Tuesday, October 27, 2009

9 Tips for the Safe Use of Herbs

9 Tips for the Safe Use of Herbs

By Linda B. White, M.D.

Humans, like most mammals, have turned to plants for food and medicine since our earliest times. No doubt some of our ancestors suffered the consequences of unfortunate choices along the way. If you read the book or watched the movie Into the Wild, you realize we sometimes still err, confusing a poisonous plant for edible greenery. People still mistake the death cap mushroom for something more savory. And a couple of years ago, I even found some teenage boys sitting along an irrigation ditch, fashioning poison hemlock stems into cigarette holders.

Nevertheless, most of the medicinal herbs sold in the United States are safe when taken in recommended dosages. More than 38 million Americans use herbs each year, yet the majority of calls to Poison Control Centers about plant ingestions have to do with people (usually children) and pets eating potentially poisonous house and garden plants—not medicinal herbs.

To ensure your experiences with medicinal herbs remain positive—without inadvertent mishaps—follow these nine basic guidelines.

1. Start with Food Herbs

You can bet on safety when you use herbs as foods—think garlic, ginger, nettles, dandelion greens, shiitake mushrooms, nettles, burdock root (also called gobo) and rosehips. Culinary herbs—thyme, oregano, turmeric, cayenne—are also low-risk. Externally applied herbs (compresses, poultices, salves) provide another good testing ground.

The next step is to begin experimenting with infusions (commonly known as “teas”). Many of the food herbs mentioned above can be dried, chopped, and steeped as tea. Extracts of herbs in alcohol (tinctures) or glycerin (glycerites) generally are more potent. Solid extracts, in which all the solvent has been removed, and carbon dioxide-extract herbs are stronger still. Standardized extracts are designed to have a consistent level of suspected active ingredients from batch to batch. This process allows for more precise dosing and easier use in research, but also makes the product closer to a drug.

2. Allergy-Prone? Proceed with Caution

Simon Mills, an internationally known herbal authority and coauthor of The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety (Elsevier, 2005), says, “Allergic reactions are the most common type of herbal side effect although still infrequent.” Sensitive people who handle plants or apply them to their skin could develop contact dermatitis (an itchy skin rash), and inhaling the herbs could aggravate hay fever or asthma. Allergic responses to ingested herbs include skin rash, stomach upset and, at the extreme, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

If you’re allergic to ragweed, you might react to other members of the aster family, such as chamomile, echinacea and feverfew. More rarely, people can have allergic reactions to cayenne, kava (a member of the pepper family), garlic and mints.

“If you are prone to allergic reactions, be careful with your herbal attempts,” Mills says. Try one new herb at a time. Start with half the recommended dose, then gradually increase to the full recommended amount. If you develop a rash, upset stomach, itchy eyes or sneezing, stop taking the herb. If your lips or throat begin to swell, seek emergency care.

3. Investigate Herb-Drug Interactions

If you are taking both herbs and pharmaceutical drugs, you’ll want to avoid two possible scenarios: 1) interfering with the drug’s effects, and 2) amplifying the drug’s effects.

An herb could interfere with a drug’s effects if it acts in the opposite way—for instance, drinking three cups of stimulating black tea or coffee after taking a sedative Valium. An herb also might lower blood levels of a medication, thus thwarting its intended action. St. John’s wort is famous for doing just that. By speeding liver enzyme systems that break down drugs, it reduces blood levels of a long list of medications, including some antihistamines, chemotherapeutic and anti-HIV drugs, warfarin and oral contraceptives.

Furthermore, St. John’s wort, which has a good track record as an antidepressant, shouldn’t be combined with pharmaceutical antidepressants because it can raise blood levels of the chemical serotonin to dangerously high levels.

Combining herbs with drugs that have similar actions can increase the drug’s desired effects or its unpleasant side effects, and the net effect could be good or bad. For instance, some Chinese studies have found astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) augments some anti-cancer drugs and decreases the drugs’ side effects. (Note: Researchers used injectable forms of the herb.)

In other cases, too much of a good thing can be bad. Taking anticoagulant (“blood-thinner”) drugs (aspirin, warfarin, heparin) with therapeutic doses of anticoagulant herbs (garlic, ginkgo, ginseng and others), for example, can result in bleeding. It’s also wise to discontinue the use of such herbs seven to 10 days before surgery.

As a general rule, avoid mixing herbs and drugs with the same actions so you do not become overly stimulated, sedated, anticoagulated, etc. (For specific combinations to avoid, see Page 55.)

4. Know When to See Your Health-Care Provider

Sick infants should be seen immediately by a practitioner with pediatric training. Also seek the help of your health-care provider if you know, or suspect, you or another adult has a serious condition. Self-medication with herbs runs the risk of delaying or interfering with medical treatment, potentially with disastrous consequences. Even if you have a mundane illness, make a doctor’s appointment if three days of home care haven’t alleviated your symptoms. Please work in partnership with your physician.

Also, be sure to tell your physician about any herbs you are taking prior to scheduling surgery. Some herbs, especially those with anticoagulant action, should be discontinued seven to 10 days before surgery, or as your doctor advises.

5. Use Extra Caution When Giving Herbs to Children

Babies younger than 6 months (or around the time a child begins eating solid food) should not take herbs internally. Small amounts of gentle herbs can be applied to an infant’s skin via salves, oils, baths and compresses (a cloth dipped in herb tea).

For older children, dosages usually are calculated by weight. Take the child’s weight in pounds, divide it by 150 (an average adult weight) and multiply that number by the adult dose. For instance, if an adult dose is 100 mg and the child weighs 50 pounds, the child’s dose would be 30 mg (50/150 x 100 = 0.3 x 100 = 30 mg).

Children aren’t simply small adults, however. Some herbs generally regarded as safe for adults should not be given to kids. To find out more, ask an herbal expert or get a good book, such as Naturally Healthy Babies & Children by Aviva Romm (Storey Publishing, 2000).

6. Use Gentle Herbs when Pregnant or Nursing

Many plant constituents pass from the intestinal tract into the blood, across the placenta to the fetus’ blood and, later, into breast milk.

If you’re pregnant, you generally should avoid putting anything medicinal into your body. Avoid consuming herbs with laxative effects (senna, cascara sagrada, aloe); hormonal properties (licorice, black cohosh, dong quai, chaste tree, sage, red clover); or stimulant effects (guarana, kola, yerba mate, tea, coffee).

Food herbs usually are safe bets, particularly when used in quantities suitable for flavoring. While no obstetrician will tell you to cease cooking with garlic and oregano, some culinary herbs, such as sage and parsley, might not be recommended in higher therapeutic doses, notes Mills. Most experts agree pregnant women can take these herbs safely: ginger (no more than 1 gram a day to reduce nausea), raspberry leaf, echinacea, chamomile, bilberry (fruit, not leaf), cranberry, hawthorn, hibiscus flowers, rose hips, mullein, spearmint and nettles.

7. Be Wary of Imported Herbs

Some herbal products from Asia, India and the Middle East reportedly have been adulterated with undesirable plants and/or contaminated with heavy metals, sulfites, pesticides and other toxins. In Chinese herbal formulas, herbs can be blended with pharmaceutical drugs not mentioned on the label. Also, Aristolochia fangchi, which has been substituted for other herbs, has been linked to severe kidney damage. Rather than give up on Asian herbs, “I personally would stick to whole herbs I can see, then make my own formulations,” says Mills.

8. Use Essential Oils Wisely

Essential oils are extremely concentrated. Herbalist and aromatherapist Mindy Green gives the following rules for using them safely:

1) Don’t apply essential oils to any mucous membrane: mouth, ears, nose, eyes, vagina or rectum.

2) Don’t take essential oils by mouth, and keep the bottles out of the reach of small children.

3) Don’t apply undiluted essential oils to skin. The standard dilution is 10 to 12 drops of essential oil per one ounce of carrier oil (such as almond or jojoba). Use half that amount or less for people who are debilitated; those with sensitive skin; and for children 5 to 12 years old. Don’t use essential oils for children younger than 5.

