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Implementation: Which Herbs, How Much, When To Take

In the middle of last night I awoke thinking, how will folks implement that big wad of info? So here we are again regarding herbal detoxification, only with this additional info you may actually be able to start!

Gentian: great digestion enhancer, both in the stomach and intestines; good for anemia and convalescence to jumpstart digestion. Put 1/2 teaspoon of the root in a cup of water. Boil for 5 minutes. Drink warm 10 to 30 minutes before a meal.  It is BITTER! Ginger and Cardamom are great additions: use a total of 1/2 tsp of herbs.

Ginger: relieves indigestion, nausea, cramping. Stimulates peripheral circulation and can promote perspiration. Pour a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger and drink when cool enough, before, during or after a meal (or anytime you feel nauseous).

Cardamom: good for relieving gas, cramping; stimulates the appetite and the flow of urine. Pour a cup of boiling water over freshly crushed seeds and steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a saucer over top of all steeping herbal infusions: this captures beneficial chemicals in the steam.  Drink freely during the day, or before a meal.

Anise: the seed is great for intestinal cramping as well as getting rid of bronchial mucus. Pour boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons full of freshly, gently crushed seeds, and let steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. can be drunk several times a day, especially before meals or to assist in productive coughing.

Fennel: very similar to Anise: use the same way. Some folks prefer to just chew their seeds, and spit out when the taste has been extracted.

Cumin: these spice/herb seeds are a major part of many traditional cuisines because they are aids to digestion and taste good. Often used in bean dishes to aid beans’ digestion.

Cascara Sagrada: this is one of the gentlest of the purgatives (aids to elimination), as it encourages peristalsis and tones slack muscles of the digestive system. Start with 1 teaspoon of the bark in a cup of water. Bring to a boil, and let sit for 10 minutes. Drink before bed. Much better tasting and effective if used in conjunction with Ginger, any of the Seeds above, or Licorice.

Chickweed: good for acidic system due to heavy meat-eating; to gently increase the flow of urine (especially for PMS edema); and externally to treat arthritis, gout, eczema and psoriasis. Pour a cup of boiled water over 2 teaspoons of dry herb and let sit at least 5 minutes. Drink this 3 times daily, or use as a skin wash externally. You can also make a super strong infusion and pour into your bath water (just warm, not hot) to relive itching.

Dandelion: the root and leaf are both useful. This herb is a strong diuretic, increases bile production (and is a good liver tonic) and  stimulates digestion and elimination. Put 1 to 3 teaspoons of the root into a cup of water and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Drink three times daily. The leaves can be added raw to salads when young and tender, or steamed as a pot herb.

Parsley: eat the leaves! The root is used as a diuretic, to bring on menstrual periods, and to ease digestive cramping. Pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the root and infuse, covered, for at least 10 to 15 minutes. Do this 3 days a day. DO NOT use this herb at this medicinal dosage if PREGNANT.

Tomorrow I will do the next 10 herbs mentioned in the previous blog, and then the last 11 herbs over the weekend.

Here is the info for safe and effective essential oil usage at home:

Essential Oil Use & Safety Guidelines

  • Do not take essential oils internally unless you are following a cooking recipe (many herb and spice oils can be used as flavorings in minute quantities) or under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner (with aromatherapy training).
  • Do not apply essential oils directly to the skin; always dilute with a carrier oil such as sweet almond, sesame and/or olive oil.
  • Here are the standard dilutions (as recommended by several internationally known aromatherapists) for a variety of home uses (on healthy adolescents and adults over 100 lbs):
    • Massage: use a total of 12 to 15 drops of essential oil(s) per one ounce of carrier oil. This is a 2 % dilution.
    • Bath: use 5 to 8 drops of non-irritant essential oil(s) in a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add to the water just before you enter the bath.
    • Inhalations: a drop of essential oil can be placed on a handkerchief or cotton ball and inhaled. Three to five drops may be added to a bowl of steaming water and the vapors inhaled. Be sure to close your eyes!
  • Keep out of the reach of children.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.
  • Do not use citrus oils (or Angelica…and some references include Lavender) on the skin before exposure to UV light.
  • Use only pure and natural essential oils; avoid synthetic fragrances.
  • Do not use essential oils on infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and/or those with serious health problems without specific aromatherapy training. There are books available that, when read and understood, can help parents make informed choices about aromatherapy use for the whole family. When in doubt: don’t use.
  • Should ingestion of an essential oil occur, immediately call your Poison Control Center (http://www.aapcc.org/DNN/) Do not give water if breathing or swallowing is difficult.
  • Do buy a reference book to help you use essential oils safely and confidently. If you have a specific question, the folks at Iris herbal are happy to assist you.
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Herbs That Assist Detoxification

