Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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10/1/2014

There are many ways to use herbs in health and healing. As an herbalist, I naturally use a lot of tinctures and teas to address discomforts and ailments (if you have never made a tincture before, you can learn how to here). To a much lesser degree, I use powdered herbs and capsules. Consuming herbs in my diet is perhaps the most enjoyable and constant method of taking in the nutrients and healing constituents that the plant offers. However, it is a little difficult to eat some herbs without a vehicle for transportation.Herb Seasoned Condiments

Familiar kitchen herbs are a sure bet when it comes to adding flavor and zest to any food preparation, but what about the more bitter wild or cultivated medicinal herbs that also help build immunity and act as antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents, just to mention a few of their actions? How do we get these in our diet without throwing them in our hot, simmering soup pots where almost anything can be disguised? Boiling stock pots may leach some of the herbs constituents but may destroy others. For instance, garlic is a wonderful herb, but its most potent healing properties are believed to be in the raw crushed clove, and not in the cooked version. Adding kitchen herbs and medicinal herbs to our condiments, where they serve to flavor our food and help build our health a pinch or a teaspoon at a time is a good way to go instead. Used as a finishing touch, they serve up the herbs in a raw form and retain much of their potency. 

To get some of that raw, natural energy from plants we can add them to our salts, peppers, sweeteners, condiments, seeds and grains. While I do not recommend eating loads of salt or sugar (and there are many sugar options besides cane sugar), making a dirty salt or sugar decreases the amount of actual salt or sugar intake and increases the amount of healing herbs and flavor in your diet. Dirty it up with Herb Seasoned Condiments

To make a good herb salt, it is best to use a natural salt that is derived from sea-beds or prehistoric salt deposits. Common table salt (sodium chloride) is a highly refined, unnatural product with added stabilizers and synthetic anti-caking agents such as sodium aluminosilicate and other additives. Natural salt like pink Himalayan sea salt is rich in iodine and minerals. When it comes to sweeteners, there are loads of options besides white sugar. They are all sweet, calorie-rich and not so great for our glycemic index, but some are better than others for added nutrients. A few to consider are stevia, barley malt syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, agave, honey, and maple syrup.

Quinoa, rice, millet, and homemade ground flours are superb vehicles. Flours can be made from almost anything if you have  a food processor, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle in your kitchen. Stay well away from highly processed, bleached white flour, and try grinding flax seed, nuts such as almond, hazelnut, or pecan, and amaranth seed. Amaranth flour and ground flax are gluten free and can be added to baked goods for added nutrition. And if you havent discovered buckwheat yet, give it a try, this fruit seed is related to rhubarb and is packed with minerals and fiber, and is also gluten free.  

Homemade jams (like this easy recipe), mustards, vinegars, chutneys and honey are also a wonderful repository for fresh or dried healing herbs. The advantage of using fresh herbs is that they offer a powerful, untamed punch of potent flavor and healing properties. Take fresh leaves of sage, rosemary, basil or mint and roll them between your thumb and forefinger, smell their aromatic fragrance and taste their unique and individual flavors. Herb flavors are vibrant, sometimes pungent and bitter, but always nicely complicated. The disadvantage of fresh herbs is that they also add moisture, which can lead to mold growth. When using herbs, always dry them thoroughly and keep the finished product in the refrigerator. Drying your herbs before using them in any recipe will greatly diminish the chance of mold. 

Simple foods can be brought to a level of high intensity and greater purpose with just a few shakes of your favorite blends, or spread on liberally using fresh condiments. We encourage experimentation at the Herbal Academy of New England where we teach about healing herbs. Our rooms and hallways are filled with the scent of herbs steeping in teas, drying on racks and bundled and bottled for our classroom lectures and practices. Exploration into formulas that can be used in health enhancing dishes and wellness promoting teas, tinctures and body care products are just part of what we do. If there is a way to get more herbs in our diet, were on it!   

The Dirty Additions

Here are some ideas to help get you started. Dont eat the plain, clean, boring stuff! Dirty it up with Earths goodness in the form of herbs.

