Beyond Thieves Oil for Seasonal Wellness

Patient questions made me realize it was time to repost this blog. If you end up getting creative and designing your own blend, let me know what herbs you use!

Yes, you can use herbs and essential oils to help kill bacteria and fight off wintertime infections. Many companies make blends of essential oils known as thieves oil or its numerous other names . These are probably not the original formula the thieves used during the plague as that probably included garlic. I am would much rather smell like eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, cloves, or any of the other antimicrobial essential oils.

So how did this name thieves oil come about? In Europe during the plague known as the Black Death, a group of thieves made an herbal vinegar concoction to douse themselves in and successfully robbed houses and bodies without coming down with the plague. This vinegar concoction was thought to contain garlic and rosemary and a variety of other herbs that no one seems to agree upon. It possibly had thyme, sage and lavender, but there are so many herbs with antimicrobial properties that could have been used depending on what was available to them for each batch.

I am making a Four Thieves Vinegar. I will probably also use it for salad dressing.
I am making a Four Thieves Vinegar. I will probably also use it for salad dressing.

To protect yourself and your family from wintertime germs, there are a lot of options to choices from. If you like to make stuff at home, there are great recipes out there for Four Thieves Vinegar, which can be used as a surface disinfectant or taken internally as an immune booster. You can also make your own thieves oil blend from common essential oils. And you can support one of our local businesses by checking out Essential Arts Well Being oil. It is in a base of grapeseed oil so it ready to be rubbed into the soles of the feet or used as a chest rub for colds and coughs.
This just scratches the surface of all of the amazing way herbs and essential oils can be used to help us be healthy in the winter. So remember you can stay well and smell great doing it (if you leave the garlic out).

Serious Steps for Coronavirus Prevention

My letter about the Coronavirus was printed on the opinion page of a newspaper in my region. I was concerned, as was the author of the article I cited, that people were making unsubstantiated promises about how natural remedies could cure Coronavirus.

Of course, if those I care for are affected by this new Coronavirus, I am going to extrapolate from my natural medicine experience with other viral illness. But I will be upfront about this approach, and I will also strongly encourage everyone to seek treatment with their primary care doctor so that all tools can be employed.

Here are some of the natural interventions I will consider for prevention:

  • Research has shown that some herbs can help prevent flu including licorice root, American ginseng, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic.
  • Likewise, nutritional supplements can help insure optimal immune system function. These include: zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and probiotics.
  • Test your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D might boost immune health for disease prevention and improve disease outcomes.
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And don’t forget these very important basics to help prevent this or any other seasonal illnesses:

  • Have a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, minimize stress, eat plenty of veggies and fruits, and avoid sugar and junk foods.
  • Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.
  • If you cannot avoid such places, consider using a properly fitted mask.
  • Prioritize handwashing, more often, with soap and water for twenty seconds, especially before eating.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Use hand sanitizers, when handwashing is not possible.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.
  • Please stay home if you are sick!

Here is the letter I sent to the newspaper. Even though I might consider silver as part of my protocol, we cannot believe in any supposed miracle cure for Coronavirus or any illness:

I read your article about the silver solution product promoted by Jim Baker, and I want to address my concerns about their product claims as a professional naturopathic doctor with a degree from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., and a person who works daily helping craft natural medicines and supplements.

True, silver compounds have been used for many years to reduce or eliminate many pathogens, but most of the studies are done in test tubes. Outcomes in the human body are often very different from those in test tubes. There is zero professional research that shows silver solution products cure coronavirus infections. In fact, it is dangerous to offer people false hope during this critical time with an international epidemic.

In short, it is dangerous and potentially life threatening to suggest that silver solution products can cure the coronavirus infection. It would be dangerous and even deadly for people who may have contracted the illness to rely on untested, undocumented remedies. Such patients could not only endanger their own lives by delaying critical treatment by taking the silver solution instead of seeking professional medical care, but those patients could infect others while believing the silver solution had cured the coronavirus infection.

Naturopathic medicine is my career and I’ve helped many people with serious health problems, and have even taken a form of silver for other illnesses myself. However, no serious naturopathic practitioner who cares about patients or public health would suggest without documented, peer-reviewed research that silver solution products would cure a deadly pathogen like coronavirus.

Such unfounded claims not only endanger the public during an international epidemic, but also create unnecessary doubts about the good work of clinically-trained naturopathic doctors, like myself.

As a naturopathic doctor, I urge everyone who may be exposed to coronavirus to seek help from appropriate health professionals, and not just rely on unproven silver solutions sold by those hoping to capitalize on public fears.

Sincerely,

Laurell Matthews, ND

Autism Spectrum Support

Do you know anyone with Autism or Asperger’s that needs a new perspective? There are natural interventions that can help them be their best.

