Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Nutrition of Moringa

Note: This post is sponsored by Kuli Kuli.

Moringa oleifera, also called drumstick tree or horseradish tree, is a plant that has gained popularity as an herb for energy and weight control. But what is it? And what benefits does it really have?

Moringa’s rise to glory actually began in ancient India where it flourished. While it was realized the timber could not be used for construction material, the tree was recognized as a good food source and was cultivated for that purpose. It also became apparent that the leaves had medicinal properties, and it became known as a plant used for conditions such as asthma, joint pain, low energy, heart disease and ulcers, ultimately earning it the nickname “Tree of Life.” The tree is grown abundantly in the tropics, but also has the ability to survive in warm, dry areas susceptible to drought, which makes it a life-saving plant in developing countries with those conditions.

While the precise medicinal benefits are still being studied, we do know that Moringa is highly nutritious. While all parts of the plant offer nutritional benefits, the leaves are the most nutrient dense part of the tree. Aid workers in Africa noted that people there who included Moringa leaves in their diet tended to be healthier and more energetic than people not including it in their diet.

Historical uses of Moringa have included using it to relieve some symptoms of inflammation and joint pain, to help normalize blood pressure, and as a digestive. Moringa leaves are a good source of several nutrients, including protein, vitamins B2, B6 and C, as well as iron and magnesium. They also contain the antioxidant compounds quercetin and chlorogenic acid. It is the overall nourishing effects that could explain any weight control benefits, as well as the modest blood sugar and cholesterol lowering benefits.

Moringa may be a good option to help fill in gaps in the diet. It is available in powder form, or in tasty nutrition bars such as Kuli Kuli Moringa Superfood bars. Their soft & nutty texture would make a great crumble to pair with plain lowfat yogurt and fruit – a great option for kids who may not want to eat the bar straight. For adults, the bars offer convenient nutrition on-the-go. I tried them on a recent business trip that kept me on my feet without a lunch break, and the bar kept me satisfied until dinner time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

4 Ways to Help Save the Bees

Note: This post is sponsored by Host Defense Mushrooms.

Wait a minute, why do we need to save the bees?

My daughter, who fears stinging insects, would want to know. So to answer, I have a question for you. Do you eat any of the following foods?
  • Asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, and sunflowers for oil, cucumbers
  • Blueberries, avocado, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwis, cherries, cranberries, melons
  • Almonds, soybeans.

If you answered yes, then you need bees and other pollinators. When it comes to blueberries and almonds, 80% of the US crop is said to be dependent on honey bees for pollination.
Globally there are more honey bees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so it is the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 bites of food you eat is due to pollination by honey bees.

The concern is that bee colonies dying off.  Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is when there is a sudden loss of a colony’s worker bee population with very few dead bees found near the colony, but the queen and young bees remained, and the colonies had relatively abundant honey and pollen reserves. Because hives cannot sustain themselves without worker bees the remaining bees would eventually die.
In 2015, CCD rates increased 6% to affect 41% of managed bee colonies nationwide.  Some scientists estimate that all managed bee colonies could face total decimation by CCD within five years.
Although CCD is not fully understood, it appears to be a destructive synergism of multiple factors. Pathogen (bacterial & viral) infection harms bees already challenged by other stress factors: parasitic mites, pesticides, fungicides and GMO exposure. These stressors of infection, parasitism, toxins, and immune deficits/depression may initiate CCD.

So how can we stop this? Here are 4 things we can all do to help save the bees:

1.       Plant wildflowers and native plants in your gardens.  Whether it’s a window box, large pots, or a full garden, be sure to include flowering plants. Choose different colors and shapes, planting in clumps. Native plants are ideal because they attract native pollinators and can serve as larval host plants for some species of pollinators. Not sure what plants are native to your area? Check out this Pollinators page from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

2.       Reduce or limit pesticides. Pesticides can often to more harm than good. Most pesticides kill more than just the pests they are applied for. Some of these pesticides are persistent – they remain in the soil and on plants, which can affect pollinators days later. So limit their use to only when there is a true pest problem, and target the spray to affected plants only limiting exposure to all plants. Try natural insect predators, like mantis, in your garden.

