Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Jan 11, 2016

Dandelion Root Medicine - Where to Find It, How & Why to Use It

Dandelion Root Medicine Where to Find it How and Why to Use it
The more I learn about dandelions, the more amazed I am. Not only is this common weed a wonderfully edible plant, but it has great medicinal properties, too. For example, my mom-in-law has had some painful kidney stones. I recently recommended she drink dandelion root tea - a pretty widely accepted remedy for them. Dandelion root is especially good for her, too, since she's a cancer survivor, and there's some evidence (currently being studied scientifically) that ingesting ground up dandelion root is an effective cancer treatment.

I also consume dandelion root daily, in an effective natural treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease called Lipotropic Complex. Dandelion root is one of the main ingredients - and if I ever run out of the pills, I make sure I have a few cups of dandelion root tea a day. Other medicinal uses for this root include detoxifying the body, gallbladder woes, yeast infections, gout, PMS, diabetes, eczema, and urinary tract infections. Dandelion roots are also rich in inulin, a prebiotic that encourages healthy microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. You can read more about the medicinal value of dandelions here.

But here's the thing: I find that many people just never get around to harvesting dandelion roots for themselves. Some people tell me they have trouble finding dandelions except where pesticides are sprayed - or they can only find them by roadways, where the plants leach up fumes and therefore are unsuitable for consuming. I have one friend (who lives in a different state) who says there are no dandelions in her area (!). I even have one friend who gets the heebie jeebies just thinking about digging up and touching live plant roots. Fortunately, there are several options for obtaining dandelion roots - and for consuming them, too.

Where to Buy Dandelion Roots
Dandelion Roots
Dandelion roots fresh from my yard.

Believe it or not, you can buy dried dandelion roots in many places. I've seen them on Ebay and Etsy - but I recommend buying them from a more trusted source, so you can be sure you are getting real, organic roots. Mountain Rose Herbs, for example, sells dandelion roots in several forms. There's also a product called Dandy Blend that combines roasted dandelion root with a few other herbs for a really delicious drink that tastes similar to coffee; I've seen Dandy Blend in health food stores, and on Amazon.

Another option is to look in an ordinary grocery store, in the tea section. The brand I see most often is Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Root Tea. I've found it at Walmart for a little over $4 a box.

And, of course, you can harvest your own roots. Click here for complete directions on harvesting and drying dandelion roots. 

Finally, I've seen dandelion root in pill form. However, not only is this the most expensive option available, but I haven't seen these pills from a high quality and trustworthy supplement company.

Which Type of Dandelion Root is Best for You?

Dandelion root comes in four basic forms:


dried dandelion root pieces

roasted dandelion coffee


powdered dandelion root

and in tea bag or "coffee" form:

dandelion root tea

Plain dried dandelion root is quite bitter; I actually enjoy the flavor, but many people add red raspberry leaf or a bit of real honey to lesson it's bitterness. Roasted dandelion root tastes a lot like instant coffee. Which you choose is really a matter of personal preference. In either case, though, you'll need a coffee grinder to prepare the roots for medicinal use. (Here's the grinder I've used for years).

Pre-ground dandelion root is, in my opinion, not as good an option, since grinding the root and letting it sit means it's lost more of its medicinal properties. You'll always end up with a better quality drink if you grind just before consuming.

Dandelion root in tea bags or "coffee form" is, in my opinion, the least medicinal option. That's because it's pre-ground, and - in the case of tea bags - none of the power actually gets consumed by the tea drinker. (The powdered root is held inside the tea bag.) Nevertheless, this is the easiest way for most people to get dandelion root into their diet, and if brewed according to the package directions, personal experience tells me it's still pretty effective. To make it better still, considering breaking open the tea bag and following the directions in the next section.

How to Consume Dandelion Root

For medicinal purposes, dandelion root is usually turned into some type of drink. Ideally, that drink allows you to digest some or all of the powdered dandelion root. This is accomplished by grinding the root at least partially and using it to fill one half of a mesh tea ball.  (Whenever you make medicinal tea, steep it covered until the drink stops steaming. Click here to see full instructions for grinding and making the tea.)

ground dandelion root in tea ball
When making dandelion root tea with a tea ball, fill half the ball with partially powdered root.

Or you can completely powder the root 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time and place it in a glass of water. If you really dislike the flavor of dandelion root, place the powder directly in orange juice, which completely or mostly (depending upon who you talk to) covers up its flavor.


Ultimate Dandelion CookbookDid you know you can turn dandelion roots into tasty treats, including ice cream, meat marinade, and beer (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)? Learn more about eating and cooking with dandelions - including the roots - in my #1 Amazon Bestselling paperback or ebook, The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook.