Dirty it up with Herb Seasoned Condiments

Mamas Got Her Own Salt Recipe

½ cup flaxseed
2 tsp dried nasturtium flowers
1 tsp dried lambs quarters
1 tsp dried celery seed
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried raspberry leaves
2 tsp dried onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme
½
cup coarse pink Himalayan sea salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  Pour into a clean glass jar, label and refrigerate. Use as a finishing touch for main dishes, vegetables and eggs.

Green Goodness Sea Salt

1 cup Himalayan sea salt
2 tsp dried dandelion leaf
½
tsp dried sage
½
tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried nettles
½
tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried chives
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.  This recipe can be used on fish, egg, and vegetable dishes.

Sel de Provence

½ cup finely cut sea salt
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried savory
1 tsp dried borage leaves
1 tsp dried lavender
1 tsp dried lemon peel

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, keeping the herbs coarse, then place in an earthenware pot or a glass jar. Use this to finish sauces, soups and main dishes.  Ingredients may be placed in a small cotton bag and removed from the dish before serving. 

Spicy Salt

½ cup coarse sea salt
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried lemon balm
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried fennel
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint
½
tsp dried black pepper

Dirty it up with Herb Seasoned Condiments

Salt Stimulation Sensation

1 cup coarse sea salt
1 tsp dried cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried ground ginseng root
1 tsp dried black pepper
½
tsp dried crushed cocoa beans
½
tsp dried crushed coffee beans

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend to desired consistency. Keep in a cool, dark place.

 

Curing Curry in Your Shaker

1 coarse cup sea salt
2 tbsp dried turmeric powder
1 tbsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried cardamom
½
tsp dried red pepper
½
tsp dried fennel

Sweeteners

For the following, use dried, ground herbs/berries if you are planning to store the sugars or honeys for an extended period of time. Alternatively, you can also use fresh herbs to infuse their flavor and scent into sugars or honey for a few days or a week, and then remove them.

The following are decadent additions to sugar and honey:

Lavender, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, geranium, rose petals, nutmeg, cocoa beans, star anise, ginger, fennel, basil, mint, clove, cardamom, ashwaganda root, shishandra berries or goji berries.

Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.


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9/26/2014

As the leaves turn, and the Seattle rain pours to welcome autumn, I begin to question the more personal changes and choices I’ve made in my life. The changing seasons often lead me to heightened self-reflection. For this reason alone, this turning inward, the time between seasons may be my favorite season of all. I always find myself relishing the surprise, unpredictability, and newness autumn brings. The season’s arrival prompts my imagining of the coming foggy glow from home windows as the chilling temperatures and string of holidays move our activities inside.

Peach Carrot and Apple SmoothieOur CSA

With the beginning of each season comes necessary endings. As summer turns to autumn, I have the hardest time letting go of our summer fruit and vegetable share from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA’s are membership supported farms and have been in our country for more than 25 years. To locate a farm near you, you can check out the Local Harvest website. We’ve been members of our CSA, Helsing Junction Farm, for 22 years, when they first began and had approximately 75 members, much fewer than their current 1,200. Clearly, change is not only seasonal.

Our weekly CSA share has necessitated a continued practice in flexibility. Every box comes filled with varied combinations of fruits, vegetables, and herbs fresh from the earth, so our CSA-driven meal planning fluctuates from week to week, based on what comes to us from the ground versus what we plan for and seek out in the stores. Helpfully, Helsing posts weekly recipes on their website to aid this ”on your toes” method of meal planning. Knowing we’ll receive delicious, healthful produce, but not knowing the contents of our weekly summer box, I let go of planning and get creative. Our CSA has me experimenting with ingredients and combinations I could never have planned on my own — a great lesson to me that change can come from releasing total control.

