Monday, May 4, 2009

Nourishing the Body

With recent concerns of illness, I felt it would be appropriate to discuss ways to nourish and build the body. Often times we hear of "fighting" a cold or flu, which seems to imply opposition and struggle. Rather, I find it helpful to think of nourishing and building our bodies; feeding ourselves the proper nutrients to strengthen our body's ability to heal itself.

Of course a healthy diet is important, as well as proper rest. Many times we can incorporate simple things ino our diets that are nourishing and help our body's to build and strengthen. Here are a few of my favorite nourishing herbs we use regularly.

According to The Little Herb Encyclopedia, by Jack Ritchason
"when the plagues ravaged europe, the populace ate garlic daily as a protection against the disease. Garlic is known as a natural anti-biotic, without the deleterious effects of the drugs that kill all life within the body...Because it is a natural anti-biotic, it helps to control fevers and combat viruses...Garlic is one of the many Super foods that some consider to be one of the most potent healing herbs in the world."

If you want to test the potentcy of garlic, try rubbing a clove on the bottoms of your feet. Within minutes you will notice garlic breath! That is how quickly it travels through the body.

How to use Garlic
There are countless ways to incorporate garlic in the diet. Here are few of my favorites in addition to cooking with it regularly.

1) Garlic Lemonade
To make, simply slice 4-5 cloves of garlic (do not press as I find it to be too overpowering). Then simply place in a quart jar and cover 3/4 of the way with boiling water. Place the lid on and let sit at least a half an hour or so. Then add enough lemon and honey to taste. I usually add the juice of 2 lemons or so, and enough honey to sweeten. This drink is pleasant and nourishing and my children actually love it! I offer them 1-2 cups a day when I am working on helping them nourish and build.

2)Garlic Shooters
This recipe comes from The International Garlic Festival, by Caryl Simpson

Freshly squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into a cup. Add 1-2 T of water and then add a fresh, crushed or pressed garlic clove. Immediately swirl the cup to achieve a circling motion and drink in one gulp.
The 'shooter' experience is reportedly followed by an immediate feeling of rejuventaion called the 'shooter rush'.

Note: Once the garlic is added you will want to drink this quickly as the garlic tends to "heat" quickly once in contact with the liquid. It is surprisingly pleasant to drink and even my 4 year old enjoys them. The quicker you drink them the easier they are to get down and the less likely you are to even taste the garlic.

Rose Hips
What are they and what is their history?
Rose hips are the small berry-sized, reddish seed balls, that are left on the tips of the stems of roses. They are amazing sources of vitamin C. During WWII, there was a shortage of citrus fruit in England due to a German submarine blockade to the British Isles. The government organized the country to harvest all the Rose Hips to be made into a Vitamin C Syrup for the people to prevent scurvey.
"It seems that one of the richest sources of Vitamin C today is Rose Hips. It reportedly has 60 times more Vitamin C than citrus fruit... Large quantities of Vitamin C can be most useful for a great many of the comon diseases we have today to include the common cold, flu, pneumonia and many other common complaints. Another good use of Vitamin C can be as a cleansing, so as to avoid a disease problem before it happens by using it on a daily basis." The Little Herb Encyclopedia

How to use Rose Hips
Rosemary Gladstar's Rose Hips Jam
Dried seedless rose hips make a delicious and easy to prepare jam. Simply cover them with fresh apple juice and let them soak overnight. The next day the jam is ready to eat. Cinnamon and other spices can be added for more flavor if desired. I also like to add a small amount of honey to sweeten it slightly, although that is optional as well. Serve a tsp or so on morning toast or any other way you like!

I purchase my dried Rose Hips Here, although many health food stores may have them as well. They can even be harvested from your own rose bushes, but take care to never harvest from a bush that has been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.

There are many, many other nourishing herbs that could easily be added to this list. These are just a couple of family friendly suggestions that my family uses on a regular basis. They are simple and easy and pretty easy to keep on hand. Louis Pasteur was quoted on his deathbed as saing, "it's not the microbes, it's the environment." Remember that if we keep the environment of our body healthy, nourished and strong, then it will be its own best defense against any microbe that comes it's way. Try adding some of these nourishing herbs to your family's diet!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Herbs...Where do I begin?

