Red Reishi and Holy Basil (aka Tulsi)
Is it any wonder I am often referencing stress when talking about knitting? Most of us knit to unwind at the end of a long day, but the hobby itself can often be stressful (just ask the blanket I've ripped back twice this week!). Whenever my nerves start to get the best of me (in life or in knitting), I turn to herbal remedies. My two favourites are Reishi mushroom, known for its grounding and anti-stress properties. I take it in liquid tincture form or powdered in capsules from Purica. Another herb I rely on quite a bit is Holy Basil. This is an ayurvedic plant that noticably (and immediately) lifts your mood and makes all those little annoyances in life (like dropping a stitch) seem like no big deal. I take it in liquid-capsule form from Botanica or drink it as a lovely, flavourful tea from Organic Traditions.
This is one of those things that you can't believe you ever lived without.The Spoonk is an acupressure mat made of little plastic "spikes" that envigorate your system, relax your mind and deal with physical and emotional stress in one bound. Sore muscles, tired mind - just a few minutes of standing on my spoonk and I feel so much better. "The mat stimulates specific reflex points throughout the body, releases blocked energy, eases tense muscles and creates deep mental and physical relaxation." I take it on the airplane and have it open at home so I can stand on it anytime. But don't limit yourself to standing on it. You can lie on it to treat back pain (or sore knitting shoulders), use it as a pillow to treat headaches (from reading those pesky lace charts) or target any area that might be bothering you.
Chinese balls (aka Baoding Balls)
I have been using these since I was a child, but I never realized their applications for knitters until recently. They are the perfect tool to provide hand strength and general balancing. When you have been knitting hard, make sure to take a break and spin these around for a few minutes. They will work different muscles in your hands to prevent injury and the gentle ringing they make provides a nice soothing break for the mind. They also make beautiful, little objects!
How to use them: Rotate them by rolling your fingers. Work clockwise and counterclockwise making sure to alternate hands. Eventually you can work on your speed and trying to avoid contact between the balls, but don't push yourself too hard - these are meant to be a meditative exercise.
Matcha Green Tea
I drink green tea all day for the many health benefits, but one of my favourite kinds is matcha tea. Matcha comes in a fine powder which can be whisked up into a frothy delight (or try a latte with almond milk). Because you are ingesting the whole tea leaf instead of an infusion of the leaves, it has more benefits than a regular cup of tea. One of the active chemicals in any green tea, theanine, works wonders on our bodies. It is an amino acid that helps to create a feeling of focused calm. Its psychoactive propterties cross the blood brain barrier, making it a quick and effective remedy for stress and "murky mind". Be cautious about drinking matcha later in the evening as it will give you a bit of an energy boost!
In my last post on natural products for knitters, I referenced mint oil as a great analgesic for sore hands and I stand by that. But a new favourite for me is Arnica cream. This is a herbal, homeopathic remedy that is capable of penetrating deep into the tissue. It is very gentle and soothing, making it great for sore hands or any kind of arthritis or injury. Try Traumeel or Arnicare from Boiron.
Essential Fatty Acids are necessary for good health, whether you are a knitter or not. There are many benefits systemically, but for knitters taking a fish oil supplement - or vegan equivalent - is essential to keep joints lubricated and to prevent injury. Knitters of all ages wind up with sore joints caused by inflammation, but that shouldn't stop you from casting on. EFAs ensure that cell membranes carry out their functions as they should. Try taking a fish oil supplement daily and you will soon notice the effects. I like to take mine in liquid form since it's more concentrated, but some don't enjoy the oily feeling in their mouths. Luckily now they have delightful flavours with no fishy "burp back". My favourites are Nutrasea from Ascenta (they have yummy flavours like Apple and Mango!) and Karlene's Sealicious. If you really can't stomach the liquid form, try some gel caps from Nordic Naturals.
I am a die-hard book lover. Being a bit of a Luddite when it comes to technology, I don't even own a cell phone. So, I was very resistant to an e-reader at first and declared that I would never give up reading paper books. Until I realized the main benefit to having an e-reader: you can now read and knit at the same time! In my last post I was touting the benefits of using a book stand. The only downside to that is it takes time to turn each page (a few stitches worth of time at least). Now all I have to do is quickly tap my kindle and I can seamlessly keep reading and knitting, barely missing a beat (I chose the kindle touch). There are other obvious, non-knitting related benefits to a kindle, which I will leave to other bloggers and reviewers to explore (lightweight and compact, stores mutiple books, environmentally friendly), but the benefits to knitters are incredible. Heck. You can even knit a cozy for your kindle. I still curl up with a good paper book in bed, but if my needles are in hand, you can be sure that my kindle is close by.