It was a steamy day in July in the north woods and we took the Potting Shed students and some friends for some plant identification and escape for the oppressive heat. It turned out to be the perfect stress release, fun, exploration and learning with friends. Here are some of the reports
It was my birthday and my first hike in 4 years due to knee surgery. I was hiking with my friend Patty and Cathy Dodge and her Potting Shed class. We drove up to a Moscow Rd. path beside a beautiful stream in Stowe. This is the first time I had met people in the class and I was warmly received. The weather was beautiful, I was excited, inquisitive, and eager to learn about edible plants on the trail. I was along for the ride, not a student yet. We hadn’t gone up 15 feet and we were inundated with plants being identified by classmates. The “bug bit” me and instead of looking up, I was traveling with my eyes down on plants around me. Tommy pointed out a mushroom on the side of a birch called Chaga, known for its melanin and medicinal properties used to strengthen and heal the body. I’m looking at that chunk of black mass a bit differently now that I’ve looked it up. There were so many mushrooms I missed that were pointed out. I thought they were all poisonous. The wheels started turning to thoughts of making a tincture for my son-in-law who is dealing with prostate cancer.
Patty and I were there to harvest some nettle for herself and a friend dealing with allergy symptoms. I couldn’t believe how available it was right next to the trail. We filled three bags without making much of a dent in the patch and only took what we would process. I have personally fried this up with onions and it tastes just like spinach.
We were finding many plants too numerous for me to remember. I didn’t have the right book for identification and had to rely on everyone else’s knowledge and my camera. All I could think of was how great God is to supply humanity with all this food I knew nothing about. It was a great field trip!
What a glorious day on July 10 in Stowe, VT! I played hooky from work in an office building to walk in the woods. What a refreshing way to get re-energized during the week! I joined a group of plant lovers on a Healing Leaves Center hike where we identified plants, enjoyed the very pleasant weather, and talked plants and all things herbal.
Our leader, Cathy Dodge, asked questions and helped us identify plants along the way. We also asked her a lot of questions which she very graciously answered. It was exciting and relaxing at the same time as we observed nature and listened to the mountain stream/river that cascaded next to the hiking path. We saw many beautiful rock formations in the stream bed.
Things we learned
Thank goodness for Petersen's guides which we consulted to identify the plants. We identified Clintonia, Woodland Nettles, and Heal-all, as well as other plants and trees. Let's hear from all the hikers.
I went on this hike twice last year and learned so much. This was my third trip, and I was so proud to identify St John's Wort, Plantain, and Nettles. But there are so many more plants to learn, remember, and photograph. We saw Moosewood so named because moose love to eat it.
Speaking of eating, we talked about how to use some of the plants in different recipes. Seems that whenever I hike, I think about food!
It was great to find the herb Heal-all, a lovely little plant that grows along the path. This plant is used by herbalists topically to heal skin abrasions.
Summer has arrived and so have those hikes in the woods and fields, along lakes and streams. Unfortunately the tick population has increased and continues to travel further into northern climes as well as multiply and mutate all over the world. Not only are the ticks a problem because of the lyme disease they carry, but they are also carriers of at least 6 other microbacterial forms, any one of which or multiples of combinations, can also infect the unsuspecting victim at the same time.
As scary as that might seem, there are many things that we can do to avoid being infected. Lyme and its coinfections are just another issue to be educated for so that we can take the necessary precautions and enjoy every bit as much of the outdoors as we always have. An ounce of prevention - a pound of cure.
Quite often you will see notes about wearing your pants tucked into your socks and long sleeve shirts. That may be fine for some, but personally, wearing all that clothing on a hot, steamy day, doesn't give me the freedom of movement and enjoyment that draws me to the fields and forests in the first place. As an herbalist, I now have developed my "Tick Kit" that I carry with me in my pack whenever I go out and I have one at home also. The "Tick Kit" contains:
. A 2 oz bottle of Kloss's linament - a well known herbal topical antibiotic containing goldenseal, myrrh and echinacea that can infiltrate the skin and begin to wipe out any infectious bacteria that may have been released.
