As the Student Advisor at Genesis School of Natural Health my purpose is to guide students through their studies. I also take on projects as needed.
My business is called The Herbs & The Bees, LLC, which has a fully-stocked apothecary and provides holistic wellness consults and services utilizing nutritional augmentation, herbal and homeopathic remedies, as well as energetic modalities.
Many have heard of the well-known herbal adaptogens such as the Panax and American ginsengs, Eleuthero – which is sometimes called Siberian ginseng (although it is not actually a ginseng), Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, and others.
In herbalism, the term adaptogen carries with it a very specific meaning. Adaptogens are herbs which are always safe and gentle and affect the body by impacting the way the adrenal glands respond to chronic (or ‘non-specific’) periods of stress.
“Adaptogens increase the state of non-specific resistance in stress and decrease sensitivity to stressors, which results in stress protection, and prolong the phase of resistance (stimulatory effect). Instead of exhaustion, a higher level of equilibrium (the homeostasis) is attained the heterostasis. The higher it is, the better the adaptation to stress. Thus, the stimulating and anti-fatigue effect of adaptogens has been documented in both in animals and in humans.”
Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,1 188-224. 19 Jan. 2010, doi:10.3390/ph3010188
Herbalist David Hoffman says that while adaptogens help the body endure stress longer, theg are intended for the cessation of stress. The elimination of stress can occur in a variety of ways such as learning new techniques and skills to deal with the stressor(s) or some other type of change.
The purpose of adaptogens should not include doing nothing only to try to enable the body to take on stress indefinitely. If one chooses to use an adaptogen and do nothing about the stress, they will eventually burn out anyway.1 Herbal adaptogens are not meant to be a magic pill for stress avoidance.
Both chronic emotional stress and chronic infection(s) result in the ongoing release of cortisol and other steroidal glucocorticoids. Prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids can disrupt the interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands (HPA axis).
The HPA axis is a neuroendocrine system that regulates digestion, the immune system, energy storage and expenditure, and influences our mood and emotions. HPA axis dysfunction increases the risk of depression, anxiety, digestive and sleep problems, headaches, weight gain or loss, and heart disease. Fatigue, muscular weakness, excessive free radicals, mitochondrial dysfunction and increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines are also associated with HPA axis dysfunction.”
“All adaptogens contain antioxidants and other phytochemicals that are beneficial for the prevention of disease, support during acute infections and chronic diseases (cancer, autoimmune conditions, etc.), and protection from toxins (chemo, radiation, environmental toxins, and internal toxins).”
Rhodiola rosea by Sharlene Peterson, Educational Administrator Genesis School of Natural Health
The key to the action of a genuine adaptogen is that it must support the neuroendocrine system, specifically the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and in doing so “modulate and regulate the use of cortisol, allowing the body to maintain a healthy stress response. They also help regulate and support the interconnected neuroendocrine and immune systems allowing the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.” (Adaptogens, Winston & Maimes 2007)
The popularity of the term “adaptogen” has become a type of buzzword useful in creating a market for ‘super oils’ known to have ‘balancing’ properties.
Although quite a number of essential oils do have balancing properties in one way or another – they generally do not meet the accepted criteria for adaptogens. Only one essential oil (at this point) is known to function as a true adaptogen. Yet oddly enough, it is relatively unheard of as an adaptogenic essential oil.
There is one essential oil, however, whose roots grow deeper and that reaches ‘head and shoulders’ above all other potential essential oil contenders in terms of its adaptogenic effect. That is none other than the lowly conifer, the Black Spruce.
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
As a relatively slow-growing pine of the Canadian boreal forest. Black spruce is found prolifically across North America expanding as far north as Alaska and as far south as the Great Lakes.
Robert Tisserand writes that historically, a strong decoction of the young branches of Picea marinara was made into a beverage called ‘spruce beer’ that was imbibed when on board ships to ward off scurvy. (Essential Oil Safety 2nd ed., Tisserand & Young, 2014)
Black spruce is a relative newcomer on the essential oil scene. It has only been processed commercially since the 1960s. The essential oil, is steam distilled from the tips of its fresh cut branches (twigs and needles). It is sustainably harvested as a seasonal waste product of the logging industry primarily in eastern Canada in the autumn and again in the late winter and early spring each year.
Picea mariana is a gentle remedy for which there is no known cumulative toxicity in low doses. Oxidized oils are contraindicated (as always) because irritation may present with topical use. Generally, and at appropriate dilutions, black spruce is not irritating nor is it sensitizing. It has a deep woody and earthy scent, as fresh and crisp as the air of a conifer forest.
Black spruce, as a true adaptogen is predominantly a “systemic neuroendocrine-immune restorative and regulator” for the chronically debilitated and fatigued with conditions resulting from deficiencies and imbalances of the “pituitary/adrenal/thyroid/thymus/ovarian (and other endocrine)” systems. (Aromatica, Volume 1 by Peter Holmes, LAc, MH)
“Black spruce arguably displays the largest range of therapeutic effects among these valuable conifer oils…
European practitioners have long established good clinical results using Black spruce as a booster and regulator of the HPA axis (Penel 1990). Syndromes of adrenal dysregulation and fatigue may be improved at the core with its internal use. Positive results have included regulation of pituitary–thyroid and pituitary-gonadal functions showing this remedy to benefit functional hypothyroid conditions as well as female hormonal dysregulation in general. In addition, immune functions have shown both short-term and long-term improvement.
…Black spruce has emerged with a newer, larger clinical profile that warrants defining it as a true adaptogen, in the same league as the herbal remedies Rhodiola, the Ginsengs and others. Taking the premise that an adaptogenic effect must involve the core triangle of physiology – the nervous, endocrine and immune systems – and moreover must have an essentially broad regulating effect on virtually all endocrine glands, proving useful for an exceptionally wide range of weak conditions. Chronic fatigue syndrome is perhaps its most telling indication here, involving as it does long-term neuro-hormonal and immune deficiencies…
Black spruce should be included in a large variety of formulations addressing chronic deficiency and dysregulation.”
AROMATICA: A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics, Volume 1 Peter Holmes LAc, MH
Kurt Schnaubelt identifies Picea mariana as a restorer of depleted adrenal glands further extolling its virtues as a topical substitute for morning coffee! (Advanced Aromatherapy, Kurt Schaubelt, Ph.D., 1998)
Suzanne Catty, professional aromatherapist and author of “Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy”, agrees. “In high-stress periods both the hydrolate and the oil can be used as an aromatic pick-me-up that can replace afternoon or evening coffee breaks.”
Black spruce can be a useful remedy for chronic infections, discouragement, menstrual disorders, mental fatigue/burnout, muscle aches and pains, and for weakened stamina. It may also help boost self-esteem and self-confidence, ease depression, balance weight issues, help with respiration (tight breathing), and increase general vitality and immunity.
Together, Scotch pine and Black spruce afford a wonderful synergy as an expectorant and respiratory revitalizer for chronic conditions such as emphysema and asthma. They are also a useful blend for immune deficiencies and the endocrine system.
At an emotional level Black spruce can be relied upon to ground, stabilize, and energize while connecting people back to their true thoughts and feelings. It is as centering as a meditative walk in the forest all the while recreating a sense of self, confidence and purpose.
If you have not had an opportunity to try Black spruce essential oil yet, you may want to get hold of some. Its many uses make it a valuable addition to every essential oil toolkit.
Essential oils (EOs) are exploding in popularity! Nearly every household has at least a few of them lying around and there is a quickly growing presence of us ‘lovers of all things aromatic’ diligently working on expanding our collections as quickly as our budget will allow while sharing the good news of aromatherapy everywhere we go! The delightful scents and medicinal properties of essential oils pique the interest of many who want to remediate ailments using natural means. What could be more perfect than these readily available delightfully-scented volatile oils?
The healing properties of essential oils are well-known. Yet the potency of these natural plant oils is often underestimated. There is important information available to learn about the safety of these oils and how to lower the risk of sensitization for ourselves and others while continuing to enjoy of these delightfully aromatic oils for years to come.
