Join A Month-Long Mind, Body, And Soul Series

mind body spirit series

Join the young adult cancer communities of the Dear Jack Foundation, Elephants and Tea, and Lacuna Loft during our month-long, Mind, Body, and Soul wellness series in May for an opportunity to connect, grow, and stretch!  We will be offering weekly, 90-minute sessions to help enhance the mind, body, and spirit and provide a chance to break down some of the isolation we’ve all been experiencing over the last few weeks.  Whether you are a seasoned yogi, meditator, or writer, or a newbie to the world of mind and body care, come and try something new in a safe, fun, and encouraging environment – your own home!

These classes will be free and hosted through Zoom and all experience levels are welcome!  You can come to one or come to all!  Sign up on the form below!

Thursday, May 7th at 9 am PT/10 am MT/noon ET – Mind, Body, and Spirit Wellness Series Intro Happy Hour Hangout
Thursday, May 14th at 9 am PT/10 am MT/noon ET – Creative Writing with Mallory Casperson
Thursday, May 21st at 9 am PT/10 am MT/noon ET – Slow Flow Yoga with Tara Picklo
Thursday, May 28th at 9 am PT/10 am MT/noon ET – Meditation with Angie Giallourakis

Want to learn more about each session in the Mind, Body, and Soul Series?

5/7 Mind, Body, and Spirit Wellness Series Intro Happy Hour Hangout

Join Dear Jack Foundation, Elephants and Tea, and Lacuna Loft for the kickoff to our Mind, Body, Soul Digital Series in a fun and informal Happy Hour Hangout! We’ll talk about the AYA cancer community, each of the great organizations bringing you the Mind, Body, Soul Series, what you can expect at each session, and more! Hangout with other people who understand what it’s like to go through young adult cancer.

5/14 Mind: Writing Workshop hosted by Lacuna Loft

The Writing Workshop Session will take the group through some purposeful journaling! Many of us, while going through a crisis such as young adult cancer, find writing out our thoughts, fears, or emotions to be very helpful. Sometimes though, sitting down to write can seem overwhelming. Together, we’ll go through 2 short writes, responding to writing prompts in 5-minute intervals and then reading out loud if desired. Join a group of young adult cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers in a writing workshop!

5/21 Body: Yoga hosted by Dear Jack Foundation

Let’s join together as an online commUNITY with a Slow Flow Yoga class. Yoga means union of the physical body through breath. That begins the journey inward where we can access the spirit, soul, and center of wisdom and bliss. We will take careful notice of the physical body and then connect intentionally with the breath that sustains and gives us a sense of ease. After settling in, the body will flow freely on the mat through a series of poses that will provide flexibility, strength, and connection to our true nature. We will end class with a short meditation to further develop mindfulness. This class is for everyone – all skill levels are welcome!

5/28 Soul: Meditation hosted by Elephants and Tea

This Meditation Session will introduce the participant to breathe and body sensing in order to tune-in and relax the mind and body. The session will be approximately 30 – 40 minutes. Participants will learn about how meditation can help reduce stress. At the end of the session, participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the teacher.

Angie is a Level II iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation Teacher.

Herbs to Help the Body Heal: Part 2

herbs and wellness

In my life and herbal medicine practice, I have come to view health challenges as opportunities to connect more deeply with nature– particularly with plants that offer support and nourishment for body and spirit. This is the second article in a series of three, exploring plants that nature offers those of us living with and recovering from cancer.

Nourishing Tonic Herbs

In the herbal Materia Medica—the array of medicinal plants in our tool kit— I admit that I play favorites. Though I’m grateful for potent, low-dose plants during times of illness, I champion tonic herbs. Rather than aiding healing during brief periods of sickness, tonics are incorporated into one’s regular diet to support wellness. They are gentle and nutrient-dense. When used casually, tonics are nutritious food. When used regularly, research and traditional knowledge demonstrate notable “medicinal” effects on various body systems.

Stinging Nettle Leaf

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is the tonic I use most commonly. It grows like a weed in moist, partly shaded places, especially along creeks. Nettles have a reputation for being rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. Though some nutritious leafy herbs have a bitter flavor (ie. dandelion leaf), I find nettles slightly sweet and pleasant.

