*This paper was originally written for my course work while gaining my certification in Clinical Herbalism with the school Naturally Healthy, Calhoun, LA. It was written in 2013 and reflects my study at the time.*
Echinacea is a popular and much used herb. It is celebrated for its antiviral, antibacterial and immune-enhancing properties. Echinacea was especially popular in the 18th and 19th century, but its use declined in the United States with the discovery of antibiotics. We are seeing a resurgence of its use in the Americas, although its popularity never waned in Europe, especially Germany. Most of the research on Echinacea has been carried out in Germany, with favourable results. American studies have not been as positive, but these studies have been criticised. Apparently, the American studies were not properly controlled, making no account for the quality of Echinacea product tested, nor the parts of the plant or even the species of Echinacea used.
There are three main Echinacea species used in medicine – Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida. Echinacea spp in general is immunostimulatory, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and vulnerary. However, each of the three species of Echinacea have slightly different properties. The roots and tops of E. angustifolia and E. purpurea and the tops of E. pallida contain alkylamides (stimulates airway macrophages and the production of cytokines to help fight off infection). E. Purpurea contains chicoric acid (stimulates phagocystosis), and E. angustifolia contains quite a bit more echinacoside (anti-inflammatory and encourages wound healing) than the other two species. The three Echinceas compliment each other. It is therefore recommended to use a treatment that includes Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea pallida and Echinacea angustifolia.
There have been issues with treatments being labelled incorrectly, and strengths of the herb varying considerably from product to product. It is wise to purchase Echinacea spp (and all herbs) from a reputable dealer.
*This paper was originally written in 2013 for my course work while earning my certificate in Clinical Herbalism with the school Naturally Healthy in Calhoun, LA. It reflects my research at that time.*
Dr. Sidney V. and Merrill P. Haas are credited with the development of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and biochemist Elaine Gottschall is credited with its popularization and modernization. Gottschall’s daughter suffered from colitis, and at age 5, the Gottschalls brought her to the Drs. Haas. The Drs. Haas had written a book entitled Management of Celiac Disease and had been treating people with digestion issues through diet. Dr. Gottschall’s daughter began a radical version of the Haas’ diet, and within 2 years was symptom free. Several years later the little girl returned to a normal diet and was still enjoying good health two decades later.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) is a grain-free, lactose-free and sucrose-free meal plan. It resembles the popular gluten-free diet, but is quite a bit more restrictive. According to Gottschall, people suffering of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diverticulitis, chronic diarrhea and even certain serious behaviour problems and mental issues such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, mental confusion, autism and bizarre behaviours could be healed through the SCD.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is built on the premise that these diseases are caused by injuries to the digestive tract. In a nutshell, it is believed that undigested foods which remain in the colon can ferment. This fermentation upsets the delicate flora of the gut and produces a ripe environment for a buildup of microbes, whose waste is harmful to the system. This bacterial overgrowth can lead to bloating, gas and chronic diarrhea, which in turn causes injury to the small intestinal mucosa. Over time the microvilli which line the intestine can become damaged, and blunted. The body will then produce an excess of mucus to protect itself. This further complicates things by making carbohydrate absorption even more difficult….which brings us back to the beginning of the vicious cycle where those carbohydrates will sit in the digestive tract and further feed the offending microbes.
