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Natural Pain Relief – Ginger

Natural Pain Relief – Ginger

gingerNatural pain relief will be a series of posts. Each post will cover one natural pain reliever. Not everyone will be able to use every natural pain reliever due to allergic or other adverse reactions.

Although everyone experiences pain at some time, as we age, we tend to feel it more often. Joint, muscle, neck, and back pain tend to become constant companions. While there are both prescription and over the counter pain relievers available, most of them may cause serious problems over time, when used continuously. As well, in the event of a long term disaster, you may not have access to prescription or over the counter pain relievers.

Natural pain relievers are generally safe, with no long term side effects. Allergic reactions are the number one side effect, so do not use any herb or other natural substance to which you know you are  allergic.

If you find one or more remedy that works well for you, most of the ingredients may be purchased in bulk for very reasonable prices. You may be able to forage some of these ingredients, if they grow locally. Many of the ingredients may be easily grown at home, either in pots or in your garden. Foraged and home grown ingredients may be dried for future use. Whether purchasing, foraging, or growing your own, make sure to stock up on what you need to make your own pain relievers.

Simple Drop Test For Allergies

If you aren’t sure whether you have an allergy to a remedy or ingredient, there is a simple test you can use. Rub a drop of a prepared remedy on the inside of your arm, at the elbow. Wait a couple of hours. If you are allergic to the remedy, you will get a rash.

To test fresh or dried individual herbs, simmer a small amount in water for 10 minutes, then allow to steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then proceed with the drop test.

To test essential oils, mix one drop of essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil, then proceed with the drop test. As a carrier oil, I recommend olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or camellia seed oil. Note this is a higher concentration than you would use in most remedies.

Caution: Any younger women, of child bearing age, should use caution when using natural remedies, as with any other medication, during pregnancy. Although generally safer than prescription or over the counter drugs, some natural remedies may not be safe for pregnant women. They, also, may not be safe for young children, so they may not be safe while breast feeding.

Ginger

Like the turmeric, which we discussed previously, when using ginger, you are using the root, or rhizome, of the plant. Unlike turmeric, ginger is very easy to find. Most grocery stores sell fresh ginger root, even in rural areas, like mine. Fresh ginger root may be frozen for later use. It’s, also, quite easy to find dried cut ginger and dried ground ginger.

Although I haven’t grown it myself, most resources say it is pretty easy to grow from the fresh root. The main problem with growing your own is the large quantity of plants you’d need to have, if you were to use ginger on a regular basis. If you live in a warm, humid, climate, you might want to give it a try.

Ginger Benefits

The phytonutrients, gingerols, in ginger are pain relieving, aid in conditions where swelling and inflammation occur, and can ease muscle soreness. Ginger supplementation is commonly recommended to relieve arthritis.

When you were young, did your mom or grandmother give you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach? It wasn’t just the carbonation that helped your little tummy feel better. The ginger was major factor, at least when those of us whom are older were kids. When I was young, ginger ale was still made with real ginger, rather than mostly flavoring, and contained far less additives. Besides being useful for painful conditions, ginger is antioxidant, relieves nausea and other digestive issues, and is great for easing cold and respiratory symptoms.

Ginger Dosages

There really isn’t much information available that gives actual dosages for use of fresh or dried ginger. It’s generally considered safe in the amounts a normal person would choose to use. One article I read, at Veterans in Pain, and another from University of Maryland Medical Center, state you shouldn’t consume more than 4 grams (about an eighth of an ounce) of ginger per day, in order to avoid gastric problems and irritation in the mouth.

Of course, if you are taking supplements, in tablet or capsule form, you should follow the manufacturer’s recommended dosage. Personally, unless recommended by a medical professional, I wouldn’t take a manufactured ginger supplement. Although the concentration may be higher in pills, fresh or dried ginger is easy to incorporate into your diet and you know exactly what is in your preparation.

Ginger is generally safe during pregnancy, although a maximum of 1 gram per day is suggested. Moderate amounts, between 1 and 2 grams per day, are, also, considered safe for children, although the University of Maryland Medical Center says it should not be given to children under the age of 2.

In tincture form, adults can take up to three dropperfuls, three times per day. As long as there are no adverse reactions, adults may use ginger tincture, for any of the ailments discussed above, as long as necessary. Children should not be give more than half that amount. For children, only use ginger tincture occasionally, for nausea or stomach bugs. Start with smaller doses, whether for adult or child use, and work up to larger dosages, if necessary.

If using ginger tea, the amounts are much more flexible. I’d suggest 3 to 4 cups per day for pain management.

If you regularly make smoothies or juice, a 1/2 to 1-inch piece of ginger can be added. If using tea for your doses, replace one of the cups of tea with your smoothie or juice.

I recommend choosing one of the above, when using ginger for pain management. If you choose to mix and match, other than making one of your cups of tea a smoothie or juice, make sure you stay close to the total amount you use for daily consumption.

When used in cooking and baking, the amounts of ginger you consume are negligible, so they don’t need to be counted towards any of the above methods of dosage.

Precautions (from University of Maryland Medical Center)

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken under the supervision of a health care provider, qualified in the field of botanical medicine.

It is rare to have side effects from ginger. In high doses it may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea, and irritation of the mouth. You may be able to avoid some of the mild stomach side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset, by taking ginger supplements in capsules or taking ginger with meals.

People with gallstones should talk to their doctors before taking ginger. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking ginger before having surgery or being placed under anesthesia.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with heart conditions, and people with diabetes should not take ginger without talking to their doctors.

DO NOT take ginger if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinning medications, including aspirin.

Possible Interactions

Ginger may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. If you take any of the following medicines, you should not use ginger without talking to your health care provider first.

Blood-thinning medications: Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.

Diabetes medications: Ginger may lower blood sugar. That can raise the risk of developing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

High blood pressure medications: Ginger may lower blood pressure, raising the risk of low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.

Obviously, if you show any signs of allergic or other reaction, discontinue use.

How To Use Ginger

I would suggest taking ginger in either tincture or tea form, for regular use in treating painful conditions and inflammation.

Ginger Tincture

Ginger tincture may be made using fresh or dried ground spice. Because fresh ginger is so easy to find, I suggest using fresh. (Fresh ginger freezes well, so get a bit extra so you will have it on hand.) I prefer fresh ginger mostly due to the fact it is much more difficult to strain your finished tincture adequately after using ground spice. There is, also, some controversy concerning dried spices losing some of their medicinal value. On a personal note, I do use dried spices when I don’t have fresh available and they seem to work fine in my finished tinctures.

