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

May 24, 2016

How to Repel Mosquoitoes Naturally

We hope we are soon moving to beautiful acreage - where mosquitoes are more prevalent than they are where we currently live. I really don't love the idea of spraying my family with DEET on a daily basis, so I've been researching some more gentle, natural ways to deter mosquitoes from biting us.

I have not yet tried any of these remedies (because we haven't moved yet), so the information I'm sharing here is strictly from researching trusted herbal sites, university pages, and the like. Experiment with me, and please let me know what works for you!

Plants that Repel Mosquitoes

In my research, I found many sources that claimed simply having these plants growing in your yard would repel mosquitoes. I am skeptical. It's believed these plants work by having a strong scent - a scent that covers up the smell of you to mosquitoes passing by. But most of these plants have a far stronger scent when the leaves are crushed (which is why they work in homemade mosquito sprays; more on that later.).

Nevertheless, I think it's probably worth placing these plants in areas where you are most likely to be troubled by mosquitoes - like a picnic table or grill. Just know that these plants will all work far better when crushed and rubbed on your skin. (But do use common sense; before you cover your whole body, it's a great idea to rub a little over a small area of your body and wait to see if you have any type of reaction.)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
This is an easy to grow herb that has many medicinal uses, too. It likes sun or part shade, and can grow to 2 feet high. Like most herbs, it can take over the garden if left to it's own devices, so I recommend putting it in pots. Zones 4 -9. Learn more here.

Lemon balm. (Courtesy JoJan and Wikimedia Commons.)
Catnip (Nepeta faassenii)
In  a 2010 study by the Iowa State University Department of Entomology, scientists discovered that oil from catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. This is another easy to grow herb that needs to be potted or it will take over your garden. Use with caution if you have one or more cats. Not only will kitties eat and roll in this plant, but it acts as a hard drug for them and, much like LSD, will give them flashbacks. Zones 4 - 8. Learn more here.
Catnip. (Courtesy of Kurt Stüber and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pyrethrum (Tinacetum cinerariifolium)
Pyrethrum is said to be excellent not just for repelling mosquitoes, but also many other insects, including aphids, bed bugs, leaf hoppers, cabbage worms, spider mites, and ticks. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Another easy to grow herb that should be potted, but which is thought excellent at keeping mosquitoes at bay. It grows in full sun or part shade and can get up to 18 inches high. Zones 3 - 7. Learn more here.
Peppermint. (Courtesy of
French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
French marigolds contain pyrethrum, which is used in many natural commercial insect repellents. Marigolds are very easy to grow, and gardeners often plant them near vegetables to repel aphids, too. Zones 1 - 10. Learn more here.
French Marigold. (Courtesy of Joydeep and Wikimedia Commons.)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender is an attractive herb with some medicinal uses. It's also said to repel mosquitoes. There are about a gazillion different types of lavender, so choose one that has a strong scent and fits your growing requirements. Zones 4- 9. Learn more here.

Lavender. (Courtesy of
Basil (Ocimum americanum)
This herb is best known for it's important role in the kitchen, but it also acts as a mosquito repellent. Zones 4 and up. Learn more here.
Basil (Courtesy of
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Eating garlic may repel mosquitoes - but only if you eat enormous quantities. However, the plants themselves are said to keep mosquitoes at bay - and garlic is not only a healthy addition to your diet, but medicinal, too. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Garlic. (Courtesy of
Floss Flower (Ageratum)
This pretty flowering plant grows between 6 and 20 inches tall, depending upon the variety. Choose a variety with a strong scent. Zones 3 - 9. Learn more here.
Floss Flower. (Courtesy of Thomas R Machnitzki and Wikimedia Commons.)
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) 
Rosemary is an excellent cooking herb, has medicinal properties, and is said to repel mosquitoes. It loves a warm spot and will grow up to 5 feet tall. Zones 6 to 10. Learn more here.
Rosemary. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Snowbrush (Ceonothus velutinus)
This shrub grows up to 10 feet high in full sun or part shade. Zones 3 - 10. Learn more here.
Snowbush. (Courtesy of Walter Siegmund and Wikimedia Commons.)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
entha pulegium