. A 2 oz spray bottle with an herb called andrographis diluted with water that can be sprayed on skin and clothes as a repellent. Ticks do not like this herb. There are other tick repellent sprays but the good thing about this one is that you can use it topically on a tick bite site if you don't have Kloss's with you. This is also an antibiotic type herb that will help kill bacteria through the skin.
. A 2 oz bottle of concentrated andrographis that can be used topically and can also be taken orally if there has been a bite to begin the internal antibiotic process. Be ready, it's extremely bitter!!
. A tick removal spoon - which has a V groove in it that slides under the tick body, catches them by the throat and removes the tick without squeezing them with your fingers. This technique helps to keep the tick from regurgitating bacteria into your body from squeezing.
Remember, ticks burrow into the skin until they find a blood vessel to feed on. Until that happens, little if any bacteria will be released. The sooner you find the tick and remove them the better off you will be. It takes at least 12 - 24 hours generally for the tick to burrow in that far.
Make sure you have a "tick buddy". Someone whom you hike with or who is available after your times in the outdoors who can take a look at you as you remove clothing and check backs and under arm creases and even groin areas and behind the knees. Ticks like to find the warm, hidden creases of your body to burrow in and hide. Then take your clothing off and place them in the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any that might be on your clothes. Wearing white or light colored shirts and shorts/pants is a good idea so that ticks can be easily seen.
If you do find a tick imbedded, don't panic!! Determine how long it might have been there. If it occurred during that day's walk, just remove it and keep your eye on the site for the next week. Apply some Kloss's or andrographis topically and perhaps take a dose of andrographis internally.
Watch for the typical target rash but know that those don't always appear. If there has been an infection you could see the area become red and angry looking, perhaps hot and rashy. You could also feel like you have the flu or have a fever. Any of these symptoms and you should contact your medical practitioner. At this point, no matter how much you don't want to take antibiotics, taking them will deter a potentially debilitating long-term problem. These bacteria are nothing to mess with and even before receiving any kind of test results back, you should ask for antibiotics - doxycycline is the accepted antibiotic for this scenario unless you are allergic because of it's strength against lyme.
For more reliable and expert information on the long term problems of Lyme disease, you could purchase a book Healing Lyme by Steve Buhner, an herbalist who has treated thousands of folks with lyme and has developed a protocol for working with long term lyme issues. There is also a website at http://www.tiredoflyme.com/the-buhner-protocol-for-lyme-disease.html. There is also a site www.drjaydavidson.com who is a functional medicine practitioner who also has extensive experience with lyme because of his wife having been infected when she was pregnant a number of years ago.
Best cure - prevention - take precautions and stay healthy and enjoy creation!!
Intermittent fasting is a technique that helps your body jump start itself out of disease, fatigue, inflammation and potential immune decline. It is not a diet, but an understanding of how to help your body switch from solely relying on glucose and insulin for energy, to fat burning which is better “fuel” for your body.
It’s hard to believe that fasting can actually increase energy, but that is exactly what it does by giving your body a break from high demand for glucose (insulin) in order to digest food. In some ways we suffer from overabundance. We can get foods from all over the world and the food industry comes up with more and more products that are convenient and seem to take some of the work out of food preparation and meal planning. Truth is that we eat more than we need to and the processed food industry has created a monster in that those foods may be convenient but they have little nutritional value and cause sugar cravings as they break down into sugar; along with the added sugars in the rest of our foods.
Intermittent fasting causes a physical body response to lack of glucose and causes it to go looking for defective and old cells that it can recycle for the proteins that are available and eliminate the rest. That process called “autophagy” (auTOF-agee) triggers our stem cells to make brand new cells to replace the recycled ones. That means as your body is recreating cells, it makes them from new vital cells not old, defective ones. So any precancerous, autoimmune or diseased cells are eliminated before they take hold.