Check out my recent interview on Mother’s Guide Through Autism podcast to learn more. I discuss how genetics, environment, gut health, hidden infections, and many different factors may be contributing to the disorder.  And provide some simple interventions to consider.

https://bmvlifecoach.com/episode-15-autism-is-my-super-power/

Sugar is a Toxin

Do your New Year’s resolutions or health goals include?

  • Losing weight
  • Being healthier
  • Having more energy
  • Detoxification
  • Helping your brain stay sharper
  • Being happier
  • Having clearer skin
  • Getting better sleep
  • Saving money
  • Not getting diabetes like your grandmother

Well, maybe your resolution wasn’t as specific as this last one, but these are just some of the potential health benefits from minimizing your sugar consumption.

Health risks of sugar and carbohydrates

A study in The Lancet showed there was a correlation between a high carbohydrate diet and total mortality risk. This massive study with over 100,000 participants from 18 countries didn’t show the same health risk with consumption of dietary fats. This is just one of many studies that are helping us rethink our dietary recommendations.

How sugar is toxic

  • Insulin resistance, the cause of most diabetes, is partially caused by cells trying to protect themselves from the damage caused by excess sugar.
  • Cell-damaging reactive oxygen species are a natural byproduct of cellular energy production from sugar.
  • Increased sugar consumption leads to more of these reactive oxygen species in your cells.
  • Reactive oxygen species contribute to insulin resistance because cells reduce their insulin receptors to protect themselves against this damage from excess sugar.
  • Then the body starts producing excess insulin to try to force the cells to take up sugar.
  • This excess insulin is the beginning of other health problems like pre-diabetes and obesity.
  • Other toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides amplify this oxidative stress and these problems.

So basically, if we eat too much sugar or carbohydrates, our cells try to protect themselves by ignoring insulin’s message to remove sugar from the bloodstream. But this either leads to elevated insulin levels or high blood sugar. If you cut down on the sugar and carbs, you can help stop this cycle of damage.

Tips for Cutting out Sugar

  • Go cold turkey. We often crave sugar less after avoiding it for a week.
  • Eat fruit. The fiber and antioxidants in fruit protect us from oxidative stress and diabetes.
  • Use natural alternative sweeteners. I use stevia, monk fruit, and occasionally xylitol.
  • Ditch soda. Try flavored sparkling water or tea.
  • Don’t keep high sugar treats in the house.
  • Eat more protein and fat. These can help reduce hunger.
  • Add stress reduction activities, such as mindfulness exercises. Stress can spur sugar craving.
  • When it is time for a sweet treat, have one that includes antioxidants, such as those in dark chocolate or cinnamon.

Sugary temptations are everywhere these days, and it can be easy to give into them. But remind yourself of your health goals. My grandmother had diabetes so I know my risk might be greater. If I find myself tempted in the grocery store, I remind myself that too much sugar is a toxin. Yes, most of us can handle some amount of sugar in the diet. But with all the other toxic stresses in our lives, let’s minimize this one to support our health goals.

 So here’s to a lower-sugar, healthier New Year!

Add Homeopathy to Your Spring Cleanse

Any time of year is a good time to think about doing a detoxification protocol, but spring especially so. Winter can be a time when we accumulate more toxins due to being less active and sweating less. A comprehensive detoxification plan includes diet, exercise, herbs, and dietary supplements. Now, we also understand how homeopathic remedies can enhance this detoxification plan.

Homeopathy is the use of a highly diluted version of a substance that in its undiluted form causes symptoms similar to what the individual is experiencing. A classic example is the use of homeopathic dilutions of onion to help eye irritation and tearing during allergy season. We also sometimes use the homeopathic dilution of the exact substance that is causing the problem. These homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they don’t pose any harm to the body but are enough to help stimulate its defenses.

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Currently, I am concerned about the toxin arsenic. The most common sources of arsenic exposure are things we consume regularly: water, rice, and chicken. This low level chronic exposure may be contributing to health issues such as fatigue, headaches, anxiety, neurological issues, and increased risk of diabetes and cancer. While this is not the only toxic metal in our environment and food supply that concerns me, arsenic has some interesting research that might help us understand how to use homeopathic remedies in our detox plans.

In a study where E. coli bacteria were exposed to a form of arsenic, clear toxic effects were noticed such as DNA changes and disrupted growth. When identical E. Coli exposed to arsenic were also given homeopathic arsenic (Arsenicum Album 30C), these negative effects were reduced. The new theory on homeopathy is that these highly dilute substances are stimulating cellular defense mechanisms, such as increasing the production of enzymes used during detoxification, without causing any harm from the remedy itself.

