An integrative approach to healing ourselves and our world: honoring people, plants, planet

Posts tagged ‘herbs’

Powerfoods high in glutathione aid in detoxing

Asparagus and avocado are the 2 highest foods in glutathione.

We may not deliberately poison ourselves, but we are exposed to poisonous toxins in our air, water, food and drinks, and clothing. Our body works hard to keep toxins from entering into our tissues and cells. The #1 most important antioxidant for free radical protection is also mega important for detoxification: glutathione. We make glutathione in the body (it’s called glutathione conjugation), and we can also find it in our food.

Glutathione prevents accelerated aging and many diseases associated with toxins and the degeneration of the body: cancer, liver disease, dementia, mood disorders, cataracts, etc. Many lifestyle factors and diseases use large amounts of glutathione, thus causing a deficiency, which leads to liver dysfunction and disease. Heavy alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, exposure to organophosphates (food pesticides) and other environmental chemicals all use existing body levels of glutathione. We need to actively replenish our glutathione levels.

Asparagus is the highest tested food of glutathione. The second highest is avocado, and the third is purslane (Continue reading about wonder-food purslane in the previous post). An important note about avocado: not only does it contain glutathione, but it also contains GOOD fats. An avocado-enriched diet will lower bad LDL cholesterol more than a diet high in complex carbohydrates, according to clinical trials.

In addition to the three powerfoods listed above, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked fish, and grass-fed meat will also contribute to your glutathione reserve. Glutathione is easily absorbed from digested food, so work these into your menu plan as often as you can.

Other ways of increasing glutathione are by eating foods and herbs that enable the synthesis or conjugation of glutathione to occur. Silymarin, a constituent from milk thistle (Silybum marianum), increases the rate of glutathione conjugation. It also prevents damage to the liver through protection from free radicals and increasing the rate of liver tissue regeneration. 70-200mg three times a day is a reasonable dose.

Foods in the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts) and limonene-containing foods (dill weed oil, caraway oil, and citrus peel) all help with glutathione conjugation, as well.

Be kind to your liver. It is the source of longevity and vision (both literal eyesight and metaphorical insight, dreams, and creative life plans).  Your liver is under considerable stress everyday. If you give it a hand, you will reap the benefits of a long and healthy life.

Get your vitamins and omega-3s with purslane

Purslane growing in Hull St. "vegetable garden". Loaded in omega-3s, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is the eigth most widespread plant in the world.

You may never have been formally introduced to this little plant, but by the time you finish reading, you’ll be glad to know this wild superfood, which is actually the eighth most widespread plant in the world.

Purslane /Portulaca oleracea/ is a succulent annual that crawls along compacted soil. Its thick and fleshy leaves grow from a reddish stem, and its teeny, yellow flowers bloom only in daylight. Purslane is highly heat and drought-tolerant, perfect for cultivating in an Athens edible landscape. Between Trapeze Pub and Casa Mia on Hull Street, a unique vegetable garden grows. Where other vegetables are wilting from the heat and lack of watering, purslane is thriving.

Notice the reddish stem of the succulent purslane.

Ancient cultures worldwide have relied on purslane as a green leafy powerhouse vegetable par excellence. Though the weed may not be native, non-agricultural people of the Pacific Northwest foraged for purslane prior to European contact, proving that puslane has been in North America for quite some time. Among the Greeks, Cretans and Turks in the Mediterranean, purslane is a favorite wild vegetable to collect.

If stranded in a remote area, you would be fine if purslane were growing nearby. In fact, you’d probably be a lot healthier. Studies show that purslane’s nutritive value of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants is superior to cultivated foods. According to the USDA and Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, DC, “Purslane is the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids.” Within this little weed is the omega-3s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds, alpha-tocopherol (a vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) and glutathione (a compound which metabolizes toxins in the small intestines and prevents their transport to other tissues in the body).

Purslane’s yield of omega-3 ALAs far surpasses any other non-aquatic source, that it just might convert you to foraging. ALAs are a proven cardio-protective nutrient, and its antioxidant-rich content means that purslane is a powerful superfood that can protect against cancer. In Trinidad and Tobago, purslane is a common herb used for diabetes mellitus. A study in mice with diabetes mellitus found a decrease in blood glucose, increase in good HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides when the mice consumed purslane. The U.S. has overlooked this weed to the detriment of our health.

Eaten raw, this culinary weed adds a delightful, juicy, sour crispness to salad, or it’s also delicious cooked like spinach. One study found that the ALA content was higher in purslane exposed to low temperatures, so you might want to put purslane you’ve just collected in the fridge for an hour before eating.