3.       Buy local honey. Buying local honey means you are supporting local bee populations. Local honeys are often sold raw, so they are not heat-treated or filtered like commercially manufactured honey. This means that the potential health-giving properties of honey are available to you as you consume the honey.

4.       Support BeeFriendly. In 2014, mycologist Paul Stamets, entomologist Steve Sheppard and the Washington State Beekeepers Association teamed up in a research initiative called BeeFriendly™ to help reverse devastating declines in the global bee population that are critically threatening the world’s food security.
In 2015, 300 sets of bees consumed Host Defense® mushroom extracts via their feed water. The experiments were designed to measure how mushroom extract
supplementation impacted viral burdens and longevity. Results showed that Host Defense® extracts, especially Reishi and Chaga, gave substantial benefit to honeybees, including extended longevity and reduction of their viral burden by more than 75%. This is an exciting initiative designed to support honey bee populations all over. You can support BeeFriendly™ by donating online, or by purchasing Host Defense mushrooms for yourself. Each Host Defense purchase provides mushroom extracts for bees and a cash donation for research.

So don’t fear the bee, revere the bee. Join me and give bees a chance!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.

As a new year begins, so many are determined to make changes…resolutions. I spent some time thinking about how I wanted 2018 to be different. What did I want to change about myself? It does seem most resolutions are centered on self, and rightly so. If you need to lose weight, resolving to lose weight is a reasonable resolution. If you smoke, resolving to quit is a good thing. But I wanted to go beyond that, not just changing a lifestyle habit in my life, but changing my life, and maybe even some others in the process. Sometimes saying them out loud or, in this case, writing them for others to see, can help them become firm.

So here are my life resolutions for 2018:

1.       Smile more. 'Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.'  - Stanley Gordon West. There is truth to this statement. Have you ever noticed what happens when you look people in the eye and smile? More often than not, they smile back. And sometimes what follows a smile is laughter. I recently attended a show with Christian comedian John Crist. I laughed for an entire hour solid, and had not felt that good in quite a while. Smiling and laughter are good for the soul and spirit, so pass it on.

2.       Eat dinner as a family at least once a week. I grew up in a family that ate together almost every night. I know many families now who eat together most nights. By way of confession, mine doesn’t. We just have not made it a priority…until now. Eating together causes something that can be hard to come by with pre-teen kids – conversation.  My extended family meets once a week for lunch centered around taking my Mom out, recognizing we may not have years of these weekly gatherings left with her. We made it a priority, and we all enjoy it. So I’m going to do the same thing in my own home…enjoy the time together as a family. Maybe once a week will turn into more…

3.       Notice my blessings. We are so blessed. We have freedoms many other people around the world do not have. This does not mean life is easy…it often isn’t. But there are little things that can go by completely unnoticed unless you stop and look. Do you see blessings around you? Take time to notice things in life…the birds singing, a flower in bloom,  the aroma of a good cup of coffee, puffy clouds in the sky, a decadent treat, a new dress…whatever it may be, take time to notice it all and realize just how blessed we really are.

May your 2018 be filled with exciting moments and great memories.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Protect Your Kids, Inside & Out

The heat is on! It’s summer, and everyone is outside!  Soccer camps, picnics, swimming, whatever it is, most of us will have our kids outside during the summer months. But as a parent, there are things we have to be mindful of before we send our kids out for a day in the sun. Here are some tips to keep your kids healthy and safe this summer.

Boost Antioxidant Defenses. Antioxidants for kids? Yes! These protective compounds are needed by everyone. A good antioxidant status inside your body can help protect your skin against damage from outside forces, like the sun and pollution. Make sure to keep plenty of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds on hand to nourish skin from the inside. Unsulfured trail mix, dehydrated fruits or freeze dried fruits make great portable snacks for a day in the sun.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Kids need consistent reminders to drink fluid. This is especially true when they are swimming. They tend to forget that being surrounded by water does not mean you can forget about drinking water. A hydrated body will help nourish skin, protect against dehydration and prevent cramping. And remember that water is truly the best option when it comes to fluids. Avoid drinking too many sports drinks, which are often loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Save those for sports camps when they can be used as intended. As an alternative, try a natural recovery drink like coconut water, which can be used anytime.           

