Archive for Herbalism

A True Essential Oil Adaptogen

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.

What is an adaptogen?

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.

Herbal adaptogens are not a
‘magic pill’ to avoid stress

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… “The Restorer

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

~ Black Spruce ~
A True Adaptogen”

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.

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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 Oil Allergy

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

The Dose Makes The Poison

Paracelsus

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.

The Tennessee Poison Center noted the number of toxic essential oil exposures doubled between 2011 and 2015.6

> 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.

3 Reasons to Love Dandelion

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.

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.

HORSE FLOWER

paardebloem

In the Netherlands, the common name for dandelion is “paardebloem”, which when translated means “horse flower”. The name “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.

The First Dandelion

Simple and fresh and fair from winter’s close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

~ Walt Whitman ~

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.

THE WHOLE PLANT IS EDIBLE!

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.

Dandelion is a Valuable Medicinal!

English Name: Dandelion
Binomial Name: Taraxacum officinale
Plant Family: Asteracae (Compositae)
Parts Used: Root, Leaf
Herbal Actions: Diuretic, hepatic, cholagogue, anti-rheumatic, laxative, tonic, bitter

THE LEAF & ROOT HAVE DIFFERENT HERBAL ACTIONS!

Hand coloured print, plate 1 of Dens Leonis in A Curious Herbal, 1737 by Elizabeth Blackwell

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!

References:

  1. Ancestral Plants: A Primative Skills Guide to Important Edible, Medicinal, and Useful Plants of the Northeast – Volume 1 by Arthur Haines p.184
  2. 2
  3. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman p.587
  4. 4

Antibiotic Resistant Microbes

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

Escherichia coli

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?

Bacterial cell division depicting daughter cells receiving both a copy of the chromosome and a copy of a plasmid. Public Domain

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.

Fluoroquinolones…

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.

Ciprofloxacin Molecule

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

Conventional Medicine…

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.

Click the image to view, download, or print the full PDF.

Digging Deeper

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…

Public Domain

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.

Agricultural Crops…

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.

Smart Herbs!

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.

Lemon Balm
Melissa officinalis

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.

Horsetail
Equisetum arvense L.

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.

  • Acacia spp., Acacia 12 13
  • Achillea spp., Yarrow 14 15
  • Agrimonia eupatoria, Agrimony 16
  • Allium sativum, Garlic 17 18 19
  • Aloe vera, Aloe 20 21
  • Arctostaphylos ua-ursi, Uva-ursi 22 23
  • Cryptolepsis sanguinolenta, Cryptolepsis 24 25
  • Curcuma longa, Turmeric 26
  • Cymbopogon citrates, Lemongrass 26
  • Echinacea spp., Echinacea 27 28
  • Eucalyptus spp., Eucalyptus 29 30
  • Hydrastis canadensis, Goldenseal 31 32
  • Hypericum alpestre, St. John’s Wort 16
  • Juniperus spp., Juniper 33 34
  • Mahonia spp., Oregon Grape 35 36
  • Melaleuca alternifolia, Tea Tree 37 38
  • Origanum vulgare, Oil of Oregano 15
  • Tinctura propolisi, Propolis 41 42
  • Rumex obtusifolius, Bitterdock or Broad-leaved Dock 16
  • Salvia Spp., Sage 39 40
  • Sanguisorba officinalis, Great Burnet 16
  • Usnea spp., Usnea 43 44
  • Withania somnifera, Indian Ginseng 20, 26
  • Zingiber officinale, Ginger Root 26

Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Chia ~ Salvia Hispanica

Chia (Salvia Hispanica L.)

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

Essential Oils & Water Don’t Mix

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

Sleep Much? (Part II)

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

It’s All About That Spin…

Proteins, next to water, make up the greatest part of the weight of the body. They are what provide the “framework” to every living cell. The proteins themselves are made up of chains of even smaller structures called amino acids which are connected by what are known as peptide bonds.

When peptide bonds are formed between two amino acid molecules, two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen is lost. This removes a molecule of water from the structure that is commonly written as H20. Therefore the process of peptide bond formation is accomplished by dehydration.