4) Be cautious when inhaling or applying essential oils to the chest if you are prone to asthma.

9. Educate Yourself.

Anyone interested in herbal medicine should have a good reference book on herb safety.

Try: The Essential Guide to Herb Safety by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone (Elsevier, 2005); Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions by Francis Brinker, N.D. (Eclectic, 2001); Botanical Safety Handbook by Michael McGuffin, et al (CRC, 1997); and The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs by Mark Blumenthal, et al (Thieme, 2003).

Avoid these Herb-Drug Combos

As a precaution avoid combining the following herbs and drugs:

Herbs: Kava, California poppy, valerian, skullcap
Drugs: Tranquilizing drugs or alcohol

Herbs: Guarana, yerba mate, coffee, green or black tea
Drugs: Stimulating drugs, such as oral decongestants; asthma drugs, such as albuterol; or pure caffeine

Herbs: Therapeutic doses of American ginseng, Asian ginseng, bitter melon, cinnamon, prickly pear cactus or nopal, ivy gourd and gymnema
Drugs: Drugs that lower blood sugar

Herbs: Ginger, ginseng, garlic and ginkgo
Drugs: Anti-coagulant (blood-thinning) drugs, such as Warfarin

Herbs: St. John’s wort
Drugs: Antidepressants; amitriptyline, cyclosporine, digoxin, fexofenadine, indinavir, methadone, midazolam, nevirapine, phenprocoumon, simvastatin, tacrolimus, theophylline, warfarin, irinotecan; birth control pills

Know these Poisonous Plant Look-Alikes

If you plan to make your own herbal preparations from plants you’ve grown or gathered, be sure the plant is what you think it is. Consult a good basic book on plant identification, such as Peterson Field Guides: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke (Houghton Mifflin, 2000) and Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs (Houghton Mifflin, 2002).

If you still aren’t sure of the plant’s identity, consult a local botanic garden, horticulture club or university extension program.

Wild Garlic/Onion (Allium canadense): Edible bulbs and leaves have characteristic onion odor. Used medicinally.
Death Camas (Zigadenus spp.): Bulb and leaves resemble wild onion; all parts are highly poisonous

Wild Carrot (Daucus carota): Young root is edible; older roots become woody and tough. Used medicinally.
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum): Leaves resemble wild carrot, but root is highly toxic. Stems have purple markings.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale): Leaves sometimes used topically; do not take internally—can cause liver damage.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): Leaf rosettes that emerge in spring often confused for comfrey with fatal results.

Herbs and Liver Damage

Herb expert James Duke, Ph.D., points out that many more herbs protect the liver than harm it. In fact, one of America’s favorite over-the-counter drugs, acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands), is riskier than most herbs. Although safe within recommended dosages, acetaminophen overdoses (some of which occur among people simply trying to relieve their pain) are the main cause of acute liver failure, and contribute to 500 American deaths a year.

That said, the following herbs should be avoided, particularly in people with known liver disease, heavy drinkers (or users of recreational drugs), and those taking liver-taxing drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen), corticosteroids, statins, tetracyclines and others).

Herbs that contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids: comfrey, coltsfoot, senecio, borage leaf and germander. Comfrey has gotten the most media attention for its connection to liver injury. In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration advised manufacturers to remove from the market comfrey products intended for internal use. Because this herb is a good wound healer, it’s often an ingredient in first-aid salves. Another PA-containing herb, butterbur, is available as a PA-free extract (Petadolex) for the prevention of migraine headaches and hay fever.

Kava (Piper methysticum). For many years, people of the South Pacific have consumed kava beverages with the single side effect of a scaly, yellowish skin condition with excessive use. Research showing concentrated kava extracts reduced anxiety spurred its widespread popularity. Although human studies didn’t register liver toxicity, cases of liver injury (some severe) cropped up several years ago. Most involved ingestion of kava extracts made with acetone or alcohol, and often along with alcohol or drugs that can be hard on the liver.

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, says, “no convincing proof of an inherent toxicity of kava exists,” despite ongoing research. And, while he believes kava to be relatively safe, “the jury is still out as to whether kava might cause liver injury, particularly in susceptible individuals.”

Steven Dentali, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer for the American Herbal Products Association, adds, “Considering the widespread consumption of kava beverage and the long history of apparent safe use, any toxic liver reactions are of course serious, but extremely rare.”

A general guideline: Don’t take herbs that have even a suspicion of harming the liver if you already have liver disease or regularly drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. Also avoid these herbs if you take a medication that can be toxic to the liver. Consult your health-care provider if you are unsure.

Linda B. White, M.D. is the coauthor of The Herbal Drugstore. An assistant professor, White teaches classes in herbal medicine in the Program in Integrative Therapeutic Practices at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Immune System Booster: Immune-Building Herbal Tonic Soup

By Laurel Vukovic

Makes 6 servings

Savory vegetable soup is a traditional way of incorporating astragalus, garlic and medicinal mushrooms into your diet.

• 1 ounce dried astragalus root slices
• 1⁄2-inch piece fresh gingerroot, slivered
• 1⁄4 cup brown basmati rice
• 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
• 1⁄2 cup onion, chopped
• 1 cup winter squash, chopped
• 1 cup shiitake or maitake mushrooms, sliced
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
• 2 tablespoons light miso, or to taste
• 8 medium cloves garlic, minced
• 1⁄4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1. Simmer astragalus, ginger, rice and stock in a heavy covered pot for 1 hour.

2. Sauté onion, squash and mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes, or until vegetables soften.

3. Add sautéed vegetable mixture to the soup pot, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add corn; simmer an additional 10 minutes. Remove astragalus.

4. Dilute miso in a small amount of hot broth and add to soup. Thin soup with additional broth if desired and add more miso to taste.

5. Add garlic and parsley, let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

How to Boost Your Immune System with Herbs

How to Boost Your Immune System with Herbs

By Laurel Vukovic

The coming cold and flu season is only one of the hundreds of reasons that immune function should always be at the top of your list of health priorities. The immune system doesn’t just keep sniffles away—it also is the body’s best defense against potentially deadly diseases, such as H1N1 flu, and well-known killers, such as cancer. Your daily habits, including the foods you eat and your exercise and sleep routines, have a significant effect on your immune function. And even if your lifestyle choices are exemplary, environmental toxins, emotional stress, and the wear and tear of aging all conspire to weaken immunity.

How to Protect Your Immune System

The most complex system of the body, the immune system includes the thymus gland, the spleen, bone marrow and a vast network of lymph nodes that are scattered throughout the body. The immune system also maintains a variety of white blood cells: Natural killer cells eradicate cancer cells and large white blood cells called macrophages gobble up diseased or damaged cells. In addition, specialized immune compounds, such as interferon, stimulate white blood cells to destroy cancerous cells.

Your immune system never rests—24 hours a day, every day of your life, your immune system is searching for cells that show signs of infection or cancerous changes. To support and protect your immune system, try to follow these lifestyle suggestions:

• Choose immune-boosting foods. A diet of refined, processed, sugary foods is a recipe for lowered immunity. To build strong immune function, eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, which provide a wide range of essential antioxidants and nutrients. The immune system also depends on high-quality proteins and healthful fats, especially monounsaturated fats, such as those found in extra virgin olive oil, to repair tissues and create healthy immune cells. Studies show that adding a daily serving of yogurt with live beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, strengthens immune function. It’s also important to reduce your intake of all types of sugars (including concentrated fruit juices) because even one serving of sugar significantly lowers immune defenses for several hours.

• Exercise—but not to excess. Science has proven that regular exercise—at least 30 minutes most days of the week—increases immune function. Moderate exercise increases the numbers of all types of white blood cells and makes natural killer cells become more active and effective. But interestingly, excessive exercise regimes, such as running a marathon, can temporarily hinder immune function.

