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Archive for herbs

Let’s Build Our Immunity

echinacia, garlic, morindaSneezing, coughing, watery eyes and runny noses are the order of the day, it seems. It’s the time of year when the seasons are changing, the trees are beginning to drop leaves, and molds fill the air. And there are new strains of flu this year again. This is the time of year when our immune systems are bombarded daily, and many of us fall prey to colds, flu, and allergies.

Your immune system may already be working below par. It can be weakened by parasites, viruses, poor diet, toxins, smoking, a poor environment, poor lifestyle choices, lack of exercise, inadequate rest … anything that causes it to have to work too hard. If you “catch everything that comes along” or feel generally poor much of the time, you’re at higher risk of being laid up by another “bug”.

But you can prepare for the season. You can do much to build your immune system so that it can adequately fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Let’s look at how the immune system works. Its basic function is to protect the body from “foreign invaders.” Your bone marrow produces specialized cells that produce antibodies to neutralize these invaders. Your lymphatic system “filters” toxins and microbes from body tissues for cleansing. And tonsils, the spleen and the thymus also produce fighters and cleanse. The enemy? All those things listed above that weaken the body. There are a number of herbs that may help to “boost” it and allow the body to “fight.” Several popular immune system-building herbs are:

  • Echinacea – The root has important anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal actions that help build resistance to infections. It protects the cell-bonding tissues in the body that protect cells from infection. And it contains two polysacharides that stimulate “killer” cells. This is probably the most popular of the winter herbs for both children and adults.
  • Garlic – It has a broad range of well-documented healing properties including being anti-microbial against bacteria, fungi and worms. Because it contains aromatic sulfur-containing oils, many body systems including the respiratory system benefit. Be sure to get garlic containing its full complement of allicin (often removed from “odorless” garlic) as this does much of the healthful work. The odor can be absorbed with the use of herbs rich in chlorophyll.
  • Grape seed and white pine extracts – These are powerful antioxidants, up to 50 times more potent than vitamin E. They strengthen connective tissues including the blood vessels and capillaries needed to carry the “fighter” cells.
  • Golden Seal – The root of this herb is a rapidly effective, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, healing tonic. It may be particularly helpful after symptoms of the flu have set in. It is frequently used with damaged or infected tissues including the eyes, mouth and throat. One word of caution with golden seal, it should be used with caution by hypoglycemics because it is known to lower blood sugar levels.
  • Morinda – The roots, leaves and fruit are used in either capsule or liquid forms. Known as “Nono” in Tahiti and “Noni” in Hawaii, it has been called the “queen of sacred plants” throughout the Pacific basin. It benefits most of the body systems, particularly the immune system. It builds the immune system by increasing the white blood cell count to fight bacteria.
  • Anamu – Folk use suggests that, while this herb is not as well known in this country, people with compromised immune systems (chronic immune system deficiencies) may benefit from the immune-supporting properties of the anamu leaf.
  • Bifidophilus – These are actually friendly bacteria necessary for digestion and found in your intestine. I mention them here because pharmaceutical antibiotics, which we often use during the cold and flu season, kill indiscriminately both friendly and unfriendly bacteria. So, it is usually helpful to take some bifidophilus after completing a round of antibiotics.

Many of these herbs can be found in teas – a tasty way to build your immune system. And there are many combinations of these and other herbs specifically designed to support specific glands – e.g., the spleen or the thymus.

Aromatherapists have also shown us that there are a number of essential oils that may benefit us at this season, too. Oils such as camphor and eucalyptus open the sinuses and upper respiratory tracts to allow us to breathe better. Diffused tea tree and other oils can kill airborne viruses and bacteria in our homes and workplaces.

For the common cold, try one or more of the following. Put a few drops of thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus and lemon oils in your bath and breath deeply. Do a facial steam and add a drop of thyme, tea tree, lavender and clove oil. Keep a tissue with you that you can inhale from as often as necessary; moisten it with a drop of red thyme, peppermint, eucalyptus, and clove oils. Massage the chest, neck, forehead, nose and cheekbones with a drop of lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary oils diluted in a teaspoon of vegetable oil.

