Archive for March, 2011

Implementation: Which Herbs, How Much, When To Take

March 31, 2011

In the middle of last night I awoke thinking, how will folks implement that big wad of info? So here we are again regarding herbal detoxification, only with this additional info you may actually be able to start!

Gentian: great digestion enhancer, both in the stomach and intestines; good for anemia and convalescence to jumpstart digestion. Put 1/2 teaspoon of the root in a cup of water. Boil for 5 minutes. Drink warm 10 to 30 minutes before a meal.  It is BITTER! Ginger and Cardamom are great additions: use a total of 1/2 tsp of herbs.

Ginger: relieves indigestion, nausea, cramping. Stimulates peripheral circulation and can promote perspiration. Pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger and drink when cool enough, before, during or after a meal (or anytime you feel nauseous).

Cardamom: good for relieving gas, cramping; stimulates the appetite and the flow of urine. Pour a cup of boiling water over freshly crushed seeds and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a saucer over top of all steeping herbal infusions: this captures beneficial chemicals in the steam.  Drink freely during the day, or before a meal.

Anise: the seed is great for intestinal cramping as well as getting rid of bronchial mucus. Pour boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons full of freshly, gently crushed seeds, and let steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. can be drunk several times a day, especially before meals or to assist in productive coughing.

Fennel: very similar to Anise: use the same way. Some folks prefer to just chew their seeds, and spit out when the taste has been extracted.

Cumin: these spice/herb seeds are a major part of many traditional cuisines because they are aids to digestion and taste good. Often used in bean dishes to aid beans’ digestion.

Cascara Sagrada: this is one of the gentlest of the purgatives (aids to elimination), as it encourages peristalsis and tones slack muscles of the digestive system. Start with 1 teaspoon of the bark in a cup of water. Bring to a boil, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drink before bed. Much better tasting and effective if used in conjunction with Ginger, any of the Seeds above, or Licorice.

Chickweed: good for acidic system due to heavy meat-eating; to gently increase the flow of urine (especially for PMS edema); and externally to treat arthritis, gout, eczema and psoriasis. Pour a cup of boiled water over 2 teaspoons of dry herb and let sit at least 5 minutes. Drink this 3 times daily, or use as a skin wash externally. You can also make a super strong infusion and pour into your bath water (just warm, not hot) to relive itching.

Dandelion: the root and leaf are both useful. This herb is a strong diuretic, increases bile production (and is a good liver tonic) and  stimulates digestion and elimination. Put 1 to 3 teaspoons of the root into a cup of water and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Drink three times daily. The leaves can be added raw to salads when young and tender, or steamed as a pot herb.

Parsley: eat the leaves! The root is used as a diuretic, to bring on menstrual periods, and to ease digestive cramping. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the root and infuse, covered, for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 days a day. DO NOT use this herb at this medicinal dosage if PREGNANT.

Tomorrow I will do the next 10 herbs mentioned in the previous blog, and then the last 11 herbs over the weekend.

Here is the info for safe and effective essential oil usage at home:

Essential Oil Use & Safety Guidelines

  • Do not take essential oils internally unless you are following a cooking recipe (many herb and spice oils can be used as flavorings in minute quantities) or under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner (with aromatherapy training).
  • Do not apply essential oils directly to the skin; always dilute with a carrier oil such as sweet almond, sesame and/or olive oil.
  • Here are the standard dilutions (as recommended by several internationally known aromatherapists) for a variety of home uses (on healthy adolescents and adults over 100 lbs):
    • Massage: use a total of 12 to 15 drops of essential oil(s) per one ounce of carrier oil. This is a 2 % dilution.
    • Bath: use 5 to 8 drops of non-irritant essential oil(s) in a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add to the water just before you enter the bath.
    • Inhalations: a drop of essential oil can be placed on a handkerchief or cotton ball and inhaled. Three to five drops may be added to a bowl of steaming water and the vapors inhaled. Be sure to close your eyes!
  • Keep out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.
  • Do not use citrus oils (or Angelica…and some references include Lavender) on the skin before exposure to UV light.
  • Use only pure and natural essential oils; avoid synthetic fragrances.
  • Do not use essential oils on infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and/or those with serious health problems without specific aromatherapy training. There are books available that, when read and understood, can help parents make informed choices about aromatherapy use for the whole family. When in doubt: don’t use.
  • Should ingestion of an essential oil occur, immediately call your Poison Control Center (http://www.aapcc.org/DNN/) Do not give water if breathing or swallowing is difficult.
  • Do buy a reference book to help you use essential oils safely and confidently. If you have a specific question, the folks at Iris herbal are happy to assist you.
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Herbs That Assist Detoxification

