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Archive for herbs

A Year of Celebration and Health

February 2020
Overview:
Awareness: American Heart Association, National Cancer Prevention, National Children’s Dental Health, National Eating Disorder
Flower: Violet
Gemstone: Amethyst
Trees: Cypress, Poplar, Cedar, Pine

Groundhogs Day: Groundhogs live in the ground and it is from the ground that we get most of our minerals! Minerals come from rocks, soil, and water, and they’re absorbed as the plants grow or by animals as the animals eat the plants. They are the elements that our bodies need to develop and function normally. The body cannot create minerals. Minerals have to be digested, but the body can create 10 out of the 14 vitamins that we need if our mineral intake is up. They are needed to activate enzymes. If fact, many diseases are caused by a polluted blood stream and a mineral deficiency. There are 102 minerals that make up the human body. The major minerals, which are used and stored in large quantities in the body, are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur.

The trace minerals are just as vital to our health as the major minerals, but we don’t need large amounts. Minerals in this category include chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. “Each one plays a role in hundreds of body functions. It may take just a very small quantity of a particular mineral, but having too much or too little can upset a delicate balance in the body,” says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Essential minerals are most potent when they come from food. But if you’re struggling with deficiencies, you may need to take supplements. If so, use caution: ingesting too much of a mineral supplement can be harmful. One way the ancients supplemented minerals was to consume mineral-rich clays. The other way was by adding a hard rock to their cooking pots. There are two different methods: one was to add a rock first and then boil food over an open fire; the other was to add a hot rock to a vessel which would cook the food without using an open flame. Sodium and calcium are the top two minerals provided using this method. And, by boiling stones and water for 15 minutes any harmful bacteria should be eliminated. A limestone rock was often used in the American Southwest. This leached chemical lime from the stones into the water, which has been found to raise the pH of the water to 11.4–11.6 at temperatures between 300–600 degrees centigrade, and higher yet over longer periods and at higher temperatures. When historical varieties of maize were cooked in this water, the chemical lime broke down the corn and increased the availability of digestible proteins.

President’s Day: This is the day the United States set aside to celebrate two former Presidents’ birthdays-George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Thus, I am using this day to talk about natural birthing herbal aids.