Nettles are a mild, nourishing tea for anytime.
Nettles are a mild, nourishing tea for anytime.

According to David Hoffman’s Medical Herbalism, “Nettle is one of the most widely applicable plants in the materia medica. The herb strengthens and supports the whole body. Throughout Europe, nettle is used as a spring tonic and general detoxifying remedy” (591). When used regularly, the leaf has a reputation for easing arthritis, seasonal allergies, skin ailments, anemia and more (Gilbert, 303).

Though nettle tea is readily available to purchase, nettles are easy to wild-harvest yourself. Be sure of identification; a quick brush of the hand along its stinging hairs will serve as confirmation. Wear gloves when you harvest, unless you desire the circulation-stimulating sting that some intentionally seek! (It’s called “urtication.” Think bee sting therapy). Once nettle leaves are crushed, cooked or dried, they lose their sting and are as safe to eat as spinach. Harvest in spring or early summer before they flower.

Red Clover

I often see Red clover (Trifolium pratense) blooming in open fields during the summer. The bright pink flowers are edible, slightly sweet and nutritious. Like other legumes, the plant contains a range of isoflavones, or phytoestrogens (plant estrogens).

Phytoestrogens can outcompete more aggressive estrogens for estrogen receptors in the body. They may also offer a gentle estrogenic presence when our body is low on its own estrogens. Some practitioners recommend eating soy for these phytoestrogens, suggesting they can ease menopausal symptoms and prevent certain cancers for some. However, many practitioners caution that conventional soy products are poorly digested unless they are fermented, as tempeh and miso are.

Red clover bridges the gap between these camps. The phytoestrogens in red clover flowers are much more gentle than those in soy. Though red clover leaves can be tough on some stomachs, the flowers are easily digested for most people. Plus, those pretty blossoms are irresistible in a teacup, or tossed into salad.

Feel free to harvest red clover blossoms yourself. Eat or make tea from fresh flowers, or thoroughly and quickly dehydrate them. If any of the flowers look brown, discard them.

Oat Straw

Oat straw (Avena sativa) comes from the same plant that produces our hot breakfast cereal. For those less familiar with herbs, I love offering such a common plant in a different way. The straw has traditionally been used as mild and mineral-rich tea. According to Dr. Sharol Tilgner, the plant is rich in calcium, iron, manganese, and zinc. The developing seed of the plant, or “milky oats,” are a source of protein, and used as a calming nervous system tonic (Tilgner, 128).

Peggy Fitzgibbon harvests milky oats from her garden in western NY
Peggy Fitzgibbon harvests milky oats from her garden in western NY

Red Raspberry Leaf

If you enjoy the taste of black or green tea, Red Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is the herb I recommend to you. Its tannins are reminiscent of a delicate black tea, without the caffeine. Tannins create an astringent effect, gently toning the tissue of the gastrointestinal and reproductive systems (Hoffman, 578). Like the other herbs we’ve discussed, it is highly safe and shown to be suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers (Gilbert, 316).

Raspberry leaf carries a nutritional bonus. One study found that the leaf is significantly higher in antioxidants than the berry, pound for pound. It is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and a range of trace minerals and vitamins (Wilkins).

Sourcing and Preparation

All of these herbs shine when consumed in tea form. A longer steep is required to extract minerals and other desirable constituents. Place 1 tsp – 2 Tbsp herb per cup of water in a jar or mug. Pour boiling water over the herb, cover with a lid or plate, and steep 4-12 hours. Strain and enjoy warm or cold. A little honey is a nice way to jazz up your cup.

Though these plants can be harvested yourself, they can easily be purchased as well. Mountain Rose Herbs is an affordable and ethical source of a range of dried herbs. Feel free to mix and match to make your own tea blends. Since the herbs we’ve discussed are mild in flavor, I like to add peppermint or holy basil to my blend for an aromatic kick.

Happy sipping!


For educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Cech, Richo. Making Plant Medicine. Williams: 2016. pp. 231-232.

Gilbert, Cyndi, ND. The Essential Guide to Women’s Herbal Medicine. Toronto: 2015. pp. 303-305, 316.

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Rochester: 2003. pp. 578, 591.

Marlowe, Maria. “Is Soy Healthy or Not?” Huffington Post, June 2014.