March 29, 2011

This blog topic could easily be a book…which means that although this won’t be comprehensive or in great detail, you will find the creme de la creme of the basics…call it “detox cliff notes”…

An herbal approach to detoxification is based upon the premise that our bodies are self-healing; that we already have an amazingly effective and astoundingly complex array of detoxification systems “built-in;” and that our job is to augment our innate abilities by:  first, support the whole body’s process of elimination (and not just the colon, which is what many pre-made cleanses do); second, apply specific support for overly taxed organs and third,  alleviate any symptoms (and address any pathologies that may be present).

For digestion issues and the colon, we want to assist the break down of food (try a simple herbal bitters recipe of Gentian, Ginger and Cardamom {used as a tea or a tincture; the last 2 are also available as essential oils and can be diluted and rubbed on the stomach} ; or you can use Anise, Fennel, and/or Cumin Seeds {chew the seeds, make a tea, use as tincture or essential oil} as both flavorings and to assist in digestion) as well as deal with constipation, or even slow evacuation (mild, safe, not too intense Yellow Dock and Dandelion Root; for more stubborn cases, try Cascara Sagrada).

For the kidneys and urinary system, we can use a gentle diuretic (increases the flow of urine) to move fluids out of the body, which is especially helpful in cases of edema (swelling) or to remove toxins more quickly. Herbs that do this without causing imbalance (unlike drugs, these herbs contain potassium; however, a little goes a long way) are Chickweed, Dandelion, Parsley and Nettle leaves. Notice that these are “spring tonics,” often considered weeds (well, maybe not parsley, but how many of us really eat it?), and are edible as “pot-herbs” (cooked like any greens), in salads, or used medicinally in the form of tea or tinctures (alcohol extract). Many folks recommend using the juice of half a lemon in warm water upon arising.

Hepatic herbs are those which assist the liver and gall bladder in their many functions:  Dandelion root, Beets (yes, the food), Turmeric ( the main spice ingredient in many curries) {all of these can be used as food, a simmered tea or as a tincture} and Milk Thistle seed, which is available as either a tincture or a standardized extract which comes in the form of a capsule.   Alteratives are what used to be called  blood cleansers and are the class of herbs that gradually restore the proper functions of the body which then increase health and vitality. These include Burdock, Oregon Grape, Sarsaparilla and Yellow Dock roots, Cleavers, Nettles and Red Clover, as well as seaweeds and garlic.  Essential oils that stimulate and aid the functioning of our liver include Angelica, Carrot seed, Chamomile, Cypress, Grapefruit, Lemon, Peppermint and Rosemary. They can be used individually or in various combinations as a massage oil or bath oil. {Infomercial: check out www.irisherbal.com offerings in health enhancement, massage and bath oils, as well as individual essential oils, and the essential oil info page which gives great detail on how to safely use essential oils}.

Lymphatic tonic herbs assist in the movement and drainage of our lymph system.  They include Burdock, Dandelion and Yellow Dock roots, as well as Red Root, Echinacea root and Calendula (usually taken as a decoction or simmered tea, or as a tincture). There are many essential oils that are useful in this category: Lemon, Grapefuit, Carrot seed, Coriander, Spruce, Frankincense and Laurel {infomercial # 2; check  HERE for 2 massage oils for the lymph system}.

For the  Lungs we can increase the flow of mucus (mucolytics) to help move out phlegm and ease breathing. For this I  find essential oils to be easy and effective, as either a salve or by vaporizing a few drops of essential oil in a pot of boiled water. Good oils for this include Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Laurel, Rosemary, Lavender, Camphor and Peppermint. In the herbal realm, we can use an expectorant (again, help loosen and expel mucus) like Mullein, Elecampane,  Anise seed, Licorice, and great southwestern herbs such as Osha  and Yerba Santa. Any of these herbs can be used as a tea or tincture.

