It’s the Journey
FRIENDS, I wrote this last year, but am sad to say we need it even more this year. I have had ticks everywhere this year- and Lyme disease is a very real concern. SO I am posting this again. These remedies require a bit of effort but they are truly effective. The blog really addresses fleas, but tick control is similar.
Ticks: Harder to kill than fleas, and care must be taken to apply botanical insecticide several times weekly this year. I use the Botanical Bug Spray every day on myself, and 2-3 times weekly on my dog. I use Botanical Tick Shield when I am going to spend the day outside hiking, camping or otherwise being in nature. Tick Shield has 2x the organic Cedar oil, and repels the nasty critters quite well. Use the recommendations below for treating bedding & carpets to keep ticks from living in the house. Spray your own bed too, especially if pets sleep with you or in your bed during the day. Here is a video demonstrating the effectiveness of Botanical Bug Spray against ticks. Click the link to watch.
Fleas: This year has been a bumper crop year! The frequent rains & hot temperatures have everything growing like mad. Including the bugs. Mosquitos, ticks & fleas are the worst I have experienced them in years. Many of you have called me looking for a natural alternative to ridding your home of fleas- which travel in on you and your pets and can be extremely hard to get rid of once they are established. So today I will share with you my tested and effective flea control methods- without using a single drop of neurotoxic chemical pesticide.
A little about fleas first. Did you know that there are several types of flea, and each has a preferred host? There are dog fleas, cat fleas, human fleas, rat fleas and fleas that prefer fowl. These fleas will bite others if their preferred host is not available. Fleas can jump up to 7″ vertically and over a foot horizontally- which makes them very mobile! They easily move from host to host, host to person, and host to HOUSE. Flea saliva contains chemicals that can cause a severe itch response in some animals and humans. This is known as flea bite dermatitis, and can lead to infection if scratching or biting the area is intense. However, some people have fleas in the house and never get bitten- or simply have no reaction to flea bites. Did you also know that fleas are a host for tapeworms? Tapeworm eggs travel inside the adult flea, and if the flea is accidentally swallowed or inhaled by an animal while licking or chewing , the animal then may become infected with tapeworms. The animal also becomes a host for tapeworms. And if that animal is YOUR PET, you may also be exposed to tapeworms. Yuck. Finally, flea eggs can lay dormant in your home for months, just waiting for their preferred host to arrive. Let’s get rid of them NOW.
How do you know if you have fleas in your home or on your pet? Watch for frantic scratching, digging and biting from your pets. Using your fingers, comb the hair backward around their rump, base of tail or tummmy, where fleas love to live. Fleas are tiny brown spots that move quickly, and they leave small black dried blood spots in your pets fur. These tiny dots of dried blood are called “flea dirt” and is often the most noticeable sign of flea infestation. If your pet has flea dirt but you don’t see any fleas? THEY HAVE FLEAS. And fleas lay 20 to 50 eggs a day- which roll off the host onto bedding, carpets and furniture. If your dog has fleas- you have fleas. Get over it. You are not dirty or bad… you just have fleas.
SO! Here are some things to know about killing fleas. Firstly, they are very hard to crush. No matter how hard you squeeze, you cannot kill them, you must use your nails to break them. Yuck. Fleas need moisture to survive and prefer around 70-80% humidity. Without adequate hydration they struggle to live. Immersion in water, however, drowns fleas quickly. Armed with this knowledge, we begin our treatment.
Give your pet a bath in warm water with shampoo. ANY shampoo will do- it is the water that drowns the fleas. I do not use flea shampoos as I think the chemicals are dangerous and they are no more effective. The flea shampoos say they repel fleas up to 3 months, and I have found this to be false. I use tearless baby shampoo on my animal’s head & face so that I can get right around the eyes. If you do not soap up the face, the fleas will actually pool around the eyes in an attempt to escape. Gross. I use a diluted castille soap on the body- Dr. Bronners Lavender Castille works well and has the added benefit of soothing any sore, bitten areas. Use about 1/4 cup in a quart of water. Let the pet stand for 5-10 minutes in the shampoo. Rinse well. Watch the dead fleas run down the drain. In the meantime, wash every sheet, towel, comforter, blanket and throw rug that you can fit in the washer. Use warm or hot water. OK you have now killed most of the live fleas. But what about flea eggs and fleas still living in the house and yard?