• Reduce stress. Emotional stressors, such as depression and anxiety, stimulate the secretion of adrenal hormones, which suppress the activity of the thymus gland and white blood cells. Luckily, there are several easy ways to reduce stress in your day-to-day life. In addition to its immune-boosting effects, regular exercise is a potent stress reliever. So are meditation, deep relaxation exercises and massage. Researchers have even found that the simple process of journal writing about stressful incidents improves immune function.

• Sleep more for better health. Lack of sleep negatively affects immune function in a few major ways. First, without enough rest, the body slows its production of disease-fighting white blood cells. Lack of sleep also impairs the activity of natural killer cells and macrophages. And finally, during deep, restful sleep, the body releases powerful immune-enhancing compounds, such as interferon. Make every effort to get enough sleep so that your body is rested and can perform these vital functions.

• Treat infections promptly. Lingering infections, such as respiratory or gum infections, tax the immune system and can significantly impair immunity. Treat infections promptly with immune-boosting herbs such as echinacea (Echinacea spp.) and garlic (Allium sativum). Whenever possible, avoid using antibiotics, because they ultimately weaken immune function. Save antibiotics for infections that cannot successfully be treated with herbs.

• Avoid toxins. Toxic chemicals impair immune function and trigger the formation of cell-damaging free radicals. Toxins are everywhere in our environment these days. Avoid as many as you can by choosing organically grown foods, as well as meats and dairy products that are produced without antibiotics or other chemicals. Use natural alternatives to toxic products in your home, garden and workplace. Whenever possible, avoid exposure to radiation, including x-rays unless absolutely necessary, because radiation damage is cumulative.
More Immune-Boosting Herbs

• American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Recent research shows that American ginseng root—revered for centuries as a health and vitality tonic—helps prevent upper respiratory infections when taken for several months. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tonic herbs, such as ginseng, are taken to strengthen immunity, but are discontinued during an acute illness (such as a cold). Because products vary in potency, follow manufacturers’ dosage recommendations.

• Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata). Sometimes called “Indian echinacea,” andrographis reduces the duration and severity of cold symptoms, and it also might help prevent upper respiratory infections, studies show. Compounds in andrographis appear to stimulate immune function and halt viral growth. A typical dosage of andrographis is 400 mg three times a day.

• Echinacea (Echinacea spp.). Despite a few studies that question its efficacy, hundreds of studies support echinacea as an effective aid for preventing and treating colds, flu and other infections. Echinacea stimulates infection-fighting immune cells and increases the production of other immune compounds, such as interferon. Echinacea works best when taken frequently at the first sign of infection: 30 to 60 drops of liquid extract or 1 to 2 capsules (300 to 400 mg each) every two hours for the first 24 to 48 hours, followed by the same dosage four times daily for three days after symptoms disappear.

• Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Well-known as an adaptogenic herb (it helps the body more easily adapt to stressors), eleuthero root improves immune function in clinical studies. For best results, take eleuthero for at least three months to strengthen immune response. Because products vary in potency, follow manufacturers’ dosage recommendations.

• Elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Dark blue-black elderberries are rich in compounds that disarm viruses and prevent them from taking over healthy cells. Studies show that elderberry offers significant protection against respiratory viral infections. For prevention, take 1/2 teaspoon of liquid extract or 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup twice daily. To hasten recovery from a cold or flu, take 1 teaspoon of extract or 2 teaspoons of syrup four times a day.

• Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Cultivating the habit of drinking green tea regularly can help strengthen immunity. Green tea contains potent antioxidant compounds that neutralize free radicals and prevent damage to the immune system. In addition, green tea stimulates the liver to secrete interferon, an immune compound that helps fight infection. To bolster immune function, drink 3 or more cups of green tea daily.
Astragalus Attacks Invaders

For centuries, humans have relied on astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), garlic and medicinal mushrooms to bolster immune function, and current research supports their traditional use. For optimal immunity, use one or more of these herbs regularly. A delicious way to take them is in the form of a tonic soup.

A member of the pea family, astragalus root has been used for more than 2,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a popular tonic for strengthening vitality and to bolster resistance to disease. Today, researchers are trying to scientifically validate the herb’s reputation as an immune enhancer.

Studies show that astragalus improves immune function in several ways. It triggers the creation of immune cells in bone marrow and lymphatic tissue; it prods immune cells—including natural killer cells and macrophages—into increased activity; and it enhances the production of immune compounds, such as immunoglobulin. Components of astragalus, such as polysaccharides (large, complex sugar molecules that enhance immune activity), along with saponins and flavonoids, have been found to shield cells against the free radical damage that leads to degenerative diseases, such as cancer.

In China, researchers have conducted dozens of studies on astragalus with promising results. For example, in a 1997 study, researchers found that giving astragalus to elderly mice (36 and 60 weeks old) restored immune function to that of 10-week-old mice. And in a 1995 clinical trial, 115 patients with low white blood cell counts took either 10 grams or 30 grams of a concentrated astragalus extract daily. Both groups experienced a significant increase in white blood cell counts after eight weeks of treatment.

Astragalus is available in a variety of forms including the dried root, capsules and liquid extracts. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus often is made into a tea, or slices of the root are simmered in soup. Because bolstering immune function is key to preventing any type of illness or health problem, astragalus often is combined with a variety of other herbs prescribed for various specific conditions.

In Western herbalism, astragalus is generally taken as an extract or in capsules. Because preparations vary in potency, follow package directions for best results.
Give Garlic a Go

A member of the lily family, garlic has been prized for its healing properties since at least 2600 b.c. Anthropologists have found prescriptions for the herb chiseled onto ancient Sumerian clay tablets. Cultures around the world have embraced garlic as a cure for everything from colds to cancer. Prior to the discovery of penicillin, garlic was the treatment of choice for infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, tuberculosis and dysentery.

Scientists believe that it is the same sulfur compounds that imbue garlic with its characteristic odor and flavor that are responsible for the herb’s health benefits. Most of the research has focused on the sulfur compound allicin, which has antimicrobial properties. Allicin is created when alliin, a sulfur-containing amino acid in garlic, comes into contact with another garlic compound, the enzyme allinase. This enzymatic reaction takes place when garlic is chopped, crushed or chewed, but it is destroyed during cooking.

A 2001 clinical trial supports the use of garlic for preventing and treating colds. In the study, researchers randomly assigned 146 volunteers to two groups. One group received a garlic supplement containing allicin. The other group was given a placebo. Over a 12-week period between November and February, the volunteers kept a daily diary in which they recorded cold symptoms. At the end of the study, researchers found that the group given the garlic supplement reported that only 24 participants had colds, in contrast to the placebo group, in which 65 participants suffered from colds. The researchers also discovered that the study participants taking garlic who did get sick recovered more quickly.

Because raw garlic can cause gastrointestinal upset if taken on an empty stomach, it’s best to consume it with meals. If you’re adding garlic to a cooked dish, such as pasta or soup, add it at the end of cooking to prevent destruction of the antimicrobial compounds.

If you’re taking prescription anticoagulant drugs, consult your doctor before taking large amounts of garlic because of the herb’s blood-thinning properties. For the same reason, discontinue garlic supplements seven to 10 days before surgery, and tell doctors you are taking garlic before any unplanned medical procedure.

A great deal of controversy exists over the best form of garlic and the proper dosage. According to the Herb Research Foundation, a typical dosage of garlic is 600 to 900 mg a day of powdered garlic in capsules or tablets (standardized for alliin content), 4 ml a day of aged garlic liquid extract, 10 mg a day of garlic oil capsules, or one medium-sized clove of fresh garlic.
Mushrooms Muster Immunity

Although we tend to think of mushrooms primarily as ingredients for creating gourmet meals, in Traditional Chinese Medicine mushrooms have been highly prized for thousands of years for their potent healing benefits. In Japan and China, medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake and reishi, have long been regarded as longevity tonics. Research is proving that these beneficial fungi are powerful allies for strengthening the immune system.

