Saturday, December 1, 2012

Let's Talk about Pooping!

Warning, this post openly discusses poop. This may cause extreme giggling, discomfort or disgust. Read at your own risk.

Good, healthy defecation is a great keystone to optimal health. You don't need to know all the details, but when stuff sits in there, it isn't pretty. Yuck!

A good place to start that quandry is to giggle about it. I live with two young girls who REALLY enjoy giggling about poop, and I like to giggle about it with them. This may help you get comfortable with the idea of thinking about it. The second step is: Don't be afraid of poop. "Everybody Poops" after all. If you can, finding someone to talk about it with can be liberating and revealing. You can ask them how many times a day they poop, whether or not they get constipated... etc. Giggle about it together, if you want.

Think about how much you put in, and how much comes out the other end. This is a simple and straightforward way to spearhead the inner discussion of "Am I pooping enough?" Here are some more questions to start you off with: Am I a consistent pooper (is there a typical consistency/ time)? When do I most often poop? Is it difficult for me to poop (must I push)?  Does my poop often smell terrible? Do I poop at least once a day?

The best poop situation possible would be to poop at least once a day (after meals or in the morning are the most common), though two or three times is great too.. The feces should be well formed (not watery, not hard), it should come out with ease, and it shouldn't smell too bad.

Here are some tips to avoid/ remediate constipation:

1. Water
In my experience, drinking water is the single best way to prevent and treat constipation. Especially in the morning, when a good bowel movement is the most likely, drink a whole glass of water upon waking, long before you eat your first food. If possible, don't eat until you have your first bowel movement. Also, stay hydrated throughout the day.

2. Stress
For many technical reasons, and some basic reasons, it can be tough for stressed or tense people to poop. Some people swing the other way when they are stressed, too, but here we're talking about the plugged ones. On a basic level, tense muscles do not allow for easy passage of fecal bulk. On a more complex level, excretory capacity is reduced when stress hormones are out and about in the body. Escaping from life-threatening monster is not a good time for a good bowel movement, after all.

3. Emotional expression
Constipation often gets worse when emotions are being held in, not expressed, hidden or suppressed. For example, you're really angry at your souse or partner about something, but you don't have the confidence to share it. This can cause physical tenseness and anxiety, which can cause feces to be held in. You may find that after a good scream or cry, you are ready for action in the bathroom.

4. Food
A picture of food that doesn't like to escape your body: greasy, bready, white, rich, fatty, sticky, sugary, salty. For me, wheat foods are a big culprit in plugging the operation. The kinds of foods that would probably help unplug and keep things moving: fresh, watery, fibrous, crunchy, green, colorful, vibrant, unprocessed, wholesome. Specifically, fresh fruits and vegetables (green veggies, and raw or lightly cooked veggies), and whole grains and beans (brown rice, millet, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, black beans).

5. Mechanical Laxatives
There are two types of natural laxatives: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical laxatives are more gentle, and more appropriate for every day use. while chemical laxatives induce muscle spasms or water concentrations changes, mechanical laxatives simply provide bulk which slides easily through inside passages and physically cleans and eliminates stuff caught in there.

6. Probiotics
I have found great results from taking probiotic supplements and probiotic foods. They can really get things moving, and increase your digestive capacity. I toot this horn a lot on this blog, for good reasons.

7. Yoga
The following squatting position (pictured below on left), in addition to being a great hip opener, is also good for facilitating a good poop.

If your heels don't reach the ground, put
something under them.
Additionally, lay on your back and bring your knee to your chest and across it, which keeping the other leg flat in the ground. Switch knees.

You could be this stoked too!
8. Squatting while Pooping
Rather than sitting (as we do in this culture), squatting is way more conducive to getting a good bowel movement in. It's how we were designed. This can be tough to figure out on a regular toilet, but building a platform or standing on your toilet seat with bare feet may work (for those more flexible.)

9. Herbal Laxatives
These should be used occasionally, when you really need it, as your body can get "Addicted". I don't think you want to lose our ability to poop naturally, so go easy on them.
   Yellow dock root
   Senna pods
   Cascara bark
You can get laxative herbal tea at your local health food store.

Good luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Milkshakes and Chemistry

"Omega-3 fatty acid" is the new panacea in the alternative health world. People are popping the fish oil right, left, and center. What is it all about? Does it deserve the street cred we're assigning it?

The Scoop on Omega-3
A lego house is made up of legos just as a fat is made up of fatty acids. Fatty acids are these zig-zaggedy molecules made up of carbon molecules and covered with hydrogens. There are different kinds of fatty acids, which means that the length of the carbon chain and the amount of hydrogens the chain is covered with are different.

Our body needs certain kinds of fatty acids to do certain things. Just like you can't use a screwdriver to cut wood, you can't use lauric acid (one type of fatty acid) to do what linoleic acid (fatty acid) is supposed to do.

For the most part, our body can synthesize (break down other fats and make new ones out of them) all of the fatty acids we need, EXCEPT for two of them. Omega-3 and omega-6. The names describe their chemical structure. We call these essential fatty acids, or "EFA"s. Here's a picture of an omega-3 fatty acid (below). Note zig-zaggediness.

Because we can't make them, we have to eat them. Back before the dawn of McPhlegm's (what my father taught me to call McDonalds since a young age), omega-6 was rarer in our diet, and so we ate a ratio of about 1:2 (omega-6 : omega 3). We have a limited capacity to convert omega-3 and omega-6, so any amount of omega-6 that we eat over the 1:2 ratio will cancel out any omega-3 that we eat.

Everyone is flipping out about omega-3 because the standard diet in our country provides a ratio of about 30:1 (omega-6 : omega-3)! As a result, much more omega-6 is converted than omega-3, creating widespread omega-3 deficiency.

Omega-3 is used in positive body functions like lowering blood pressure, decreasing blood clotting, immune regulations, building cell walls, nerve transmissions and allergic responses. Omega-6 (from many vegetable oils and meat) promotes inflammation and clotting. This is why people who have heart disease or have a risk of heart disease are told "eat more omega-3!". Studies show that a host of other conditions can be reduced or prevented by regulating omega-3 consumption.

So does omega-3 deserve the attention we are giving it? YES! Are you being ripped off by products that say "Rich in omega-6"? Yes!

Plant foods that contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids are chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. Fish are also high in omega-3s. The recipe below is my strategy for filling up on omega-3, which is really tasty.

Omega-3 Strawberry Milkshake
1 whole banana
handful  (or two) of frozen strawberries
2 tbsp ground flax seed (whole if you have a vitamix or powerful blender)
2 cups hemp milk (unsweetened)
6-8 drops liquid stevia extract

Put all in blender and blend the heck out of it. Drink it and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chickpeas with Apricots

This recipe was inspired by an old housemate who made this for our house one time, and it blew my socks off it was so good. I made it last night for me and my partner, and it it still that good. He is a full blown meat eater, and declared halfway through the meal that it satisfied his meat craving. I knew at that moment that I had to share it. As I advocate for this "whole-food, plant-based diet," I am going to share recipes to go along with it. Make this for family and friends.

Chickpeas with Apricots
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped small
2 cans cooked chickpeas
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2-3 small ripe red tomoatoes, chopped
1/2 lb dried apricots, quartered
1 tsp salt (if chickpeas are not cooked with salt)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp black pepper
Water or vegetable stock

Heat large pan on medium high heat (I used a cast iron). Add the oil and then the onions. Sauteé the onion for about two minutes, or until slightly golden. Add all the ingredients to the pan and stir fry together for about 3 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to medium-low. Add about a cup of water and let simmer, covered if possible, for 15-20 minutes. Add more water in the middle if it needs it. The apricots should be soft, and there should be no wateriness to it. I served it garnished with some fresh cilantro over brown rice (see below).

Steamed Brown Rice
makes enough for 4-6 people, ratios can be changed as needed (1 part rice: 2 parts water)

2 cups brown rice
4 cups water

Add brown rice and water to a pot with a lid. Bring to a boil with the lid on. When bubbling, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 30 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. While cooking, try not to remove the lid too often, as it disrupts the cooking process. Remove from heat and let cool for a moment without the lid on before serving.

Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cranberry Sauce, Whole Food Style

Every year I enjoy the creative challenge of remaking artery-clogging and blood sugar raising holiday food into whole food wonders. Cranberry sauce is perhaps the easiest thing on the table to make (15 minute cook time), and so tasty when you make it yourself. When it comes from a can, it is high in refined sugar, or other crazy lab-created sugars. Ocean spray canned sauce has "glucose" and "glucose-fructose" in it. My personal rule: If I don't know where it comes from, I don't want to put it in my body.

The other great thing about making your own cranberry sauce is that you can add spices, which enhances the flavor. Most commercial sauces don't have spices. They rely on sugar.