Enter 3 flea killing friends: Divine Journeys Botanical Insecticide, boric acid & diatomaceous earth. These 3 inexpensive, non toxic ingredients will keep your home & pet flea free. Maybe you have heard of these- but it is important to know how to use them. Here we go. Go to your local dollar store and buy a plastic bottle of roach powder. It is often called Roach Prufe or similar. Read the ingredients- it should be almost 100% boric acid. It should cost a dollar or two. If you buy boric acid at the hardware store it will be 2 to 3 times as much money to buy. While at the dollar store, buy one of those glass cheese shaker top jars. Take your bottles home. Open the boric acid and for each cup of powder you use, add 1 teaspoon of Cedar Insecticide. Shake this up well and put into your shaker top jar. Shake this powder over every surface of the home. Carpets, under the furniture cushions, cracks of hardwood floors. Take a broom and sweep the powder into the surfaces so it is well-distributed. Leave for 24 hours then vacuum it all up. (I actually just leave the powder under the seat cushions of my furniture) Do this once a week for several weeks. No more fleas. The boric acid dehydrates the fleas, and the cedar insecticide suffocates them. Boric acid has the same toxicity as table salt- so while it is relatively harmless, do not let children and pets lick or lay in a concentrated amount of it. It is not tasty, they won’t purposely seek it out. Don’t get stuck on this point- boric acid is hundreds of times less toxic than chemical flea sprays, bombs and powders. This carpet/floor treatment will also kill ticks, carpet beetles, roaches, spiders and anything else that dares to crawl around your home.
Now back to the pets. Kitty & puppy are all dry and clean from the bubble bath. But without protection, they will simply go back outside and bring back more fleas. With your new & continued boric acid and cedar insecticide flooring treatment, the fleas will not survive in the house. Remember to wash the pet’s bedding often. But the fleas will still dine happily on you and your pets. Boric acid is, in my opinion, to harsh for direct application onto a pet’s skin. But Botancial Bug Spray and diatomaceous earth are very gentle and totally non toxic to pets- even if they lick and chew after application. Those flea drops that you spread onto your animal’s neck? They are proving to be very dangerous. Google it if you want to see. I won’t press that point. Often a good wetting down of your pets coat with cedar insecticide spray is all that you will need to keep fleas away. Wet the pet’s coat down, covering all areas, once weekly during the hot summer months, less during the winter. It is so gentle you can use it on puppies and kittens, as well as your kids and yourself to keep mosquitos and ticks away. Apply directly to exposed skin and clothing. I practically BATHE in this stuff- the mosquitos LOVE me. You can buy this from me at Divine Journeys or on my website, or at Good Natured Store in Martinsburg, or at the Boonsboro Wellness Center. It smells great, works great, and can be used for so many of your buggy problems.
Some pets, though, need a little extra protection. Just like with people, some dogs and cats seem more prone to attract fleas than others. For these pets, we will kick it up a notch. Go to your local pet store or to Amazon and buy some diatomaceous earth (DE) that is made for pet application. It looks a lot like flour. If you wish to treat your yard, buy some additional DE for lawn & garden use and follow the directions to treat the yard. Do not use lawn & garden DE on your pets. For the pets: Mix 1 cup of organic food grade DE powder with 1 tablespoon of Cedar Insecticide. Mix well and sprinkle over your pets coat, rubbing the powder in well. Use extra in the places the fleas like to live: tail, rear, and belly. You may even sprinkle a bit of this into your pets ears for ear mites. Do this outside or over a towel to keep the floor clean. I have found this powder to be foolproof, even during the height of flea season! And again, totally non toxic. Apply as needed- I apply once weekly during the hot summer months.
