Tag Archives: inflammation

You Can Heal Nearly Anything with Plantain

No, not this plantain.

plantains

I am talking about this common weed that grows in nearly every yard and roadside in the United States.

plantain

Plantain weed is a first aid miracle that is usually close at hand for summertime boo-boos. And if you want it even handier, local midwife Maria Chowdhury uses it as a key ingredient in her Birth Song Botanicals Healing Salve, where she combines it with other great skin healing herbs like comfrey, calendula, pau de arco, and Oregon grape root. She made it as a nipple salve for nursing mothers or a diaper rash ointment for uncomfortable babies, but it is has such versatile herbs it can be used for nearly any skin complaint.

Plantain is a common choice for insect bites and cuts and scrapes. It is well known for its ability to soothe itchy and irritated skin through its high mucilage content, which moistens and protects inflamed tissues. Plantain can also reduce inflammation and calm itchy rashes such contact dermatitis and hives. Plantain speeds the healing of skin as well as having antimicrobial properties, making it a very useful herb for cuts and minor wounds.

Internally, plantain can be used as a soothing herb in similar ways. It is helpful for inflamed and sore mucous membranes such as sore throats and irritated stomachs. Its other internal uses range from coughs to constipation, hence my statement that this handy herb can heal nearly anything.

The dried herb is not commonly available because a lot of these medicinal benefits are lost when it is dried. In the summertime, it can be used straight from the yard. A common application is a spit poultice where a few leaves are chewed up and then put directly on a bug bite or sting. In the wintertime when plantain is not so plentiful, reach for Birth Song Botanicals Healing Salve.

Birthsong

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Drink Your Turmeric for Better Health: Bulletproof turmeric part 2

My bulletproof turmeric recipe has been very popular, partially because it is delicious and an excellent way to consume a more absorbable form of turmeric. I chose the ingredients for the recipe because I wanted to encourage people to consume whole turmeric instead of just the isolated “main” component, curcumin. The other constituents of turmeric have medicinal attributes of their own and can actually help increase the absorption of curcumin. If you do need that additional boost from the isolated curcumin, open up a capsule and add it to this blend.

Turmeric is such a tremendously useful medicinal herb and has been consumed as part of foods and teas for centuries. In additional to its inflammation modulating benefits, turmeric is high in antioxidants that might help prevent cancer and dementia. Among its gastrointestinal benefits, turmeric can help protect the liver and stimulate the gall bladder thereby improving digestion. It has also been shown to reduce the incidences of gastrointestinal infection. Finally, turmeric can improve cholesterol and reduce blood clotting making it a great cardiovascular ally.

By drinking your medicinal herbs as teas, you can sometimes get a better feel for what is working for your body. You can start craving something more or you may decide that you like it less. This can be a reflection of what is going to work well for your unique self. I have found that I love my bulletproof turmeric tea more with coconut oil instead of the MCT oil. MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) are isolated from coconut oil, but again the more whole version of coconut oil is agreeing more with my body. It could just be the delicious coconut taste, but I think that the greater complexity of the coconut oil might provide some other components that I need.

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A quick note on MCT oil and coconut oil: There is a lot of hype of how these might help with weight loss. There could really be something to this. A colleague of mine has been working on his own substantial weight loss goal and has made some huge strides by taking the MCT oil shortly before meals. He has noticed it reducing his appetite as the literature claims. So, here we have yet another wonderful use for coconut oil along with the brain boost some people notice from it.

Here is my original recipe for bulletproof turmeric tea:

1 cup water

1 tsp turmeric (optionally add one capsule of curcumin 95% extract)

¼ tsp garam masala

1 tsp maca (optional, but delicious)

1 Tbs grass fed butter

1 Tbs coconut oil or MCT oil

1 tsp honey

Simmer water with turmeric and garam masala for 10 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Add remaining ingredients and whirl in blender or with immersion blender until foamy.

Before-and-After-Blending

Bulletproof Turmeric Before and After Blending

This week I am trying a different variation. I am making a turmeric paste that I can store for future use. Most turmeric pastes are turmeric and water, but mine is turmeric and coconut oil.

Bulletproof turmeric #2

4 tsp turmeric

1-2 tsp garam masala

½ cup coconut oil

Melt the coconut oil and mix in the spices. Cook on low for 10 minutes. Stain immediately and store for later use. (If you have time let the mixture cool before straining, then remelt and strain)

When ready to use, mix 2 Tbs of this mixture with:

1 cup boiling water

1 tsp honey

And optionally, 1 tsp maca and/or contents of 1 curcumin capsule

Whirl in blender or with immersion blender until foamy.

This paste can also be used to season many savory dishes like stir-fry and curries.