To make a ginger tincture, you will need:
ginger, fresh or ground (you do not need to peel fresh ginger)
alcohol, vodka or brandy work well with ginger
large jar with tight fitting lid, for making your tincture (I suggest using a quart canning jar)
1-ounce, preferably dropper, bottles (this is an Amazon Add-on item) for bottling your finished tincture

If using fresh ginger, wash it well and allow to dry. Once dry, slice into thin slices. Fill your large jar about 2/3 full of fresh ginger, or 1/4 full of ground ginger. Fill the jar with alcohol to about 1-inch from the top. Put the lid on your jar. If your jar has a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap before putting the lid on. Shake your jar, then place it in a cupboard for at least 6 weeks. Shake the jar a few times a week.

After the end of the 6 weeks, strain the tincture and pour into dropper bottles, using a small funnel or pipette. Start a new batch of tincture, so it will be ready when you finish the previous batch. You can leave it brewing in your cupboard for longer than six weeks, so don’t worry about leaving it if you don’t need it yet.

Your strained and re-bottled tincture will retain maximum strength for about two years.

See dosage and precautions above.

Tinctures can be taken strait from the dropper or mixed in juice or tea.

Ginger Tea

Do you like a spiced tea, or do you want to get started taking ginger, but don’t want to wait until your tincture is ready? Ginger tea is an easy, immediate, way to start getting your doses of ginger. As with the tincture, you can use either fresh or powdered ginger to make tea.

Ginger Cinnamon Tea

I have a friend with severe back problems, which resulted in a lot of pain. He swears by ginger cinnamon tea. He mixes 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon into about 1 1/2 cups of water. He brings the water to a boil, then lowers the heat and allows it to simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. He removes it from the heat and allows it to steep for another 10 minutes. Sometimes he’ll add a teabag for the last 5 minutes. Other times he just drinks the ginger cinnamon tea as is. Once it finishes steeping, he pours the finished brew into a mug and adds honey. He doesn’t strain the tea. He drinks this simple mix 4 times a day: first thing in the morning, between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner, and at bed time.

He likes to make a full days worth each morning when he is working or will, for some other reason, not be able to make it by the cup. To do this, use four times the ginger and cinnamon, but use only 5 cups of water. Make the tea through the simmering stage, then pour into a thermos and screw the cap on. If you want to add tea bags, add four to the thermos, keeping the strings outside of the mouth. Let it steep for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags. Let it sit for another 5 minutes before drinking the first cup. If it doesn’t stay warm enough by the end of the day, you can re-warm it. Add honey to taste to each cup before you drink it.

He says it took about 2 weeks for it to really start working, but he has been pretty much pain free since then. He says he’s been taking the tea for about 4 years now and would never go back to either prescription or over the counter pain relievers.

Note: the doses are 8-ounce per serving.

Fresh Ginger Root Tea (made by the quart)

Grate about 1-inch of unpeeled ginger directly into a pot, so you don’t lose any of the juice. Add 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Pour 8-ounces into a cup and add honey and lemon to taste. You can pour the remainder into a thermos, as above, to keep it as warm as possible, reheating later if necessary. In the summer, it makes a nice refreshing cold drink, as well. Just add the honey and lemon to taste to the warm mixture, then refrigerate.

Whether hot or cold, drink in 4 8-ounce doses, throughout the day.

Notes:

You can strain the tea, or leave the grated ginger in it. Personally, I just leave the ginger in the tea.

Feel a cold or the flu coming on? Make fresh ginger root tea, double strength (use a 2-inch piece of ginger root), and use every 3 to 4 hours, within the first 24 hours of the onset of a cold or flu, to stop the virus in its tracks. This will not work once the virus takes hold, so make sure to use it when you first start to notice symptoms. Even using regular strength ginger tea for pain and inflammation, may cause some people problems using it during a full blown cold or flu. If the tea causes problems for you during a viral infection, use another pain reliever until you recover. Note: Ground ginger tea does not work for stopping a cold or flu.

Ground Ginger Tea

You can make this like my friend’s ginger cinnamon tea, using just the ground ginger. Add honey and lemon to taste. Personally, I would go with the ginger and cinnamon. It tastes wonderful and the cinnamon adds an extra anti-inflammatory boost.

Again, take in 4 8-ounce doses, throughout the day.

Fermented Ginger Tea Paste (works with Turmeric, too)

Ginger may work well for some people, but using fresh ginger may cause gastro-intestinal problems for them, so they don’t use it. Fermenting the ginger should alleviate these problems. (With turmeric, it will aid in the bio-availability of the curcumin, as well. If you wish to make turmeric paste, just substitute fresh turmeric root for the ginger root.) The paste is easily portable and may be stored for about six months in the refrigerator.

1/2 pound unpeeled, grated, fresh ginger, washed and dried
1/4 cup raw honey (I like Cox’s honey)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or whey
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind

Combine all ingredients in a quart jar with a lid (a quart mason jar works well). Cover loosely and allow it to sit in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, and stir every hour until the honey is thoroughly incorporated. Replace the lid, again covering loosely, and allow to sit for about 48 hours in a warm place. This paste won’t really bubble like other fermented foods. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes a thick paste. It will be about the consistency of a thick jam.

To use, add one teaspoonful to 8-ounces of hot (not boiling) water. As with the other teas, take one 8-ounce cup 4 times a day. (If using turmeric paste, add a dash of pepper.) You can, also, just take a teaspoonful, without diluting it in water, if you are a ginger fan, like me.

Note: If your kitchen is warm, you can leave the jar in a cupboard, or on the counter, out of direct sunlight. If you live in a cold winter area, just find a convenient place in the warmest room in your house. I live in an area where we get cold winters and I just heat my kitchen area enough to keep the pipes from freezing. My water heater is in my laundry room, between my bedroom and a spare bedroom, so I set my jars on top of it. This works well for ferments, tinctures, and extracts.

Other Ways To Use Ginger

Soothing Ginger Compress

Make 8-ounces of ginger tea using either fresh or ground ginger. Use only ginger and water. Allow to cool until it is comfortably warm, but not too hot. Soak a wash cloth or small towel in the warm tea. Use as a compress to relieve pain in joints or muscles. When the compress cools down, repeat. Repeat a few times, until pain is relieved, reheating tea as necessary.

Fresh Ginger Infused Oil

Clean a fresh ginger root well and allow to dry thoroughly. Just before preparing your ginger, freshly wash and dry your knife or grater and the jar and lid you are going to use. This will aid in the shelf life of your oil. Thinly slice, or grate enough ginger to fill a jar 1/3 to 1/2 full. I usually use a quart canning jar. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with oil. I prefer either sesame or olive oil for infusions. When using either of these oils, you can use your finished oil in recipes, as well as externally.