I hope you try these simple and effective natural flea treatments. They are better for your pets, your family, your wallet and our beautiful planet. Please leave a note with questions or comments. Hugs~
The American government doesn’t require health studies or pre-market testing of the chemicals in our health and beauty care products, even though just about everyone is exposed to them. Cosmetics aren’t subject to the same oversight as food and pharmaceuticals, according to the Food & Drug Administration. The FDA doesn’t have the responsibility to approve new ingredients or issue safety recalls. It’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether a product is safe.
Imagine that… big business deciding for us if a product is safe… think about it. Once you have pondered that a bit, visit this website http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and search for your favorite health and beauty products. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, sprays, sunscreen, skin creams, lotion, make-up- search them all. The Environmental Working Group is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization. Their mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment. See how safe your products are, then come back here for some better ideas. Ready? Great. Here is the really good news- many of those very high-priced products are LESS effective than those you can make in your kitchen. Just look at the ingredient list- the primary ingredient is listed first, with the rest listed in descending order. So that product you pay $40, $50 and even $80 for is primary water or alcohol. Nice. Skin care and cosmetics seem to have some of the most toxic ingredients. Make no mistake about it- beauty is BIG business. Keep remembering the big business folks get to decide if what they put in your product is safe. Cosmetics. Unregulated. Marketing is expensive. Shiny packages and fancy names for simple ingredients cost money. TV & magazine ads, big shiny displays in the stores, models with pouty lips- these things cost LOTS of money! That really doesn’t leave much cheddar left for the ingredients. So, water it is. Or alcohol. Or lab produced stuff that is “formulated to be more effective than regular” ingredients. OK I will hop off the soapbox. Thanks for reading, if you did… I would like to offer you some very effective alternatives. As a young woman I discovered that I am highly sensitive to chemicals and fragrances. Most commercially produced cosmetics and skin care products bother me in some way. I will break out in itchy red bumps or scaly patches. My eyes will burn and itch. The chemical scents (these are labeled as FRAGRANCES) often give me instant headaches. In my 20s I began a journey toward clean, healthy products. 25 years and a lot of research and education later, I think I have some good solutions. Let me share some with you. Cleansing your skin: You do NOT need harsh, sudsy soap to clean your skin. Soaps and detergents strip the skin. Here are some alternative and simple ideas for cleansing skin. TRY them for 2 weeks and see what you think: NOTE: use Essential oils with care- more is NOT better. Ensure the essential oils are thoroughly mixed with the fixed oil prior to using. Dry skin: Organic olive oil is highly emollient and very healing. Pour a small amount onto fingertips or a soft cloth and massage into the skin. The oil might sting your eyes a little, so avoid rubbing directly over your eyes if you are very sensitive. I personally do rub it over my entire face, it doesn’t bother me. Rinse thoroughly with water. Add essential oils at 2 to 5 drops per ounce to kick it up a notch. For dry skin try one of these essential oils: Chamomile, Sandalwood, Rose Normal or combination skin- Organic sweet almond oil is very similar to the sebum (natural oil) found in our skin. Use as described above. Essential oils good for this skin type: Geranium, Lavender, Ylang-Ylang Oily skin- Organic hazelnut or grape seed oil is mildly astringent (toning and tightening) and will not encourage excess oil production of your skin. Essential oils good for this skin type are Tea tree, Rosemary & Eucalyptus Facial scrubs are a great way to gently remove dead skin cells and toxins, and increase circulation to the skin. Your face will glow! Dry/Sensitive skin scrub: Coconut oil with a small amount of organic sugar- start with 1 tsp per 1/4 cup of oil. Melt the oil by placing the container in a larger container filled with hot water. Never use the microwave or direct heat- it will change the chemical structure of the oil. Add the sugar and rub GENTLY into skin for a moisturizing