For more information about harvesting and using dandelions, see these posts:

"Ah Sweet...Dandelions?" (including a recipe for cooking dandelion leaves)
How to Make Dandelion Tea (from the roots of the plant)
Making Dandelion Jelly
Teaching Children to Forage (with dandelion cookie recipe) 
Eating Dandelion Flowers
How to Preserve Dandelion Greens
Dandelion Leaf Green Smoothie
Dandelion Flower Fritters
Dandelion Leaf Noodles
Dandelion Medicine 
How to Make Dandelion Wine 

Cautions: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, very rarely, people have reactions to dandelion root. If you're allergic to "ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigold, chamomile, yarrow, daisies, or iodine, you should avoid dandelion. In some people, dandelion can cause increased stomach acid and heartburn. It may also irritate the skin. People with kidney problems, gallbladder problems, or gallstones should consult their doctors before eating dandelion." Dandelion is a diuretic, which means it may also make other medications less effective. To learn more about this, visit the University of Maryland Medical Center website.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

Jan 4, 2016

What You Need to Know About the FDA and Natural Medicine

Last week, I received an email notifying me of FDA regulations that affect this little ol' blog. I wasn't the only one, either; in fact, bloggers all over the Internet are pretty darn freaked out about the FDA  preventing us from telling readers about natural remedies. This deeply saddens me, since for decades I received no help from the medical establishment, but am finally finding health through natural medicines. I recommend you learn what you can about natural remedies now, because every year the FDA is tightening things up to make it harder.
Part of the problem is that the FDA hasn't been clear about what they expect from bloggers. The email notification I received was actually from a popular affiliate program, concerned about following federal law. (An affiliate program is something nearly every blogger joins; we know we want to recommend certain items - in this case, natural medicines - to readers, and affiliate programs allow us to earn pennies if you happen to click on our link and buy the item.) This affiliate company stressed that the FDA makes it illegal for bloggers to make any type of disease claim. Unless I'm a doctor (which I'm not), or am talking about a medicine the FDA has approved for a specific use, I cannot recommend any natural remedy, I'm told. In fact, I specifically cannot even mention a disease (or a portion of the name of the disease). I cannot use words like "treat," "prevent," "correct," or any other word that might suggest healing or prevention. I also can't make "unsubstantiated claims" - in other words, claims about a medicine the FDA hasn't approved for a specific disease. Of course, the problem with this is that very, very few natural remedies have been studied scientifically; there just isn't enough money to be made selling natural medicine for scientists to bother studying them at length.

However, when I look at the FDA's website, I don't find any regulations like this for bloggers. I do see the FDA has all the rules I mentioned above for those who are selling herbal supplements. Therefore, I suspect the FDA is mostly concerned about bloggers who are making money (no matter how little) through affiliate links for natural medicine.

That said, I'm no lawyer, and many bloggers disagree with my conclusions. Indeed, given the fact that the FDA has been going after herbalists and other alternative practitioners, many of my fellow bloggers are convinced the FDA is trying, little by little, to make it impossible for consumers to learn about and use natural remedies.

I don't have the means to hire an attorney to figure this out, and the FDA doesn't seem to want to make this clear for bloggers. So I'm going to assume that if I'm just recommending something to you as a friend - not as someone who will earn anything off a sale - the FDA will leave me alone.

I didn't go into blogging to become rich. I blog because I want to help people. So I'm going to continue to recommend natural medicines I believe (often from personal experience) work. I just won't be earning pennies if you click on a link and buy a natural medicine.

In the meantime, though, I hope you'll try to learn as much about natural medicine as you possibly can. It's difficult for me to imagine the FDA won't soon be going after authors who write books about natural medicine; even if those authors are herbalists, there is no government-approved herbalist training, so the government isn't, in my opinion, going to consider those books proper medical advice. And from there...who knows where the FDA will go?

With that in mind, I recommend learning as much as you can about natural remedies. I'll be posting more natural medicine/herbal education links on this blog's Facebook page. You may also wish to view my Pinterest "Herbals" board. In addition, past posts from this blog will give you a nice start learning more about this topic:

Dec 7, 2015

How to Kill E. Coli on Vegetables and Fruits

In the last few weeks, there have been several recalls on fresh produce due to possible E. coli contamination. Since then, I've seen a myriad of Internet articles and posts claiming all sorts of ways to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria on fresh produce. The question is: Do any of them work?
How to Kill E. Coli on Vegetables and Fruits
First, How Common Are E. Coli Infections?

According to the CDC, there are an estimated  265,000 illnesses E. coli infections in the United States each year. However, it's important to note that this figure is an estimate only; experts say most people don't seek medical care for infections, and even those who do usually don't have a stool test for positive identification. Also remember that not all incidences of E. coli outbreaks are caused by contaminated food. For example, E. coli is also spread by hands (which are usually contaminated with human waste), or when human hands touch (live) animals (for example, at a petting zoo)

Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at:
Does Washing Kill E. Coli?

Most Internet articles, videos, and news reports about bacteria on produce say to scrub fruits and vegetables in hot water to remove bacteria. But according to Dr. Robert Brackett of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology, washing fruits and vegetables - whether with plain water, vinegar, bleach, dish soap, or hydrogen peroxide - does not remove harmful pathogens that make you sick.

This is because E. coli actually attaches itself to the surface of the food and produces something called a biofilm - which you can think of as a sort of protective bubble that makes it extremely difficult to wash away the bacteria. Because of this biofilm, something like bleach, which would normally kill E. coli, is ineffective. (Not to mention that putting bleach or hydrogen peroxide on your food could make you sick all by itself)

So yes, something like a vinegar wash may remove some bacteria (and certainly dirt and some portion of the pesticides used on the food), but it certainly won't get rid of everything that makes you sick.

How to Kill E. Coli on Produce

The only way for consumers to be sure their produce is free from bacteria is to cook it thoroughly. Sadly, a quick toss in the skillet or a light steaming isn't enough to kill E. coli and other bacteria. Instead, you'll have to make sure your produce reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. for at least 15 seconds. (That means testing it with a good thermometer, folks.)