Food keeps us moving and growing. It keeps us alive. We must feed ourselves, whether or not we welcome the task, just as we must put on more clothes when the temperatures turn colder. The more I acknowledge the opportunity necessities of life provide, the more conscious and engaged I am in my living, breathing being. Throughout all change around me, I hold to one constant, my unwavering intentionality in parenting, general living, and eating. It’s going to take a lot of us to turn around the way food comes to us. As large corporations toxically engineer our world for unsustainable growth and over-production, the purity of nutrients in organics become increasingly important for us and our planet. I urge you to critically consider what you eat.

For further exploration on engaged eating, I highly recommend GMO OMG, a wonderful endorsement for practicing a life in communication with our planet by organic seed appreciation and seasonal eating.

Questions for healthy consideration: What will you eat today? Where is it being grown? Can you feel the difference in your health and body depending on what you eat?


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


9/22/2014

There’s a Slow Food movement gaining momentum, a movement dedicated to being everything fast food is not. With roots in the Slow Movement — which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace — Slow Food believes in healthy, sustaining, fair food for all.

Creating a Slow Time Movement

I look forward to living in a society that holds our time spent with loved ones up to similar standards as the Slow Food movement. Call it a Slow Time movement. Quality time spent together would include "healthy time," concentrated, without distraction; “sustaining time,” deep with lasting nourishment; and "fair time," equally shared and accessible. Every child would know that they’re surrounded by communities and adults who are there to teach, care for, and support them as they grow in the abundance of time and love.

As the idea’s taken hold of me, I’ve been noticing the presence of Slow Time all around me. On a recent walk, I saw a mom jogging with her toddler. Instead of the mom tuning into ear buds and the child into some handheld device, this mom was exchanging thoughts with her child. It was just the two of them, concentrating on one another—counting trees, identifying birds, chatting away as they cruised the neighborhood.

My next moment was almost identical to the first, only the child was a young lady. From what I witnessed of this mother/daughter relationship (pictured below) had been practicing Slow Time for years. They were out for an early morning summer walk, spending time together, an activity as easy to replicate as it is to mutually enjoy. Slow Time, like Slow Food, is simple, basic, and accessible to most of us.

An Example of Slow Time Shawn Hosford Slow Time

Most recently, I encountered a wonderful example of Slow Time while traveling home from New Jersey. I happened to be making the trip with an incredibly inspiring family. A set of grandparents and their granddaughter were journeying home after a 42-day, Internet-free adventure in South Africa and Tanzania. They noted how much they’d learned about each other on this trip, through undistracted and mutually shared time. What a wonderful gift for them all.

While our ever-increasing variety of tech tools can encourage obsessive distraction, they rarely necessitate it. We still choose to lose ourselves in our phone, TV, and computer screens, but we have other options. Although I can certainly slip, I choose to continually practice the patience and presence of Slow Time. When I see families doing the same, I’m the one taking mental note and remarking on how wonderful it is to see Slow Time spreading.

With regards to intentional parenting, I find Slow Time to be personal in practice and multi-generational in payoff. When I took the time to be present with our daughter through her childhood, we both felt a fullness that allowed us to navigate the world securely.

Cultivating a Slow Time World

Daily, when life gets busy, I like to take a moment and picture this: our country populated by people enjoying Slow Time. The air filled with stories, discussion, laughter, and even tears, free from screens—amplified by each other’s company.

Here are a few questions to think about. How much Slow Time do you think you weave into life with your loved ones? How do you prioritize slowness? What do you choose to do with your Slow Time? It’s definitely worth looking at.



9/19/2014

Is Chewing Gum Bad For You?Opening up a pack of gum to keep yourself busy or to freshen your breath after a meal is a common habit for many and may increase alertness and enhance sustained attention.[1] Several studies also suggest that sugar-free gum containing ingredients like xylitol can actually decrease cavities. However, the effect of gum on oral health is debated among researchers[2,3] and many people are wondering, “Is chewing gum bad for you?” If you chew a pack of gum a day, it can be. Here are four things you need to know about gum chewing.

Why is Chewing Gum Bad for You?