Mushrooms contain a variety of active compounds, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins, ergosterols, triterpenes and antibiotics. Thus far, researchers have most intensively focused on the polysaccharides, the same type of compounds found in astragalus. As with astragalus polysaccharides, mushroom polysaccharides improve immune function by increasing the activity of macrophages, which have a voracious appetite for harmful microorganisms and cancerous cells. Polysaccharides also trigger the production of a type of white blood cell that kills a wide range of infectious microorganisms and tumor cells. Last, but not least, mushroom polysaccharides activate other essential immune factors, including T-cells, B-cells, interferons and interleukins.

While all medicinal mushrooms benefit the immune system, each variety contains different compounds that work in various ways to enhance immunity. Therefore, the best approach is to use an assortment of mushrooms to provide a broad base of immune support. You can find shiitake and maitake mushrooms fresh or dried in many grocery stores, and they make a delicious addition to soups or stir-fries. Along with a wide variety of other medicinal mushrooms, shiitake, maitake and reishi are available as concentrated extracts and in combinations specifically formulated to enhance immune health. Products vary widely in potency, so follow manufacturers’ recommendations for dosages.

Laurel Vukovic writes from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proven Natural Candida Diet

Proven Natural Candida Diet and Herbal Treatment for Candida, Candidiasis, and Chronic Yeast Infections.

What is the Candida Diet and how can it help me?
There are various versions of the Candida diet available, but all follow the same basic formula.
Native Remedies has made it easier for you by creating an easy to follow list of what you should and what you shouldn't eat to beat Candida.
Will the Candida Diet help me to lose weight?
The Candida Diet is not intended for weight loss, but is specifically designed to combat Candida, Candidiasis and yeast infections. However, if you are overweight, you will almost certainly lose weight if you follow the Candida Diet!
Overgrowth of Candida causes intense cravings for sugar and starch, which is why many people cannot follow a weight loss diet.
Controlling levels of Candida in your digestive tract will help you to stick to your weight loss plan, while eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates will help you lose weight.
Some Important Points
When following the Candida diet, you must make sure that your blood sugar levels are kept at an acceptable level by eating a substantial breakfast, lunch and supper. If you find that your energy level is low or you are experiencing dizziness while on the diet, it is probably due to low blood sugar. If this happens, simply add a mid-morning and mid afternoon snack. Please remember to drink lots of water in order to assist the elimination of toxins from your body. After a few days of detoxing, some of your symptoms may become worse and you could also experience headaches. This is quite normal and part of the detoxification process. It will improve after a few days and you will begin to feel healthier than you have felt for years! The Candida diet should be followed for 4 weeks, followed by a maintenance program as outlined.
You may not use sugar in any form – this includes sucrose (cane sugar), glucose and fructose (fruit sugar). Lactose (milk sugar) to be kept to a minimum.

Foods Allowed
• Rye Vita (contains no yeast)
• Chicken, fish, meat
• Rye Bread (no yeast or wheat) roasted/grilled or steamed)
• Rice cakes Sunflower/olive oil
• Rice, potato or rye flour 30ml lemon juice
• Corn or soya flour all veggies fresh or frozen – no tinned food
• Oats, maize (corn) meal, maltabella Avocado pears
• Dairy-milk 125ml per day Sweet / normal potatoes
• Plain Bulgarian yoghurt-125ml (no sugar!) Brown rice (no white rice)
• Low fat cottage cheese (no sugar!) Onions / garlic (unless sensitive)
• Soya / Rice milk Walnuts, cashews, hazel,
• Ricotta cheese pecan, coconut & macadamia
• Popcorn (homemade), plain chips (no MSG!)
• One fruit per day (no melons) & Herbal teas eg Rooibos
• Grapes, make sure that fruit is not bruised; Lipton herbal teas
• Herbs, mineral water
• Tomatoes
• Artificial sweeteners eg. Advantage
• Hummus
Foods allowed weekly (only one item of each)
• Whole wheat pasta 1 rice cake with carob or yogurt topping
• Wheatbix (sugar free), tomato paste (if no wheat allergy is prevalent)
• Soft goat cheeses e.g. Camembert, feta or goat
Foods allowed twice a week (only one item of each)
• Canned tuna or Salmon in spring water
• Spices eg. curries, chillies (avoid if allergic)
Foods to Avoid
• Anything containing yeast pickled, smoked or processed meat
• smoked or processed fish (including cold meats, & vacuum-packed foods)
• Breads, marmite provita, Bovril etc
• White wheat flour or pastry flour
• Gluten flour, flake cereals, semolina
• Cream of wheat, pasta – white, all vinegars and vinegar products (chutney, mayonnaise, salad dressing etc)
• Cheese, fermented or processed eg. Cheddars, feta from dairy or other hard cheeses
• All forms of alcohol
• Fruits – melons or grapes or any fruit and vegetables that shown any signs of bruising or mold, honey and other natural sweeteners
• Mushrooms
• refined sugar and anything containing sugar
• Peanuts, peanut butter and pistachio
• All teas and coffees, except herbal teas
• All fruit juices (drink still mineral water instead)
Typical meals would include (omit foods you are allergic to. Eat as much as you want of the items listed here):
• 1 Fruit
• Porridge - Oats, maltabella (regular) or
• Mealie (corn) meal. Rice cereal (infant food)
• Rye vita / yeast free bread / rice cakes Avo / cottage cheese / egg / tomato
• Haddock
• Salads eg. potatoes, greens, rice, beans
• (include as many different ingredients as possible)
• Meat, fish, chicken (roasted / grilled / steamed)
• Lentils, pulses, legumes-soups, bakes, etc
• All vegetables-steamed and to include pumpkin, squash, butternut
• potato-baked, boiled or chips
• brown rice
• salads/stir fries/soups-chicken & veggie
• soup may be frozen & reheated
• yeast free bread/rye vita/rice cakes
• Avocado / tomato / cottage cheese / tuna / cold
• chicken
Maintenance Program
After the initial four weeks detox, you can slowly re-introduce foods from the ”Foods to avoid list”, but, please remember to use them in moderation. The foods to continue avoiding, or using with caution are: sugars, white flour, fruit juices, dried fruits, prepared breakfast flakes including muesli, alcohol, vinegar and foods containing yeast.
courtesy of http://www.nativeremedies.com/candida-diet-chronic-yeast.html

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Best Herbs for Pain Relief

More Pain-relieving Herbs

To complete your anti-pain arsenal, consider these herbs:

• Arnica (Arnica spp.), available in creams and tablets,relieves osteoarthritic pain in the knee and pain following carpal-tunnel release surgery. It contains helenin, an analgesic, as well as anti-inflammatory chemicals. Apply cream twice daily; use tablets according to package directions.

• Boswellia (Boswellia serrata) contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic boswellic acids that can soothe pain from sports injuries and also can help osteoarthritic knee pain. Take 150- to 400-mg capsules or tablets (standardized to contain 30 percent to 65 percent boswellic acids) three times daily for two to three months.

• Clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) is a popular home remedy for a toothache. Apply a drop or two of this excellent anti-inflammatory directly to your aching tooth or tooth cavity.

• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds are stocked with 16 analgesic and 27 antispasmodic chemicals. It makes a pleasant licorice-flavored tea and is especially good for menstrual cramps. But avoid the herb while pregnant or nursing because of its estrogenic effects.

• Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a remedy many people swear by for headaches, including migraines. Feverfew can reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches when taken regularly. It is available in 60-mg capsules of fresh, powdered leaf (1 to 6 capsules daily), or 25-mg capsules of freeze-dried leaf (2 capsules daily). You can also make tea—steep 2 to 8 fresh leaves in boiling water, but do not boil them, since boiling breaks down the active parthenolides.