Many times, people ask me, "How can I learn more about herbs?" Of course there are many answers to that question, but I always love to start with a good book. There are hundreds and hundreds of herbal books on the shelves, but I thought I would recommend a few of my tried and true favorites; the ones I turn to most often. I thought I would start with my top 3 choices, in no particular order. These are all, in my opinion, worth having on a shelf in your home.

Herbal Reference Books:

#1: Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal
I love this book! Rosemary Gladstar is considered the "mother of modern herbalism," and has been a driving force in herbal education. Here is a quote from the book description of this book, as found on her website (

"Her herbal recipes address everyday ailments, ease stress and anxiety, and promote radiant beauty within and without while nurturing longevity and well-being throughout the life cycle. An herbal apothecary at the end of the book provides an A-to-Z guide to herbs and their healing uses, along with safety precautions, dosage information, and guidelines for when to seek traditional medical help."

What I really love about htis book is that it is a collection of many books that the author has written over the past 30 years. It is broken into easy-to-read sections such as: Home Remedies for Everyday Ailments, For Children, For Women, For Men, For Elders, etc. There are many recipes and formulas included, as well as great insights, tips and inspirational quotes. This book is beautifully put together and I find myself returning to it time and time again for the valuable information, formulas and insight it contains.

The new paperback edition is now available here.

#2: The Little Herb Encyclopedia, by Jack Ritchason
This book is probably the one most often pulled from my shelf. I often use it to look up an unfamiliar herb, reference a favorite one, or just to read and enjoy interesting facts, info or uses and history of herbs and health conditions. This 400 page reference contains an alphabetical listing of individual herbs, their bodily influence, and describes their history and uses. It is a fabulous resource for wanting more information on individual herbs and their actions for the body. It is a great place to start for those just beginning to use herbs, as well as a fabulous reference for even the most seasoned herbalist. It is one I would not do without on my shelf.

This book can be purchased here, as well as many other online sources. A simple search will pull up many options for purchase.

#3: The ABC Herbal, by Steven H. Horne
This small book packs a big punch. It is a great resource for parents concerned with the health and well being of their children. The author shares many of his "tried and true" remedies and approaches to health he used with his own children. He also has many years experience as an herbalist. I gained so much insight as to the functions of our bodies as well as how illness affeects them, by reading this little book. This book also shares simple methods and preparations for herbal remedies, and how to use them with children. The book is broken into several valuable sectiins with an emphasis on three major areas that are as easy as "A-B-C: Activate, Build-up, and Cleansing."

I have turned to this book often as a reference for my children, but also for the amazing insights offered into how using herbs helps the body to heal. Don't be fooled by this books small size, the information inside is huge!

This book can be purchased here, here, and many other online sources.

I am a book-lover, and I also love herbs! Over the past several years I have purchased many herbal books and references, so at first to narrow the selection to three seemed difficult. But as I thought about which I turned to the most often, as well as which have given me the greatest insights, the choice became simple. These three books are a great addition to any herbal collection, as well as a perfect place to begin one. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fruit for Life

That picture is mouth watering, isn't it?

Fruit is an amazing food! It is where the 'sweets' world meets the healthy. They are usually vibrant in color and smell fabulous (with the exception of papaya, those who have had it know what I mean). I think many of us have made the statement, "well if it is really good, it must be bad for me." Yet, fruit (and of course all our wonderful recipes, right), proves us wrong.

There are some great fruit guidelines I have appreciated in my life that I'd like to share with you.

First off, fruit is best to eat on an empty stomach or before your meal. Fruit is easily digested in the body and when you have other foods in your intestines beforehand it makes it harder for your fruit to digest and could cause fermentation and indigestion in the body. When eaten alone or before your meal, fruit will easily digest and be used for energy. This is great for those of us who feel bloated or have digestive upset after eating fruit for dessert.

It is great to eat fruit as a snack after exercising. Instead of drinking that protein shake or eating yogurt, fruit will give you added hydration and needed energy from the natural sugars.

