Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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2/7/2014

Ginseng is one of the best known and most frequently studied medicinal plants worldwide. This is for good reason—ginseng benefits just about every system in the body in one way or another.There are a number of different types of ginseng. The species of ginseng that is most commonly used around the world is Panax ginseng, also known as Korean or Asian ginseng. Its official botanical name is Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is another commonly used and well-studied species. The word “Panax” is derived from the Latin "Pan," meaning “all,” and "Akos," meaning “cure.” If any herbal medicine is truly a cure-all, ginseng is it. Its broad range of therapeutic effects includes everything from fighting fatigue to preventing cancer.

Ginseng’s Two Most Beneficial ConstituentsBig Piece Of Ginseng Root

Most ginseng benefits are thought to be the result of two important groups of compounds: ginsenosides and polysaccharides. The ginsenosides are the most-studied ginseng constituents and have been found to have regulatory effects on the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, reproductive system, and more.[1] While both Asian and American ginseng contain ginsenosides, there are some key differences in types and amounts of these compounds which create some of the variation in terms of their therapeutic effects.[1] The older the plant, the more ginsenosides generally contained in the root. Roots must typically be at least 4 years old before harvest in order to have adequate ginsenosides for medicinal effects.[1] Ginseng’s polysaccharides, meanwhile, are antioxidants with immune-regulating effects and are thought to be partly responsible for its anti-cancer benefits.

Research-backed ginseng benefits include the following:

Ginseng Combats Stress and Reduces Fatigue

Ginseng is best known for its ability to boost energy and relieve stress. Both American and Asian ginseng can be perfectly classified as “tonic” and “adaptogen” herbs. Both ginsengs have nutritive, restorative, and normalizing effects which enhance homeostasis and counteract negative effects brought about by stressors. They do this mainly by helping to restore normal functioning of the body’s main stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).

The results of one of the largest studies to-date demonstrating ginseng’s anti-fatigue effects were recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.[2] This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial by Mayo researchers evaluated a daily dose of 2000 mg American ginseng extractor placebo for 8 weeks in 364 fatigued cancer patients or survivors from 40 different clinics. After 8 weeks, those taking the ginseng showed a statistically and clinically significant difference in their levels of fatigue compared to those taking the placebo. The results for the patients who received ginseng and were undergoing chemotherapy or radiation during the study were especially surprising to the researchers. Those patients had significant improvements starting at 4 weeks rather than 8 weeks.

Like American ginseng, Panax ginseng has also been shown to improve fatigue associated with various conditions in double blind studies. One recent study in adults with chronic fatigue syndrome found that 2000 mg per day of Panax ginseng extract significantly decreased fatigue compared to placebo.[12]

Ginseng Improves Cognitive Function

Both Asian and American ginseng have been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy young adults found significant improvements in working memory 1-6 hours after administration of an American ginseng extract standardized to 10.65% ginsenosides.[3] Other studies also found that standardized extracts of American ginseng significantly improve aspects ofmemory.[7,8]

Like American ginseng, Panax ginseng also improves cognitive function. In one study, a 200 mg capsule of Panax ginseng enhanced performance of a mental arithmetic task and ameliorated feelings of mental fatigue during the later stages of a sustained, cognitively demanding test.[13] A series of studies by researchers in South Korea found that high doses of Panax ginseng (4.5 to 9 grams a day of Korean Red ginseng) lead to significant and long-term improvements in cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.[14]

Ginseng Improves Blood Sugar Regulation

Ginseng has traditionally been used to treat high blood sugar and diabetes, and some recent studies support its ability to help regulate blood sugar while other studies do not. At this point in time, researchers believe that certain compounds in both Asian and American ginseng may be beneficial for blood sugar regulation. Among the two, American ginseng seems to work better. Studies indicate American ginseng may help improve blood sugar control in both healthy people and people with type 2 diabetes. Most of the studies with American ginseng have used a dose of 1-3 grams of dried powdered root.[9-11]

Ginseng Prevents Colds and Flu

In addition to ginsenosides, ginseng contains certain polysaccharides that have been shown to have immune stimulating effects. In one study, 200 mg capsules twice a day of a proprietary American ginseng extract called Cold-fX for 4 months during the cold and flu season reduced the risk of respiratory symptoms by 48% and the duration of symptoms by 55%.[5] Another study using 400 or 800 mg per day of the same extract for six months found that both doses significantly reduced the incidence of upper respiratory infections compared to placebo, with the higher dose working best.[6]

Additional ginseng benefits

In addition to the benefits listed above, ginseng has been shown to improve erectile function[15], decrease blood pressure and arterial stiffness[4], improve antioxidant functioning and glutathione levels[16], help prevent cancer recurrence[17], and decrease menopausal symptoms. With more studies currently underway, the possibilities for ginseng seem endless. For overall health and vitality, this herb is it!

