Thursday, June 30, 2011

Soy...The Toxic Protein?

In today's health conscious and busy world many people have turned to Soy protein bars, and why not?  They taste good, offer a decent amount of protein and can be eaten on the run.  But is Soy really all that good for you?  There is a very interesting and eye-opening article today at Natural News that I recommend you read if you or anyone you love is eating protein bars containing Soy...

(NaturalNews) Protein bars, breakfast bars, really anything in bar form just makes sense in our dine while dashing society. The question is, what is it you're really eating? Most of these bars claim to offer healthy, wholesome energy, but what you may not have realized is that the process to create "soy protein isolate," which is often a primary ingredient in protein bars, utilizes a toxic solvent called Hexane.

Hexane is an industrial waste by-product of gasoline that, according to the EPA, can cause polyneuropathy in humans...

After reading this article will you continue eating soy protein or will you go with an alternative?  I'd love to hear your thoughts

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chicken McNuggets or McNastys?

Do your kids love Chicken McNuggets?  Do you like to indulge in them from time to time?  The natural news website (link is listed below) has a great article today that talks about just what you'll really find in those Chicken McNuggets...or should they be called Chicken McNastys?  Here is the article...
(NaturalNews) Ever wonder what's really found in Chicken McNuggets? Some of the ingredients, it turns out, seem to belong more to an industrial factory of some kind, not a food retailer. According to the McDonald's Corporation, its famous Chicken McNuggets are made with ingredients including autolyzed yeast extract (which contain free glutamate, similar to MSG), sodium phosphates and sodium aluminum phosphate. But that's not the freaky part. According to McDonald's own website, Chicken McNuggets are also made with "hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness" and "Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent." (
Learn more:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Five Days Of Tropical Bliss

Have you ever dreamed of a Hawaiian vacation?  Perhaps you’ve been there many times.  My husband and I went to Maui in February of this year and it was even more magical and wonderful than I had imagined.  I loved Maui so much that I have not been able to stop talking about our trip since we came home and I truly believe that once you’ve been there you take a piece of it home with you that stays forever in your heart.

We decided to take our dream vacation after a very tough year.  2010 brought the passing of my father and a very stressful administration and closing of his estate, on top of the fact that I have been unemployed since the spring of 2009 and we were feeling the financial crunch.  In January I had to make a trip to Montana to appear in court for the formal estate closing and when I returned home I realized that I was exhausted, drained and in serious need of rejuvenation!  I told my husband I wanted to go to Hawaii and, after some initial resistance, he agreed and we booked our trip.

We left Seattle near the end of February with snow on the ground and the excitement of small children in a large toy store for the first time.  Everything went smooth and easy at the airport and before we knew it we were in the air and on our way to Maui.

The flight itself was pleasant (Hawaiian Airlines makes the flight fun!) and went by quickly and when we stepped off that plane into the beautiful, warm Maui sunshine I truly thought I had died and gone to heaven!  To say we had arrived in Paradise was an understatement!

We quickly got our luggage, into our shuttle and were on our way to Ka’anapali Beach and 5 days of pure tropical bliss.  The scenery on the 40-minute drive to Ka’anapali Beach was stunning with turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches, palm trees swaying slightly with the breeze, colorful tropical flowers and fields of sugar cane, all with the lush Maui mountains looming in the distance! 

We stayed at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, considered to be Hawaii's "Most Hawaiian Hotel."  The hotel and staff are committed to giving each guest a true hawaiian experience and daily classes are offered in hula, lei making, pineapple cutting, ukelele lessons and much more.  The views from the hotel are simply fabulous!

Once we were settled in to our lovely room with it's beautiful views we donned shorts and sunscreen and set off to explore the beach and resort area.  I felt completely carefree for the first time since my father died and when we hit the beach I just couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and how warm the water felt as I walked along the shoreline.  We had dinner at the hotel’s own outdoor restaurant and watched the free nightly hula show as we enjoyed our delicious dinner and mai-tai’s.  We sat on our balcony that evening and watched late night swimmers play in the whale-shaped pool while the live music still played in the background and hotel guests laughed from the outdoor bar.  It could not have been nicer or more romantic!

We got up on our first morning in Hawaii anxious to check out Lahaina.  We decided to forego cab fare and chose to walk the 3.5 miles into the historic whaler’s town.  The view along the way was fantastic!  

