Herbs to grow, part 2

We are continuing our series on the health benefits of herbs to grow in your garden.

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Rosemary

Historically, rosemary has been used for a variety of complaints including alleviating muscle pain, improving memory, boosting the immune and circulatory system, and promoting hair growth. It is part of the mint family and is high in calcium, iron, and vitamin B6. Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and an excellent anti-inflammatory. It is commonly used to treat indigestion and heartburn as well as improve overall digestion. Components contained in the oil of rosemary correlate with improvement in memory and concentration, in fact scientists have found that rosemary is good for the brain. Rosemary also may be good for macular degeneration and keeping one’s eyes healthy. When used topically with other herbs, it may possibly prevent hair loss, can relieve joint and muscle pain, and can be used to relieve stress.

Garlic

Garlic has the ability to treat a wide variety of uses conditions related to the heart and blood system, colon and rectal cancer, stomach cancer, high blood pressure, tick bites, and various fungal infections including ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch. Garlic is another spice that has been used for thousands of years, in fact there are records that it was in use in Giza during the time that the pyramids were being built, over 5,000 years ago. Garlic was even given to Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece as a performance enhancer. Historically, it has been used to treat bronchitis, tuberculosis, rheumatism, dysentery, colic, stomach ailments, diabetes, even intestinal worms.

Sage

Sage is yet another spice that has a long history. It is one of the original herbs that made up Four Thieves Vinegar, a medieval remedy that was supposed to protect the wearer from the plague. It has had so many uses, both in cooking and as a medicinal herb that it was considered a remedy for all ailments, everything from the cleansing of wounds, sprains, ulcers, female and menopause complaints, and stomach and digestive issues. Today, not only is it nutritious, but it is used to help improve memory, it is an anti-inflammatory, and has properties that help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

It is approved by the German Commission E for mild gastrointestinal upset, excessive sweating, and inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. It is an anti-spasmodic and may reduce tension in muscle and it is commonly used to alleviate the side effects associated with menopause, specifically menopausal sweating.

Chives

As with garlic, chives are a member of the allium family, thus sharing many of the same properties. The benefits of the allium family have been studied extensively, specifically regarding cancer, and stomach and colorectal cancer especially. Research has shown the inhibition of tumor growth and the prevention of the formation of free radicals. Allium vegetables may also lower the risk of prostate cancer. The high levels of choline and folate in chives may be beneficial to improving sleep and mood. Other benefits may relate to heart health by reducing the stiffness and plaque in arteries, chives are high in vitamin K which is a key mineral in preventing bone demineralization, and chives are high in antioxidants.

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Herbs to grow for our health, part one

We all know that fresh herbs are where it’s at when cooking, but aside from being superior flavor-wise, our common cooking herbs have a surprising number of health benefits when regularly included in our diets. All of the following are easy to grow in a home garden of any size and add interest to our meals and are one of the many things we can consume to help keep us healthy.

Oregano

When taken orally, oregano is used to help respiratory tract infections including influenza and the common cold, UTIs, gastrointestinal disorders, and even menstrual cramps. Oregano is high in vitamin K which promotes bone growth and density. It also contains high concentrations of anti-oxidants and is an effective anti-inflammatory.

When used topically, the essential oil of oregano has anti-bacterial properties. It is used in a wide variety of skin conditions from acne to dandruff, but it has been proven by Western medicine to be effective against multiple strains of Listeria bacteria, a common food pathogen and the Himalayan variety is even strong enough to kill MRSA and its effectiveness is not diminished by heating the oil in boiling water.

Conditions that oregano has been used to relive throughout history (but Western medicine may not have studied) include cold, muscle pain, acne, dandruff, bronchitis, toothache, bloating, headaches, heart conditions, allergies, intestinal parasites, fatigue, ear ache, menstrual cramps, and as an insect repellant.

Basil

Basil is a member of the mint family and in addition to being simple to grow and a wonderful addition to Italian, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, has many additional health benefits. There are a number of varieties of basil, all with different flavor profiles ranging from sweet, to citrusy, to peppery. In fact, holy basil is used as a healing herb in Ayurvedic and Tamil healing traditions. Western research has studied some specific aspects of holy basil and has found that extracts reduce inflammation and swelling; has anti-aging properties; is effective at combatting free radicals in the liver, brain and heart; and is high in anti-oxidants. Additionally, early studies suggest that holy basil may be helpful with anxiety and stress and even decrease blood sugar in people with Type 2 Diabetes.

