Every single day there is an article proclaiming the virtues of some exotic herb. One gets vivid mental images of an Indiana Jones type of character, venturing through uncharted jungle to uncover these latest and greatest magical plants to cure all of the world's ills. Maybe such a plant exists somewhere, but until it is found, I'm going to stick with some tried and true remedies. One of these is Capsicum.
Capsicum (Capsicum annuum) is a plant that is originally native to the warmer climates of North and Central America. It is now cultivated in many regions around the world during the hot, summer growing months. It is used to add heat to many dishes, like chili, salsa, and General Tso's Chicken, just to name a few.
A warming herb, capsicum is rich in vitamin C, alpha-tocopherols (vitamin E), beta-carotene, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 (folic acid), cobalt and zinc. This being said, it has been said to be of great benefit to the circulatory system. Linus Pauling, a researcher that heavily researched vitamin C, suggested large doses of vitamin C to aid in the avoidance of coronary heart disease. His research is carried on today by the research institute that bears his name at Oregon State University, the Linus Pauling Institute. Their research efforts have shown that consumption of vitamin C (700 mg/day) decreased a person's chances of ending up with coronary heart disease by 25%. They also have presented information form studies that show vitamin C consumption warding off the thickening of artery walls. This is pretty exciting stuff. Capsicum is one way to increase that vitamin C intake.
Capsicum is an herb that was highly acclaimed by traditional naturopaths, like the famed Dr. Christopher. It is said that he recommended its use if someone suspected a heart attack. Many people advocate taking the red pepper powder and then heading directly to the hospital. He claimed it dilated the blood vessels to deliver much needed circulation to the heart tissues that could be compromised. I know when my own father seemed to be expressing concerns that sounded like a heart attack; I had him follow this protocol. He took about 10 of the capsules, four baby aspirin and then headed directly to the emergency room of the local hospital. He did say the combination reduced the pain, albeit short term relief, and he swears to this day it bought him the time needed to get to the proper medical attention.
The ability to staunch bleeding is another characteristic of capsicum. Despite the burning pain one will experience at the outset of application, capsicum has been said to stop the bleeding of minor injuries. Obviously large, gaping cuts require the services of a trained medical professional for stitches. However just think of the minor cuts that can be sprinkled with some capsicum powder and then rinsed with peroxide (to get rid of the infection potential) that otherwise are just bothersome.
Digestive complaints are pretty common in this day and age. Capsicum has been traditionally used to soothe upset stomachs and reduce gastric inflammation. It is been mentioned, historically, for the relief from ulcers. There is some debate on this point, though. Gastroenterologists, in general, do not recommend the consumption of red pepper (capsicum) if a person has been diagnosed with acid reflux. Unfortunately, ulcers and acid reflux often go together. I go by this rule of thumb: if you consume capsicum in either food or supplement form, discontinue use if it causes painful heart burn or reflux.
In blended herbal formulas, capsicum is often added to act as a catalyst. A catalyst adds some extra zing to the blend. This often results in a quicker acting formula. This, I believe, is due to this amazing herb's potential to open the blood vessels.
Topically the herb is found in many pain relieving preparations. Capsaicin, the active "hot" component of the herb, has been found in crèmes for muscle and skin pain relief for a long time. Studies have shown that topical use reduces joint swelling and pain associated with that type of swelling. There has even been research showing the topical application can reduce pain associated with shingles and mastectomy. It is even said that the powder can be sprinkled inside one's gloves and socks to keep the hands and feet warm during freezing temperatures. However, this herb can burn the skin when used in excess, so remember to use it in very small quantities. More is not better when it comes to this classic herb. It is, after all, a main ingredient in pepper spray for self defense.
There are some side effects of which to be aware. Discontinue use if you experience upset stomach, diarrhea, an extreme burning sensation around the mouth or skin in contact with the capsicum, or if you are experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction. Capsicum is a pepper and a member of the nightshade family of plants. Avoid using it near your eyes and/or if you are allergic to these plants.
So while I eagerly await a swashbuckling ethnobotanist to uncover the miracle cure-all we’ve all been waiting for, I’ll be happy having capsicum as an addition to my natural arsenal.
Picture from Wikipedia
In my last post about being too attached to my children, I used the phrase, “While parenting is not always full of fairies and unicorns...” As we all know, parenting is never full of fairies and unicorns as they don’t exist, at least not in my neck of the woods; but neither does perfect parenting. While I love, love, love, love, love my kids and feel so honored that I get to parent them and receive their cuddles and watch them discover the world around them, I am by no means a perfect parent and do not pretend to enjoy every parenting moment.