The long walk went by fast in the warm Maui sunshine and when we looked behind us the Ka’anapali beach resort hotels got smaller and smaller in the distance.  Very soon we reached Lahaina and headed towards Front Street, the heart of Lahaina.

We were pretty hungry by the time we reached town and I told my husband I wanted to eat at the first restaurant we came across, which, with luck, just happened to be the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company.  We enjoyed a great lunch of mahi-mahi tacos with a seat along the beach and a great view of the boats in Lahaina harbor.  We then made our way through the many stores and vendors and managed to spend a lot of money on fun hawaiian souvenirs.  We walked along to the end of Front Street and under the world’s largest Banyan Tree, which covers a whole block and is adorned with artists who sell their crafts and wares beneath it’s hanging limbs.  That stroll led us to the famous Lahaina harbor; a very busy place full of tourists waiting to sail on romantic dinner cruises, to Lanai and other wonderful Hawaiian destinations.
After our long walk and all our shopping and traversing around Lahaina we were tired and loaded down with goodies so we opted to ride the bus back to our hotel.  I was very pleased with the great transit service in and around the Ka'anapali Beach Resort area and Lahaina.  It is very convenient to get around if you don't feel like walking or renting a car for the 3.5 mile trip!  We got back to our hotel, admired our finds and set out to find some dinner.  We had a fantastic dinner at The Hula Grill in their sand bar, our toes wriggling in the soft Maui sand as a lively hawaiian band played a fun mix of traditional and modern hawaiian music along with some classic rock and a bit of alternative thrown in for good measure.  We sauntered back to our hotel along the path that connects all the hotels in the Ka'anapali Beach resort area and fell into bed full of anticipation for our trip up to Mt. Haleakala early the next morning.

By 7am on our 2nd day we were up, dressed warmly as recommended for the mountains, fed and eager to set out on our volcanic adventure.  AT 7:15 am we were on our way and picked up fellow tourists as we made our way out of the resort into the heart of Maui.  It was a beautiful drive full of hawaiian lore provided by our tour guide and as we made our way up the very long, steep and winding road to Mt. Haleakala the veiws were simply astounding!  We made stops along the way to take pictures because, as our guide explanied, the valley would fill with clouds by the time we would be making our way back down, leaving little to photograph.  Finally we arrived at the summit of Mt. Haleakala.  We were above the clouds!  The views into the crater were breathtaking.  The raw beauty of the rough and desolate land was a striking difference from the lush green that covered the rest of the island.  There is no vegetation or insects that high up, just cool crisp air and clouds!

 After we got back down off the volcano we stopped for lunch and then headed to the Iao Valley and the famous Iao Needle.  The tour guide told us of a great battle that was fought there and when the fighting was over the hills ran red with blood and the stream that runs through the valley was packed with the bodies of hawaiian warriors.  When we stepped off of the tour bus I was taken back by the lush jungle and beauty of the valley.  It was as though I just walked into Jurrasic Park and feared that at any moment a dinosaur would come crashing through the dense brush and carry me away.  We climbed around the trail and scenic areas and took pictures of this rich and lush valley.

Back at the hotel we rested from our tour, refreshed ourselves with a drink at the Tiki Terrace open bar and grill and took the short walk to Whaler's Village, a plethora of shops, souvenier stands, galleries and, of course, the Whaler's Museum, a fascniating place full of whaling history, lore, artifacts and pictures of the old whaling days in Lahaina.  We ate what was the best meal I've ever had at Leilani's, an open air restaurant right on the beach.  What could be more perfect than eating a wonderful meal to the sounds of waves gently caressing the shore as the sun sets over sparkling blue waters?

Our 3rd morning found us eager to play on the beach.  We hit the water like a couple of children, laughing and floating as the big waves carried us to the shore and back out again.  We played and swam and lounged in the Maui heat all afternoon.
After frolicking in the waves and sun we found some dinner and took a late night swim in the whale-shaped pool while the music from the nightly hula show wafted across the evening breeze.

On our 4th morning we slept in and caught a late breakfast at the hotel.  We wandered the resort that day, enjoying the view, the sights and each other.
After spending the day around the resort we finally got to go to our Luau at the Royal Lahaiana Resort, just a short walk from our hotel.  The luau was a spectacle of dance and music and fire with delicious food and a great crowd who were really in the Aloha spirit!

We even learned the hula and entertained the crowd while the pig was being served!