But wait, there’s more. Remember all the concern a few years ago about bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics? Purslane, the wonder-plant, can remove BPA from water in 24 hours, according to a Japanese study. Soon, purslane will be put to work in phytoremediation of contaminated industrial wastewater. Purslane keeps delivering the goods.

This article appeared in the Athens Banner Herald, June 27, 2010.

Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) for weight loss

Queen Anne's lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, Crawford, GA

“Queen Anne’s lace is one of the great undiscovered herbs of the 20th century,” says Alabama herbalist Darryl Patton. “It is a weight reducer, probably the best to be found.” I think that statement applies to the 21st century, too. Also called wild carrot because its edible root is the predecessor to our cultivated garden-variety carrot, Queen Anne’s lace reduces weight through a diuretic action, and perhaps speeds up the metabolism. Many genus and species in the carrot family (Apiaceae, or Umbelliferae) have a similar diuretic action, but less powerful than Queen Anne’s lace. Due to its diuretic properties, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) can relieve the edema in one’s ankles. The old-timey herbalist, Tommie Bass, suggests boiling 2 handfuls of leaf and flower in a quart of water for 20 minutes. Just a heads-up: This makes a bitter brew.

Queen Anne's lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, Crawford, Ga

Other uses of the leaves and flowers of Queen Anne’s lace are for kidney stones and gout. It has mild liver-cleansing properties, which helps prevent uric acid from staying in the joints, causing the awfully painful gout. The leaf tea can also help to bring on a woman’s delayed menses, which is called an emmenogogue. However, first she needs to be sure that she isn’t pregnant. For first-aid in healing sores, the leaves are applied to the skin sore with honey.

The seeds are forming on the closed infloresence of Queen Anne's lace.

Queen Anne’s lace seed is taken to relieve bloating, or “wind” as it is sometimes called, evoking the natural elements. The release of wind can also give the appearance of weight loss.

Wild carrot, or Queen Anne’s lace, was a popular diuretic, anodyne (pain reliever), and antiseptic during the Civil War according to Confederate surgeon, Dr. Francis Peyre Porcher.

Nicholas Culpeper, the 17th century English physician-herbalist-botanist, writes about the difference between garden carrots and their wild kin, saying, “They are of less physical use than the wild kind (as indeed almost in all herbs the wild are most effectual in physic, as being more powerful in operation than the garden kinds).” That’s a little plug for learning wild plants, and even incorporating them into your landscape.

Queen Anne's Lace gracefully used in a garden. Takes full sun to partial shade.

Magnificent mullein: A friend to those with lung issues

Mullein at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. Looks like Verbascum olympicum, which has showier flowers than V. thapsus.

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus or V. olympicum, is that plant along the roadsides with a towering spike of yellow flowers which lingers all through winter as a dried-out, brownish-black spike. Being a biennial, mullein will grow as a circular, basal rosette in its first year where all its leaves come from the central stem. In the second year, the flowering spike will grow straight up from the middle, and the leaves will grow upwards on the stem until the flowers begin. It then ends its life-cycle when it goes to seed and becomes a stalk. New basal rosette mullein plants will grow in the surrounding area the following year.

You might notice the 6″ to 2′ bluish-gray-green leaves, which resemble the common landscape plant lamb’s ears because they are furry and soft. We typically consider this plant a benign weed, but I think it’s gorgeous and deserves to be appreciated in a garden. It’s easy to start from seed.

The whole plant is medicinal with dozens of uses. Legend has it that mullein was one of the plants so cherished by European women that when they migrated to the U.S., they sowed its seeds into the hems of their skirts, making sure they would not be without their medicine. It’s easy to understand how they felt if you’ve grown to appreciate how mullein can soothe irritated or congested lungs.

Many mullein, Verbascum thapsus. Big mullein leaves in right forefront.

American Indians quickly saw mullein’s virtues as the plant was introduced to North America. In Daniel Moerman’s tome, Native American Ethnobotany, over 25 tribes are listed to have used mullein. The uses range from applying the leaves to swollen glands or skin sores, to sore throats, to cough remedy, and asthma. Several tribes used it for magical or ceremonial purposes, attesting to the high regard the American Indians held for mullein.

Mullein is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory which is great when there is an infection in the throat, lungs, or on the skin. It’s also an expectorant, helping to move the damp congestion (catarrah) in the lungs. And as a soothing, anti-inflammatory herb, when someone has a non-productive cough that is hard, sore, and a little burning coming from the chest, not the throat, mullein is excellent. Mullein serves as a safe and effect tonic for chronic, dry respiratory inflammation in adults and kids.