The following chart is designed to help us visualize the vast quantity of plant material involved in the production of essential oils. For instance, the oil of Rose Otto, Rosa damascena, takes two pounds of rose petals just to make just one drop! Two pounds of petals takes anywhere from 30 to 50 rose blossoms to manufacture!1 One 16-ounce pint of Rose Otto essential oil demands between 144,000 to 240,000 blossoms or 10,000 pounds of these precious petals!
The concentration of phytochemicals in a mere drop of any essential oil should receive a healthy dose of respect. Dilution with a carrier oil serves a crucial purpose in reducing the risk of applying neat (undiluted) essential oils. A quick look at the chart below reveals how radically a 2% dilution reduces the potency (although not necessarily the effectivity) of the herb.
A single drop of the concentrated essential oil of Rose Otto is the chemical equivalent of between 30 and 50 blossoms. However, one drop of a standard two percent dilution of Rose Otto will only have the chemical equivalent of one blossom at most.
More is not always better, especially when it comes to essential oils. What is best is getting just what our bodies need. No more and no less.
We live in a toxic world. Many folks, whether they realize it or not are struggling with toxicity. As wonderful as essential oils are, they are can add to the burden. Too much of anything can create or exacerbate a tox-‘sick’ state of being.
“Toxicity, or ‘the degree to which a substance can damage the body’ is dependent upon dose and does not require a substance to be formally labeled as a toxin; ‘even water can lead to water intoxication when taken in too high a dose’ (‘Toxicity’, 2015). Toxicity can be caused by a single very high exposure, or by long-term exposure, but the net effect is that the body’s detoxification systems are overwhelmed.”2
Development of an Essential Oil Sensitivity
Typically, immune responses are caused by large protein molecules such as those found in foreign invaders or infectious agents. It is a commonly held fallacy that essential oils cannot cause allergic reactions because they do not contain proteins. While correct in that essential oils do not have proteins, the fallacy is dangerously incorrect because essential oils do cause allergic reactions. Here is why.
Haptens are very tiny, low molecular weight molecules that may bind to larger molecules such as proteins and other things like pharmaceutical drugs. In the case of essential oils, they bind to Langerhans cells which are specialized cells integral to the skin’s immune system. By themselves, haptens cannot cause an immune response, however, once they are attached to a larger carrier molecule, the carrier/hapten molecule (now called an adduct) migrates into the lymphatic system.
“Langerhans cells (LC) are members of the dendritic cells family, residing in the basal and suprabasal layers of the epidermis and in the epithelia of the respiratory, digestive and urogenital tracts. They specialize in antigen presentation and belong to the skin immune system (SIS). LC acquire antigens in peripheral tissues, transport them to regional lymph nodes, present to naive T cells and initiate adaptive immune response.”3
Once the Langerhan cells present these adducts to the T-cells, the T-cells mount a quick immune response against these viruses, bacteria, invaders, or other toxins such as the essential oil hapten/adducts.
Foreign proteins and any protein with a hapten attached are called antigens. They are quickly recognized by the T-cells. This recognition process is done when “T-cells probe the surface of other cells, examining materials scooped from inside the cell and presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules on the surface of the cells.”4
After T-cells have probed an antigen, they can then recognize it and are able to rapidly multiply a large number of identical cells (clones) with the same antigen receptor as the original. Thereby, mounting an immune defense on behalf of the body.
Urushiol, the toxin in poison ivy is a common example of a hapten. Urushiol is absorbed into the skin and within the skin, oxidizes and attaches to the skin’s own proteins which forms the antigen. From there it is found by the T-cell, probed until recognized, then T-cells multiply in the lymph node and from there urushiol causes an immune reaction b(in this case on the skin) because of the body’s ability to recognize it in all subsequent exposures.
Although first exposure by which an essential oil has not yet been identified by the body as an antigen does not result in an allergic reaction. It is possible that subsequent exposures will. This process is called sensitization and the reaction that comes from it is called hypersensitivity.
“Once sensitization occurs, you will have a lifelong reaction to the allergic agent,’ Dr. Palm says. ‘Additionally, future exposures to the allergy-causing essential oil will cause more severe skin reactions.’ Those who fall within the ‘atopic triad’—or those with atopic dermatitis, eczema, seasonal allergies, and asthma—are much more likely to develop allergic contact dermatitis. Women are also more prone to these reactions than men, she says, due to an underlying hormonal cause, ‘which is likely a contributing factor to this difference.”5
Paracelsus, a pioneer of the Renaissance “medical revolution”, said that ‘the dose makes the poison’ (toxin). When the body is overwhelmed by a substance it seeks to preserve itself. Allergic reactions should be considered warning signs.
Herbalism considers the essential oil to be more concentrated than the tincture (generally an alcohol-based extract). Yet the essential oil does not contain all of the constituents of the tincture. This means that an essential oil will not have all of the balancing phytochemicals of the whole plant.
What essential oils do contain are only the molecules with the lightest weight that can transfer during the distillation process. Whenever the chemicals of plants are reduced through processing, certain balancing factors found in the whole range of phytochemicals are altered. This results in an increased risk of side-effects.
There is no getting away from it. In the search for natural remedies, even essential oils break down into… chemicals. When applied in their very concentrated form, the body at some point can be expected to identify the substance as a toxin and react to it. While it is desirable to foster heath, this is not always the case.
Lower the Risk of an Allergic Reaction
> Use only oils that are suitable for different life stages Young children and the elderly tend to be more sensitive, therefore, certain essential oils are not suitable. Also, due to hormonal fluctuations and the development of the child in utero and while an infant, those who are pregnant and lactating are advised to use only those oils deemed safe and in a safe manner during those times.
> Use proper dilutions of essential oils The stronger the “dilution” the higher the risk. The highest risk occurring with neat (undiluted) topical applications and ingestion. Recommended dilution percentages will vary according to the potency of the essential oil.
> Vary your essential oil choices Using essential oils (even when diluted) every day for weeks and months on end could trigger an allergic reaction. It is best to change the oils on a regular basis or even discontinue use for a period of time. Listen to your body.
> Frequent daily applications multiply total daily exposure The following visuals demonstrate that frequent applications of essential oils quickly and exponentially increase the amount of plant chemicals to meet or exceed what is found in a single drop of neat Rose Otto essential oil.
This is shared simply to draw attention to the fact that many repeated applications of any essential oil have the potential to overwhelm the body. People seldom use only four drops of diluted 2% essential oils topically as in this example. There is also a therapeutic benefit to spacing out the applications. Small diluted doses add up.
Massage therapists using essential oil blends on their clients have an increased potential for an adverse reaction. Moderation is key to continued enjoyment of the many benefits of essential oils.
One might think that a delicate essential oil such as Rose Otto carries less potency than Cinnamon Bark or Clove (both known to be strong oils that are likely to cause skin irritation) but this is not true. While Rose Otto is not as irritating, it is plenty “potent” as is Lavender or the Chamomiles, etc. The constituents of essential oils vary, so their respective benefits differ.
> Parts add up Many oils share some of the same chemical constituents. When using blends and making dilutions, one should take into consideration the increased amounts or select oils with different components that offer the desired effect.
One chemical, a monoterpene called 1,8-cineol, Cineole or Eucalyptol can be found in the essential oils of basil, eucalyptus, melaleuca (tea tree), peppermint, rosemary and sage. At high levels, this monoterpene has been found to be toxic. 1,8-cineol makes up a whopping 80% of eucalyptus and about 44% of rosemary essential oils. It is significantly less in the other plant species listed.
While it is perfectly fine to blend these oils, be sure to utilize the other risk limiting factors such as dilution, frequency of use, etc.
> More is not the answer Not everyone will have their condition(s) remediated by using certain essential oils or blends. The complexity of our bodies is beyond simply replacing the pharmaceutical “red pill or blue pill” with a natural remedy such as an essential oil.