My post also referred loosely to attachment parenting with an obvious bias of support. Yet, while I sometimes wish I could freeze and maintain the intimacy of breastfeeding my kids and have them snuggle to sleep with me every night of our lives, there is a certain reality in place which cracks that idealistic image.
I have a friend whose toddler puts herself to sleep…as in momma lays baby down, walks out of the room and baby goes to sleep within minutes. There have been times when I’ve nursed my toddler for an hour and a half resulting in only an hour nap on his part. And, while I have carried or worn each of my babies, I have also earned myself a very sore back after a day of wearing baby in combo with grocery shopping, dishes and housecleaning.
I have recently discovered Amber Dusick’s “CrappyPictures.com.” She is ever so talented in illustrating, both with images and humor, the realities of everyday life as a parent, and particularly as a mother. Her post, “What it’s Like to (Not) Sleep at Night,” tells perfectly the story of breastfeeding and co-sleeping mothers. The first time I saw this post, I laughed until I cried, then I read it once more and I laughed and cried all over again. Because I want you to view her post to get the full effect, I will not describe it here. But, I will tell you that it does make me second guess myself as a parent…if I had let my baby cry it out when he was an infant, would I not have to deal with starfish baby in my bed and spending hours nursing him to sleep while dishes need to be done and clients need to be called?
But, as Dr. Benjamin Spock, the infamous child-rearing guru of the forties, stated, “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
Do I think breast is best? Absolutely. Do I encourage sleeping with your babies? Definitely. Do I think crying babies should be coddled? Without a doubt. Do I know your specific situation? Of course not. And that is what makes Crappy Pictures and the whole of the internet parenting world amazing.
The best part about these tough choices and less than successful experiences as a parent is that we are never alone in this venture. Somewhere out there, someone is drawing a comic about your parenting choices and your lifestyle. I hope you find it, and please share it with me when you do. Until then, love yourself, love your children and above all, trust yourself!
Click here to read all of Lisa Marie's posts.
Image drawn by Amber Dusick of CrappyPictures.com, used with permission.
Having your first child is akin to the early stages of dating someone you think you might really like. You are not sure what this is supposed to look like and you react to every word spoken … you want to make sure you look your best and say the right things, and you end up with butterflies in your stomach at each meeting. All day you think of this special person and imagine the next phase of your life together.
When I had my first child, it was frequently commented that I was holding her too much. In fact, it seemed that I would rush to pick her up whenever she would cry. And people around me thought this was a bit obsessive. They also called me selfish because they claimed I wanted to be with her all the time; it was suggested that I take a break from her, let others spend some time with her. But much like dating, my giddiness in getting to know her wouldn’t let me interact with her any other way.
As she grew taller, began to crawl, started speaking and began reasoning, this habit of mine never really changed. I continued the trend with my second child. I remember falling asleep in the same bed together and waking up in the middle of the night together. I relished the feeling of his little feet resting against my belly button as we slept, knowing that before long they would be resting against my thighs.
Then, my third child and I have earned the nickname, “Motherboy” from my husband, as we are never far from each other, if not attached at the, well, hip, breast … you name it.
Hold Them and Hold Them
While parenting is not always full of fairies and unicorns, and I will write more on that in the next post, there is magic in having my little ones close to me. Like my first date with my beloved, I still get excited and full of butterflies when I see my children after time apart. Now more than ever, I choose my words ever so carefully knowing that my kids ponder and repeat everything I say. And as they grow older and more independent, they remind me daily with their words and their actions that they are still attached to me, that they still need me and that they love me unconditionally.
Despite his explorations which take him in all directions when in public, I still nurse my baby to sleep at night and for daytime naps. Despite his preference to wrestle over giving hugs, I still pick up my little boy when he cries and rush to kiss his knees when they get hurt. Despite her desire to play with friends over doing errands with me, I still take extra time to brush my daughter’s long, golden hair if only to have her close to me for a few moments longer.
The reality is that from the moment they are born, our children become more independent and less dependent on us. So when they are little and are learning how to interact with the world around them, I attach to them, letting them know that they will always have my arms to come home to. The world will teach them to detach soon enough and they will have plenty of opportunities to cry it out when they are hurt.