Fruit is actually alkaline-forming in the body. Even citrus fruits too! Lemons are my personal favorite. I could probably do a whole post just on lemons.

It is best to eat your fruit whole, unprocessed, and fresh. When heated, the digestive enzymes and nutrients are cooked out. When you eat your fruit with the skin or pulp, unprocessed and fresh you are getting fiber, nutrients and vitamins that the body can utilize and use.

So, eat up and use wisely. I'm going to go eat that fruit right now! Yum.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Herbal Spotlight: Red Raspberry Infusion

This is an herb that has been used for generations upon generations of women and children, and is well worth knowing of. Red Raspberry, where mothers and babies are concerned, has been called an herb made in heaven. It is definately one of my most used and most favorite of herbs, and currently a daily must have in my day because I love how I feel when I use it.

How to Prepare Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
To make a tea, or more appropriately called, an infusion, simply purchase a few ounces of Red Raspberry Leaf from your local health food store or reliable online herb co., (look HERE). If you like you can also purchase a tea ball, or a muslin bag to place your herb in while steeping it, or you can simply strain the tea through a fine mesh strainer when it is finished. To make, I usually make at least a quart a day, so I use a 1 quart canning jar with a lid. I place a generous handful of the dried herb in the jar and pour boiling water over the top. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes, with the lid on, although I leave mine as long as overnight depending on preference for strength. Strain or remove tea ball, add honey if you like and enjoy.

Interesting Facts about Red Raspberry
According to the Little Herb Encyclopedia, Red Raspberry,
"builds tissue to the extent that it prevents tearing of the cervix of the uterus during birth. During childbirth, hemorrhaging is prevented, the contraction of the uterine muscles are regulated during delivery and it also reduces false labor pains prior to enriches colostrom found in mother's milk, it also cleanses and prepares breasts for a pure milk has been used as an aid in morning sickness, and to ease many menstrual problems...Raspbery strengthens the walls of the uterus and the entire female reproductive system...(and finally but not least of all)...Raspberry leaf is an excellent herb for children for cleansing colds, slowing diarrhea, easing colic and fevers."

I feel great when I drink this tea, and I know countless others who have also enjoyed it's benefits!

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are not intented to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure any disease.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To Meat or Not to Meat?

Have you ever thought about why there are vegetarians and vegans? What's the deal with that? Why are they so anti meat? Should I be anti meat too?

Let's define some of these less meat categories.

Vegetarian- This is a general term that means someone who does not consume red meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.

There are variants of vegetarianism including,

Lacto-vegetarian- a vegetarian that eats dairy products but excludes eggs.
Ovo-vegetarian- a vegetarian that eats eggs but excludes dairy products.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian- a vegetarian that eats dairy products and eggs.
Semi-vegetarian- a person that eats mostly vegetarian foods but will eat at times fish and sometimes even poultry, as well as dairy products and eggs. Some vegetarians don't recognize this group as a vegetarians.
Vegan- a vegetarian that also excludes all products and by-products of animals, including eggs, dairy products, and even honey and yeast.

There are many reasons why a person would choose to eat these ways including moral, religion, culture, ethics, aesthetics, environment, society, economy, politics, taste, or health reasons. There are even more vegetarian sub-categories or similar categories that you can look in to.

We will suggest some health reasons to think about while deciding what you would like to choose for yourself.

First off, some studies to think about.

There are recent studies that have shown that a diet where the person eats a lot of red meat (this is including pork, beef, veal, and lamb), or such meat products were diagnosed with colorectal cancer more often than people who ate little of it or none at all. In comparison, those who ate a lot of fish on a regular basis, had a lower chance of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer as opposed to those who ate little to no fish at all.

Red meat and processed meat (this includes poultry sausage and such), has also been linked to breast cancer in women.

Now, studies aside, lets look at our bodies. Are we carnivores or herbivores?

Answer, neither. Are bodies have been made to survive on what's available to us. Or, in other words, we are omnivorous. Are bodies have been made to survive on both meat and veggies.