scrub. Experiment with coarse turbinado/raw sugar for extra scrub. Add a few drops of one of the essential oils above if you like. Normal/combination skin scrub: Ground oatmeal & coarse corn meal- sounds like breakfast, huh? Get yourself some organic rolled oats and grind about a cup of the oats into a fine powder with a blender or coffee grinder. Add some coarse corn meal- start with a tablespoon per cup of powdered oats and adjust to your liking. You may add up to 10 drops of the essential oils (as suggested above) per cup of scrub. Mix well and store in a jar. When ready to use, place a small amount in your palm and wet with water OR plain yogurt until creamy. Scrub your face GENTLY and rinse thoroughly. Oily/problem skin: Coarse kosher or sea salt and lemon juice- Mix this as you need it so the salt doesn’t melt. Add enough lemon juice to moisten a few tablespoons of salt. Scrub your face gently and do NOT get into eyes- YUP this one will sting if you do. You may add a few drop of the essential oils suggested above AND a teaspoon of hazelnut or grapeseed oil too if you like. Adding the fixed oils makes this a tad more gentle. Moisturizing the skin is important too. You can use a small amount of fixed oil (fixed or carrier oil is a term to describe the oily type of oils like olive/almond/coconut as opposed to essential oils which are not oils at all but rather plant extracts) to moisturize your face. I suggest olive, coconut and avocado oils for dry skin, sweet almond oil for normal/combination skin and jojoba or hazelnut oil for oily/problem skin. Add 2 to 4 DROPS of the suggested essential oils (above) per ounce of fixed oil to kick things up a notch. Try these recipes and notice how your skin improves. There are also many “natural” products available on the market. Please read the ingredients- big business is aware of our interest in “natural” and they are tricky! If you do not recognize the ingredient, or if the top ingredient is water or alcohol, you are wasting your money. Make sure there are no fragrances in the product either, but that they are scented with essential oils instead of fragrances. Don’t have time to do this research??? I make a full line of Truly Pure Botanical Skin Care. They are my best-selling products. BEWARE- once you try them you will be hooked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Did the blog title get your attention? YES I am going to tell you how to get FREE organic food, and there are no coupons to clip, no mail-in rebates, no questionnaire to complete and no email list to sign up for. No gardens to dig. You don’t even have to plant a seed for this food. There is nothing to weed, mulch, stake, prune or plow. Simply harvest and enjoy.
Have you got me figured out yet? I am talking about wild edible plants, and they are growing all around you in magnificent abundance. In fact, if you stopped tending your lawn, you would have a super market surrounding your home! Plus, we would all be healthier without all that fertilizer, pesticide, and weed killer used to keep lawns looking “good”. Wild edible plants are the purest expression of unprocessed, organic, nutrient rich plant foods. Did you know that the vegetables you buy in the market have declined in nutrient value since first tested in the 1950s? This study illustrates the decline in nutritional values of vegetables and fruits as the practice of monoculture expands. Many of the wild plants readily available all around us have more nutritional value than anything that we can by in a market- including organic grown! Purslane, for example, might be the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fats, as well as being loaded with vitamins A, C, and E. In addition to its bounty of omega-3 fatty acids, purslane has other nutritional benefits. How’s this for fabulous and FREE? (OH! Yes it tastes very mild and juicy) SIX times more vitamin E than spinach SEVEN times more beta carotene than carrots, providing 1320 IU/100g of vitamin A (44 percent of the RDA), which is one of the highest among green leafy vegetables 25 mg of vitamin C per cup (20 percent of the RDA) Rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous and manganese Garlic mustard is another high nutrition wild plant. As an added reason for eating it- it is labeled as an invasive- so eating it helps your local plants to thrive. Garlic Mustard greens are high in vitamin A (8,600 units per 100 grams) and vitamin C (190mg per 100 grams), according to William Needham, who writes the “Hiker’s Notebook” for the Sierra Club at SierraPotomac.org. Stinging Nettle is a magnificent plant with a bad rap. SURE it