There is another fuel source that our body uses when glucose is not readily available. It is called fat. Not only will your body eat it’s own fat stores (like belly fat) but it can function very well on good fats that you eat like avocados, olive oil, nuts and nut butters, full fat greek yogurt and others(we have food lists). AND the real science is, contrary to public opinion created by the food gurus, FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT, HEAVY STARCHY CARBS MAKE YOU FAT!
So the technique of intermittent fasting is to allow time for the body to go without glucose long enough to go looking for recyclable cells and fat to use for energy. Once your body becomes used to using fat for energy, you can eat good fats with each meal, leave out the starchy carbs, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and good proteins. When that happens, you will find you no longer have sugar cravings. And over a 15 day period of eliminating breakfast 3 days a week, you can begin to see and feel the difference in your energy and health.
It has been a busy week here at Healing Leaves Center with the start of another season in The Potting Shed. It has also been a blessing being a spiritual mother in the Body of Christ as those who God has given me to nurture and help along the way, have returned to share what God has done.
It is easy for us to misconstrue the expression "Mother Earth" if we look with the wrong set of lenses; but it is part of the creation that Father God created and is an amazing picture of how we are nurtured by the beauty of nature and even healed by this realm of beauty when our stressful lives become too much.
With that thought, I would like to share with you an Apache blessing that comes from the appreciation of just one of our native tribes who lived well from the earth.
May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being,
May you walk gently through the world and
Know it's beauty all the days of your life.
Spring has FINALLY come to the Northeast and what a joy it is after an unusually long winter of sporadic temperatures and overcast days!!!!
It feels wonderful to feel the warmth of the bright sun on our faces as we soak up the natural Vitamin D that we all need so much. Be aware that this time of the year the sun’s rays are very intense, even more so than the middle of summer, so we should take the precautions we need to, to keep from overdoing it. I prefer to wear a hat and not put anything on my face but perhaps some facial lotion containing zinc oxide. St John’s wort oil is a good natural sunblock. If you have extremely sensitive skin, approach hot days carefully and wear long sleeve, loose fitting shirts if you are going to be in the direct sun for a long period of time. Otherwise just breathe deeply and enjoy it.
Then there are the little faces of spring. The flowers come in such bright contrast to the brown earth and then against the bright green of the grass as it turns overnight. Flowers like dandelions, viola, spring cress and green superfoods like burdock and ramps (wild onion) that we can add to our salads.
Forage in your lawn for plantain, viola leaves, and dandelions. (That is if you don’t spray your lawn with pesticides!). It’s amazing what your lawn will provide if you let it grow naturally.
Forage at field’s edge for coltsfoot which flower before their leaf comes marking the place to pick those leaves later on, so take note. Horsetail is prolific and tender to pick for tinctures, drying for tea and tooth powder.
Forage in the forest for trout lilies(dog-toothed violets), sorrel, cress, bloodroot
Forage in your perennial garden beds for French sorrel and asparagus(great for strengthening the kidneys after a long winter).
Don’t forget to just take some time to stretch your legs for a walk amongst them. It’s a great way to reduce stress God’s way. These days you can almost hear them stretching their “limbs” from a long winter’s nap, their colors crying out for attention to admire their beauty.
Don’t let spring pass you by, without taking note of what’s around you and maybe collecting a few specimens to take back and identify from your Peterson’s Field Guide. If plant walks and foraging are your passion, let us know. We are just putting together our summer evening series for July and August. Or perhaps you’re a more serious forager and want all the particulars of what to do with these plants so you can use them. If so you might want to join our Family Herbal Series that starts the end of June for 5 2-hour sessions of learning. More serious than that? Consider joining the first year class at the Potting Shed Herbal School. There are many ways to learn and we are a community of folks with similar passions, ready to share our knowledge as well as fun.