For now, I think of these special people all day and imagine the next phase of our lives together. And until then, you will find me holding my babies, and holding them and holding them and holding them.
Delight your taste buds while staying healthy and trim with these quick and easy healthy lunch recipes.
Chicken and Strawberry Wrap Recipe
1 gluten-free flour tortilla
½ to 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 spoonful balsamic vinaigrette or Bragg Organic Vinaigrette
Handful of shredded lettuce
3 to 5 strawberries, sliced
1 spoonful of chopped pecans
1 spoonful of feta cheese
Combine all ingredients (except tortilla) in a bowl and stir well. Lay tortilla flat; spoon mixture into the middle of the tortilla. Roll up the wrap as tightly as you can (fold like a burrito). Enjoy!
Gluten-Free Chicken Salad Recipe
4 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 cup seedless red or green grapes, sliced in halves
½ cup celery, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup of plain yogurt
1 teaspoon agave or honey
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Combine chicken, grapes, celery, parsley and walnuts in a bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir yogurt, agave (or honey) and lemon in a separate bowl until mixed well. Combine chicken mixture and yogurt mixture; stir well. Enjoy with gluten-free crackers, bread or veggies.
Looking for lunch on the go? You don’t have to grab a fattening fast food meal to gratify your hunger at lunchtime. Instead, try this nutrition-packed smoothie. It’s quick, easy-to-make and will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Tropical Smoothie Recipe
1 to 2 scoops high-quality whey protein
1 peeled and sliced orange, seeds removed
1 cup diced pineapples
½ cup frozen or fresh strawberries
¼ cup shredded coconut
4 ounces coconut milk
Stevia or xylitol to taste
Ice cubes as desired
Combine all ingredients in a blender and add ice cubes as desired; blend until smooth. Enjoy! (If you need to make your smoothie in the morning before work, it does save in a glass container in the freezer.)
To download and save this tropical smoothie recipe and other nutritious healthy lunch recipes, get our free e-book, 30 Easy, Healthy Recipes Your Family Will Love, here.
The first birth I witnessed was rather intense, especially for a 7th grader. I was 13 years old and wanted desperately to be present for the birth of my first niece. My sister-n-law and my brother agreed to my pleas to be there. Melanie, my sister-n-law, was to be induced. On the appointed day, we all packed our bags and in the evening, headed to the hospital.
We hung out a while waiting for doctors and nurses to start Melanie’s labor – boredom set in while we were waiting and I started to play with all the buttons on the bed. I leaned the head portion all the way down and discovered it wouldn’t come back up. I had broken the hospital bed moments before Melanie was to be induced; they had to find her another bed. Who brought this pesky, freckled, red-haired, 7th grader anyway?
Once Melanie’s Pitocin was started, the boredom was chased away as she became quite vocal about the fact that my brother, Rob, has done this to her. He had single-handedly flew a stork in from Spain and placed a baby in Melanie’s belly and was now forcing the baby out. In the middle of Melanie’s anguish, a needle made an appearance…the biggest needle I had ever seen. And they took the needle and slid into the spine of my sister-in-law’s back. HOLY CRAP! Did I just see that? My skiddish 7th grade mind prayed I would not relive that visual ever again.
Several hours later, Melanie was still letting everyone in the state know she was not enjoying this experience. And I couldn’t blame her…especially when I saw the scissors. Not sure how I had the privilege of this position, but from where I stood, supporting Melanie’s leg, I saw the doctor take what looked like an ordinary pair of scissors and start cutting Melanie’s perineum…just like that, he just started cutting like it was paper. Quickly after, he took a vacuum cleaner hose and sucked out my beautiful, purple and blue niece, cone head and all.
Ummm. What just happened? Needles, profanities, scissors, vacuums and babies. Something about this whole picture was very traumatizing and very confusing. Is this really how babies are born?
Developing a Birthing Philosophy: Yoga for Pregnancy
Fourteen years later and I am pregnant with my first child. All the images of my niece’s birth flood my mind and repeat themselves over and over again. I am absolutely terrified of labor. I do not know that there is a natural birth movement. I do not know what a doula is. I do not know about pre-natal yoga. The only thing I do know at this point is that there is no way in hell that anyone is sticking a huge needle into my spine and no one is going to be cutting anything around me unless it is an umbilical cord. And this was my birth philosophy…I am afraid of labor pains, but I am much more afraid of needles and scissors. I don’t care what kind of magic that needle and those scissors perform, they are not going to be anywhere near me.