• Gingerroot (Zingiber officinale) has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate digestive cramps and mild pain from fibromyalgia. You can take 1 to 4 grams powdered ginger daily, divided into two to four doses. Or make tea from 1 teaspoon chopped fresh root simmered in a cup of water for about 10 minutes.

• Green tea (Camellia sinensis) is great for stiff muscles—it has nine muscle-relaxing compounds, more than just about any other plant.

• Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is recommended by the German Commission E for sore throat. Not surprising, considering its nine anesthetic, 10 analgesic and 20 anti-inflammatory compounds. To make tea, simmer about 2 teaspoons of dried root in a cup of water for 15 minutes; strain. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure, heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease or glaucoma.

• Oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) are herbs you should be sprinkling liberally onto your food, as they are replete with analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. (Oregano alone has 32 anti-inflammatories!) Mix and match these garden herbs into a pain-relieving tea: Pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of dried herbs, steep 5 to 10 minutes and strain.

Source: http://www.herbcompanion.com/health/the-best-herbs-for-pain-relief.aspx?utm_content=8.11.09+HBC+eNews&utm_campaign=Newsletter&utm_source=iPost&utm_medium=email&page=2

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

50 Foods That Give You the Most Nutrition Bang for Your Buck

50 Foods That Give You the Most Nutrition Bang for Your Buck

Eating healthy sounds like a good idea in theory, but when sticking to your budget is as important as it is during this economic crisis, it’s often easier to pick up the cheapest foods at the store. These 50 foods, however, prove that nutrition doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think.


Eating fresh fruits that are in season can actually save you money. These fruits, including apricots and raspberries, will give you the most nutrition bang for your buck.

1. Strawberries: When bought in season, strawberries can be bought in bulk or individually for a modest price. And just one half cup of raw strawberries contains 149% of your daily value for Vitamin C.
2. Apricots: Apricots are a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A once ingested. Buy fresh apricots and dry them yourself for better savings.
3. Blackberries: Raw blackberries are low in calories but have a significant amount of dietary fibers, plus 50% of your daily value of Vitamin C per cup.
4. Raspberries: Raw raspberries are another easy, healthy snack that isn’t too costly. They contain Vitamin K, magnesium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin C.
5. Cherries: Make sure you buy cherries in season, or they can get expensive. They’re known as a "super fruit" because of their very high beta carotene content, as well as their fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C and potassium content.
6. Cantaloupe: Cantaloupes not only go a long way in terms of recipes and snacking, they’re also low in calories, have no fat, and contain 120% of your daily value of Vitamin A and 108% Vitamin C in just one cup.
7. Pears: One pear contains 24% of your daily value of fiber and have a low glycemic index, which means that the carbohydrates are slow to convert to sugar. Pears also contain Vitamin C and Potassium.
8. Raisins: Raisins do contain plenty of sugars, but no fat or cholesterol. They are also a good source of potassium, iron and dietary fiber.
9. Watermelon: Buy a huge watermelon in season for a cost-effective summer snack that’s packed with vitamins. Watermelons contain Vitamin A, B6, and lots of Vitamin C.
10. Peaches: Buy fresh, not canned, peaches for the best nutritional value. Peaches contain beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin A.
11. Figs: Buy fresh figs and dry them yourself to save on cost. Figs are fat, cholesterol, and sodium-free; have 20% of your daily value of fiber; and "have the highest overall mineral content of common fruits," according to California Figs.
12. Blueberries: Blueberries are strong carriers of Vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber, and also contain Vitamin E.
13. Cranberries: Cranberries are actually low in sugar and calories and contain lots of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, manganese and Vitamin K.
14. Oranges: Get plenty of Vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber, folate, Vitamin B1, potassium, Vitamin A and calcium from just one orange.
15. Bananas: Bananas may have carbs and sugar, but they’ve also got lots of Vitamin C and potassium, plus Vitamin B6, dietary fiber and manganese, making them a nutrient-rich snack.


Like fruits, fresh veggies are often inexpensive and can be used for lots of different meals and snacks during the week. Eat these vegetables to get your iron, calcium, fiber and other nutrients.

16. Asparagus: Asparagus has more folic acid than any other vegetable. Folic acid helps prevent liver disease and helps your blood cells grow.
17. Tomatoes: Tomatoes contain beta and alpha-carotene, lutein, fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, folate and more vitamins. Plus, depending on the variety you choose, they’re quite inexpensive.
18. Crimini mushrooms: Crimini mushrooms have almost no calories but are packed with potassium, selenium, Vitamins B2, B1, B6 and B3, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, folate, protein and more.
19. Squash and Zucchini: Summer squash and zucchini are only about $1 - $2 a piece and contain a moderate amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin A, plus iron and protein.
20. Black beans: Black beans are one of the healthiest varieties of beans, containing 24% of your daily value of dietary fiber, 14% of your daily value of protein, and no saturated fat per 1/2 cup.
21. Lentils: Raw lentils have a lot of calories, but no saturated fat and 50g of protein. They’re also an excellent source of iron and dietary fiber.
22. Carrots: Raw carrots bought individually are incredibly cheap and are a good source of dietary fiber. One cup of copped carrots also contains 428% of your daily value of Vitamin A.
23. Broccoli: One cup of raw broccoli flowerets only contains 20 calories but has 110% of your daily value of Vitamin C, 43% of Vitamin A, and no fat or cholesterol.
24. Kidney beans: Kidney beans are rich in B-complex vitamins, niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber and calcium.
25. Pearl Barley: Add pearl barley to a soup or salad for a major dietary fiber boost, plenty of iron, and a good dose of protein.
26. Leafy spinach: Leafy spinach is moderately priced by the bunch, and can be divided up for multiple salads, sandwiches and garnishes. It contains fiber, B-complex vitamins, folate, magnesium, lutein and potassium.
27. Potatoes: Potatoes contain carbohydrates, calories and sugars, but they’re also a very versatile, cost-effective food that contains lots of nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese and dietary fiber.
28. Green bell pepper: Green bell peppers are cheaper than red bell peppers, but each one still contains 220% of your daily value of Vitamin C.
29. Cabbage: Cabbage contains 91% of your daily value of Vitamin K; over 50% for Vitamin C; and a healthy amount of dietary fiber, Vitamin b6, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, manganese and more.
30. Jalapeno pepper: A jalapeno pepper is very cheap, and because it’s so hot and spicy, only a very small portion is needed at a time, making it cost-effective. Jalapeno peppers also contain Vitamin C and Vitamin A, plus a healthy amount of dietary fiber and iron.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds can be bought in bulk or buy the pound. Best of all, they’re packed with nutrients and vitamins, and you only need a small amount to get the benefits, making them last between trips to the grocery store.

31. Almonds: Try unsalted almonds for plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, Vitamin E and fiber. You only need a handful for an energy boost that will fill you up, too.
32. Flaxseed: Flaxseed is usually sold in pretty large bags, and you only need to add a tiny bit to cereal or any homemade breads and grains for the benefits. Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids and lots of fiber.
33. Walnuts: Walnuts are another healthy nut that contains magnesium, folate, polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E. Add a few to a fruit salad, or eat them alone.
34. Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds contain lots of Vitamin E, more than almonds, peanut butter or even spinach.
35. Sesame seed kernels: A handful of sesame seed kernels contains a healthy amount of iron, calcium and protein, plus dietary fiber.
36. Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts are considered an excellent source of selenium and also contain protein, fiber and magnesium.


Picking the whole-grain version doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go over budget. These healthy foods are also cost effective.

37. Whole grain or multigrain bread: You don’t have to buy the fancy bread: just pick out a moderately priced (maybe the generic brand) whole grain or multigrain version to get heart-healthy bread that has plenty of dietary fiber.
38. Brown rice: Rice goes a long way, and it’s inexpensive. Plus, it’s full of fiber, B-complex vitamins, niacin and magnesium.
39. Whole-wheat spaghetti: Even the whole-wheat variety of spaghetti makes a cheap meal, and it’s packed with fiber.
40. Couscous: Like rice and pasta, couscous goes a long way when you cook it. It also contains protein and fiber, when you choose the whole-wheat or whole-grain variety.
41. Whole grain tortillas: One whole-grain tortilla has 8g of protein and 7g of dietary fiber. Tortillas are usually sold in large packs, too.
42. Oatmeal: Depending on the kind of oatmeal you buy, you can usually find a pretty good deal. It’s also a good source of fiber.


