Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hibiscus – A Healthy Red Brew to Celebrate the Red, White & Blue

The hibiscus plant is a favorite among gardeners and landscapers because it produces showy flowers that enhance the beauty of any garden. As a bonus, the hibiscus flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Another bonus? Hibiscus flowers offer therapeutic benefits to people!
     Hibiscus tea is an herbal infusion made with the crimson colored calyces (sepals) of the hibiscus flower. It brews a bright red-colored tea with a tart flavor. Hibiscus can also be taken as an extract or in capsule form.  The benefits of hibiscus may come from its antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins and quercetin, but it also contains several plant acids, including citric and malic acids, which may explain the tart flavor. 
     Hibiscus has a rich history of medicinal use in other parts of the world. In Africa, it has been used for skin health and to treat constipation. In Egypt, hibiscus is used as a diuretic to support fluid balance, and to support heart health. In Iran, drinking hibiscus tea for the treatment of hypertension is not uncommon. 
     It is this last use that has given rise to real interest in hibiscus over the last few years. Studies from 1999 and 2009 found that people with high blood pressure who drank three or more cups of hibiscus tea per day had significant reductions in their blood pressure, on average a 10% reduction. In a study of Type 2 diabetic patients, participants who were not taking any blood pressure medicine, and who drank hibiscus tea each day, saw a 16% decrease in their systolic blood pressure. 
     While research has demonstrated potential benefits of hibiscus on blood pressure, it may also help reduce cholesterol. Research has shown that in people with metabolic syndrome who took hibiscus extract, cholesterol and glucose levels reduced significantly. 
     To use hibiscus, you can take the extract in capsule form, or enjoy the tea hot or iced, or use hibiscus in jams or tea cakes. Here is an easy recipe from the kitchn for Cold-Brewed Jamaica, a refreshing hibiscus iced tea that would be perfect for July 4 celebrations! Enjoy and be safe out there!

Cold Brew Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Makes 1 quart
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 4 tea bags)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons honey or agave, or to taste
Lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add honey or agave to taste. Strain out any solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.
Store the brewed jamaica covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Top 4 Natural Summer Remedies

School is out, summer is here, and it’s time to get outside! Spending more time outside is great for body, soul and spirit – fresh air and sunshine can lift the mood and boost the immune system. Using common sense can allow you to enjoy it even more – drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and wear your sunscreen if you will be out for more than about 15 minutes. But spend too much time outside and you may have some challenges to deal with, such as sunburn, poison ivy, or insect bites. So I’ve listed my top 5 natural remedies to help you handle summer skin challenges.
1. Tea Tree Oil. This is the number one remedy to keep on hand all year, but it has specific benefits for summer maladies. Tea tree oil is great of insect bites. It can help ease the itch and reduce the histamine- caused skin irritation. Tea tree oil is also a potent antiseptic, so it can be diluted (in coconut or other oil) and applied to minor cuts and abrasions. As a bonus, tea tree oil can also fight toenail fungus and athlete’s foot!

2. Aloe Vera Gel. Spend too much time in the sun and you end up with the dreaded sunburn. It’s best to avoid it with appropriate use of sunscreen, but if you do end up with sunburn, apply aloe vera gel topically. Aloe vera is cooling and soothing. It penetrates and hydrates the skin, and can help relieve pain, acting as a mild anti-inflammatory agent.  Aloe vera gel also works well for other minor burns.

 3. Arnica Montana. Arnica, a daisy-like flower, has been traditionally used as an external herbal remedy for bruises. It is commonly found homeopathically for both internal and external use for strains, sprains and pains. Arnica can help ease bruising and swelling, and is also great for sore muscles that occur from overexertion.

4. Jewelweed Spray or Soap. I am terrified of poison ivy! I’ve had a couple of bad reactions in the past, so I do my best to avoid it. But there are times I know I have been exposed and kept it contained. With poison ivy it is critical to use a soap or wash that will get the urushiol oil off your skin. Jewelweed is a natural remedy for poison ivy rash. Soaps and sprays with Jewelweed help tame the itch and support healing of the skin.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Greenfoods = Nutrition Power

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s only fitting to discuss the power of greenfoods. Do you eat on the run? Do you eat less than the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables? Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and other nutritious fruits and vegetables should form the basis of a good healthy diet, but nutrition surveys consistently show that most Americans eat more convenience and fast foods, and less fresh fruits and vegetables. The result is that most Americans are not getting the full benefit of these nutritious foods. Enter green foods! Green foods include a variety of nutrient dense plants and organisms, including spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass, barley grass and vegetables, carefully processed into fresh juices, powders, capsules or tablets.  Greenfoods powders can be mixed into juice, water or smoothies. I use a greenfoods powder in juice on most mornings, just to get started on the right foot, nutritionally speaking. They are the perfect solution for eating on-the-run, helping to fill in the gaps where the current diet may be lacking. 

Benefits of using greenfoods:
  • Energizing – They are rich in nutrients and proteins that nourish the body, green foods provide a non-stimulating form of natural energy.
  • Alkalizing - They promote healthy acid/alkaline balance in the body.
  • Digestive Support – Greenfoods are a good source of enzymes, which support digestive health in the body.
  • Antioxidant Protection - They supply a wealth of vitamins and phytonutrients that protect cells against free radical damage.
  • Source of Protein – Greenfoods supply amino acids and proteins that are easily digested and utilized by the body.
  • Rich in Vitamins and Minerals – Greenfoods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals in easily absorbed forms.
  • Source of Chlorophyll - Chlorophyll's chemical structure is very close to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in human blood. Chlorophyll is often used as a blood builder and overall tonic.