In this instance it can be beneficial to seek out a natural health professional able to assist with the necessary lifestyle changes, systemic support and corrections. There are a number of these professionals fluent in the application of aromatherapy as well as other healing modalities.
> It is not recommended to ingest essential oils. You will find many different opinions on this topic and undoubtedly form your own, but keep in mind that foods containing essential oils do so only in very minute amounts. Even one drop of an essential oil can be too strong. In addition to potential allergic reactions, ingested essential oils can interfere with medications.
While ingestion may be professionally endorsed under certain circumstances, it has potential to increase the risk of hypersensitivity and is generally not recommended. Do not consume orally, apply topically, and diffuse all the same time. This is more likely to overwhelm the body.
> Certain essential oils are more likely to elicit an allergic response:
Photo-irritation (photo-sensitivity) may occur with the use of citrus oils such as: bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. Additionally, citrus oils are not well-tolerated while bathing because the skin’s pores become larger, allowing more of the essential oils into the skin.
Contact dermatitis is most likely to be caused by: balsam of Peru, cassia, cinnamon bark, clove, jasmine absolute, lemongrass, oregano, peppermint, sandalwood, tea tree, and ylang-ylang, etc.
It is also possible to be allergic to the carrier oil in which an essential oil is diluted. However, “very few adverse reactions are caused by impurities in an essential oil. Even if they are there, they are usually not present in sufficient concentration to cause a safety risk, and even impurities are not necessarily toxic. Almost all adverse reactions can be explained by the natural constituents present in an essential oil. Oregano oil is a potential skin irritant because of its 70-80% content of carvacrol, which is an irritant. Cinnamon bark oil is a potential allergen because it consists of 65-80% cinnamaldehyde – a known allergen. Bergamot oil is phototoxic because it contains 0.3% of bergapten, a potent photosensitizer. And, even the “purest” essential oil may be prone to oxidation that further increases the risk of adverse reaction.”7
If you think you may be experiencing an allergic reaction, simply STOP!!! Stop using all essential oils. Do not even diffuse them. Do not try to correct a potential allergy to an essential oil with the use of another essential oil.
Essential oils are a wonderful gift. Use them prudently and expect to reap the can benefits for years to come.
Everyone knows what a dandelion is! The very young discover its stunning bright yellow flowers as they begin to explore their outdoor worlds. Its flowers are often gifted. The bouquet of the ‘littles’ presented to young mothers and grandmothers – and often without stems. Yet not everyone knows the absolute gold mine that dwells within this passionately loved… and sometimes equally despised humble plant.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a herbaceous perennial which “has a basal rosette of pinnately lobed leaves and a hollow stalk that supports a single head with many small, yellow, strap-shaped flowers (the tiny flowers collectively appear to be a single, large flower). The small seed-like fruits are born on a common receptacle and are tipped by an elongate, narrow beak, to which are attached an array of white bristles, which aid in wind dispersal. The leaves and flower stalks yield a white latex when bruised.”1
Dandelion is the low-growing cousin of the sunflower family. It is native to both Western Europe and the Mediterranean, but has now spread (by wind, bird, or settler) to every temperate climate. It prefers to grow in grassy locations and cultivated ground. Basically, wherever people are, dandelions are. This is perfect, because whether one knows it or not, we… need… dandelion.
Dandelion Improves the Soil!
More than the occasional dandelion is a sign of poor, deteriorated soil conditions. Dandelion prefers full sun and is tolerant of poor growing conditions. Its taproot can grow from six to 18 inches deep. This helps to break up compacted soil by drilling down into the earth, which both aerates and also draws minerals up into the topsoil where its shallow-rooted plant neighbors can benefit. In this way, dandelion conditions and prepares the soil, making it easier for other more delicate plant species to take hold and receive the nutrients they require.
Gardeners gain additional benefits by cultivating dandelion in their gardens as it attracts pollinating insects and also releases ethylene gas which assists fruit in ripening.
Who would have thought? All this from the lowly dandelion. A mighty tool designed to bring healing and restoration to the earth’s soil.
Dandelion is Nutritious Food!
One of the earliest plants to bloom in the spring, dandelion is a critical food source for pollinators, especially honey bees.
Dandelion is also an important source of food for herbivores such as deer and rabbits. Likewise, a variety farm animals actively seek out dandelion. They instinctively know that after a long winter their bodies need the powerhouse nutritional ‘superfood’ that this unassuming herb so generously provides.
In the Netherlands, the common name for dandelion is “paardebloem”, which when translated means “horse flower”. Thename “horse-flower first appeared in 1906 as a general accepted name in the book “Dutch plant names” of Henry Heukels. The name probably originated because of the fact that horses (also rabbits and pigs) love to eat the leaves of this plant and that it was commonly used as feed. Sometimes it was even named ‘horse-lettuce’.”2
Any horse pasture will soon find itself cleared of dandelion’s little yellow disks as equines actively seek them out. After a long winter and the nutritionally-depleted stored hay of late spring just before first cutting is ready, dandelion greens serve to cleanse the blood of all who will partake.
However, dandelion is not only for animals. Back in the day, in the late winter before it was time to plant spring gardens, common folk knew to forage for the early-producing greens such as dandelion.
The modern newbie forager can heave a sigh of relief that dandelion has no poisonous look-alikes. So there is no reason to hold back. Dandelion is one amazing herb that everyone can confidently get their hands on!
As a young girl, I remember my mother digging dandelions in the early spring to remove them from our yard. She saved the green leaves and prepared them for dinner. At our house, we ate them just one way. Mom would pan fry some bacon, then add the dandelion greens to the pan until they were well wilted. Then she would serve them with a little apple cider vinegar.
NOTE: Never consume dandelions that are growing near or have been contaminated with lawn fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, or any other chemicals.
Buds (unopened flowers) – Salads, stir fry, etc.
Flowers – Snack, salads, wine. Try your hand at mixing the yellow petals into softened butter with a touch of added honey for a delicious treat on bread and muffins!
Leaves – Salads (the youngest leaves are always the sweetest). When they become more bitter: sauté, add to soups, use as a pot herb, casseroles, mix with other greens in pesto, etc. The greens can also be used as a spinach substitute in any recipe.
Dandelion leaves are delicious and rich in nutrients. The raw leaves contain vitamins: A, thiamine (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pyridoxine (B-6), folate (B-9), C, E, K, and the minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
HINT: To reduce the bitter taste of the older leaves either cook them like a potherb in one change of water and/or add a dash of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
Crowns (The part between the root and the leaves.) – Can be sautéed or fried.
Roots – As a root vegetable process the dandelion root in a similar manner to a mature beet which has a thick outer layer. Steam for 2 minutes, put in cool water, then easily peel the outer skin of off the taproot as it is bitter. Next, place the cleaned roots in a pan of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until soft. It is delicious served with butter with a taste similar to a parsnip.
The root of the dandelion contains one of the best sources of inulin (a plant fiber) which is considered a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Inulin also provides a feeling of fullness and clears the body of cholesterol.
To make a coffee-like beverage dandelion root can be roasted and ground, then used as a tea.
To prepare the root for roasting, thoroughly wash and dry them then chop them into small bits. Next, spread the root thinly on a baking sheet and place it in the oven at 250–300 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes to roast evenly. The roasting process will likely take anywhere from one and a half to two hours to be complete. During this time the color will develop into a rich brown and the roasted roots will give off a fragrant aroma.
When done, cool and store the root in a glass container. Use a coffee grinder, Vitamix, or blender to grind up the roasted dandelion into grounds and add to coffee, or make a tea.
Roasted dandelion root is enjoyable in combination with other herbs such as chicory root, cacao, ginger, vanilla, or cinnamon to name a few. Here’s a recipe for you to enjoy:
Darlene’s Mocha Delight!
~ A Delicious, Health-Promoting Coffee Substitute ~
1 Cup Dandelion Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
1 Cup Chicory Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
1 Heaping TSP Cacao, powdered
1/4 TSP Powdered Cinnamon
In a pint jar, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Label and store with a secure lid.