This recipe is as simple as they get. You can get creative with adding orange zest or whole cardamom pods. I like recipes that I don't have to make special preparations for, so this one worked well for me. I make it at 10:15 at night, along with roasted potatoes, baked apple and steamed bok choy, and had dinner on the table by 11:00 pm. We had cranberry sauce on EVERYTHING.

Super Simple Cranberry Sauce Recipe
12 oz of fresh or frozen ORGANIC cranberries (fresh is better)
3/4 cup honey (local/ organic where possible)
1 cup pure apple juice, no sugar added (or water+ the skin of one apple)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a pan. The water will not cover the cranberries at this point, but worry not. Bring to a boil and then simmer on medium high heat. Berries will start to burst. Stir to avoid volcano effect and sticking. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until cause starts to thicken. Store in the refrigerator and use within 5 days. I store mine in a jar and have it in my packed lunch all week long. Who says cranberry sauce is limited to the holidays?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eat Less Animal Products and Win Big

Americans eat a lot of meat. They love the stuff. Barbecue, bacon, chicken wings, chicken wings wrapped in bacon, fried chicken, pulled pork, hamburgers, tacos, meat lover's pizza, steak, roasted chicken, pork belly... In order to support this habit, some real sh*t goes down. I know you hear this argument from every angle and from every vegetarian soapbox in town, but leave that at the door for a minute folks, because this sh*t is legit. I'll keep it short and straight up. I even got down on some citations for your skeptical pleasure.

Animal foods are more energy intensive than plant foods to produce.
I found a published study of calculations concerning the US food system on The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. By two professors from Cornell College in Ithaca New York. Their findings are grim. They compare the projected long term sustainability of a meat-based diet vs. a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (fancy word for a vegan). They discovered that "...more than 9 billion livestock are maintained to supply the animal protein consumed each year (1). This livestock population on average outweighs the US human population by about 5 times." (2) In other words, "[t]he amount of grains fed to US livestock is sufficient to feed about 840 million people who follow a plant-based diet (7)."

Animal foods require more clean water.
Water is one of these so called "energy inputs." All across the board, the amount of water needed to produce animal protein is WAY higher than plant protein. To give you an idea: "Producing 1 kg of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing 1 kg of grain protein (8)." This figure will vary depending on what crop you are comparing.

Why does water matter? We're running out, quick. If you're interested in knowing more about the topic of water, watch the movie "Blue Gold" (linked to trailer). Clean water is precious. Let's use it for humans rather than cleaning shit out of cow stalls and growing corn that makes the poor cows fart, anyway.

Stop worrying about protein.
Worried about protein? The calculation includes an estimation that meat-eating Americans consume on average 112g of protein (2). The Recommended Daily Amount is 56g. That's twice the amount. People eating a plant-based diet average at about 89g per day. Not much to worry about, in other words.
So what, I have to be a vegan?
I'm eating Turkey at Thanksgiving, but the last time I had meat was one month ago. I'm saying EAT LESS MEAT, and you might save yourself some money, save yourself from a heart attack, make it less likely for yourself to get food poisoning, and ensure a slightly better future for those of us who have to be around in 2050. Check out the lentil and bean situation, and the whole grain paradigm. Watch Forks Over Knives if you're still skeptical.

FYI: They found that turkey and chicken were the most energy efficient of animal products (in a ratio of energy input to kilocalorie produced), lamb and beef being at the top of the list. The list included pork, dairy, eggs, beef, lamb, turkey and broilers (chickens for eating). Energy considered was direct energy (used to directly raise the animal), and indirect energy (energy used to raise the feed and other materials needed to raise the animals).

1. US Department of Agriculture. Agricultural statistics. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, 2001.

2. Pimentel, David and Marcia Pimentel. "Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. © 2003 American Society for Clinical Nutrition". <;postID=7011019466848487378>

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fats: The good, the bad and the ugly.

All the cell walls in our body are composed of fatty acids (the building blocks of fat). That means that the quality of the fat you take in directly effects the integrity of your cells. Being that your whole body is made up of cells, you can see how this might be a little important.

In this post I hope to spell out some basics about fats. I will make an attempt not melt your face off with a bunch of bio-chemistry terms. These are the bare essentials for your maximized fat-intake experience.

Number one: Many toxins and chemicals are fat soluble, and get into your body through the fats you eat. The toxic stuff in plastic is fat soluble, so keep fat and fatty things away from plastic. Many pesticides are fat soluble, and can bioaccumulate in excess adipose tissue (translation: the stuff that kills insects on your food likes to hang out in your fat). Non-organic oils (think McDonalds french fries) are subject to whatever pesticides are dumped on the crops that year.

I'm talking about accumulation in human fat tissue, though this also happens in animals we eat. When we eat animal fats, there is an ever higher concentration of toxins than in plant oils. Were these chemicals as safe as the people with their pockets full of our money are saying, that would be well and good. What's I'm sayin' is- lets get low on the food chain so we don't end up in a hazardous waste dump. These chemicals are yucky and they can mess you up. Fish is the worst offender of the bunch- especially farmed fish and fish that eat other fish that eat other fish (the chemical snowball effect).

Number two: Neal Bernard, MD has written extensively about food addictions. According to this legit dude, fat is pretty addictive. So is sugar. They release opiates in our brain that chill us out and make us happy. This sounds great- but it ends up a lot like heroin- you just can't stop. Access to endless amounts of refined fats was never supposed to happen.

Over-consumption of refined fats (anything that went through a process and is more concentrated as a result) can exacerbate menstrual symptoms. Especially women who have a high risk of breast cancer (past history in the family, history of HRT, history of radiation or chemical exposure) will benefit from reducing refined and low quality fats in their diet.

Number three: Bad quality or rancid oil sucks. It can cause cell damage and accelerate aging, because they contain "free radicals" (a highly reactive part of a molecule that can cause the DNA damage). Basically, it adds to the stress level in your body, which is already maxed out in most people.

Fat becomes rancid when exposed to heat, water, light, and air. So if you're someone who stores your oil in an open container next to your stove (which is a hot place), it's time to rethink the situation.

Being a good steward of your fat products is important. Store your unrefined, extra virgin, first cold pressing, organic, plant based oils in sealed amber jars in the fridge. At the very least keep air and water out of the bottle and store it somewhere dark. Nuts and seeds also like being in cold, dark, dry places. Again, if you're really into it, nuts do best in the fridge. From my experience, walnuts and pecans are especially quick to go rancid. You can even keep larger amounts in the freezer.

By "whole food," I means foods that have not been refined or processed from their natural state. Personally, I advocate for eating foods in their whole form as much as you can.

Getting enough of the right fats ensures good nervous system function and cell integrity. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are necessary for many important bodily functions. "Omega-3" refers to the location of the unsaturation point (the place where the molecule lacks a carbon), and determines how the molecule bends into its final shape. The shape determines how it can be used, and how it will interact with other molecules.

Whole food fat sources; avocadoes, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, mackerel and other wild-caught sustainably fished fish, spirulina and chlorella.

Oils: Coconut, olive and sesame.

Whole Food Fat Recipes:
Chocolate "Frosting"
1 large avocado
2 heaping tablespoons of raw cacao powder or regular cocoa powder
10-15 drops of stevia extract, or 1 Tablespoon raw honey (more if desired)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
fruit as a topping (raspberries rock my world), or fruit to dip in the "frosting"

Combine everything in food processor and process. Eat. Om nom.

Chia Porridge
2 Tbsp Chia seeds
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup hemp milk (unsweetened), or other nut milk.
vanilla extract
10 drops of liquid stevia extract
fresh peaches or frozen raspberries

Soak chia seeds in water overnight, stirring as your combine them. In the morning, stir chia seeds throughly and add in everything else.

Flax Pudding
1 handful of whole flax seeds (soaked or not)
1 banana
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1-2 tsp fresh grated ginger
9 drops liquid stevia extract OR raw honey
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
dash of sea salt

Blend all ingredients in a high powered blender (Best results with a vitamix). Add more water if necessary. Eat with fresh fruit for breakfast or dessert.

Flax Honey-Mustard Dressing
1 handful of flax seeds
2 tbsp mustard (I made mustard from scratch with flax seeds recently, which is fantastic)
1 tbsp raw honey
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water if needed to thin it
pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients well in a high powered blender (preferably a vitamix, to grind flax seeds to a small enough size). This dressing is great on everything.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Less Tootin' Tea

Confession: Recently I've been having a tooting problem (translation: farting problem). Not only were they of the SBD (Silent But Deadly) persuasion, but they may have killed small rodents if trapped in a confined space. This may have been acceptable still, but for their frequency. I chose to laugh rather than crumble away and slip into the 5th dimension from embarassment. However, the situation became dire quick. Being a teacher, I couldn't let my students associate a rotten egg smell that could be used for chemical warfare with the English Language. Something had to be done. So, I made some tea fit for emergency:

Less Tootin' Tea
(note that I love flexible recipes)
3 tablespoons dried peppermint leaves, or 3 peppermint teabags
1 tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds (not crushed if you're lazy like me)
3-5 strips dried ginger, or 1-2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger if you don't have dried root pieces.