What About Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables?

There are no statistics about home grown food and E. coli. This is probably mostly because most people don't know what's making them sick. Is it the flu? Or food poisioning? Most of us never learn. My personal belief, however, is that home grown produce is less likely to make you sick. After all, it's not fertilized with sludge (human waste), watered with manure-contaminated water, or handled by very many people. However, home gardeners must follow certain basic precautions:

* Don't use greywater on edibles. (Though it should be fine for watering fruit and nut trees.)
* Don't use roofline water on your edibles. (It can contain animal feces and other contaminantes.)
* Never use fresh manure in the garden. Always age it at least 6 months before applying it. As an added precaution, dig composted manure into the soil, instead of using it on top of the soil.
* When handling produce, always make sure your hands are clean. (Wash them for 30 seconds in the hottest water you can stand, using soap, then rinse thoroughly.)

Do Does This Mean We Shouldn't Eat Raw Vegetables and Fruits?

Most experts say no; it's unlikely you will get E. coli from produce. Some experts recommend peeling fruits and veggies to lesson your risk of exposure (but often the most nutritious part of a veggie is it's peel). Others suggest removing the outer leaves from lettuce and cabbage heads to reduce the risk of exposure of harmful bacteria.

My best advice is to grow the veggies you eat raw and to cook all those you buy. Those who are at higher risk of death or serious injury from E. coli, such as small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, should probably only eat vegetables if they are well cooked.

they produce a substance called “biofilm,” which encases the bacteria in a sort of shell and helps them stick to whatever they’ve latched onto. This coating keeps them from being washed away and also protects them from chemicals that could otherwise disable them.  In other words, adding a few drops of bleach to the water you use to wash vegetables will kill any bacteria in the water but won’t do much to the bacteria on the vegetables. - See more at:
Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at:
Dr. Robert Brackett, the Director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  - See more at:

Nov 5, 2015

Blue Light: It's Everywhere - and It May Cause Blindness

Last week, I took my children to a routine eye exam. I was in for a shock. Not only did both my kids need glasses, but I learned something else that made me say, "How did I not know this? Why have I never heard of this before?" And I'm betting you don't know about it, either, even though it may put your family at risk for blindness.

The Danger

Our society is inundated with electronic devices, and more and more of us are using them for more and more hours of the day. As a parent, you may know that limiting your child's use of electronic devices is better for their social well being and brain health, but you may not realize that many modern conveniences are actually causing eye damage.

Televisions, computers, laptops, tablets, cell phones, fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and LED light bulbs. What do they all have in common? They all emit something called blue light - the most intense form of light the human eye sees. Blue light is troublesome for at least two reasons. One is that it tells the brain to decrease melatonin in our bodies - a hormone that regulates our sleep. (And this, in turn, may cause depression and cancer.) The second is that it's linked to macular degeneration.
A scene as it might be viewed by someone with macular degeneration. Courtesy of the National Eye Institute.
What is Macular Degeneration?

According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. This incurable disease causes blindness as the retina degenerates. In the past, macular degeneration was something seen almost exclusively in the elderly, but more and more doctors are seeing it in young people - including those in their 20s and 30s.

While the causes of macular degeneration aren't completely understood, increasingly, studies show that blue light damages retinal cells. And since children are spending more of their lives exposed to high levels of blue light, they are considered at highest risk for developing macular degeneration - perhaps at a young age.

What You Can Do
  • The best thing to do is avoid LED and fluorescent light bulbs and reduce screen time. Most experts seem to recommend only one hour of screen time a day for children. Others think that it's most important to limit tablet and cell phone use to that amount of time. 
  •  Use the "20/20/20 Rule." Screens that are held closer to the face (like tablets and cell phones) put us at higher risk of eye problems. When you do use tablets and cell phones, experts recommend that for every 20 minutes of use, take a 20 second break looking at something 20 feet away. This can be a very difficult rule for children to follow, so I recommend giving the child a kitchen timer. Set it for 20 minutes, and make sure you've given your child a specific thing to look at when he or she looks up. Have the child sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or count to 30 (for good measure) before they go back to staring at their screen.
  • Get regular eye exams. Experts recommend children get an exam by an ophthalmologist or optometrist (not just a pediatrician) once a year. It's smart for adults to do this, too.

If you or your child already wears glasses, ask your optometrist about putting a filter on the lenses that reduces blue light exposure.

If you don't wear glasses, but have significant exposure to blue light, you might consider what my neighbor (who works for our ophthalmologist ) recommends: Getting eye glasses without a prescription, but with a blue light filter on them. She believes in this so strongly, she had her niece (who uses a tablet at school) get some.

Aug 5, 2015

Processed Food: Are You Eating it Without Knowing It?

Recently, I've bumped into a handful of people who've made me realize that not everyone understands what processed food is. Since even the most conservative health experts agree that processed food is bad for us - and since many believe that processed food is the number one cause for ill health in the United States - let's examine the issue a little.

I know one woman - I'll call her Linda, though that's not her real name - who's fond of posting photos of her meals - and her grocery shopping goods - on social media. She considers herself a coupon queen, and is devoted to staying home to raise her children; her bargain hunting is all about making it possible to live on her husband's salary alone. However, Linda also often complains about her health. Although she's only in her mid 30s, her body often aches. She's usually exhausted. She has heart palpitations and other life-altering health issues. Tell her she eats processed food and she scoffs. To her, processed food is something from a fast food chain, or "junk food," like chips and candy.