After reviewing studies such as this one, I have begun including homeopathic preparations in the detox protocols for people that I suspect have heavy metal exposure. I don’t rely on the homeopathic remedies alone. I include healthy diet changes, exercise, herbs, and other nutrients such as N-Acetyl Cysteine that the enzymes involved in detoxification use. It was always thought that homeopathy stimulates the body’s natural healing processes, and now with this better idea of how, we can further harness the potential of the unique form of medicine to help unburden our bodies from toxins.

Switching to Spring Resolutions

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Wintertime strikes me as a very challenging time to keep some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. With the shorter amount of daylight and cold weather, I am not feeling very ambitious.

If I had made a resolution to write a new blog every week, I might not succeed.

Now if I had made a resolution to go to bed earlier, that might end up working out.

But I haven’t made any resolutions. I have decided to switch to Spring Resolutions.

Anytime can be the right time to commit to restoring health or renewing your life. I know the seasons affect me in meaningful ways, and I will use that knowledge to make more satisfying goals for myself. To let the rising energy I feel during the spring to remind me to commit to my health. So I will see you in 3 months for a spring cleanse.

Leveraging Protein for Weight Loss

There is an interesting theory from scientists in Australia that is helping us view protein in a new and balanced light. They believe that there is a set amount of protein that we need and that we will feel a drive to keep eating until we have reached that level of protein intake. They claim the obesity epidemic is partially to blame on the increased availability of cheap, low-protein foods. If we are choosing more of these types of foods, we have to eat greater quantities of them to reach our protein requirements. Interestingly, scientists don’t believe there is the same set point amounts needed for carbohydrates or fats.

The amount of protein we need daily is still under debate, but most people agree it is in the range of 50 to 60 grams per day. To meet this need, I try to eat at least 15-20 grams of protein with all three meals. Some examples of foods that provide 15-20 grams of protein are:

  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 3 ounces of meat
  • ½ cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 cup of cooked black beans

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Since 1961 the percentage of protein in the average diet has dropped by 1.5% (from 14% to 12.5%). During this same time we have seen a 14% increase in overall calorie consumption. Imagine trying to get your daily protein needs from eating potato chips. You would have to eat 3.5 ounces to reach 7 grams of protein, but doing this would also mean you ingest around 550 calories. If you were to eat one extra large egg, you could get the same amount of protein, but only ingest 80 calories.

When I have been places were the food choices were only these low nutrient offerings, I never felt like I was full and satisfied. I kept eating even though my calorie intake was higher than normal.

What role might protein play in a weight loss lifestyle? By eating our protein first, we might be able to manage our appetites better by fulfilling this fundamental need. This doesn’t mean we have to eat excess amounts of protein like the Atkins style diets suggest but just the right amount for us. Also a moderate amount of fat in the diet might also increase our sense of satiety because, like protein, it helps us feel full longer.

Of course, lack of protein isn’t necessarily going to be the only factor contributing to food cravings, but increasing quality protein intake can give a boost in the right direction.

An Apple A Day

It is apple season, and my apple tree gifted me with a nearly perfect ripe apple. It was delicious, and I was equally grateful for the health benefits it provides, beyond just the vitamins and minerals that most people think about. I use apples (as well as other fruit) as a method of detoxification!

apple

I intentionally make a point to eat fruit any time I eat fish. While fish is still a healthy food that I eat occasionally as part of a diverse diet, I am concerned about the levels of mercury and other heavy metals that are present in our waters and our seafood. Did you know that seafood is the number one source of toxic mercury exposure for most Americans? While I avoid the most contaminated species of fish, I also eat an apple or other piece of fruit any time I have seafood.

Why fruit after seafood? I started this habit after reading about a study in the Amazon among women who regularly consumed fish . They found that the women who ate more fruit accumulated less mercury in their bodies compared to those who didn’t eat much fruit. Although they were eating tropical fruits, the researchers thought that it might be the fibers in the fruit that bond the mercury so less of it was absorbed, rather than any specific fruit.

I decided there was no reason not to apply this idea using our local fruits. I tend to favor apples because they are high in the fibers that may help bind toxins. The peel of apples is also full of antioxidant nutrients that can help protect the body in other ways.

It is unfortunate that our world is now so polluted that we need to consider these types of daily detoxification and protection activities. These toxic metals are particularly troublesome for one of our most valuable resources: our minds. Mercury might have negative consequences for our memory, attention span, and even moods.

This simple life hack provides another safe way to live a detoxification lifestyle and stay in balance in our modern world.

Dr. Laurell is the resident homeopathic advisor for Grato Holding, Inc.