You can drink your way to good health, too, and these beverage options are also budget-friendly.

43. Green tea: Green tea contains the highest concentration of the antioxidants called polyphenols, and may help prevent some types of cancer and heart disease. Buy your own green tea packets from the grocery store to save on cost.
44. Milk: Low-fat or non-fat milk that is fortified with Vitamin D, plus calcium, Vitamin A and protein. Buy store brand or generic brand milk for a better deal.
45. Orange juice: Generic brand orange juice isn’t terribly expensive, and it contains Vitamin D and plenty of Vitamin C.


From sardines to yogurt, these healthy foods are also packed with nutrients.

46. Plain yogurt: Buy large containers of plain, non-fat yogurt instead of the individual snack-sized yogurts to save money and get the most nutritional version. One cup of plain yogurt contains 14g of protein and 49% of your daily value of calcium. Plus, it also contains probiotics which help your body absorb nutrients.
47. Egg whites: Egg whites do contain a fair amount of sodium, but they also contain 26g of protein per cup and zero fat.
48. Tuna: Tuna is a cold-water fish that contains much-needed omega-3 fatty acids and lots of protein. It’s also usually cheaper than salmon or mackerel.
49. Tomato soup: Make your own variety for an even more cost-effective soup. Tomato soup is a good source of Vitamin C, iron, Vitamin A and dietary fiber.
50. Sardines: Sardines are an excellent source of iron, calcium and protein, as well as niacin, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Just don’t indulge too often: sardines are also very high in cholesterol.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fret not over the Swine Flu!

Some natural things to do regarding the Swine Flu.

From the Medicine Woman's Roots:

1. Avoid a hyperactive (or hypoactive) immune system (and theoretically, the cytokine storm) with immunomodulators (rather than simple immune stimulators) like Elderberry. Elderberry is extra nice because it has also been shown to disarm flu viruses and prevent them from replicating in the body. Elder flower is a fine relaxant diaphoretic and lung tonic as well, and all around near perfect flu prevention and treatment remedy. I especially like my Elderberry Elixir recipe (scroll down til you see the recipe) to treat and prevent a variety of flu and cold bugs. Other herbs useful in the treatment of hyperimmune or autoimmune conditions include Peach, Cherry, Rose and Reishi.

2. Get your Vitamin D. Not actually a vitamin, this necessary steroid hormone is usually obtained through normal exposure to sunlight and diet, but supplementation is becoming increasingly necessary for those who live in Northern climes or spend much of their time indoors (that would be most of America, I suppose). Vitamin D (cholecalciferol) is important for a properly functioning immune system, especially in the respiratory tract. Up to 10,000 IU/per day is safe, and Paul Bergner says that “In order to rapidly raise se rum levels to ward normal, up to 40,000 IU/day might be safely given for a period of six weeks, followed by daily doses of 4000-10000 IU.”

3. And your Zinc. I like a dose between 10-20 mg for preventative purposes.
Bioflavanoids - Berries, greens and brightly colored vegetables - eat them in quantity. Nourishing herbal infusions (Rose, Elderberry, Nettle, Raspberry) tend to have large doses of bioflvanoids as well.

4. Essential Fatty Acids - Cod liver oil is a longstanding traditional preventive method for flu and cold prevention, and a very good idea year round. Sorry, plant based EFAs just won’t cut it, so go for the ones found in fatty fish and certain other wild and grassfed meats.

5. Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrate intake. Even the sugar contained in honey or fruit is perfectly capable of suppressing your immune system.
Sleep. Lack of adequate rest and sleep is known to depress the immune system so get your Z’s and avoid longstanding sleep debt at all costs.

6. Support the body’s natural fever and elimination processes with diaphoretics rather than using NSAIDS to suppress the body’s healthy immune processes. The classic fever tea of Yarrow, Mint and Elderflower is time tested and very effective, although I prefer to use Monarda rather than Mint in many cases.


“Influenza Prevention” by Paul Bergner, from the Summer 2008 issue (Volume 15, Number 4) of Medical Herbalism.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

15 Herbs to Save Money on Medical Bills!!

15 Herbs to Save Money on Medical Bills

By Kim Erickson

Times are tough. So we scrimp where we can and keep a sharp eye out for new ways to save. But there is one area where spending a little now can actually save a lot later—your health.

According to the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in Santa Monica, California, more than half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases—and, as a result, it’s costing all of us more than $1 trillion each year. That’s the big picture.

On a more personal level, fighting cancer, heart disease, diabetes or mental illness can cost you thousands of dollars yearly in medication, doctor visits and treatment. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to prevent these health problems in the first place?

The following herbs are powerful promoters of good health and can tackle many everyday maladies in both good times and bad. Think of them as Mother Nature’s medicine chest!

1. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
2. Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
3. Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
4. Garlic (Allium sativum)
5. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
7. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
8. Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
9. Arnica (Arnica montana)
10. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
11. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
12. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
13. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
14. St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
15. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Strengthen Your Immunity

From preventing the common cold to keeping cancer at bay, maintaining a healthy immune system is critical. But a poor diet, lack of sleep and stress can undermine your immunity, leaving you vulnerable to both short- and long-term illness.

While many herbs help enhance immunity, the following three are immune-boosting superstars:

1. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): This traditional Chinese herb has gained a reputation as an antiviral and potent immune booster because it increases the activity of natural killer cells and macrophages (large white blood cells that gobble up viruses).

In one study, researchers found that astragalus helped promote and maintain respiratory health—an important consideration for fending off colds and the flu. But astragalus’ protective powers may go far beyond the common cold. A 2006 meta-analysis of 34 randomized trials of 2,815 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer compared the use of astragalus treatment combined with chemotherapy to treatment with chemotherapy alone and found that astragalus reduced the risk of death in cancer patients after a 12-month follow up. For general immune strengthening, take 100 to 150 mg of a standardized astragalus supplement daily.

2. Echinacea (Echinacea spp.): This popular herb is used for both the common cold and for upper respiratory tract infections. Echinacea supports the immune system by activating white blood cells—immune cells that defend the body from infectious disease. A review at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy found that echinacea decreased the odds of developing the common cold by 58 percent. And if you are unlucky enough to catch one, echinacea can shorten your suffering by 1.4 days. But the trick to echinacea’s effectiveness is to take 300 mg of supplemental echinacea every two hours at the first sign of the sniffles, then three times a day for a total of seven to 10 days. For best results, look for a standardized product that contains 4 to 5 percent echinacoside.

3. Green tea (Camellia sinensis): Another way to mount a good offense against illness is with green tea. Along with being a potent antioxidant, green tea stems the growth of viruses by inhibiting their absorption by the body. This tasty brew also attacks the membrane of viral cells, which effectively prevents the creation of new cells that spread the virus. During one recent clinical trial at the University of Florida, Gainesville, healthy adults who were given a green tea supplement were more than 32 percent less likely to come down with a cold or the flu than those taking a placebo.

This tasty beverage also has been shown to guard against a wide variety of cancers, including breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, prostate and skin cancer. The key to green tea’s anticancer capability comes from a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Drink several cups of green tea daily or take a green tea supplement that provides a concentrated source of polyphenols.
Maintain a Healthy Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States—it kills more people each year than cancer, diabetes or accidents. Fortunately, many of these risk factors can be prevented or controlled by combining a healthy diet and exercise with heart-helping herbs.