When dealing with the skin, we have a few avenues open to us. We can use diaphoretics (aid the skin in the elimination of toxins through perspiration) which include Elder flower, Ginger, Peppermint, Prickly Ash and Yarrow (as teas, decoctions or tinctures) as well as the use of 2 herbs which address the skin/liver connection which are Barberry and Yellow Dock. Besides dry brush massage, alternating cool and warm showers (which stimulate the lymph and the skin) there are also the judicious use of saunas, steam baths (where we can add essential oils) and  hot springs, baths in our homes (where we can add bath oils, clay and/or apple cider vinegar)and sunlight (either the addition or removal).

WHEW!  In the next few weeks we’ll be exploring heavy metal detox, using supplements as part of our detoxification program, plus the emotional aspects of detox, and 2 guest blogs by Lisa Goodstein, DOM on the Chinese/Eastern take on this subject.

Internal Cleansing: Our Organs of Elimination

March 23, 2011

If fasting is about paying attention to what goes into our body (and any kind of detoxification program starts with what food we eat), then cleansing is paying attention to the other end of the equation: what comes out (or not), as well as what gets assimilated in between.

This week I’m going to briefly describe how 5 of our major organs are always involved with detoxification, which is just a part of life. We eat, we digest, nutrients are (hopefully) absorbed, and we deal with the by-products (wastes) of innumerable chemical processes throughout our bodies.

The colon hosts several pounds of friendly (ideally 85% of the total)  bacteria that are true workhorses: they help digest food, manufacture vitamins, and play a major role in our immune function. Our colons also do the heavy lifting of eliminating solid waste. Most problems in our colons (including constipation) develop when we are out of balance: too little fiber; too much “toy food” and not enough real food; too much sugar (which feeds the “bad” micro-organisms like Candida) and not drinking enough water.

Our kidneys filter waste from our blood in an amazingly complex dance. Good nutrition is essential for their job; too much animal protein (especially the poor quality of corn fed confined animals fed antibiotics) stresses the kidneys as they labor to remove excess uric acid. Sometimes lack of Vit. K and other nutrients can result in the back up of inorganic minerals, causing kidney stones. Again, we are talking about a healthy body in balance, and the health of one organ affect the health of all organs.

I recently read that if we had to build a factory to represent our liver, that physical plant would cover 2,000 acres! This is because our liver performs so many complex tasks: making antihistamines, cleansing blood, neutralizing and eliminating toxins, metabolizing fat, dealing with the cholesterol process, making and storing red blood cells, and helping with digestion, bile, our immune system and the balancing of hormones. No wonder out deeply toxic environment is putting such a strain on this precious organ. If we strive to lower the chemical burden, through eating organic real food and filtering out water, we will assist our liver greatly.

Our lungs provide us with a process that is constant from our first breath to our last: the bringing in of oxygen to the red blood cells, and the removal of waste products like carbon dioxide. A good practise is to slow the breath, breathing as deeply as possible, and completely exhaling the air, including that bit that seems to hold on at the bottom of our lungs. You may have to use your diaphram consciously to do that.

Not everyone realizes that our skin is an organ of elimination. And yet not only is it our largest detoxifier, it can act like another set of kidneys and cleanse up to a pound of impurities a day. Our skin also assists our lungs in respiration, doing about 15% of the intake of oxygen and release of CO2 that our bodies need. Our skin tone, elasticity, lack of or appearence of cellulite (which is toxic waste lodged in the skin’s fatty tissues, often due to a sluggish lymphatic system), and lack of or appearance of acne/excema, etc. are all indicators of our entire body’s health. Problems that show up on the skin can be caused by food senstivities, allergins, problems in our lymphatic system, an over-burdened liver, poor food assimilation (and that can be due sometimes to the lack of digestive enzymes), and auto-immune disorders.