The process of the digestion of proteins begin in the mouth with chewing called ‘mastication’ and the release of saliva which contains the enzymes amylase and lipase which further break down the food. Once swallowed the food passes to the stomach through the esophagus. In the stomach the chemical process of digestion continues with hydrocloric acid which deactivates amylase but continues to allow lipase to work breaking down fats. In the stomach pepsinogen, a pro-enzyme, converts to pepsin which then can break down proteins into smaller units called polypeptides and amino acids. Depending upon the type of food and an individual’s metabolism, generally takes around four hours for the stomach to empty.

As the chyme moves into the small intestine, the pancreas releases amylase and lipase (the pancreatic form), trypsin and chymotrypsin to continue breaking down proteins. Additionally, there are four sugar enzymes (sucrase, lactase, maltase, and dextrinase) released which are secreted by cells that line the small intestine.

Therefore as a result of the activity of protease enzymes, large chains of amino acids found in protein molecules are broken down into even smaller chains of amino acids that can easily pass through the micro-villi of the small intestine (along with other nutrients) and into the bloodstream.

Once released into the bloodstream, amino acids are rebuilt or ‘biosynthesized’ into the specific types of proteins required for the building and repairing of tissue and to “develop into enzymes, hormones, bones, muscles, and blood.’ [3] Each redesigned amino acid is crafted to meet a unique “fit.” These newly-created proteins cannot be used for a different application. For example, a protein designed to replace tissue in the eye cannot also be used in the heart as heart tissue is not identical to eye tissue and would require a different protein.

DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

“Proteins form the structural basis of chromosomes, through which genetic information is passed from parents to offspring. The genetic ‘code’ contained in each cell’s DNA is actually information for how to make that cell’s proteins.”1

“In the human body, protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, many vital body fluids, and are essential for the growth of bones. The enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate all bodily processes are proteins. Proteins help to regulate the body’s water balance and maintain the proper internal pH. They assist in the exchange of nutrients between the intercellular fluids and the tissues, blood, and lymph.”2

There are over 20 distinct amino acids with the human body having the ability to produce only half of them. The 10 amino acids the body does not produce are called “Essential Amino Acids.” This is because they must be obtained through the food we eat. The body does not store amino acids so they must be ingested daily. The essential amino acids are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

This work of the body is absolutely amazing. I mean, who’da thunk it? Having a body that makes its own individualized building blocks from those large protein molecules in the hamburger or hummus that we have the pleasure of eating. Absolutely ingenious.

A Body That Cannot Repair Itself

Amino acid deficiencies are common. There are many ways that this delicate system can become impaired. If even one of the essential amino acid building blocks is not available, the entire protein synthesis in the body is hindered. This deficiency can lead to a disruption in integral proteins negatively affecting the whole body.

“The main reason for amino acid deficiencies is either low protein consumption, poor digestion, or the use of antacid medication, as protein requires adequate stomach acid to be broken down into the amino acids.” [3]

Signs of Deficiency…

Amino acids are the base organic matter used by the body to create serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and endorphins. These are all chemicals called neurotransmitters that create those good feelings of peace, contentment, and happiness in the brain. They are known for stabilizing mood.

“Low levels of amino acids lead to low levels of neurotansmitters. It’s that simple!” [3]

So what does it look like when one’s mood is “off” because of an amino acid deficiency?

Mental & Emotional Health

Sometimes an amino acid deficiency can present as pervasive negativity, agitation, mood swings, tension, irritability, insomnia, obsession and worry, low motivation/energy, types of depression such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or bipolar, or other major depressive disorders and mania. Schizophrenia and the anxiety-like symptoms of schizophrenia may be a result of amino acid deficiency as well.

For many people, anxiety reveals itself in everyday stress, or high stress situations, panic attacks, controlling behaviors, feeling frequently overwhelmed, perfectionism, or perhaps even being someone who seems to be driven to exhaustion. Crying too easily or frequently finding onesself feeling emotionally ‘hurt’, seeking to escape with drugs and/or alcohol, sugar and/or carbs, impulsive or aggressive behavior are more symptoms that tend to be magnified with amino acid deficiency.

The good news is that the person or some unknown entity may not be the root of the problem. Their body may simply be having some very real health challenges due to an amino acid deficiency. If it is a lack of neurotransmitter-building amino acids, the condition may be helped with proper nutrition which affords the body those necessary building blocks.

Musculoskeletal System

Amino acid deficiencies may be the root of some of the following symptoms which affect the musculoskeletal system. Arthritis, ataxia (lack of muscle control or coordination), impaired bone (fragile bones), insufficient cartilage repair, impaired collagen formation, muscle fatigue, slow post exercise recovery, and stunted physical growth.