4. Garlic (Allium sativum): This pungent herb lowers blood pressure and improves the elasticity of blood vessel walls. Garlic also reduces cholesterol and acts as a natural blood thinner. It’s so effective that one trial showed that people taking 600 mg of garlic daily slashed their risk of dying from heart disease over a 10-year period. The same study found that taking 300 mg of supplemental garlic daily prevented the development of atherosclerosis.

5. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.): If you could rely on just one herb for heart disease, this would be it. Hawthorn contains large amounts of flavonoids that stabilize capillaries and strengthen weak blood vessels. Researchers at the University of Chicago note that antioxidant-rich hawthorn significantly reduces blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Clinical trials also have confirmed that hawthorn extract helps people with early-stage congestive heart failure (CHF). In one study, patients with CHF taking hawthorn extract for eight weeks showed improved quality of life, including a greater ability to exercise without shortness of breath and exhaustion. The recommended dose is 100 mg taken in two or three divided doses daily.
The Question of Digestion

Heartburn, indigestion and nausea definitely can cramp your style. But two herbs can provide fast relief.

6. Ginger (Zingiber officinale): It doesn’t matter whether you suffer from motion sickness or morning sickness—ginger offers a safe way to soothe nausea. Researchers at the University of Southern California also discovered that this aromatic herb helps avert postoperative nausea and vomiting. While ginger is available in capsule form, the best way to ease nausea is with a cup of ginger tea.

7. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Long before Tums burst onto the scene, herbalists relied on plants to treat indigestion. The most effective and well-known herb was licorice. But not any licorice will do. Licorice contains a chemical called glycyrrhiza that can raise blood pressure. Fortunately, this dangerous compound can be removed and the resulting deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) tablets are safe and effective. Popping a couple of DGL tablets before meals not only helps prevent heartburn, it’s reputed to soothe and heal the esophageal tissue by decreasing inflammation and ulceration. And unlike other forms of licorice, DGL is safe for people with high blood pressure. Most herbalists recommend chewing the equivalent of 760 mg (2 tablets) three times a day with meals.
Pain Relief

Pain, whether it’s from a pulled muscle or arthritis, not only makes you miserable, but limits what you can do. The next time you are hurting, try one of these topical remedies:

8. Cayenne (Capsicum annuum): Pain is caused by Substance P, a neurotransmitter that tells the brain when we are injured and triggers inflammation. Cayenne’s primary anti-inflammatory component, capsaicin, reduces levels of Substance P. A growing number of studies show that, used repeatedly, a capsaicin cream can soothe low-back pain and even tackle the pain of peripheral neuropathy. Look for a topical cream containing .075 percent capsaicin. Just take care since cayenne can burn sensitive skin. Test it on a small area first and don’t apply near the eyes or on broken skin.

9. Arnica (Arnica montana): Athletes have long relied on arnica to reduce the pain, swelling and bruising that accompany sprains and strains. But this homeopathic remedy can be a powerful weapon against osteoarthritis. A comparison of ibuprofen and a topical arnica gel found that the arnica was just as effective for pain and hand function in people with osteoarthritis of the hands. But arnica’s benefit doesn’t just apply to arthritis. A group of researchers from the Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex, England, found that topically applied arnica is a first-line defense against the pain of carpel tunnel syndrome.
Allay Seasonal Allergies

Allergic rhinitis—the medical name for hay fever—affects more than 50 million Americans every year, making it the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States. But, while these drugs temporarily relieve your symptoms, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications can cause adverse reactions, including drowsiness, headache and sore throat. Fortunately, natural remedies can nip seasonal allergies in the bud without the side effects of conventional allergy drugs.

10. Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): If you suffer from chronic hay fever, you might try butterbur instead of your prescription allergy medication. Research has found that this natural antihistamine is just as effective as cetirizine (Zyrtec). Butterbur may help even if you only suffer from occasional allergies. A clinical trial of 186 allergy sufferers reported that butterbur worked well on people with intermittent allergies. For best results, take 50 to 100 mg twice a day with meals.

11. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): This prickly plant offers relief from itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and respiratory symptoms—often within 15 minutes. The key is the herb’s anti-inflammatory effect. In one open trial of 69 patients with seasonal allergies, 58 percent reported that taking 600 mg of freeze-dried nettle leaf daily relieved their symptoms. Almost half of the participants said it was more effective than over-the-counter allergy drugs. And unlike OTC allergy medicines, taking stinging nettle won’t make you drowsy.
Stress Busters

In an analysis of nearly 300 studies, researchers at the University of Kentucky confirmed that stress alters immunity, and that seniors and sick people are much more vulnerable to the adverse impact of chronic stress. Here are two of the most effective herbs to soothe stress:

12. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): This adaptogen can help your body resist the negative effects of stress by suppressing stress hormones like cortisol. When compared to ginkgo—which can help with acute stress—ginseng was found to be a better option for long-term stress. How effective is it? A Chinese study recently showed that the herb worked as well as the anti-anxiety drug diazepam (Valium). Look for a standardized ginseng supplement that provides 4 to 7 percent total ginsenosides. The typical dose to relieve stress is 100 to 200 mg a day.

13. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): Russian research indicates that rhodiola reduces stress and fatigue; improves memory; enhances concentration and physical fitness; and increases overall well-being. Better yet, rhodiola stimulates the immune system, enabling the body’s own defenses to ward off the effects of stress. In one double-blind pilot study, students were given rhodiola or a placebo just before taking exams. After 20 days, the rhodiola group showed improvement in their physical fitness, coordination and mental sharpness. The recommended daily dose is 100 mg of a rhodiola supplement standardized to contain 3 percent rosavin.
Be Happy and Catch Some Zzzz

Is the economy keeping you up at night? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Two herbs might help lift you out of your doldrums and help you get a good night’s sleep.

14. St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum): Unlike prescription antidepressant drugs, St. John’s wort can gently and safely alleviate mild to moderate depression. In a new meta-analysis comparing the herb with prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, researchers found that both were equally effective for mild to moderate depression. The big difference was safety: St. John’s wort had far fewer side effects. But be aware that St. John’s wort can make you more sensitive to sunlight. If you use this herb, make sure to slather on sunscreen before going outdoors. Also, St. John’s wort reduces the effectiveness of birth control pills and some other drugs. Consult your health-care provider if you take prescription medications and want to try St. John’s wort. The standard recommendation for mild to moderate depression is 500 to 1,000 mg of St. John’s wort extract daily.

15. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): Valerian can help send you to dreamland because of its calming and sedative action. In one Norwegian study, 405 volunteers with insomnia took either valerian or a placebo for two weeks. By the end of the study, the valerian group reported longer sleep duration and less waking during the night than those taking the placebo. Another small crossover study showed that the participants experienced deep sleep faster after taking the herb. Unlike prescription sleep aids, taking 300 to 500 mg of valerian 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime isn’t addictive and won’t leave you feeling groggy the next morning.
Medicinal Mushrooms

A variety of mushrooms—some culinary, some not—have powerful immune-boosting properties. Medicinal mushrooms are packed with nutrients like calcium, selenium, iron, vitamins C and D, and the B vitamins. Extracts are either water-based or alcohol-based and can contain one or more types of mushroom. Look for a standardized extract to make sure you’re getting maximum immune-boosting power. They are also a wonderful source of ergothioneine, an antioxidant thought to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Cordyceps: This non-edible mushroom is often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to support male reproductive health. According to a study in the journal Life Sciences, cordyceps may indeed boost male sexuality by stimulating testosterone production. These mushrooms also are potent cancer fighters because of their ability to scavenge free radicals.

Maitake: Research shows that maitake increases natural killer (NK) cell function. Studies also suggest that these mushrooms reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Maitake also might lower systolic blood pressure.

Reishi: One study in the International Journal of Oncology found that reishi can halt the proliferation of prostate cancer cells by causing them to commit suicide. Another recent study shows they help prevent breast cancer. And reishi is a great tonic to boost overall immunity.

Shiitake: These tasty morsels contain lentinan, an active compound that stimulates the immune system. Lentinan boosts intestinal immunity and fights infection throughout the body.