Put all ingredients in a large tea strainer, or directly into the pot with another straining method available. Pour hot water over the top (I made about a quart with the aforementioned ingredients this morning), and let sit, covered, for 15-30 mins. The tea should be dark brown, and stronger than your average tea (note the word choice of "emergency"). Drink one full cup now, and save the rest in the fridge, or take it to work in a thermos (as I did the morning). Drink up to 5 cups that day. You should see a difference after the first cup.

This recipe is good for other digestive complaints as well. These three herbs combine to help indigestion, heartburn, IBS, the toots and a overly large or rich meal sitting heavy in your stomach. Or if you want an after-dinner tea, you can make it less strong and enjoy it every day.

More about tooting that everyone should know:

1. The major causes of tooting:
- Not chewing enough or swallowing too much air
- Food allergies (esp. gluten, dairy (lactose intolerance))
- Potentially gas-causing foods like kale and cabbage
- Consuming beans, especially ones not cooked correctly. In this case, bacteria in our gut digest the indigestible bonds in the carbohydrates that we don't have the enzyme for, and the biproduct of the reaction is gas.
- Flora imbalance (the wrong bacteria hanging around)
- Candida yeast overgrowth.
- Stress can combine with any of these causes and make them worse. It's possible that you always eat beans and tooting isn't a problem. Then one day you're stressed AND you eat beans... well you know the story.

2. Different kinds of tooting
- Regular, voluminous and loud farts are not as smelly, and not necessarily bad. Everyone farts daily, and its part of a balanced system.
- SBD farts tend to be the product of bacteria, and are hot (heat being a biproduct of the bacterial reaction) and silent when they make their exit. These are the MOST smelly of them all, because the bacteria make crazy smell compounds (usually short chain, volatile gases.) It is these farts that indicate something may be wrong.

3. Advice for the chronic tooter:
- Make the tea above as a quick fix to buy some time to make your next move.
- Discover the cause by making changes and observing results. For example- stop eating gluten for 3 days and see if the toots stop. Stop eating cabbage and kale. Stop eating dairy. Stop eating beans. Chew your food really well.
- Invest in some probiotics to help the right bacteria grow in your gut. I always recommend the same brand, because many probiotics don't even work, and I KNOW that this one works from personal experience.

3. Are farts really flammable?
Yes, according to this website, one in four people who attempts to ignite their fart gets burned. Don't try this at home.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guide to Treating Yeast Infections Naturally

(Men, I will include a section on male yeast infections in here as well)

Vaginal yeast infections can be identified by severe itching, opaque white vaginal discharge, a funky smell, moist and hot conditions, and redness and swelling in the vaginal area. Note that you can have bacterial vaginosis OR a fungal yeast infection, which have slight differences in the way they are treated. If you have recurring infections, and you have good health insurance; consider getting a swab test to see exactly what you're dealing with. The guide here is for treating fungal infections, NOT bacterial infections (though some treatments are the same).

People who have taken a lot of antibiotics or pharmaceutical medications, have a lowered immunity due to stress or environmental factors and eat a lot of sugar will have the highest risk of yeast infections.

From my experience, the weird pharmaceutical medications that they have for yeast infections are overly intense, too expensive and only effective temporarily. Thus, I think this is a topic worthy of some specific attention. I will outline some immediate treatments, and then talk about overall prevention/ treatment.

Immediate Treatment

1. Air it out
This can stop a yeast infection in its first stages, when a slight itch appears. Don't wear underwear to bed, especially in the summer when you can lie above the covers and have lots of air reach it. This is an often overlooked remedy, though it has been my go-to remedy lately, and I have been incredibly surprised by the results.

2. Boric Acid powder in vegetable capsules, inserted as a suppository (up there)
This is the best single immediate treatment for an advanced yeast infection that I have encountered. It has been effective with me and most people that I've talked to who have tried it. Fill up the large vegetable capsules (available at your local health food store, or online in a place like Mountain Rose Herbs) with boric acid powder (found at a pharmacy like Rite Aid, or on the internet). Make several and keep them around for later. Push 1-2 all the way up your vagina with your finger before bed. Wear thick underwear, as it will all leak out overnight. Use this treatment up to 3 night in a row. If this treatment doesn't work or makes it worse, you may have Bacterial Vaginosis, in which case you should cease this treatment at once. You can get a swab test at the doctor's office if you suspect you may have bacterial vaginosis.

3. Apple cider vinegar or organic white vinegar, dabbed on externally.
This is the best treatment for itching symptoms that I have personally used. You can dilute it with some water and put it on a wash cloth. Dab it on the red and itchy areas to reduce itching. This can be combined with an antifungal tea, such as goldenseal. You can do this as often as you need to.

4. Black walnut hulls, encapsulated powder or tincture, taken orally (2 capsules 3x/day or 2 droppersful 3x/day for 10 days.
This treatment is good to support your entire body in ridding itself of yeast. Sometimes yeast overgrowth in your vagina is a sign of yeast overgrowth all over. If you're getting cloudy and craving sugar, this can be a good idea. You can also find herbal formulas for yeast infections.

5. Coconut oil, topical
Coconut oil is antifungal and can reduce itching. This is especially effective if it is a dry and hot infection. Get a spoonful and apply with finger. It will melt on contact with the skin.

6. Probiotics, encapsulated, taken orally or as a suppository (50-200 billion organisms/day)
Renew Life has a probiotic specifically for vaginal support that I highly recommend. If they are NOT enteric coated (see bottle), you can use it as a suppository, otherwise take it orally. Whatever you take, pay attention to the number of organisms; 5 billion/capsule is considered a low dose, 50 billion/capsule is on the higher end. If I had a serious yeast infection, I would take at least 2 per day of the 50 billion capsules, even though it says to take only one per day on the bottle. Through my own experimentation, I have found high dose probiotics to be one of the quickest things you can do to put your body on track. I highly recommend doing a course of probiotics (go through the whole bottle taking a high dose each day until its gone) periodically, even if you don't have yeast infections. I do it 3-4 times a year.

6. Air it out
This can stop a yeast infection in its first stages, when a slight itch appears. Don't wear underwear to bed, especially in the summer when you can lie above the covers and have lots of air reach it. This is an often overlooked remedy, though it has been my go-to remedy lately, and I have been incredibly surprised by the results.

An Anti-Yeast Lifestyle
1. Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Sugar feeds yeast. It's as simple as that. Even fruit counts here. Most of the time when you have a yeast infection, the yeast will actually facilitate sugar cravings in you, so it may be even more difficult to avoid sugar when you've got an overgrowth. However, I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Eat foods with lots of garlic and spices. Eat yogurt and saurkraut. Eat lots of greens.

2.  Reduce intercourse when symptoms are bad.
Intercourse can cause yeast infections, and make them worse. Friction on the walls of the vagina can expose dormant yeast cells and trigger overgrowth. Be aware that men can get penile yeast infections from having unprotected sex with women who have vaginal yeast infections. See the herbal recipe below for a treatment for that.

3. Get sunlight and fresh air.
This applies to the vaginal area too. Yeast doesn't like sun or fresh air, but your healthy bacteria do.

Anti-Yeast "cocktail"
     for male or female yeast infections
(inspired by Rosemary Gladstar's recipe)
1 quart water
1/2 tsp part goldenseal or oregon grape
1/2 tsp part Pao d'arco bark
1/2 tsp part marshmallow root
2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup yogurt (optional)
1 tiny drop of tea tree oil or diluted oregano oil

Bring herbs to a boil in cold water. Turn off heat when it begins to bubble and let sit for one hour, covered. Add ACV just prior to use. Making a double recipe of tea might save you time if you needed to do it again.

For a penis soak: Put mixture into a glass or bowl and dangle penis and testicles into the bowl for 5-10 minutes. Repeat this daily until symptoms disappear. Give it air.

As a vaginal douche: Fill the douche bag with the tea. Lay in the bathtub with your pelvis elevated and let the tea in. Let it sit inside for a while, and then release it. Repeat once or twice a day, depending on the severity of the situation.

COMMENTS: I do not accept comments for the post. Because of the subject material, I received a high volume of spam comments, and thus decided to selectively disallow comments on this particular post. I'd love to hear your comments on any other post here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Roadblocks on the Way to Better Eating

People know that they should "eat better" to be healthy. We may be arguing over the particulars of what is "healthy" until we all become enlightened breathairians, but the basics are obvious. Michael Pollan says it well: "Eat food (real food). Not too much. Mostly plants." If so many people know this, why aren't they doing it? Having spent years after my plant-eating-enlightenment bothered by this question (and secretly enjoying observing people's behavior like an anthropologist), I have some findings to report.