Jane (again, not her real name) suffers from hidradentis supparativa (HS), a condition that causes many painful boils in the most private areas of her body. Doctors don't understand this condition very well, but it's been proven that HS can go into remission if patients eat a whole food, autoimmune diet. In an online group for those who suffer from HS, Jane got excited when someone popped into the group trying to sell food that could "help cure" HS. The food was in boxes and plastic bags.

James (also not his real name) considers himself a healthy eater. If someone offers him a doughnut for breakfast, he makes a big deal of saying "no thank you." He'd rather eat organic cereal, thank you.

All of these people are real. And all of them have no clue what processed food is.

Is cereal really healthy?
So What Is Processed Food?

Processed food is anything that has been manipulated from it's natural state. It's the opposite of whole foods like apples, wheat berries, or whole squash. For example, if you buy pre-sliced apples, chopped squash, or wheat flour - these are all processed food. But what most experts mean when they talk about processed food is food that has been changed chemically, or has chemicals added to it.

Much of the food in the average American grocery store is this type of processed food. The organic cereal James loves, for example, is chemically processed with many additives and preservatives. The food that Jane thinks will cure her HS is also processed: Boxed meals that only require the addition of water, canned soups with preservatives and other chemicals, and meal replacement bars. And the food Linda buys so inexpensively for her family? Mostly boxed meals, laden not just with GMO ingredients, but with many chemicals used to artificially flavor, color, and preserve the food.

Frozen vs. Canned
Frozen salmon label.

I was on Pinterest the other day, and saw a pin claiming that frozen foods were healthier than canned because they don't have added ingredients. But the fact is, many frozen foods do have added ingredients. For example, I cannot buy frozen fish locally, because the only brands available to me have added chemicals designed to make the fish look fresher and last longer.

Canned foods are about the same. Sometimes I can find them without added ingredients, but mostly I can't. (Another good reason to can your own food.) Salt is the most commonly added ingredient, and experts used to think that if you ate little to no processed food, this wouldn't be a health problem...but now we know  processed salt (anything other than sea salt) is directly linked to autoimmune disorders.

But don't think that just because you're in the refrigerated section or the produce aisle you won't encounter processed foods. Sadly, this just isn't true.

Macaroni and cheese label.

To really know whether or not you're eating processed food, you must read every single label. Every. Single. One. If you start doing this, you'll discover a shocking number of foods that many people think are healthy are actually highly processed.

Usually, anything with an ingredient list is processed. The longer the ingredient list, the most processed the food typically is.


I do still buy some processed foods for my family (like catchup and milk) - but I choose carefully. Here are the ingredients I refuse to compromise on:

1. High fructose corn syrup. This is used as a cheap sweetener in most processed foods. However, it's made from GMO corn, and is linked to obesity and whole body inflammation, the precursor to all disease.

2. Bad-for-you fats. Last year, I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The cause? My
Diet bar label.
genes - and eating bad-for-me fats. I grew up on margarine and Crisco and vegetable oil. All the wrong things. When thinking in terms of fats, think about what is processed the least: Real butter (especially grass fed, if you can afford it), extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil.

3. GMO ingredients. Currently this includes any corn or soy product - both extremely common in processed foods. For more about GMO ingredients and the problem with GMO food, click here.

4. Artificial colors. My daughter is sensitive to them, as many children are, but they aren't good for anyone. They are artificial. That means they aren't real food.

5. Artificial flavorings. Again, this is fake food, laden with innumerable chemicals.

6. Sweeteners other than real honey or cane sugar. Agave is highly processed and high in fructose, corn syrup is GMO and linked to health problems, and artificial sweeteners...well, they're fake food, linked to many health problems. Yes, cane sugar is processed, but my family isn't ready to completely give up sugar (though we don't eat much of it), and at least cane sugar isn't GMO.

Hamburger meal label.
7. Low fat foods. If it's low fat, it's highly processed. This includes low fat milk and milk products. (Actually, and sadly, cow's milk from the grocery store is always highly processed.) The good news is, a growing body of evidence shows that low fat diets are bad for our brains, bad for our bodies. (Nourishing Traditions explains this thoroughly.) It's better to eat natural fats.

8. Processed salt. I've completely switched to no-ingredients-added sea salt, now that other salts are linked to autoimmune disorders.

9. Anything with a long ingredient list or ingredients I don't recognize as real food.

Getting Started with Whole Foods

If you've been eating processed food all your life, chances are the idea of ditching them is overwhelming. My suggestion is to start little by little. Read every food label and stop buying the worst offenders. Slowly learn to make your own foods from scratch. (It doesn't take as much time as you think!) Don't expect to feel better suddenly. It will take time for your body to detox. Eat foods that help your liver function better (dandelion root tea or coffee; dark, leafy greens like dandelions, collards, and kale; radishes; onions; and artichokes). Consider omitting wheat products, linked to "leaky gut." Add some fermented things to your repertoire of foods. In time, you will feel better.

May 28, 2015

My Top 4 Favorite Herbal Medicine Books

Once upon a time, all medicine was herbal, and most women understood enough herbal medicine to treat their families for many illnesses (though certainly not all). Gradually, this changed until Americans began seeking help from allopaths (modern doctors) for nearly every health complaint. Yet these days, as more and more people are unable to find help or answers through modern medicine, and as many people suffer from the side affects of prescription medicine, ever more Americans are turning to herbal medicine for many of their health complaints.