  • Herbal infusions (aka: teas that don’t contain any Camellia sinensis-tea bush) have been used by midwives throughout history to help with some of the negative symptoms associated with pregnancy and labor.
  • Red Raspberry: While red raspberry leaf infusion is typically recommended for the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, some women use the herbal remedy to help with nausea and vomiting in the first trimester as well. The fragarine compound found in red raspberry leaves is known to help tone and tighten muscles in the pelvic area, including the walls of the uterus, which can help make delivery easier. It also lessens complications, shortens labor by helping contractions to work more effectively; making birth easier and faster, and prevents excessive bleeding after childbirth. Women who drink red raspberry leaf tea later in pregnancy have been shown to have reduced use of forceps and other interventions such as, C-sections or vacuum-extractions, as well as a reduction in the likelihood of pre- and post-term labor.
  • Nettle Leaf: Nettle leaf is a tonic herb thought to strengthen and tone the entire system, and is particularly useful to support fertility in both men and women. In traditional herbal medicine, nettles are thought to ease leg cramps, and possibly ease the pain of childbirth. After birth, nettle is thought to promote an abundant milk supply. Nettle is particularly rich in micronutrients like carotene, vitamin C, manganese, iron, calcium, zinc and chromium. As the mother passes anything she consumes to her baby both during pregnancy and breastfeeding, nettle will not only nourish her body, but also her growing baby. In addition to nettle infusion, one can use fresh nettles in springtime (be wary of their sting) in one’s cooking.
  • Oat Straw: Oat straw was traditionally used in Europe as a tonic for health, beauty, and emotional resilience. It’s rich in both calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium work together in the body. Calcium tones the muscles and the cardiovascular system, and improves circulation both in the mother’s body and, naturally, in her baby as well. It also stimulates the muscles to contract. Magnesium then, by contrast, helps those muscles to relax, easing cramps, restless legs, as well as improving sleep. In this way, it’s thought by herbalists and midwives that oat straw can be particularly valuable for pregnant women.
  • Alfalfa: Alfalfa, like nettle, is a general restorative herb. In folk medicine, alfalfa is used to support thyroid health and it’s thought to ease morning sickness. Alfalfa hay is also given to livestock to help them produce abundant milk, and is thought to convey the same benefits to human mothers as well. Alfalfa, like nettle and red raspberry leaf and other green leafs, is also rich in vitamin K which supports healthy circulation and proper blood clotting. Low vitamin K levels is linked with bleeding and hemorrhage which may be why many midwives recommend optimizing one’s vitamin K levels during pregnancy, particularly in the weeks leading up to childbirth, with the primary recommendation being diet as well as herbs like alfalfa.
  • Lemon Balm, Rose Hips and Rose Buds: Lemon balm gives a pregnancy infusion delightful, mellow lemon-like flavor. In traditional, folk medicine, lemon balm is used for nervousness, digestive upset, and headaches. Similarly, rose hips bring a light and pleasant tartness to an infusion. Rosehips are rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C, and it’s that vitamin C that works synergistically with iron to help your body better absorb that mineral. Similarly, rose buds bring pleasant floral notes and a lovely feminine energy to an infusion. Lemon balm and rose hips added to an infusion is for their flavor more than anything else. The pregnancy infusion listed below in the recipe section tends to be inky and dark, owing to the heavy use of leafy green herbs like nettle, alfalfa and raspberry leaf. Both lemon balm and rose hips, bright in flavor, aromatic and astringent, lighten the infusion in a pleasant way.

Some uncommon plants: Each culture has their own special herbs they use for labor. Alas, a vast majority of these plants are not found on the market and need to be foraged. Some exceptions are yucca and prickly pear cactus roots used by the Lakota as an infusion to aid in childbirth. Eggplants, lemons, dates, nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes, melons, and licorice are others that have been claimed to aid in the birthing process.

*Caution: Although herbs are natural, not all herbs are safe to take during pregnancy. The FDA urges pregnant women not to take any herbal products without talking to their health-care provider first. Women are also urged to consult a trained and experienced herbalist (or other professionals trained to work with herbs) if they want to take herbs during their pregnancy. Some herbal products may contain agents that are contraindicated in pregnancy. Herbs may contain substances that can cause miscarriage, premature birth,
uterine contractions, or injury to the fetus. Few studies have been done to measure the effects of various herbs on pregnant women or fetuses.

Valentine’s Day: Many of the common symbols of this day include hearts, roses, and chocolate. It is common in Japan and Korea for singles to get together and eat Jajangmyeon (noodles with black bean sauce). In Wales it is tradition for a man to give the woman whom he loves a carved wooden spoon.

Rose petals and their medicine help to move and open a heart which has tightened emotionally and spiritually. Both TCM and Unani (traditional Arabic medicine) teach that rose has a powerful effect on the spiritual state of one’s heart. In Unani medicine some heart herbs are termed as “exhilarants”, which help the spiritual heart feel joy. A wonderful nervine, great for uplifting the mood and alleviating depression, rose also has antispasmodic, aphrodisiac and sedative qualities, as well as being anti-inflammatory. Rose helps regulate menstruation as well as stimulate the digestion. Rosehips, which come along after the bloom has faded, are a wonderful source of vitamins C, B2 and E. One may use rose as an herbal supplement, essential oil, or flower essence. Rose petal tincture is often used in heart formulas. Dried rose petals make a lovely addition to teas. There is a long tradition of rose water being used in medicine, including in Iran and other parts of the Middle East, as far back as the 7th century.

