The ingredients in this salve include grown and ethically gathered here on Whidbey Island Douglas fir branches (windfall), stinging nettles (wild forest gathered), and peppermint, spearmint, rosemary, and lemon balm (grown here at Silly Dog Studios) infused into organic extra virgin olive oil for 6 to 10 weeks, plus beeswax, and just a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil.
Size/container: Reusable 2-ounce, screw-top tin.
To use: 1. Rub this salve into the points on your body where you are holding extra tension/feeling unusually tense. For us this is often a spot on our hands or wrists, our temples, just below our ears, points in our neck, under our jawlines, along the tops of our shoulders, or spots in our backs. 2. If you can, breathe more deeply and intentionally while you do this. Mentally send your breath, and more openness, to the spot as you breathe in. I used to think this was woo woo but yoga classes taught me that it works wonders. If it works for you, it isn't woo woo! 3. If you can, then move to help your body release tension. For example, you may want to dance a bit, or go for a walk or jog, skip, dig in the garden, wrestle with the kids or dogs, swim, sing, laugh, cry, scream, swing your arms a bit, or do some stretches or yoga poses--all of which are great tension relievers.
Ideas for when to use: We made this Release Tension salve for when we ourselves are feeling extra tense, which is more often than our Responsible-and-Sort-of-Pulled-Together-Adult selves like to admit out loud. Here it's useful when:
- We've been sitting way too long. I love to write, and I find myself tense having just sat for FAR too long (I'm talking 4 to 8 hours of writing and forgetting to take a break). Sitting in front of the computer, and working on my phone too, without taking a break. One of these days I'll learn. For me, the tension is usually in my wrists from typing and jaw from clenching as I try to hold the whole world's pain. For Daniel, his sitting-too-long tension shows up in his hip flexors, his lower back, and his shoulders where they connect to his neck after hours of online teaching.
- Difficult discussions and conflicts make us tense. Some people grew up in families that taught them how to handle conflicts without tensing up. Not me. I've studied and learned as an adult, and at 51 I am still learning. So I often still tense up when I have difficult conversations or angry conflict with a neighbor, coworker, family member, or stranger (Pro move: Sometimes when I know that I'm about to have an important difficult discussion, and I want to show up less tense and more open to the moment, I may rub some salve into the places where tension typically shows up in me.)
We have to face painful realities on our own. I get tense when I just spent too many hours receiving difficult news, listening to friends or family members (or even strangers) bash and blame each other, learning painful cultural history and about equally painful current realities, talking to or even witnessing people who clearly dislike outspoken women or people of color or gay people (GRRR! I'm tensing up just writing that one) for example, and/or witnessing painful truths online or on TV alone. During ideal days and weeks, I balance the amount of time I spend facing painful realities alone with face-to-face time with trusted elders and adults and other wise beings (trees, cats, dogs, flowers, birds, children, etc.) to process, feel, name what we're feeling, and make some sense of life. The weeks I'm stuck processing everything alone, I'll sometimes lean on the salve because tension inevitably shows up in me when I try to face everything alone.
We're stuck and we're stressed about it. I mean temporarily stuck, such as sitting in terrible traffic for hours, sitting in a hours-long ferry line, or sitting waiting for a bus or train that broke down when we're trying to get to an important meeting, for example. This year, we're stuck visiting mom in her memory care home only occasionally, and then only through a window, which just sucks, but at least I'm aware that this is temporary. Important: If your stuckness is chronic--if you're stuck working or living in a place that you don't want to be, for example--then salve definitely isn't the answer. Reach out to a trusted community member for help.
- The western medical system isn't as supportive as we need it to be. I'm not bashing the whole system here, friends. Just saying that there are some parts of the allopathic medical system that cause considerable stress and tension and that feel, to me, like the opposite of healing. We tense up, for example, at moments when we're waiting and worrying about receiving difficult health news for ourselves or someone we love--without support. We may hear that someone "might" have cancer, for example, and be told that we won't know for sure for several weeks. Hello tension! Or, I once received a $15,000 bill for 4 hours in an ER, where I was so drugged up I would have signed anything you put in front of me and apparently they put a giant bill in front of me. That amount of money was more than I personally made that year. Hello tension! Actually, Release Tension salve could be useful for many difficult health-related moments that we know will tense us up, such as entering an emergency room or hospital room, seeing a loved one in pain and being unable to help in the moment, or saying goodbye to a loved one who has died when there are strangers hovering in the room.