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium),

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
Mentha pulegium)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Growing Pennyroyal: How To Grow Pennyroyal Herb
This old timey flower is a great ground cover, and is said to repel mosquitoes while attracting butterflies. It's also medicinal. Zones 5 - 9. Learn more here.
Lemon Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Some people say any thyme will repel mosquitoes; others say only lemon thyme will. Regardless, thyme is an easy to grow herb that I recommend putting in pots so it doesn't spread. Thyme is also an excellent kitchen herb, and medicinal. Zones 4 -11. Learn more here.
Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)
Another excellent kitchen and medicinal herb said to repel mosquitoes. Zones 9 - 10. Learn more here.
Lemon Verbena. (Courtesy of H. Zell and Wikimedia Commons.)
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
Most likely you've heard of this plant, because it's the main ingredient in many mosquito repelling products sold in stores. Yet despite citronella's reputation, some people who've tried growing the plant to repel mosquitoes say citronella doesn't work at all, even when the strong-scented leaves are crushed. I include it here because plenty of others disagree. Citronella grows to be about 5 feet tall, but can be grown in containers, as well as directly in the soil. Zones 9 - 11. Learn more here.
Citronella. (Courtesy James Steakley and Wikimedia Commons.)

DIY Natural Mosquito Repellent Sprays

I've looked at a lot of homemade mosquito sprays, but these three (or variations on them) appear to be the most effective.

Four Thieves Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Place 2 quarts of apple cider vinegar in a glass jar. Add 12 tablespoons of The Bulk Herb Store's Vinegar of the Four Thieves mixture. Put the lid on the jar and store in a cool, dark location, shaking once a day. After 2 weeks, strain, reserving the liquid. Pour the liquid into a clean jar; crush a few cloves of garlic and add to the jar. Allow to soak for 3 days in a cool, dark location, then strain again, reserving the liquid. Store in the refrigerator. Shake before every use.

Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Coarsely chop mosquito repelling herbs like lemon balm, catnip, lemon verbena, and lavender. (See the list of plants, above, for more ideas on what you could include.) Chop enough to fill a glass jar. Pour rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, or vodka over the herbs, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place a lid on the jar and put it in a sunny location for 2 weeks, shaking the jar every day. Strain, reserving the liquid. Pour liquid into a spray bottle. Shake before every use.

Essential Oil Mosquito Repellent Recipe

Fill a spray bottle 3/4 full with either witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or vodka. Add the following essential oils:
  • 10 drops mint
  • 10 drops citronella
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops eucalyptus
  • 5 drops lavender
  • 5 drops cloves
Add distilled water until the bottle is full. Shake before every use. (If desired, you can experiment with the essential oils of other plants mentioned above.)

Homemade Mosquito Trap

This DIY trap is all over the internet. All you need is a 2 liter plastic bottle, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. See the complete instructions over at DIY & Crafts.

Title image courtesy of icools.

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 2, 2016

Foraging Cleavers for Food and Medicine

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

Even though I don't have a garden right now, I'm still finding food to harvest from my yard. That's because God has provided us with a bounty of weeds that are good to eat - and most of them are "super food," packed with nutrients.

My season for eating fresh dandelion leaves is over because now the plants are blooming. (This makes the leaves awfully bitter - though there are ways around that. See my Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook for details.) Currently, we're eating the flowers. (Here's a favorite recipe.) Plantain is out and about, and is both good to eat and medicinal. Yellow dock is beginning to appear. Sow thistle, which is best when young, is cropping up. But lately, we've been focusing on cleavers (Galium aparine) - one of my children's favorites.

How to Identify Cleavers
Cleavers cling to nearly anything, including other plants.
(Courtesy Hugo.arg and Wikimedia Commons.)

In my yard, cleavers are among the easiest weeds to identify. Cleavers is a vining plant with long, thin leaves, and little bristles ("hooks" that bend toward the bottom of the plant) that tend to cling - or "cleave" - to just about anything it touches. (There's even a rumor that cleavers inspired the creation of Velcro.) The lowest leaves of the plant are petioled and rather round, whereas the upper leaves are sessile and shaped rather like narrow ovals. Cleaver plants can be 2 or 3 feet long when mature, and while they sometimes climb nearby plants or fences, they tend to grow horizontally across the ground. 