1. Most people don't understand the extent to which diet effects your health.
Folks... It's a big deal. Mainstream society has managed to create a brainwashed stupor, ignorantly denying that food has anything to do with rising rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Truth is, diet can make a huge difference, and it makes a bigger difference when you start thinking about it BEFORE your first heart attack or you've got diabetes.

2. Most people are surrounded by other people who are eating unhealthy foods, and thus it's antisocial to make alternative food choices.
Everyone LOVES to drag you down to their level of consciousness and project their own shame onto you. They must corrupt you, who has so evilly decided to do something good for yourself, by ostracizing you for your new choices or trying to coax you back to the dark side you by waving donuts in your face. It's amazing how things can revert to elementary school in such short order.

3. Most people don't care about themselves or their lives enough to want to be healthy.
They may appear to love themselves, but most of us are self-conscious wrecks, unsure of who we are or what we're doing here. At a certain point, people become disillusioned and may not want to live anymore at all. If you subconsciously don't want to live, you're not going to go out of your way to live longer.

4. Most people are addicted to the foods they eat, and thus changing their diet is more like breaking an addiction than a casual walk in the park.
Dr. Neal Bernard is an MD famous for his research on the addictive qualities of certain foods based on the neurochemical cocktail they serve in your brain. He found that sugar, chocolate, meat, gluten and dairy all produce an opiate or opiate-like effect in the human brain. Dairy, for example, actually contains morphine (a highly addictive opiate)  (50). Apparently it is made in the cows liver and provides incentive for calves to keep calm and keep drinking. On the topic of meat, Dr. Bernard mentions something that shell-shocked me in his book "Breaking the Food Seduction", : "An April 2000 survey of 1,244 adults revealed that about one in four Americans wouldn't give up meat for a week even if they were paid a thousand dollars to do it." (62) In other words, there are chemical addictions at play that can make it super hard to quit eating those things. The process is no easier than quitting cigarettes. Over-consumption of sugar, meat, gluten and dairy is the biggest contributor to the major chronic diseases of our time.

5. Most people think they don't have the money, time or energy to eat healthy food.
Many people may not consider the healthcare bills they have as a food cost, but in a way they are. Preventative health is cheaper, and sometimes that means spending a little extra on better food. However, there is a lack of education and empowerment among people with less wealth around health issues. It is the impoverished population in America that has the worst health problems. Diabetes is a big issue among that demographic, which can be prevented, improved and sometimes cured by the right diet choices.

6. Most people think "healthy" food tastes bad.
According to Dr. Neal Bernard, our taste buds have a three-week memory. In other words, the first three weeks in which you are eating things that are decidedly different from your normal diet (ie. not heavy in fat, sugar, dairy, gluten and salt), it's probably going to taste like crap. You won't feel satiated. You'll have the kitchen wanders (ie. open fridge door, close fridge door, walk in other room. Repeat.). That's why it's important to give yourself at least three weeks to try it out. Once your tastebuds are retrained, vegetables seem like the best thing in the world. You might think I'm off my rocker for this, but the last few days the only thing that's sounded good to me is straight up raw greens. I had a green smoothie for lunch and dinner today (1/2 banana, some cucumber, ginger, kale, parsley, cilantro, apple, spirulina and stevia) because I WANTED it. On top of that, I gave up sweeteners for stevia in the last month, and now even the thought of maple syrup is repulsive to me. Of course at first, I felt like I could punch someone for some chocolate cake.

7. Most people don't know what it feels like to be really healthy, and thus don't know how much better life is when you are.
As you are exposed to more years of the Standard American Diet (SAD), you gradually fall into unhealth and get used to its debilitating side effects--less energy, less mobility, lower mental clarity--and forget what it feels like to he healthy. From personal experience, when I eat healthy food I feel like a superhero-ninja-warrior who could kick a villain in the head and put him out cold, and hug 300 people in a half an hour. When I don't eat healthy food, I'm in the same boring and irritable rut as everyone else.

8. Most people (especially Americans) feel entitled to do whatever they want.
 Food is part of this. If someone tells them not to eat a hamburger, that is a personal assault on their individual freedom. Rather than seeing the love or care in a friend or loved one encouraging better diet choices, they get angry and swirl into a fit of egoistic self-righteousness and go scarf a Crap-In-The-Box hamburger.

9. Most people that want or need to make a diet change are ashamed of what they are eating, which brings up trauma every time they are faced with the idea.
When humans are experiencing trauma, the typical response is fight (argue that it's not true/ defend our choices) or flight (change the subject). Having gone through various stages of being "the crazy girl who eats funny," I have had a lot of conversations with people about food and health. When people discover that I eat a healthy diet, it is as if I have personally insulted their eating choices. "Well, I could never do that..." or "I seem to be doing just fine with what I'm eating..." or "But isn't that hard? It's not really realistic for the rest of us." or "I had a cousin who was vegetarian, and he didn't do too well." If people were feeling secure about what they are eating, they wouldn't feel so offended by my choices. People are just trying to justify what they know isn't working for them, and they don't have the strength to change.

The point of this post is not to discourage you, but to make you aware of the complexity. Rather than getting mad and frustrated when you try and fail, better to take the attitude of "good on you for trying" (says the guy from the movie 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead' who cured his Urticaria and obesity by fasting on fresh fruit and veggie juice for 60 days). Remember that life is precious, there is love and beauty all around us, and making the whole food switch could change your whole life for the better.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

6 Reminders to Myself and the Entire World

(Warning: What follows is a dramatization. It is intended to make you smile.)

Babylon refers to all places where people do bizarre things like roll around in metal containers pushed forward by dinosaur goo, loot stores of superfluous items using a rectangular plastic talisman, and intently worship a god that can only be accessed on the other side of a 3" piece of glass that sometimes vibrates. Living and working in this strange land where people clothe their feet and put chemicals on their floors has changed me, my writing style, and my approach to integrative health. It's been a fascinating journey into the heart of the urban jungle. It is these 6 things that bottomline my ability to survive in this wild place.

Eat Salad
I put this first because sometimes it is all I can do in an insane world. When everything else fails you- salad is always by your side. It takes care of you, and it cares about you. Treat it like a sweet, sweet teddy bear. Remember, you can even eat it for breakfast.

Laugh More than is Socially Appropriate
Laughter is what comes to me when I reach the end of my rope--when things have gotten so out of hand that there is nothing else to do. It can solve anything. I recently laughed so hard at a mediocre joke that it was nearly dangerous. At the same time as nearly suffocating, my soul felt a billion times lighter. Special thanks to Sacha Baron Cohen, and to ESL students that make hilarious and endearing mistakes in their English.

Smile at Strangers
They like to smile back, and sometimes it comes with perks. Two days ago in downtown Portland, a homeless man (who was clearly the boss) was pointing at strangers and shouting "You're fired!" When he fired me in the middle of a crosswalk, I smiled at him and he immediately revoked his statement. "Wait- you're hired!" I am happy I get to keep my job working for this shoeless man with a skateboard.

Remember Why You Appreciate the People You Love
And don't be shy to tell them. For how much criticism people deal with, a little positive somethin' here and there won't hurt. The smallest things are sometimes the best. "It makes me feel so special when you leave mock world domination threat notes to my Super-hero Alter-ego in my room."

Unpeel Your Face from the Surface of Your Smart Phone
Look at the sky, the people, the cars going by, your family and friends--the ground even! Let your mouth hang agape and stare at something like a 5 year old. Let your mind rest for a minute while you observe the other people on the bus.

Use Your Imagination
Have a mock Kung Fu battle on the sidewalk, begin to narrate your adventures in the third person using dramatic syntactic constructions... Not knowing they were being followed, they strutted down the sidewalk with confidence. Faces covered and knives ready, the ninjas attack.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Eat Greens

When I was a young girl, I would steal the parley garnishes off of everyone's plates. I loved the stuff. Some primal instinct was telling me to devour it. Green leafy vegetables keep me going even when times are tough and the buttery brownies tempt. There is something about them that satisfies a deep need in all human beings, and definitely make me feel like a superhero.

Here is a good list to start out with: kale, spinach, broccoli, green beans, bok choi, mustard greens, arugula, lettuce, spirulina, parsely, cilantro, mint, collard greens, chard, beet greens, etc.


Simple Green Salad: Serves 1 salad-hungry human
This salad can be thrown together in 5 minutes and is delicious and gourmet enough to feed guests. The herbs in the salad give it a good flavor profile, and excellent health benefits. Eat one of these every day. Add cooked chickpeas or cooked quinoa to give it more substance.