Add 1/2 – 1 scant teaspoon (more or less as desired) to a tea infuser for each 8 to 16 ounces of water. (I like to use large coffee mugs for my tea!)
Pour boiling hot water over the tea and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes for a delicious “coffee-substitute” beverage. Steep longer – 10 to 15 minutes or steep the first tea a second time to draw out more nutrients and increase the health benefits.
Be sure to add some almond milk, coconut milk, or a maybe a little of both and you are good to go. There is a natural sweetness to this recipe that does not require additional sweeteners. It is great cold as the “chocolaty” taste seems to increase as it cools. Yum.
“Coffee people” and “non-coffee” people are pleasantly surprised when they try this hot beverage. It is satisfying, delicious, and provides a nutrient boost the body really craves.
Dandelion leaves and roots do not have the same nutrient composition. The nutrient analysis below will reveal some of the major differences. The data provided is in 100 grams of dandelion leaf or root, respectively. Where information is blank no data was provided.
Indications – LEAF: As a diuretic, dandelion leaf is preferable to the root. “Dandelion leaf is a powerful diuretic, with an action comparable to that of the drug furosemide. The usual effect of a drug that stimulated kidney function is loss of vital potassium from the body, which can aggravate any cardiovascular problem that may be present. Dandelion leaf, however, is not only an effective diuretic, but also one of the best natural sources of potassium. It is thus an ideally balanced remedy that may be used safely whenever diuretic action is needed, even for water retention related heart problems. Overall, this herb is a most valuable general tonic and perhaps the best widely applicable diuretic and liver tonic.”3
Indications – ROOT: Dandelion root (not the leaf) should be selected for conditions associated with:
> Liver and gallbladder such as inflammation, congestion, chronic jaundice, and high cholesterol.
> Autointoxication which occurs when “the waste products of metabolism, decomposed matter from the intestine, or the products of dead and infected tissue, as in gangrene” are not properly eliminated from the body.4
> Aphthous ulcers canker sore-type ulcers commonly located in the mouth, genitals, or intestines.
> Digestive disturbances like loss of appetite, chronic gastritis, constipation, or diarrhea.
> Used topically for skin disorders (acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and boils) the milky white latex “sap” is alkaline which may help curb itching skin and eczema. In addition, its anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties may reduce acne-causing bacteria and other skin infections. The latex appears to speed the healing of scars and the red inflammation caused by acne. Dandelion sap also seems to work very well with sensitive skin, although for those allergic to plants in the Asteracae family, dandelion would be contraindicated.
> Diabetes may be helped by stimulating insulin sensitivity as well as insulin production by the pancreas which aids in controlling blood sugar levels.
> Certain Autoimmune conditions and blood disorders such as rheumatism and anemia.
NOTE: When using herbs medicinally, always be sure they are organic or responsibly wildcrafted. Wildcrafted herbs should be gathered in areas distant from chemical spraying or ‘drift’ that occurs from conventional crop pesticide use.
Have you ever gardened with, eaten, or used dandelion medicinally? Have you tried one of these suggestions above as a result of reading this post? Tell us your experience in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!
Ancestral Plants: A Primative Skills Guide to Important Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants of the Northeast – Volume 1 by Arthur Haines p.184
Before antibiotics, it is estimated that 50 percent of people died from infections. Now, after 75 years of use, statistics reveal that every year at least 2.8 million people are hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, which according to 2019 statistics result in at least 48,700 deaths in the United States alone.1 It is worth mentioning 5 percent of hospital patients (about 2 million) who are admitted for routine procedures become infected at some point during their stay.
How’d We Get Here?
Discovered by Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming in 1928, by the mid 1940’s, penicillin, a mold-derived antibiotic became available for commercial use. “In 1945 the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Alexander Fleming and Howard Florey for their discovery of the antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin from the mould Penicillium notatum.”2
The threat of microbial resistance to antibiotics is rapidly increasing each year with devastating effects. These “superbugs” are outracing the drug industry’s ability to keep up with the need. While it may take a human 20 years to reproduce offspring, a bacterium such as E. coli can replicate every twenty minutes!
We’ve Known About this for Nearly 100 Years!
Bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, should not come as a surprise. In his book Herbal Antibiotics, Steven Harrod Buhner writes “Dr. Fleming noted as early as 1929 in the British Journal of Experimental Biology that numerous bacteria were already resistant to the drug he had discovered, and by 1945 he warned in a New York Times interview that improper use of penicillin would inevitably lead to the development of resistant bacteria.”
How Does It Happen?
Antibiotic resistance occurs because bacteria are able to share genetic material just by being in close proximity to one another. The genetic material is communicated very quickly in little packages called plasmids.
The word antibiotic when broken down simply means anti ‘against’ and biotic ‘life’. At its core an antibiotic’s design is to function ‘against life’. Its use is intended to kill off certain problematic bacteria. However, antibiotics annihilate most microbes in their path. Microbes have the ability to adapt to hostile elements such as antibiotics while remaining in their environment. What a statement to resiliency in life.
It is alarming how many bacterial species are still becoming resistant to the group of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones (‘fluoro’ because they contain fluoride) that can cause very debilitating side-effects.
One example, Cipro (Ciprofloxacin) is a lab-derived chemical structure used as a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Cipro’s “superpower” is that it can destroy anthrax bacillus anthracis bacteria as well as eliminate many other varieties of bacteria (including the helpful ones) because it targets an enzyme essential for DNA transactions that is common to all bacteria.
Intent to keep ahead of the rapidly mutating bacteria, pharmaceutical companies have modified the chemical structure of fluoroquinolones but have been mostly unsuccessful. The Merck Manual states “Many newer fluoroquinolones have been withdrawn from the US market because of toxicity; they include trovafloxacin (because of severe hepatic toxicity), gatifloxacin (because of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia), grepafloxacin (because of cardiac toxicity), temafloxacin (because of acute renal failure, hepatotoxicity, hemolytic anemia, coagulopathy, and hypoglycemia), and lomefloxacin, sparfloxacin, and enoxacin.”3
The most well-known use of antibiotics occurs as a medicine when a person suffering from a microbial infection visits a hospital or doctor. “A national survey of antibiotic use done by CDC’s Emerging Infections Programs identified key opportunities to reduce inappropriate use. This study found that two out of three antibiotics in hospitals are given for three conditions: pneumonia, urinary tract infections (including bladder and kidney infections), and skin infections.”4
In another study done in 2016, “CDC experts found that overall rates of antibiotic use in U.S. hospitals did not change from 2006-2012. More than half of patients received at least one antibiotic during their hospital stay. However, there were significant changes in the types of antibiotics prescribed with the most powerful antibiotics being used more often than others.”5
Due to the overuse of antibiotics the threat of antibiotic-resistant microbes looms large in the healthcare industry. The following three-page document linked to the image below is offered for your convenience. The data has been provided by the CDC.
The antibiotic discovered by Alexander Fleming was derived from the mold Penicillium chrysogenum. This mold naturally produces the antibiotic with the familiar name, penicillin. Industrially produced by fermentation, penicillin is known to have a high therapeutic index that does not negatively effect human cells.
The modern production of antibiotics now occurs in a lab by one of two methods. The first, semi-synthetic production includes natural fermentation plus laboratory involvement of adding an amino group (NH2) to the R group of penicillin. One result from this production method is the well-known antibiotic named ampicillin.
The second ‘synthetic’ method of antibiotic production occurs solely in a lab. There are no natural antibiotic substances used. The quinalone class of antibiotics are made in this way.
The overuse (misuse) of antibiotics in medicine, is considered a primary cause of antibiotic resistance, however, it is only one of three major routes of exposure. Another that deserves a serious look are the animal husbandry practices that affect our meat supply.
Factory Farmed Animals…
Antibiotics added to animal feed have been used in farming to cause animals to grow bigger and faster by converting the same amount of feed into muscle more quickly.