For the lungs, the best method of taking mullein is through steeping the chopped leaf in boiling water for about 8-10 minutes. You will need 4-8 grams, three times a day, which is a lot because mullein is very light. Strain the tea through an unbleached coffee filter before drinking to make sure the little hairs don’t bother your throat. A common Indian method for administering herbs quickly was through smoking them. Powdered mullein leaves were smoked to help with asthma and catarrah (damp congestion in the lungs).

Mullein is a great first aid plant. If you’re out in the field and get cut, or develop a rash or athlete’s foot, find some mullein. Make a damp poultice with the leaf and then wrap another leaf around the poultice.

Mullein flowers make a famous ear oil to remove excess wax or relieve pain. A tincture of the flowers is also useful for someone prone to nervous throat clearing.

Speaking of wax, the dried stalks would be dipped in wax and burned as torches. I haven’t tried this, but I think they’d make awesome party torches for a harvest celebration.

Mimosa (the tree, not the drink) brings happiness

Mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin, growing at North Oconee River Greenway, Athens, GA

Although mimosas are called an invasive “trash tree” by many, Dr. Seuss couldn’t have created a more delightful-looking flower than the mimosa bloom. Mimosa’s whimsical June blossoms bring happiness just to gaze upon them, and their bark, foliage and flowers can do the same when taken internally as a tea.

Mimosa trees, Albizia julibrissin, dot the roadsides with their pink blossoms in early summer giving a tropical appearance. The fern-like foliage is made of fine compound leaflets. Mimosa flowers look like silky pink tuffs, giving the tree its other name, silk-tree. After the flowers fade, the seedpods form, resembling peapods, indicating it’s in the Fabaceae family, or pea family.

Originally native to an area ranging from Iran to China, historical accounts suspect mimosas were introduced to America as early as 1745. The famous French botanist, Andre Michaux, introduced the mimosa tree to Charleston in 1786. They produce prolific seeds, which allowed it to quickly spread throughout the South.

Mimosas grow where the soil has taken a beating. In fact, because they tolerate such poor soil and are capable of fixing nitrogen in the soil, they’re one of the species suitable for waste landfill remediation, synergistically enhancing the landscape. That’s an alternative meaning to “trash tree”.

Mimosa blossoms, Albizia julibrissin, "Collective Happiness Flowers"

It might be pure coincidence, but I find it interesting that a tree which heals disturbed land can also heal a disturbed heart. In China the peeled, dried bark of mimosa, called “collective happiness bark” in Chinese, is used as an uplifting remedy for an irritable-type of depression accompanied by insomnia, poor memory, grief and anger. In Chinese medicine this type of depression is diagnosed as a shen disturbance, a shock or trauma to the spiritual aspect of someone’s heart.

Current research has validated the traditional Chinese remedy of mimosa bark, showing that it relieves anxiety and has an antidepressant-like effect. Other studies have found that mimosa foliage and flowers contain antioxidants which inhibit the oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol, decreasing the danger associated with high LDL cholesterol, which would make a lot of people happy.

The bark is boiled and steeped in water. For a milder effect, one can also use the flowers and leaves. The tea should not be drunk during pregnancy or if one is taking prescribed antidepressants. Also, because mimosas grow in disturbed soil, do be careful not to use any part of a tree growing near railroad tracks which could have absorbed a considerable amount of toxins.

This article was originally published in my Urban Forager Column on Sundays for the Athens Banner Herald–Living, June 20, 2010.                                       

Skullcap: One of the most useful herbs for your nerves

Skullcap on Daufusky Island, South Carolina (Scutellaria sp.)

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has two funny common names. The most used name, skullcap, points to the affinity this herb has with calming the mind and central nervous system, and also to how the flower appears like a hood. The second name, mad-dog skullcap, comes from a historical use for rabies, which is not a good idea anymore. However, skullcap remains one of the most useful herbs to restore and calm the nerves. I use this beautiful plant for myself and others, often.

Skullcap is known as a slightly sedating nervine, neurotrophorestorative, anxiolytic, and spasmolytic. Let me explain what each of those words mean:

  • A nervine normalizes the functions of the nervous system, soothing and relieving tension.
  • A neuro-trophorestorative is something herbs can do which pharmaceutical drugs don’t. It restores optimal function and structure of an organ or tissue. In skullcap’s case, its attention is the restoration of the neurons.
  • An anxiolytic relieves anxiety. Not all anxiolytic herbs do this in the same way.
  • A spasmolytic relieves or decreases muscle spasms in smooth or skeletal muscle.