- a few handfuls of mixed baby greens
- handful of chopped parsley
- handful of chopped cilantro
- fresh herbs or wild greens if you have them in your garden (fennel, dandelion, chickweed, mint, dill, tarragon, chives etc)

- 1 Tbsp olive oil (good quality- look for extra virgin, first cold pressing, dark yellow color)
- a pinch or two of ground sea salt (or just salt, if you're not that fancy) This is a good time to break out the fancy spiced salts that you had no idea what to do with.
-  pepper if you like

Throw everything in a bowl and dress. Toss together and go for it.

Steamed Green Salad: Serves 1

1/2 bunch of kale/ collard/ chard

2 Tbsp olive oil (good quality)
1 Tsp Balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt

Bring a steamer to a boil on the stove and throw greens in. Steam for 5-7 minutes, until greens are soft but still dark green. Take them out, briefly splash some cold water on them and shake or squeeze the water out. A colander or certain types of steamers are good or this. Put the greens in a bowl, perhaps with cooked quinoa or steamed brown rice. Add dressing ingredients directly onto salad, or mix in small bowl ahead of time and toss into the cooked greens. This makes a good basic side dish.

Fistful of Kale:
Read directions carefully, as kale does not come with instructions in the store

1 bunch of kale

Grab bunch of kale with dominant hand and wield like you might a drumstick (chicken or otherwise). Stick face in kale and sever a sizable chunk with teeth. Macerate thoroughly and swallow. Repeat until primordial kale craving is satisfied. If driving or operating heavy machinery, do not block your vision while face is in the kale as it may become dangerous.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Love Yourself and Enjoy Life

As I was riding my bike today (at an incredibly leisurely pace), I noticed that the majority of people I passed had expressions that looked worn down and distracted. I notice this often all over the world. People crushed by life.

You might be wondering by now why a blog supposedly based on herbs keeps talking about all this other stuff. What it comes down to is that my journey as an herbalist has shown me again and again that how you go about life and your core beliefs are far more important than what herbs you're taking. I seek the full picture, which is far more powerful that drinking tea or going to the doctor/ healer. The core message of this blog is: Love yourself and enjoy life.

We are super focused on keeping people alive in this culture, without much regard as to what kind of life they are living. For example, billions of dollars go into cancer research, yet very little attention is paid to addressing the emotional and physical roots of the disease. We are letting our fear of death run the show, rather than our love of life. Why fear death when you're not loving life? If you're an avid revolutionary or a liberation seeker--try for a moment right now to completely accept the possibility of death. Make it less of a big deal and you've dissolved a huge amount of the primal fear that plagues us on a daily basis. Of course, the awareness of death also holds some import, as it protects us from basic events like falling off our bikes.

Consider what the world would be like if we knew how to live well, enjoy ourselves thoroughly, feel and process our emotions clearly and thoroughly, and ultimately be happy and content with who we are and the life we are living. My direct experience shows that the emotional state manifests in the physical body in nearly all cases. Truly happy and free people tend to be healthy, and when they are sick they are still happy.

I'm not saying we should stop cancer treatment, stop giving mosquito nets to Africa and cease our search for an AIDS cure. Those are all worthy conquests. AND there might be something more important than avoiding death. What about the life that happens in between? 

I see people everywhere plagued by the question: "Why am I here?" The answer is obvious. We are here to bring light to the world. Anyone that's seen Star Wars can understand what that means. How you do that will be totally unique to you, but the task is the same across the board. So, rather than worrying about getting cancer, figure out how you bring light into the world and do it. While you're at it, have a cup of tea.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Problem? No problem!

Those who consistently smile in the face of adversity are masters of the universe.

It's been a while since my last post due to my recent trip to Bali, Indonesia. Despite this tropical hiatus, I know you are all still super-heroes, living the best lives ever. I have returned supercharged, with some fresh downloads to share, so get comfy.

Today's post is getting right to the thick of things. Problems. We've got our pockets full of them, our ears full of them, our eyes full of them. At some point, the zombie-pocolypse is going to sprout from the seeds of those problems if we don't do something--quick.

Please re-read the italicized bit at the beginning of the post and take it in as absolute truth. What would the world be like if we just remembered to enjoy while all hell is breaking loose? Well... it would always be enjoyable! While we may not choose what happens; we have complete power in the perspective we take on it. Depression is simply letting your problems defeat you, letting the nagging thoughts of unworthiness and meaninglessness take hold like demons in your mind. Everyone has the potential to be happy, radiant human beings.

I am not saying that making this choice is as easy as flipping a light switch. If it was, this post would be one line: "Just choose happiness, for God's sake." However, reaching this universal happiness can take all out war on those demons that have taken hold, and deep inner power. These demons are things like "I'm fat," "Nobody likes me," "I am afraid of talking to people," "What if I die," "What if I make a fool out of myself," "I feel guilty," etc.

Get clear about what the demon is. Once you can name it, it already has less power. This is where your superpower of introspection comes in. You can hone it by getting to know yourself and how your mind works. All of these thoughts are crafty, and can hide in the guise of other things, convince you that you'll never vanquish it, or just distract you with something else (even as simple as sleep, or itching). Don't get caught up in these traps. Focus and go for the gold.

Now for the decisive battle. This is where that inner fire comes in. At first, it may be like a candle; but like all superpowers, as you practice you will slowly master it. This is the battle for your life, so fight for the light. Goalsetting is key to this operation, as it may take some swimming upstream to switch around some of these thoughts. Start small, work upward, be realistic. Some of the things you may find necessary: self-forgiveness, conquering fears, crying, getting anger out in a healthy way and laughing.

All sorts of fun imagery can contribute to your certain victory: Listen to epic battle music from Lord of the Rings while meditating, imagine yourself as a jedi in your everyday life, get an actual sword and have a literal/ figurative battle, hone your jaguar growl and scare the demon away with your ferocity (the car is a good place to do this), practice your mock kung fu, get a piece of clothing that is your "superhero costume" and wear it on days when you need it, cultivate a sassy inner voice that tells demons off with style ("Nu-uh you ain't gonna keep me from havin' fun today. Step off!").

The playful approach is much more enjoyable than stoically meditating or doing painful yoga for an hour in an attempt to fight depression. Lighten up! Have more fun! Play! It is the very loss of these things that has brought on so much darkness at this time. It's the people who are tickling their friends, wearing silly hats, singing to themselves in the car, buying people gifts for no reason and dancing in the streets that are the most vital.

The final step is to return from battle to your positive, radiant self no matter what the outcome. Focussing and dwelling on your problems feeds them and makes them stronger. Sometimes we give all our attention to our problems and cannot see anything else--like a self-induced black hole. Our minds convince us that having problems is comfortable, and that breaking out of them and being wonderful is scary and impossible. Accept that's not true and get on with it!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Human Race is not a Race

A spanish man once told me that during siesta the spanish sit and stare. Not talking to eachother, not sleeping, not reading... just staring.  A somewhat amusing image reminiscent of an artsy independent spanish film arose in my head; everyone symbolically wearing white on white couches and dissonant music playing in the background. Never having been a person that could just sit, I simply did not understand that it was possible in the same dimension I live in.

Meanwhile, I have been developing a technique as of late that I have shown several friends and some clients. It involves sitting on a couch and relaxing all of your muscles, internal organs, facial features, joints etc. for at least 5 minutes. This technique is built on the idea that healing occurs during the times you are unengaged, and that tension and stress can prevent normal functioning. I often recommend this to people with indigestion, PMS, stress or anxiety, insomnia, constipation, TMJ, back issues, digestive disorders of any kind, ulcers etc.

I was subconsciously taking the credit for inventing this "technique", until I was driving home today, exhausted from the most activated super-hero day I've had in a while, and the image of the spanish guy staring at nothing popped into my head. I reinvented the wheel.

Siesta is so key to keeping things running smoothly, especially to those of us who are high-strung, busy, anxious, full-on, fiery go-getters. In Japan, Cambodia, France and Spain I have experienced these types of rest-breaks, and the importance never really sunk in. America is one of the few countries in which we don't take breaks like this, and also where people struggle the most with overeating, stress-related disorders and constipation. If we don't give ourselves the time and space to process our reality--physically and emotionally--we end up metaphysically and physically constipated (in other words... "full of sh**").

How to Take a Good Siesta:
Sit in the most comfortable and supportive position possible. Laying down often leads to naps, which is a different can of worms. Sit and unfocus your eyes, let your belly go, open your teeth and close your lips, let your jaw go, let your face go slack, shoulders relax, thighs relax, hips relax, organs relax, eyelids droop but not close. Do this without music, T.V., books, conversations or any other distracting stimulus  for 5-10 minutes every day.