The observation that people prone to herpetic lesions and other related viral infections, particularly during periods of stress, should abstain from arginine excess and may also require supplemental lysine in their diet. Some arginine-rich foods such as chocolate, nuts, and seeds causes some to experience herpes outbreaks. Lysine-rich foods such most vegetables and fruits, dairy, egg whites, and meats help. Foods that contain high amounts of Vitamin C such as citrus, leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, bell peppers, strawberries, and papaya aid in boosting the immune system. Other immune boosting foods that contain high amounts of bioflavonoids such as citrus, many bright colored fruits and vegetables, leafy vegetables, black tea, broccoli, brussel sprouts, eggplant, wine and juice made from berries or grapes. Zinc-rich foods that also aid the immune system include pumpkin seeds, most dairy, beans, lentils, whole-grain cereals, and legumes.

If you’re an abuse survivor, there’s not one way to cope with feelings that Valentine’s Day might stir up. But if you can do things that empower you and make you feel good, that’s a step in the right direction. (And for those of you who haven’t experienced abuse but know a friend who has, Valentine’s Day is a good time to reach out and remind them you’re there for them in any way they need.) Here are some general suggestions that may work for you:

  • Surround yourself with support: Seek out friends and family who make you feel validated and won’t encourage you to return to your abuser.
  • Call a helpline: There are quite a few hotlines available for those who are or have experienced domestic abuse. There’s Day One, which is a great resource. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which you can reach at (800) 656-4673.
  • Take self-defense classes: not necessarily as a defense against a future incident of abuse, but as a way to make you feel stronger and less vulnerable.
  • Turn to therapy: Talk with a therapist or a survivor group where you can be candid about the trauma you experienced. A good online support group with over 80,000 users is Pandora’s Project (a nonprofit organization that provides support to survivors of sexual assault). https://www.pandys.org.
  • Put your own needs first: Do whatever makes you feel good and at peace. It could be meditating or seeing a silly movie or reading that book you’ve been curious about. Overall, the hope is that with the right support, no matter where it comes from, triggers like Valentine’s Day will, over time, become less impactful and destabilizing. Yes, the trauma you experienced was real, but the memories of it don’t have to keep hurting you. The more autonomy you allow yourself to have over them, the sooner they’ll fade into the background.
  • Herbal aids: There are several herbal aids one may take to help deal with triggers, memories, and nightmares. St. John’s wort is most commonly used for “the blues” or depression and symptoms that sometimes go along with mood such as nervousness, tiredness, poor appetite, and trouble sleeping. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. Neurotransmitters function as chemical messengers. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in your nervous system. Rescue Remedy is a blend of five flower remedies especially beneficial when you find yourself in traumatic or stressful situations.

Mardi Gras: Traditional Mardi Gras foods include shrimp, grains, and legumes. All these are within the top 8 foods groups known to be allergens. In fact, researchers estimate that 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under age 18. And, about 40% of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food. There are also those who do not have allergies, but instead have intolerances. Both allergies and intolerances are labeled food sensitivities. Key differences between food allergies and food intolerances:

  • Food Allergy: Immediate response; possibly life-threatening; IgE-mediated immune response
  • Food intolerances: Response ranges from one hour to up to 48 hours; not life-threatening; possibly IgG-mediated immune response
  • Food Sensitivity Symptoms: acne, brain fog, eczema; dry and itchy skin; bloated stomach after eating; fatigue; joint pain; reflux; migraines; diarrhea; depression and mood swings; runny nose; headache; trouble sleeping and dark circles under eyes.

If you notice certain ailments or aches on a regular basis like the ones listed above, you might have a food intolerance. The tricky part is figuring out which food is to blame. Since symptoms can wait to show up until a few days after consumption, it makes diagnosis especially challenging and time-consuming. That’s why for many, food sensitivities last for decades and are largely undiagnosed. Traditionally, you would keep a food journal and embark on an elimination diet, removing possible culprits one at a time for periods of two to eight weeks (the longer the better).