It can cause headaches and migraines. A study in adolescents with either migraine or tension-type headache produced rather startling results on the relationship between headaches and gum chewing. All participants chewed gum anywhere from one to six hours per day. After discontinuing any gum chewing, all headache symptoms completely disappeared in 19 out of the 30 patients, and seven had partial improvements in symptoms. When they restarted their gum habit, 20 of the children experienced a relapse of headaches within a few days. The researchers believe that pressure on the temperomandibular joint caused by prolonged chewing triggered the headaches, and exposure to ingredients in gum like aspartame may also be involved.[4]

Many sugar-free gums contain aspartame. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has been used to replace refined sugar in food, candy, and gum for decades. Although there is continued debate over the subject, aspartame has been considered carcinogenic, and many researchers suggest that it be removed, or at least reduced in quantity, from public consumption.[5,6] It may also have negative side effects like influencing brain function and contributing to conditions like fibromyalgia.[7,8] Look for brands that use xylitol to sweeten instead, which seems to be a safer alternative.

It can contribute to temperomandibular joint disorders (TMD,). TMD (which is commonly referred to as TMJ) can cause pain in the jaw, neck, and shoulders, as well other unpleasant symptoms like a decreased range of jaw motion. One of the major causes of TMD is the overuse or improper use of chewing muscles. Chewing gum is associated with increased TMD symptoms, and restraining from this kind of habit is recommended as a self-management tool for those suffering from the condition.[9,10]

It may cause you to choose less healthy foods. Many people claim that chewing gum can help you to lose weight or to eat less. While preoccupying yourself by chewing gum when you are hungry might help you to restrain from a snack, research shows that it isn’t quite that simple. A study in the journal Eating Behaviors found that chewing mint gum prior to eating reduced intake and preference of healthier options like fruit. The authors suggest that there was “a reduction in consumption of nutrient rich foods” when participants chewed gum for a week compared to a week without any gum.[11]

Changing Your Gum-Chewing Habit

If you chew gum regularly, many times a day, try to cut back on your habit. It might help to replace gum with natural, sugar-free mints at first. Sometimes, sugar cravings can cause you to chew gum to satisfy the need for sweets; reducing your intake of sugars overall will help to curb your sugar cravings and halt your need to chew gum.

Reserve your pack of gum for special occasions and use a piece as a reward or a treat to yourself when you need one. Make sure you choose a sugar-free gum, but avoid aspartame by choosing a natural brand, like Pur Gum or Glee Gum, that uses xylitol instead.

Share your experience

Does gum negatively impact your health? What are you favorite alternatives to gum? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Resources

[1] Physiol Behav. 2014 Jun 22;133:244-51.
[2] Br Dent J. 2011 Oct 7;211(7):E15.
[3] J Am Dent Assoc. 2013 Jan;144(1):21-30.
[4] Pediatr Neurol. 2014 Jan;50(1):69-72.
[5] Am J Ind Med. 2014 Apr;57(4):383-97.
[6] Am J ClinNutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1419-28.
[7] Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(1):10-7.
[8] Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Dec;16(15):2092-101.
[9] J Man Manip Ther. 2009;17(4):247-54.
[10] Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2006 Oct;102(4):482-7.
[11] Eat Behav. 2013 Apr;14(2):149-56.



9/17/2014

Although I have danced through each of my pregnancies and although I have cherished the power of a woman’s body to birth a baby both naturally and peacefully, it was not until my third pregnancy that the Dancing for Birth concept was made a reality.

Dancing For Birth

Something about dancing at my belly dance classes with a babe in utero felt very right. Rotating my hips in my living room with my pregnant self and a video called Bollywood Booty also felt very right, almost spiritual. And, then there was the one specific moment in the midst of doing a ‘figure-eight.’ “This,” I thought, “is what pregnant women need to prepare for childbirth!”

I was in the middle of doula training through Birthingway College in Portland, OR and in the middle of an extensive reading list including books from Ina May Gaskin, Tina Cassidy and Michel Odent. I had the head knowledge to promote positive, low-intervention births and I had both personal and professional experiences seeing those births first hand. But dance, I concluded, was the ticket to get pregnant and laboring women from fear to freedom. I had a long term plan to develop a program which utilized dance in this way. Thankfully, in a local birth support meeting, another doula mentioned Dancing for Birth. I went home that night and immediately signed up for the next available workshop in my area.