The result of this injury to the digestive tract is often serious digestive issues, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc. The effects may be even further reaching, however. A waste product of the microbes is D-lactic acid. It is thought that D-lactic acid and other toxic products from these bacteria can enter the brain and “poison” brain cells. It has been noted that many people suffering from Schizophrenia, for example, also have digestive issues. Although D-lactic acid can be managed with antibiotics, it is more effective to prevent its formation by cutting off the microbes’ energy source, thus starving it out. It was noticed that when patients suffering of both digestive and mental issues tried the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the mental diseases actually began to clear up first, followed by the digestive problems.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is a very restrictive meal plan. Gottschall states, “the strictness of this diet cannot be overemphasized nor should the difficulty of adhering to it be minimized…such infringements (allowing a taste of a forbidden food) will seriously delay recovery and it is unwise to undertake this regimen unless you are willing to follow it with fanatical adherence.” (Gottschall, p 50) The SCD absolutely prohibits sugar, molasses, fructose, corn syrup or any other processed sugar, canned fruits and vegetables, all grains, including rice, corn, wheat, spelt, and others, some legumes, starchy tubers like potatoes, yams and parsnips, seaweeds and seaweed by-products, canned and processed meats, milk and milk products containing lactose, bread, pasta, starchy foods, canola oil, commercial mayonnaise, chocolate, carob, margarine, commercial condiments, any products with FOS, and much more! Surprisingly this does leave some foods which are permitted. The SCD follower can consume unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, honey , vegetables (fresh, frozen, raw or cooked), some legumes, unroasted cashews, peanuts in a shell, all-natural peanut butter, certain cheeses, homemade yogurt (fermented for at least 24 hours), certain fruits, some oils, tea, coffee, vinegars and juices with no additives. A complete list can be obtained in Gotschall’s book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle”.
Gottschall recommends trying it for one month. Improvement should be noticed by then. If so, she advises to continue for at least a year. Once the symptoms have completely disappeared, another year should be added on to ensure that the gut is healed. At this point, many people are able to live symptom free and enjoy a normal diet once again, although it is hoped that one would not return to a high-processed, high-sugar lifestyle.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has mixed reviews. It is not an easy diet to follow. It is incredibly restrictive, and does not tolerate any cheating. It requires a good amount of thinking ahead, prepping and planning to be sure that nutritional needs are being met. Even with careful planning, Gottschall ascertains that the diet could leave a person lacking in certain nutrients. For this reason, she recommends supplementing with a multi-vitamin (starch, sugar and yeast free). For those living in the north or who don’t get outside much, vitamin D and vitamin A are recommended as well, preferably through a cod-liver or halibut oil. Special attention should be given to vitamin B12 and minerals, too. Gottschall recommends being followed by your doctor through lab tests to be sure deficiencies are dealt with promptly. She also cautions not to discontinue medications without your doctor’s approval, although they may need to be adjusted as your condition improves.
The SCD does not include any grains whatsoever. This could lead to problems because grains are an important source of fibre, minerals, and vitamins. It must be said, though, that the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is not a diet for everyone. It is specifically tailored to people who have digestion issues and whose gut is damaged through the ingestion of certain foods, of which grains is one of them. The same applies to sugars. The body does need sugar; there’s no question of that. However if one’s body is weakened and damaged through the eating of a certain kind of sugar (such as lactose, or disaccharides), eliminating it would have more pros than cons. As Gottschall outlines in her book, no food should be ingested that the body cannot properly digest. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is not meant to be a lifelong therapeutic diet. It is meant to give the sick body a break from offending foods so that healing can take place and a normal lifestyle can resume. It is not a diet for everyone. It should be seen as an emergency measure, and not as a weight loss fad.
From a Biblical perspective, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet seems to fall into a neutral zone. The SCD does not make claims or promises of any kind and does not hail itself as a healing force. Although SC Dieters would miss out on the blessings of bread and milk, this would only be temporary. After healing has taken place, one would be free once again to partake in the full range of wonderful and nutritious foods God has provided us.
I would not recommend the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to the average person. The difficulty in following the diet correctly, coupled with the potential for nutritional deficiencies, would be cause enough for me to hesitate. However desperate times call for desperate measures. Should my client suffer from a serious digestive disease and not have seen improvement from anywhere else, I would certainly suggest the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I would be very careful to explain the ins and outs of the diet in detail and urge them to be closely followed to keep an eye on vitamin and mineral levels. Once the symptoms had cleared, and the specified amount of time passed, I would encourage them to try a balanced diet low in sugar, processed foods, and moderate in grains to see how their body tolerates it.