The Siesta Paradigm:
Do one thing at a time. If you are eating; eat. If you are reading; read. The world is not ending tomorrow, the human race is not a race. Slow down. I have been challenging myself lately to eat all of my meals with no other "doing" (no computer, no book, no "to-do list" writing). I appreciate my food more, I eat slower, I taste more, I eat less (because I notice I am eating), and I chew more. My mind is so active I was feeling useless and unproductive during mealtimes, but I have found it one of the most tranquil times. Sitting. Eating.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cleaning House for the Next Generation

I recently found myself on a two hour journey in the cab of a tow truck with a man from Centralia at the wheel. Among small talk about his three month old daughter, his life in Centralia, his church and his job offer to be an RV mechanic, he mentioned something that got me unsettled. His Peruvian wife was a cleaner for a hotel before she had the baby. He said that she quit the job when she got pregnant because they were worried for the baby. A little confused as to the connection and mainly assuming it was because of the physical labor, I asked why. The woman had two co-workers who had miscarried in the last year, and he knew it was because of the chemicals they use when cleaning. He didn't want the same for his wife, and was glad to say that their baby was healthy.

That heart-wrenching story got me thinking about worker's rights, but also about those cleaning chemicals. Do we really need them? How clean do things really need to be at the risk of birth defects and miscarriage? Is our obsession with hygiene taking its silent toll? I am interested to hear thoughts and experiences about this topic.

In the spirit of education, I would like to share some of my cleaning habits and tools that may help you get some of those chemicals out of your life.

White Vinegar
I use vinegar for almost all cleaning tasks in the house. We bought a 5 gallon jug of it at Target, and stuffed as many cedar boughs in it as possible (cedar is anti-fungal, we life in a house with a lot of mold). I pour some in hot water and mop, I pour it on the sponge when I clean the toilet, I put in in a spray bottle with essential oils (oregano, eucalyptus, tea tree, cedar) and water to spray countertops with. It is antibacterial and antifungal. Its acidity helps dissolve stuff. And... You can drink it.

Hydrogen Peroxide
Where there is mold, hydrogen peroxide is your friend. Make sure not to let it touch your skin if dilution is higher than 5%. (I figured that out the other day when I let 35% touch my finger tips and they turned white). It kills the living things it touches by creating an oxidizing chain reaction. If it touches something living, it foams. This is a great way to tell whether there is mold somewhere or not. I dip the head of an old toothbrush and scrub corners of things. It is a great alternative to bleach.

Enzyme based cleaners
Moldzyme and drain enzyme are magical. They contain enzymes that eat away at specific organisms' cell walls, and help them dislodge or die. Both are pretty much non-toxic (don't drink or bathe in it though). You can purchase these online, or at the local health food store.

Plastic Wool, Abrasive sponges
Elbow grease can replace intense cleaners that "cut grease" etc. Get something that can scrub.

Cayenne Pepper
Repels insects. Great if you have an ant problem. Remember to continue to replenish this. I mixed vinegar, hot water and powdered cayenne and wiped down my entire counter and cupboard with the mixture. Then, I sprinkled a line of cayenne as a barrier where the ants were entering. They no longer venture into my honey. Also, keeping the insides of cupboard clean and your honey jar rinsed is a great way of preventing this.

I avoid getting exposed to bleach at all costs, and would recommend this to any woman who plans on bearing children in the future. I also avoid fertilizers and pesticides like the plague. Note to everyone else, don't make us use these things, please.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Green Smoothie Addiction

Green smoothies are one of my favorite things to drink, and its one of those things that is good to be addicted to. Salad in a glass. As I have hinted at here before;  greens have the potential to really get you supercharged, super quick. Raw green leafy vegetables help digestion, improve blood quality, provide huge amounts of nutrients (Vit K, iron, calcium, magnesium and so on), alkalinize your body, are good for your teeth, are full of antioxidants, and don't bog your system down with a bunch of calories. Get as much of them in your diet as you can.

Green smoothies seem to have a reputation for being intense and reserved for health food fanatics only. I am guessing this based on the looks and comments I get when people see the color and taste some of the smoothies I end up with. The usual is a blender stuffed with kale and spinach and a banana to make you remember that its a smoothie. It doesn't have to be that way, and I recently discovered a piece of green smoothie paradise. This unlikely concoction is inspired by Ryan's "Ginger Sours" from The Cornerstone Café in Olympia, WA (on Franklin and 4th downtown if you haven't discovered this gem yet).

Greens on the Beach
1 cup pineapple juice (no added sugar, please)
1/2 cup water
1 handful cilantro
2-3 handfuls arugula
2 handfuls fresh or frozen mango (Ryan uses peaches sometimes)

Blend pineapple juice and water with greens on high until they are well broken up. Then add mango and blend until completely smooth. Yum! Leave the cilantro out or replace it with parsley if you are one of those people who despises it.

Cilantro is a great tonic for the blood and urinary system (including kidneys). A Japanese study right after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombing found that cilantro binds to heavy metals and removes them from your body. I eat cilantro all the time because I think it is one of the best things in the world. Arugula is great for improving blood quality, increasing energy, and improving digestion. Both are potent superfoods.

The Whole Food Dessert Revolution

I have always been an eat-dessert first kind of human. This has historically put me into some sticky situations with massive amounts of cake and ice-cream. If it wasn't for my revelations about whole foods, I'd probably be the size of Texas by now. My dessert binges always came with a sense of taboo and guilt. I knew that eating a whole bowl of ice cream wasn't the best for me, but my dessert alarm rings undeniably every day after dinner.

Two key catalytic realizations came to me in the past few years. One: I don't have to feel guilty about eating dessert. Two: I can make desserts that are more nutritious than all of the food some people eat for the whole day. This totally changed my idea of what dessert could be.

My approach to making sweet things involves using plant-based, nutrient-dense, whole foods that are unprocessed and uncooked where possible. Much of my inspiration has come from the raw food world (a movement where the majority of the diet involves whole foods that have not been heated in any way in order to retain maximum nutrition). Raw food desserts blew my mind by using nuts, dried fruit, raw honey and various other tricks to create decadent yet healthy creations. We are talking pecan and date pie crusts with coconut creme and cacao filling topped with fresh raspberries. Some raw foodists quip that in the raw food world, you really can eat cake for breakfast. A slice of raw cake is probably 40 times more nutritious than a bowl of captain crunch.

Here are two recipes for bite sized candy-like desserts that are storable and portable (if there's any left).

Whole Food Snickerdoodles
1 cup shredded coconut
3 tbsp almond butter (creamy is preferred)
1 tbsp honey (local and raw is the best)
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Superfood add-ons to supercharge the situation:
1 tsp mesquite powder (a superfood powder that has a creamy, sweet taste)
1 tsp maca powder

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until they adhere into cookie-dough like consistency. Roll into balls and serve. Store in the refrigerator. Feel free to experiment with measurements. I always eye-ball it.

Next is an old favorite that I always find myself trying to teach people at parties, but we get interrupted in the middle of the recipe and the transmission is never complete...

Elf Dirt Level I
This recipe looks like dirt, but is highly tasty. This means that elves must make it. The name was created a long time ago by someone I inherited the concept from. As you become more creative and adapt the recipe to your taste, you will develop your own flavor of elf dirt. It is amazing how no two people's elf dirt is the same.

1 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp raw honey
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
pinch of good salt
1/2 tsp powdered ginger

Put sunflower seeds into the food processor and process until as small as you can get them. Then, add the honey and oil and pulse until mixed. Then add all other ingredients. Roll into balls and store in the fridge.

Elf Dirt, Level II
This version of the recipe is for those more equipped or ambitious, who might have some of these ingredients around already. It is important to me to have accessible recipes (above), but also be honest about what's really going on in my kitchen (below). This is my current embellished elf dirt recipe.

1 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp raw honey
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
pinch of good salt
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp spirulina (high in protein, chlorophyll and nutrients. Get this into your life asap.)
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp mesquite powder
pinch of cayenne
bit of natural vanilla extract

Grind sunflower seeds thoroughly in food processor. Add honey and oil, process. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until fully mixed. Roll into balls. Journey to mystical lands.

Friday, February 24, 2012

One Step Closer to Liberation

One minute it's flaxseed meal, the next minute it's stem cell implants, and the next it's eating like cave-men. Whatever it is at the moment, everyone jumps on the bandwagon with dogmatic gusto without much regard for the bandwagon that they jumped from. If that sounds totally absurd, that's because it is. We get faithfully sucked up in these single solutions one a time and can't integrate anything to save our lives.

A "panacea" is a remedy for all diseases, or a "cure all." Most of us are instilled with this quest for the holy grail of solutions that will make it so we can all live forever, not have any problems or sicknesses, never be in pain, and never have to lift a finger or change anything. Sounds boring, drugged, lame, bland, repressed, and depressing. No room for growth, no room for mistakes, no consequences, no rewards, no fears, no stimulus, no excitement. People often ask me for miracles that won't take them any effort, and I find myself afraid to mention anything that would involve any sort of discomfort. There isn't space to have the conversations that really matter.