They are also used to counter the stress that animals are placed under when expected to grow in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The constant stress of these conditions breaks down the animal’s immune system making it more prone to disease that ultimately will require antibiotics.
Antibiotics fed to animals affects the bacteria in their body as well. Antibiotic-resistant microbes lodge in their bones and meat and cause imbalances in gut microbes, just as with humans.
When people ingest antibiotic-resistant bacteria via improperly cooked meat and become ill, they may not respond favorably to antibiotic treatment.
Antibiotic-resistant microbes can enter the human or animal microbiome orally, via injection, or through inhaled by aerosolization. What is especially disturbing is that antibiotic resistant organisms are finding their way into the remotest areas of the earth. While three percent of wild penguins have antibiotic-resistant bacteria, close to 50 percent of captive penguins in Antarctica have been identified with it.
“In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 6, 2002, researchers found links that strongly suggested that the people who developed Cipro-resistant bacteria had acquired them by eating pork that were contaminated with salmonella. The report concluded that salmonella resistant to the antibiotic fluoroquine can be spread from swine to humans, and, therefore, the use of fluoroquinolones in food animals should be prohibited.”6
“Another New England Journal of Medicine study from Oct. 18, 2001, found that 20 percent of ground meat obtained in supermarkets contained salmonella. Of that 20 percent that was contaminated with salmonella, 84 percent was resistant to at least one form of antibiotic.”6
Australian scientist Michelle Power states, “about three-quarters of the antibiotics that humans take are actually excreted, ending up in wastewater systems. Places where antibiotics are manufactured are also potential avenues for escape of antibiotics. And then there are the times when animals are taken into care, or raised in captivity and exposed to humans, and then released into the wild. ‘We are seeing a variation in the prevalence [of antibiotic-resistant bacteria] across different wildlife species but why that is the case, we are not sure”.7
Still there is another mode of exposure that is equally as significant yet has been largely ignored. Antibiotics have been routinely used for decades to control bacterial and fungal diseases in plants.
In a study published in CABI Agriculture and Bioscience, Dr. Philip Taylor and his researchers “found that 11 antibiotics (often blended together) are being recommended on crops grown in the Americas, Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim countries…
There is considerable attention paid to the medical and veterinary use of antibiotics, but there is a paucity of data on their use in global crop production. The only well-documented use of antibiotics on crops is that on top fruit in the U.S. These data appear to indicate that the use of antibiotics in crop production is more extensive than most of the literature would suggest.”8
Vegetables grown in unfertilized soil were equally shown to harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria and resistance determinants that naturally occur in soils. 9, 10
Not only are these crop-sprayed antibiotics that are making their way into the food supply of people and animals, the earth’s waterways are being contaminated through runoff and the microbiome of the soil is being disrupted throughout the world.
The Root of the Problem
The isolation of plant constituents separate out a natural chemical that can be patented and manufactured or synthesized in a laboratory to create a product with more problems than it generally solves. These ‘problems’ are called as side-effects. However, in the case of antibiotics there are also effects on bacteria, fungus, or even enzymes whose response has been changed due to frequent and excessive antibiotic exposure.
How “Antibiotic” Herbs Can Help
An herbal remedy generally consists of one or more plants and the entirety of their chemical makeup. These chemicals are uniquely designed to work in unique synergistic combinations as both an offense and a defense that the plant needs to flourish in its life-cycle.
Over 5,000 distinct plant constituents (the chemical parts of plants) have been identified to date, however, there are thousands more that have yet to be identified. A single plant can have anywhere from 200 to 3,000 constituents! The complexity is simply mind-boggling.
How this natural synergistic combination of plant chemicals work, is unique to each herb and multiplied exponentially when various herbs are used together. The mechanisms of how this works is a wonderful mystery that is only just beginning to become unraveled.
The action of herbs is not antibiotic (against life) in the truest sense of the word. Herbs are considered anti-microbial in a much broader sense as they may affect bacterium, fungi, and even protozoa yet do not destroy those organisms beneficial to the body and its vitality. Perhaps they could better be thought of as “smart herbs”. How they differentiate is amazing, but unknown.
A study published in the May 2015 Global Advances in Health and Medicine Journal offered 104 patients with Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) their choice of either four weeks of antibiotic (rifaximin) or herbal therapy.
The herbs used in the herbal therapy were a proprietary mix of Oregano Origanum vulgare, Wormwood Artemisia absinthium, Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis, Goldthread Coptis chinensis root, Indian Barberry Berberis aristata root extract, Horsetail Equisetum arvense L., Thyme Thymus vulgaris, and Olive Olea europaea.
The results were encouraging as the research found that “Herbal therapies are at least as effective as rifaximin for resolution of SIBO by LBT. Herbals also appear to be as effective as triple antibiotic therapy for SIBO rescue therapy for rifaximin non-responders.”11 ‘Rescue therapy’ is the term used in this study when the first 4-week course of rifaximin did not resolve the patient’s SIBO and the patient then chose the four-week herbal therapy.
Antimicrobial herbs have properties which are active against two or more groups of pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, etc. There are many herbs with antimicrobial properties. The following is a short list of herbs with demonstrated antimicrobial actions. There are many more that have not been included.
Building a natural health business can be a fun and rewarding experience. It also has potential to present difficulties that every entrepreneur has to work through. While some business owners seem to have an uncanny knack for building a business, others struggle.
Having difficulty doesn’t mean that you are not cut out for this type of thing, it only means that additional knowledge and skills are required to benefit your business – and most importantly YOU!
What is it that those with a ‘knack’ know? They know how to effectively use boundaries to accomplish their goals.
Signs that boundaries are needed.
Are you exhausted from working through the many expectations of others? Do you ever feel taken advantage of? Do others frequently ask for unsolicited freebies? Do constant interruptions decrease your productivity? Are “friend”-clients inclined to expect special treatment and favors? Are you frequently asked that ‘quick question’ that requires uncompensated research, but you do it even if you don’t have the time?
If any of these apply, you might consider the need to set boundaries. While all of these things may be a part of running a natural health business (and more), it is healthy to set your own priorities and not allow pressures inflicted from outside to ‘drive’ you. In simple terms, busy-ness does not equate with success.
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.”
~ Brene’ Brown
For some professionals the need for boundaries may present as resentment or anger. The feeling of having one’s stomach ‘tied up in a knot’ at the request of or thought of a person may also reveal a lack of healthy boundaries. Feeling consistently overwhelmed or weary, or perhaps the realization that one has been taken advantage of or too often taken for granted may be yet another sign. When pushed to wits end the otherwise happy professional might even surprise themselves with that short or cutting remark that just jumped out of their mouth. Unfortunately, it may not have occurred to them that a lack of boundaries was causing their suffering and negative feelings or that there was a remedy.
Setting Boundaries is Healthy for You!
A person who sets boundaries is a person who cares for and respects themselves. A person who is willing to set boundaries for themselves is a person who desires to nurture themselves with self-care and self-respect. Believe it or not, setting healthy boundaries is a primary area that the natural health professional takes care of themselves!
Also, do not be quick to harshly judge those negative feelings you may have. Negative emotions are merely an indicator that something is amiss in a similar manner as the fuel gauge on a car indicates whether the tank is full or empty. Now that you recognize healthy boundaries are in order you can do something about it!
Don’t become discouraged should the concept of boundary-setting have you in tears. Given some time and opportunity it is very possible to become proficient in this area. Setting healthy boundaries is a wonderful way to practice self-love and personal growth is ultimately empowering and energizing. If this is you, take courage. YOU CAN do this! Read on to learn how.
“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
~ Brene’ Brown
Setting Boundaries is Healthy for Others!
For many natural health professionals, learning and practicing the skills required to create good boundaries necessitates taking a sobering inventory of themselves. This is beneficial not only for ones-self, but also for one’s clientele.
Without boundaries, there is chaos, chaos causes stress which when prolonged results in the weakening the body. In other words, your health will benefit from your learning to set good, healthy boundaries for yourself. Our clients, like us, benefit from applying similar techniques in their work and personal lives. Boundary-setting tools are a great resource to have in one’s professional arsenal.
