Tag Archives: blood pressure

2-Minute Detox Drink

Let’s face it: we live in a toxic world. We take in toxins every day, even with a clean diet and natural home and bodycare products. So, let’s do something everyday to help our bodies deal with these toxins.

This is my version of Daily Health Post’s quick detox drink. I dropped the cinnamon powder, which is hard to mix in, and replaced it with cinnamon tincture. Now you don’t need to use a blender, and it is even easier to start your day in a healthy way.

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2-Minute Detox Drink
• 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
• 1 tablespoon Honey
• 1-3 dropperfuls Cinnamon tincture
• Pinch of cayenne (optional)
• 1 dropperful of Turmeric tincture (optional)
• 12 to 16 ounces of water

Stir together all ingredients except the water until the honey is dissolved.
Add the water and stir.
Drink every morning before breakfast to support detoxification and metabolism.

Benefits of these Power Ingredients

Apple Cider Vinegar– may help blood pressure, blood sugar, body aches and more

Lemon Juice– great liver activator and source of antioxidants

Honey– provides a little bit of sweet and some antimicrobial benefits

Cinnamon– supports healthy blood sugar and fights troublesome bacteria and yeast

Cayenne– stimulates metabolism

Turmeric– popular inflammation fighter that also supports liver health

Try this simple recipe to see the dramatic results that can come from fighting toxins. Some people notice improved digestion, clearer skin, weight loss, lower blood pressure, and more.

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Potassium Powerhouse Foods for Stroke Prevention and More

I frequently recommend foods high in potassium to my patients with high blood pressure. A recent study has me thinking I need to recommend these foods to more patients. This new study revealed that postmenopausal women who consumed the most potassium reduced their chance of stroke by 12% compared to those who ate the least. Women who didn’t have high blood pressure noticed an even better outcome from eating more potassium with a 27% reduction in strokes. Potassium is thought to improve the functioning of small blood vessels in the brain and throughout the body, partially by improving nitric oxide formation which can help open up blood vessels.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

In truth, I recommend high potassium diets to most of my patients by encouraging them to eat a lot of vegetables. I believe that one of the reasons we need to get our 5-7 servings of veggies and fruit every day is to make sure we get adequate potassium. The average adult needs about 4700 mg of potassium a day. Many of the best potassium-rich foods are vegetables. For instance, a cup of cooked Swiss chard offers around 900 mg of potassium. Other high potassium foods include spinach, bok choy, beets, nuts, and dried beans. For a great list of potassium-rich foods, I like the chart available from World’s Healthiest Foods. My husband and I additionally take an electrolyte mixture that includes potassium when we work on the farm during these hot summers. Another good choice might be coconut water to help replace some of the potassium lost through sweating.

By emphasizing potassium intake, we get all of the benefits offered by this crucial mineral. Potassium is essential for nerve function throughout the body and especially in the heart. Getting adequate potassium can help preserve bone density and prevent the formation of kidney stones. Potassium deficiency might contribute to premenstrual issues and possibly the development of diabetes. As I mentioned above, eating high potassium foods can be one of the steps to help people reach a healthy blood pressure goal. And when we eat high potassium foods, we also get the full range of powerhouse nutrients that these foods provide. It is likely that these additional minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants from fruits and veggies contribute to some of the cardiovascular protection seen in these studies.

So figure out what high potassium foods you love to eat, and if you want some tips on getting more vegetables in your family’s life, check out my blog on getting kids to eat veggies.

Refresh and Fight Stress with Holy Basil Tea

People sometimes ask me if I could grow only one medicinal herb what would it be. My answer is Holy Basil, because it has so many useful medicinal actions and it is very easy to grow. Holy Basil is one of the many herbs that help us cope with stress, but it is easier to work with than many of the others in this category like ginseng because we use its leaves instead of the root. And it makes a pleasant tea. Some of you might have already tried the popular teas made from Holy Basil, where it is often sold under its other name Tulsi.

My Holy Basil, just from one plant

My Holy Basil, just from one plant

Holy Basil has been demonstrated to reduce the impact of stress on the body and brain. Stress can have a serious impact on our health and contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and memory issues. Holy Basil has been shown to counter act some of the negative changes that happen in the brain when we are exposure to prolonged stress. Holy Basil may reduce insulin resistance and thereby help lower elevated blood sugar. It can also help decrease elevated cholesterol. Holy Basil helps fight inflammation in the body and therefore pain, partially by being a COX-2 inhibitor. Holy Basil modulates immune system activity and can be a good choice for people who get frequent infections. I like to use it during cold and flu season because it has some antiviral properties too. Finally, Holy Basil is rich in antioxidants and can help protect us from cellular damage, even from radiation.