For a cold infusion, cap the jar and set in a cabinet for a minimum of 6 weeks.

For a hot infusion, you need to make sure your jar is heat resistant. This is why I like canning jars. If you don’t have a heat resistant jar, you can also use a small glass casserole dish. I like to use dry heat. You don’t want moisture to get into your oil and you want the moisture in your ginger to evaporate. You can use your oven, or toaster oven, or a box-style dehydrator, like an Excalibur, to heat your oil. Set the temperature to between 125ºF and 150ºF. Place your prepared oil, uncovered, in the oven or dehydrator and leave it for about six hours. I like to use the lower temperature and put it in before I go to bed and remove it when I get up. When I use the dehydrator, I cover the front with a dish towel, to keep the heat more even, since I’ve removed most of the shelves and there is a lot of air space.

Once your infusion is finished, strain it through a fine mesh strainer, or through cheese cloth and bottle in another freshly washed and completely dried glass bottle.

Store your bottle in a cabinet, or a cool place out of direct sunlight on a counter. You can store the oil for about a year.

For pain relief, pour about small amount of oil into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together to warm it a bit, then massage the oil into your aching joint or muscle. Repeat as often as necessary.

A Ginger Treat

Honey Vanilla Candied Ginger (and Syrup)

Candied ginger isn’t everyone’s favorite, but I love it and this is the best recipe I’ve come across. The recipe below is my minor variation of Sonia’s, The Healthy Foodie’s, recipe.

This candied ginger doesn’t have much medicinal value, but it is still a healthier “candy” than most. The honey pretty much loses all of its medicinal value due to the heat in the process and the ginger doesn’t retain much medicinal value by the end of the process, either.

The recipe takes time, a few days, as a matter of fact, but it isn’t labor intensive. Towards the end, you will want to keep an eye on it, though.  The finished candied ginger is not overly sweet, is ginger spicy, and has a hint of vanilla.

1 1/2 pounds ginger, scrubbed, dried, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 quart water
1 1/2 pounds honey (a 24 oz bottle)
1 vanilla bean (you want a grade A vanilla bean for this recipe)
2 to 3 tablespoons toasted and ground sesame seeds, finely ground nuts, or finely ground unsweetened coconut (for coating)

I peel the ginger when making candied ginger. It gives it a more even texture. To peel ginger, scrape the peel with the edge of a teaspoon. The peel will remove easily this way, without waste.

  1. Put the ginger and water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Just before the end of the 45 minutes, use a sharp knife to slice the vanilla bean open lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. (Use the remainder of the bean for vanilla sugar, or add it to homemade vanilla extract.) Add the seeds and the honey to the pan, cover, and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit over night.
  3. The next morning, bring the pan back to a boil, lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to completely cool, then repeat 2 more times.
  4. After it has cooled the third time, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat. Do not cover the pan on the final simmer. Allow it to simmer until the honey is thick and turns a caramel color. This should take between 10 and 20 minutes. Do not allow it to burn.
  5. While the syrup is still hot, place a cookie rack on a cookie sheet and remove the ginger with a slotted spoon to the rack. Cover the pan and set it aside so you can make your syrup later. Allow the ginger to dry on the rack over night.
  6. The next morning, grind your coating and place it on a small plate. Scrape the syrup from the cookie sheet and place back in the saucepan with the rest of your syrup. Roll the individual pieces of ginger in the coating and place back on the cookie rack. Dry over night. This is the final step for the candied ginger.

Store your finished candied ginger in an airtight container. It does not need to be refrigerated. Just store it in a cupboard or on the counter, out of direct sunlight.

Note (from Sonia): *For the record, almost 5 months later, I still have a few pieces of this in the cupboard, stored in a Mason jar, and it’s still as good as it was on day one, if not better! (Mine doesn’t last that long. *G*)

You can chop candied ginger and add it to other recipes. A little bit in a batch of ginger or other spice cookie is really good. You can also add it to apple pie or spicy muffins.

For the syrup: after you have your ginger set out for the final dry, add about 1/2 cup boiling water to the thick left over syrup. Mix well. If needed, continue to add hot water, a little bit at a time, until it is at desired consistency.

Drizzle over apple or pumpkin pie, or use for a spicy pancake/waffle syrup.
Drizzle over ice cream.
Add a bit to coffee, tea, cocoa, apple cider, or a warming winter hot toddy.
Mix a tablespoon or two into seltzer water, add ice, and have ginger ale.
Add to water kefir or kombucha during the second ferment.

Final Thoughts

Like turmeric, ginger may be a great option for you, for pain relief, for long term use. I like to use a combination of the two. During the winter months, I tend to use ginger more often. The ginger is spicy and warming and it aids in warding off cold and flu viruses, as well as relieving pain.

I Just Ran Across This and Wanted to Share It With You

ball-mason-regular-mouth-quart-jars-with-lids-and-bands-set-of-12Amazon currently has a great Add-on price for Ball regular mouth quart jars. You can purchase a box of 12 for just $7.69. Shipping is free for Prime members.

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Natural Pain Relief – Turmeric

Natural Pain Relief – Turmeric

Turmeric RootsNatural pain relief will be a series of posts. Each post will cover one natural pain reliever. Not everyone will be able to use every natural pain reliever due to allergic or other adverse reactions.

Although everyone experiences pain at some time, as we age, we tend to feel it more often. Joint, muscle, neck, and back pain tend to become constant companions. While there are both prescription and over the counter pain relievers available, most of them may cause serious problems over time, when used continuously. As well, in the event of a long term disaster, you may not have access to prescription or over the counter pain relievers.

Natural pain relievers are generally safe, with no long term side effects. Allergic reactions are the number one side effect, so do not use any herb or other natural substance to which you know you are  allergic.

If you find one or more remedy that works well for you, most of the ingredients may be purchased in bulk for very reasonable prices. You may be able to forage some of these ingredients, if they grow locally. Many of the ingredients may be easily grown at home, either in pots or in your garden. Foraged and home grown ingredients may be dried for future use. Whether purchasing, foraging, or growing your own, make sure to stock up on what you need to make your own pain relievers.

Simple Drop Test For Allergies

If you aren’t sure whether you have an allergy to a remedy or ingredient, there is a simple test you can use. Rub a drop of a prepared remedy on the inside of your arm, at the elbow. Wait a couple of hours. If you are allergic to the remedy, you will get a rash.