Greetings Wellness Seekers
I know that it's been some time since we have updated our blog. Our apologies for keeping you all in the dark as we prepared, partnered together, learned and reset our courses for health at the "Sticky Facts About Gluten" health day. It was awesome! Not only did we learn a lot in the morning about the sources for these problems, how to recognize them and how to avoid health reactions to gluten containing foods; but we learned the steps to overcome them and gain our health back. Then we had a truly adventurous time in the kitchen with our New England Culinary graduate, Kim Post, who showed us how to make awesome transitional food dishes, without gluten elements that were delicious as well as easy to make. We all got to participate in putting the dishes together and then enjoyed each others' company as we ate a most delicious meal together. Who says getting well can't be fun.
In the days ahead we will give you more information about the weekend and teaching series elements that will be available by video connection in the near future. Meantime, enjoy this summer salad from Kim's repertoire, just in time for the coming of warmer weather. Quinoa is not a grain and is an anti-inflammatory food as well as non gluten food. It's a great substitute for all your rice recipes. Cilantro is also an excellent detoxifying food and such a great flavor to add to the mix.
Quinoa Mango & Black Bean Salad
Ingredients: 2 C cooked quinoa (chilled or room temperature)
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 mango, peeled and diced
4 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (1 small lime)
1/2 tsp kosher or Himalayan salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
* In a large bowl combine cooked quinoa, mango, red pepper, onion, black beans & cilantro
* In small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and stir together. Pour on top of salad, Stir to combine. Chill for at least one hour before serving.
Enjoy!!! Love to hear what you think.
Thin Crust, Gluten Free Pizza
Pizza has to be an all American favorite, The traditional pizza is a heavy carb load and a threat to all you celiac and gluten sensitive folks. Now thanks to creative and informed chefs, we have alternatives that are good tasting and user friendly. The following is one of them from The Healing Kitchen by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD & Alaena Haber, MS, OTR.
2/3 Cup arrowroot starch
1/4 Cup plus 2 T coconut flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp non-aluminum baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Cup water
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a pan with parchment paper
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Slowly pour in the olive oil and water until mixed thoroughly. The dough will be slightly crumbly, but once you roll it our in step 3 it will hold together.
3. Place the dough on the parchment paper and lay another sheet of parchment paper over the top. Roll out util it is about 1/4 inch thick.
4. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until light golden brown and crisp. Use immediately for pizza or let cool and store in refrigerator 24 hours or in the freezer for 3 months.
Note: We top these pizzas like we would any other pizza, sauce, cheese, and desired toppings.
Convenience Note: Make a double batch. Use one immediately and store one in the frig or freezer for the next time.
In Part I of this blog series, we talked about gluten, diabetes and obesity, and how they are threats to our health. Now let’s look at how we can avoid these threats. Our bodies are resilient, and we can turn our health around even if we have received a diagnosis and are headed toward one or more of these problems.
The common denominator is sugar, wheat, and other starchy, processed carbohydrates. Processed carbohydrates ultimately break down into sugar or glucose. Foods such as pasta, bread, cereal, pizza dough, you know what I’m talking about. What we need to do is to remove that sugar from our food intake. That will level out insulin resistance, stop celiac and gluten reactions, and lower our weight.
How does it work?
Our bodies have two sources of energy:
We are all familiar with sugar or glucose as an energy source. Did you know that fat is the other source of energy?
When glucose is used as a source of energy, the body digests and burns it leaving some residue behind that causes inflammatory reactions and free radical release. What’s the problem with that? Well, It is now commonly understood and agreed upon that the basis for all disease is inflammation. So when we continue to eat an overabundance of sugar and processed carbohydrates on a daily basis, our bodies are set up for sustained and even increased inflammation. That means that as we continue to eat our traditional meals of mac & cheese, sandwiches, toast, cereal, pizza, etc., we continue to build an accumulation of glucose/sugar in our system daily.