Here's the deal: If you really want to be a super-hero and live a radiantly fantastic and awesome life, you might have to step out of your comfort zone and lift that proverbial finger. You have full permission and ability to do exactly that at any moment. I highly encourage a daily dose of gumption and willingness to jump into the unknown. You and no one else (especially not me), must embark on this path. Your boyfriend/ dog /wife / mother/ son/ teacher/ therapist/ teddy bear/ author of favorite blog can support you in the process, but you've got to open the door, and you can do it.

What you don't see when you see me jumping around like a blissed-out 4-year-old is time I have spent ferociously conquering my fears and crying my eyes out to beat emotional repression. You don't see the hard, uncomfortable work I've put in to forgive myself, let go of self-judgement, break free of societal molds and flower into exactly who I am, doing exactly what I need to do.

You can choose to keep living with the wild hope that some panacea will save you (reminiscent of the Bible), or you can hike the do-it-yourself salvation plan.

Let's get clear. You have permission to dance in elevators, to yell at the top of your lungs, tell people what you really think rather than what they want to hear, write love letters to strangers, scream, ask for support, literally burn things that don't serve you, cry for no reason, do a job you love, choose to love the job you're doing, forgive everyone who scarred you in your childhood, drive somewhere random and get totally lost, be late for things, laugh really loud, draw cartoons even though you're not good at drawing, rest when you need to, cook with things you've never heard of before and eat it even if it doesn't taste good, burn dinner, talk to yourself, rehearse your award acceptance speech in the shower, plan elaborate events and have no one show up, buy 5 pounds of spirulina and eat it by the spoonful, offend people on accident, talk in weird accents, tell stories that make no sense, sing in the shower, listen to the smarmiest music ever and lay on the floor with all the blankets and pillows in the house. Whatever you choose to do with this radical freedom to do exactly what you need to do to be you, forgive yourself--for God's sake.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Making and Using Herbal Tea

Simply said: tea is an ancient concept. We have had tea as long as we've had tools to make it. All herbal medicine systems in the world make some sort of water-plant preparation. Tea can be weak and gentle, and it can be strong and powerful. It is versatile and adaptable, and incredibly effective at getting healing done when it needs to.

Dry herbs are most commonly used for tea, because water can enter the empty cells easily and extract the good stuff inside. For the most part, fresh herbs do not yield as much medicine because their cell walls are already filled with water and therefore allow less water into their cells for extraction. However, some herbs are better fresh, like chickweed. Some herbs must be dry for them to have an effect, like mullein leaves. You can dry your own herbs by hanging them in a dark, dry place, or laying them out on a horizontal screen. Dehydrators with low settings speed up the process and prevent mold. Avoid exposing the herbs to light, heat or water. Smell check them for mold before storing them. Store in immaculately clean and dry jars in the dark (or in amber jars). 

There are two methods for making basic hot tea:

Pour hot water over dry herbs in a mug or teapot, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Generally, the ratio is 1 tsp of dry herb per cup of tea, but it isn't rocket science. Strain herbs out with a metal tea strainer when ready, or use a french press. This method is most often used for leaves, flowers and other delicate plant parts. Ex: nettles, mint, dandelion leaf, plantain leaf, linden flowers, chamomile.

Cooling Infusion
  1 part dried nettle leaf
  1 part dried peppermint leaf

Lemon Verbena and Tulsi Infusion
The flavors of these two herbs (together or separate) are simply delectable. They make you feel good, and are a great combo when feeling melancholy. 
  1 part lemon verbena leaf
  1 part vana tulsi leaf

This mix will chill you out, ease the nervous anxiety and brighten your day.
  1 part chamomile flowers
  1 part lavendar flowers
  1 part lemon balm leaf
  1 part wild oat tops
  1 part skullcap leaf

Add 1-2 tablespoons of dry herb per quart of cold water to a pot. Slowly heat and bring to a simmer over low heat for 10-20 minutes. The harder and more impenetrable the plant material, the longer to boil it. Decoctions can be made in larger batches and reheated throughout the day. Decoctions are appropriate for harder plant parts like roots, seeds and berries. Examples: Ginger, yellow dock root, dandelion root, licorice root, milk thistle seeds, astragalus, ashwagandha, devil’s club root, Oregon grape root, schizandra berry. Some herbs need to be simmered for them to have maximum benefit; reishi mushrooms, ginseng root and gingko leaf being among them.

Cold and Flu Season Decoction: 
Best for sipping preventatively during wet, dark months. Very earthy flavors that are grounding. Simmer for 30 minutes. Astragalus root and licorice root especially like to be simmered for long periods.
  1 part astragalus root
  1 part licorice root
  1 part Echinacea purpurea root
  1/2 part cinnamon

Decocted Herbal Chai
This is a great flavorful blend that has a lot of good digestive tonic herbs, which makes it appropriate for before and after meals to help with digestion. It is also incredibly warming, stimulating, earthy and tasty. Simmer for 20 minutes, and then add milk and sweetener if wanted. Invest in some good local, raw honey to have in your tea, as it adds huge healing benefits and feel-good properties.
  1 part cardamom
  1 part fennel (or star anise, or aniseseed)
  1 part cinnamon
  1/2 part licorice root
  1/4 part cloves
  1/4 part black pepper (optional- please don't torture yourself with it)
  1 part ginger (dried or sliced)

Add: Stevia, honey and/ or unsweetened hazelnut milk

Decoction of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
This recipe applies to any hard polypore fungus (artist's conk, red-belted conk, turkey tail, oregon reishi).  Reishi is a great immune tonic, is beneficial to the lungs and helps as a long term treatment for anxiety. Mushrooms as a whole love to be simmered in water for maximum benefit. Raw mushrooms don't do much for us because of the protective coating of chitin the mushrooms cells have that make it indigestible. Heating the mushrooms deconstructs the chitin.

  handful of sliced reishi mushroom fruiting bodies
  1 quart of water

Put the mushroom slices in cold water in a pot and set heat to low with the lid on. Let it simmer for 1-24 hours. You can add more water and boil more if you've drank the tea. Add licorice root if you need something to take off the bitterness.

Preparing herb mixes using recipes like the ones above:
The recipes above use "parts" rather than a static system of measurement so that you can make any quantity. The parts are measured in weight. You could make just enough for one batch, or pre-prepare whole jars of it. The measurement is not an exact science, so don't stress about it too much. Eye-balling works great.  Feel free to adjust the amounts as your tastebuds dictate. Pre-made mixes are good for mixes that you enjoy, or are for something specific you are healing.

Tea used as a medicine:
I imagine tea figuratively as the rainstorm that washes away disease. Tea is great for urinary problems, kidney problems, skin problems, internal infections, respiratory issues (bronchitis, chronic coughs), depression, constipation, any sort of stagnancy, lymphatic and blood cleansing, detoxification etc. You might receive a mix of herbs, or a recipe for a mix from an herbalist for with instructions to drink 3-4 cups every day. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Anxiety- Long Term approaches

Long term treatment of anxiety takes some deeper work, and more dedication. Act from a genuine want for a better and smoother life for yourself. The attitude of hating or resenting your anxiety feeds it, so having a loving, patient and positive attitude about it is a good place to start. Self love and faith are the best cure-alls for anxiety. If we love ourselves, and have faith that the world is going to be saved at the last possible moment, then there is no reason to be anxious.

Fear of making mistakes is often rooted in self-love issues. If we think we need to perform perfectly in order to matter, or "be worth something," anxiety is created around a situation in which you might make a mistake (ex. being late, forgetting something). It is important to be worth something, but your worth doesn't have to depend on your performance. You can choose to be unconditionally worthy of your existence. Fall in love with yourself. Write a love letter to yourself, take yourself out on a date, whisper "I love you" to yourself when you're alone, repeat "I love you" over and over and over to yourself in your mind, get smarmy with it. You are your most loyal fan.

Faith is equally key. Carrying around the assumption that life is going to be crappy is the very thing that manifests crappiness. "You get out what you put in" is indeed true. So, I choose to have faith that everything will work out no matter what. As I wrote earlier--the world will be saved at the last possible minute.

Giving  yourself permission to emote freely is also important to dispel emotional tension that can cause chronic anxiety. The need for emotional outlets have created art, sports, music, and dance. Unexpressed emotions can really fester inside, and create hatred and resentment. Our culture discourages a lot of emotions--even laughter is "inappropriate" at times--so giving yourself space to express them is revolutionary. There are many people who have so many backed up emotions that they feel numb. This also shuts out emotions like love and wonder. Living is rather dull without those! For those people, start with laughing, and really let yourself go for it. Try to find some time alone when you won't feel self conscious. Find a comedian on youtube, or just fake it til you make it.  My experience tells me that laughing is one of the strongest emotions, and can shake loose and exorcise all sorts of things. You may find yourself crying while you laugh. Run with it.