This blog topic could easily be a book…which means that although this won’t be comprehensive or in great detail, you will find the creme de la creme of the basics…call it “detox cliff notes”…

An herbal approach to detoxification is based upon the premise that our bodies are self-healing; that we already have an amazingly effective and astoundingly complex array of detoxification systems “built-in;” and that our job is to augment our innate abilities by:  first, support the whole body’s process of elimination (and not just the colon, which is what many pre-made cleanses do); second, apply specific support for overly taxed organs and third,  alleviate any symptoms (and address any pathologies that may be present).

For digestion issues and the colon, we want to assist the break down of food (try a simple herbal bitters recipe of Gentian, Ginger and Cardamom {used as a tea or a tincture; the last 2 are also available as essential oils and can be diluted and rubbed on the stomach} ; or you can use Anise, Fennel, and/or Cumin Seeds {chew the seeds, make a tea, use as tincture or essential oil} as both flavorings and to assist in digestion) as well as deal with constipation, or even slow evacuation (mild, safe, not too intense Yellow Dock and Dandelion Root; for more stubborn cases, try Cascara Sagrada).

For the kidneys and urinary system, we can use a gentle diuretic (increases the flow of urine) to move fluids out of the body, which is especially helpful in cases of edema (swelling) or to remove toxins more quickly. Herbs that do this without causing imbalance (unlike drugs, these herbs contain potassium; however, a little goes a long way) are Chickweed, Dandelion, Parsley and Nettle leaves. Notice that these are “spring tonics,” often considered weeds (well, maybe not parsley, but how many of us really eat it?), and are edible as “pot-herbs” (cooked like any greens), in salads, or used medicinally in the form of tea or tinctures (alcohol extract). Many folks recommend using the juice of half a lemon in warm water upon arising.

Hepatic herbs are those which assist the liver and gall bladder in their many functions:  Dandelion root, Beets (yes, the food), Turmeric ( the main spice ingredient in many curries) {all of these can be used as food, a simmered tea or as a tincture} and Milk Thistle seed, which is available as either a tincture or a standardized extract which comes in the form of a capsule.   Alteratives are what used to be called  blood cleansers and are the class of herbs that gradually restore the proper functions of the body which then increase health and vitality. These include Burdock, Oregon Grape, Sarsaparilla and Yellow Dock roots, Cleavers, Nettles and Red Clover, as well as seaweeds and garlic.  Essential oils that stimulate and aid the functioning of our liver include Angelica, Carrot seed, Chamomile, Cypress, Grapefruit, Lemon, Peppermint and Rosemary. They can be used individually or in various combinations as a massage oil or bath oil. {Infomercial: check out www.irisherbal.com offerings in health enhancement, massage and bath oils, as well as individual essential oils, and the essential oil info page which gives great detail on how to safely use essential oils}.

Lymphatic tonic herbs assist in the movement and drainage of our lymph system.  They include Burdock, Dandelion and Yellow Dock roots, as well as Red Root, Echinacea root and Calendula (usually taken as a decoction or simmered tea, or as a tincture). There are many essential oils that are useful in this category: Lemon, Grapefuit, Carrot seed, Coriander, Spruce, Frankincense and Laurel {infomercial # 2; check  HERE for 2 massage oils for the lymph system}.

For the  Lungs we can increase the flow of mucus (mucolytics) to help move out phlegm and ease breathing. For this I  find essential oils to be easy and effective, as either a salve or by vaporizing a few drops of essential oil in a pot of boiled water. Good oils for this include Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Laurel, Rosemary, Lavender, Camphor and Peppermint. In the herbal realm, we can use an expectorant (again, help loosen and expel mucus) like Mullein, Elecampane,  Anise seed, Licorice, and great southwestern herbs such as Osha  and Yerba Santa. Any of these herbs can be used as a tea or tincture.