Bulletproof Turmeric: An Herbal Alternative to Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof coffee isn’t the only way to have a delicious brain-boosting beverage. You can boost your cognitive function with curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric. Curcumin protects the brain from cognitive deterioration caused by stress. But I don’t know anyone who is dealing with stress! Especially not the law students who are popularizing the bulletproof coffee recipe in this area.

For my bulletproof turmeric, I have used coconut oil, butter, honey, and spices to optimize digest and the absorption of curcumin. Curcumin is notoriously difficult to absorb, but fats and spices, particularly the black pepper in the garam masala, greatly increase our absorption of curcumin into the blood stream.

Turmeric and Garam Masala

Bulletproof Turmeric

1 cup water

1 tsp turmeric powder or 1 Tablespoon fresh turmeric root, grated
(optionally add one capsule of turmeric extract that is 95% curcumin)

¼ tsp garam masala

1 tsp maca (optional, but delicious)

1 Tbs grass fed butter

1 Tbs coconut oil or MCT oil

1 tsp honey

Simmer water with turmeric, garam masala, coconut oil, and butter for 10 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer.
Add remaining ingredients and whirl in blender or with immersion blender until foamy.

Bulletproof turmeric

Bulletproof turmeric before and after blending

There are many possible variations to this recipe. Add coffee if you like that boost or cinnamon if you are working on blood sugar issues. Since this recipe doesn’t have caffeine, it can be drunk later in the day than bulletproof coffee.

This turmeric drink is also an excellent choice for people dealing with inflammation, pain, or elevated cholesterol. A recent study has confirmed that curcumin reduces knee pain associated with osteoarthritis. Curcumin is helping others achieve healthier cholesterol levels. In addition to having some nootropic benefits, turmeric might also help clear Alzheimer’s plaques from the brain.

The benefits of turmeric are numerous, and while you might not feel the same jolt you would from a cup of coffee, turmeric provides long-term protection to the mind and body on multiple levels.

P.S. For those of you who follow my blog, my bulletproof turmeric tea recipe originated from my healthy food experiment . Turmeric is the second food I chose. I wanted to try it in tea form and came up with this recipe. For a simpler tea recipe, try this one from Dr. Weil.

Nettles for Allergy Season

Like nearly everyone else in Northwest Arkansas, I suffer from seasonal allergies. Fortunately mine are pretty mild. I might wake up with a sore throat or find myself sneezing while working in the garden.

nettles

My first choice herb for seasonal allergies is nettle leaf, also know as stinging nettles. Nettles can reduce the amount of histamine our bodies release in response to whatever pollen or mold is bothering us. Nettles have also traditionally been used for their ability to reduce inflammation, which may help with allergic symptoms or other conditions like arthritis.

Nettles are also a nourishing diuretic meaning they increase urination without depleting nutrients. This is because nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals to replace any that might be lost with increased urinary output. These urinary benefits makes nettle leaf a good choice for preventing urinary tract infections and kidney stones. It should be noted that nettle root could be helpful for many prostate issues since it inhibits the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.

Because they are so nutritious, nettles can be cooked like other greens. Pick the top few tender leaves, wearing gloves to avoid the sting. When nettles are cooked, the sting is neutralized.

Clearly, it is safe to use large quantities of nettles for allergy season support since they can be eaten as a food. If nettles alone aren’t enough, I add quercetin and N-acetyl cysteine to further diminish allergy symptoms. Quercetin shares nettles antihistamine characteristics while N-acetyl cysteine helps break up mucus.

Refreshing and Soothing Chickweed

Nothing says spring as much as baby chicks hatching on the farm. Every year, I think they are even cuter than last year’s chicks. In addition to the organic chick feed at Ozark Natural Feeds, I make sure my chicks get some fresh foods too. I find worms and wild plants for them to eat. They are happy with clumps of grass and wild clover, but they particularly love chickweed.

Gabbie and her brood enjoying chickweed

Gabbie and her brood enjoying chickweed

Chickweed is a common herb to find in your yard or garden at this time of the year. Look around for it because you might love it as much as my chickens do. Chickweed has a taste that might remind you of spinach, and it is a great addition to salads. Chickweed is highly nutritious and is considered to be a rejuvenating spring tonic.

Chickweed

Chickweed

In addition to being a great addition to the diet, chickweed is a medicinal herb that is used for soothing skin and mucous membranes such as the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. A chickweed tea can be used for coughs and hoarseness. It is also a mild diuretic that might be useful for urinary irritation. Chickweed is most famous for it topical uses since it can speed wound healing, reduce itching, and cool inflamed skin. It is used for everything from burns and cuts to eczema and hemorrhoids.