To test fresh or dried individual herbs, simmer a small amount in water for 10 minutes, then allow to steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then proceed with the drop test.

To test essential oils, mix one drop of essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil, then proceed with the drop test. As a carrier oil, I recommend olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or camellia seed oil. Note this is a higher concentration than you would use in most remedies.

Caution: Any younger women, of child bearing age, should use caution when using natural remedies, as with any other medication, during pregnancy. Although generally safer than prescription or over the counter drugs, some natural remedies may not be safe for pregnant women. They, also, may not be safe for young children, so they may not be safe while breast feeding.

Is Turmeric (Curcumin) a Miracle Herb?

There is a lot of research, as well as an abundance of anecdotal evidence, leading to the belief turmeric may be about the closest thing to a “cure all” or “miracle cure” the world will ever see. If you visit PubMed and enter “turmeric” in the search bar, you’ll come up with 3,762 results, at the time of this writing. Not enough results? Enter “curcumin,” instead, and you’ll get 9,447 results.

Curcumin is the primary polyphenol found in turmeric. In very basic terms, polyphenols are compounds found in plant foods; many of which have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been found to prevent, delay, and, in some cases, improve conditions caused by damaged molecules know as free radicals. If you are interested in a really good brief overview of what free radicals are and how antioxidants neutralize them, see Understanding Free Radicals and Antioxidants.

Curcumin Appears To Be Unparalleled In the Realm of Polyphenols

The studies I mentioned previously would indicate curcumin would be successful in treating a wide range of maladies ranging from many forms of cancer, to tumors, to protection from the effects of radiation exposure, to stimulation of the immune system, to diabetes, to breathing problems, to weight management, to having regenerative qualities. The list goes on and on, but I think that’s enough to show you how versatile it’s healing properties appear to be.

What we are interested in, in this post, are the anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties of curcumin. Curcumin has been successfully used in treating back, neck, joint, and arthritis pain. It has, also, shown to be effective in treating headaches and migraines, but may not provide pain relief as quickly as other pain relievers. If you suffer from frequent headaches, such as cluster headaches or migraines, regularly taking turmeric supplements may aid in preventing them.

Kok-Yong Chin has an article published at PubMed entitled The spice for joint inflammation: anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in treating osteoarthritis, which gives an in depth look at the effectiveness of using curcumin for treatment, including a long list of references. The conclusion of the article states:

Osteoarthritis is a significant medical condition for the aging population worldwide. Curcumin, a NF-κB suppressor, demonstrates potential as a treatment agent for osteoarthritis, a disease with an underlying inflammatory cause. Its efficacy in reducing pain, physical function, and quality of life among osteoarthritic patients has been demonstrated in many clinical trials.”

The author does note more trials should be done, with larger sample sizes and longer treatment, to better justify and validate curcumin as an alternate treatment for osteoarthritis. The main drawbacks pointed out in the article are that, turmeric spice is “poorly absorbed and quickly excreted by the body.”

Most would agree with the latter. However, they would also agree adding plain old black pepper to anything to which you are adding turmeric spice will greatly increase the absorption of the curcumin.

Andrew Weil, MD, in his Q & A Library, answers the question “Curcumin or Turmeric?” At the end of the article, Dr. Weil states:

Black PeppercornsI frequently recommend turmeric supplements, and I believe whole turmeric is more effective than isolated curcumin for inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, tendonitis, and autoimmune conditions. Take 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric extracts (available in tablets or capsules) three times per day or as directed on the product label. Look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids. Neither curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper responsible for its pungency. When shopping for supplements, make sure that the one you choose contains black pepper extract or piperine. (If you’re cooking with turmeric, be sure to add some black pepper to the food.). Be patient when taking turmeric supplements: the full benefits may not be apparent for eight weeks.

Please pay particular attention to the recommendation of “black pepper.” White, red, chili, cayenne, etc., pepper will not aid in the absorption of curcumin. It is the piperine found in black pepper which provides this benefit.

Precautions
Dr. Weil also offers these precautions when using turmeric:
Don’t use turmeric if you have gallstones or bile duct dysfunction. Pregnant women shouldn’t use it without their doctors’ approval. In rare cases, extended use can cause stomach upset or heartburn. Note that piperine can slow the elimination of some prescription drugs including phenytoin [Dilantin], propranolol [Inderal], and theophylline. Some evidence also suggests that curcumin can interfere with a chemotherapy agent used to treat breast cancer, so if you’re being treated for this disease, be sure to discuss the advisability of taking curcumin with your physician.”

Note Dr. Weil states pregnant women shouldn’t use turmeric without their doctor’s approval. Most sources say, although considered safe as a spice in food, it is not advised to take turmeric as a supplement when pregnant or breastfeeding. Turmeric in therapeutic doses may also decrease chances of getting pregnant.

Turmeric supplements are not advised when taking blood thinners.

Because it does act as a blood thinner, turmeric supplements should not be taken for at least two weeks prior to surgery. Make sure to disclose to your doctor you have been taking turmeric.

Turmeric supplements are not advised when suffering from congestive heart failure.

Turmeric may be beneficial in treating diabetes because it lowers blood sugar. If you are diabetic and taking medication for the diabetes, this may result in hypoglycemia. Do not use turmeric supplements if taking diabetes medication without working closely with your doctor.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, so do not take if you are allergic to ginger.

Although safe as a supplement for most everyone not falling within the above precautions, under normal circumstances, do not exceed maximum recommended doses (provided by University of Maryland Medical Center):

Children
Therapeutic supplementation has not been studied in children, so there is no recommended dose.

Adult
Cut Root – 1.5 to 3 g per day
Dried, powdered root – 1 to 3 g per day
Standardized curcumin powder – 400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day
Fluid extract (1:1) – 30 to 90 drops per day, taken in 3 doses
Tincture (1:2) – 15 to 30 drops, 4 times per day

Note: a dropper holds about 20 drops.

How To Take Turmeric

Capsules – The easiest way to take turmeric and assure you are getting a standard dose is to take supplement capsules. This is the way I get my major dose, which I take every day. I use healthphan Turmeric Curcumin 1200mg with Bioperine – 120 count. Notice the “with Bioperine.” That is black pepper extract, in order for better absorption, as discussed above. These capsules contain a total of 1200 mg of turmeric root extract (Curcuma Longa), 100 mg of turmeric 95% curcuminoids, and 5 mg of Bioperine. The recommended use is to take 2 capsules daily. Since the concentration is so high, I take 1 capsule each morning, then take a smaller dose, in another form, in the evening. I’ve been doing this for some time, now, and it has really helped my arthritis. I’m not going to try to tell you it has completely cured my arthritis, but it has made the pain level go way down and increased mobility.