A dry cough may be relieved by adding a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil and a couple of drops of lemon oil to a couple of tablespoons of honey, mixing it with a small glass of warm water, and sipping it slowly.

Assist your body in putting up a good fight against those foreign invaders that would make you ill. Regardless of the current state of your immune system, you can help it to improve. The keys are good nutrition, plenty of rest and exercise, and adjustments of unhealthy lifestyles and habits. Herbs, teas, and oils can help. Enjoy good health and God’s richest blessings. Gen.1:29.

– Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch – Alternative Health Clinic and Market, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@thehealthpatch.com or visit thehealthpatch.com.

Herbs from Your Garden

herb garden, herbs

Herb Garden [photographer – ladymacbeth]

I was looking at a beautiful book this week that has pictures of formal herb gardens from around the world.  Many of them use classical designs and are carefully planned.  And I was reminded of my mom’s backyard garden.  It wasn’t formal by any stretch of the imagination, but it was useful and full of wonderful vegetables – and herbs.  You see, mom canned many of her vegetables and we ate them all year long.  The herbs were useful, and often essential, to the process.  Kitchen gardens, as they were called, were popular in much of American history, and had every sort of vegetable and herb which one might want for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Possibilities

For many years now I too have had backyard herb gardens.  They have taken the form of a small plot surrounded by landscaping timbers, to an assortment of pots on the back porch or patio, to just using herbs as borders or focal points in my flower beds.  Most herbs are “cultivated weeds” and few of them need special attention.  We can grow a variety of tasty herbs in the Oklahoma Summers and enhance both our meals and our health.  Here are some plants which most of us regard as culinary herbs.  Yet many of them have wonderful health benefits in addition to their delectable flavors.

Basil

That staple of Italian cooking is easy to grow.  It is an annual which often re-seeds itself.  A single plant will grow to about two feet tall and provide most families with all the leaves they need.  What is left over at the end of the Summer can be dried and used all Winter too.  As a medicinal herb, its uses are usually associated with the stomach and its related organs; it helps stop stomach cramps, alleviate constipation, and stop vomiting.  It is also useful for drawing out poisons when applied to wasp and hornet stings or venomous bites.

Dill

Dill is a prolific producer.  It readily re-seeds itself so be careful to plant it where you won’t mind it coming back year after year.  While dill is necessary for making dill pickles, it is also very useful for stimulating your appetite.  Dill tea is a popular remedy for upset stomach, nursing mothers can use it to promote the flow of milk, and you can chew the seeds to get rid of bad breath.  An added bonus to dill in the flower beds is that it is one of the plants that butterfly larvae love to eat, so butterflies will be present to lay their eggs in a dill patch.  Use it to attract more butterflies to your garden.

Sage

Sage is a wonderful addition to sausages.  And many a mother has used a sage dressing for holiday feasts.  It’s a perennial bush that will grow to about three feet and should be pruned back like a rose bush every fall (otherwise it will get very woody).  It is well known for reducing perspiration making it useful for conditions which produce night sweats, and a nursing mother who has weaned her child can use it to help stop the flow of milk.  For occasional use, a tea made from sage has been prescribed for nervous conditions, trembling, depression and vertigo.  As a gargle, it is useful for sore throats, laryngitis, and tonsillitis.  And the crushed leaves can be used for insect bites.  Many a woman has used infusions of sage to color silver hair, and as a hair rinse to help return hair to its original color.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a popular perennial, but will not usually survive the Oklahoma Winters outdoors.  So plant it in a pot and bring it indoors for the winter.  You’ll enjoy the wonderful aroma it will impart to your kitchen.  Two of its most popular culinary dishes are leg of lamb and herbed potatoes.  Medicinally, rosemary has been in use for many years as a heart strengthener that helps reduce high blood pressure.  It is a blood cleanser and an antiseptic; it is useful for sores around the mouth, and it makes a wonderful mouthwash to freshen the mouth.  A tea made from rosemary has been effective as an eyewash to clean eyes that are sore due to allergic irritation.