Skullcap is specifically called for when someone has nervous, emotional irritability. Nervous irritability might appear as spasms, tremors, restlessness (perhaps in the legs), skeletal muscle tension (neck and back), teeth-grinding, stress headaches and agitation, both emotionally and physically.

Two types of agitation skullcap is good for are Excess and Deficient Agitation.                        Excess agitation is like the Yosemite Sam character: agitated, forceful, fiery, turbulent, angry, irritable, or jealous. The kind of energy they give off makes you want to back away slowly from them. They have a louder voice and their eye contact is steady. They give the perception of alpha dog, but when a lot of things pile up, they just might blow. This person might have cranky tension in his or her muscles (wry neck, low-back pain, or teeth-grinding) because they need to be doing something more active, not sitting behind a desk. Some women have PMS symptoms that are like Yosemite Sam.                                                Dose: 2 grams of the leaf in tea, capsules, or equivalent of tincture three times a day.

Deficient agitation is in someone who is very sensitive and easily overwhelmed by too much noise, light, such as in a big city or a big party. Excessive stimuli, i.e. too much input, would easily lead to nervous agitation in such a person. This person might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), hypervigilance, physical hypersensitivity, heart palpitations, panic attacks/disorder, test anxiety or fear of public speaking.                     Dose: 2 grams of the leaf in tea, capsules, or equivalent of tincture three times a day. **Larger doses of the tincture in the moment of panic, having palpitations, or public speaking.

Skullcap demonstrates the complexity of working with herbs and the great capabilities herbs have, often not found in pharmaceuticals. This is why skullcap forms the backbone of my Peace Tea formula.

(If someone has nervous exhaustion, you’d choose wild oats, Avena sativa; and if it’s nerve damage, then St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum, would be best).


Many years ago, there was an adulteration of skullcap with germander (Teucrium), and people became sick. This hasn’t happened for a very long time—over a decade—since our standards have improved for herbs. Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) has different uses than the native American skullcap.

Skullcap is OK with kids, and is not addictive like valium or benzodiazepines.

Much of the above information has come from one of my great teachers, James Snow.

Mint Water: Refreshing & Uplifting

About this time of year in Georgia, adding mint leaves to your chilled water can do the body-mind good.

Mint water in my recycled glass pitcher

Not only does it taste refreshing, but a study published in 2010* shows that all varieties of mint studied are capable of relieving anxiety and lifting your mood. Research also showed that mints are neuroprotective, containing antioxidants which protect central nervous system cells from oxidative stress.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) had the highest amount of antioxidants and mood lifting qualities out of all the mints studied. Water mint (Mentha aquatica) had the highest potential for lowering anxiety.

Mint is so incredibly easy to grow anywhere. Give it room to roam, or grow it in pots. And use it liberally! You can either chop the leaves or add them whole as they are in the photo. The aromatic oils will quickly flavor the water in minutes.

I also add a little mint (spearmint) to my potato salad which gives it a little pizazz.

*Lopez, V., et al (2010). Neuroprotective and neurochemical properties of mint extracts.     Phytotherapy Research, 24, 869-874.

High Cholesterol: Safety & Efficacy of Herbal/Nutritional Treatment

I compiled this information a few years ago; to my knowledge it is still current. I hope it helps.

Garlic has mild-moderate cholesterol lowering effects

Hypercholesterolemia: (Dyslipidemia; Hyperlipidemia) “is elevation of plasma cholesterol and/or [triglycerides] TGs or a low [high-density lipoprotein] HDL level that contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. Causes may be primary (genetic) or secondary. Diagnosis is by measuring plasma levels of total cholesterol, TGs, and individual lipoproteins” (Merck Manual, 2005).

Standard therapies:

In addition to the commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals for hypercholesterolemia, standard recommendations by the American Heart Association for treatment or prevention include:

  • eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • exercise regularly

Herbal Therapeutics

Herbal Statins: work as HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors, blocking the main pathway where cholesterol is made.  An example is red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus). Originally red yeast rice was used to develop the pharmaceutical lovastatin, and has the same efficacy, side effects, and potential interactions as lovastatin (Neafsey, 2004). Between 16 to 31% reduction of total serum cholesterol was observed in four randomized clinical trials (Coon & Ernst, 2003). See safety concerns below.