The following poem is a work of art crafted by the well-known American poet, Robert Frost. Especially noteworthy is the relationship and understanding that is developed in the process of boundary-setting.
by Robert Frost Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing: I have come after them and made repair Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there. I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again. We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’ We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather He said it for himself. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me, Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
The place to begin is by delaying the urge to automatically say “yes” whenever a request is made. As author/researcher Brene’ Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, states: “The moment someone asks you to do something you don’t have the time or inclination to do is fraught with vulnerability. “Yes!” often seems like the easiest way out. But it comes at a price: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “Sure!” in my squeaky, I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this voice, only to spend hours, even months, feeling angry and resentful. For women, there’s a myth that we’re supposed to do it all (and do it perfectly). Saying no cues a chorus of inner shame gremlins: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not a very caring [mother/wife/friend/colleague].”1
“No!” is a complete sentence!
Next, practice saying the word “No” with confidence! If you have difficulty speaking it out with confidence, practice! Say No! with enthusiasm until the confidence surfaces, then practice again. Say No! in front of the mirror. Say No! in the car. Practice until it becomes a habit. And remember, “No!” is a complete sentence! Practicing your boundaries in everyday life is key to setting effective boundaries in your business.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.”
~ Warren Buffett
Warren Buffet an American investor and business tycoon said “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.” Isn’t that what every two-year-old child says? They are learning to set effective boundaries for themselves. A skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.
It is possible to use boundary-setting techniques to manipulate others/ This behavior ought to be rejected by the natural health professional. Manipulative boundaries are often extremely rigid and unyielding. They may be intended to make the boundary-maker feel safe or avoid anything that could possible go awry, but the downside is that manipulative boundaries actually exclusive. They serve to keep people ‘out’ instead of inviting them ‘in’-to a mutually-beneficial and rewarding relationship.
The 3 ‘C’s of Boundary-Making
What kind of boundaries should a natural health professional have? A good place to begin is by thinking about those areas in your business that would be benefited by a clearly-defined boundary. Undoubtedly, you will think of more than is listed here. Here are some examples to get you going:
Boundaries of Natural Health Professionals
Dates and times you are available (office, store, clinic hours)
‘No show’ appointments. (Fee for cancellations?)
Being on time for their appointment. (How will tardiness be handled?)
When is payment due?
Preferred or acceptable, methods of payment.
How do you prefer to be contacted? (Email, text, phone call, etc.)
Client adherence to your professional recommendations, etc. (Definitely in the client’s best interest.)
After listing the boundaries you have decided upon and how you would like to handle each one, you will want to move on to the first ‘C’ of Boundary-Making.
Successful Boundaries Must Be Clear
Clear boundaries clarify expectations and set people up to succeed. For boundaries to be respected and adhered to, clear communication is the key.
The best place to start when setting boundaries verbally is to “own’ it. This is an important step to establishing your authority and can be accomplished by making “I” statements. “I” statements are a simple way to get started. Practice the ones below and add any others that suit you. State them with confidence as with saying “No!”
“I don’t have the bandwidth for that.” “I would be happy to answer your questions. My next available appointment is on Tuesday. “I need time for myself outside of business hours.” “I am not available before 10 a.m.” “I can’t take that on.”
When offering an “I” statement, do not add further explanation as this muddles the message which will weaken the authority you would like to convey. Keep your boundary statements short and to the point.
Repetition along with enthusiasm will help build your confidence. If you have a friend with which you can practice, have them encourage you to be assertive. That is even better.
Successful Boundaries Must Be Communicated
It is a mistake to assume that others automatically know your boundaries. There are various ways to set boundaries with signs, in contracts, in policies, as well as verbally.
As was mentioned earlier, contracts, and policies and procedures are types of boundaries. It is recommended to write out these things for the sake of clarity with your client. However, not everything can be forethought and written. Relationships are messy like that. This is why we need to practice verbalizing limits.
Here is one example: Last minute client cancellations or no-shows are costly in business. Remember, your policies (boundaries) should be stated when the appointment is made, written where your clients can see them, and/or forwarded to them with intake paperwork.
At times it will be necessary to enforce this boundary. Practice the following statement until it can easily roll off of your tongue.
Boundary statement: “I am happy to cancel and reschedule your appointment. There is a $___ cancellation fee when less than a 48-hour notice is given.”
Obviously, we wouldn’t charge a cancellation fee every time a client cancels for any reason. After all, sometimes there are legitimate emergencies. However, being prepared for those times you have to use a boundary will help to keep you on your toes when you need it .
Successful Boundaries Must Be Consistent
Consistency is a bit more difficult in the beginning than after one has been setting boundaries for awhile. It is wise to expect some resistance when first using boundaries as with any good wall or fence there will be “fence testers”. Sometimes these are people who are genuinely surprised that there has been a change. These people generally will adapt and respect you all the more.
Another type of “fence tester’ is the manipulative or ‘toxic’ person. When you come across these as any reasonable and rational person would, just take a deep breath, relax, and calmly stick to your guns for “this too shall pass.”
“You best teach others about healthy boundaries by enforcing yours.”
~ Bryant McGill
Being habitual about consistently enforcing your boundaries shows that you respect your decision-making. Waffling demonstrates uncertainty and by doing so you undermine your own authority making it more difficult to hold your ground next time.
Take a moment and reflect back to the Mending Wall. Remember the place where the hunters passed through left a gaping hole in the stone fence? Their action made the boundary inconsistent. Inconsistency requires more effort to repair than the effort required in routine maintenance.
And that’s what this is all about isn’t it? Making your business a safe, joy-filled, and profitable venture… for YOU!
Chia is a herbaceous annual that is part of the lamiaceae plant family and native to Guatemala and the central and southern parts of Mexico. Plants in this family contain very aromatic essential oils in all of their parts. Other well-known plants found in the lamiaceae family are mint, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) grows in well-drained clay or sandy soils with a lot of sun. Its beautiful flowers are bee and pollinator friendly, but chia does not tolerate frost. It should be harvested immediately after the first killing frost.
There are multiple varieties of chia such as Chan (Hyptis suaveolens) which is also sometimes called ‘Chia’. Unlike Salvia hispanica, Chan is high in Omega-6 essential fatty acids and not in the Omega-3s. Golden Chia (Salvia columariae Benth) produces seed that is used just like Salvia hispanica. Salvia miltiorrhiza, a “chia” that is native to China and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called red sage, Dan Shen, and Shen so. The root is used for medicinal purposes as a blood mover, traditionally in the form of a tea. » Read more
Are food ‘allergies’ or a food ‘intolerance’ the same thing? Keep reading to find out what the differences and the similarities look like in a topic that often results in confusion. Let us begin with the hypersensitivity, commonly known as a food intolerance.
The Food Intolerance…
The outstanding characteristic of a basic food intolerance is difficulty with digestion, although it may exist for a variety of reasons. For instance, a dairy-based lactose intolerance is common throughout the world affecting up to 70 percent of people. This is the result of the lack of a specific enzyme called lactase which is not produced in the small intestine of certain people. Without the enzyme lactase, the body simply cannot digest milk sugars which are the carbohydrates called “lactose”.
The milk sugar molecules (lactose) remain too large without the proper enzymatic function, therefore the small intestine cannot absorb it and these particles remain in the GI tract. Due to this increased transit time, the gut microbes work to ferment the milk sugars. Lactose reaches the colon still in the process of fermenting, and produces gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen. These are what cause the pain and discomfort of bloating which can further produce nausea or vomiting, especially in younger children. » Read more
While it is common in the “world of aromatherapy” to be encouraged to simply add essential oils to a bath, to a foot bath, or to a compress with only water, you may want to think twice. Let’s discuss why…
Oil & Water… DO. NOT. MIX!
Pure, unadulterated, and undiluted essential oils are ‘hydrophobic’.