Parsley

Parsley is another herb that the butterflies love.  It was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as both a flavoring and a garnish for foods.  While most of us see it as a token garnish on restaurant plates, it is really edible and its high chlorophyll content makes it a natural for breath sweeteners.  It is diuretic and is frequently used in formulas to build internal organs including kidney, thyroid, liver and prostate.  Rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is especially known as a digestive aid, improving digestion and reducing cramping and gas after meals.

We could list many more herbs that you can grow this Spring: thyme, garlic, onions, any of the mints, oregano, etc.  But you get the picture.  Why not pick up a few of your favorites at a local nursery and enjoy them fresh from your own yard.  You’ll add taste to your food, joy to your soul, and health to your body.

Enjoy good health and God’s richest blessings.  Gen.1:29.

– Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC 73130, phone/fax: 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@thehealthpatch.com

Herbs During Pregnancy

Pregnant outdoors

There are many herbs that may be used during every stage of pregnancy – from planning to post-delivery.  They can make the pregnancy and delivery easier and help to ensure a healthy baby as well.

If you are planning to become pregnant then ensure you are on a good prenatal vitamin with ample vitamin E, folic acid, calcium and magnesium, and trace minerals.  This will enhance your health and the health of your baby as well.  Incorporate a regular exercise regimen to your daily activities. And keep ginger on hand to address morning sickness and magnesium for anticipated constipation.

If you are having trouble becoming pregnant, consider supplements containing several of the “female” herbs, like red raspberry leaves, false unicorn, blessed thistle, squawvine, ginger and uva ursi.  These help prepare your body to conceive and start the pregnancy well.  You might also consider having the father take some damiana as it will help to increase his sperm count.

Tea pot and cupDuring the last five weeks of the pregnancy, there are herbs that will begin to condition your body for an easier delivery. They should only be used during this last five weeks! Common supplements for this use include more squawvine and red raspberry leaf together with black cohosh, butcher’s broom, and dong quai.  Users have reported to me that they had less painful and shorter duration contractions, easier delivery with less tearing, and deliveries that were less stressful.

There are several herbs that should not be used during pregnancy as they may complicate this special time. Among them are herbs we routinely use for deep constipation (cascara sagrada and senna), wormwood, juniper berries and the anti-parasitic artemisia. Aromatherapy should be used sparingly and very carefully if at all.

Childbirth should be a time of great joy for a new mother.  These herbs should also help make it easier and more pleasant.

–  Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@promoteyourhealth.com.

Detox Options

Many of the things we eat routinely can not only be “not good for us,” they can often be toxic.  Add these effects on our bodies to the others we encounter every day (smog, air pollution, industrial pollutants, household cleansers, food preservatives and dyes, chemical fumes, car exhaust, normal metabolism, poor elimination of food, waste products in the blood from illness or disease…), and we can see that we can really have our bodies bombarded with toxins.  The inevitable consequences are further disease or debility.  Cleansing (detoxification) should be a recurring part of our normal routine. I personally follow a routine that includes a monthly detoxification – perhaps an organ or a body system or a whole-body cleanse.

Periodic cleansing has been included in recorded history for millennia.  Traditional health practices of many nations – Chinese, Europeans, Ayurveda, Native American, and Asiatic Indians – practiced and still continue some form of detoxification.  In early American history, the Pennsylvania Dutch ate wild greens like lettuce and dandelions and other herbs in the spring to cleanse their bodies after a long winter of heavy foods.  Native Americans used black teas made from yaupon hollies to produce sweating and bowel evacuation.  One writer even suggests “nature herself seems to suggest the importance of detoxification … many of the plants that burst forth in early spring are cleansing in nature.”