Fiber: on a basic level works similarly to bile acid sequestrants by binding to bile and increasing elimination of bile through the large intestine, thus increasing the need for the liver to make more bile from cholesterol.  Examples include psyllium seed husks (Plantago psyllium), flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum), and oat bran (Avena sativa).  Each of these herbs has additional health benefits, which may or may not lower cholesterol through other mechanisms (Petchetti, Frishman, Petrillo, & Raju, 2007; Reyna-Villasmil, Bermudez-Pirela, Mengual-Moreno, et al, 2007; Pellizzon, Billheimer, Bloedon, et al, 2007).

Working differently than fiber, the saponins in fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum) also increase total bile output by the increased conversion of cholesterol to bile acids by the liver (Stark & Madar, 1993; Sauvaire, Ribes, Baccou, et al, 1991; Valette, Sauvaire, Baccou, et al, 1984).  Of five trials on fenugreek seeds, four of which are considered to have poor methodological quality, reductions of total serum cholesterol was between 15 and 33% (Coon & Ernst, 2003).

Among many other herbs used to support healthy blood lipid levels, two possibly effective herbs are artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) and garlic (Allium sativum).  A review of studies on artichoke’s affect on lipid levels shows a mild lowering effect (Pittler, Thompson, & Ernst, 2002).  In a large trial, 18.5% reduction of total serum cholesterol levels was observed (Coon & Ernst, 2003).  Artichoke extracts have been shown to produce various pharmacological effects, such as the inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis and of LDL oxidation (Lupattelli, Marchesi, Lombardini, et al., 2004). A recent single-blind study of garlic tablets in 150 hyperlipidemic patients has shown a significant favorable effect on cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and HDL-cholesterol (Kojuri, Vosoughi, Akrami, 2007).  However, a comparative study of the effects of raw garlic, garlic powder, and aged garlic on LDL-cholesterol levels showed no significant effect from any of the three forms of garlic (Gardner, Lawson, Block, et al, 2007).  A meta-analysis of garlic’s lipid-lowering effects shows that garlic is superior to placebo; however, garlic affects on cholesterol do not appear robust.  Garlic does show a deceleration of atherosclerotic plaque formation, giving reason to use garlic in cases of atherosclerosis, or as a preventative measure (Stevinson, Pittler & Ernst, 2000).  The mechanism of the supposed effects of garlic on cholesterol levels is unknown.

Safety Concerns/ Herb-Drug Interactions

Due to the association of hypercholesterolemia and heart disease, it is important to note the precautions that need to be taken with people on other heart medications, especially those with a narrow therapeutic window.  As red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus) works by the same mechanism as pharmaceutical statins, the same caution applies.  “Statins that are metabolized by CYP3A4 compete with other drugs for the CYP3A4 enzyme.  CYP3A4 activates the antiplatelet drug, clopidogrel.  Atorvastatin (and, presumably lovastatin in red yeast rice) interferes with clopidogrel activation and reduces its ability to inhibit platelet aggregation” (Neafsey, 2004).  Furthermore, lovastatin has resulted in increased INR by inhibiting warfarin metabolism and displacement of warfarin from plasma proteins.  Presumably lovastatin may increase digoxin concentrations by as much as 20% by increasing absorption via a drug transporter protein in the small intestines called P-glycoprotein (Neafsey, 2004).

Though rare at standard doses (1 in 10,000), dangerous side effects of statin drugs can occur on muscle such as myopathy and rhabdomyolysis.  Adverse effects, though unusual, may occur on the liver, in increasing levels of transaminases.  Statins are not clearly associated with increased risk of liver disease (Armitage, 2007).  Consumers of red yeast rice, however, need to be aware of any muscle aches or unusual lethargy, and report symptoms to their primary care practitioner.  A recent clinical trial with patients with myopathic symptoms tested whether supplementation with coenzyme Q10, which is essential for mitochondrial energy production, would reduce muscle pain, due to the fact that the manufacture of coQ10 is blocked by statins. Indeed, muscle pain was reduced in 40% of the patients after supplementation compared with vitamin E (Caso, Kelly, McNurlan & Lawson, 2007).  Therefore, supplementation with coenzyme Q10 would be beneficial for consumers of red yeast rice.  Other adverse events reported from taking red yeast rice include: stomachache, heartburn, dizziness, and flatulence (Coon & Ernst, 2003).

Of the five fenugreek trials on 140 participants, mild gastrointestinal symptoms were reported.  None were severe enough to warrant discontinuance.  Though studies of fenugreek leaves do not show as significant a reduction in total serum cholesterol, a 14% reduction in serum potassium was noted in healthy subjects after a single dose of the extract made from fenugreek leaves (Coon & Ernst, 2003).