Protect Skin on the Outside. If you or your kids will be outside for any length of time, protect skin from the sun’s harsh rays with a sunscreen. Look for a natural mineral-based formula that offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. All the better if it has beneficial additional ingredients, such as protective green tea, soothing aloe, or natural essential oils.  And if bugs are a concern, protect yourself and your family from biting, stinging pests with natural insect repellents. Several essential oils, including lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and geranium, work effectively to repel insects. This allows you to avoid chemicals like DEET, a chemical repellent that concerns many parents. 

Recover After a Day Outdoors. Spending more time outside means the potential for sunburn, insect bites, and other common issues related to the great outdoors. Here’s how to help your skin recover from those common summer problems.
  •          Sunburn occurs from over exposure to the sun.  Aloe vera gel used topically is cooling, soothing and speeds healing. You can find it in a variety of natural products. For even more cooling, add a couple of drops of pure peppermint oil to the aloe gel. Not only does it cool, but it’s analgesic effect can help reduce some of the pain from sunburn.
  •          Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac is a common warm weather malady in many parts of the country.  Immediately after exposure, use poison ivy soap and an herbal spray made with jewelweed, which can help naturally relieve itching and inflammation. Homeopathic remedies can also help with symptoms.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Natural vs Synthetic Fragrances & DIY Dryer Sheets

What types of cleaners do you use in your home? Have you ever really looked at the bottle? What are the ingredients? Most household cleaners are not required to give full disclosure on their label. I’ve always thought this odd. It makes me wonder, are they hiding something? I really don’t know the answer. What I do know is even the chemicals that are listed are often toxic in some form, which is why you often see the poison skull & crossbones on the label.

We’ve been taught everything has to be sanitized, and yet overuse of antibacterial chemicals is leading to superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We live in a world that is over fragranced – from perfume to a plethora of home air freshening products. And these fragrances could contribute to respiratory problems. It is my opinion that any household with infants or children, anyone with asthma or COPD, should use caution when putting scents throughout their home.

One of the issue chemicals in household cleaners and in body care products is Phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals used as softeners, or plasticizers, in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, as well as solvents and other additives in a wide range of consumer products. They’re found in shower curtains, wallpaper, dyes, mosquito insect repellents, and personal care products such as nail polish, skin moisturizers, and perfumes. And you often do not know they are there. The potential problem with phthalates is they may contribute to increased risk of cancer, and may impact human reproduction and development. The thing is, you can reduce your exposure just by looking at the products you clean our house with, and the products you clean your body with. Just by avoiding the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a bottle can reduce your exposure. If you would like to know the actual make up of those fragrances, you will have to do a little digging. A large producer of household cleaners does provide a list of the chemicals in their fragrances, which is 19 pages long, 2 columns on each page.

Or you can make it easy on yourself. Look instead to naturally scented green cleaners and body care products. These are scented with essential oils – nature’s fragrances. These essential oils not only lend a nice fragrance, but many of them have the benefit of being naturally antibacterial. In a 2009 study, several common and hospital-acquired bacterial and yeast isolates (six Staphylococcus strains including MRSA, four Streptococcus strains and three Candida strains) were tested for their susceptibility against several essential oils. Thyme, lemon, lemongrass and cinnamon oil provided the most effective antiseptic action in this study. Others with antibacterial action include tea tree, basil and eucalyptus. 

There are any number of DIY recipes out there for natural household cleaners. I’ve included one below that we are also making in Aromatherapy Workshops this month at Akin’s and Chamberlin’s Natural Foods. A huge thank you to Wyndmere Naturals for providing 100% pure essential oils that work perfectly for this recipe.

DIY Reusable Dryer Sheets

1/2 cup White Vinegar
10 drops Essential Oils (I used 6 drops Wyndmere lavender, 4 drops Wyndmere tea tree)
4-6 Fabric Scraps (old Tshirts, bed linens or PJs), cut into squares about the size of a dryer sheet - cut with pinking shears or stitch with zig zag stitch
Glass jar with lid (like a large canning jar)

Make the softening solution by combining vinegar and essential oils in the jar. Add fabric squares and replace lid, letting fabric soak up the liquid. Label jar and store upright.