There are many ways to cleanse.  The program you choose may last only a day or two or a week or two.  It may even take the form of a recurring dietary change.  Most of us know of foods that seem to “go right through us … a hint that they may be added to our personal cleansing program.  And some foods seem to work for most everyone – e.g., fresh cherries, available in early spring, have a definite cleansing effect on the bowels and help eliminate the uric acid buildup linked to heavy meat consumption and diseases like joint problems or gout.  Fasting often accompanies detoxification regimens as well, but we’ll make that the subject of a future article.

I personally enjoy using herbs and herbal combinations to cleanse.  The phytonutrients in many of the herbs encourage the body to detoxify naturally.  And as a rule, we should be sure to cleanse the eliminative organs (kidneys and liver) and the blood and lymphatic systems, as well as the intestinal system.

Combinations for the organs should include herbs such as milk thistle, burdock root, barberry root bark, and dandelion root.  Adding lecithin and amino acids to your diet are also helpful especially for the liver.  The blood and lymph glands also benefit from the dandelion and burdock, and combinations for them should include red clover, Oregon grape root, butcher’s broom, garlic, pau d’arco bark and yellow dock.  Cleansers for the intestine include natural laxatives like cascara sagrada and senna leaves, high-fiber “scrubbers” like psyllium hulls, and parasite killers like artemisia, black walnut hulls, and elecampane.

Regular cleansing and detoxifying (at least two to four times per year) along with good nutrition, exercise, and proper supplements will add quality to your life and ward off many of the diseases that rob us of real joy.  Our improved distribution systems make most foods available to us year-round, so we tend to forget the cycles of nature. Start your own cleaning program and see how much better you feel.

–  For more information, contact Naturopathic Doctor Randy Lee, owner of The Health Patch at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, Midwest City, at 405-736-1030 or e-mail pawpaw@TheHealthPatch.com or visit TheHeathPatch.com.

Music for the Soul

a7e7690db6b64bafb1214361fee05665This month’s theme is right up my alley!  I’m now a Naturopathic Doctor, but I “began my life” as a musician with an undergraduate degree in music! So now I blend “body and soul” with herbs for the body and music for the soul! I greatly enjoy the pairings. When I’m happy and energetic, I enjoy bee pollen, Co-enzyme Q-10, Gotu Kola, or Ginkgo Biloba for my body paired with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the Ode to Joy, 50s rock & roll or some upbeat hymns for my soul.

When I’m experiencing something like Neal Diamond’s Song Sung Blue, I pair any of a number of our suppliers Mood Elevator formulas or a bit of 5-HPT or St. John’s Wort for my body with Wagner’s Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral, any of a number of the Star Wars themes, or a more contemporary, uplifting Abba song for my soul.

A well-known cliché says “music calms the savage beast.”  So often anger brings me to essential oils like lavender or rose, a calming magnesium tonic, or a cup of chamomile tea for my body, or a soothing harp concerto or a rousing rendition of a song like Queen’s We Are the Champions to revitalize my soul.

Are you ever just so tired that you feel like you can’t make it through the day? Try an energy boosting dose of Guarana or a cup of green or black tea for its natural caffeine boost, or an energizing peppermint or citrus essential oil applied topically to the temples, or a foot-tapping march by John Phillip Sousa for your soul.

Trouble sleeping? Hormones like melatonin or an Herbal Sleep tonic may help the body, and we all know the soothing effects of a lullaby for the soul.

Needless to say, there is always an herb for the body and a song for the soul for every emotion you may be experiencing and for all of life’s feelings. Pair them for doubling their effects and enjoy every facet of your life. Enjoy good health and God’s richest blessings.

–  Randy Lee, ND, Owner, The Health Patch – Cultivating Naturopathic Care for Total Health, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, Midwest City, OK 73130, phone/fax: 736-1030, e-mail: pawpaw@thehealthpatch.com.