stings you if mishandled, but that’s only because every living thing would munch it right out of existence! Nettle greens are delicious and harmless when cooked, steamed, dried or blended into a pesto. As an herbalist, this is one plant I use for almost EVERYONE in their herbal formulas. Nettle is nutritious and gently anti-inflammatory for the entire body. As an added benefit, Nettle ROOT has been shown effective in keeping male hormones potent. What’s not to like? There are hundreds of plants to eat all around you. Before you go out harvesting, however, follow these guidelines: Harvest plants away from roadside dust and pollution Harvest from places free from pesticide, herbicide and chemical fertilizer use Always ask permission prior to harvesting from someone’s land, and note that gathering plants in parks may be illegal Be respectful of Nature- NEVER take more than you need, and NEVER take every plant. Leave the biggest, healthiest plants so they can continue to thrive ALWAYS be certain before you eat any plant. There are a few wild plants that can make you very sick and even kill you. Forage with a knowledgeable person, a good guide book, or learn to ID wild plants yourself. On June 8th & 9th 2013, I will hold a workshop- Wild Edible Weekend Intensive. We will identify, harvest, prepare and eat many local wild edibles. Come learn about the bounty of wild foods all around you- it’s a skill that will last a lifetime, save you tons of money, and offer you a new respect for the food to eat right under your feet! See you there!
In December 2012 I was blessed to be able to take a trip to Costa Rica. My goal was to get an introduction to Central American plant medicine. Robert Beatham, of The Paradise Tropical Garden in Rio Claro, offered just such an opportunity! I loved Robert from the moment I saw him, as he walked energetically out of his home with a pack of barking, wagging dogs at his heels. Robert is a genuine sort of person, with strong opinions tempered by a good sense of humor.
Robert was born and raised on a farm in Bangor, Maine. He attended the Maine Maritime Academy, and upon graduation went to look for a job. He took an opening on a banana boat heading for Central America... and 3 trips later met the love of his life- his wife Carmen. They eventually married in November 1964, and purchased the beautiful land I visited in December. Robert and Carmen (Mami, he called her) shared their lives together until April 2003, when Mami transitioned from this Earth. Robert buried her on her beloved land.
The farm has been used in many ways by Robert over the years, but is now planted with hundreds of tropical plants and trees. Robert offers guided tours of the gardens, and is bursting with a vast amount of knowledge about his plants, trees, fruits and their uses. He and I spoke of the power of plant medicine, eating fresh unprocessed foods, and the rise in our modern culture of autoimmune disease, cancer, stress, and the modern way of life that separates us from the Earth and each other. We compared medicinal uses for some of the plants I recognized. We spoke of treating common diseases and conditions with plant medicine and natural foods. Robert feels strongly that people should live simply and only do things that make them happy, and I love his outlook. I was in heaven on Robert's farm, and would have stayed for days had it not been for my travel companions. After several hours of wandering the farm and sharing a lovely lunch of tamales wrapped in banana leaves, I hugged Robert goodbye.
Robert has offered to have me back to his farm to work and learn. I hope to be able to join him there one day for an extended visit. Until then, I would like to share with you some of the photos I took in this verdant, colorful place. First, a few of the plants and their uses as employed locally as medicine for common health issues. Please remember that I have not tried any of these remedies and that each of us should take responsibility for our health choices. Pregnant/lactating women and people with serious health issues should always work with a health care provider, like a physician or a trained herbalist, prior to taking any herb, medication or supplement~
The bracts of Red Plume Ginger (alpinia purpurata) are plucked off and stuffed into an 8 oz bottle- when full it is covered with rubbing alcohol to cover completely. After a minimum of 5 days (as an herbalist I would recommend 2-4 weeks, myself) the plant material can be strained out and the resulting liniment is rubbed into the back to treat a slipped disk. Local folklore says this remedy can have good result within several days.