Pure, unadulterated, and undiluted essential oils will not disperse in water. Why? Because they are ‘hydrophobic’. In other words, they do not blend with or disperse in water.
Most essential oils are lighter than water and will float on top. There are also certain essential oils that are more dense than water, a few examples being vetiver, cinnamon, and clove. These essential oils will sink to the bottom. Regardless of where the essential oils lie, they will not disperse into the water. By separating to the top or the bottom, they will then adhere to whatever passes through the water like skin, or a cloth that then gets applied to the face, arms, or sensitive parts.
When adding essential oils to water special consideration should be given to children, pregnant women, and the elderly as their skin is much more sensitive than the typical adult.
Essential oils can be especially damaging to mucosal areas of the body and if inadvertently splashed into the eyes. Citrus oils which are relatively mild topically, may become an irritant when used for bathing. » Read more
Welcome back! In “Sleep Much (Part I)” we learned that many of our ancestors slept in a biphasic manner consisting of two sleep periods each evening with a quiet awake time in between, especially during the winter season. Some cultures that sleep in a biphasic fashion take a siesta or mid afternoon nap, especially in the hot summertime mid-afternoons. Young children, the elderly, and some by personal preference may take a short nap in the afternoon. It is interesting to note that there remains a billion people in the earth who still practice biphasic sleep.
Myth or Not?
Are humans fundamentally different from all the other animals because our sleep has been consolidated into one continuous nocturnal session? If one considers how other mammals such as dogs, cats, chimpanzees, horses, etc., sleep (which are actually poly-phasic in their sleeping patterns), man may not be so unique after all. In the annals of history well-known people such as Nikola Tesla, Leonardo DaVinci, Salvador Dali, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Winston Churchill have been recorded as having practiced polyphasic sleep.
The industrial revolution of the the late 18th and the late 19th centuries caused biphasic sleeping to lose popularity. Natural gas-powered street lamps increased in prevalence, especially in the cities. The first homes “wired” for artificial light were actually “plumbed” with gas pipes to gas-powered lanterns. Electricity was soon discovered, the modern light bulb was invented …and the artificial light pierced the darkness. » Read more
is no more restorative agent than sleep.
While one sleeps protein synthesis occurs. This is crucial because protein synthesis is
the activity that lays the foundation for the proper functioning of all the
cells in the body. During protein
synthesis tissues are healed and physical and mental processes are
restored. There is also an emotional
healing component and perceptual learning occurs while one is asleep. Perceptual learning is the ability to discern
the meaning of what we encounter through our senses of touch, taste, see, hear,
or smell. If any of these processes are
short-circuited, then the whole person suffers as the body is not able to heal
or restore itself.
An Interesting Sleep Study…
In 1987, Thomas Wehr, a psychiatrist from the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study using 15 men imitating the light exposure in the midst of the dead of winter in middle latitudes and its effect on sleep patterns. Various indicators were monitored throughout each night such as temperature, hormones, brain waves, etc. For comparison another set of measurements was taken later on when the men slept for only 7 to 8 hours as is more common today.
The results of the first study was amazing. “As the study volunteers adjusted to their artificial circumstances, their sleep patterns relaxed into distinct phases. The men slept only about an hour more than normal, but the slumber was spread over about a 12-hour period. They slept for about four to five hours early on, and another four to five hours or so toward morning, the two sleep bouts separated by several hours of quiet, distinctly nonanxious wakefulness in the middle of the night. The early evening sleep was primarily deep, slow-wave sleep and the morning episode consisted largely of REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep characterized by vivid dreams. The wakeful period, brain wave measurements indicated, resembled a state of meditation.”  The total hours equaling approximately nine hours per night. Up until as little as one hundred years ago our ancestors slept nearly nine hours per night, just as the men in this study with all the external stimulation minimized.
Prolactin, More or Less
When people are sleeping with no artificial light at all they generally sleep twice every night. Called biphasic or bi-modal sleep, they go to bed around 8 p.m. and wake up around midnight, then sleep again from about 2 a.m. until daybreak. The hours in between first sleep and second sleep reveal a surge of prolactin that modern-day monophasic sleepers never experience.
In biphasic sleep between the first and second sleeps a higher level of prolactin is a secreted than when people sleep in one full “sleep” from evening until morning. As we know it, prolactin is that hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and lactation in women. It is also necessary in males and non-lactating females at low levels to produce a feeling of sexual satisfaction. In birds, prolactin is the hormone that causes them to go broody and contentedly sit on their eggs for extended periods of time. It is this same hormone that also that produces the feeling of peace and contentedness in the wake phase between first and second sleep in biphasic sleep.
In Dr. Wehr’s study it was found that the men’s prolactin release was linked to the onset of darkness. During the long 14-hour nights, prolactin doubled shortly before sleep and remained high for the whole first sleep, wake, and then second sleep phases. However, once men returned to a modern eight-hour nightly sleep, the prolactin released stayed the same, but here is the clincher, it was restricted to that shortened time frame. Instead of 12 to 14 hours of increased prolactin each night, men are now getting at best eight hours, but likely much less.
This raises questions. One of them being, how does a minimum of six hours less prolactin release per night affect male physiology overall? Researchers know that men with prolactin deficiency often struggle with impotence and depression. WebMD states, “The research, published in the August 2003 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that ED is common among older men and sexual function sharply decreases after age 50.” Perhaps this is a hidden contributing factor to erectile dysfunction (ED) that ought to be explored.
It is interesting to note that the people in these studies feel so awake during the daytime that they say they have never experienced true wakefulness before in their lives.
Back in the Day…
Sleep prior to the 1600s included biphasic sleeping, a practice that most would be unfamiliar with today. This type of sleep described in literature as ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep was still a common occurrence with country folk or “laborers” as late as the 19th century. As the range of night, especially in the winter season could be as much as 12 hours in duration, people would commonly sleep for three or four hours and then wake for two or three hours, and later return to sleep until daybreak.
Those hours in the middle of the night were used for many reflective tasks such as prayer and meditation, reading, and studying, and sometimes other mundane tasks such as tending the fire, sewing, or chopping wood. Yet typically, this time was primarily one of reflection or socialization. If one was out and about and a neighbor had candlelight emanating from their dwelling that would signal someone was awake and ready for a bit of a social visit!
In the preindustrial era until the industrial
revolution, biphasic sleeping continued in rural areas while, towns and cities
were having natural gas lanterns installed as street lights and even as a
method of illuminating the interior of homes and industry.
This was readily accepted, especially by the wealthy, as lighting was useful to discourage theft as well as to provide opportunity for people to move about after dark.
In those early days of in-home lighting aristocrats continued to sleep in biphasic fashion, however, they began to go to sleep later, wake briefly, and then awake from second sleep much later, well into the morning.
A doctor from the 1500s explained the reason why the working class conceived more children than city dwellers was “that they typically had sex after their first sleep.”  While there is something to be said for romance, it makes sense that many women, especially busy mothers, might enjoy three or four hours of recuperative sleep before intimacy. The first phase of sleep is an extremely important restorative phase of sleep. We will discuss this in more detail later.
Historian A. Roger Ekirch found that “references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years. Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear.” As people began to deny their natural biological rhythms to stay up into the evening, they became more fatigued upon awaking.
Although a number of early experimenters contributed to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison developed a better design and Edison had the funds to commercialize the product. It was not long before he introduced the incandescent light bulb in New York City in 1882.
In May 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. For the most part, this rural electrification was accomplished in the 1950s, yet even before that cities and towns were electrified. Street lights and urban homes already had the luxury of illuminating the night, causing the body’s biorhythms which had been embraced since the dawn of mankind to be ignored.
Work More, Sleep Less
World War II (1939-1945) called many women to the workforce. They were needed in these jobs to replace the men who had joined the military. Where before the war began most women fulfilled a culturally-accepted role of homemaker and child-raiser, now a full-time job beyond their full day’s work was not only encouraged, it became expected.