When our bodies say "Hey, hello! I'm unusually tense!" Sometimes I feel unusually tense or tension headache-y before I know why. Sometimes I lean on the act of using the Release Tension salve to help me pin-point why I'm tense and figure out next steps.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this page is for general reference for further exploration and study. It is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. I'm an herbalist who leans on ever-deepening relationships with local forests and plants and herbs and flowers and lichen, local wise women, ancestors (my own and others), other herbalists, and learning traditional folk ways from people who love to share them, every chance I get. I study forests and plants directly, plus wellness, community connectedness, resilience, self-organizing groups, playfulness and humor, and life--I don't study illness and disease. So, please, to make well-informed decisions for yourself, seek the guidance of your qualified health professional, such your medical doctor, nurse practitioner, naturopathic physician, and/or clinical herbalist with questions regarding your medical conditions, dosage information, and possible interactions with prescription drugs. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking prescription drugs, have a chronic disease or any chronic concern, and/or you have allergies.
What our relationships with local plants bring us! Your experience of the plants and trees in this salve may be remarkably different from ours: that's the nature of relationships with the living. You may simply love the plants for their smell or the memories that they bring up in you or how soft the salve feels or for the salve's ability to offer you a moment's peace in a hectic day. That's great! And. Here is what our relationships with the local plants, herbs, and trees in this salve bring to us:
- Douglas fir - Relaxes our spinning minds and tight muscles, connects us to the earth we're on right now, and causes us to slow down and breathe deeply, to the point we notice that there's a much larger community to lean on here than we imagined on our own. Like a walk in the woods does.
- Mints - Peppermint relives our tension and soothes our tension headaches. Makes us want to breathe more deeply and often makes me want to go outside to get a breath of fresh air and hang out with the peppermint plants themselves. Spearmint contributes to feeling calm while simultaneously lifting our spirits and helping us feel that we are in the right place and receiving what we need.
- Rosemary - Connects us to a sense of peace within, especially when we're struggling with others or struggling with something about ourselves we're not fans of. Can unlock memories and connections to loved ones and ancestors: a powerful gift for people in families like mine (where Younger Onset Alzheimer's disease comes for many of us in our 50s).
- Lemon balm - A powerhouse! It, too, both calms us down and uplifts our spirits. Slow our too-fast minds. It can also ease our anxiety and fear and help us restore our energy when we've stretched ourselves too thin or been with too many people for too long (hey introverts!). Helps with sadness and grief, too--although personally I think it belongs in tea or food to help with deep or recent grieving. I include only a little lemon balm in the salve, because I have hypothyroidism (low functioning thyroid) and have read multiple times that too much lemon balm is something those with hypothyroidism should avoid. I've never had a problem with using it, though. But like I said above, talk to your doctor to make better-informed choices for you.
- Stinging nettles - They're powerful in so many ways--too many to discuss here. They're in this salve because they help me handle irritation and feel more powerful. They've taught me about the power of irritation. They've shown me that I am strong enough to survive, move, and even dream while dealing with considerable irritation. Here, nettles stand with us when we're feeling irritated, especially when we have a decision to make and we're not sure what to do. They've demonstrated to me time and again that ignoring or hurrying past irritation isn't the only way or even best way to go (and sometimes hurrying past isn't even possible). Nettles help me stop and really notice the irritation. Look at it. Go deeper. Imagine alternatives. Why--really--am I irritated right now? There's an easy answer. And there are many more answers--and solutions and possibilities and delights--for those who stop to notice and learn from and with what irritates them.
Where the idea for this salve came from: The longer I listen to local forests, wild and cultivated plants and flowers, wise women, and herbalists, the more I understand how much local plants and flowers and forests and wild, undeveloped-by-us lands themselves support our emotional and spiritual well being--not just our physical well being as Younger Lori once thought.
This salve reflects my deepening relationship with the trees, wild plants, cultivated herbs, and open forests and fields here on Whidbey, and my growing understanding that I'd never have survived the past few (ok, 50) stressful years without them. I've been a care partner for my Mom Linda, who lives with Alzehimer's disease, for more than 15 years now. She has taught me--with pure presence and without words, like the plants do--that there are moments in life that you can go out running or dancing or mountain climbing or some other activity to release the tension that comes with being human in today's world. And there are moments that you can't. Moments you are homebound. Traffic bound. Ferry bound. Work bound. Bound to sit by a bed for hours and hold somebody's hand. This salve is for the moments you are tense when physical movement and community conversation to relax and release tension aren't yet options. Which, frankly, has been many moments of my life as a care partner, and as a writer and editor, and recently as someone living through a pandemic, and even as someone who lives in a place with really cold, wet, dark winters that make us want to hole up indoors for too-long periods of time.