You can use the fresh plant to make a poultice by simply crushing the leaves and stalks and applying them directly to the skin. Ideally, cover this herbal concoction with a clean cloth to hold it in place. If using dried chickweed, grind it until it is nearly a powder then add enough hot water to make a paste. You can also make a healing chickweed salve for use all year long. Just in a Pinch Recipes has two recipes for chickweed salve. Their Itchy Salve recipe looks great.

More on Oil Pulling

When I first heard about oil pulling, I thought it sounded weird. I didn’t try it until my mother in law, who is a dental hygienist, told me that she had seen a patient with particularly healthy gums. When she asked that patient what she was doing to keep her gums in such good shape, the answer was oil pulling.

So now, I’ve been doing it regularly after flossing and before brushing my teeth. I use a heaping teaspoon to a tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it in my mouth for 20 minutes. I take breaks from the swishing where I am just holding the oil in my mouth. I sometimes gargle with the oil before spitting it out. Don’t spit it into your sink or you might clog your pipes.

I chose coconut oil because I like the taste of it, and coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral benefits. Other oils to consider using are sesame, olive, grapeseed, and sunflower. Sesame and coconut have both been shown to fight Streptococcus mutans, the main bacteria that can cause cavities. You can boost these benefits by adding a drop or two of an essential oil or essential oil blend to your main oil. Good ones to experiment with are tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, and oregano. Since I am putting them in mouth, I make sure to use a brand that makes high quality pure essential oils.

Fresh coconuts

Fresh coconuts

There are a lot of claims out there about the benefits of oil pulling from clearing up sinus problems to psoriasis as well as the obvious improvements in oral health. There are a number of small studies demonstrating that oil pulling can improve breath and reduce plaque and plaque-induced gingivitis. A lot of people are also reporting that their teeth are whiter from oil pulling.

Now for the other claims, we only have anecdotes to support them, but there is a possible logical underpinning. Nearly every chronic condition is driving by inflammation, whether it is heart disease or dementia or acne or psoriasis. When we have gum disease, we add another source of inflammation that fuel theses other disease process. By improving oral health, we remove part of the obstacle that is in the way of our healing.

And there might be some additional benefit from having to breath through your nose for 20 minutes. I find oil pulling to be a soothing activity.

Some of the things I have heard about oil pulling I can’t substantial. Some people claim it will cure a hangover. I haven’t done that experiment and can’t figure out how it would help but would love to hear about other people’s experiences.

I have also heard that it is better to do it in the morning. A friend of mine said that her teeth started getting whiter when she switched to doing oil pulling in the morning. If you have any ideas on why this would be the case, let me know.

Why Try Oil Pulling?

Why is oil pulling is popular right now? I think it is because it catches people’s attention because it is a little usual, but when they try it they start seeing results right away, often within a week.

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Here is a link to a story I did for the local news on oil pulling yesterday:

http://www.nwahomepage.com/fulltext-news/d/story/latest-trend-oil-pulling/12915/9zffTSRACUCCB0H7g3-9NQ

Look for a longer blog later in the week for more details on oil pulling, but in the mean time give it a try. Grab a spoonful of coconut, sesame, olive, or grapeseed oil and swish it in your mouth for 20 minutes.

 

Natural Pain and Fever Reducers to Replace Acetaminophen

Recently, the FDA recommended that doctors limit the amount they prescribe of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and some other pain reducers. They stated that taking more that 325 mg of acetaminophen per dose didn’t outweigh the added risk for damage to the liver. Liver injury has occurred in patients who took more than the prescribed amount of acetaminophen in 24 hours, took more than one product containing acetaminophen, or drank alcohol while taking acetaminophen. The harm to the liver by acetaminophen is greatly increased by alcohol, which slows down the rate that the liver can neutralize acetaminophen.

Since this is just one of the many negative reports about acetaminophen in recent years, it is time we looked for alternative to help us manage without acetaminophen or reduce the amount that is needed. We can’t necessarily take a combination of acetaminophen and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen, as these medications also slow down the detoxification of acetaminophen by the liver.

The two main actions of acetaminophen are to help reduce fever and pain. Some natural alternative to help reduce fevers are herbs like white willow, gotu kola, and to some a milder extent, peppermint. Additionally, we can choose herbs that induce sweating and in turn can help break a fever. These herbs are ginger, yarrow, chamomile, and hyssop. For fevers related to the flu, homeopathic remedies like belladonna, gelsemium, and oscillococcinum may also be useful.