Turmeric Tea or Golden Milk – This is my most common second dose. Turmeric Tea and Golden Milk are just different names for the same thing. I drink this about 30 minutes before I go to bed. There are many recipes to be found on the internet, but I’ll share mine with you.

Sleepy Time Turmeric Tea

Ingredients
8 ounces milk (dairy or non-dairy, I usually use coconut milk)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil
pinch of ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Stir the turmeric and collagen into the milk and heat until hot, but not boiling. Add the remaining ingredients, except the nutmeg and stir until well combined. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Besides being your second dose of turmeric, sipping this drink about 30 minutes before you go to bed will help you wind down, get to sleep more quickly, and allow you to sleep more restfully.

Notes
Warm Milk – Contrary to popular belief, warm milk does not help you fall asleep due to tryptophan. Studies have shown that milk does not raise tryptophan levels. What warm milk does do is raise your body temperature slightly, aiding you in relaxing. This is why non-dairy milk works just as well as dairy milk.
Turmeric – Besides providing your second dose of the day, turmeric is known to help you relax.
Collagen Hydrolysate – Collagen hydrolysate promotes better sleep due to the amino acid glycine. (It’s also great for your hair, skin and nails).
Vanilla – Vanilla relaxes the mind and decreases anxiety. The best way to assure you are getting pure vanilla extract is to make your own. It’s actually quite easy. I’ll show you how, below.
Honey – Honey aids in converting serotonin into melatonin.
Black Pepper – As you already know, the black pepper aids in the absorption of the turmeric.
Coconut Oil – As with the black pepper, coconut oil aids in the absorption of the turmeric.
Nutmeg – Nutmeg contains chemical compounds that act similar to tranquilizers.

See precautions above.

How To Make Pure Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Beans

Ingredients
Vanilla Beans (about 12 vanilla beans per quart)
Vodka

You’ll also need quart glass jars with tight fitting lids.

With a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans lengthwise. You can either cut all the way through or “butterfly” them. Then cut each bean in half.

Put your cut vanilla beans in a quart jar. Fill the jar to one inch from the top with vodka. If using a jar with a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap before putting the lid on the jar.

Put the jar in a cupboard and let it sit for at least six weeks. Shake the jar once a week.

Notes:
Once you start using your extract, when you’ve removed about 1/4 of it, add more vodka. I usually draw off the first cup at the end of six weeks, bottle it, then add the vodka. A cup of vanilla extract lasts a long time, so this gives the remaining extract a good amount of time to sit before you need more. After you’ve added more vodka, let it sit at least four weeks before using.

Depending on the freshness and strength of the vanilla beans, you can do this up to 10 to 12 times before the strength of your extract starts weakening much.

Even when you get to the final vodka addition, there is no need to remove the vanilla beans. Just leave them in the jar until it’s time to make a new batch.

You don’t need expensive vodka for making extracts. The cheap stuff works just fine.

Turmeric Tincture

If you have access to fresh turmeric root, you can make your own tincture. I hear, in metropolitan areas, you can purchase the fresh root in health food stores, some Indian and Asian markets, and even in some supermarkets. Turmeric root is, also, supposed to be easy to grow, like ginger. Although I’ve grown ginger, I’ve never tried growing turmeric, so I really can’t say.

I have seen fresh turmeric root sold on Amazon, but I’m really not sure how “fresh” it would actually be. If you want to give it a try, here is one that seems to have pretty good reviews: Fresh Yellow Turmeric Root.

Ingredients
1 large turmeric root (once grated you want about a full cup)
2 tablespoons of whole black peppercorn (or about 2 teaspoons ground black pepper)
2 cups vodka or Everclear

Other items you’ll need
quart glass jar with a tight fitting lid
disposable gloves, to keep the turmeric from staining your hands
nylon strainer or plastic funnel (the link is to the four size set I use) and cheese cloth
16 1-ounce amber glass dropper bottles

Directions
Wash the turmeric root well and allow to air dry. You do not need to peel the turmeric root.

I highly recommend using the gloves at this point. Grate the turmeric root and fill a one cup measuring cup. If you have a bit more than a cup, that’s okay.

Put your grated turmeric root into a quart glass jar and add the pepper. Add 2 cups of vodka. Make sure the vodka completely covers the grated turmeric root.

If your jar has a metal lid, cover the top of the jar with a double layer of plastic wrap, then put your lid on the jar.

Put the jar in a cupboard and let it sit for at least six weeks. Shake the jar every day or two.

Again, I recommend using gloves. Strain the extract through a fine mesh nylon strainer or through a large funnel lined with cheese cloth. When it quits dripping, if using a strainer, mash the remaining pulp with the back of a large spoon to release as much of the remaining tincture as possible. If you used a funnel and cheese cloth, pull up the ends of the cheese cloth and squeeze out as much of the remaining tincture as possible.

Use a small funnel or pipette to transfer strained extract to dropper bottles.

Dosage: 10 to 30 drops, 3 times a day

Notes:
Cheap vodka will work just fine for this. The resulting tincture will have a 3 to 5 year shelf life. Everclear, if you can get it in your area, will provide a little higher concentration and the resulting tincture will last forever. Where available, Everclear is preferable for fresh herb tinctures.

Although I personally don’t recommend it, dried cut turmeric root, or even ground spice, may be used. If using dried cut root, use about 1/2 cup. Use a rounded 1/4 cup of ground spice. Ground spice is very difficult to adequately strain.

See precautions above.

Turmeric Paste

Ingredients
1/2 cup turmeric ground powder
1 cup water (if you’re on city water, use filtered or bottled)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil

Place turmeric powder and water in a small sauce pan and heat over low heat until you have a thick paste. Add the pepper and oil. Mix well. Remove from heat. Allow to cool before using.

Will last 2 to 3 weeks in refrigerator.

See precautions above.

To use turmeric paste:
Take 1/2 teaspoon 3 to 4 times per day.
You can add it to a spoonful of honey, if you don’t like the taste.
You can use the paste to make a simple turmeric tea/golden milk. Mix 1/2 teaspoon into 1 cup warm dairy or non dairy milk.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to a cup of hot tea (especially good with a spicy tea, like chai tea).
Add 1/2 teaspoon to hot soup.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to your favorite smoothie.
Add 1/2 teaspoon to just about anything that can use a bit of spice.

Turmeric Honey
Mostly for colds, flu, and bacterial and viral infections, but may be taken daily as an anti-inflammatory.