Last but never least is our lymphatic system, which is not a discrete organ but a network of lymph vessals and glands throughout the body that helps detoxify and drain areas of our body that are not well perfused with blood. Many of us find as we age that our lymphatic systems get a little sluggish, perhaps due to not enough exercise (the ‘pump” of this system is our legs striding and our arms swinging). A 20 minute walk per day will help, and some folks like to do dry brushing as well (using a dry natural bristle brush, lightly brush your skin from the extremities toward your heart). This is especially beneficial before a shower as it helps remove dead skin.

Tune in next week for herbal specifics (tinctures, teas, essential oils) to assist our bodies’  in their daily detoxification. And happy Spring!

Radiation: a special info alert

March 15, 2011

Please check HERE for an excellent article (very specific info on iodine and anti-oxidant supplements) on how you can help protect yourself from radiation’s effects on our bodies. This is not just about the awful disaster in Japan.  We modern folks are using radiation technology increasingly to detect tumors, etc. Many people are over-radiated in the name of health. 

 Herbs that assist with dealing with ionizing radiation include Burdock root,  Dandelion root, American Ginseng root, and Milk Thistle seed.  Foods that are particularly helpful include all berries, especially blueberries and strawberries.

May all sentient beings be peaceful, happy, and healthy.

Spring Tonics

March 15, 2011

Stinging Nettles

Before supermarkets offered all fruits and all vegetables all the time, winter diets in the Northern Hemisphere were heavy on root vegetables, grains and beans, breads, cheese, and meats, often combined in soups. Spring saw the proliferation of wild greens and the planting of gardens, increased trade with other communities as the snows melted, and the understanding that the heavier fatty meals could lighten a little as the temperatures rose. Diet was a construct of the interplay of culture and environment, as well as one’s family’s class. You ate what your parents ate, and barring famine, that system worked fairly well for hundreds of years.

Alfalfa



For those of us who wish to re-connect with the natural rhythms of the seasons, eat more nutritious foods, and recognize that this transition from winter to spring is important, I offer you three fabulous spring tonics: nettles, alfalfa and chickweed.

Nettles are my personal favorite. People have been collecting and using stinging nettles for food, medicine, fiber and dyes since the Bronze Age (or earlier). You must wear gloves in the gathering, but once cooked, the stinging chemical is inactivated. Nettles are the quintessential spring tonic, and have traditionally been used to rebuild the systems of the chronically ill, as well as help gently release  toxins. Medicinally they are useful as an expectorant (help thin and expel mucous), for chronic coughs, to treat cold and flu, as a gentle and safe diuretic (increase the flow of urine and reduce edema or swelling due to fluid retention), and as a restorative for the kidneys and bladder.  Nutritionally nettles contain high amounts of chlorophyll, protein (up to 10%, more than any other vegetable), and minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium and sulfur. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the B complex vitamins. Recipe hint: substitute for spinach, especially in a Quiche. Gather in the early spring until they flower. Once they start producing seeds, they are not so good for either food or medicine.

Alfalfa comes from the Middle East, and a tea made from the leaves and flowers has been traditionally used as a spring tonic and blood thinner, so it is especially good for arthritis and gout.  The green leaves contain 8 essential enzymes and aid digestion. Alfalfa contains over 10 vitamins, and is especially high in A, C, D, B2, B6, and K. Plus you get some iron and calcium.

Chickweed

Chickweed is a European annual that has naturalized through much of North America. It has even shown up in my greenhouse, and is now a regular part of my diet. Medicinally it is soothing and useful to help treat skin conditions, upset and ulcer-prone stomachs, as well as bladder and liver problems. Excellent as a nutritive tonic eaten fresh in salads (or cooked into omelets), chickweed is high in Vit. C, rutin, biotin, choline, inositol, PABA, Vit. B6, B12, Vit.D and beta carotene. It is another mineral powerhouse with magnesium, manganese, sodium, copper and silica.
 
All of these herbs are also considered “weeds” because they grow so easily and profusely. Nettles especially can become invasive. However, because of this ability to not need much of our assistance or attention (except in a desert or high desert climate: you will then need to water) they are excellent for the ” gardening challenged.”  Both Nettles and Alfalfa are perennials, and Chickweed, though an annual, easily (almost scarily  so) reseeds itself: therefore, once planted, they will be your constant and generous companions.