Our final day was a day spent finishing up our souvenier shopping and getting in one last swim in that wonderful warm Hawaii ocean.  We had a magic dinner show to attend at the hotel that evening and waited anxiously in the lobby for the show to begin. 

The show was amazing and mystifying with a great dinner and autographs and pictures at the end.  If you go to Hawaii both my husband and I highly recommend the show.

Waking up on our last morning was a bit depressing I will admit.  I didn't want to go home...can you tell by this picture?

It was hard to face leaving the beauty and warmth of Maui to return to the cold dreary wet of Seattle. 
Our trip to Maui will live forever in our memory and hearts!

See more about the wonderful Ka'anapali Beach Hotel here:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Say Goodbye To Cellulite!

When my husband and I were planning our trip to Maui earlier this year, naturally I wanted to look my best in those shorts and swimming suits so I increased my exercise and watched my calories even more closely  than usual, but it just wasn't enough to get rid of that stubborn dimpling cellulite that clung to my legs and thighs with a death grip.

I decided professional help was called for and headed to the store to peruse the various cellulite-reducing products on the shelves.  There were plenty to choose from.  I looked at ingredients, prices and finally decided that the Nivea Goodbye Cellulite cream was the best bargain for my budget priced at $12.99 for a 2 week supply.  With a mixture of skepticism and hope, I went home to put this cream to the test.  Nivea claimed that in 4 weeks they could rid me of cellulite and I had exactly 4 weeks and one day before the trip.  This would truly put the product to the test!

The 2 main ingredients in the Nivea Goodbye Cellulite cream are Lotus Extract and L-Carnitine.  Both have been scientifically proven to help reduce cellulite.  If you would like to read more, here are a couple of links that will give you detailed information.

The directions said to use the cream twice daily so I immediately made it a habit to apply the refreshing blue gel  generously to my hips, thighs and other back side areas after my morning shower and just before bed each night.  I loved that the cream is cool and soothing without being too cold on the skin and that there is little to no fragrance.  After the first week I noticed a tiny bit of improvement and by the end of the third week I had taken to admiring my backside in the mirror, something that I usually avoid like an eight-legged insect!  On the day before we flew to Hawaii I tried on my swimming suits and was truly amazed to see that my visible cellulite was, for the most part, gone.  There was no visible dimpling and my legs looked smooth and about 5 years younger.  How I wish I had taken pictures!  Believe me, this is a product that delivers on it's promise, a claim I would not make lightly! 

If you have cellulite that isn't responding to exercise and good eating habits I highly recommend Nivea Goodbye Cellulite cream.  It worked for me!

Cellulite image borrowed from unknown source , whom I thank, at google images

Nivea Goodbye Cellulite image found via google at

I have not been compensated in any way for this product review. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Baking Soda...The Housewife's Best Friend!

I found this article at the Natural News website today and wanted to share it with you because I am such a loyal fan and user of baking soda in my home.  It has numerous uses and truly is a homemaker's ally and friend, take it from me! If you have clogged drains, stained clothes, funny odors in the home...this article will show you how to deal effectively with these problems all for the cost of a few boxes of baking soda!
(NaturalNews) Baking soda is a white crystalline powder, known as bicarbonate of soda or chemically known as sodium bicarbonate, and is very versatile and effective, yet gentle, environmentally safe, inexpensive and an economical non-toxic compound. It can be used as a more environmentally friendly replacement for many harsher chemicals. It has such a wide variety of uses in relation to cleaning, cooking, safety, plumbing, personal care products, and industrial uses.

The ancient Egyptians first mined the natural product called natron, which contains mostly sodium bicarbonate. The Egyptians used the mixture as a cleansing agent such as soap. It was not until 1791 in France that Nicolas Leblanc, a French chemist, artificially manufactured sodium bicarbonate as we know it today.

The colonists brought baking soda to America from England. However, it was not produced in the U.S. until 1839, but in 1846, Austin Church, a Connecticut physician, and John Dwight, a Massachusetts farmer, established a factory in New York to manufacture baking soda.

The versatility of baking soda is unsurpassed; it can be used in many areas both inside and outside the house. The following provides a few popular uses:

Fire retardant- baking soda can be used to extinguish oil and electrical fires.

Deodorizer- a box of baking soda in your refrigerator will help to neutralize strong odors. It can also be used to wash out and deodorize garbage cans, and it also controls undesirable odors in the bottom of your dishwasher.