Interestingly, more scientific studies are being done on herbal remedies - but very few look at the herbs in their natural form, which means even those studies aren't necessarily all that helpful. Still, science often finds that those old time herbal remedies really do work. My personal experience tells me they do, too.

But learning about herbal medicine can be overwhelming. The internet is full of information, but how much of it is accurate? And even those who wish to pursue herbalism professionally discover there is no official certification for it - no set study that is sure to teach you all you need to know. Fortunately, however, there are a number of excellent books for the Proverbs 31 Women who wishes to learn how to treat her family with natural medicine. Here are my four favorites.

Forgotten Skills of Backyard Herbal Healing and Family Health by Caleb Warnock and KirstenSkirvin. This is a good book to start with because it focuses on just a few herbs, and therefore isn't overwhelming. Warnock is the author of several "forgotten skills" books (including one on winter gardening, which I reviewed here), and he adds plenty of personal anecdotes to this book, explaining how much herbal medicine has changed his life. His co-author Kirsten Skirvin is a Master Herbalist, with some compelling herbal medicine stories of her own. This book gives a good explanations on why you might want to use herbal medicine, and why it's important to take you and your family's health in your own hands. It explains the difference between medicinal grade herbs and varieties of those same herbs that are pretty in the garden, but not of true medicinal value. You'll also learn to make two basic forms of medicine: teas and tinctures. (The best and longest lasting tinctures are made with alcohol, so I like that the authors teach how to make such tinctures non-alcoholic for children or those who are sensitive to alcohol.) Then the authors focus on some basic herbs to start with: Cayenne, lobelia, cinnamon, garlic, and onion - plus apple cider vinegar. The next section gives formulas and examples of how to use these and other herbs for various applications, such as "healing flesh and bones" and "women's health and pregnancy." I appreciate that the authors encourage readers to learn more through some trustworthy online sources. And while I've read a lot of books on herbalism, I still learned some helpful things from this book - including how to use a weighted tuning fork to detect broken bones. (Buy this book.)

10 Essential Herbs by Lalitha Thomas. This is a nice supplement to Warnock and Skirvin's book, as it goes into greater detail about 10 herbs: Cayenne, chaparral, cloves, comfrey, garlic, ginger, onion, peppermint, slippery elm, and yarrow. Thomas gives some amazing stories of how she's helped heal people with these herbs, and gives plenty of specific examples of how and when to use them. Later in the book, she talks about using a specific mixture of herbs as a good remedy for many ails, and offers bonus information on using honey and echinacea as medicine. My only criticism of this book is that the author suggests using garlic directly on the skin. You can do this - I have done it - but it must be done with a great deal of care, or you will burn the skin horribly. The author gives no such warning - which is odd, because elsewhere she's good about explaining precautions. (Buy this book.)

Herbal Medicine by Dian Dincin Buchman, Ph.D.  This is an older book, but it's easy to find on Amazon and other used book sources. It covers a much wider variety of herbs than the two books I've already mentioned. Here, again, the author lists some of her favorite herbs for healing, then gives a wide ranging list of health issues - from acne to worms, with information on how to treat them herbally. Finally, there is an excellent section on how to make herbal medicine: How to dry herbs for medicine; and how to make infusions, waters, decoctions, tinctures, herbal oil, medicinal wines, vinegar, ointment, suppositories, poultices, and more. This is by far the best book I've seen for learning how to make various types of herbal medicine. (Buy this book.)

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes by Rosemary Gladstar. This book is for the more advanced amateur herbalist, since it's focus is on combining herbs to make medicine, rather than teaching the medicinal value of specific herbs. In fact, this is a book of medicinal recipes - which are mostly broken down into four basic categories: for children, for women, for men, and for "elders." I especially appreciate the section on children, because it covers safety precautions and how to make herbal medicines appealing to kids. Cradle's cap, diaper rash, iron deficiencies, liver ailments, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, ulcers, migraines and other headaches, earaches, and a host of other common health complaints are discussed in this book, with recipes for treating each. The book ends with a brief section on specific herbs and their medicinal uses. (Buy this book.)

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  


May 12, 2015

How I Used Potatoes to Help Heal an Infection

Sometimes there are personal things I don't like to talk about online, but feel compelled to share because certain information might be helpful to someone else. So I share that personal information anyway. This post is a good example of that.

Part of my ongoing medical difficulties include reoccurring bacterial infections, something my naturopath says can be cured, but will take some time to completely go away. Over the past couple of weeks, I've specifically been fighting a large, painful Staph infection. When my naturopath saw it, I didn't expect her to prescribe antibiotics, like the average MD would. But when she told me to fight the infection with a potato...I admit, I laughed.

I love to read old household guides, so I knew that in the old days, a potato poultice was often used to fight infections - but I guess I assumed this was among the old timey medical ideas that was nonsense. Boy, was I wrong.

This infection has been extremely painful. Bring tears to your eyes painful. The most painful pain I'd ever felt pain. But those potato poultices felt so soothing. And I do believe they are healing. For example, at first my infection was black, blue, and green. I put on my second potato poultice, and when I removed it - all those colors had completely disappeared! The infection was now pink. And slowly, as I applied the poultice several times each day, the infection got smaller and smaller.