To prepare for birth, I read a popular, albeit non-empowering, book regarding expectations about pregnancy and birth. Every morning I did a few, simple yoga poses, stretches and deep breathing exercises. And at 2 a.m. on March 18, 2006 my labor began. I walked. I breathed. I soaked. I walked more. I breathed more. I puked. I shat. I breathed. I groaned. I got lost in my head. I breathed. I pushed. I groaned. I breathed. I pushed. I groaned more. I felt the aptly named ring of fire. Finally, I pushed one last time and behold I saw my baby girl for the first time. She was beautiful.
Moments later, I looked at my husband and said, “That wasn’t so bad.” He looked confused. But really, it wasn’t so bad — and it was way better than getting a needle slipped into my spine. Which is good, because needles scare me; but my first un-medicated birth had unleashed the brave goddess that was within me.
The weather here in Ohio has been up, down and all around. We’ve had the coldest temperatures seen in the last thirty years and it has changed in a matter of days to slightly above freezing to create a sloppy, slushy mess. There is a saying, “If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, just wait five minutes.”
All these ups and downs, coupled with the regular stresses of the holidays and the impending tax season, can make for a lot of stress. Stress has been shown to impair immune function, and leaves you wide open for one of Ohio’s huge pain-causers: sinus infection.
Symptoms of Sinus Infection
You know the symptoms, don’t you? WebMD.com points to these red-light symptoms:
- pain in the cheeks, forehead, or bridge of the nose
- dizziness, especially upon sudden movement
- pain the gets worse upon movement or sneezing
- nasal discharge, including post-nasal drip
- fullness and/or pain in the ears
- swollen face
- at times, fever
Medical treatment for sinus infections includes over-the-counter pain killers, antibiotics (sometimes), nasal sprays, decongestants, and/or antihistamines. All of these things, when used over the long haul, can create problems. OTC pain killers have been found to damage the liver and kidney tissues when used to excess. Antibiotic use can lead to over-use, and that can lead to antibiotic resistant infections down the road. Nasal sprays can lead to severe irritation of the lining of the nose and sinus membranes when used long-term. Heavy or long-term use of decongestants, like those containing pseudoephedrine and the like, have left some concerned about possible effects on the heart or heart rate. Even antihistamines, which are super difficult to abuse, can make you sleepy and groggy upon waking.
Not going to use those medicines long, you say? You may be surprised. Many people develop these buggers over and over. According to Sinuwave (a manufacturer of an in-office disinfectant system which medical doctors can use) gives the stat of 20 percent of sinusitis patients being unresponsive to medical treatments. They, and WebMD.com, say the cost of this search for medical treatments for these non-responsive sinus infections as up to a max of $35,000 per patient! I don’t know about you, but since the economy tanked, there have been some years where $35,000 was all the money I made!
Natural Remedy: Fenugreek for Sinus Infections
What if I told you there was an herb that would help to combat these painful infections? Well, actually there are many herbs that will do that. However, one of my favorite is fenugreek. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) has a distinct smell. The smell does transmit through your perspiration, so be aware of what you may end up smelling like. I don’t think it is too bad, though. It is a regular component of teas to enhance the breast milk supply for new mothers. One new mom once told me the tea made her smell like “…Indian food mixed with maple syrup.” In my opinion, there are worse things to have your body odor resemble.
Sinus congestion is just one thing this great herb addresses. It has been used for centuries to reduce the swelling of the lining of the sinuses. This is of benefit for sinus infection and allergy sufferers alike. Just imagine a flower being able to reduce the swelling of your sinus membranes. That would mean less of a battle to blow out the mucus forming. Mucus only forms in hyper quantities when irritants or infection is present. It is, after all, one of many of the body’s own mechanisms to flush out foreign invaders. Imagine being able to blow it all out without the pain that can linger for a while afterwards. Fenugreek can do just that.
Fenugreek has been indicated in some historical texts as being used for inflammation of the stomach and digestive tract, too. It is said to be the oldest recorded herb found so far. When you couple this flower with another common flower, Thyme, there isn’t a swollen sinus passage that stands a chance!
Herbal Remedy: Thyme’s Healing Properties
Thyme (of the genus Thymus, usually Thymus vulgaris) is highly antiseptic. Its essential oil is used in a very popular oral disinfectant, Listerine. In this product, thymol (essential oil of thyme) is combined with menthol and eucalyptol to produce a bacteria killing machine.