Integumentary System

The skin, hair, and nails may express amino acid deficiencies through decreased tissue repair and growth, the graying of hair, skin rashes, alopecia (excessive hair loss), and poor wound healing (especially that of burns and infections.)

Cardiovascular System

The heart and circulatory system can reveal a deficiency of amino acids through atherosclerosis, cold hands and feet, elevated cholesterol, low blood pressure, and poor blood vessel functioning.

Nervous System

The nervous system (which includes the brain and teeth) is affected by amino acid deficiency in many ways. Insufficiency may present as: bloodshot eyes, cataract formation, corneal vascularization, dementia, dental caries, diabetic complications that affect the eye as well as nerve cell damage, headaches, migraines, lack of ability to focus, becoming hyper-stimulated, poor memory and memory loss, motion sickness, nerve deafness, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and stunted intellectual growth.

Gastrointestinal System

There are a number of ways the gastrointestinal system including the liver make known they are facing a lack of amino acids. Some of these are: appetite loss, nausea, and dizziness. Other symptoms are constipation, decreased immune function, a fatty liver unable to process fats, impaired fat burning, lack of gastric acid secretion which may cause indigestion, and obesity.

Immune System

  Amino acid deficiency affects the immune system by not being able to support the liver in its role in detoxification which can cause an accumulation of heavy metals. Other ways the immune system is affected by insufficient amino acid availability is by not being able to help prevent AIDS. Amino acid deficiency could also be causative for some allergies and other symptoms of an ineffective immune function such as anemia, chronic fatigue, fatigue (in general), lowered red and white blood cell production, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Endocrine System

  Some may be surprised at all the functions of the endocrine system and its chemical messenger hormones. Amino acid insufficiency here can look like delayed sexual maturity, diminished insulin production, high blood sugar, hypothyroidism, an inflamed pancreas, lack of sexual arousal, male sterility and low sperm count, menstrual cramping, mood swings, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Urinary System

Kidney stones may occur as a result of amino acid deficiency.

All of Life has its Own Spin

From a physics perspective, the intelligent design of the RNA and DNA of all living organisms (plant and animal) require amino acids which under polarized light reflect a spin to the left (also called left-handed spin).  These are known as L-amino acids.

Optics – The branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light

The Greek word ‘levoratatory’ is symbolized by the letter “L” which identifies the molecule as appearing to spin to the left when polarized light shines upon it. Conversely, “D” is the word ‘dextrorotatory’ meaning the molecule appears to spin or turn on a right rotation with the application of polarized light. Therefore, in scientific language the left hand would be written ‘L-hand’ and the right hand written ‘D-hand.’ We will look more in depth at the significance of the spin in a moment.

Not everything has a left-hand spin. Some molecules spin to the right. For instance, sugars have the opposite spin of amino acids. They spin to the right and are recognized as “D-sugars.”

Chiral is a term that is used to describe an object whose mirror image cannot be identically superimposed upon itself.  For instance, your left and right hands are mirror images of each other when placed palm sides together.  If you set one on top of the other facing the same direction, they will always appear in reverse order.  (Notice how the thumbs point in opposite directions when one hand lays on top of the other).  This is called “chiral.”  In both chemistry and physics, the term chiral indicates mirror images that are not superimposable.

Public Domain

Therefore, we have learned that, molecules which cannot be superimposed on their mirror images are called chiral. Either one of a pair of optical isomers is called an enantiomer. For example, if a hand were a molecule, each hand as it cannot be superimposed upon the other but is a mirror image, would be considered enantiomer.

Images that are superimposable are those that fit in the exact same space as the other. Therefore, you could lay the two molecules on top of each other and only see that one shape. Molecularly, these items look the same from the front or the back and are also spatially the same.  In other words, one would be an exact “fit” in place of the other.  These are called achiral.  Either molecule could be placed in the space of the other with the exact same superimposition.  There is no right or left “handedness” with achirial objects or molecules such as we see with chiral.

This becomes a bit more complex when considering achiral objects or molecules from the three dimensional (3-D) perspective.  Let us consider the following:

“Starter”
by Willdre
CC BY-SA 3.0

An automobile mechanic determines a certain part no longer works and needs to be replaced, the starter for instance.  When one starter goes bad, it is replaced with another that is the same size, fits exactly in the same place, and has the same function as the one that was removed.