Desiccant- baking soda is a drying agent and can remove excess moisture from your refrigerator, cupboards and wardrobe.

Stain remover- apply a thin paste of baking soda to stains prior to washing - even blood stains.

Degreaser- apply baking soda on grease or oil patches on cement floors or driveways, or on stovetops and barbecue grills.

Blocked or sluggish drains- place a cup of baking soda in the drain followed by a cup of warm vinegar.

Cooking/baking- baking soda is a leavening agent which reacts with acid compounds causing dough to rise. In cooking it acts to neutralize acids, breaks down protein, and tenderizes also.

Cleaning- baking soda cleans bathrooms, carpets, kitchens, glass, ovens, walls and mirrors.

Personal care- baking soda can be used on sunburn, insect bites, dentures, sore throats, acid indigestion, and shampooing.

Insecticide/herbicide- repels ants and roaches. It can be used to kill many weeds.

Baking soda has been a household staple for nearly 200 years. soda

About the author

Alice E. Marson is a natural health published author and researcher. She is a retired teacher and writes for Mature Living and mainly on health topics.
As a breast cancer survivor she is a strong believer in natural and alternative medicine and avoiding prescription drugs.
Alice has given public and TV presentations on toxic products in the home.

Learn more:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rosemary for Happy Hair!

I found this wonderful article about how the herb Rosemary can help your hair be it's glossiest, healthiest best.  I just had to share it with you.  This article is not my own but borrowed from the Mike at Natural News, a great newsletter I highly recommend for people interested in natural health and alternative medical modalities.  Enjoy!
(NaturalNews) Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) is a wonderful smelling, multi-purpose herb; the leaves of which have been used in traditional cures for centuries. The herb stimulates hair growth and makes hair smell delightful. Rosemary is said to enhance the memory by improving blood circulation.

Rosemary for hair

Rosemary tea can be used as a conditioning hair rinse. The herb will help to combat dandruff, and rosemary vinegar applied to the hair will make hair gloriously glossy (especially dark hair). Combined with horsetail, rosemary is said to aid hair loss recovery in cases where hair loss has been due to stress and worry.

Rosemary tea recipe for hair: Pour a cup of boiling water over two to three teaspoons of fresh or dried rosemary leaves, cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes or so. Drink two cups of rosemary tea a day to prevent hair loss through poor circulation and to stimulate growth after an event such as chemotherapy.

Rosemary vinegar recipe: Take 25g rosemary (fresh) and add to 1 liter of cider vinegar. Allow to steep in the vinegar for two weeks then strain, bottle in a glass bottle, date and label. Use 2 dessert spoons in final rinsing water after washing hair. To fight dandruff, massage the rosemary vinegar into the scalp 20 minutes before washing.

More uses

For poor circulation, take rosemary regularly. It is a useful addition for conditions associated with cold and poor circulation. Use as an infused oil for massage of cold limbs, aches and pains.

Rosemary has a reputation for improving memory - researches have found that rosemary contains carnosic acid, which can fight off free radical damage to the brain. In addition to improving memory, it would seem that rosemary can protect the brain from strokes and conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease.

One of the properties of rosemary is to lift the spirits and it is useful in cases of depression. Add 15 drops rosemary oil to a warm bath to ease muscular tension, improve circulation and boost the spirits.

The herb is useful in cases of poor digestion, gall bladder inflammation and general feelings of being liverish.

Rosemary is useful as a gargle for sore throats.

Rosemary oil blends well with oils such as frankincense, basil, thyme, bergamot, lavender, cedarwood, cypress and spice oils such as cinnamon, clove, ginger and black pepper.

Caution: Avoid in large doses during pregnancy. Rosemary is not suitable for people with epilepsy or high blood pressure.

The Illustrated Guide to Healing Remedies, C. Shealy, Published by Harper Collins, 2002 edition, page 168 and

Learn more:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Herbal Tea Or Pills For Your Ills?

In today’s world we have literally millions of choices when it comes to drugs, whether prescribed to us or available over the counter, to help us through everything from the common cold to injury to major illness.  Very often it is appropriate to leave ourselves in the hands of a traditional doctor and the pharmaceuticals he can provide when a condition requires more than herbal medicine can offer, but for the majority of us herbal remedies can replace many of the medications we have come to rely on.  There are three major differences between conventional pharmaceuticals and herbal medicine, which we will explore here in order for you to be able to make an informed decision the next time you need to reach for a medicine to help you through a particular problem.