Topically, basil oil has been found to have antibacterial properties. It has been used to treat ringworm; it can restrict the growth of bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Escherichia coli (E-coli); and even stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Thyme

Historically, thyme has been used through the ages to aid with a wide range of chest and respiratory conditions including cough, chest congestion, and bronchitis. The volatile component in the oil of thyme provides some pretty amazing benefits. Thymol significantly increases the anti-oxidant protection of cellular membranes. It has been found to protect and increase the healthy fats on a cellular level. Thyme is high in flavonoids, making it an excellent anti-oxidant.

Here is yet another herbal oil which is a highly effective antimicrobial. Studies have shown it to be effective in combatting a variety of bacteria including Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei. What is remarkable about the oils in thyme was not only can it prevent contamination, but it can decontaminate previously contaminated foods as well and it is as simple as washing the affected food with a 1% solution of the essential oil.

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Buy One, Get One Sale

We are having a buy one, get one sale on select products as a way to work through excess inventory because we overestimated sales on these products. Our mistake is good for you! Until further notice, the following list of products is on sale. In order to see the savings, you need to buy two of the same product and once you add them to your shopping cart, the price will be automatically adjusted. If you have any issues, get in touch with us either via email, or on our Facebook page to let us know.

Some of my favorite products are on this list! If you are a new mom, or know one, I would not have been able to get through the early days with Rowan without Mother’s Milk Tincture or Yew. I love No Burp and Breathe Easier, and I keep a stock of Hayfever Allergies and Reishi on hand as well.

The featured photo is of poke root in bloom, the herb from which we make our phytolacca tincture. It isn’t on sale, I just thought the picture was pretty, and representative of what is blooming in the garden this season.

Continue reading

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In the News

Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss! In honor of the man himself, today is National Read Across America Day and my daughter was beside herself with excitement because her kindergarten class had some very special activities planned. She got to bring a drink and snack, her favorite book and a stuffed animal to school, but she was most excited to be able to go dressed in her pajamas.

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In less positive news and yet another reason to limit refined or processed foods in our diet, it seems that the emulsifiers in many foods may be affecting our health and well being. Also, that article that went viral about school lunches around the world? Misleading at best. Although it is still a good reminder to eat a varied (and colorful) diet, both at home and when away.

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This is an article that I’ve been thinking about since I first read it. I hope that everyone thinks about how they want to live (and die). While it wasn’t easy to have less time than I wanted with my mom, I understand her need to make the choices she did. She died with as much dignity as her cancer offered, by choosing not to fight hopelessly. Short of the Death with Dignity Movement becoming more widespread, it behooves all of us to think about the unthinkable and make difficult decisions while we are able. Involve your family and discuss your reasoning behind your choices so everyone understands what your wishes are if necessary.

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Did you know that ancient languages didn’t have a word for blue?

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Turn that technology off! Or at least get it away from the bed.

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Cilantro

Here is another installation in our ongoing series of the health benefits of herbs and spices.

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Cilantro is an herb that inspires strong feelings in people, rarely do people have lukewarm feelings about cilantro. There is a genetic link to a cilantro aversion, where a percentage of the population likens the taste of cilantro to a mouthful of soap. My old roommates and I had a running debate on the merits of cilantro: I would put it on most things and they would painstakingly pick specks of it out of every dish. My mom loved cilantro. She would happily add handfuls of it to everything, and for good reason. Continue reading

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Cardamom health benefits

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

We are continuing our series on the health benefits of the spices you can find in your pantry.

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A primary ingredient in Garam Masala, cardamom is a tropical spice that is considered one of the most valuable spices in the world because of its therapeutic properties and decadent aroma. Cardamom is native to India and other South East Asian tropical forests and is known for its effects on a variety of issues including digestive problems, ulcers of the mouth, even as a mood lifter. It is part of the ginger family and has many similar benefits and grows as a rhizome just as ginger does. Cardamom has been incorporated into the healing lore of a number of South East Asian cultures and only now is modern medicine studying what has been known by these cultures for millennia.