If a mechanic tried to replace a starter with a spark plug the car would simply not be repaired. Everyone knows that it would be ridiculous to replace one part with another of a different size and/or function as the original.

What does this mean for me?

The same is true with the nutrients required by our bodies, especially amino acids, the topic we are discussing at present. Proteins that we consume in natural, unprocessed forms from plants and animals are always made from the L- form of amino acids. The fit our bodies perfectly. Isn’t it marvelous at how nature provides just what a body needs?

Nature Provides Just What the Body Needs!

Foods naturally high in amino acids are: eggs (which have the highest percentage of essential amino acids), game, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, wild-caught salmon, tuna, cod, and surprise… quinoa!

In general, plant-sources have less of the essential amino acids than animal sources, however, a varied diet can offer additional nutritional component combinations along with the amino acids. Plant foods with higher amounts of beneficial amino acids are: buckwheat, seaweed, spirulina, pumpkin, peas and pea protein, lentils, whole grain rice, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, watercress, turnip greens, hummus (chick peas) mushrooms, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, figs, broccoli, olives, avocados, raisins, dates, apples, chia seeds, blueberries, and bananas

Racemism – the state of being optically inactive

We have learned that chiral amino acid molecules spin to the left a certain number of degrees. Additionally its mirror (not superimposable) molecules spin to the right an equal number of degrees. An equal mixture of left-handed and right-handed molecules (or D-50% and L-50%) is called a racemic mixture and has no rotation. In other words, an equal raceme is optically inactive. “In general, most biochemical reactions are stereoselective, meaning only one stereoisomer will produce the intended product while the other simply does not participate or can cause side-effects. ” [7]

“…or can cause side-effects” Huh? What?

Well over a hundred years ago it was known that the racemization of naturally-formed molecules was, in fact, a sign that they were dying.

“The phenomenon of autoracemization is of interest in connection with the question of permanency of optically active substances. Let us consider a pure organic substance such as dextrorotatory bromo-succinic ester. When it is kept for some time in a closed flask at ordinary temperatures, it undergoes spontaneous intramolecular rearrangement and a gradual decrease of the optical rotation results; in other words, it racemizes. Several examples may be cited to illustrate this remarkable fact…Might we not speak of ‘dying molecules’ much as we speak of ‘dead catalysts’?… The effect of these reactions is, as we may express it, a complete turning ‘inside out’ of the molecule.”[8]

1895, Dr. Paul Walden

It’s all About That Spin, ‘Bout That Spin, …No Trouble”

Getting our nutrition from food whenever possible is always best. With the exception of phenylalanine (utilized as a mixture, i.e. DL- ) all other amino acids are considered more suitable (the state is called “free-form” which is immediately bioabsorbable meaning it does not require digestion) in the human body. As Dr. Richard J. Thiel states, “Amino acids are also useless if not toxic when present in synthetic forms. Only left-handed (laevo-) amino acids can be assimilated. All synthetic aminos are racemic.”[9]

Of course, it is not only amino acids that are affected by spin. Synthetic “Vitamin D sold as “Viosterol” and “Vigantol” is well established. It causes blood in the urine very quickly in children, by its destructive action to the kidneys. Deaths have been reported from the ordinary dosages used to “protect” from rickets.” [10] Here is another worth considering:

“Pantothenic Acid is a vitamin now commercially available only in synthetic form. Probably this is the reason for its effect of causing loss of sex function, particularly in females. This castrating action has been found both in test animals and in patients receiving the “vitamin” according to unpublished reports…” [11] Does this sound like nutrition to you?

There is much more to be concerned about with the use of synthetic supplements. All synthetics are reduced to a single molecule, while real food vitamins are always available in complexes that include many other nutritional components that boost nutrition and bioavailability in the human body. Science has yet to study or publicly disclose this information should it be available.

The “spin” is important just as the complexes and other factors are in real food that the body was designed to eat. On no death certificate ever was the reason for death given as “pharmaceuticals or supplements ingested with the wrong spin.” Although that has indeed occurred. Keep this in mind while seeking answers for yourselves and your clients.

This is a complex topic with many implications. We look forward to your thoughts and comments.