Ingredients
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried grated lemon or orange peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Place in an airtight container, in the refrigerator. Will last about 2 weeks.

At first sign of cold or flu, take 1 tablespoon every hour, during waking hours. The second day, take 2 teaspoons every two hours. The third day, take 2 teaspoons every three hours. On the fourth day and beyond, until symptoms have subsided, take 1 teaspoon every three to four hours.

Notes:
Although studies have shown up to 8,000 mg of turmeric may be taken daily, you probably won’t want to take turmeric supplements, in other forms, during the first three days. From the fourth day on, you can take your usual supplements, as well as the honey mixture.

One tablespoon would be a single dose as a supplement.

See precautions above.

As you can see, you can take therapeutic doses of turmeric in a number of ways. You can, also, mix the ways you take your doses. If you suffer from inflammatory disease and you don’t have any conditions that would prevent you from using turmeric, I highly suggest giving it a try. Just remember, it may take a few weeks before you really start feeling the results, even though it is already working on the inflammation, so don’t give up on this remedy before you really give it a chance.

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Ginger Honey Syrup

Ginger Honey Syrup

influenza-156098_640 I know I haven’t been around for a while. I have had some medical problems and we are just getting to the end of our busy season at work. So, things have been a little crazy, not leaving much time to blog.

Well, actually, all of my posts are “new” again. I changed my hosting plan and, unfortunately, my blog wouldn’t migrate the way it was supposed to. Oh, well, at least I have them up, again. I’m just glad I kept copies of my posts and pictures!

For several months I suffered from digestive problems. It started out mild and progressively worsened. Anyone who has read my previous health entries knows I prefer herbal and natural remedies over mainstream medicine. While still mild, I tried numerous remedies, some of which provided temporary relief, but that’s the best I could do. As the problem continued and worsened, I decided to go to the medical clinic. On different visits I was diagnosed with different intestinal problems. I discussed treatment options and decided to opt for just dietary changes. Well, that didn’t help, even with more restrictive changes after subsequent visits.

I was just about ready to give up and go with standard medical treatment when I received an email concerning a case of granola bars I had purchased four months earlier. In a previous post, I discussed how, often, foods that are advertised as being healthy really aren’t. Well, most granola bars aren’t particularly healthy, but there are worse choices for snacks.

I had run across a deal on granola bars; just $1.00 per box of five, of a brand name granola bar, so I purchased a case. I had been eating them as snacks, at work, regularly, since I purchased them. The email I mentioned was an advisory stating the granola bars I’d purchase may be contaminated and included a link to the FDA announcement.

The announcement began:
” The XXX Company, a subsidiary of XXX, Inc., today announced a voluntary recall of a small quantity of XXX Granola Bars after an ingredient supplier was found to have distributed sunflower kernels that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono)…

Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono) is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea…”

Just in case you are curious, this is what listeria looks likelisteria. I had purchased the granola bars with the UPC code in the recall. I quit eating the granola bars and tossed what were left, then went back to natural remedies. Within a couple of weeks, the symptoms were completely gone and haven’t returned.The main remedy I used is honey ginger syrup. It’s easy to make and offers relief for digestive problems, as well as having antibacterial properties. It’s also especially good for colds, sore throats, and coughs. Here’s how I make this wonderful syrup.

Honey Ginger Syrup

1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
1 cup of water
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups raw honey (I recommend Cox’s Honey)

Combine the ginger, water, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Cover the saucepan and allow to steep for about an hour. Strain and return to the pot. Reheat just until you see tiny bubbles form around the edge of the saucepan. You want the liquid to be warm enough to melt the honey, but not hot enough to destroy the healthy components of the honey. Remove from heat and add honey. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Bottle and keep refrigerated. (I reuse my honey bottles for storing.)

Although you could make this in larger quantities, I don’t recommend it. Most sources advise this type of syrup should be used within two weeks.

Dosages:

I took a tablespoon when I got up, after each meal, and at bedtime until the listeria was under control.

For treating colds, sore throats, and coughs:
Adult dosage: take one tablespoon four to six times a day.
Children’s dosage: between ages one and four, one teaspoon, and between ages five and 12, two teaspoons four to six times a day.

Take the syrup more often if symptoms are severe and lower the frequency as the symptoms begin to subside. Whether for an adult or a child, make sure one of the doses is at bedtime.

Caution: Most sources advise not to give honey to infants or children under one year old! Some sources say not to give honey to children under two years old.

Why is this syrup so effective?

ginger-1356601_640Ginger – There have been numerous recent studies evaluating the antibacterial qualities of garlic and ginger. The results have shown both have been effective on drug resistant microbial diseases.

One study concluded:
“Natural spices of garlic and ginger possess effective anti-bacterial activity against multi-drug clinical pathogens and can be used for prevention of drug resistant microbial diseases and further evaluation is necessary.”

Dr. Josh Axe has this to say about ginger:
“The Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials published a study in 2011 that tested just how effective ginger is in enhancing immune function. Comparing the ability of ginger to kill Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes with conventional antibiotics, Nigerian researchers discovered that the natural solution won every time!

The drugs – chloramphenicol, ampicillin and tetracycline — just couldn’t stand up to the antibacterial prowess of the ginger extract. This is important because these two bacteria are extremely common in hospitals and oftentimes cause complications to an already immune-compromised patient.”

Garlic generally scores a bit higher in effectiveness as an antibacterial agent, but ginger runs a close second. Although I’m a big fan of garlic, ginger just tastes better in a syrup!

You can purchase ginger in the produce section of most grocery stores.

cinnamon-73778_640Cinnamon – Another medicinally valuable spice is cinnamon. According to WebMD:
“Cinnamon bark is used for gastrointestinal (GI) upset, diarrhea, and gas. It is also used for stimulating appetite; for infections caused by bacteria and parasitic worms; and for menstrual cramps, the common cold, and the flu (influenza).”

The conclusion of one Malaysian university medical study was:
“Cinnamon has been used as a spice in daily life without any side effects. Several reports have dealt with the numerous properties of cinnamon in the forms of bark, essential oils, bark powder, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and isolated components. Each of these properties plays a key role in the advancement of human health. The antioxidant and antimicrobial activities may occur through the direct action on oxidants or microbes, whereas the anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antidiabetic activities occur indirectly via receptor-mediated mechanisms. The significant health benefits of numerous types of cinnamon have been explored. Further investigations are necessary to provide additional clinical evidence for the traditional uses of this spice against cancer and inflammatory, cardioprotective, and neurological disorders.”