When dealing with the skin, we have a few avenues open to us. We can use diaphoretics (aid the skin in the elimination of toxins through perspiration) which include Elder flower, Ginger, Peppermint, Prickly Ash and Yarrow (as teas, decoctions or tinctures) as well as the use of 2 herbs which address the skin/liver connection which are Barberry and Yellow Dock. Besides dry brush massage, alternating cool and warm showers (which stimulate the lymph and the skin) there are also the judicious use of saunas, steam baths (where we can add essential oils) and  hot springs, baths in our homes (where we can add bath oils, clay and/or apple cider vinegar)and sunlight (either the addition or removal).

WHEW!  In the next few weeks we’ll be exploring heavy metal detox, using supplements as part of our detoxification program, plus the emotional aspects of detox, and 2 guest blogs by Lisa Goodstein, DOM on the Chinese/Eastern take on this subject.

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Radiation: a special info alert

Please check HERE for an excellent article (very specific info on iodine and anti-oxidant supplements) on how you can help protect yourself from radiation’s effects on our bodies. This is not just about the awful disaster in Japan.  We modern folks are using radiation technology increasingly to detect tumors, etc. Many people are over-radiated in the name of health. 

 Herbs that assist with dealing with ionizing radiation include Burdock root,  Dandelion root, American Ginseng root, and Milk Thistle seed.  Foods that are particularly helpful include all berries, especially blueberries and strawberries.

May all sentient beings be peaceful, happy, and healthy.

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Spring Tonics

Stinging Nettles

Before supermarkets offered all fruits and all vegetables all the time, winter diets in the Northern Hemisphere were heavy on root vegetables, grains and beans, breads, cheese, and meats, often combined in soups. Spring saw the proliferation of wild greens and the planting of gardens, increased trade with other communities as the snows melted, and the understanding that the heavier fatty meals could lighten a little as the temperatures rose. Diet was a construct of the interplay of culture and environment, as well as one’s family’s class. You ate what your parents ate, and barring famine, that system worked fairly well for hundreds of years.

Alfalfa

For those of us who wish to re-connect with the natural rhythms of the seasons, eat more nutritious foods, and recognize that this transition from winter to spring is important, I offer you three fabulous spring tonics: nettles, alfalfa and chickweed.

Nettles are my personal favorite. People have been collecting and using stinging nettles for food, medicine, fiber and dyes since the Bronze Age (or earlier). You must wear gloves in the gathering, but once cooked, the stinging chemical is inactivated. Nettles are the quintessential spring tonic, and have traditionally been used to rebuild the systems of the chronically ill, as well as help gently release  toxins. Medicinally they are useful as an expectorant (help thin and expel mucous), for chronic coughs, to treat cold and flu, as a gentle and safe diuretic (increase the flow of urine and reduce edema or swelling due to fluid retention), and as a restorative for the kidneys and bladder.  Nutritionally nettles contain high amounts of chlorophyll, protein (up to 10%, more than any other vegetable), and minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium and sulfur. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the B complex vitamins. Recipe hint: substitute for spinach, especially in a Quiche. Gather in the early spring until they flower. Once they start producing seeds, they are not so good for either food or medicine.

Alfalfa comes from the Middle East, and a tea made from the leaves and flowers has been traditionally used as a spring tonic and blood thinner, so it is especially good for arthritis and gout.  The green leaves contain 8 essential enzymes and aid digestion. Alfalfa contains over 10 vitamins, and is especially high in A, C, D, B2, B6, and K. Plus you get some iron and calcium.

Chickweed
Chickweed is a European annual that has naturalized through much of North America. It has even shown up in my greenhouse, and is now a regular part of my diet. Medicinally it is soothing and useful to help treat skin conditions, upset and ulcer-prone stomachs, as well as bladder and liver problems. Excellent as a nutritive tonic eaten fresh in salads (or cooked into omelets), chickweed is high in Vit. C, rutin, biotin, choline, inositol, PABA, Vit. B6, B12, Vit.D and beta carotene. It is another mineral powerhouse with magnesium, manganese, sodium, copper and silica.
All of these herbs are also considered “weeds” because they grow so easily and profusely. Nettles especially can become invasive. However, because of this ability to not need much of our assistance or attention (except in a desert or high desert climate: you will then need to water) they are excellent for the ” gardening challenged.”  Both Nettles and Alfalfa are perennials, and Chickweed, though an annual, easily (almost scarily  so) reseeds itself: therefore, once planted, they will be your constant and generous companions.