NOTE: The biochemistry of amino acids and their work in the body is significantly more complex than we have had time to discuss here. However the intent of this short description was to provide the reader a basic outline highlighting the importance of amino acids in relationship to nature and the human body as a whole. Hereby laying a foundation which conveys the potential for negative consequences when the natural spin of polarized light is not taken into consideration during synthetic supplementation.

References & Resources:

Coffee Depletes Key Nutrient

Yes sirree! Did you know that drinking just one cup of strong coffee or black tea within one hour of consuming a healthy meal will impair up to 60% of iron absorption? The stronger the coffee or tea, the greater the absorption of iron is undermined in your body.

Is that a problem?

It could be. Mild to moderate iron-deficiency may be asymptomatic or it can present symptoms such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, dizziness, restless leg syndrome, frequent infections, difficulty concentrating, cardiac problems, and more.

“Drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages with a meal is associated with a 39 – 90% reduction in iron absorption.” [1]

However, caffeine in and of itself only demonstrates a mild negative affect on iron levels compared to the extreme affects caused by tannins.

Do I have to give up my coffee?

Well maybe, maybe not. A severe deficiency may require a complete break from coffee, at least while rebuilding your body’s iron stores. However, if you must imbibe you will want to limit your intake and make sure to leave a one to two-hour window between consuming coffee and then consuming foods or supplements that contain iron. You will also want to increase the amount of food iron that you eat overall.

The Framingham Heart Study [3] was a large study of 634 elderly people from 67-93 years of age and who were still living on their own. It “found that each weekly cup of coffee was associated with a 1% lower level of ferritin, a protein that indicates iron storage levels.” [1]

What is the best way to get my iron?

Well, to begin with, it is not recommended to consume the inorganic form of iron called ferrous (Fe) sulfate which happens to be the most common form that is found in both supplements and in fortified foods.

“Iron used to fortify breakfast cereals ‘is a finely powdered metallic iron and is generally poorly assimilated.” [2]

Inorganic iron is not only used to fortify cereals, it is used to fortify wheat, maize (corn), and rice. Dairy, condiments, and sauces are also fortified. Therefore, one must consider any derivatives of these products such as bread, pastries, pasta, ice cream, tortillas, etc. to contain metallic iron.

Which real foods contain the iron my body needs?

The best organic food forms of iron are found in green vegetables, legumes, and meat (especially red meat and organ meat.) Unlike ferrous sulfate, dietary iron from real food is non-constipating and bio-available, making it the very best choice for your body!

Recipe: 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 or steep longer, 10 to 15 minutes, 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.

Dandelion is a treasure-trove of nutrients. Unlike coffee, dandelion is high in iron as well as manganese and phosphorus. Chicory, like dandelion, is full of nutrients and an especially good source of potassium. Like dandelion, chicory is known to aid digestion making this a wonderful beverage to consume with a meal. Chicory and dandelion are a great combination.

‘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.

Darlene’s Mocha Delight!

Share your favorite coffee-substitute creation in the comments below or change-up this one and make it better! To your health!

Sources:
[1] Do Coffee and Caffeine Inhibit Iron Absorption?
[2] The Truth About Vitamins & Minerals in supplements: Why real nutrients are best! by Robert Thiel, Ph.D.
[3] Dietary determinants of iron stores in a free-living elderly population: The Framingham Heart Study

Herbalism ~ Yesterday & Today

Herbalism has been around as long as there have been, well, plants and people!  Mankind has studied the usefulness of plants as food and medicine from the very beginning.  In the early days women were the gatherers of plants for food.  Therefore, they were entrusted with the duty of preparing food and mixing plants into ‘medicinal’ preparations to promote health.

During that time, it was a commonly held belief that disease originated with invisible spirit beings such as ghosts and fairies.  Therefore, to appease the “anger” of these invisible beings, herbs (also believed to have spirits associated with them), were combined with magic rituals that corresponded to religious views.[A]

A different approach to herbs was practiced by the ancient Hebrews.  While they also collected plants for food and medicine, they offered thanks for the food and medicinal value of the plant life all around them to their God whom they recognized as an all-powerful Creator and the God of their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Many of these herbs were recorded in the Torah which is also known as the Old Testament in the modern-day Bible.