The first difference is that herbal medicines, unlike conventional medicines that treat a specific symptom, treat the whole person; mind, body and spirit.  Herbal medicines help to create a balance in the body whereas conventional medicines often create an imbalance.  For example, when a patient goes on a medication to lower blood pressure he will frequently need a water pill, such as Lasix, to accompany it.  Because the water pill leeches potassium from the system the patient will then need to take potassium supplements to replace what is lost.  Taking an herbal alternative will not only save the patient from buying expensive medications but will also help to create harmony and balance in the body which will improve his general well being, uplifting and energizing the spirit.  Herbal medicines are bioactive, meaning they contain several constituents that provide vitamins, nutrients and medicinal properties that work together to heal holistically and synergistically, treating the whole person rather than a symptom or particular body function, as conventional medicines are designed to do. 

Herbal medicines are natural and, for the most part, not toxic.  They generate few to no side effects and are gentle on the body, healing in a slower but more efficient way.  Conventional medications are more often than not synthetic chemical compositions that may help one symptom or function but wreak havoc on the rest of the body.  I have often heard people say, “The cure is worse than the disease.”  There is a lot of truth in that.  I have seen it time and again in my 20 years in healthcare.  The side effects from many conventional medications cause more discomfort to the patient than the initial problem.  A perfect example is aspirin, commonly taken for headache.  When taken regularly aspirin can cause Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), which is a very uncomfortable condition, sometimes accompanied by vertigo.  Long after the patient’s headache is gone the Tinnitus can remain.  Herbal medicines, with all of their multiple healing components working together, help the body function better overall which instead of just resolving one symptom, as conventional medicines do, offers the patient the multiple benefits of increased energy and enthusiasm, better health and overall sense of wellness.  Conventional medications, at best, may alleviate one symptom and at worst may cause serious harm to the patient.  They are designed to solve one problem without focusing on the rest of the body as herbal medicines do, doing nothing for the patient’s overall health.

The second difference is that conventional medications require either a trip to the doctor to obtain a prescription or the local drug store.  This will cost the patient time as well as money.  Herbal medicines can be grown at home, unlike conventional remedies.  Common ailments such as stomachaches, sore throats, colds and flu, headaches, insomnia and indigestion can all be treated at home with plants growing in your own garden and neighborhood.  Herbal medicines can be as convenient as snipping a few leaves in the garden or herbs from the windowsill and brewing a pot of tea.  My husband and I are both prone to headaches but we no longer reach for an aspirin or ibuprofen.  Now I walk through the yard and gather various herbs, such as Catnip, Feverfew, Lemon Balm, German Chamomile, Peppermint, California Poppy and Lavender to make a healing tea.  Within ten minutes of drinking this tea our headaches are usually gone or have subsided significantly.  When we have had a stressful day at work we sit down to a soothing tea made with German Chamomile and Catnip.  This is so much better for us than popping anti-anxiety medicines to calm our nerves.  Not only is it safer but also saves us money and is very convenient and easy to do!

The third striking difference between herbal and conventional medicine is the lack
of research into the actions and benefits of medicinal herbs and plants.  While millions and millions of dollars are being spent each year on conventional drugs very little is being spent on herbal medicines.  The pharmaceutical companies do not see a large profit potential in herbal medicine because they can’t patent a plant and make a fortune from it.  Instead they take one constituent from the plant and add to it chemicals and ingredients that do nothing for human benefit in any way, market the pill and make a fortune from it but it can’t help the person using it as much as the whole plant, with all of it’s constituents working together synergistically to work at every level in the body to make the system strong from the inside out.  Therefore, if the pharmaceutical companies invested large amounts of money, time and energy into research the profits would be low in comparison to the cost of research.  Medicine derived from plants may not generate the big profits of synthetic medications.  Another reason we will likely never see major research done in the area of herbal medicine is that if extensive research were done into herbal medicines such information would be available to the public.  This would make the public more aware of what they are growing in their own backyards and neighborhoods and what they can do for themselves to treat common illnesses.  This is not what the drug companies want!  They want people dependent on their expensive drugs!  The pharmaceutical companies would likely be unable to demand big prices for drugs that come from common plants such as Dandelion and Red Clover and other wonderful plants that grow wild and are easily cultivated, making it less likely that those avenues of medicine will ever be pursued.  Due to the lack of research, many consumers and conventional practitioners alike think of herbal medicine as quackery.  But if extensive research were done perhaps those who now scoff would take a second look at herbal medicine.  Until serious scientific research is done herbal medicine may unfortunately stay in the background of medicine for years to come.