Tilgner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth. Pleasant Hill, 2009. pp. 128, 142.

Wilkins, Elena. “Benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea.” Vegalicious. May 2014.

Please remember this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention.  Please learn more and always speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes yourself.  Lacuna Loft supports healthy living.  Find what works best for you!

Herbs To Help The Body Heal: Part 1


In my life and herbal medicine practiceI have come to view health challenges as opportunities to connect more deeply with nature– particularly plants that offer support and nourishment for body and spirit. This is the first article in a series of three, exploring some plants that nature offers those of us living with and recovering from cancer.

Fu Zheng Pei Ben

There are herbs to support all phases of an individual’s experience with cancer—including mid-treatment. In my herbal medicine practice, I often ask myself, “How can I support and nourish this individual without interfering with existing medications or therapies?”

China’s medical system offers an excellent model for supporting those receiving cancer treatments. As in the US, many forms of cancer are treated with radiation and chemotherapy. In China, it is considered good practice to curb side effects and nourish the body while administering such strong treatment. Out of this belief came a therapy approach called fu zheng pei ben, which translates to ‘support the normal qi and strengthen resistance.’

Fu zheng pei ben uses many adaptogen herbs. Adaptogens are a category of herbs that enhance the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional stressors. Most are supportive of a range of body systems, including the cardiovascular, endocrine, and digestive systems. Adaptogens are considered non-toxic, stamina-boosting, and safe for long-term use. Each contains constituents shown to be chemoprotective and radioprotective, antioxidant, and immune-boosting. Adaptogens are used to mitigate side-effects of cancer treatments, including nausea, fatigue, low red blood cell count, immune suppression, and decreased white blood cell count.

Below are three of my favorite fu-zheng herbs, plus two herbs from India that fill a similar niche. Their gentleness also makes them appropriate during mildly stressful times of life—anytime, really. They are most effective when taken daily over a longer period of time (4-6 months, or much longer).

  • Astragalus root has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Studies demonstrate its ability to increase low red blood cell formation, increase white blood cell count, and stimulate a range of immune functions. It is frequently used in combination with medications to reduce side effects and toxicity.
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants.
  • In a clinical study, eleuthero root was shown to reverse bone marrow suppression and leukopenia—common conditions among patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy. Eleuthero is liver-protective, immune-boosting, and may improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Studies demonstrate Reishi mushroom’s ability to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. This herb is also used to support the “shen”—one’s emotional and mental balance. Anxiety, insomnia, and mild depression may all be supported by Reishi.
  • Ashwagandha root is used to mitigate the depletion of white blood cells that can occur during cancer treatments. Like Reishi, it is often used for its calming effects on the nervous system. Ashwagandha is also rich in iron, and may be helpful for those with iron-deficient anemia.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): Drinking a delicious tea like Tulsi can be as uplifting as the properties it contains. Fragrant holy basil is revered and heavily-used in India. A holy basil alcohol extract was shown to have a “significant antistress” effect in mice. It may help protect against damage induced by chemotherapy and radiation. It has a reputation for improving digestion and mental clarity.

Due to their food-like nature, adaptogens can be fun to “take”! This adaptoballs recipe has a nut butter and honey base. It can be tweaked to include whichever herb powders you, your doctor, and an herbalist agree work best for you. Be sure to store powders in the freezer to maintain their potency. Adaptogens are frequently taken as tinctures (alcohol extracts) as well. A local herbalist may offer a much lower cost than store bought tinctures.

Talk with your doctor before adding adaptogens to your treatment plan. Keep in mind that most US medical schools no longer require herbal medicine training. Be prepared to present studies and articles about your herb(s) of choice to your doctor. An herbalist should be consulted in choosing the best herbs for you.


1.) Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism, Rochester: 2003. pp. 532, 545.

2.) Ming Li, Pan. “Cancer Treatment with Fu Zheng Pei Ben Principle.” Fujian Science and Technology Press, 1992.

3.) Winston, David and Stven Maimes. Adaptogens. Rochester: 2007. pp. 95-98, 140, 159, 169.


Please remember this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention.  Please learn more and always speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes yourself.  Lacuna Loft supports healthy living.  Find what works best for you!