Gastrointestinal and digestive issues

As a member of the ginger family, cardamom is beneficial for many of the same issues where ginger is helpful.  Nausea, gas and bloating, heartburn, decrease in appetite, and constipation are all digestive issues where cardamom may be helpful. Cardamom can be used to encourage the appetite aromatically. For other digestive problems, chew the seeds whole or ground, serve with food or as a tea. Continue reading

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Natural dog food

Recently, we have gotten a few questions about the dog food that my mom and dad fed their dog Zoe. She had a sensitive stomach and even the highest end dog food brands were not gentile on her digestion. The biggest problem with commercial dog food is that it in no way resembles the natural diet of dogs, and in most cases are made with inferior ingredients. A more natural diet for dogs would be high in protein and fats, with some carbohydrates, instead of the reverse formula that most dog foods are comprised of.

To that end, the food my parents made for Zoe was whole chicken boiled, with some vegetables, then the meat was removed and the rest was blended into a rough mush. When my dad would feed her, he would add some additional broth, some of the mush and top it with the chicken.

To make your own, put a whole chicken, a head of celery, some dulse, and a few other dog-friendly vegetables (no onions!) in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until everything is cooked through.

Once cooked and cooled, drain and reserve the broth then strip the meat from the bones and freeze that separately. Put all of the rest of the contents into a blender with a little of the broth to turn it into the gravy. You will need a high end blender to pulverize the bones; my parents used their trusty Vitamix.

When feeding your dog, give them an appropriate amount of the gravy and top with some of the chicken meat that was frozen.

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The Flavor Bible

I’ve mentioned before that one of the projects my mom worked on off and on was a cookbook. Her idea was to create a book that was less individual recipes and more a way to put together building blocks of ingredients so that novice cooks would feel more comfortable experimenting in the kitchen. She thought that if she could help people understand what flavors complimented each other they might become more adventurous when cooking and eating.

For Christmas I got a book that is the closest thing I’ve seen to my mom’s vision of an exhaustive list of ingredients and flavors that go well with each other. There isn’t a single recipe in the book, just lists of ingredients, cuisines, spices and seasonings that have been profiled and summarized to specific key aspects that will help every cook learn how to create their own dishes and showcase compatible flavors.

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is well worth checking out, especially if you want to improve your cooking chops.

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How cinnamon can help keep us healthy

Cinnamon is ubiquitous in any pantry, being a staple spice in baking. I use it in many of my mid-winter treats because its spicy taste warms from the inside. It is versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes with equal success and has a surprising number of health benefits. If it isn’t already frequently used in your cooking, here are a few suggestions for increasing your cinnamon consumption:

  • Add to coffee or chai tea
  • Goes great with many breakfast foods including oatmeal, waffles, pancakes
  • Can enhance many fruit dishes including apple dishes (sauce, baked, crisps), grilled fruit
  • A pinch of cinnamon can enhance beans, lentils, spaghetti sauce, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, roasted cauliflower, chili
  • Add cinnamon to nut butters or chocolate to use as dips or spreads Continue reading
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In the news

Here are a few articles that have caught my eye recently:

What’s Tylenol Doing to Our Minds

I try to be judicious about my use of over the counter medicines, including ones like Tylenol and Advil. Because of it’s pervasive availability and how helpful it can be, without any obvious side effects it has always seemed like it has all upside, and no downside to taking it. This is not so, according to this article.

600 Reasons Turmeric May Be the World’s Most Important Herb

We talk a lot about herbs that can improve health, and turmeric is one special spice, having been demonstrated to have hundreds of positive health benefits for those who include it in their diet.

New Year, Younger You: 20 Anti-aging Spices

If you’re thinking of adding spice to your cooking, here are the health benefits of a bunch of other spices that you already have in your pantry.

Why Fennel Should be Your New Year’s Herb

Fennel was one of my mom’s favorite herbs. We had bushes of it all over the garden. Not only is it great for butterflies, but she loved the anise flavor and would add all parts of the plant to her cooking. It has a wealth of health and digestive benefits and is worth adding to your diet, even in small amounts. I know licorice flavor is usually one that people either love or hate (I’m with my mom in the love it camp) but fennel is worth the flavor.

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