(Important note: My infection really started to do some serious healing, however, after I asked for prayer on Facebook. Within 45 minutes, the terrible pain was gone, and a day later, the infection was draining, and half it's original size.)

Then I had an even bigger surprise: Not only do herbalists and naturopaths use potatoes to fight infections, but modern scientists do, too! Scientists know that more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so they are studying different ways to fight these types of infections...and they are looking to the humble potato for help. It turns out, a substance in potatoes prevents bacteria from attaching to human cells - preventing infection. Soon, doctors may have us use a potato extract to prevent and reduce bacterial infections of every kind.

How to Make and Use a Potato Poultice:

1. Scrub your hands with warm water and soap for 30 seconds.

2. Using a vegetable brush and warm, running water, scrub the potato. And organic is best - fresh from the garden is even better. Do not peel the potato! (The compound being studied as a way to treat bacteria is found in the first few millimeters of the vegetable.)

3. Using a grater just washed in hot, soapy water, grate a small amount of the potato - just enough to cover the infected area about 1/4 in. deep.

4. Apply the grated potato to the skin. Cover with a clean hand towel. Keep in place for 20 - 30 minutes.

5. Gently remove all the grated potato and dispose of in the trash. (It's not a bad idea to dump the used potato in a plastic bag, seal it, and toss it in the trash can.)

I used my potato poultice three times a day.

Of course, infections of any kind can be quite serious. My naturopath advised me to take my temperature twice a day - once in the morning, and once in the early evening. If I'd developed a fever, I would have rushed to the doctor. In addition, if the infection had spread or took a long time to heal, my doctor would have prescribed more medical intervention.

I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website ( be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.  

May 11, 2015

What is Kombucha? And Why You Might Want to Make It

Perhaps because I'm doing so little gardening this year (because we're preparing for our move), I find I'm spending more time experimenting in the kitchen. One of my recent successes has been kombucha (hear how to pronounce it) - a drink I'd heard of, but never thought much about until a friend of mine said she was using it to wean her family off sodas and fruit juices. I tried a store bought version and wow! It was fizzy and delish! Then I learned the drink has health benefits, too. I knew then I had to try making some at home. I did. And it was easy. And even better-tasting than store bought! And even my kids like it.

So over the course of the next few weeks, I'm going to blog about kombucha: What is is, why you may want want to drink it, and how to easily make it at home.

Today we start with...

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is an ancient Chinese drink made by fermenting tea. I find it tastes similar to apple cider (or, if you use green tea, it supposedly tastes similar to champagne...I've only made black tea kombucha). It may or may not be effervescent (bubbly), depending on what steps you take when making it.

Why Drink Kombucha?
Kombucha fermenting.

Throughout history, people have tried to claim kombucha is a cure all, but studies don't back up the vast majority of these claims. One study on rats showed kombucha aided liver function, and since the tea contains probiotics, the drink is good for your digestive system. Also, kombucha contains anti-oxidants, which boost the immune system.

Many sources, such as the Mayo Clinic, tell readers not to make kumbucha at home because they might poison themselves. Of course, any food you make at home could lead to food poisoning - and sometimes commercially prepared products are recalled for serious contamination issues, too.

People have been fermenting foods and drinks since ancient times. Today, with the ease of keeping things clean, it's even more do-able, in my opinion. But you must decide what the risks are for yourself.

Also note: Those who are allergic to tea, or have histamine or yeast intolerances shouldn't drink kombucha.
Histamine or Yeast Intoleranc

What is in Kombucha?

Green or black tea and sugar, which are then fermented.

Most of the sugar in the drink is eaten by the wild yeast you'll capture during the kombucha-making process. The longer you ferment the drink, the less sweet it will be, the less sugar will be in your finished drink. Some sources say the average, no-flavors-added kombucha (fermented for 7 - 10 days) contains about 1 - 2 grams of sugar per 8 oz. glass.  (In comparison, the same amount of orange juice contains about 24 grams of sugar.)

Cane sugar is widely considered the best choice for kombucha. For one thing, it's been used for thousands of years. For another, it does a great job during fermenting. (And, unlike beet sugar, or granulated sugars that don't indicate what they are made from, it's non-GMO.) It's also possible to use molasses or pasteurized honey in place of granulated sugar. (However, it's vital not to use raw honey; it contains bacteria that may adversely affect the fermentation process.)

In addition, homemade kombucha contains a tiny amount of alcohol (between .5 and 3%). According to the Federal government, that means it's non-alcoholic. Nevertheless, if you are an alcoholic or are sensitive to alcohol, it makes sense to not drink kombucha.

If you want to minimize the alcohol content, omit the second fermentation, which is what also makes the drink fizzy. (Incidentally, store bought kombucha usually contains more alcohol than home made, because the drink continues to ferment in the bottle while it's waiting to be sold. To avoid this, most brands pasteurize the drink - which completely kills all the good, healthy stuff in kombucha. But even unpasteurized kombucha must contain less than 5% alcohol, or it can only be sold as an alcoholic beverage. Despite what Lindsay Lohan claimed, you'd have to drink a ton of the stuff to fail an alcohol test.)

Finally, finished kombucha contains caffeine - just as much as whatever tea you chose to use to make the drink already contains.

What Tools Will I Need to Make Kombucha?