A review of garlic’s lipid-lowering effect in clinical trials showed few differences with placebo in recorded adverse events.  The most common complaint was gastrointestinal symptoms, besides garlic breath and body odor (Stevinson, Pittler & Ernst, 2000).  Due to the limited number and nature of reports of excessive blood-thinning caused by garlic, true risks and assessment of an interaction between garlic and warfarin is difficult to make (Vaes & Chyka, 2000).  In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study of 48 patients, concomitant use of aged garlic extract (AGE) and anticoagulant therapy (warfarin) showed no evidence of increased hemorrhage in either the placebo or the AGE group (Macan, Uykimpang, Alconcel, et al., 2006).

A PubMed search of adverse effects of fiber revealed nothing significant.  Psyllium seed husks appear to be well-tolerated and cost-effective (Petchetti, Frishman, Petrillo,& Raju, 2007).  Oats are commonly listed on the foods-to-avoid list for gluten intolerance and may need to be avoided in gluten-sensitive people.  The only recommendation is for the consumer to take fiber with plenty of water, and away from medications and other supplements.


American Heart Association. (2007). Hypercholesterolemia: Assessment of current            dietary habits and formulating recommended changes. Retrieved on June 15, 2007, from

Armitage, J. (2007). The safety of statins in clinical practice. Lancet

Caso, G., Kelly, P., McNurlan, M.A., & Lawson, W.E. (2007). Effect of coenzyme Q10   on myopathic symptoms in patients treated with statins.  American Journal of Cardiology, 99(10), 1409-12.

Coon, J.S.T. & Ernst, E. (2003). Herbs for serum cholesterol reduction: A systematic         review. Journal of Family Practice, 52(6), 468-78.

Drug Digest. (2007). Hypercholesterolemia. Retrieved on June 15, 2007, from   ,4047,15,00.html

Gardner, C.D., Lawson, L.D., Block, E., Chatterjee, L.M., Kiazand, A., Balise, R.R., & Kraemer, H.C. (2007). Effect of raw garlic vs commercial garlic supplements on plasma lipid concentrations in adults with moderate hypercholesterolemia: A randomized clinical trial. Archives of Internal Medicine, 26(167), 346-53.

Kojuri, J. Vosoughi, A.R., Akrami, M., (2007). Effects of anethum graveolens and garlic on lipid profile in hyperlipidemic patients. Lipids in Health and Disease, 1(6), 5.

Lupattelli, G., Marchesi, S., Lombardini, R., Roscini, A.R., Trinca, F., et al (2004). Artichoke juice improves endothelial function in hyperlipidemia. Life Sciences, 76(7), 775-82.

Macan, H., Uykimpang, R., Alconcel, M., Takasu, J., Razon, R., Amagase, H., & Niihara, Y. (2006). Aged garlic extract may be safe for patients on warfarin therapy. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(3 Suppl), 793S-795S.

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, The. (2005). Dyslipidemia. Retrieved on June      17, 2007, from a&alt=sh#S12_CH159_T003

Neafsey, P. (2004). Self-medication practices that alter the efficacy of selected cardiac     medications. OVID, 22(2), 88-98.

Pellizzon, M.A., Billheimer, J.T., Bloedon, L.T., Szapary, P.O. & Rader, D.J. (2007).         Flaxseed reduces plasma cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic mouse models. Journal of American College Nutrition, 26(1), 66-75.

Petchetti, L., Frishman, W.H., Petrillo, R., & Raju, K. (2007). Nutriceuticals in      cardiovascular disease: Psyllium. Cardiology Review, 15(3), 116-22.

Pittler, M.H., Thompson, C.O., & Ernst, E. (2002). Artichoke leaf extract for treating        hypercholsterolaemia. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews (Online), (3), CD:   003335.

Reyna-Villasmil, N., Bermudez-Pirela, V., Mengual-Moreno, E., Arias, N., Cano-Ponce,   C., et al. (2007). Oat-derived beta-glucan significantly improves HDLC and diminishes LDLC and non-HDL cholesterol in overweight individuals with mild hypercholesterolemia. American Journal of Therapeutics, 14(2), 203-12.

Sauvaire, Y., Ribes, G., Baccou, J.C., & Loubatieeres-Mariani, M.M. (1991). Implication of steroid saponins and sapogenins in the hypocholesterolemic effect of fenugreek. Lipids, 26(3), 191-7.