To make Holy Basil tea from the loose leaves, put 1-2 teaspoons in a cup of water that just came off a boil. Steep for 5-10 minutes, preferably with a lid over the tea. Strain (if you didn’t use a tea ball), sweeten if desired, and enjoy this awesome wellness boosting, stress-fighting tea. Or try it iced.

And if you want to grow your own Holy Basil plant next year, I got my seeds from High Mowing Seeds sold at Ozark Natural Foods and online. I may also be selling the plant starts next spring when I do the annual plant sale for our farm.

The Power of Green Tea

As well as being a wonderfully tasty beverage, green tea contains fantastic compounds that can help prevent many common health conditions. Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, Camellia sinensis. The difference, however, is that green tea is camellia-sinensisblanched before drying, while black tea is allowed to oxidize, effectively converting many of the beneficial catechins into astringent tannins. In part because of these catechins, like EGCG, green tea is antimicrobial, astringent, antioxidant, cancer fighting, and inflammation modulating. Not only does it contain less caffeine than black tea, green tea also has theanine, a relaxation-inducing compound that can help reduce anxiety.

Just three cups a day may be helpful for the prevention of cancer and atherosclerosis. Numerous studies have shown green tea to be useful for lowering cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol. Additionally, when combined with sensible diet and exercise, green tea may help with weight loss, especially in people with increased belly fat. Green tea’s ability to help reduce glucose and insulin could explain why it helps induce belly fat loss, as insulin resistance and elevated glucose tend to encourage weight gain in that region of the body. Regular consumption of green tea is also thought to be one of the reasons why Asian women have a consistently lower rate of breast cancer. Furthermore, if you swish it around your mouth before swallowing, green tea can help stop gingivitis.

To prepare, you need only to steep your green tea for one minute to extract these incredible compounds, but feel free to steep it longer if you prefer a stronger, more bitter flavor.  During these hot Arkansas summers, green tea also makes a refreshing iced tea that can help beat the heat. To give you another way to enjoy green tea this summer, our bulk herbs department has added a delicious raspberry flavored green tea.

If you wish to read Dr. Michael Greger’s other ideas on why there are lower rates of breast cancer in Asian demographics, check out his recent post.

Dandelion: Don’t overlook this friend in your yard

Fall is the time to start harvesting roots. Just like we will soon be digging our sweet potatoes out of the ground, it is also time to harvest the medicinal roots. As plants go dormant for the year, they store nutrients in their roots, making medicinal roots more potent in the fall. As far as the medicinal constituents are concerned, roots are often more potent than leaves, but depending on the plant, roots can have some different medicinal uses than the leaves. Dandelion is an example of this that is likely growing in your own yard. Many people use the leaves and roots interchangeably, but there are qualities that are unique to both forms.

Dandelion has earned a reputation for being a liver and gall bladder supporting herb. The leaves increase the production of bile by the liver. The roots help to move the bile out of the gall bladder, and then along with the bile, toxins that can be eliminated from the body through the feces. Therefore, the use of the roots and leaves together is important for the best liver benefits. Because it supports the liver, dandelion is traditionally used to help high cholesterol, abnormal blood sugar, menstrual and skin disorders, especially when there is a history of toxic exposures or sluggish liver.

Dandelion leaves have a much stronger diuretic action than the roots. Because of dandelion leaves’ diuretic action, they are used for conditions like edema, rheumatic complaints, and sometimes high blood pressure. Because the leaves are high in potassium, they replace any potassium that might be lost with increased urine flow. They also contain many other trace minerals and can be used as a food or tea by people who need to boost their mineral intake.

Dandelion also helps support digestion. The increased production and movement of bile can help improve digestion of fats. In the fall, the roots are high in inulin, a preferred food of the beneficial bacterial in the gut. Dandelion leaves also have a bitter taste, which can stimulate the digestive process. Thus, dandelion is also used for headaches associated with disordered digestion. The leaves are the most bitter in the spring, but I personally prefer to eat them straight out of my yard in the wintertime when they often stand out bright green even if most of the rest of the yard has faded.

Chocolate for Heart Health

Since high blood pressure is such a significant and pervasive health issue in this country, I pay attention to the new research on it. I always stick with the basics of a healthy diet, such as one high in veggies and fruits. Many people with high blood pressure need the minerals like potassium that can be found in veggies, but new research shows us that there are other compounds in the plant world that can be helpful. One example is flavonols, antioxidants found in grapes, apples, red wine, tea and cocoa. I am going to focus on this last one because there has been a surge in research on the heart benefits of cocoa and chocolate.