Avocado leaves (persea americana) ~ 3 leaves are boiled in 3.5 cups of water for 3-5 minutes, left to cool, strained and refrigerated. One cup of the decoction is taken 3x daily to lower blood pressure. Locals also say it lowers cholesterol and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Annatto tree (bixa orellana) leaves are used as a remedy for gout. 10 leaves are boiled in a litre of water and allowed to cool. The liquid is strained out, refrigerated, and 1 cup is taken 4 times daily. Relief from the pain of gout is often felt after the first day. The seeds from the bright red pods are used as well- for relief from stomach ulcer. The seeds are removed, dried and ground up. 3 ground seeds are sprinkled of food in the morning and another 3 in the evening. Locals say this often completely cures the ulcer.
Scarlet Bush (hamelia patens) is used as a remedy for enlarged prostate. 2 ounces of fresh leaves and flowers are boiled in 3.5 cups of water for 5 minutes and left to cool. One half cupful of the strained and refrigerated decoction is drunk 3x daily. Local rumor says that this treatment will result in scheduled surgeries being cancelled!
On my website I share some of the wonders of this magnificent garden with you in a photo gallery, as well as contact information for Robert Beatham. Robert offers FREE booklets on natural remedies, you'll just need to email him. Visit http://www.divine-journeys.com/jungle-plants-medicine-from-costa-rica/ for his email, website, and a gallery of gorgeous photos.
Food. What to eat and what not to eat. What to consume consumes our thoughts- some of us obsess over it. Vegetarian? Vegan? Paleo? Organic? Wild harvested? Whatever is on sale? The daily special at my favorite restaurant? Many people are shocked to find out that I am not a vegetarian or vegan. As an herbalist and shamanic practitioner, people assume I would be. But it is exactly because I am a shamanic herbalist and wholistic healer that I am not a vegetarian...
But what of the ethical issues? We are all aware by now of the ghastly treatment of animals raised purely as food for humans. The widely available video footage of this abuse brings tears to my eyes. There is also data available that indicates a percentage of global warming is caused by the manure of our food animals. A widely cited 2006 report estimated that 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions were attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs and poultry- and further studies have shown that figure as high as 51%. Finally, all the land and grain required to feed meat animals lowers the availability of less expensive grain based foods for the millions of hungry mouths of our ever-expanding human population.
These are excellent reasons to drastically lower our meat consumption. Eating huge chunks of animal protein because we can afford to do so is a bad idea by all accounts. But is animal protein the main cause of our terrible modern health issues? And is it the moral obligation of the human being to avoid eating anything with consciousness... with a face... with eyes that look back at us with emotions that we clearly identify as emotions we recognize and feel too?
From the perspective of the shaman, everything is alive. Everything has consciousness. Everything vibrates with life force energy. As an herbalist I have come to understand the great power of the Plant Nation. Plants have provided us with food, medicine, clothing and shelter since we arrived on this Earth (in whatever way you feel we arrived). This budding awareness (pun intended) at the beginning of my walk as herbalist was enough for me look closely at my own anthropocentric ideals. In my human-centric way of viewing the world, I had put consciousness on a hierarchical scale, with life forms being most like humans at the top, and those things less like humans at the bottom. This left plants very near the bottom of my chart. Plants could be eaten, weeded, hybridized, monocultured, and thrown away at will. After all, plants don't have a face, right? And who has heard a tree cry when it's apple is plucked?
Shamans use plants as medicine, and as powerful, compassionate teachers and allies. As I have moved ever deeper over the years into my practice as a shamanic herbalist, I could not ignore the ancient and conscious bond between shaman and plant. I have explored plant consciousness and in doing so have glimpsed my own true face and the faces of my plant teachers. Plants are aware and intelligent. I have learned how to speak with them- and in honor of our alliance plants speak back to me.
Diet is a personal choice and the issues are very complex. There is no one-size-fits-all way to eat, of that I am certain. I do know that every time I put something in my mouth- I have taken the life force (life) of another being. Every time I breathe I kill microbes and other microscopic beings. I must take in life force energy every moment in order to maintain my own life. This is the way of the Earth- and it is good.