Fat, on the other hand, is a much cleaner (non-inflammatory) way to obtain energy. Burning fat is more efficient than burning glucose because there is no residue to produce an inflammatory response, such as we see in the burning of glucose. But we’ve all heard that there’s problems with fat. We’ve all been convinced that fat causes an increase in cholesterol and that it causes us to gain weight, especially around our middles. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the problems is the low fat and fat-free foods we eat are not helping us but hurting us.
Actually, if you remember from Part I of this blog series, excess sugar is stored in the liver until the liver cannot hold any more, and then the excess sugar is stored as body fat. That’s the weight gain around our middles. This is the kind of fat that is dangerous to our health in many ways, one of which being that it causes the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that sets up inflammatory responses in weak places in our individual organ systems. A buildup of cortisol also contributes to vascular thinningm the buildup of bad cholesterol and amyloid plaque.
Another problem with excess sugar
Another problem today is that our bodies are very accustomed to burning sugar instead of fat because for so long our bodies have been burning sugar. There’s an endless supply, right? We eat it nonstop. So our bodies don’t need to switch over to burning our fat because we continue to feed ourselves with sugar daily. We have an abundance of sugar, in fact, too much, and our bodies can’t burn it all. When this happens, there’s no need for our bodies to burn the other source – fat.
But I want to burn fat!
What does it take to burn fat? We need to slow our body’s intake of sugar or eliminate it entirely, and then begin to replace the sugar/processed carb items with good fats instead. Current dietary science is proving this to be correct.
I’ve tried but there are cravings!
The problem arises from the cravings we get. We have been sugar addicts all these years. But take heart. There is a way to do this without starving ourselves, endangering our health, or having to eat boring meals.
How do I address gluten issues, obesity, and prediabetes?
We need to develop new traditions with food. We must transition from burning sugar for energy to burning fat. We need to trade in our traditional high carb meals for low carb (veggies) or no carb meals that contain good protein and ONLY excellent fats. (Excellent fats include saturated olive, avocado, and coconut oils, nuts, seeds, full fat cheeses, yogurt and ghee, eggs, etc.) The shift starts as we add some good fats into each meal. I know this flies in the face of everything that you have read, and the dietary guidelines we have been given.
There is a way to jump start this process. We’re covering this information and more on April 21. I encourage you to consider joining us for “The Sticky Facts About Gluten” workshop on April 21. See the "events" page for details.
If you can’t be there, we will be streaming the morning teaching sessions. But the advantage of attending allows you to participate in all the afternoon food workshops. You can learn to transition safely and effectively from burning sugar to burning fat. If you can’t attend, your other option is to contact our office and work one-on-one to get you back on the road to health.
All three health issues are on the rise. More and more young and middle aged people are being screened and treated for pre-diabetes than ever before - these conditions and many other immune and metabolic problems. The question is why? And how can we avoid being one of the rising statistics? How can we help our loved ones who are suffering?
One common denominator is the food we eat. The types of food are not what you think. Understanding what those foods are and more importantly, why those foods are the common denominator, is important to motivating us to change our eating lifestyle.
What about gluten?
Gluten is a substance in grain-related products that is part of the original plant makeup. Gluten actually repels insects and bacteria in order to protect the grain plant. It is a category of proteins that has a "sticky" property to it when liquid is added. Gluten is a large protein molecule, and because of its sticky character, it attaches to bacteria and viruses and other foreign particles including the fiber in grains that help to remove toxins out of our system. Those with a diagnosis of celiac disease are actually allergic to gluten. Conversely, a gluten sensitivity can be one reason for gastric distress. Gluten molecules are too big to go through the digestive lining unless the lining is inflamed or torn or if the cells have been separated. This presents an opening through the digestive lining and allows big molecules such as gluten that would not normally be able, to enter into the bloodstream. Too much irritation caused by an overabundance of eating gluten-containing foods can result over time in leaky gut syndrome.