References:

  1. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2008 Sep;29(9):1103–1108.
  2. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Aug 21;105(16):1230-8.
  3. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Oct;212(3):345-56.
  4. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 28;150(1):148-53.
  5. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Mar;12(2):153-7.
  6. Influenza Res Treat. 2011;2011:759051.
  7. Phytother Res. 2012 Aug;26(8):1166-72.
  8. Abstract-Pilot study-Remember Fx. Presented at June, 2007 Can Coll Neuropsychopharm Annual Meeting.
  9. Diabetes Care. 2000 Sep;23(9):1221-6.
  10. Am J ClinNutr. 2001 Apr;73(4):753-8.
  11. Coll Antropol. 2012 Dec;36(4):1435-40.
  12. PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e61271.
  13. J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Nov;20(6):771-81.
  14. J Ginseng Res. 2011 Nov;35(4):457-61.
  15. Asian J Androl. 2009 May;11(3):356-61.
  16. Food ChemToxicol. 2011 Sep;49(9):2229-35.
  17. J Med Food. 2010 Jun;13(3):489-94.


2/5/2014

I love making homemade bread. Mmmm, warm and soft, fresh from the oven ... just try not to eat the whole loaf. No, seriously. I don't know what it is about homemade bread, but the guilt factor goes away. I will eat the Whole Thing. Because it's just that good. Oooops, didn't get to share with the family. Oh well, I guess I'll have to make another loaf tomorrow!

Join the yum factor! When making your own bread you have full control. So take it. If you want a sweet bread, add sugar to the mix. If you want seeds and nuts, get to it! This particular posting is about good ol' yeasty gluteny dough. So if you have any intolerances, folks, we'll have to wait for the next round to address those. Until then, get out your favorite apron and let's get baking!

Homemade Bread Tutorial Collage One

Easy Homemade Bread Recipe

Supplies: A large bowl, a liquid measuring jar, a small 1/2 cup measuring cup, measuring spoons, a whisk or fork.

3 plus cups of Flour (your choice, but make sure at least half of it is some sort of wheat or else it won't rise as well)
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp honey or sugar
1 cup hot water (hot to your touch but not so hot that it burns you)
Butter
Any seeds or herbs or spices you want.

Place 1 tsp of yeast in your bowl, cover it with your 1 tbsp honey or sugar and then cover that with your 1 cup of hot water. Whisk it well and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes or until it forms a "head", which is just a sort of bubbly mass on the surface.

If you're adding herbs and spices to your bread, go ahead and mix that into your flour before you add it to your starter. Then add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until your whisk can't get though the mix anymore. Using your hands now, continue to add flour 1/2 cup at a time until your dough sticks together more than it sticks to your fingers. Then really get in there and knead it. Kneading is not scary. Just mix it up. It's quite fun, actually. After about 5 minutes give or take, set your bowl aside and cover it with a warm wet dishtowel. Let sit for about 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size. Do your laundry. Read a favorite book. Take the kids to the park. Whatever.

This time, cover your hands in butter. Yum! About a tbsp should do it. Knead your bread again until it'sHomemade Bread Tutorial Two back down to the original size, getting into all the little hidden places with your buttery hands. Place it into a buttered bread pan or a small baking dish and cover again with the warm wet towel for another hour or 2. Finish your laundry. Take a walk. Go get the kids from school.

Preheat your oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit and put your loaf in the center rack. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until your bread is golden. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool, then invert it onto a wire rack.

Eat it! And then do it all over again!



2/4/2014

Capsicum, a familiar herbEvery 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.

Naturopathic Herb

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



2/4/2014

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.

Still Nursing

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.



1/29/2014

Still holding that baby 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.



1/21/2014

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 Recipesmoothie

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
1 banana
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.



1/16/2014

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 factLisa Marie Morgan Kids 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 mindA Natural Birth Baby 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.












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