Onions & Garlic
Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay

The allium plant family of which garlic, leeks, and onions are a part were a dietary staple of the ancient Hebrews (and also quite popular today!)  One of these potent herbs, garlic, which is a rather lowly herb, was consumed in everyday life, yet highly regarded by the Hebrews.  They “believed that garlic increased virility and relied on it to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ as directed in Genesis.”[B] As such, they indeed were a prolific people which quickly grew into a very large nation.

In addition to the alliums, there were the balms such as the Balm of Gilead, an aromatic, medicinal substance derived from plants in the historical area of Gilead east of the Jordan river which was known for their spices and ointments.  Also of significance were bitter herbs such as chicory, dandelion, sorrel, and watercress which were important for maintaining healthy digestion as they stimulate appetite and support the liver, gall bladder, kidneys, etc.  These bitter herbs are especially nutritional, and we know now that they are chalk full of vitamins and minerals.

There were also cleansing herbs such as hyssop, marjoram, milk thistle, and the nettles.  “Louise Baldensperger, who, in the early twentieth century, gathered lore about folk use of plants in Palestine, found that “People whip themselves with nettles for rheumatism, a most heroic remedy, rather like allowing oneself to be stung by bees for a cure.”[B]

Saffron
Image by Marc Pascual from Pixabay

Many were the herbs used in ancient times, anemone, poppy, crocus (saffron), anise and dill, cumin, mint, and rue along with grapevine, date palm, olive, myrrh, cassia (cinnamon), frankincense, hyacinth, lily, iris, lotus and many more.  The benefits of these herbs were woven into the fabric of everyday living for the Hebrews.  Everyone who partook at meals, received the benefits of many of these herbs, especially those that were edible as they were incorporated into recipes and cures for common ailments.  Unlike today where one with a deep knowledge of herbs and their actions is unique, back then, the knowledge was commonplace and held within community.

At about 2500 B.C. the Egyptians began to practice what is considered a “rational and scientific” approach to medicine beginning with a physician named Herophilus.  “The contributions of Herophilus to our knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology are enormous. Through his anatomical studies on the nervous system, Herophilus proved that the brain and not the heart was the seat of intelligence, a revolutionary breakthrough for that period since it contradicted a prevailing Aristotelian concept which stated that the heart is the seat of intelligence, rational thoughts, emotions, and desires. Unfortunately, their writings have been lost and most of our knowledge of these two is derived from commentators, especially Celsus and Galen.”[C]

“Galen is a giant in the history of medicine and casts a long shadow. His medical theories dominated European medicine for 1500 years. He was a Greek physician who practiced in Rome, becoming physician to five Roman emperors. He was prolific and wrote hundreds of treatises, compiling all significant Greek and Roman medical thoughts, and adding his own discoveries and theories, foremost of which was the humoral basis of disease: illness was caused by an imbalance of the four humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. He showed, through experimentation, that the arteries carried blood, and not air, as was commonly believed.”[C]

Apples
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Interestingly, King “Solomon’s ‘refresh me with apples’ may have inspired the nineteenth-century saying, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’  In biblical times Greeks believed the apple healed all disorders.  In the second century, Roman court physician Galen prescribed apple wine as a cure-all for almost every ailment.  An Arabic author from the same period wrote, ‘Its scent cheers my soul, renews my strength and restores my health.’  Scientists at Yale University have since discovered that the scent of spiced apples produces a calming effect that lowers blood pressure.”[C]

For many thousands of years herbs were so commonplace to diet and wellness that most people practiced a type of folk medicine in their homes and villages.  When the knowledge and remedies within the home were not enough, caretakers would reach out to a more knowledgeable family member such as a spinster aunt or a grandmother with greater knowledge.

When a situation would escalate beyond their abilities the family would then seek out the next most knowledgeable person who was known as a “wise woman” or a “wise man” man of the village or what we might recognize as the community herbalist. To this day this practice continues to be practiced outside of first world countries.

Image by Quang Nguyen vinh from Pixabay

Modern day examples of herb-based medical systems would be Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as other eastern religions where there is a synergy between lifestyle and worship, and the resulting states of either health or disease.

Modern-day Christianity had its very roots in the religion of the Hebrews which was birthed in the Eastern mindset.  The Western mindset, based upon reductionist Greek philosophy, has pervaded the thoughts of generations of believers until this preset day.