Passionflower

Passionflower

To help reduce pain naturally, there are many herbs and supplements that can be used without the harmful side effects of acetaminophen. One of my favorite supplements for pain is MSM, methylsulfonylmethane. MSM is anti-inflammatory and safe to use in large amounts. Turmeric and its active constituent curcumin is probably one of the most popular supplements for reducing inflammation and therefore pain. These are sometimes paired with DL-phenylalanine, an amino acid that supports the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals our bodies produce naturally to reduce pain and improve mood. Other herbs for pain include kava kava, valerian, California poppy, passionflower, and white willow. All of these herbs are centrally acting like acetaminophen, which means they work on the brain to slow the transmission of pain signals from the body. Dr. Oz has also recently popularized the herb Corydalis, which has this same type of action.

If natural options like these are enough to sufficiently reduce pain and moderate amounts of acetaminophen containing medications are still needed, make sure you have sufficient amounts of these nutrients that are necessary for acetaminophen breakdown: riboflavin, glutathione, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum.

Detoxification Support Part 1: Dietary guide to aid detox

Many popular New Year’s resolutions involve being healthier, and lots of people kick this off by doing a whole body cleanse. Because we live in such a toxic world, I want to encourage these efforts by writing a series of blogs this month about detoxification support. This week I am starting with the basics: dietary changes to assist with detoxification.

While there are many different dietary approaches to detoxification, I am going to emphasize the essentials that apply to nearly everyone. Of course, some people with specific health conditions will need to modify these suggestions for themselves. The following diet promotes detoxification by minimizing toxins in, keeping the pathways of elimination free to deal with toxins leaving the body.

  • Eat regularly, three times daily with snacks as desired, so your blood sugar doesn’t drop.
  • Eat organic foods, if possible. Do not eat products that are canned, packaged or contain artificial colorings, preservatives, additives, or other chemicals.
  • Eat lots of vegetables and some fruits; try for 4-5 packed cups each day.  Veggies and fruits are full of antioxidants and fiber that are helpful in detoxification. Eat a variety of different types of veggies to get the full range of antioxidants, but especially emphasize the cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and arugula.
  • Eat less meat and dairy and more vegan proteins, such as beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts, nut butters, and seed butters.  If you eat fish (small salmon, cod, herring, sardines only) take 1000mg Chlorella with the meal; this will along with fiber reduces mercury absorption.  If you eat meat, try to eat low-fat cuts from free range grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free animals or wild game.
  • Eat lots of fiber. It is a great detoxifier as it binds fats, hormones, chemicals, metals and other undesirables in the intestines.  Fiber is found in beans/legumes (the best!), apples, peaches, pears, berries, crunchy vegetables, and whole grains.  Eat two to three of these fiber sources at every meal.
  • Have good quality oils like extra virgin olive oil, flax, fish, walnut, or Omega 3-6-9 blends. Have at least 1 Tablespoon 1-3 times per day.
  • Support friendly bowel bacteria by eating cultured foods: miso, kim chi, real sauerkraut, kvass, and kombucha.
  • At least once daily, eat foods stimulating to liver function and bile flow such as lemon, 1360960_21026592lime, beet, carrot, parsnips, chlorophyll, artichoke, fresh rosemary, caraway, dill seeds, burdock and dandelion roots.
  • Have no refined or concentrated sugar, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, fried or deep-fried food.
  • Drink lots of filtered water – 2-4 quarts per day or more if you are exercising or sweating.

And remember because toxins are such a challenge for us these days, try to apply principles like these to your diet all year round.

 

Enhance Digestion and Absorption with Black Pepper

This ubiquitous spice on nearly every table in America is for more than just flavoring. Black pepper actually increases your ability to absorb nutrient. Black pepper stimulates the activity of the digestive tract by increasing the production of digestive enzymes and supporting normal gut motility. Black pepper also is a circulatory stimulant so it increases blood flow to the gut, which helps the digestive tract to work more efficiently and carries the nutrient to the rest of the body. Black pepper as a medicinal herb was traditionally used for sluggish digest and low stomach acid, but it can help nearly anyone get more out of their food and supplements. Its effects are intensified by heating so adding black pepper to your food as it cooks makes it a better digestive enhancer, but watch out too much black pepper cooked into a dish can get very spicy.

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Because of these digestive benefits, black pepper extracts are used in some supplements to enhance their absorption. Piperine, an active component of black pepper sold under the name BioPerine, has been shown to increase the absorption of various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This is especially important with harder to absorb supplements like curcumin from turmeric, a popular inflammation-modulating herb. Supplement companies choose many different strategies to help get curcumin into the bloodstream, but BioPerine is one of the most popular approaches. I also mix a little bit of ground black pepper into my jar of turmeric so I know I am getting more out of my turmeric every time I cook with it.

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