Gottschall B.A., M.Sc., Elaine, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, Kirkton Press, Baltimore ON, 1999
School is just about to start, and so are the anxious tummies. I made up a child friendly glycerite that's both safe and effective to tame tummies and lower anxiety.
Want to learn more? Sign up for our September workshop at Mother Nature's Market in Woodstock, New Brunswick.
Join us for an evening session to explore:
*kid-friendly, anxiety busting herbs
*natural tips and tricks to bring calming
*making a herbal glycerite to calm and soothe upset tummies
*preparing and tasting a kid friendly herbal tea
Spaces are limited. Please reserve your spot in advance by stopping by the store (Mother Nature's Market, 618 Main Street), calling 328-1815, or message me!
Plants are all around us...but what are they, and what are they good for? If you've ever wondered what all those weeds are (and I use the word 'weed' very tongue in cheek), why they matter, and how to use them, you'll want to join us on an Herb-an Discovery Walk through Woodstock's downtown! I'll accompany you as you:
*meet dozens of plants
*discuss their traditional and therapeutic uses
*taste some delicious (and maybe not so delicious) weeds
*learn the basics of wildcrafting
WHEN: Thursday, July 25 from 6-8 pm
WHERE: Mother Nature's Market, 618 Main St. Woodstock, NB
COST: $15. Payment at Mother Nature's Market will reserve your spot. Space is limited!
Though this walk covers only a few blocks, it is recommended to dress for the weather and wear comfortable footwear. Children must be accompanied and supervised by a parent.
Follow this link for more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/2326790077539022/
Every winter I mix up a fresh batch of ear oil just in case one of us happens to come down with a case of otitis. Ear pain is miserable, and it's worth it to keep this easy remedy on hand. It's very simple to make. I include garlic, mullein, calendula and St John's wort oil in my recipe. If you're lacking all those herbs, you can make an effective ear oil with simply garlic and mullein (and even just garlic).
Herbal Ear Oil
2 TBSP chopped garlic
2 TBSP calendula (dry)
2 TBSP mullein (dry, though wilted is acceptable)
2 TBSP St John's wort oil (made ahead with fresh herb)
Put the herbs and St John's wort oil in a 250 ml jar. Add olive oil to the top of the jar (see the 2nd pic? That's not enough. The 3rd pic? That's the stuff, right there.).
Cap it. Label it. Place it in a warm, sunny spot for a minimum of 2 weeks, shaking it every day. Keep an eye that mold doesn't form in the jar. This can happen if the herbs were not dried or stored properly. If that happens, chuck it. At the end of the 2 weeks, strain it and bottle it. A dropper bottle will make it easier to dispense it.
To use, warm the oil until it's at body temperature. Test it to be sure it isn't hot....earaches are bad enough without a burn! Put 2 or 3 drops into the ear canal, treating both ears as infections can 'travel'. Use 2 to 3 times daily as needed. You may want to clean out the oil every so often with a couple drops of topical hydrogen peroxide.
Ear oil is NOT to be used for swimmer's ear or if the ear drum has been perforated. If in doubt or if the ear pain persists or worsens, see your doctor.
Yes, it's another unflattering picture, but it's real and it has significance...two things I love. I have become an early riser. I love the quiet as I sip my coffee, daydream and organize my thoughts. The hour to myself before the kids wake is such therapy! Lately, my early morning thoughts have gone toward my emotional progess. I am very much a person who fixes. There was a time I struggled ...with a saviour mentality. Hard times? World poverty? Second cousin twice removed had surgery? Emilie to the rescue! My thoughts and behaviours, trying to be everything to everyone, running ragged to solve problems as big as maternal death in the Phillipines and as small as a friend's rocky marriage left me exhausted mentally and physically. Burnout after burnout left me in shambles. So I stopped. I am able to recognize my level of energy reserves. I am able to recognize my abilities in a realistic way.