Cleavers are also sometimes called clivers, goose grass (because geese love to eat them), catchweed, or sweet woodruff (the latter being it's own variety of cleavers that is medicinal, but toxic when consumed in large quantities). Cleavers grow throughout the United States, and through much of Canada and Mexico, as well as in many other parts of the world.
Cleaver leaves have distinctive, oval shape leaves that appear on the plant in a circular pattern. (This photo and title photo courtesy of Harry Rose.)

What Do Cleavers Taste Like?

To me, cleavers taste like many other greens you are probably familiar with, like kale. They have a slightly bitter taste, much like some slightly bitter salad greens and not nearly as bitter as, say, dandelion leaves. Don't let that slight bitterness scare you, though. Even my children like to eat cleavers!

How to Eat Cleavers

Most often, my kids and I pick the young tips of cleavers and eat them raw. You'll see where the newest leaves grow in a cluster at the end of each vining end of the plant. Pinch these young leaves off and chew well before swallowing.

The newest leaves, or tips, of the cleaver are most edible. (Courtesy of Harry Rose.)
(I remember reading once that a foraging expert ate some raw cleavers during a class and didn't chew well. The plant clung to his throat, causing him to choke a bit before couching the plant back up! I have never had this happen, and I think it's because I eat only the youngest leaves, or "tips.")

But if you want to make absolutely sure cleavers stop clinging, you'll want to cook them. Pinch off the younger leaves and boil them for about 10 - 15 minutes. This will remove the clinging "hooks." After cooking, cleavers can be used like any green. For example, you can add them to omelets, rice, enchiladas, or smoothies.

As the plant ages, the leaves are less and less edible, becoming tough and more hairy. If there are buds or flowers on the plant, it's much too mature to eat.

I've also read that cleaver seeds - roasted at a low temperature - can be brewed into a caffeine-free coffee substitute. (Find complete directions here.)

Making Medicine with Cleavers
Courtesy NATT at NKM.

Traditionally, cleaver leaves (old or young and dehydrated) were used to make a tea or tincture to treat kidney problems (including kidney stones), to help treat fever, and to act as a diuretic. They were also mashed up and applied to stings and bites. Most herbalists also believe cleavers improve the immune system and act as a cleansing tonic; cleavers may also act as a gentle sleep aid.

Mountain Rose Herbs says cleavers are good medicine for hypertension, psoriasis, eczema, and general skin care (including rashes). The plant's leaves also make a nice addition to hair rinses.

Many sources claim cleavers have been scientifically tested and found anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, too. First Ways also recommends clever tea for swollen lymph nodes.

You can read more about the medicinal properties of cleavers at The Homeopathic Information Service website.

CAUTIONS: Most herbalists recommend consuming only small amounts of cleavers, since it's considered strong medicine. People on blood pressure medication should not consume cleavers (since it the combo of cleavers and their prescription may lower their blood pressure more than is safe). Those on diuretics or kidney medication should consult a physician before consuming cleavers. In addition, pregnant women should avoid cleavers. Some people are allergic to cleavers and may get a rash (contact dermatitis) when they touch the plant; if this happens to you, do not under any circumstances eat cleavers. As with all new-to-you plants, when trying cleavers for the first time, it's a good idea to crush a few leaves and rub them over your skin. Wait 24 hours before consuming any cleavers. It's also smart to eat just a few leaves the first time you eat cleavers, or any other wild food. If you are allergic to plants in the Rubiaceae family, you should not consume cleavers.

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.  

Apr 18, 2016

How I Cured an Irregular Heart Beat...Naturally

The women in my family have a problem. (Well, probably more than one...Ha!) We tend to have irregular heart beats. That is to say, we experience heart palpitations. Our hearts will lope quickly one minute, skip beats another. It's a bit unsettling, and has caused many of us to seek the help of a heart specialist.