I knew that the workshop would be fulfilling and exciting. However the workshop far exceeded my expectations. Founder Stephanie Larson displayed such conviction in her instruction and such wisdom. To what I had come to believe about dance and birth, she gave words, she gave names (dilation gyration), she gave inspiration and she gave confidence. At this point, I knew dance to be a powerful way for women to trust their bodies in birth. And at the DFB training Stephanie Larson had given me an arsenal of tools to further communicate the message. But, could I convince women who didn’t dance and who had neutral and even negative feelings towards labor that this could be an essential part of their pregnancy and birth? Once I completed my demonstration class, the answer was a resounding yes. One first-time momma in attendance said, “I really bonded with my baby and realize that the baby and I are in this together.” This was also a momma who claimed not to be a dancer. I am pleased to say her coin scarf jingled the loudest.

So, to the Dancing for Birth sisterhood, I bring my skills as a doula, as a world-dancer and as an advocate for empowered birth experiences and could not be more pleased to do so.



9/12/2014

We rarely encounter health issues on our humble homestead, except mundane ailments involving chiggers, poison ivy or ticks. Still, I enjoy adding to my library of old-time cures and concoctions ― just in case.Doctor Jarvis

This summer, I was ecstatic to find a charming old book by a country doctor who believed it was imperative he study folk remedies to gain the medical confidence of his patients living close to the soil on back-road farms. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis, M.D., (1881-1966) wrote Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health at age 77 after spending decades gathering home cures that he said were as, or more, effective than those organized medicine taught him to use. "I believe the doctor of the future will be a teacher as well as a physician," Jarvis wrote. "His real job will be to teach people how to be healthy."

I especially love that the copy I found in a used book store has a penciled list of specific ailments paper-clipped to the first page, which leads me to envision a three- or four-generation household. The list includes: Honey for bedwetting, Page 105; Treating overweight, Page 68-69; Apple cider vinegar for arthritis, Page 91; and Castor oil for liver spots, Page 147. Inside, a homemade bookmark made of a torn slip from a medical pad advertising “Polycillin-N” is handwritten with “honeycomb treatment for sinus cold.” Did someone perhaps discard a physician’s prescription and instead found a natural remedy in this old book?

Medicinal Benefits of Honey and Apple Cider Vinegar

Jarvis is best known for advocating doses of honey and apple cider vinegar three times daily to prevent and/or cure many common illnesses including arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, high blood pressure and colds. The delightful elixir (one teaspoon each of honey and vinegar in a glass of water) also restores energy. Already in 1958, Jarvis noted that our modern diet of fats, starches and nutrition-depleted processed foods made people sick, weak, overweight and listless. I wonder what he would think today of our synthetic and genetically modified foods laden with chemicals. When he first began learning folk cures, Jarvis said many old-time treatments did not make medical sense to him, such as chewing the fresh gum of a spruce tree to cure a sore throat in a day. Jarvis’ further studies led to “considerable readjustment of orthodox approaches.”

The fifth-generation Vermonter not only sought the input of country folks for indigenous medicine, but studied insects, birds and animals to learn how they kept healthy. He watched wild and pastured animals to see what they ate and how they cured themselves when ill. Jarvis noted that humans are terrified to miss a meal, but animals know to retreat to a dark, secluded spot without food until they are well again. "If you care to go to school, go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow them to teach you their ways,” Jarvis wrote.

Jarvis believed that everything people and animals need to survive could be found in nature. We hadn't thought of it that way when we gave up buying commercially produced soaps and whatnot years ago. We simply wanted to avoid as many chemicals as possible. Now we use only all-natural stuff, such as our local Back Forty Soap Company’s goat milk soap. I am sure Doctor Jarvis would approve.