I have the desire to take care of everything and everyone, but I now have the sense to say no and feel okay with it. Saying no to some responsibilities has given me the ability to do well in others. For the New Year, choose one task that is suited to you and do it well. If you hate cooking and crowds make you anxious, don't volunteer in a soup kitchen. Let that be another's blessing. Perhaps you'd be better suited to helping the soup kitchen by doing administrative work or cleaning the hall after events. Don't fight who you are. We've all been made differently not to compete, but to compliment each other.
2019 roared in with freezing rain and a heavy snowstorm. Mid-afternoon it finally cleared up and I took my cabin-fevered self out for a snowshoe. Thankfully, I took the loop trail that keeps close to our property rather than hiking far across the fields. The moment I hit my groove and thought I'd shoe to the far fields out of sight of our house, the wind changed. I saw it coming from the far woods like a tidal wave and it hit me with ice pellets as soon as I landed in our... back yard. Winter is tempermental in our area.
I took this picture as I retraced my steps on the loop. I suppose it is fitting to look back on 2018 and learn from the successes and hardships. Where have I been? More importantly, where am I going? I have big ideas for Village Sage Herbals!
The holidays have come and gone, and I admit I am imperfect. Every year I swear that this will be the year I have it all together, house clean, children scrubbed and smiling, myself scrubbed and smiling (!), gifts wrapped, yummies baked, and decorations strung throughout the house and yard. Every year, and again this year, it was not to be. The house got cleaned, and the yummies were baked, but the smile was a tad forced. Although I love the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I am not immune to the stress that comes along with it.
On top of all this, I developed an abscessed gum, which traveled from one side of my mouth to the other. How it managed this, I'm unsure, but there it is. I successfully treated the first abscess with Drastix tincture (topically and internally), but am still working on the second one which seems more severe.
All this to say, stress got the better of me.
In an effort to soothe my frazzled nerves, and also deal with the abscess, I sought herbs that are both calming, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. I had made Peace Tea before, and felt that it fit the bill perfectly. The chamomile is a gentle herb that is best known for it's calming effect. It's also wonderful for stomach complaints, which often accompany anxiety. What some don't realize is that chamomile is also wonderfully antibacterial, antiviral, and an excellent anti-inflammatory. Lavender has many of the same properties, and is an even stronger calming herb. Last, but certainly not least, comes the lemon balm. With its pleasant minty, lemony flavour, it contributes greatly to the taste of the tea. It is a calming herb, too, and strongly antibacterial and antiviral. It should not be used by those with a hyperactive thyroid, however. In this case, peppermint is a nice substitute!
Give it a try, and let me know what you think!
2 parts chamomile flowers
1 part lavender buds
2 parts lemon balm (or peppermint)
Blend the herbs. Use a spoonful in a cup of just boiled water. If drinking for pleasure, steep covered for 2-3 minutes. Any longer will result in a bitter tea. For a therapeutic tea, steep covered for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey as desired.
When I think winter herbs, cinnamon immediately comes to mind. An herb that warms the system, I associate it with comfort foods...cinnamon buns, cookies, spice cake, sprinkled in hot chocolate, and oatmeal. Sweet and spicy all at once, it's a delightful addition to savory cooking. Curries and stir fries are amazing with a pinch of cinnamon!
How wonderful, then, that such a delicious herb has a wide array of therapeutic benefits, too! Cinnamon is considered a warming herb, and can be a great help to those who 'run cold' or are dealing with 'cold' afflictions. It is one of the 'anti' herbs. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral as well as astringent, carminative, and demulcent. These actions make it perfect for use during cold season. Cinnamon is often included in cough syrups, cold and flu teas, and elderberry syrup.