You probably already have all the tools you'll need to make kombucha:

* A large, non-reactive pot
* A non-reactive stirring spoon
* Glass jars (I use two 1/2 gallon Ball jars)
* Cheesecloth and a rubber band or string (or a coffee filter and rubber band/string/canning jar screw band that fits your jars)
* And more glass jars/bottles for putting the finished drink in (I use bottles similar to these, because they are unlikely to burst during fermentation, but you can use canning jars or upcycled glass bottles or jars from store bought items)

It may also help to have a non-reactive funnel.

What Else Do I Need to Make Kombucha?
SCOBYs. (Courtesy Simon A. Eugster and Wikimedia)

You'll need:

* Black or green tea of your choice
* Granulated sugar

SCOBY is an acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." I know - sound yummy, doesn't it? But it's essential for making kombucha. If you've ever used raw apple cider vinegar, you'll notice it contains a strange looking "mother" in the bottle. A SCOBY is basically a "mother" - and is the result of wild yeast and fermentation. You can either purchase a SCOBY, get one from a friend who makes kombucha, or make your own - a process that requires some unpasteurized kombucha.

In addition, you may wish to infuse your kombucha to change the flavor. Most often, fruits are use to flavor kombucha. I like to use lemon, or a combo of lemon, blueberry, and strawberry.Some people prefer to add a little fruit juice to the drink.

More in this series:

How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha
How to Make Kombucha

Mar 12, 2015

Sleep Deprivation: The Childhood "Epidemic"

03/12/15: I am reposting this article with new information on two additional child-safe sleep helps.

Recently, I've seen a number of news articles stating sleep deprivation is the new children's "epidemic." I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I certainly know lack of sleep is a growing problem for many kids. My 6 year old daughter has suffered with sleep issues for years, and now her 3 year old brother is having problems, too. I also see sleep difficulties occurring in other families around us.

Sadly, we haven't found much help for our children. Pediatricians tend to offer little or no help. Or, they are aware of only a handful of techniques to help kids sleep better. Specialists are virtually non-existent. In our area (which is the second largest city in our state) there is just one sleep specialist who will see children as patients.

It's precisely because there isn't much information available on this topic that I want to cover it here at Proverbs 31 Woman. I hope some of my knowledge can help other children and their parents; however, do understand: I'm not a doctor, and you should always discuss medical treatments with your child's pediatrician before trying them out on your kid.

Sleep Disorders in Children

Common sleep disorders in kids include:

* Frequent nightmares.

* Night terrors (sometimes called sleep terrors), where the child is seemingly awake and screaming, but can't communicate. This is especially common in children 4 to 12.

* Sleepwalking and sleep talking. Like night terrors, these often runs in families. They are most likely to affect kids 4 to 12.

* Frequent waking or inability to fall to sleep.

Sleep walking is considered the most serious of all these disorders, because it can result in physical harm to the child. Not surprisingly, it's the disorder pediatricians most eagerly offer support for. There is little to do for nightmares and night terrors, except limit a child's exposure to scary media, and offering comforting images near bedtime. There are some things that can be done for kids who just have trouble sleeping - and those are the focus of this post.

Is Your Child Sleep Deprived?

While there are medical guidelines for how much sleep children should get, a child may get less sleep than the guidelines recommend and still be considered healthy. But if your child is constantly fatigued, sleep deprivation is a possibility. The University of Michigan Health System website puts it this way, "If your child can go to bed, fall asleep easily, wake up easily, and not be tired during the day, then they're probably getting enough sleep."

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation always has side effects. Some of them affect quality of life, some affect health and safety, and some affect school performance. In children, sleep deprivation can be far more pronounced than it is in adults; if you get grumpy when you haven't had enough sleep, imagine how much more grumpy your 4 year old will be. She simply doesn't have the experience or self control to handle her sleep deprivation with grace.

Side effects from sleep deprivation, according to Web MD, include:

* Lack of alertness. ("Reducing your nighttime sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night could result in a reduction of daytime alertness by as much as 32%.")

* Difficulties with memory.

* Decreased cognitive ability.

* Increased risk of injury.

* Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.

* Increased risk of obesity.

* Increased risk of depression and mood disorders.

* Increased risk of ADD.

I would add to this:
* Increased disobedience, defiance, and "acting out."

* Increased temper tantrums or crying fits.

* Difficulty with school work.

* Difficulties with friends and classmates.

Behavioral problems, in particular, tend to affect everyone in the family, lowering the quality of life for parents and siblings, as well as the sleep deprived child. In addition, parents of children who don't sleep well often don't sleep themselves, which leads to an even grumpier household, which can affect marriages, friendships, health, and jobs.

When a child is sleep deprived, it's a very serious matter for the whole family.

Getting Help

If you feel your child isn't getting enough sleep, first read my general recommendations for helping your kids to get more sleep. If these steps don't help, talk to your child's pediatrician. If the doctor offers suggestions, try them. If they don't work, let the pediatrician know. She may offer more suggestions, or she may refer you to a specialist. If she doesn't do either or these things, seek a specialist on your own. The specialist may focus on sleep, or he might be a behavioral specialist.

Keeping a Sleep Log

Before you approach a doctor, however, it's vital to keep a sleep log for your child. On a calendar or in a notebook, keep a record of when your child goes to bed, when she falls asleep (approximately), when she wakes during the night, and when she wakes in the morning.