Leaky gut occurs when there is damage to the lining of the intestinal tract making it more permeable to substances that should not cross the delicate lining. Normally, only nutrients from fully digested foods such as vitamins, minerals, emulsified fats, amino acids and simple sugars are able to cross the intestinal barrier that separates our blood stream from our gut. But when the gut becomes leaky, undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins are able to make it through the gut lining and they enter the
circulation, going to places in the body where they don’t belong. The body’s defense system fights back and it’s during this fight that uncomfortable symptoms are experienced.

There are several causes of leaky gut and one or more of these causes may be at work simultaneously. For example, leaky gut can be caused by damage from an autoimmune reaction, such as celiac disease which destroys the microvilli and increases permeability, or by the presence of gluten which causes the production of a chemical called zonulin which directly opens up the tight junctions, making the gut more permeable; it may also be due to damage caused by bacterial toxins in conditions such as Small
Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), which also contribute to gut inflammation leading to leakiness. And probably most importantly, leaky gut can be caused by undiagnosed food sensitivities with the immune battle between white blood cells and undigested food particles taking place in the villi of the small intestine.

Food intolerances are the main cause of symptoms associated with leaky gut. Food intolerances create a vicious cycle in that they help maintain the reason for their development (the leaky gut) while being the direct cause of the various symptoms suffered. This vicious cycle can only end after carefully removing all sources of reactive foods and chemicals, which not only eliminates symptoms, but also allows the gut to finally heal. But this is easier said than done for a number of reasons: Food sensitivities are often dose dependent, with symptom onset delayed by many hours, and there are usually many reactive foods, not just 1 or 2 as in food allergy. And just like each person has a unique fingerprint, both food intolerance symptoms and trigger foods are different from one person to another. In other words, in two gluten sensitive people, gluten may cause digestive problems in one person and migraines in another. And in 10 migraine patients, there could be 10 different sets of trigger foods. Because of this, obviously there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Although research proves that leaky gut exists, there is no perfect test to diagnose it, diagnose its cause, or determine if a particular therapy is effective at treating it. What is known is that diet and stress are two things that play a significant role in causing leaky gut. Therefore, an individually prescribed diet, stress reduction and supplement plan are a big part of the solution. Monitoring symptom improvement is the best way to determine the effectiveness of therapy and the healing of your leaky gut. Omega-3 oils, probiotics, fibers, removing foods to which one is sensitive, and eliminating sugar to can aid in the healing of the gut.

Recipes:

  • Pregnancy Infusion: Makes 28 serving Ingredients: 2 ounces’ nettle leaf, 2 ounces’ raspberry leaf, 1 ounce oat straw, 1 ounce alfalfa leaf, 1/2 ounce lemon balm, 1/2 ounce rose hips, 1/2 ounce rose buds. Instructions: Stir all the herbs together in a large mixing bowl so that they’re evenly distributed. Set a wide-mouth funnel into the lip of a jar and spoon the mixed herbs into the jar. Cap tightly and store out of the sun. Bring about a quart of water to a boil, and then spoon a heaping quarter-cup (about 1/4 ounce) of your mixed herbs into a quart-sized jar. Cover with boiling water, cap, and let them steep overnight – about 8 hours. Strain out the herbs, and enjoy the tea. Note: Take about two cups a day during the second trimester and up to a quart a day in the third trimester. Reach out to your care provider to determine what is the right amount for you.
  • Nan-e Berenji (a cookie): 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, 1 egg yolk, 2 cups fine rice flour, 1/4 cup rose water, 1-2 tablespoons poppy seeds. Directions: In a large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar with a hand mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add egg yolk and mix for another 20-30 seconds. Sift in the rice flour, in three batches. Using a spatula, fold in the flour into mixture after each batch is added. Add the rose water. Knead the mixture for 5-10 minutes. Shape into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 325 F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into small 1-inch balls and flatten the cookie into a small disc. Repair any cracks on the edges and place on baking sheet. Using the curve of a small teaspoon make overlapping arch-shaped indentation marks on the top. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottom and edges begins to turn a light golden color. Let completely cool before carefully removing from baking tray.
  • Millet & Rice Pasta: ¼ cup arrowroot starch, ¾ cup brown rice flour, ½ cup millet flour, ½ tsp xanthan gum, ¼ tsp salt, 2 tbsp light olive oil, ½ cup flax seed gel, 4 tbsp warm water. Directions: Combine the dry ingredients and set them aside. In the stand mixer, combine all of the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients slowly until a crumbly mixture forms. Form into a long roll and slice to make long noodles. Cook as normal pasta.
  • Konjac Noodles: 2 teaspoons of glucomannan/Konjac, 1/8 teaspoon of pickling lime (or 1 gram of baking powder), 2 cups of Cold Water. Directions: Pour 2 cups of cold water into a large cooking pot. Stir in pickling lime (or baking powder) for one minute. Add the glucomannan powder, stirring continuously until the liquid reaches a boil. Boil the mixture for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. The mixture will turn into a gel once the mixture cools down. Being a thermally stable (non-reversible) gel, this gel will not dissolve at room temperature. Once cool, cut the gel into small pieces or into your desired shape. When ready to serve, dip the cut glucomannan food into a pot of warm water or steam for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then serve or continue to cook in any manner one likes.
  • Vegetable Noodles: serves 2. Ingredients: 4 zucchinis, cut into thin strips on a mandolin, or julienne peeler, black pepper, freshly chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Directions: Saute zucchini in a pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil. Season with a little lemon, sea salt and black pepper. Add fresh herbs if you wish. Note: You may use: Zoodles-zucchini noodles, Poodles-parsnip noodles, Swoodles-sweet potato noodles, Toodles-turnip noodles, Coodles-carrot noodles, Squoodles-squash noodles, boodles-broccoli stem noodles (peel stem first).
  • Carob-dipped Strawberries: 8 -10 large fresh strawberries, washed and dried; 3 tablespoons coconut oil; 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or liquid stevia-to taste), optional; 2 tablespoons carob powder. Directions: Pre-line a flat tray that you will use to place your strawberries on to and keep in the fridge to cool whilst preparing the carob sauce. Pre-chilling the tray helps carob coating to set quickly. In a small mixing bowl, mix coconut oil over boiling water to melt. (Use a small saucepan of boiling water and sit bowl over the top. The heat from underneath will melt the coconut oil in the mixing bowl). Add carob powder and optional maple syrup (or liquid stevia-to taste) and mix well. Holding the strawberry at the leafy end, dip each strawberry into the carob sauce and coat well. Use a spoon to help if needed. Place onto pre-chilled and lined tray. Once all strawberries are coated, place in fridge until carob coating is set. Keep in refrigerator until ready to eat. Variations: Use raw cacao powder instead of carob for an authentic chocolate flavor. Add desiccated coconut to your carob dipping sauce or sprinkle coconut over wet carob dipped strawberries before setting. Add 1 tablespoon nut butter such as almond butter to dipping sauce for a nut fudge coating. Make carob sauce to serve as a fondue at dinner parties and let guests dip their own strawberries. Tips: Make sure your washed strawberries are pat dry before dipping into carob sauce otherwise the coating won’t stick as well. For an extra thick coating of carob, after first coat is set on strawberries repeat process for a second coating. Pre-chilling your lined setting tray in freezer will help the carob coating to set quickly. Pre-chill your washed strawberries in the refrigerator prior to dipping to also help the carob to set quickly. If your carob dipping sauce is too runny it won’t stick to the strawberries well. If it is too runny place your dipping sauce in the fridge for a few minutes or until it begins to thicken.