A famous cultural icon of this era was “Rosie the Riveter.” Rosie the Riveter stood for the many women who took factory jobs building aircraft, producing ammunition, and other supplies in support of the war effort. Long work hours added to family life also served to increase their daily stress.
Once having entered the workforce, many women continued to work after the war efforts ceased. The additional income helped the family to afford luxuries or “extras” that soon became necessities such as cars, store-bought food (because they no longer had the time nor the energy to garden.) Unfortunately, for the working mother, with the hours demanded by both job and family and the changing societal beliefs about sleep, the only place that could ‘give’ was her precious time for sleep.
Play More, Sleep Even Less
The 1950s saw the dawning of the age of technology. As the days continued to be filled with work and increased stress, people sought entertainment to help them relax. By the 1960s about 45 million homes had televisions across the United States and TV viewing grew to more than five hours per day. From there, video games, personal home computers, smart phones, and a host of electronic gadgets occupied free time and unfortunately time that might be better spent sleeping.
The following chart will help to visualize the stark reality of the changes occurring not only in the United States but in other countries as well. Life was getting increasingly difficult and stress had become an everyday word.
The year 1910 was used as a baseline as the amount of sleep that people got then was likely what was common throughout antiquity. 1942 is another marker when it was found that the average amount of sleep was reduced by an hour per night. By 1960, another hour was lost reducing the average amount of sleep each night by two hours from 1910! This translates into a loss of more than half-a-day of sleep each week. If this doesn’t blow your mind, at just seven hours of sleep per night, an entire month of sleep is lost each year!
A condition called “sleep debt” is created when the amount of sleep a person needs increases because they have not gotten enough in previous days. While people may think they can get away with having less sleep, this is not entirely true. What generally happens is that they become used to performing their daily routine in a deficit mode. The greater sleep debt that is incurred, the less the person is able to identify it.
Fortunately, the body is faithful to give warning signs when it does not receive enough sleep. Feelings of excessive sleepiness, yawning, irritability, and daytime fatigue drive people to consume caffeinated beverages to get through their day. These beverages are often counterproductive, making it even more difficult to fall asleep at night.
Microsleep, where one dozes off for a few seconds to a couple of minutes without noticing is another indication of being sleep-deprived. The EEG test results of sleep-deprived rats, reflect that certain parts of the brain fall asleep while others stay awake. Researchers to do not fully understand the mechanisms behind this.
Types of Sleep Deprivation
Full sleep debt is when a person is awake for a minimum of 24 hours. This is not as rare as it might seem. Think of any college campus when reports are due and exams are looming or a stressed working mother when her child is sick and she stays up all night and goes to work the next day, or computer programmers propping themselves up with coffee and energy drinks until an employer’s deadline is met.
Partial sleep deprivation is what most people experience at a more chronic level when sleep is not adequate for an extended period of time such as several days or weeks. One study found that “the results of those who slept for six hours each night for a period of 10 days were similar to those who are completely sleep deprived for one day.” It can be caused by not enough hours of sleep, disrupted sleep, or physical conditions like sleep apnea.
Sleep disruption can occur because of sickness, pain, or the use of pharmaceuticals such as alpha-blockers, beta blockers, corticosteriods, diuretics, SSRI antidepressants, medications containing alcohol/caffeine/nicotine, sedating antihistamines ACE inhibitors, ARBs, Cholinesterase inhibitors, H1 antagonists, glucosamine/chondroitin, and statins, Theophylline (an asthma med), and higher doses of thyroid hormone, as well as over-the-counter painkillers.
Alcohol has been shown to disturb the second half of sleep by increasing wakefulness after its initial effect of sedation, even when consumed up to six hours before bedtime. “However, alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of the sleep period. The subject may sleep fitfully during the second half of sleep, awakening from dreams and returning to sleep with difficulty. With continued consumption just before bedtime, alcohol’s sleep-inducing effect may decrease, while its disruptive effects continue or increase.”
Insomnia, or disrupted sleep is something that was almost never recorded in the history books two hundred years ago but has become commonplace in our modern culture. Insomnia includes having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep. Acute insomnia is considered brief. It comes on with stressors such as getting bad news, anticipating a stressful event (good or bad) such as a test at school, financial stress, work stress, relationship stress, etc.
Among adults, “15 to 20 percent have a short-term insomnia disorder which lasts less than three months, 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months.”
The Four Stages of Sleep
Stage 1 – Lasts only about 5 – 10 minutes. Theta waves are produced by the brain as the
body transitions from wakefulness to sleep.
Stage 2 – Lasts about 20 minutes. Body temperature begins to decrease and the
heart slows down. Most sleep is spent in
Stage 3 – SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) – This is deep sleep where slow delta brain waves occur and the deepest sleep happens. During this stage muscles relax and blood pressure and breathing rate drops. This is also the stage where sleepwalking tends to occur. This relaxation helps to ensure the blood is circulating properly and that there are proper levels of blood glucose.
Stage 4 – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or paradoxical sleep. “REM sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep because while the brain and other body systems become more active, muscles become more relaxed. Dreaming occurs due to increased brain activity, but voluntary muscles become immobilized.”
When sleep deprivation occurs, it is primarily of REM sleep and generally results in cognitive issues. REM sleep is believed to affect healthy moods, learning, and memory storage. During REM signals are sent from different areas of the brain to the body. Migraines may be triggered or increased due to increased expression of “the proteins p38, PKA, and P2X3, which are known to play an important role in initiating and sustaining chronic pain.”
“Researchers performed a study in order to determine the effect REM sleep deprivation has on the way a person responds to a stressful event. They applied mild electric shocks to participants while they slept and studied how their brains reacted. According to the results, the people who spent more time in REM sleep showed a lower level of brain activity related to fear than those who spent less time in deep sleep. The researchers believe that if a person is getting enough REM sleep, they might be less susceptible to suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a fearful event.”
“It is important to realize that sleep does not progress through these stages in sequence. Sleep begins in stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, and 3. After stage 3 sleep, stage 2 sleep is repeated before entering REM sleep. Once REM sleep is over, the body usually returns to stage 2 sleep. Sleep cycles through these stages approximately four or five times throughout the night.”
While monophasic sleep is what most of us have known and practice, it is a relatively recent happening within the past two hundred years or so. Although there are many other factors that affect health we would be wise to consider the necessity of sleep in a culture that operates on the lack thereof. Sleep is the very thing the body needs to replenish and restore itself. Might it be presumptuous to entertain the thought that we have somehow “evolved” and no longer need those nine hours of nightly sleep that many of our ancestors received? That is likely.
Is biphasic sleeping preferable to a seven to nine hour monophasic sleep model? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. There is even a polyphasic sleep model for those whose interest is piqued, those who ‘wake up’ at the subject of sleep.
Each person is a unique individual who needs a certain amount of sleep to maintain good health. Chronic health conditions require even more sleep for the body to restore itself. Although it sounds good on paper, dis-‘ease’ can be caused by sleep deprivation because a solid seven hours may not be enough. The industrialized society is programmed to work around productivity-based paradigms and do not base their work upon the biological rhythms of the individual. While it may not be feasible to adapt to a biphasic sleep modality, even if that were the answer, there is much the individual can do to maximize the sleep structure to which they adhere.
Some may heave a great sigh of relief with the new understanding that waking briefly in the quiet of the night can be a normal part of the sleep cycle and not always an indicator of dreaded insomnia. Forearmed with knowledge, these peaceful moments can be enjoyed by leaving the bed for a brief time of prayer, meditation, or reading using dim, non-stimulating light, then to return to bed again as they begin to tire once more.
Are there lessons to be learned in looking backward to a simpler time when folks were more connected to their surroundings? In the comments below, share your observations whether biphasic sleeping might be a valuable health-promoting tool, or maybe not so much… We would love to hear your thoughts on the value of sleep.
In Part II of ‘Sleep Much?’ we will take a deeper look at the devastating effects of sleep debt on the psyche and physiology, discover techniques to make falling asleep easier, and discuss natural remedies and healthy habits for getting a much-needed restorative, enjoyable sleep!