Kim Erickson is a freelance writer and the founder of Kim Erickson’s Everyday Organics (www.everyday-organics.com).

The reference list for this article is extensive. If you would like a copy, please e-mail us at editor@herbcompanion.com with the subject line “Reference List.”

Call to schedule your herbal consultation today - 303.695.7695 or email herbalist@thebossgrp.com.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting rid of bed bugs naturally!

Having a problem with bed bugs? Use tea tree oil in a little spray bottle, add about 50% water and spray away!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009



Respiratory problems are more than common in our society today. It is estimated that at any one time, over a third of our population has had a cold or flu within the last two weeks. A “cold” is usually an attempt by the body to cleanse itself of a waste overload, toxins and bacteria that have built up to a point where natural defenses cannot cope with or overcome them. So the wonderful, complex immune system opens up, drains the body of excess mucous accumulation and bacterial colonies through coughing, runny nose, sneezing, diarrhea, etc., and begins to rebuild a stronger, cleaner system. The glands are always affected, and as the endocrine system is on a six day cycle, a normal “cold” usually runs for about a week as the body works through its detoxification process.

Therefore, the cure is not really the problem in a cold or flu infection, the cause is. Chronic respiratory diseases stem from several areas of environment and lifestyle problems, but poor diet is the single most influential source. The person who suffers frequently from sinus headaches, bronchitis, chronic colds, flu, sore throat and cough, is invariably a person who eats many acid and mucous-forming foods, such as red meats, caffeine containing foods, salty, sugary, starchy foods, pasteurized, full-fat dairy products and refined foods, with few fresh fruits and vegetables. This way of eating causes too much mucous to be formed in the system, and allowing tissue congestion. Not only is the body full of more mucous than it needs, the excess is often filled with toxic impurities and unreleased wastes from preservatives, chemical additives, pesticide residues, etc., a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria and viruses.

Allergy reactions are also increasing in our lives, as environmental toxins, acid rain, a depleted ozone layer, chemically treated foods, radiation levels, more anti-biotic and prescription drug use, and stress affect and lower immune strength. Most of these allergens produce respiratory clogging and congestion as the body tries to seal them off from its regular processes, or tries to work around them. Extra mucous is formed as a shield around these substances, and we get the allergy symptoms of sinus clog, stuffiness, hayfever, headaches, and red, puffy eyes. Or the body tries to throw the congestion off through the skin, causing skin rashes and irritation, fever blisters, abscesses and scratchy cough.

Drugs and over-the-counter medicines only relieve the symptoms of infection. They do not cure it, and often make the situation worse by depressing the immune system, and drying up necessary mucous elimination, thus keeping the harmful bacteria, virus, or allergens inside the body.

A short liquid mucous elimination fast, diet change, and supplementation with herbs are the most beneficial and quickest means of controlling allergies and overcoming chronic respiratory problems.

Herbal combinations can work simultaneously, or following, a mucous cleansing diet. They can neutralize allergens, increase oxygen uptake in the lungs and tissues, encourage adrenal gland function, and allow better sleep and activity while work on the underlying causes is taking place.

Combinations for respiratory support and allergy control are effective in the following circumstances and conditions:

Areas of emphasis to be considered for formulation should include:
1) Herbs to aid and support mucous cleansing
2) Herbs to aid in allergy control
3) Herbs to rebuild respiratory strength

Source: How To Be Your Own Herbal Pharmacist by Linda Rector-Page, N.D., Ph.D.

Call to schedule your herbal consultation - 303.695.7695 or herbalist@thebossgrp.com.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top 10 Things Reflexology can do that medicine can't...

Top 10 things reflexology can do that medicine can'

We have prepared a series of publications on Evidenced Based Reflexology Research. Here is a preview of some of the results. And don't get the wrong idea. This is not to suggest that reflexology is more than a complementary therapy. But according to research there are things that reflexology is capable of doing that medicine cannot do as well.

Top 10 things reflexology can do that medicine can't:

1. Phantom Limb pain
2. Postpartum
3. Diabetes
4. Cancer and chemo
5. Neuropathy
6. Hemodialysis
7. Aids mentally ill providing needed benefits to reflexology work
8. Research showed relief from post traumatic stress syndrome
9. Measures of stress are significantly decreased
10. Immediate feelings of wellbeing

10 things in details:
1. Research shows that reflexology work alleviates and, at times, eliminate phantom limb pain

2. Reflexology is beneficial for post-partum women including issues such as Anxiety and depression and recovery from Cesarean section.

3. Research shows that reflexology work reduces physiologic measures for diabetics and is an effective treatment for type II diabetes mellitus. Circulation to the feet is improved also.

4. Thirteen studies from seven countries (US, Italy, Japan, China, Switzerland, Korea, United Kingdom) target cancer care and show the benefits of reflexology work including anxiety, depression, fatigue, pain, nausea, and vomiting.

5. Neuropathy Research shows improvement in blood flow rate, time and acceleration within the feet following reflexology work

6. Research shows that reflexology work helps individuals undergoing hemodialysis: Improves the kidney’s functions with changes in physiologic measures: an increase in red blood cells (to combat anemia concerns), increase in lymphocytes (to help fight infection), and enhances disposal of waste products.

7. Reflexology programs and research shows that reflexology aids the mentally ill, providing needed benefits unique to reflexology work. Mental health workers report that reflexology work furnishes many advantages including facilitating communication

8. Victims of post traumatic stress syndrome experienced relief from symptoms including anger, depression and muscle tension as well as improved sleep patterns, levels of concentration and a lift in overall mood.

9. Measures of stress such as blood pressure, pulse rate and self-reported anxiety are significantly decreased, decreased or lowered.

The last point came from a client. He said when "I go to the doctor I don't know what the outcome will be. But when I see you I always feel better." He said it was a feeling of well being and that is what he paid for.

Kevin Kunz


Call to schedule your Reflexology session: 303-695-7695 or email reflexology@thebossgrp.com.

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PTSD in the workplace and at home

Reflexology Helps Communication

The human toll of traumatic events is literally brought to work and home. Teresa Difranza, EAP/ CISM Coordinator of the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Office notes the impact of PTSD on policeman placed in the position of shooting a criminal suspect. In addition, PTSD is not uncommon among soldiers returning to regular jobs as police officers after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Sheriff's Department has instituted an experimental program using reflexology to help dispatchers with their stresses of being an "ear witness" to traumatic events.

Aside from symptoms experienced by these individuals, Teresa notes the difficulties faced by families seeking to help. Traumatized individuals have difficulty communicating their emotions and experiences. Many go silent, leaving loved ones unable to help. Reflexology offers a possible solution.

Reflexologists note the talkativeness of clients during a reflexology session. Clients recount their life experiences, illnesses, and current stresses. (This author has been through World War II in the Pacific as well as in Europe and practically any family emergency imaginable as the client relaxes and feels like talking.)

Professionals working with mental illness have documented the use of reflexology in their work. In a classic study, Petra Trousdale of the UK noted her study's impact on women with emotional needs as: "improvement in communication and ability to articulate ideas more effectively as well as the "importance of being touched during treatment in a safe non-intrusive / abusive manner."

The use reflexology by families has been shown to help individuals with cancer. A study by Dr. Nancy Stephenson's study showed a "significant decrease in pain intensity and anxiety" with partner- delivered reflexology applied to patients with advanced cancer." In a landmark study Barbara Zeller-Dobbs of Switzerland noted: "Our purpose for using reflexology with these patients was to decrease their pain but we soon realized the beneficial effect of reflexology on the morale of patients and families. Something was being done for them. Patients expressed feelings of being less abandoned and the families expressed satisfaction at seeing that something painless existed that could aid their relative." (Dobbs, Barbara Zeller, "Alternative health approaches," Nursing Mirror (England), Vol. 160, No. 9, Feb. 27, 1985; PMID: 3634658)

© 2008 Kunz and Kunz