But let's look a little deeper into our bodies. Our intestines are very long and bumpy similar to an herbivore's length. We also need fiber to help our meat digest, where carnivores don't. Carnivores have 20x the amount of acid in their stomach than humans do. Interesting, isn't it?

Our bodies lean more toward what an herbivore's body looks like inside and reacts inside.

I have found this facsinating and dwelled upon this subject many times in my life. Personally, I am not considered to be a vegetarian. I usually eat fish on a weekly basis and from time to time (meaning a few times a year), I will eat turkey and chicken. I do exclude red meat for the most part. My diet is high in veggies, whole grains, herbs, and fruits. I'm not sure if that falls into any "catagory or sub-category" yet. My reasons are health and religion and it fits well with me and so far with my family.

In conclusion, this article is meant to help you think about your own food choices especially with meat. What you feel is best for you and your family. There are studies and voices calling all over the world (mine could be included in that). Don't follow one just because the crowd does or because one study told you too. Do the homework and choose for yourself. Feel confident in your choice because you've done the homework.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Daily Stretch

Remember when you were a young child and could bend and twist into every position imaginable? Well what about now? Most likely, you are not nearly as flexible as you were then and consider yourself pretty “bendy” if you can reach your shins when sitting with your legs straight out in front of you.

The fact is, as we age our joints and ligaments naturally start to tighten and atrophy, due to less collagen being produced in our body. Because of this, our range of motion is smaller than it used to be and it becomes increasingly difficult to perform regular daily tasks, such as bending over to tie our shoes.

My husband works at the hospital and takes care of patients ranging anywhere between the ages of 30 to 95 years old. He often explains how sad it is to see them be so dependent on other people – just to help them move. And 98% of the time, their inflexibility has nothing to do with their illness, but because they have been so sedentary throughout their life.

We live in such a chair-bound society and spend a large portion of our day sitting in front of a computer, in our car, or slouched at a desk. Because of the repetitive nature of this, the muscles in our body get so accustomed to the flexed hips, the hunched forward shoulders and the protruding neck, that our posture suffers tremendously and we cause muscle imbalances to occur throughout our entire body.

I often work with clients who have terrible posture due to chronic sitting and a lack of stretching. However, through regular stretching and strengthening of those weak muscles, I have seen amazing transformations in people. In fact, just a few days ago, I was speaking with a young, 25 year-old client of mine that I’ve been working with for a several months. When we first met, she was frustrated with and expressed concern about her improper posture when she stood. Even at her young age, her shoulders were hunched forward, her upper back rounded excessively and her hips were tilted upward. Well, looking at her now, you would never know her posture was a problem!
To ensure a high quality of life, especially during the later years of life, flexibility and proper posture alignment must be a priority in your daily activities. In an ideal world, we would all spend five to ten minutes daily to stretch our muscles and keep our body limber. Even just a few minutes a day can add up to big differences in how your body can move and function freely.

Stretching doesn’t need to be fancy in order to be effective. Too often, people think they need to perform yoga or other strenuous forms of stretching, to see improvement. Of course, those methods do work. But if that’s not appealing to you, simply stretching your muscles to a point of comfortable discomfort is fabulous and will work wonders for your body!

So as you work toward achieving a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and regular exercise, don’t forget that stretching frequently is a very important part of the equation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cold Weather Gardening

My broccoli ready for harvest. They will be smaller in size than at the grocery store.

If you happen to live where you have the joyful opportunity to plant vegetables in two different seasons you are most blessed! I planted my broccoli, cauliflower, leaf lettuce, spinach, and beets in September and October. I will begin to plant my tomatoes and warm season vegetables in March and April.

The beets have a little more time before we can eat them. The beet leaf is great for salads too!

Some tomato plants will be put into the ground next week, second week of February, protected with “Wall o’ Water,” self-standing plant protectors filled with water that provide additional heat, allowing one to plant earlier and harvest later without fear of frost damage. These are available at most nurseries and mail-order garden supplies.

The cauliflower is well on it's way.

My harvested broccoli, lightly steamed with leaf lettuce and sliced sweet peppers.

My daughter and I feasted on the broccoli and leaf lettuce for lunch. There really is a difference in homegrown!