Stark, A. & Madar, Z. (1993). The effect of an ethanol extract derived from fenugreek      (Trigonella foenum-graecum) on bile acid absorption and cholesterol levels in     rats. British Journal of Nutrition, 69, 277-287.

Stevinson, C., Pittler, M.H., & Ernst, E. (2000).  Garlic for treating hypercholesterolemia.    Annals of Internal Medicine, 133, 420-9.

Vaes, L.P. & Chyka, P.A. (2000). Interactions of warfarin with garlic, ginger, ginkgo or    ginseng: Nature of the evidence. The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 34(12), 1478-82.

Valette, G., Sauvaire, Y., Baccou, J.C., & Ribes, G. (1984). Hypocholesterolaemic effect of fenugreek seeds in dogs. Atherosclerosis, 50(1), 105-11.

Gentle Herbal Remedies for the Elderly

An elderly woman who came to me for a health condition could serve as a lesson for many of us who care for an aged or infirm family member. The 91 year-old woman lives in a nursing home. The care she receives is primarily from Certified Nursing Aides who do their job according to conventional guidelines and standard procedures. Making any changes to their set routine can be challenging.

When she was 89, she told me about her recurring urinary tract infection, and how the rounds of antibiotics did nothing to stop it. The doctor would no longer prescribe antibiotics to her because of the chance of developing resistant bacteria strains. I had to think of a gentle herb that would be easy to administer within the aides’ system of caring, and was easy to find in a grocery store. Ginger tea.

The existing everyday routine for my client was to drink black Lipton’s tea. The nurses would bring her a cup of hot water, and a tea bag. The solution would be easy; substitute the black tea for ginger tea. Lipton’s makes a ginger tea that is just dried ginger in a tea bag. So, a family member buys a box of Lipton’s Ginger Tea for my client to keep in her room. My client told me the taste was a bit different, and took some time to grow on her, but she drank it. She hasn’t had a urinary tract infection for three years now.

The learning here is that it is possible to use gentle herbal and nutritional remedies at a nursing home. Always communicate with the person’s doctor or health practitioner before adding an herb or nutrient. Also, within a population that is way over-medicated, it surprises me that United States doctors will prescribe a strong medication with harmful side effects when a gentle, and cheap, herbal remedy would do the job better.

STRESS and 8 Practices for Self Care

Visit your favorite body of water. Chattooga River, South Carolina side

Stress is a double-edged sword. Stress can be a motivating force, and a paralyzing force. The stress in a moment can urge us to move courageously, responding to the stressor with a decisive action intended to stop or change the circumstance to somehow benefit us, which illustrates the positive aspect of the philosophy that within a crisis is danger and opportunity. Constant, unresolved stress from perceived immutable stressors such as a mortgage, a chronic illness, or being in an abusive situation, however, will wither our vitality, causing us to doubt our power to change circumstances and become resigned to dwell in a pit of worry and fear.

Both causing and relieving stress are fortune-producing industries based on principles of contraction and relaxation marketed to people the industry calls ‘consumers’. We live among stressors; it’s unavoidable. Plus, we are biologically designed to respond to stressors which we perceive to be a threat, or that claim our attention. To put this into perspective and emphasize how as long as we are breathing, we will fluctuate between contraction and relaxation, it’s important to note that simply waking up in the morning increases the hormone often associated with stress, cortisol, and the levels may fall and rise throughout the day. Cortisol has many important uses in normal/ideal/health living (What’s that?). When under significant stress, cortisol production increases-generally, up until the point where it can increase no further where then it declines from exhaustion, producing many negative consequences during either the out-of-balance increase or the exhausted decline. This is the point where we notice being “stressed out” or “under stress”.Typically, the stressed out feeling comes after a long duration of a stressful circumstance.

In other experiences, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the result is from a particular traumatic event, or intermittent traumatic events. The physiological and psychological manifestations of long-endured stress or post traumatic stress have similarities and differences, and then, of course, within individuals there are also differences. Describing each of them at length is beyond the focus of this entry; however, it’s important to mention that what gets classified as PTSD is somewhat controversial. Researchers are careful not to apply the disorder too widely. The degree of trauma is in question, which also needs to take into account the state of the individual prior to the trauma. The straw that broke the camel’s back didn’t seem very significant in itself, but added to the existing burden, it was too much to handle for the camel. Young, healthy soldiers who are quickly exposed to traumatic experiences are more easily diagnosed with PTSD, than a single mother of three children in inner-city Baltimore who is worried about her family’s safety after a police raid of her neighbor’s rowhouse resulting in gunfire (I didn’t have children, but I was living alone in Baltimore during a stressful time when this happened to me and my neighbor, which resulted in occasional flashbacks, leading me to realize the importance of self care to which end the flashbacks have disappeared.).