  • Traditional King Cake (Gil Marks): Dough-1 package active dry yeast (or 1 cake fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast); 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast); 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F for dry yeast; 80 to 85°F for fresh yeast) (or sour cream); 1/4 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (½ stick); 2 large egg yolks or 1 large egg; 3/4 tsp table salt; 1 tsp ground cinnamon (or cardamom), optional; 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, optional; 1/8 tsp almond extract, optional; 1 tsp grated lemon zest, optional; 2 tsp grated orange zest (or orange blossom water), optional; 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or bread flour); 1/4-1/2 cup chopped candied citron (or ½ cup chopped mixed candied fruit, or ½ cup golden raisins); egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon milk or water)–Cinnamon Filling-(optional): 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar; 1/4 cup all-purpose flour; 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon; pinch salt; 2/3 cup chopped slightly toasted pecans (or 1/3 cup pecans); ¼ cup raisins; ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted (½ stick); 1 pecan half, large bean, or other token/baby, optional. Icing–1 cup confectioners’ sugar; 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (¼ stick) (or ¼ cup cream cheese, softened), optional; 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or ¼ teaspoon almond extract); 1 tbsp milk (buttermilk, fresh lemon juice, or water); a few drops gold food coloring (or 2 to 4 tablespoons yellow colored sugar) optional; a few drops green food coloring (or 2 to 4 tablespoons green colored sugar), optional; a few drops purple food coloring (or 2 to 4 tablespoons purple colored sugar), optional. Directions: To make the dough–In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, and, for a flavored dough (but omit this if you are using a filling), the spice or zest. Blend in 1½ cups flour. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft workable dough. On a lightly floured surface or in a mixer with a dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. Knead in the citron, mixed candied fruit or golden raisins. Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel or loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, or in the refrigerator overnight. To make the optional filling–In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the pecans. Drizzle the butter over top and mix until crumbly. Punch down the dough and knead briefly. Making the cake with the filling: Roll the dough into a 16- by 10-inch rectangle, spread evenly with the filling, leaving 1 inch uncovered on all sides. If using a token, place it on the rectangle (Be sure to warn your guests.) Beginning from a long end, roll up jellyroll style. Then bring the ends together to form an oval. Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Making the cake without the filling: Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 24-inch-long rope. Braid the 2 ropes together, and bring the ends together to form an oval, pinching the ends to seal. OR Divide the dough in thirds and roll each piece into a 16-inch rope. If you prefer an oval shape, the strands should be closer to 20 inches. Braid by first connecting the ends of the ropes at one end. As you braid, be sure that you are pulling the strands gently taut to make a neat and even braid, otherwise your cake may bulge in some areas. When you are ready to connect the ends, unbraid a few inches at each end, then braid them together by connecting the corresponding pieces. For example, center rope to center rope. Place on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet, seam side down. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. To make the icing: In a medium bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, optional butter or cream cheese, vanilla, and enough milk until smooth and of a pouring consistency. If desired, divide the icing into thirds and tint each third with one of the food colorings. Or you can drizzle or spread the icing over the warm cake. While the icing is still wet, sprinkle with the colored sugar. The easiest way to do this neatly is to use a pastry brush to apply icing to each section, then sprinkle with sugar, let dry, and move on to the next section. For the braided cake, follow the braid pattern around the cake, using one color at a time and applying to each icing section directly after applying while still wet (the icing dries fast!). Then allow the icing to dry and gently tap off the excess sugar before starting the next color. Serve warm or at room temperature. After cooling, the cake can be wrapped well in plastic, then foil and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Do not cover with the icing before freezing. Variation: Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Beat 8 ounces (225 grams) cream cheese at room temperature with 1 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) confectioners’ sugar, ½ egg yolk (use the rest for the egg wash), and ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract. This can be used with or without the cinnamon filling. Hint: To make colored sugar, in a jar shake ¼ cup granulated sugar with 4 drops yellow, green, or purple food coloring.