Cinnamon sticks are widely available, but I suggest looking for Cassia cinnamon. If you can’t find it locally, you can purchase it here. Most of the cinnamon you find at the grocery store is Ceylon cinnamon. Although both types of cinnamon have been shown to have some medicinal qualities, Cassia cinnamon reportedly is the better of the two, when it comes to health benefits.

farming-1537122_640Honey – Natural raw honey is more than just a sweet treat. It has numerous health benefits including being studied as a viable alternative for antibiotic resistance bacteria.

Dr. Susan Meshwitz, Ph. D. says:
“The unique property of honey lies in its ability to fight infection on multiple levels, making it more difficult for bacteria to develop resistance,” said study leader Susan M. Meschwitz, Ph.D. That is, it uses a combination of weapons, including hydrogen peroxide, acidity, osmotic effect, high sugar concentration and polyphenols — all of which actively kill bacterial cells, she explained. The osmotic effect, which is the result of the high sugar concentration in honey, draws water from the bacterial cells, dehydrating and killing them.”

According to an Ethiopian study, Medicinal Uses of Honey:
“Honey’s use as medicine has been limited due to lack of scientific report. In recent days, however, there is resurgence. Its greatest medicinal potential is its application as topical agent to wounds and skin infections. Honey has anti-inflammatory, immune boosting property, and exhibits broad spectrum antibacterial activity, which are attributed both to physical factors: acidity and osmolarity, and chemical factors: hydrogen peroxide, volatiles, beeswax, nectar, pollen and propolis. Its antioxidant activity is attributed to: glucose oxidase, catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids, phenolic acids, carotenoid derivatives, organic acids, Maillard reaction products, amino acids, and proteins. Honey prevents and treats gastrointestinal disorders such as peptic ulcers, gastritis and gastroenteritis. It also poses prebiotic effects and promotes health of gastrointestinal tract.”

When purchasing honey, always look for raw natural honey. If you have a source for local honey, let that be your first choice. Not only are you supporting a local small business, but local honey is said to be highly effective for seasonal allergies, if that is a problem for you. Unfortunately, there are no apiarists in my area, so I purchase my honey from Cox’s Honey.

Be wary of supermarket honey. Most of them are highly processed, over heated (this causes loss of natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals), many have additional ingredients and/or additives, and some actually contain little or no actual honey. The latter are honey flavored corn syrup!

Healthy Produce

Healthy Produce

Today I am going to continue our adventure in healthy eating. I mentioned getting organic produce at farmer’s markets and roadside stands were good places to start. To find a farmer’s market near you, try entering your location at Local Harvest. They have a pretty extensive listing for every state.

tomatoes-929234_640The other way to make sure you are getting the best organic produce is to grow it yourself. Check out my Pinterest link for a number of good articles on gardening. I have two gardening boards; one for general gardening and another for container gardening.

If you don’t have a large area to grow your own produce, there are a number of options. If you have a small yard, raised bed gardening might be a good solution for you. My friend Linda Loosli has some wonderful articles on raised gardens you might find useful. Square foot gardening is another way to maximize your available space. Square foot gardens may be laid out directly on the ground or in raised beds. My Square Foot Garden has some simple, straight forward, information on getting started.

broccoli-315593_640Even if you live in an apartment, you still have some gardening options. Although I have a pretty big yard, where I live we have a pretty short growing season, so I do a lot of container gardening. Container gardening is great for apartment dwellers, as well as for those of us living in less than ideal outdoor gardening environments. One of my favorite containers is the vertical Mr. Stacky Strawberry Planter Pot. It holds 20+ plants and I use them mostly for herbs.

Another form of container gardening is hydroponics. Hydroponic gardening isn’t difficult or mysterious and actually takes less maintenance than potted plants. I start my seed in a starting tray with rockwool cubes. I use General Hydroponics WaterFarms for larger plants and I have a couple of Hydrofarm Hydroponic Megagarden Systems for smaller plants. The main maintenance in hydroponics is adding nutrient solution regularly and water as needed.

farm-1554321_640

Now that we’ve discussed gardening, we need seed to grow. I always opt for open pollinated non-GMO seed. One of the most fun ways I’ve found for acquiring seed is through the Seeds of the Month Club. Current club membership is about $64.00 for two years (you can purchase shorter terms for less), including shipping. The month you join, you receive eight seed packets and every month thereafter you receive four seed packets. You don’t choose what they send, so it’s a surprise every month. I haven’t been disappointed with anything they’ve sent in the five months since I joined and the seeds have had great germination rates. When you join, you can also purchase any seed or gardening products from the online store at a 25% discount. Another plus is, once you join, you can give your friends and family a referral link that will extend your membership by the same amount of time anyone you refer signs up for. So, if you join using my link, they will extend my membership for the length of time you select. Then, you can pass on your referral link for the same.

Well, I’m going to keep this short and sweet, this time. I hope this and my last post have encouraged you to start a journey towards your best health. We’ll look at other topics along this line in the future. In my next post we will start looking at food storage. Until then, eat healthy!

Do You Know You Should Be Better Prepared, But Don’t Know Where To Start?

Do You Know You Should Be Better Prepared, But Don’t Know Where To Start?

Most available information about prepping advise starting with food and water storage. While that is, obviously, important, I’m going to advise, as more mature adults, you start with your health. Without your health, you will have a much more difficult time surviving a long term disaster, no matter what you have stocked in your supplies.

diabetes-1326964_640As we’ve aged, most of us have been gradually plagued with more of both physical and internal medical problems. We’ve been conditioned to believe these problems are simply a part of the aging process and we just have to learn to live with them. To some extent they are, but we can implement strategies to control some of our symptoms and even, in some cases, reverse them. Doing so isn’t always easy and there aren’t any magic pills out there to fix us, but with a little research, work, and dedication, you can manage many of your health problems naturally.

I’m not a medical doctor and nothing that follows, in any way, is meant as a suggestion you discontinue any of your meds in order to treat yourself. What I’m suggesting is utilizing or learning more about any of the following suggestions, following the advice if applicable, and allowing your doctor to monitor your progress. You may just be surprised to find, over time, your doctor may begin decreasing your meds and you may even get to where your doctor decides you no longer require some of them. Some medical conditions do require restriction of certain foods. If you have one of these conditions, please don’t make any dietary changes without consulting your doctor.

food-1146822_640 To begin our journey into a healthy lifestyle, lets start with the basics. The basic foundation of a healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. Virtually everything we ingest affects at least some of our body systems. The healthier our food is, the healthier our bodies are.