But the heart specialists always say the same thing: "There's nothing wrong with your heart." One of my sisters was given medication to help regulate her heartbeat, but the drug made her depressed. So she does what so many doctors suggest: Cough hard. This "resets" the heartbeat.

But last year, I discovered an actual cure for my irregular heartbeat, via my naturopath: Potassium. This was fascinating to me because the women in my family also tend to have low potassium levels.

Turns out, potassium is "crucial to heart function" and, despite the fact that no MD or heart specialist ever mentioned this to any of the women in my family, low levels of potassium (known as hypokalemia) are recognized as causing an irregular heartbeat.

The thing is, I found it tough to get enough potassium through my diet. (Click here for a list of foods with high levels of potassium.) But as soon as I started taking a quality potassium supplement? My irregular heartbeat went away almost immediately.

Such a simple fix!

Now, a couple of caveats:

1. Heart palpitations can be a sign of a serious health problem, so if you experience them, you should definitely see a physician.

And 2: Not all supplements are created equal. You may have read in the news that some common supplements are complete frauds. So I always ask my naturopath to recommend a brand of supplement that's high quality and trustworthy. She recommended Designs for Health K+2 Potassium supplements.

How much do you need to take? Adults need 4,700 mg of potassium daily. I usually take a 300 mg tablet daily, and try to eat lots of potassium rich foods. But if I notice I'm experiencing muscle cramps or twitches, I take two capsules a day for a couple of days.

Do be smart about taking potassium, though. You should discuss it with your doctor because too much potassium (hyperkalemia) can lead to heart palpitations - and in severe cases may even make the heart stop beating.

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.  

Mar 8, 2016

How to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet - Easily!

When the kids recently spent a couple of weeks at their grandparents' house, I admit I slacked off when it came to cooking. I still cooked from scratch, but somehow there was a lot less cooking to do when the kids weren't around - and I found myself not always eating very healthy. The main issue? Lack of vegetables! And did you know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say ½ of every plate of food we eat should be covered with vegetables? Whoah! I was way under my quota - and probably you are way under that quota, too. That's why I wrote A Vegetable for Every Season Cookbook. But even with that recipe-packed paperback, you might be wondering how to easily get more vegetables into your daily diet. Here are some ideas.


Pancakes, eggs and toast, cereal…The most common breakfast foods don’t contain any vegetables at all. But it's not that hard to add some to the breakfast table. For example, try making an omelet with vegetables in it. Common veggies to add include diced tomato, diced bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, chopped chives or green onions (scallions), sliced leeks, chopped spinach, and/or diced onion. (Have trouble making omelets? Try following these directions. For me, though, the key is simply to use a smaller pan; this results in a smaller omelet that's easier to flip.)
Vegetable omelet. (Courtesy Wendy.)

If you don’t like making omelets, make a scramble or hash instead; here are directions, but basically you just mix scrambled eggs with a bunch of veggies (and maybe some meat, like chopped ham or bacon). Just be sure to add vegetables that take a little while to cook (like potatoes, onions, and bell pepper) toward the beginning of cooking. More tender veggies, like greens or tomatoes, should be added toward the end of cooking.

Another idea is to add shredded zucchini to some flour-based breakfast foods, like pancakes or waffles, or muffins. You really won't taste the zucchini, but you'll get it's added nutrition. In fact, this is a great way to sneak veggies into the breakfast of a picky eater. I've not tried it myself, but many readers tell me shredded yellow summer squash works just as well as zucchini for this kind of thing.

Lettuce wrap "sandwiches." (Courtesy of

Unless you're more ambitious than I am, sandwiches are probably your go-to lunch food. You can make them healthier several ways. One is to omit the bread entirely and substitute large leaf lettuce. Another is to keep the bread, but instead of using iceberg or other pale-colored lettuce (which doesn't pack much punch when it comes to nutrition), use dark leafed lettuce - or maybe even other greens, like cabbage or kale. Also take a look at what you're putting into your sandwiches. You can easily add things like cucumber slices, sliced tomatoes, sprouts, sliced olives, thin-sliced onion, sliced peppers, thin-sliced (or shredded) kohlrabi, shredded carrots, sauerkraut, or shredded cabbage leaves.