Some Thoughts About Fasting

March 7, 2011

As the calendar moves towards Spring equinox, and at least some of us are experiencing harbingers of spring (bluebirds and daffodils perhaps) one starts seeing articles appear about fasting, a traditional (as well as a favorite of many alternative health care practitioners) way of acknowledging and aiding (for health purposes) the transition from winter diet to spring diet.

Many of us gain weight over the winter as we eat more calories (often in the form of fat) to keep warm, and don’t / aren’t able to exercise as easily.  Because of all the holidays, we often have eaten more sugar than usual or is wise. With the stress of winter storms we might not always have been able to prepare well-balanced meals, gotten to the store in time, and therefore we ate more fast food.

A common response to the sluggish feeling arising from this situation is “I gotta make a change.” Great.  However, plunging into a major fast can be daunting, even if you find a good one (which means under the auspices of a reputable health care provider, and often in a group, because real fasting is difficult and can precipitate uncomfortable detoxification).

Here are my suggestions, based upon years of experience (and yes, I have done some major fasts and cleanses, and experienced some nasty effects, mostly because I was headstrong and ignorant and much younger).

First: what is your goal? Is this a major revamp of your entire diet, or just a tune-up? Either way, you can make this really simple for yourself by trying my common-sense fast: eat only real food. And let me spell that out: whole grains (rice, millet, corn, etc. ), “pseudo-grains” (buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth), nuts and seeds, free-range humanely raised meats, raw milk cheese,  fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and other pulses (if soy, eat only miso and tempeh),  fish (especially herring, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon), healthy fats  (extra virgin cold pressed olive and coconut oils, and ghee, which is a clarified butter and great to cook with) and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams).

Second: fast from fast foods. If it is in a box, can, bottle or fried, it is processed. You are going to be the “processor”. You may stir-fry, make soups, eat raw salads, ferment, steam, bake your own bread. Play with marinades. Find your grandmother’s recipe for chicken soup. But only use real food that is recognizable as food, with no unpronounceable chemicals and NO SUGAR.  Try this traditional way of eating for at least two weeks (more if you are feeling bold).

Third: 80% compliance is fabulous. You do not need to be perfect. It is usually self-defeating and no fun. Do your best, eat with gratitude, and enjoy. Chew well, try a digestive enzyme. Drink enough good water. Move your body. Get enough sleep. Am I sounding like your (grand) mom? “Old wives’ tales” are usually based upon deep truth. Eating is a communal act, even if only you are at the table. Invite all the beings who helped put that food on your plate, and you will not be alone.

Last but not least: try fasting from TV, from TV News, from your cell-phone, from email, from being available to anyone anytime. Try just one day a week away from this merry-go-round we moderns call our lives. See what arises.

Why your knowing about GMO food just got more important

March 2, 2011

I wasn’t planning to make political issues quite so up front…and after this wee rant I’ll be focusing for several weeks on detoxification: spring tonics and cleansing herbs, essential oils for detox, supplements that support our bodies’ natural detoxification processes, heavy metals in the body and fasting.  Since springtime is traditionally when folks shifted gears from “winter diet” to more fresh foods, it is also a good time to start detoxification programs. Since there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on this vast subject, I hope to add some clarity.

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. There is a plethora of good info on the internet about why this bit of modern–day lab work is not such a hot idea once all the ramifications are fully explored. But what most folks don’t realize  is the extent to which our food supply is already deeply “contaminated,” both deliberately and inadvertently. Most folks, myself included, don’t think they have eaten anything GMO, or maybe very little. However, the latest research shows that almost 90% of Americans have eaten GMO foods, and in alarmingly high amounts.

So what does this have to do with health? you ask.  There is a previously unknown pathogen with unique physical properties: a micro-fungus. It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready (GMO) soybean meal and corn, and is linked to outbreaks of plant diseases and implicated in animal reproductive failure. The researcher is COL (retired) / Dr. Don Huber, one of the nation’s senior soil scientists, and Emeritus Professor, Purdue University.

I invite you to read this article:
 “Researcher: Roundup Ready Crops May Be Causing Animal Miscarriages and Infertility.”
…remembering that we humans are animals, the very mammals this article is talking about…