Thyme as a plant can do the same thing for you. Of course you can use it in your food and some people like the tea as an oral rinse or sinus irrigation. Be that as it may, I am a wuss. I really don’t like things that taste bad. I can bet you don’t either. I find the easiest way to get a blend of these two plants down is as encapsulated supplements. The taste is then no longer a factor
Side Effects of Thyme and Fenugreek Treatments
Some side effects should be mentioned. Besides the body odor implications of fenugreek, you should know that if you take too much fenugreek, you could develop gas, bloating and diarrhea. Thyme, in excess, can be a gastric irritant. I’m not going to say that no one can over-dose in an herbal supplement, but I AM going to tell you that you would have to completely ignore a lot of “burping-up” of product and trips to the bathroom in order to over-dose on either of these two plants or a combination product. Be aware and be mindful of your body’s reaction to the supplements you use. It is suggested, in some sources, to avoid large quantities of fenugreek if you are pregnant or allergic to peanuts. I would not recommend using it for neither small children nor infants.
Both fenugreek and thyme can be found at health food stores separately and as combination products. Online store-fronts carry it as well. Make sure you look for a well-known brand. I do have it available in combination form through my online store-front, as well. It is not an expensive supplement by any means and can make such a huge difference!
Fenugreek plant and seeds photo by Fotolia/govindji
Thyme photo by Eggert Baumschulen
The week before last, my husband took our dog on his regular morning run through our local Red Rock canyon. On this particular day he happened to trip and fall. Being that our dog had no desire to be the cushion for his landing, he ran on … dragging my husband behind.
When he got home I tried not to panic. He tends to injure himself often. He was pretty banged up with a deep gash on the palm of his hand and a leg that had definitely seen better days. We cleaned the wounds and pulled out the ole staples: tea tree oil and what we had left of Egyptian magic. Later that day and all through the evening he was helping out a friend in retail, handling a lot of cash and merchandise and exposing his hand wound to all sorts of invaders.
The next morning, we noticed the wound on his hand was tender and red with an obvious red line traveling up his arm from the wound site. I knew some folks that had blood poisoning and knew that it was serious. Immediately we started him on LDM (Lomatium dissectum extract) and did research online and in our many holistic and medical books. Everything we came across said EMERGENCY!!! We try to find an alternative healing option for most things, but according to our research, it seemed that the situation called for something more.
The first emergency clinic he went to sent him elsewhere because they didn’t have a certain antibiotic shot they said he required. So he sat at the “Urgent” care facility for almost 2 hours before anyone addressed him. It turned out they didn’t have the shot and prescribed him pills instead. I filled the script on the way home. Have you read the side effects of these things?! I wasn't quite confident about him chucking the prescribtion, but the red line had begun to fade from our immediate response with the LDM. We wanted to give Mother Nature one more chance before we pumped him full of chemical antibiotics.
Now let me state: I am in no way suggesting you ignore your doctor’s orders for such a serious condition. I am simply relaying a personal experience.
Making a Potato Poultice
We found a story online about potatoes. We decided to try it. We would monitor his condition carefully, and if any of the symptoms got worse he would immediately take the antibiotic. We had organic white potatoes on hand. We peeled and then shredded some of the pulp, and made a poultice type application for his wound. He kept it on for a few hours covered with plastic wrap and then let it dry out. He then followed it with an Epsom salt soak, followed again by drying and then more potatoes. He did this continuously for a couple of days. By the end of that first night, the line had faded dramatically. He continued with the LDM, but also took propolis, ate LOTS of garlic and drank lemon and cayenne water.
No antibiotics later, he is superb. The wound is healing wonderfully AND he didn’t get this NASTY cold/flu that I seem to have caught (probably from being in the hospital). I am confident that the propolis, vitamin C, garlic and LDM kept him from getting sick. They are helping me, too; just taking a bit longer than I’d like. We are happy, after the fact, that they didn’t have the shot. It gave us a chance to learn something new and add a new remedy to our arsenal. A few days ago I relayed the story to my grandmother and it turns out she used potato poultices all the time when she was growing up. The wisdom of our elders is awesome, folks.
We are not necessarily doctor people. We try to place our trust in Holistic medicine when we can, but we are also not opposed to using conventional methods when they are deemed necessary. I found it ironic that we ended up using our holistic arsenal anyway.
Blessed are we to have such possibilities at our fingertips! Here's to health!