Salads can also make an excellent lunch, and are filling if you make them large and include some protein, like sliced egg or chunks of ham, chicken, beef, or fish. Again, avoid light-colored lettuce and choose dark lettuces for more nutritional punch. You can also add things like cauliflower or broccoli, diced chives or green onions (scallions), sliced cucumber, sliced celery, sliced radish, shredded carrot, sliced mushrooms, sprouts, diced peppers, shredded cabbage, snow peas, sliced olives, fresh or sun dried tomatoes, sliced or shredded kohlrabi, artichoke hearts, and cooked or pickled asparagus spears.

Raw veggies, like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, radishes, and snow peas are also excellent on the side - maybe with homemade Ranch dressing, vanilla yogurt, or hummus.


Parsnip fries (from A Vegetable for Every Season.)

I think it's easiest to find a way to use vegetables at dinner time, especially if you use them as a side dish. Right now, my favorite side dish is roasted vegetables. (Click here for the how-to.) Or, if you roast a chicken, for example, you can easy peasy toss in some chopped veggies, like carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), winter squash, onions, and/or asparagus. The only trick here is to chop them so they are all approximately the same size; that way, they cook evenly.

If you like to serve stews, soups, or casseroles, be sure to add tons of veggies to them. I try to double the number of veggies called for in such recipes. Just remember, more dense vegetables (like potatoes and


I try to serve vegetables as snacks before I offer anything else. Not only are veggies a very affordable snack (compared to more common, processed snacks), but they are so much healthier, too. Raw veggies are an easy choice, of course. Or you can make veggie chips at home with a food dehydrator (or your oven). Good choices for chips include kale and dandelion leaves (picked before the weeds send up flowers and stems), zucchini and summer squash, parsnips, carrots, beets...and yes, potatoes.

You can also make "snack sandwiches" by substituting bread for slices of cucumber. (I prefer to cut them into rounds, which makes them "snack sized.") Add a little mayo, a tomato slices, and a strip or two of bacon. Delish!

A similar idea is to make snack sized pizzas, but instead of using dough or English muffins for the crust, use a sliced zucchini round or a large mushroom as the crust.

And, last but not least, an easy peasy way to add more veggies to your diet is by making smoothies. In fact, I'd go so far as to say you should avoid smoothies that are mostly fruit; they will spike your blood sugar, making you more tired and prone to snack. Instead, pack the veggies in, and then add a banana (my favorite) or a handful of berries to sweeten up the drink.

Now it's your turn. What are YOUR favorite ways to add more veggies to your diet?

Feb 16, 2016

The Truth About Salt

Recently, I had a conversation with someone that made me realize there's a lot of misunderstanding about salt out there. "The only healthy salt is pink sea salt," this person insisted. "All other salts have been bleached and the nutrients removed." I was stunned...because, well, that's not true at all.

So which salt is the healthiest? How much should we be eating? And how is sea salt really processed?

How Salt is Harvested or Processed

Harvesting salt is fairly simple process, really. First, salt water is driven into a pool. Sun and wind slowly evaporate the water. The salt crystallizes and is harvested - usually with a truck that scoops the crystallized salt into a factory. It may take five years for the salt to go from the pond to the factory. In the factory, the salt is washed to remove impurities. It may also be boiled in water  - which is the most transitional method. What's left is dried, packaged, and sent to stores.

A San Francisco salt pond. The pink color is due to organisms in the pool, not the salt itself. Courtesy Doc Searls and Wikipedia Commons.
In fact, this process is so simple, it's basically what humans have been doing for thousands of years - and what you can still do today. (In fact, it's possible for those who live near the ocean to harvest their own salt. Learn how here.)

Another way salt is harvested is through "solution mining." Here, wells are installed in natural salt beds and water is added to dissolve the salt. The resulting brine is pumped out and taken to a plant where it is evaporated. Salt can also be mined much like minerals, but this type of salt is typically made into rock salt - not the type of salt you cook with.

A mountain of salt in France. Courtesy of  Rolf Süssbrich and Wikipedia Commons.
The Healthiest Salt?

