquid Magnesium (or Natural Calm dissolved in water) to the equation until you're feeling better.
I understand you have written a book that compiles your professional journey as a clinical herbalist. What inspired you to write the book? What is your hope for the book after publishing?
Well, the book isn't really about my journey as much as it's a guide to help others who are starting out on their own. 🙂 It's called The Simple Guide to Natural Health and is designed to make it easy for beginners to get the most out of all kinds of natural remedies including essential oils, natural body care recipes, healing foods (these are some of my favorite recipes in the whole book!), and homemade herbal tea blends, tinctures, and treats. We've already sold over 10,000 copies and I've spotted the book "in the wild" at Whole Foods, so really my biggest hope at this point is just that it reaches people and helps them to start experiencing how amazing herbs are in their own lives. This medicine really does belong to all of us, and I hope that my work somehow makes it a little bit easier for people to get started.