Gluten is found in more complex, starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, cereal, etc. Gluten is also found in legumes (beans) and starchy veggies such as peas, corn, and acorn squash, just to name a few. Gluten is also used as fillers in many other products. Folks with celiac disease need to steer away from those foods and those who are sensitive need to be careful not to eat too many; but we can all benefit by avoiding these foods on a daily basis.
A Diagnosis of Diabetes
Diabetes is a case of insulin resistance. Insulin plays a major role in metabolism (the way our bodies produce energy). Sugars and starches break down into glucose during digestion. Then the glucose enters the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that assists the entry of glucose into the cells of the body so that glucose can be used to produce energy. After a meal when the levels of glucose rise in the bloodstream, our pancreas releases insulin into the blood to help the glucose enter the cells throughout the body. There is a very important balance keeping blood glucose and insulin levels at the correct level. Excess glucose is stored in our liver unless the liver already has enough, otherwise glucose is stored as fat.
How Insulin resistance happens
Insulin resistance occurs when there is continually too much glucose in the bloodstream. Too much glucose is a result of the foods we eat that provide more glucose than our cells need. The pancreas is forced to keep up with the amount of insulin that is needed for the body to absorb glucose. When the pancreas cannot keep up with the amount of insulin needed, the excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream. And this is what leads to the development of Type 2 diabetes. This also leads to heart disease and other health disorders. Prediabetes is an indication that the glucose levels in our blood are becoming too high. The U.S. Department of Health estimates that at least 84 million U.S. adults ages 18 or older had prediabetes in 2015 and the numbers continue to increase.
The Problem of Obesity
Obesity is often seen in diabetic patients. Obesity is also becoming a threatening disorder of its own. It is now common in children and young adults at early ages. There seems to be a cultural eating disorder that is leading our population in the U.S. toward a cataclysmic epidemic. Science is beginning to give us clues about what we have overlooked in our dietary guidelines.
In Part II of this blog series, we will take a look at what those missing pieces are and where we can start to change our eating habits to avoid ill health.
What can I do now?
In the meantime, consider joining us on April 21 for "The Sticky Facts About Gluten". We will discuss these issues in more depth; learn how to avoid food that hurt us; learn about correcting our food intake so that we don't go down the road to ill health; and participate in afternoon food workshops to learn better cooking and food combining. We will also give you shortcuts and keys to overcome gluten sensitivity, diabetes and obesity and simplify the roadmap back to health. Look for the April 21 details on our "Events" page. It promises to be a day to turn your health around.
Are you feeling bloated and crampy after you eat? Science is showing us that digestive problems from inflammation in our digestive tract can impact our health, organ systems and brain. Healing an inflamed digestive lining can help with absorption of key nutrients. There are some foods that are naturally irritating to the stomach lining like grains, processed carbohydrates and hydrogenated oils.
Bone broth has become a buzz word in the food community because of it's ability to help heal the gut lining. Here is a soup great for cold, wintry days that not only tastes good but helps in that healing process:
1/2 cup dry lentils, simmered 1/2 hour in 2 cups water, drained and set aside
1 large sweet potato
1 large handful spinach or kale
1 red bell pepper
2 Tbsp chopped dill or 1 tsp dried
1 handful cashews or walnuts roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 small onice chopped
1 cup bone broth or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp coconut oil
Chop onion and garlic & warm gently in large scaucepan with the coconut oil.
Peel and chop sweet potatos, carrots, and pepper and add to pan to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
Add the bone broth and simmer 10 minutes until vegetables are warmed through but not overcooked
Add the lentils for last five minutes.
Transfer to blender or food processor (do in batches if you need to) Add the avocado, spinach and dill.
Blend until smooth and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Drizzle with a little olive oil as you serve.
Enjoy!! And be well!!