               So, the next time you have a headache, gather a bit of lavender from the garden and brew up a strong tea.  This will alleviate your headache, relax you and save you money on a pill you just don’t need! 

Buy dried herbs here:

Healthy Herbal Popsicles!

I know what you are thinking...healthy popsicles? That may sound like an oxymoron to you since today's "healthy" popsicles consist of a little (if your are lucky) fruit juice and artificial flavors and sweeteners. What I'm talking about are popsicles made with herbal infusions and once you've tried one, you won't want to eat those storebought frozen concoctions again!

I have been making herbal popsicles for a couple of years now and it all started when I wanted to have a healthy frozen treat for my grandkids when they stopped by on hot summer days. I had one grandaughter in the throes of the terrible two's and a grandson who was teething, so my first herbal popsicles were an experiment in tackling those issues while still satisfying their little sweet tooths! For little Lily's temper tantrums I decided to try Lemon Balm and Catnip, knowing that these herbs are gentle enough for small children (even infants in small doses) and that they are sweet and mild in flavor. Not only did the children love them but one popsicle was enough to calm Lily's temper for a couple of hours. Mind you, she did not become the perfect "stepford child" but her behavior did mellow and the tantrums were fewer and easier to deal with. For Noah's teething I tried Clove, knowing that Clove is the go-to herbal remedy for toothache, teething or gum pain. It was amazing how well the popsicle worked, giving the little guy (and mom and dad!) hours of relief. After such success I decided to branch out and try different herbs in different combinations for different effects. What I discovered is that the possibilities are endless!

Noah, before the Clove popsicle...teething hurts!

Noah, after the Clove popsicle...feeling much better now!

To make herbal popsicles you only need the popsicle containers and to know how to brew a pot of tea. If you don't already have a set laying around you can purchase them almost anywhere, however I do personally recommend using the tupperware brand since that is the only set I've ever had that really worked consistently and held up over time. Once you have your popsicle containers all you need to do is brew up a pot of herbal tea. For a set of 6 small popsicles you will need about 2 -3 cups of water and about 3 tsp. of dried herb or 3 tbsp. of fresh herb of choice.
1. Place herbs in large glass measuring cup or other vessel that is easy to pour from
2. Boil water
3. Pour boiling water over herbs and allow to steep for 30 - 60 minutes, depending on how strong you want your medicine ( I always cover the infusion with a paper towel to keep the volatile oils in)
4. Pour into popsicle containers and freeze (if you have extra...drink it!)
5. Enjoy!
To sweeten, if needed, I usually just add a teaspoon of honey powder but you could use any sweetener you like.

If you are not sure what herbs to start with I advise you start with simple herbs like Lavender, Catnip, Lemon Balm, any of the Mints and edible flowers such as roses, red clover, borage and hibiscus. Here are some simple ideas for simple health issues:
1. Lemon Balm, Lavender, Catnip, Mint for stress, mild depression, melancholy/sadness, stomach upset
2. Clove for toothache, teething, gum and/or oral pain
3. Rosemary, Basil, Lavender and Catnip for mild headache
4. Mints for tummy troubles or halitosis
5. Edible flowers, as listed above, for their subtle, lovely taste and color
6. Catnip, Lavender, Skullcap for insomnia
7. Thyme, Lavender for bad dreams
8. Peppermint (allow to infuse for 2 hours before pouring) for sinus congestion

These are just some simple ideas to get you going. If you do not have access to fresh herbs, consider growing your own! This will not only give you an ongoing supply of fresh herbs it will give you the opportunity to learn more about herbs and their benefits, help you burn a few (or a lot) of calories tending the garden and help you get outdoors for fresh air and healthy activity that has great rewards! If you want to buy medicinal or culinary (which are also medicinal) herb seeds to start your garden, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs
for the best in quality. And if gardening is not your "cup of tea" the Mountain Rose Herbs website also has a huge selection of quality dried herbs for sale. What I cannot grow myself, I buy from them. They are the best in the business of herbs and I have posted the link to their website below.

So, what kind of herbal popsicle are you going to make?


Monday, June 20, 2011

Cook Yourself Healthy with Herbs!