A recent analysis of many different studies showed that dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure by a few points. This isn’t a huge reduction but could be added to other interventions to reach a healthy goal. More importantly, another multi-study analysis showed that people who ate 2 servings of chocolate per week had a 37% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 29% lower stroke risk. These benefits are partially attributed to the cocoa flavanols antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These cocoa compounds are also thought to help prevent atherosclerotic plaque formation in the arteries and improve insulin sensitivity to support better blood sugar control. Of particular interest was another recent study showing improved cognitive functioning among elderly adults who consumed higher amounts of cocoa. The study’s authors noted that the effects in cognition were most closely linked to the improvements in insulin sensitivity.

One of the big worries about chocolate is that it often comes in high fat and high sugar forms. Too much chocolate consumption could contribute to weight gain, which can increase blood pressure and other health problems. For chocolate, find a bar that has a low sugar content and high cocoa content. Cocoa nibs are another option since they are unsweetened. Maybe limit chocolate consumption to twice a week like in the heart health study, since that seemed to be sufficient. On the non-chocolate days, consider having other blood pressure reducing foods like green, black, and hibiscus teas.

The Power of Garlic

My husband just harvested the garlic I planted last fall.  We go through a lot of garlic in our house so these approximately 250 bulbs will last the two of us most of the year including what we will plant for next year’s crop. I was surprised to realize I hadn’t yet blogged about garlic since it is one of my most commonly used herbs and not just in the kitchen. My reliance on garlic began when I was first in college. I would get bronchitis after nearly any cold. When I started taking garlic during colds and for short while after them, I no longer had the lingering bronchitis. Garlic can also be used to prevent colds and other upper respiratory infections. A study from England showed that garlic taken daily for 12 weeks reduced the risk of colds by 2/3 compared to placebo.

While I was mostly taking advantage of garlic’s antimicrobial benefits, garlic is also one of the best cardiovascular tonics. Garlic can help improve cholesterol, and as an antioxidant, it helps prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized, it is more harmful to our arteries. Garlic also can help to slowly reduce the amount of plaque in the arteries according to one 4-year placebo controlled study. Finally, garlic is a mild blood pressure reducer, partially by increasing the dilation of blood vessels.

There are a few choices in how to use garlic. Cooked garlic seems to retain many of the heart protecting qualities, but I add it to my food towards the last 5-10 minutes of cooking as opposed to the beginning like in most recipes. For the antimicrobial properties, raw garlic or supplements need to be used. Raw garlic can be upsetting to the stomach so I always take it on a full stomach. I mix minced garlic with honey and swallow it without chewing. Another option recommended by one of my instructors is microwaving 3 cloves of garlic with their skin on for 30 seconds. There is the issue of breath and body odor, so on days I am going to be around others, I tend to take the odor controlled garlic supplements instead.

Here is a picture of my cat Persimmon enjoying our garlic harvest.

Natural Blood Pressure Support

A recent study on heart disease served as a dramatic eye opener about the impact of risk factors like elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and diabetes. Having two or more of these risk factors at age 55 gives you a 30% chance of death from cardiovascular disease by age 80. Even more shocking was the finding that only 5% of the thousands of people in the study had optimal blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and non-smoker status. This optimal profile was associated with about a 5% lifetime risk of cardiovascular death. Even if you are not in this 5%, there is still hope that reducing your cardiovascular risk factors can improve your odds. In another study on male doctors, the number of cardiovascular risk factors that were controlled correlated with decreased risk of a serious cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. With each risk factor that was managed, the odds of a heart attack dropped further. Those participants with uncontrolled high blood pressure had nearly a 70% greater risk compared to people with normal blood pressure. When blood pressure was controlled, this risk of a serious cardiovascular event dropped to 34%. Their odds weren’t as good as participants who had never had blood pressure issues, but the drop was enough to warrant intervention.

Natural medicine offers many options to help control high blood pressure. Individual options tend have fairly mild effects so I often warn people that with more elevated blood pressure that they may need to use a combination of intervention, including sometimes medication. Whether medications are part of the plan or not, lifestyle factors are extremely important for cardiovascular health. In a recent study, fitness was found to be better predictor of heart disease risk than body weight. Numerous other studies have shown the heart protecting benefits of eating a diet high in antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. Potassium is another nutrient that may help lower blood pressure, and many Americans don’t get enough of this mineral. The RDA recommends we get 3500 mg daily, but many people only get half this much. While potassium supplements are available, they are limited to 99 mg per capsule. Instead, look for potassium rich foods. One of my favorites is coconut water, but to find a full list of potassium powerhouse foods check out the website for World’s Healthiest Foods.