Some of you may be thinking you are already eating healthy, but you may not be. Going to the supermarket frozen food section and stocking up on frozen dinners marked “healthy” isn’t a healthy diet. Most of those “healthy” granola bars and cereals in your cupboard are, also, less healthy than their manufacturers would like you to believe. This applies to most of those other so-called healthy foods on the market, as well. A healthy diet begins with fresh, unprocessed, food you prepare yourself.

cake-100955_640 I know a few of you guys are thinking you’ve never cooked anything in your life, or cooking is women’s work, or something else along those lines. First of all, I must say, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has been prepared by men. As well, cooking doesn’t have to be a complicated process. There are many easy to prepare healthy meals. If you don’t already have one, I suggest getting a slow cooker. With a slow cooker you can just toss everything in it in the morning and by supper time you’ll have a great meal waiting for you. Eating Well has a nice selection of simple, budget friendly, slow cooker recipes to start you off.

If possible, always opt for organic produce and organic, free range, meats. Some of you may be thinking the higher cost of organic food isn’t worth it. If you stop to think about the fact that many of our health problems are associated with our consumption of processed foods, though, you will find the difference in cost will probably more than make up for some of your out of pocket medical expenses. You can save money on organic produce at farmer’s markets. Although not as common as they used to be, there are still some smaller farms that operate roadside stands, as well. If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, you can get some great seasonal produce at very reasonable prices.

The last thing I want to discuss is some of the common misconceptions associated with foods you should not or should be consuming. Many of you are probably substituting natural ingredients with what are most often unhealthy substitutions, or eliminating certain items from your diet altogether.

One of the items many people are advised to eliminate is salt. As luck would have it, as I was writing this, I received the most recent newsletter from Dr. Stephen Sinatra, of the Heart MD Institute. His featured article today just happens to concern salt. You can read it here. As Dr. Sinatra points out, your body needs salt. The key to the use of salt is moderation, not elimination. This applies to many of the other foods you’ve been told to avoid, as well.

olive-oil-589500_640Many of you have either read or been told you should replace natural fats with low or non-fat substitutes. There are two main problems with this advice. The first is your body needs some fat to function properly. The second is oils are used as thickeners in products like salad dressings and mayonnaise, as well as many others. Replacing the oils with unhealthy sugars and/or chemical agents is the most common way of thickening products in which the oil has been removed. The resulting product may be low or non-fat, but it isn’t healthy. Instead, opt for products made with healthy fats like cold processed olive, coconut, or nut oils. Having some animal fat, particularly from organic, grass fed, meat, is good for your healthy body, as well. While we’re on the subject, skip those low and non-fat spreads and opt for real butter. Just don’t over do it.

Are you concerned about sugar consumption? In general, going with sugar-free products is the worst thing you can do. Most sugar-free sweeteners are amongst the most unhealthy products on the market. Even plain processed white cane sugar is better for you than these products! If you have to go sugar-free, stevia-74187_640my suggestion is to stick to stevia and stevia sweetened products. I don’t recommend using so-called healthy sugar alternatives such as agave nectar. Agave nectars currently available are almost always processed with heat and/or chemicals which break down the healthy fructans into fructose, basically processing it into something very similar to high fructose corn syrup. Opt for natural sweeteners like raw honey (Cox’s honey is my favorite), 100% pure natural maple syrup, and unsulphered molasses. If you’re a soda drinker, you can replace soda with naturally fermented and flavored water kefir or kombucha. Both of these products are available in health food stores and even some of the larger supermarkets, but they are also quite easy to make at home. It’s the second ferment that gives them the bubbles. When making these products, sugar is used, but the fermentation process uses up the sugar, leaving only trace amounts of it in the end product.

Millions of advertising dollars are spent annually by food processing companies in an attempt to persuade you their products are healthy. Some of these products aren’t healthy to begin with, while others have been processed to the point where all of the healthy elements are gone, or they contain unhealthy sugars, emulsifiers, and/or chemical agents, which are often used to extend shelf life or as anti-caking agents. The best rule of thumb here is to learn to read labels. Milk, soy products, and grain products are among those which are often advertised as being good for you, when they often aren’t.

coconut-milk-1623611_640Who hasn’t heard “got milk?” or “milk does a body good” frequently, for most of their lives? Humans are mammals, so lets take a look at other mammals. Most mammals are fed their own mother’s milk until they are weaned. Once they begin consuming solid foods, they are no longer fed milk, unless it’s by human intervention. There are occasional instances of an orphaned animal being adopted by a lactating female of another species, but they are still cut off once they are weaned. Once weaned, mammals don’t require milk any longer, from their mothers or from other animals. That includes humans. If you want the real skinny (and scary) on milk, visit the good folks at NOTmilk. I’m not saying you should never use milk products. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, an occasional scoop of ice cream, or cheese topped dish, or smear of butter, isn’t going to hurt you if you are healthy otherwise. If you want to use milk regularly, opt for coconut or nut milks. Fermented milk products, such as yogurt, without unhealthy additives, are healthier than other milk products and most people can consume them more regularly without ill affects.

soya-83087_640Another of the foods often advertised as being good for you are soy products. There is a lot of debate as to whether soy is good for you, or not. Currently, there seems to be more evidence leaning towards not. One of the most common food allergies is to soy beans and soy based products. If you happen to be one of those who are allergic to soy, obviously, it isn’t good for you. Another problem with soy (as with many other food crops, now) is the majority of the soy crops are genetically modified and, most often, pesticides and other unhealthy chemicals are used. Rather than reinventing the wheel here, I suggest doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions. There is a lot of information easily found by doing a web search. You may want to start by reading WellnessMama’s short but informative post Is Soy Healthy?. Once again, if you haven’t had any ill effects and you have a favorite soy product, eating it once in awhile shouldn’t cause you problems. Do try to find organic non-GMO products if you choose to eat them.

wheat-field-640960_640Are grains good or bad for you? The answer to that basically boils down to two questions: are you eating refined processed grains or whole grains and do you suffer from gluten sensitivity? Refined processed grains have no nutritional value, so there is no good reason for anyone to consume them. As well, they are linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, among others. There are, also, people who are gluten intolerant and they shouldn’t consume some grains whether they are whole grains or processed. If you aren’t gluten intolerant, whole grains from organic sources can be a healthy part of your diet. For a good, quick, overview on the subject, take a look at Kris Gunnars’ article over at Authority Nutrition.

Well that about wraps up what I have to say for today. We may look at some of these things in more depth, individually, at a future time. In my next post, we are going to continue our adventure in a healthy lifestyle. See you soon!