Herbs for Long-Term Anxiety Treatment
Drink these teas several times a week.

Decoction of Adaptogens for Anxiety
1 part ashwagandha root
1 part rhodiola root
1 part licorice root
1 part reishi mushrooms (pre-sliced is best)

Put a handful of herb mix in a quart of water in a pot on the stove (reishi may need to be added separately), and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Drink throughout the day, reheating as needed. I add more water throughout the day. The more you simmer the reishi, the better. I will post about making reishi tea soon.

Infusion for anxiety
2 parts tulsi leaf (vana tulsi is my favorite)
2 parts skullcap leaf
2 parts milky oat tops
1 part lemon verbena leaf

Put one teaspoon of your mix into a mug and cover with hot water. Cover the mug and let sit for 10-15 mins. This tea may have a sedative effect because of the skullcap. Put less skullcap to reduce that.

Here is a good place to buy bulk herbs online. You can also shop at your local herb shop that sells bulk herbs in jars.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Antibiotic Dilemma

There's a lot of awareness coming out these days about the fact that antibiotics--though they often save our lives and perform ridiculous feats of battle--may not be the best long term solution for illness. People are reporting feeling lowered immunity, digestive disorders, chronic yeast infections, allergies and all sorts of other things surfacing after taking strong doses of antibiotics. The truth is, bacteria are our friends, and it takes a lot of time and work to develop the complex community of them we have in our GI tract. It's basically a party in there, and antibiotics are the police that make everyone dash. No fun whatsover.

I admit they can be great. I have more than once had serious infections that had no other solution (that I knew about then), and have been very thankful to have such powerful technology. However, the new paradigm of medicine is upon us, and it's time we started to take antibiotics and their alternatives more seriously.

What are antibiotics?

When I say "antibiotics" I refer to a group of drugs intended to kill organisms in human beings. The most well known of these is penicillin, which is a defensive chemical made by a mold. This chemical is synthesized and concentrated and put into pill form. This is the basic platform for all antibiotics. Stronger antibiotics have been developed over time to make up for antibiotics resistance (when bacteria have figured out how to outsmart the chemical). The reason germs create resistance to them so easily is that there is only one chemical mechanism working, and so it only takes one bacteria that evolves (which happens quickly) to resist that chemical.

What do I do when I'm taking antibiotics to retain my vibrant health and well-being?

Antibiotics kill the beneficial bacteria that is everywhere in our body. Primarily, this effects digestion and absorption.  They are also incredibly taxing to the liver. Here are some things you can do to support your system:

1. Take strong, high quality probiotic supplements with antibiotics and a month after. After this, supplement your diet with probiotic foods. (Saurkraut, kefir, kimchee, kombucha, miso, yogurt etc. Beer does not count.) I recommend these probiotics, as I have taken them and know them to be effective. 50 billion organisms a day is the goal.

2. Support your liver. Herbs that are good for this are dandelion root and leaf (juice, tea, tincture), milk thistle (ground seed, tincture), oregon grape root (tincture or tea). Green vegetables are good also, especially arugula. Avoid alcohol (they mean it when they say it in the directions, so follow it), get adequate sleep, avoid other pharmaceutical drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen and skip the hamburger for now.

3. Take the whole round of antibiotics so that they are fully effective. Otherwise, you may end up with an antibiotic resistant infection, and need  a stronger dose. Taking two rounds is way worse than taking one- so make the one count.

Are there really alternatives?

Yes! It is a sensitive subject to give non-specific advice on, but my experience shows that herbs are incredibly effective against all types of infection. Infections are a great thing to visit an herbalist with. Again, the life-threatening ones should be treated by a doctor for safety reasons.

Quick response, keeping things clean (inside and out), supporting your body so it can fight the infection, taking antimicrobial herbs specific to your infection, keeping blood and lymph moving, avoid heavy excercise and other energy intensive activities.

When should antibiotics be used?

Take antibiotics only when they are really needed. Doctors can prescribe them for minor infections that can easily be treated in some other way. My rule of thumb for myself is that if it's going to kill me quickly, I go for the antibiotics. Otherwise, I treat it myself. However, I am an herbalist and have knowledge and resources available at a moment's notice. Measure your comfort level and resources, and see what's realistic. Understand the effect that they are having you and learn how to make informed decisions. From my experience, most medical doctors push antibiotics without offering alternatives, or explaining what is going on and why they are prescribing them. You must be assertive to get that information from them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anxiety- Short Term Approaches

For those of us who struggle with anxiety, we know how ever-present and unshakable it can seem. Overcoming it can seem overwhelming because it neatly straddles the emotional and physical. Many people ask me what herbs are the best for anxiety, and I always trip over the somewhat simple answer, because the real answer is: No single approach is going to dissolve it. For this reason, a multifaceted and intentional approach that encompasses a few different practices is the most effective way to move past your anxiety. This article is based on my personal experience with anxiety, and my own empirical "research", that has come out of a lot of theoretical research.

First, I'm going to go over some tools to use in the moment the anxiety hits.

I find my breathing going haywire when I'm stuck in worry consciousness. The best approach I've found is to do this simple breathing exercise:  Count to 4 slowly as you breath in. Hold your breath for four counts, exhale four counts. During the exhale, consciously relax your muscles. Visualize all of your tension as a yucky cloud rushing out and dissipating into something beautiful. On the inhale, imagine breathing in pure white light. Repeat this until your breathing deepens again and your body relaxes. This also helps me go to sleep when my mind is on hyperdrive.

These herbs are relaxing herbs that help you chill out in the moment. I will speak to long term anxiety herbs in the next section. Time to experiment, because there are choices. Some will work for you, some won't. These are the herbs I have worked with for myself. There are more than what are here.

Passionflower is a gentle relaxer, and I suggest it as a great everyday herb for super-anxious cases. It can make a super stressful time a more bearable, and yet doesn't leave you catatonic. Great for times of particular stress or tension. Tea or tincture. Combine with Lemon verbena or lemon balm in a tea.

Damiana is a tender emotional herb. It is an aphrodisiac in the romantic sense. You may find it making you feel cozy in your body. I can see it working great for some anxious cases where emotional turmoil is the main cause. Tea or tincture. Combines well with rose petals in a tea.

Valerian is a strong sedative herb. However, some people find that it amps them up. Try it out to see if it works for you. Use this for the serious times when relaxing seems impossible. If you struggle with severe tension and things like TMJ, this could be a great herb for you. Also great for insomniacs. Tea or tincture. I use the tincture often. In a tea, it is great combined with lavender.

Chamomile is very mildly sedating. It's a great tea to drink after a long day of work, right before bed. It has a stronger effect on some than others. It is also great for digestion. Many restaurants and cafés carry chamomile tea, so its a good thing to keep in mind when you're out and need some reprieve.

Reminder- rule of thumb for making herbal tea is: one teaspoon of dry herb in a mug, cover with boiling water, cover mug, let sit for 10 minutes and drink.

Some other herbs to look up are skullcap, milky oats and hops.

Shake it out!
If you're feeling overwhelmed with a plate full of intensity, go outside or even in a bathroom stall and shake it out! Dogs are a great model of this. It does a good job of shaking off the muscular tension that can linger all day, and getting the blood flowing to clean all those stress chemicals out. This is especially good if you get a hit of adrenaline- maybe you trip, or nearly get in a car wreck- give yourself a moment to move it through. If you're in the car, give yourself permission to make some loud noises too- totally therapeutic.

Create Calming Practices
Find the things that calm you down. Light a candle or incense, lay on your carpet and stare at the ceiling for a few minutes, sit down while you eat and close your eyes, walk outside and touch a plant, text someone to say that you love them, listen to calming music that makes your heart soar, write about it in your journal, meditate, do yoga, go for a run, have a cup of tea, read a book, make something crafty, cry, laugh really really hard, sing, dance when you're alone, take a bath by candlelight, prayer and so on...

Stay tuned for long term approaches

Vegetable Dip

I discovered a fantastically tasty way to eat an absurd amount of raw vegetables and call it a snack.

Onion breath dip
Onions are great for escorting colds to the door. Burdock is a cleaner-upper root vegetable from Japan. This dip is essentially an immune boost formula in food form.  Make this dip in the winter and have it on celery, as a condiment, dip carrots in it....

1 medium beet, chopped
2 inch piece of burdock root, chopped (leave out if you don't find this)
chopped 1/4 onion (purple, yellow or white)
a couple handfuls of parsley (or cilantro!)
two pinches of salt
1 Tbsp grated ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put all ingredients into food processor and get it going. Scrape off sides and keep blending until chunky, but uniformly smooth. Store in the fridge in an airtight container. Chew on some fennel seeds to get the onion breath down.