As a result, our beliefs have become fragmented into separate criterion-based compartments such as ‘business and personal,’ ‘church and state,’ and even ‘health and sickness.’  There is some value in this mode of thinking as ideally each criterion would remain within consistent parameters no matter who does the assessment. However, illness can have many different roots and while a person’s lifestyle may appear healthy, there may be something amiss lying below the surface.

What does this have to do with herbalism?  Well, a lot. Understanding people and physiology, while understanding herbs and their actions is the basis for applying gentle, supportive, and effective remedials. Although our bodies have all the same components (liver, heart, blood, lymph, etc.) which can be scientifically studied, there are significant variables that are individual to each person that the holistic herbalist is trained to uncover.

In the early days as it is today, the herbalist’s “medicine chest” is not filled with pharmaceuticals. Rather, the herbalist ought to be intimately acquainted with the actions of plant materials: roots, stems, leaves, and flowers as remedials to support the body’s design to heal itself.

What Does Herbalism Look Like Today?

A burgeoning passion for medicinal plants combined with a desire to support people in their recovery process are two distinct indicators of an intense “herbal” fire burning within one’s soul.  The field of study is called herbalism, which is the practice of utilizing plant materials in a manner that supports the body’s ability to maintain wellness and to heal itself.  In times past, herbalism was known as the “medicine of the people.”  Herbal artisans were called “healers” or the “apothecary.”  In modern times these same people are called herbalists.

There are precious few who have experienced the passing down of esoteric knowledge through familial generations.  Therefore, it has become common for modern-day herbalists to seek out knowledge and training regarding the utilization and safety of medicinal plants and to intentionally gain an intimate experience with these wonderful, unique, and beautiful creations of immense benefit to mankind.

What is a Master Herbalist?

A Master Herbalist is a title that denotes proficiency in the use of herbs.  What a Master Herbalist actually does often varies with the individual’s talents as well as the desired expression of such knowledge and creativity.  This is where it gets exciting! 

For instance, some herbalists are avid foragers and know much about plant identification, growth and habitats, as well as the medicinal and/or food uses of plants – a study called botany.  Other herbalists are professional seed savers, farmers, or gardeners that specialize in providing plants for other gardeners, medicinal, or culinary use. Still others like to compound herbs and make herbal remedies such as infusions, decoctions, tinctures, salves, creams, medicinal syrups, suppositories, and encapsulations.  Yet others find creativity and fulfillment in formulating lines of natural cosmetics, bath and body products, household cleaners, and personal hygiene items.

Herbalists have been known to dress in period costumes and demonstrate how herbs were a vital part of frontier wellness, while others find pleasure in teaching folks how to incorporate herbs into their daily lives.  Still, some master herbalists spend their time studying and writing books, articles, and blogs while others capture the distinct beauty and intricacies of herbs through art, photography, painting, and crafts.  Due to the popularity of pets, herbs are becoming more sought out in the support of the natural health and wellbeing of animals such as dogs, cats, and horses.  Once again, we find our beloved Master Herbalists stepping forward to bridge the gap.

Some herbalists work in retail helping customers make the right product selections while others work in an herbal apothecary setting selling herbs by weight or mixing herbal blends to help with specific ailments. However, most commonly, herbalists are self-employed wellness consultants who observe and assess clients to offer natural solutions for their health issues and to maintain proper wellness.

Many licensed practitioners (doctors, dentists, chiropractors, nurses, massage and physical therapists, etc.) are adding herbalism to their knowledge base as well as carving out a space in their clinics for proficient Master Herbalists.  Lots of moms just want to be grounded and knowledgeable in using safe and natural remedies with their family and friends.  Others simply want to be an herbal resource for their local communities. Whichever way one chooses to express their passion for herbs is valuable and necessary as many people are searching for gentle-yet-effective alternatives to strengthen their bodies.

If you are interested in herbs and are unsure of what your long-term goals might “look like,” take a long, deep breath in and exhale. There is time and you have come to the right place. It is not unusual for a vision to bloom and grow as our students progress through the Master Herbalist and/or Clinical Master Herbalist program(s) at Genesis School of Natural Health and in their interactions with the other students and graduates in our private Student Discussion Group.

Herbalism is more than a career. It is a desire, a lifestyle, a dream, and an expression of what lies within a person, their beliefs, and the “communion and fellowship one has with nature, and with the Author of that nature.” ~Euell Gibbons

Image from Pixabay

References:

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