           The word nutrition means many different things to many people.  Though I would never tell anyone how they should or should not eat as I see diet as a personal choice that one has to make based on tastes and personal and/or religious beliefs, as an Herbalist I do believe that herbs used in cooking not only enhance the taste of the food but offer numerous health benefits as well and can be used no matter what type of diet or food pyramid you eat by.

            Herbs have been used to season and preserve food since prehistoric times and are widely mentioned in the bible.  Without science and research to guide them, our ancestors learned through experience, trial and error that herbs not only made their food taste better but that herbs used in cooking also helped to prevent and fight infection and illness. Why not season our food with both taste and better health?  Here is a list of common culinary herbs and the health benefits they offer.

            Let’s take a look at some of the most common ingredients in your kitchen and spice cabinet: 

            Garlic, which is used worldwide for both culinary and medicinal value, is a powerful antibiotic that has no side effects and which, unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, does not kill off the body’s good bacteria.  This is great news for garlic lovers but unfortunately the antibacterial action of garlic is only present when the garlic is raw or just barely warmed.  For people who like or can tolerate the taste of raw garlic it can be applied liberally to any dish or soup just before serving for it’s value in fighting an existing infection or to boost the immune system to help prevent infection.  Raw garlic added to soups and spaghetti sauces during peak cold and flu season can help to prevent or cut the duration of these illnesses. (For people who hate the taste of garlic but want it’s valuable medicinal aid, they can take garlic capsules or take garlic footbaths instead.)  Garlic has also been proven helpful in lowering cholesterol and improving immune function and is undergoing research at this time as an anti-cancer herb, all the more reason to sprinkle raw garlic over your favorite dishes and soups.

           Basil is another valuable herb to use in cooking, not only for the spicy flavor it offers but also for its help in lowering blood pressure.  Basil goes great with Italian dishes as well as meat, eggs and pasta and, when eaten regularly, can help to control mild hypertension.  Basil also acts as a breath freshener and, hung in bunches around the kitchen, is a great fly repellent!

Bay, a staple in every kitchen and known for the flavor it adds to many dishes, soups and stews, is reputed to help chase away cold and flu symptoms, especially when used with peppermint. 

            Cayenne, a popular spice, is a great addition to any food you want to “heat up” and aids in blood stimulation and circulation, making it a great herb for people who suffer from cold hands and feet.  Cayenne is also reputed to help with painful conditions like arthritis.  Some leading health experts also claim that cayenne, when consumed in small amounts with each meal, will aid in weight loss and stimulation of the metabolism, a couple more good reasons to include it in your cooking besides the flavor and zip it will give to your meal!

Chives and onions are tasty herbs and can be added to almost any dish.  These common kitchen staples help to improve the immune system, fight viruses and are also helpful in lowering blood pressure.  Chives are best fresh and added to food just before serving and are great with potatoes, fish, soups and stews, most meat and in salads.  Onions go great with almost everything and should be eaten as much as possible to help overall immune system function. 

Dill, the seeds as well as fresh or dried leaves, adds flavor to fish, eggs, pickled foods, potatoes and cucumbers, to name a few.  Dill is also known to aid in digestion and to relieve flatulence.  Chewing the seeds will freshen the breath so don’t forget this herbal ally when you are cooking!  Due to its help in relieving flatulence, dill is good to use when you are preparing gas-forming foods. 

            Parsley, perhaps the most used but least appreciated of the culinary herbs, is packed with vitamins and is a good source particularly of vitamins A and C.  Parsley is also a good source of iron and is considered by many health and nutrition experts to be the “herbal multivitamin.”  Parsley is best known as a garnish but adds flavor to soups, meat, fish and vegetable dishes as well as salads.  Perhaps when cooking you can not only try adding parsley to the meal but also do what the restaurants do and place a nice parsley garnish on each plate.  This will give an added source of nutrients and vitamins and chewing on the parsley after the meal will freshen the breath and clear the palate.

Sage, the “thanksgiving” herb, known for its use in stuffing and poultry dishes, is a powerhouse of herbal medicine.  It acts as an antiseptic that can be very helpful in treating many conditions, particularly infections of the mouth and throat.   Sage should be added generously to food, especially soups, when one is fighting illness or infection.  A warm sage broth can help to relieve sore throat, painful gums, canker sores and laryngitis, so keep it handy!  
Thyme, a widely used favorite, is a valuable herb in fighting colds and coughs and adds flavor to meat, fish, vegetables and potatoes.  This is another herb to use more of during peak cold and flu season to help the immune system keep illness at bay.