I realize this is sometimes easier said than done. Children who are older - and especially children who are used to being up a lot at night - tend to learn to not disturb the rest of the family. Be sure to let your child know that, for a limited time, you want her to wake you so you can create a sleep log. You might also consider teaching preschool and early grade students to read the clock, if they don't already know how. I put a digital clock in my preschooler's room and told her to make a note of the first number on the clock whenever she woke up; this worked pretty well for us.

It can also be helpful to note what your child ate during the day, how active your child was, and what your child's bedtime routine was.

Keep the log for at least 2 weeks. When you see a doctor, be sure to bring the log with you.

Common Fixes

I strongly believe that with children, especially, the safest and most natural remedies should be explored first. Once people know your child doesn't sleep well, you'll probably be deluged with recommended remedies. You can also do Internet searches to find common remedies. Just be sure that before you try any herb or supplement, you first discuss it with your child's doctor. Herbs may be natural, but they can be unhealthy if taken in the wrong doses.

Resetting the Sleep Cycle

The first thing our sleep specialist recommended was keeping our daughter up a half hour later every night until she no longer woke up at night. This surprised me, since I'd repeatedly read that over-tired children don't sleep well. Nonetheless, this physician says his method works for many children by helping parents and kids find the child's "natural bedtime." Of course, if you have young children, this method may not be practical since you can't go to bed before your young child.

UPDATE 9/15/15: Experts are currently rethinking Melatonin use, especially in children. Apparently, it may adversely affect children's physiological systems, including cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems, and reproductive system. Learn more here.

Melatonin is a hormone made in the brain. Melatonin levels typically get higher in the evening, remain high at night, then drop in the morning. That's why many doctors recommend trying to regulate children's melatonin levels when they are having trouble sleeping.

There are two ways to do this. One is to have your child eat foods rich in tryptophan - an amino acid that helps create serotonin, which in turn helps create melatonin. But the mistake many people make is to eat tryptophan-rich foods only in the evening. To work properly, your child should consume foods with tryptophan throughout the day: Morning, noon, and evening.
If this method doesn't work after several weeks, you can purchase melatonin drops at a pharmacy (without a prescription). The typical recommendation is to give melatonin drops to children for only a few days; this is supposed to "reset" your child's sleeping patterns. But children with more serious sleep problems may need to take melatonin every night.

Melatonin drops are not without side effects, however. The most negative side effect for children is increased risk of vivid dreams and nightmares. Also, talk to your child's doctor about dosages; I've discovered that higher doses than what are recommended on the packaging work better - but you also don't want to over dose your child.

Cherry Juice

According to a small study, no-sugar-added, pure cherry juice may help people suffering from insomnia. Look for it in health food stores or at

Clove Tea
Herbalist have long considered clove an excellent but gentle sleep inducer. Make the tea by boiling some water, then placing 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of the freshest whole cloves you can find in the water. Cover for 10 - 15 minutes. Strain. The tea may be flavored with honey or a little milk. According to Lalitha Thomas in her book 10 Essential Herbs, infants to children 10 years of age can have 1 or 2 teaspoons of this tea; children 11 and up, 1/4 cup of this tea. It should be taken within an hour of bedtime.

A magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia. Many children do not eat magnesium rich foods (including nuts, whole grains, beans, and leafy green), but magnesium supplements are readily available. A good magnesium complex should do the trick, but some people find that a lotion or oil works better for them. See this University of Maryland Medical Center article for dosing information. (Magnesium can make us feel quite relaxed; I recommend taking it just before bed.)

Valerian and Lemon Balm

Numerous studies
show this combination of herbs can increase sleep in children. You can buy the correct mixture in Nature's Way Valerian Nighttime. Talk to your child's physician about appropriate doses.


This is an amino acid found naturally in tea (Camellia sinensis) - mostly green tea. At least one study shows it is effective in helping children sleep, even when ADHD is the supposed cause of their insomnia. My daughter has had excellent results taking just 100 mg a half hour before bed, but doses can go higher, so talk to your child's doctor for a recommendation.

California Poppy

Unlike the Oriental poppy, California poppy is not an opiate. In fact, it's been used as a child-safe sleep remedy for a long, long time. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about appropriate dosing.


The sleep specialist in our area says prescription Rozerem is as safe as melatonin; it's apparently made from a molecule found in melatonin. The pill is tiny, too, which makes it easier for kids to swallow. Like melatonin, however, Rozerem can lead to nightmares and similar side effects. Personal experience tells me Rozerem doesn't work at all if your child doesn't feel at all tired, but it can be helpful if your child is tired but can't sleep.

Prescription Clonidine is a blood pressure medication - but it's also used to treat ADHD, anxiety, and migraines, among many other things. It's sometimes used to help those with sleep difficulties because a common side effect is sleepiness. The dosage for kids is very small - not enough to affect their blood pressure.

Other Medications

In very serious cases of sleep deprivation, more serious prescription drugs may be in order.

Life Tips

Do your best to teach your child to recognize his own fatigue, then act accordingly. This may mean more limited play dates and more quiet time, for example. It might also mean making sure school days (and the day before the first school day of the week) are as relaxing as possible. It might even mean homeschooling, so you can schedule schooling around your child's sleep patterns. Only with experimentation can you discover what will make the days easier for your child while you try to find solutions for your child's sleep deprivation.