Folk Wisdom on Food and Health

Jarvis discovered that caged mink fed too much protein will develop bladder problems and kidney stones, in many cases dying. But left to their own devices, wild mink supplement their carnivorous diet with berries and leaves. These same ailments plaque humans eating a protein-rich diet. So, eat your greens. Farm children fascinated Jarvis, who discerned that children, like animals, have self-protective instincts about food. Studying Vermont children younger than 10, Jarvis discovered that these young children chewed cornstalks and ate potatoes, carrots, peas, string beans and rhubarb – all raw and fresh from the garden. The youngsters also gobbled “berries, green apples, ripe apples, the grapes that grow wild throughout the state, sorrel, timothy grass heads, and the part of the timothy grass that grows underground. They ate salt from the cattle box, drank water from the cattle trough, chewed hay, ate calf food, and by the handful, a dairy-ration supplement containing seaweed; they even filled their pockets with this, to eat during school.”

Folk MedicineJarvis speculates adults have lost much of their natural intuition toward food and health. Probably more so today, we are influenced by such an avalanche of advertisements and advisements that we don’t even know what’s good for us anymore. “If we were wise enough to carry into adult life the instincts of childhood, we would make a point of eating fruit, berries, edible leaves, and edible roots that would not be cooked,” Jarvis wrote, adding that those who retained their natural impulses are fond of salads and, consequently, healthier.

“Your body, designed for the living of primitive times, expects to receive a daily intake of leaves,” Jarvis wrote. “In these more civilized times the body still needs these leaves as much as ever, in order to better stand the stress and strain of modern living.”

Following Vermonters who live close to the soil, he found many eat beechnut, maple, willow, apple, chokecherry, poplar and birch tree leaves. Elm tree leaves are said to be the best for quickly relieving hunger. Pages 48-55 list numerous wild edibles and their benefits.

Throughout the book, Jarvis gives examples of how honey and vinegar or a combination of both restored health to humans and animals. Not just any honey and vinegar will do, however. The honey must be raw (not pasteurized) and unfiltered, the darker and cloudier the better. Vinegar, too, should not be filtered or distilled. Processing destroys nutrients and beneficial bacteria.

Drinking Switchel for Good Health

Honey And Vinegar Drink

My husband and I have been enjoying swigs of raw apple cider vinegar before each meal for more than five years. We fill our gallon jug with it at the local feed mill; we also buy local raw honey by the five-gallon pail. And, like I said, it has been years since either of us has had a cold or flu. We’d never mixed honey and vinegar before, so I was eager to try it when I began reading Jarvis’ book. As I was visiting St. Paul, Minn., at the time, I walked 2 miles to the nearest health food store for some raw honey and vinegar and hurried back to my daughter’s apartment with the goods. I was immediately hooked on the delicious sweet and sour concoction, also known as switchel or honegar.

A quick search on Mother Earth News’ site revealed others who have followed Jarvis’ advice. In 1973, reader Sue Gross wrote to Mother Earth News in Feedback on How to Raise and Keep Goats to say how she fed vinegar to her goats, successfully curing mastitis and worms. Also, author Laurie Masterson wrote of her mother serving honey and vinegar water with crushed ginger root to the field hands in this 2014 article, Switchel Recipe.

To learn more, please see our blog, Folk Medicine Book Pushes Honey and Vinegar.

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.



9/9/2014

Oregoano In The Garden

The smell is one of familiar culinary delight. Ah! Oregano! It’s pungent aroma lends zest to sauces, Italian dishes, and tomato products of all kinds. But what of the medicinal qualities of this oft forgotten aromatic?

Oregano is a member of the huge mint family, Lamiaceae. Its name has a base in Greek (they all do, it seems). Oros, meaning mountain, and ganos, meaning joy, are combined to express what the people of the time must have thought of the plant. It is a mountain joy. It can be found cultivated throughout the world. As with many modern “kitchen herbs,” it has a great many varieties. Typically, it typically grows 50 cm tall and has purple leaves around 2 to 3 centimeters in length. The variety I have in my garden grows leaves a bit smaller and more of a deep green, however, that may be due to the climate in which we live. I am still investigating this.