—-Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ—-
Jolene Griffiths, Master Herbalist

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.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Using Herbs to Enhance Good Oral Health

Good oral hygiene is the foundation to having healthy teeth and gums, but occasionally we need a little extra help to keep oral health top notch. Herbs can be very beneficial in this area of good health.

Teeth, like bones, need constant remineralization. Mineral rich herbs can help prevent tooth decay by helping to remineralize and to fight bacteria in plaque. Alfalfa and Horsetail are two such herbs.

Alfalfa has tap roots that grow into the ground as far down as 60 feet. This allows Alfalfa to reach minerals that other plants cannot, making it a storehouse of nutrients containing major minerals like calcium as well as numerous trace minerals.

Horsetail is another great herb for oral care. It contains more silica than any other herb and it is in a form that is highly absorbable. This ability makes Horsetail a powerhouse in promoting collagen formation and working with calcium to strengthen teeth and bones.

Black Walnut has properties that are anticarious or helping to prevent cavities. Used as a powder and left overnight on teeth, it can help rebuild enamel and, due to its astringent properties, can help tighten loose teeth.

Bacteria in the gums can cause infection and bleeding of the gums. This is where Golden Seal can be beneficial with its bacteria-fighting alkaloid called Berberine. White Oak bark has also long been used for gum problems due to it being rich in tannins. Tannins help tighten tissue, fight infections, and halt bleeding.

Using a powder mixture of Horsetail, Black Walnut, Golden Seal, and White Oak Bark can help fight infection, tighten loose teeth, stop gum bleeding, as well as strengthen tooth enamel.
So, keep up the foundations for healthy teeth and gums, but for those times where additional support is needed, adding these powerful herbs to your dental routine can be quite beneficial.

Health and Blessings,
Kimberly Anderson, ND

The Health Patch 1024 S. Douglas Blvd. Midwest City, OK 73130 PH: 405-736-1030

Gut Supplements!

While we all should search for our own “gut healthy” diet, there are some foods that we have previously mentioned that seem to have a positive effect on the gut of most individuals. We’ve mentioned variety in the fruits and vegetables we eat – every food has its unique set of microbiomes – so the greater the variety we eat leads to a greater variety of microbiomes as well. And we know that an oriental diet introduces us to the added benefit of fermented foods, also in great variety. But for many, this is a culture shock, or a hard learning activity. Some of us simply don’t care for many otherwise healthy foods.

My advice is to do the best you can, and work at it. Our taste palates are often trained in childhood. Our cultures and our families taught us how to eat. My dad was a “meat and potatoes” man from the rural South. I ate a lot of home-grown vegetables, but nothing ethnically diverse. But I have enjoyed food most of my life and now enjoy virtually any international food delights – adding to what my friends and family call my “cast iron digestive system”. I have little problem enjoying and digesting most anything placed before me. But, if that is not you, I would suggest some gut-healthy supplements. Here are a few of them.

Number one on my list here is berberine. It is an alkaloid found as a stand-alone, or as a natural constituent in many herbs such as goldenseal, Oregon grape, and barberry. Clinical studies have shown that berberine helps to support already normal glucose and lipid metabolism, helps to control intestinal bacteria and reduce intestinal inflammation. It interested me, that in a recent program I took to improve gut health, the company recommended an eating program and added only two supplements: a strong probiotic and berberine!

Cinnamon has a strong antimicrobial action and is an astringent that will tone up the gut membranes. It is also used in many of the weight loss programs I have seen.

Golden Seal is one of our strongest immune system builders and it is usually suggested that it not be used for long periods without a break, but it has a long history of use for intestinal infections and diarrhea caused by giardia.

Finally, the amino acid L-glutamine is essential for many body functions including gut health. It helps the body produce energy in the mitochondria of the cells, and has been shown to repair leaky gut and reduce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory diseases like ulcers, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Besides supplementation, it is found naturally in bone broth, grass fed beef, spirulina and whey protein.

Other herbs that help reduce intestinal inflammation and/or tone up the gaps between intestinal cells include pau d’arco, cat’s claw, turmeric, kudzu and black walnut. Much of this information comes from a publication by my favorite herbalist Steven Horne. Drop by the store for a copy of his complete presentation, while copies last, if you have further interest.

– 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. Check out our blogs and podcasts under “resources” on our website each week for related topics.

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.