So, we know this: Unavoidable stressors are around us, the stress response is natural, and experiencing traumatic events is unpredictable. That being written, what we DO have control over is our perception and classification of what is or isn’t a stressor, which affects our response to it. Notice when you are feeling stress about something that is insignificant. If you can reevaluate the stressor, and create an appropriate decisive action for the stressor, chances are the stress response to the stressor you were experiencing will shift as the decisive action releases energy instead of absorbing energy.

To prevent the misperception of insignificant toil being a stressor, many practices exist, which we all know but few actually do.

To Do List:

  1. Be in the present: Each of the following are built upon being present. We can anticipate the future. We can regret the past. We can change our attitude and perception of the past and future if we act in the present.
  2. Exercise: This is the single-most lifestyle choice to increase one’s quality and length of life. My favorite form of exercise is walking.
  3. Meditate: Experiencing silence is a revolutionary act for our psyche in an age of stimulus overload. Mediation creates a stillness in the mind and body which has tremendous health effects, such as decreasing the activation of proteins activated by stress associated with Alzheimer Disease and dementia, plus healing the heart and immune system.
  4. Pray: The Serenity Prayer expresses how discernment between things within our control and outside of our control releases stress and brings serenity. When something is within our control, we can create a decisive action in response to it. When it is not in our control, we can release it to the universal creator. Developing a relationship with a power greater than your small sense of self can bring you great peace.
  5. Care for a plant: Being in nature and caring for a plant brings us to the present, connecting us in a primordial bond between plant and animal/human. The relationship communicates soothing chemical molecules between the plant and our human being. An enjoyable read is The Secret Life of Plants.
  6. Eat nutrient-dense whole food from humane farming practices: Food is made up of molecular compounds which carry energy and impact our body in positive, neutral, and negative ways. You are what you eat is true. What goes into making and preparing food is also what what we become. Think about this when it comes to in humane farming practices for farmworkers and animals, synthetic additives and preservatives, and pre-packaged for convenience. One of the glorious aspects of living is eating good food. Why do we willingly give that up for disgusting food? A slow manipulation is responsible, so twisted that we end of wanting our poison. Try an experiment. Choose to eat self-prepared whole foods for a month and document how you feel along the way. Notice any mood changes. They may get worse first before they get better, so you need to be committed. It’s a detoxification process. At the end of the month, you’ll be thinking clearly, which will allow you to discern what is stress-worthy better.
  7. Follow a diurnal and seasonal cycle: Though sometimes we are confused about what we are, we are diurnal creatures. We are not night owls. Our body and mind responds to light and dark in different ways. The light photons enter through the eyes, and interact with the pineal gland which stimulates the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands to increase energy for the day, or when absent decrease energy for nighttime sleeping. Studies of night-shift nurses show a lowered immune system, increased stress hormones, and increased occurrences of cancer. Following the seasons is like tending to yourself as if you are the garden. In winter you rest, being silent and still, allowing creativity to come from deep within. Seeds are planted in early spring, seeds of ideas, plans are made of how to develop these seeds. At summer we tend to each other, we dance, we experience great joy at the great growth. In late summer, we harvest and enjoy the abundance. The fall calls us to collect the seeds of the plants we want to save for springtime replanting. We let go of whatever will not serve us through the winter, composting it in the earth, where it will become a new, nourishing form. We come back to winter to rest, reflect, be silent, and go deep within ourselves, within the earth to become renewed for the coming spring.
  8. Form a friendship with someone who is choosing self care, too: If you are going this path alone, you may have a hard time picking yourself up when you stumble. Also, being around someone who CHOOSES the path of self care is different from instructing others who are not choosing self care. Convincing others who are into self destruction will not help your stress. In this relationship be authentic, genuine, humble, light-hearted, and allow for mistakes. Making changes in our life can develop a sense of taking ourselves too seriously, and being more “evolved” than another. When you begin to feel that way, watch out, it is right before a stressful stumble.

Don’t Do List:

  1. Do the To Do List and the Don’t Do List just might disappear.

What About the Author?

Certainly the reader suspects whether the author follows the To Do List. Admittedly off and on (there is no contest), which is how I know the effects from following the list and falling away from some of the practices. I also know that number 8 is very important. Following these 8 practices can have positive outcomes for one’s self, others, plants and the planet, which is the whole idea.

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