The smell of oregano is distinctive. Thymol, pinene, limonene, carvacrol, ocimene, and caryophyllene all work together to give off that wonderful aroma. It’s flavor is impossible to mistake in Mexican and Italian dishes.

Oregano as Antifungal

A gentlemen approached me once, and request a rather large amount of essential oil of oregano. I had used quite a bit of different oils, but the quantity in which he asked for the oregano oil seemed quite outlandish at the time. Really, it wasn’t. He only asked for five 5 ml bottles, but I was a newbie and no idea why he would need so much at one time. He enlightened me.

It turns out that oregano oil acts as a vigilante against fungus. He was a long time sufferer of repeated sinus infections. Since he worked in a nursing home environment, and the research from the CDC suggesting that recurrent sinus infections may be a result of a fungal overgrowth instead of an infection, he was ready to try anything. He also shared with me, that he had long been battling toe nail fungus. This gave him the idea that perhaps his body was just dealing with too much fungus and not so much bacterial invaders.

He suggested the following use for oregano oil (in addition to applying topically in a carrier oil, such as olive or sweet almond oil):

Add 3-5 drops of oregano essential oil to a pot of approx. 1 quart of boiling water. After the water is removed from heat (and source of flame), bend over the pot and tent yourself with a towel over the vapors. Inhale deeply through the nostrils. The gentleman also added 1-2 drops of the essential to a nettie pot (see note at bottom of post) containing a teeny amount of sesame oil in body temperature water* to fully bathe the sinus cavities in the wonderful oil.

Oregano as Antibiotic

After some research, I was convinced the gentleman would be just fine using oregano. It turns out that not only is this oil antifungal, but it has antibiotic effects, too. Carvacrol, a phenol in oregano, is being looked at for its powerful ability to kill bacteria. Tests at Georgetown University suggest it may stack up even when compared to streptomycin and penicillin. Portuguese researchers found that Origanum vulgare essential oils were effective against 41 strains of the food pathogen Listeria monocytogenes2. I would love to see if this plant could pack a punch against some of the modern day antibiotic resistant infections rampant in the U.S. A team of British and Indian researchers reported that the essential oil of Himalayan oregano has strong antibacterial properties that can even kill the hospital superbug MRSA.

Oregano as Antioxidant

In the U.S. the push is to be young forever. We all seem to be chasing the easiest way to appear younger, feel more energetic and live longer. Adding oregano may be a component to your formula. It contains thymol and romarinic acid. These work to reduce free radical damage in the body. In fact, research done at the USDA's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, a tablespoon of fresh oregano contains as much antioxidant power as a medium sized apple. Now, I know the FDA won’t acknowledge such a thing, but another arm of our government clearly shows that it works. The situation is truly half a dozen of one and twelve of another, if you ask me.

Oregano as a Digestive Aid

There is no coincidence that these herbs found in heavy, fatty meat laden dishes, help to stimulate the flow of digestive secretions. It makes the saliva flow, and this is the beginning of digestion. The more your food can be broken down, the less gas it can create. And in case any gets past the digestive juices, no fear! It contains various chemical components that relax the gut, allowing the expulsion of gas without pain.

Other Historical Uses

Oregano “juice” is said to soothe venomous spider bites, bee stings and mosquito bites. While I never intend to find out, it also said to treat venomous snakebite. I would prefer to error on the side of caution on that last one, and get to a hospital in that instance.

Oregano tea (from Medicinal Health Guide)
wash fresh or dried oregano leaves
chop then add in 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of oregano leaves
let it boil for 10 to 15 minutes
let it steep then strain the leaves
Drink half cup of Oregano three times a day
oregano concoction can be stored in suitable glass container for later consumption.

*Please use care when utilizing a nettie pot. This is wonderful tool, but the water used should be distilled and warmed to body temperature ONLY. The sinus tissues are very sensitive and can be burned easily. A tiny bit of sesame oil added to the warmed water will help from drying the sinus tissues, as well. Oregano: zest for your dinner and your herbal medicine chest.












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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.