Practicing Having an Emotional Moment

Emotional health like physical health is so vital to having a balanced and productive life, but in many cases it’s a topic that gets swept under the rug.   I was raised in a family that taught me to suppress my emotions. So as an adult, I have to continuously work on improving my emotional intelligence. Emotions are there for a reason, and suppressing them isn’t going to help me be the healthiest, well-balanced person I can be.

Here are some of the techniques I use to deal with emotional times. I hope they might help some of you.

  • Feel emotions deeply

I give myself a minute or two to let the emotion wash over me with its full intensity. If it is something sad, I let myself tear up. If I am angry, I might shake my fist in the air. In the past, my tendency was to shut down these feelings as fast as I could. Now I give them their own moment.

  • Take ten breaths

After that moment, I work to regain some calm and perspective by taking ten deep breaths. If this reminds you a little bit of needing to count to 10 before you address a toddler who is acting up, you are right. In this case, I think of my emotional self as the toddler who needs someone calm and loving to take care of them.

  • Love yourself

Next, direct some compassion and love towards yourself. I do this by thinking of the person or animal that brings up the deepest feeling of compassion in me. Then I picture myself as the recipient of that compassion.

  • Reflect

Take another moment to think about what your emotions were telling you. Emotions can help us understand our needs and what we truly deeply value. For more insight into the message behind emotions, Lara Fielding shares her perspective in this fantastic blog.

  • Assess

When you gain some understanding of the underlying needs and values behind your emotions, you can plan some small steps to address those needs. If your landlord did something that made you angry, is there something you can do to protect yourself from that happening again? If you experienced a loss, can you give yourself some time to grieve and honor what you lost?

Giving emotions their own space and honoring their message can be a powerful healing tool, which can lead to better unity between the body and mind.

Dr. Laurell is the resident homeopathic advisor for Grato Holding, Inc.

The Real Benefits of Coconut Oil

Enjoy all the benefits for coconut oil, but don’t assume all the claims about it are true. I love coconut oil, and there is a huge list of the possible benefits to be gained from adding coconut oil to the diet. Some of these are supported by studies and others are just theoretical. Many of the studies only look at the short-term benefits, and one on palm oil (similar fat composition to coconut oil) showed excess consumption contributed to fatty liver while sunflower oil didn’t.

Most oils contain long chain fatty acids, while the ones in coconut oil are known as medium chain, hence the term medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The shorter size of these fats in coconut oil does have several implications for our health. Coconut oil can be absorbed easier by the digestive tract, making it beneficial for many people with poor absorption of fats. These medium chain fats can also rapidly burn for energy in the body.

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Let’s look at the better-supported benefits of coconut oil:

Antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal benefits- Yes, the high lauric acid content of coconut oil can be useful internally or topically to help us fight certain infections.

Brain benefits- Loved ones of people suffering from dementia have told me about impressive improvements in symptoms from adding coconut oil. On small study from 2004 also showed cognitive improvement when Alzheimer’s disease patients were given MCT oils, but the amount of improvement was affected by certain genetic markers. For a great way to support brain health with coconut oil, try my bulletproof turmeric tea.

Weight loss- Studies have shown both reduction in calorie consumption and a mild increase in calorie burning. I have gotten reports from friends that eating coconut oil about a half hour before meals does reduce their appetite.

Energy- MCT oil is a preferred calorie source for some athletes, and several studies have shown that MCTs can enhance athletic performance. Some people notice coconut oil can reduce their sugar cravings possibly because their bodies are happy to use another quick energy source.

Unanswered questions about coconut oil:

Oil pulling– This process where coconut or sesame oil is swished in the mouth like a mouthwash has been show to improve oral health in several ways. Most of the studies have used sesame oil, so we are not sure if coconut oil is equally beneficial other than from anecdotal report. I like the taste of coconut oil over sesame.

Heart health- A 2009 study showed a reduction in total cholesterol and an increase in good HDL cholesterol in obese women given coconut oil along with overall calorie restriction and exercise advice. The control group was given soybean oil and didn’t see the cholesterol changes. This was only a 12-week study so we don’t know what the longer-term effects will be or if these cholesterol changes will affect heart health in any real way.

Diabetes- Some coconut oil proponents say it can improve blood sugar related issues. In a study using rats, coconut oil led to decreased insulin resistance compared to the control group that was given lard. But the rats fed coconut oil also developed fatty liver. So…humans aren’t rats, but the tendency toward fatty liver reflects the palm oil study showing the same issue in humans.

In the study I mentioned where the palm oil contributed to fatty liver, the subjects were eating too many calories as well as too much fat. Let’s not make that mistake. Remember there are individual variations in what foods “agree” with us. And as with nearly every dietary consideration, we need moderation and diversity in our choice of fats.