It is an inevitable part of life on Earth to eat and to be eaten. I do my best to honor the body I was given. For me this means eating with the knowledge that EVERYTHING I eat has a face. When I am eating at my best, I eat the least processed and organic foods I can find. PROCESSED MEANS MADE WITH HUMAN INTERVENTION: Mono-culture grown vegetables. Animal feed lots. Pasta & breads & crackers. margarine. Soy meat & milk substitutes are very processed have you ever SEEN a soy bean? It must take a lot of processing to get milk or meat outta that bean. Why not just eat the actual bean of the soy plant? Vegetarian meat and cheese substitutes are very processed. The meat of a naturally grass-fed and raised cow is less processed. Less processed still- a wild deer. I choose the foods that have the least amount of human handling before they got in my fridge. Better still, eat plants and animals that thrive without human intervention, in their natural and chosen habitats. That trumps any label- organic, free range, pastured...
Want to learn more about eating vibrant, living plants and the health benefits of doing so? Join me over Memorial Day weekend- that Saturday & Sunday (we will leave Monday open so that you can enjoy your family)-for a Wild Food Retreat. We will identify, harvest, cook and eat wild plant foods that surpass organic. Foods that fit into your body chemistry like a key in a lock. You might even grace your Memorial Day Monday picnic table with some of the wild plant dishes you will try on Sunday. You will no longer say you cannot afford organic- it will be sitting at your feet. And we will all- human and plant alike- enjoy the communion.
...And Medicine Be Thy Food. How interesting that this quote is by Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who is considered by some to be the Father of Western Medicine! It seems we are finally paying attention these days to his words of wisdom. More and more of us are realizing the powerful link between food and health.
This clearly is not a new idea. Many cultures do not have the distinct boundary between food and medicine that we have here in the West. In China, nutrition therapy is a part of the traditional health care- TCM- Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM uses herbs, energy medicine and food as a combined approach to wellness and longevity that dates back as early as 2000 BC! In 1500 BC, Ayurveda was being used in India as a form of medicine. Ayurveda also uses herbs, spices and foods to maintain a healthy balance in the body.
Many of us are turning to alternative, wholistic practices to stay healthy and vibrant. This time of year can be particulary challenging to our good health. Cold & flu season is upon us, and we are out and about shopping and attending holiday parties, increasing our chances of exposure to viral and bacterial infection. We may overindulge in unhealthy food and drinks, as everywhere we go we are offered holiday treats. And, if our daily lives are not busy enough already, we are decorating, cooking, planning, running...
Stress disrupts homeostasis- the healthy, balanced stability within our bodies. Stress taxes our immune, adrenal and nervous systems and can lead to hightened vulnerability to microbes. Please note that stress does not always come packaged in negativity! Preparing a meal for an extended family gathering, for example, can be fun and satisfying. But the extra time, money and energy needed to prepare for the gathering, and the disruption of our daily routine can cause stress.
We can draw upon the wisdom of ancient traditional medicinal practices to maintain homeostasis and stay healthy during the holidays. This year the flu has come early- and so many of us are already sick! I would like to offer you some simple, inexpensive ways to protect yourself and your family from viral infection- and keep your holidays healthy.
Food first. Did you know that garlic, ginger and honey are some of our most powerful natural antibiotics? And that mushrooms, especially shiitake and maitake types, stimulate the immune system? And that many of the herbs and spices found in your cabinet have been shown effective against pharmaceutical resistant bacterium? Here is a list of the very best foods, culinary herbs & spices that you can eat to stay healthy this season:
Garlic Ginger Honey Sage Oregano Onions Thyme Cinnamon Cumin Cloves Rosemary Cayenne Lemongrass Lemon Mushrooms (esp shiitake & maitake but all mushrooms are heathy!)