To use:
Remove 2 squares from the jar and ring out the liquid back into the jar. Throw them into the dryer with the clothes. Use 2-4 for a small/medium load, or 4-6 for a large load.

After cycle is complete,  put your homemade dryer sheets back into the jar, re-soak and reuse!

And don't worry - your clothes won't smell like vinegar as long as you stick to the guidelines above (don't use too many sheets), but the essential oils will leave a fresh scent!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why You Need Sleep & How to Sleep Better

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each day, but many Americans get by on less than 6. Some just don’t take the time to sleep, while others struggle with getting a quality night’s sleep. Why is sleep so important? Here are the top 4 reasons:

1.         Immunity - Lack of sleep increases the chance that you will get sick. Rest helps the body recuperate each day.
2.         Skin – Beauty sleep is real! Lack of sleep affects skin moisture and can enhance wrinkles.
3.         Mood – Lack of sleep can contribute to irritability and stress, and chronic insomnia has been linked to anxiety and depression.
4.         Energy – If you don’t sleep well, your energy level will be low. Good sleep refreshes the body and helps you feel more energized.
So, how can you get more sleep? Here are my top 3 ways you can get a better night’s sleep:

1. Manage Stress. Stress contributes to insomnia and sleep disturbance. Manage stress naturally by supporting nerve health with B vitamins and nerve-supporting herbs like passion flower or chamomile. Try yoga or deep breathing exercises in the evening to calm the body and mind. Aromatherapy can also help with stress. Inhaling certain scents helps calm and quiet the mind, allowing you to fall asleep easier. Scents that support calm and relaxation include lavender, chamomile and bergamot. 

2. Create Comfort. Take time to wind down before bed, turning off devices and televisions. Take a nice soaking aromatherapy and mineral salt bath to relax your body and soothe any aches and pains. Sip on a nice cup of passion flower tea to ease stress and calm the body. Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable - a cool, dark room supports better sleep.

3. Try Natural Remedies. Magnesium plays an important role in sleep, supporting relaxation. A magnesium deficiency can result in insomnia, while magnesium supplementation has been reported to enhance sleep and reduce nighttime awakenings. Valerian is well-known as a mild sedative that can help you fall asleep more quickly, and reduce the number of awakenings during the night. Herbal nervines like hops and passionflower help nourish and calm nerves. These act on the body naturally, without unwanted side effects common to prescription and over-the-counter sleep medicines.

You can improve your sleep today by starting with just one of the steps listed here and before you know it, you’ll be sleeping better than you have in years.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Quit Smoking


Today is the Great American Smokeout. 

According to the American Cancer Society, about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. In addition, those exposed to second hand smoke, like children whose parents smoke, get sick more often, have more lung infections, and get more ear infections. For you and your family, make a decision to quit today.

Once you decide to quit, consider these tips to help you get started. Here are a few basic tips to help get

1. Method. Determine your desired method of quitting – whether cold-turkey or tapering off.

2. Support System. Develop a support system around you. Get support from family, friends and co-workers. Let them know about your desire to quit and ask for their support to help you do it. Seek counseling help if it is needed. There are numerous web- and phone-based counseling support systems in place.

3. Detoxification. Help the body detoxify from the many toxins in cigarettes by using natural approaches. These products are optional, but can provide natural support while the body detoxifies. As with all supplements, these should be discussed with your health care provide prior to use. And be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Homeopathic smoking withdrawal formula - a homeopathic formula designed to support the body in detoxifying, reducing irritability and cravings, and calming nervous tension.
  • Herbal Smoke Free formula – An herbal combination with lobelia for those wishing to stop smoking. It may help calm the nervous system, dilate the bronchioles and loosen mucus.
  • Detox formula with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – Detox formulas often focus on the liver. While smoking does not directly affect the liver, the toxins in cigarettes do get stored in the liver over time. A liver detoxification formula can support healthy liver function, and the NAC works on both lungs and liver to help detoxify.
  • Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids. It is well known that vitamin C levels are lower in smokers. While vitamin C will not help with cravings or detoxification, it CAN help support the health of blood vessels, which are often damaged due to smoking. Vitamin C would also be beneficial for family members exposed to secondhand smoke.

On this Great American Smokeout, think about quitting, and develop your plan to become free from smoking.