For those living with diabetes type 2, cinnamon can be a useful tool. The herb does this in two ways - by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin, and by decreasing the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream. Cinnamon does this by interfering with certain digestive enzymes, slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive system. Cinnamon is also celebrated for its beneficial action on the cardiovascular system, its antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory properties, its positive effects against fungal growth, and its protective action against oral disease and cavities.
There are two basic types of cinnamon to consider. The main difference between the two is the level of cinnamaldehyde in the herb. Cinnamaldehyde is what gives cinnamon its distinctive taste. Though you may think that more is better, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. When using cinnamon therapeutically for chronic ailments, it is best to adopt an 'easy does it' attitude. Ceylon cinnamon is known as 'true' cinnamon. It comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree which grow in Sri Lanka and India. It is lower in cinnamaldehyde, and thus is a safer option for long term therapeutic use. Cassia cinnamon is from the Cinnamomum cassia tree which originates in China. It is higher in cinnamaldehyde. It is also higher in coumarin, which in large amounts can be damaging to the liver. It is the stronger tasting of the two cinnamons, and the cheapest. Thus it is the cinnamon most readily available at the grocery store, and is likely used in baking for this reason. In food amounts, cinnamon is quite safe. It should not be used therapeutically by pregnant ladies, however, as it can cause contractions. It is best to consult an herbalist for dosing specifics.
Perhaps the best thing about cinnamon - or at least, the tastiest - is its effect on the digestive system. Cinnamon is a traditional digestive remedy, and combines especially well with ginger. Warming herbs kindle the body, building 'fire' and getting things moving. This is good news for those with a sluggish digestive system who need to encourage things along. It is normal for many cultures to partake in a digestive drink before and/or after meals, and cinnamon is often included in these teas. Try one for yourself with the recipe below:
Cinnamon Digestive Tea
1 part cinnamon
1 part ginger
1/2 part clove
1 part mint
Blend the first three ingredients together. Place 2 tablespoons of this blend into a pot with 2 cups of water. Simmer 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon mint, cover, and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain, sweeten with honey as desired, and sip slowly.
Elderberry - sometimes referred to as the 'medicine chest of country people' - is a big time favourite during cold and flu season. Although the entire plant can be used in some capacity for remedy purposes, the berries and the flowers are most commonly used.
Harvesting berries involves the watch and pounce method. The berries must turn to a dark, almost black colour before they are ready to pick. At this point, one must be quicker than the local birds who are also eager for their share of elderberries. Although birds might eat the berries fresh, it's important for we humans to carefully process the berries before consuming them. Eating fresh berries can quickly turn into a bad case of stomach upset. Drying and/or cooking them is the best way to avoid this. Elderberries can be turned into delicious jellies, juices, wines, and into remedies such as syrups, gummies and teas. In terms of health remedies, the berries are mostly used to aid in respiratory tract ailments - colds, bronchitis, sinusitis, scratchy throats, and especially influenza. In fact, in a double blind study with people afflicted with influenza, it was determined that using Sambucol (an elderberry syrup) vs a placebo resulted in a significant improvement in symptoms and a quicker recovery!
Elder flowers may not be as widely used in our area, but they definitely deserve a mention. They are beautiful, fragrant star shaped flowers. They also have an affinity for respiratory conditions, and are known for their diaphoretic properties - that is, their ability to encourage 'sweating out a fever'. Gargles can be made from the flower to ease sore throats. Elder flower salves and ointments are also used for skin conditions.
If you want the goodness of elderberries, but want something a little different from elderberry syrup, try your hand at an elixir.
Fill a quart jar half full with elderberries. Add in enough alcohol to fill the jar ¾ full and then top with honey. Mix well. You may find you have space at the top of the jar. Add more honey to fill. Seal the jar and label with the date the name of your concoction (nothing worse than staring blankly at a jar with no idea what is in it!). Let sit for 3 weeks, shaking daily. Strain after 3 weeks . Take 1 -3 teaspoons daily to help keep the flu at bay.