Spice it up! Eat extra ginger with your sushi. Choose dishes that have lots of garlic & onions. Use honey & cinnamon in your tea and coffee instead of sugar. Better yet, drink hot chai tea made from REAL spices and use raw honey for sweetening it. Add fresh or dried herbs to every dish you cook. Here is one of my personal favorite recipes for staying healthy- and it tastes GREAT~
Mushroom Immunity Saute
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped 2 dried hot peppers, crumbled OR 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy) 1 small onion, chopped 1 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (I use shiitake, maitake & baby bellas. Use your favorites) Fresh or dried herbs of choice from the list above. I love Thyme in this recipe, but Sage, Oregano and Rosemary are delicious as well. 2 Tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or ghee Lemon, butter, cheese (optional) Cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta
Warm your pan on medium-high heat and add oil or ghee. Add mushrooms and onions and saute until they begin to brown and carmelize, stirring frequently to avoid burning. You may need to add a tad more oil or ghee if too dry. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add hot pepper and herbs, cook and stir a few more minutes until fragrant. Serve hot over rice or pasta. Top with a squeeze of lemon and fresh organic butter and grated cheese if you eat dairy.
Now the medicinal herbs. I have over 200 herbs in my apothecary, but when it comes to colds & flu, I love these trusted friends:
Echinacea Purpurea herb & root (our local species) Sage leaf (salvia) Goldenseal ROOT (hydrastis canadensis) Elder berry & flower (sambucus)
Echinacea is without equal for treating strep throat and the early onset of colds and flu. For sore throat or strep, use echinacea tincture. Drop or spray the tincture in the back of the throat, letting it mix with your saliva. Do this about once an hour until throat is no longer inflamed and painful, then several times a day until completely resolved. Please use a high quality brand- or contact me for Echinacea Throat Spray from my apothecary.
Goldenseal is a powerful antimicrobial herb- and works so well it is endangered. You must use the root of this plant- beware of inexpensive capsules that contain only leaves. Goldenseal keeps the mucous membranes in the body healthy. Use it for full blown colds & flu, urinary tract issues, and anytime there is inflammation of the sinus area. Take capsules (1-2 00 size caps up to 4x daily) of the powdered root or a dropperful of tincture 3-4 times daily. Also unequaled for cuts & wounds topically.
The Elder plant is a gift from Nature. The berries can be used to prevent viral infection and to reduce the duration of viral infection. The flowers are used to to relieve inflammation, congestion & infection of the sinuses. Every year I sell GALLONS of Elderberry & Echinacea Antiviral Elixir that I make from organic berries & herbs. Taken as a preventative or at the first sign of infection, Elder is extremely effective. The berries and flowers taste good- use berries as a syrup, tea or tincture once daily during cold and flu season as a preventative; 4-8 times daily at onset. Flowers should be steeped as a tea and sweetened with honey for use as a sinus decongestant.
Sage is an old & wise plant that has been use for millenia in cultures where it grows. Use Sage for cooking, in tea, for burning as an air purifier. Particularly effective for upper respiratory infection accompanied by sore throat and mucous. I make a large bottle of Sage vinegar every year and keep it on hand for my clients. Sage vinegar, mixed with some hot water and sprayed or gargled in the throat relieves sore, inflammed throats. A dropperful of the tincture 6 to 8 times a day will dry up a drippy, wet cold. And Sage tea is the best cold medicine I know. Here is my recipe:
2 teaspoons dried Sage (make sure it is recently dried and still potent) Juice of 1/2 Lemon Pinch of Cayenne powder 1-2 tablespoons raw honey
Place Sage in a tea bag or diffuser into a mug. Squeeze lemon into mug and add a pinch or Cayenne. Cover with boiling water, steep. Add honey and sip the tea as hot as you can tolerate it. Dink several times daily for wet, mucous cold & flu.
Happy Homeostasis to You and Yours this Holiday Season! Please email me with questions or if you need any of the herbs or preparations mentioned here.