            Savory, both the winter and summer varieties, are a wonderful addition to lentil and bean dishes, stews, chilis and even spaghetti sauce.  This is a very flavorful herb that adds a tasty depth to bean soups as well as giving baked beans an incredible flavor.   Mother nature used good old-fashioned common sense when she made this herb to go well with bean dishes.  Because of its anti-flatulence qualities savory is a great partner for those delicious but notorious gas causing bean dishes!
 Rosemary, a woodsy and pungent herb, adds a rich dimension to meats as well as stews and soups, fish, stuffing and even chocolate cake!  What rosemary also does is fight headaches, memory loss and helps the circulatory system, all great health benefits to go along with the great taste of this herb.

Oregano, another “Italian” herb, is great added to Italian recipes as well as eggs and stews.  But according to James A. Duke, PHD and the world’s foremost authority on herbal and plant medicine, oregano’s best value is in its ability to fight conditions such as hypertension, asthma and arthritis as well as it’s powerful antibiotic action.  Obviously, adding oregano to your meals can help with more than just extra flavor!

            One of the main things to remember when cooking with herbs is that, in general, most should be added in the last 15 minutes of cooking to retain flavor and medicinal value.  Some herbs, such as savory and rosemary, can be added early in the cooking process because they do not as quickly lose their flavor, but for true medicinal purposes, it is best to add a bit in the last few minutes of cooking as well.

            The mints are wonderful herbs for cooking and baking and have a variety of medicinal virtues such as aiding in digestion, easing nausea and treating halitosis (bad breath).  Mint goes well with fish, lamb, poultry and pork as well as being a delightful garnish for many dishes and desserts.  Mint even tastes great mixed into a green salad.

            Let’s not forget the sweet spices that you use in baking and occasional cooking that can be used to please your taste buds and improve your health.  Cinnamon, a sweetener that is safe even for diabetics and contains no calories, is a great herb for regulating blood sugar.  As little as one teaspoon per day of cinnamon can help to regulate blood sugar, helping to keep sugar levels from spiking and/or dropping.  Diabetics as well as people with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) should incorporate cinnamon into their cooking and baking as much as possible to help regulate their glucose levels.

            Ginger, another popular baking spice, is renowned for it’s ability to fight nausea and dizziness.  In double blind research studies ginger has proved to be more affective against nausea and motion sickness than Dramamine, one of the best selling anti motion sickness drugs in the world.  That’s the reason when you were a kid with a tummy ache Grandma’s ginger snaps made you feel better. 

            Cloves are another wonder drug in the form of a sweet and earthy spice.  Cloves provide relief from pain and are antiseptic, being especially helpful with dental pain.  A whole clove placed on an aching tooth will alleviate the toothache within seconds.  Cloves are used in cooking and baking too, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine, flavoring meat and vegetable dishes and a variety of sweets.

            Turmeric is a spice that is also used widely in Middle Eastern cuisine and is quickly gaining popularity in America.  Turmeric has been known to help relieve pain in arthritis as well as showing promise in the treatment of diabetes, making it worthwhile to experiment with in your own cooking!

            Lastly, for people who need to watch their sodium intake, here is an herbal salt substitute blend that is used in place of salt and adds wonderful flavor to most foods.  If you don’t have access to any of the herbs in the recipe just use what you do have.  Your seasoning blend will still have plenty of flavor. 

This recipe uses dried herbs:
2 cups parsley
½ cup dill seed
½ cup winter savory 
½ cup marjoram or oregano
1/8 – ¼ cup rosemary         
2 tbsp. Sage    
2 tbsp. Lemon thyme  
½ tsp. cayenne pepper

Blend herbs well by hand with a mortar and pestle or in a grinder. Coffee grinders work great for grinding and mixing herbs!  Store in an airtight container away from heat and sunlight.  Use this delicious blend instead of salt for great tasting food without the problems sodium can sometimes cause.

            Have fun trying different herbs and spices in your cooking and give thought, when you have the sniffles or a loved one has a tummy ache, to which herbs may help to alleviate the symptoms and incorporate some natural medicine into your meals for better taste and better health.  Happy and healthy cooking!

Kelly Marks, Herbalist
Kelly’s Backyard Herbals