All salt is basically the same: it's sodium chloride. And, until recently, most health experts would have told you no salt is better for you than another. But now studies show that processed salt - any salt with additions to it - is linked to autoimmune disease.

Table salt is highly processed.
The type of salt that's sold for salt shakers - table salt - is the worst offender. It's processed to remove minerals and has anti-caking agents added (actually, any salt that's finally ground may have anti-caking agents, too; read labels carefully), as well as iodine. The addition of iodine began in the 1920s, when many Americans didn't have access to iodine in their foods - or just neglected to eat foods rich in iodine. They didn't know then, as we do now, that adults need just 150 micro grams of daily iodine, which is easily obtained by eating dark leafy greens, seafood, grains, and eggs. (Dairy products are also a good source of iodine, but largely  because of the iodine feed supplements and iodophor sanitizing agents used in the dairy industry.)

However, differences in unprocessed salt are very minor.

Pink Himalayan salt.

What About Pink Salt? 

Contrary to what my acquaintance said, sea salt is not bleached, nor does it have it's nutrients removed. I can only guess she thought all sea salt was pink, and that the white stuff in the store somehow had it's pink removed. I have no idea, however, where she'd get such erroneous ideas.

Pink salt comes from the Punjab region of Pakistan, about 186 miles from the Himalayas. (Hence it's other name, "Himalayan salt.") It does have some trace minerals in it, and while I sometimes buy and enjoy pink sea salt, claims about it are usually exaggerated. The minerals in Himalayan salt are so minute in quantity that scientists say they make zero difference in our diet. Further, the only list I can find of the minerals found in pink salt (which may or may not be accurate, since nobody seems to know exactly how or where the salt was scientifically examined) has a few disturbing items in it, including arsenic, lead, plutonium, uranium, and polonium. Fluoride, too, which I know many people try to avoid.

Trying to find true Himalayan pink sea salt can also be difficult. Many manufacturers lie about the origins of the salt, or add things to it to make it look pink. Also, it's important to know that salt can be colors other than pink or white. There are gray salts, red, black, and so on - it all depends upon the minerals that naturally occur where the salt was harvested.

Perhaps some confusion comes from the fact that the pools in which sea salt are harvested are sometimes pink. But this isn't due to the color of the salt, but to algae and (sometimes) brine shrimp that are attracted to the pool. 

So, long story short, pink salt is not healthier than any other unprocessed salt.

Why Salt Isn't Bad For You

I grew up hearing that salt is terrible for your blood pressure. However, salt is something everyone needs in order to stay healthy. In fact, too little salt can be dangerous, too. Salt only becomes a problem when it's highly processed, or when we eat processed foods.

Yes, it's true. Anyone who eats processed foods (foods not made from scratch) or restaurant food is consuming huge amounts of salt - far more than is healthy, and far more than they'd be consuming if they made their own food and salted it as they cooked.

Putting it All in Perspective

If you want healthy salt, consume only pure sea salt. Read ingredient lists carefully, since salts often labeled "sea salt" may have added ingredients you should avoid.

This is a healthy daily intake of salt. That's a LOT!
If using pure sea salt, you can salt your food liberally and you will eat far less salt than if you were consuming processed food. The CDC recommends adults eat up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That's about 1 teaspoon of fine other words, a lot! I can't imagine using that much salt, even for a day's worth of food for my entire family. Another way to put this into perspective: Experts estimate that in the average person's diet, only 5% of their salt intake comes from cooking at home, with another 12% coming from natural foods. 6% comes from adding salt at the table...and a whopping 77% comes from processed/restaurant food!

Courtesy the CDC.
What I Recommend

I personally use Old Thompson's sea salt because I can buy it locally (at Walmart). It comes in coarse form and is sold in a grinder. For most cooking, this works perfectly. But if I need to measure out salt (say, for fermenting or canning) it's a bit of a pain to grind the salt, then measure it. One of these days, I may buy fine sea salt without additives, like Celtic Sea Salt or Real Salt.

Just read labels, my friends, and you'll be well on your way to outing unhealthy salt in your diet.

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: