There are a variety of ways that we can tap into the ancient practices of using natural remedies to heal and stay healthy. Some of the techniques involved in leveraging herbal remedies include compresses, decoction, ointments, infusions, poultices, syrups, tinctures, and tonics. This article will discuss two in particular and perhaps the easiest ways to use herbal remedies…infusions and decoctions.
Quite simply and infusion is a hot or cold drink made from the leaves and flowers of herbs. A decoction is a hot or cold drink made by boiling the roots, bark, or seeds of herbs. Both methods have a variety of medicinal uses such as the alleviation of common cold symptoms, relief from headaches, and much more. Even if you think you are far from calling yourself any kind of herbalist you can get started with infusions and decoction pretty easily, with a little knowledge of what the different herbs can do for you.
Making Herbal Infusions
Infusions can be made by steeping fresh herbs, the leaves and/or flowers, in hot water. They are so beneficial because they bring out the vitamins, enzymes, and aromatic oils in the herbs. Two popular choices for infusions are peppermint leaves and chamomile flowers. After steeping you strain the herbs out and add some honey to sweeten and make your infusion more palatable. You can store any unused portion in a glass mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Herbal Nightcap Infusion
1T dried chamomile
1T dried lemon balm
1T dried linden flowers
Infuse in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes, strain, and enjoy the sedative effects of these calming herbs.
Making Herbal Decoctions
Decoctions make use of herbs that are a bit tougher to utilize. You boil the roots, twigs, dried berries, bark, or seeds of the herbs and soften the woody parts so that the minerals and alkaloids from within can be accessed. In a decoction you might boil ginger or ginseng root, cinnamon bark, or fennel seeds. You can store any unused portion in a glass mason jar in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Respiratory Rescue Decoction
2-3 sticks of cinnamon (broken into pieces)
1 inch of ginger root (peeled and sliced)
1 T honey
Simmer the cinnamon and ginger in a pint of water for 15 minutes. Strain, add honey, and drink every day when experiencing a cold or other respiratory issues.
Beneficial Herbs for Infusions and Decoctions
- Comfrey Leaf
- Marshmallow Root
It is a question that rarely anyone asks or thinks about and yet vitamin D can play a big part in the way we feel and function daily. You may feel lethargic and that you are running on empty. You might have a constant case of the blues. Work could be tiring you out or maybe you are stressed. The answer might also be something else though. Could you be deficient in vitamin D?
This is a big issue for me personally. When I start to feel down, lethargic, and even depressed I go into my Doctor’s office for blood work. He almost always assumes it is my thyroid acting up again. Usually we find that I have really lows levels of vitamin D and B12.
What Is Vitamin D?
This vitamin is produced in the body as a result of exposure to sunlight. When you get outside and soak up some sun, the sun’s rays are absorbed through the skin where a chemical reaction takes place and vitamin D is formed. That’s why it is referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.”
You can also find this vitamin in foods. One place you here about most often is milk. Most, if not all milk contains added vitamin A and D. Naturally, it is found in fish liver oils, some fish and eggs. Many food producers today are adding this vitamin and others as a way to increase consumption of necessary nutrients. You may read of its inclusion in cereals, juices and whole grains. In general though the best place to source nutrients and vitamins is from naturally occurring sources and not foods that have had synthetic versions added. How well our body absorbs these nutrients can be impacted.
Why do you need vitamin D?
Well, for me personally (and for many others) it is essential to happiness and mental well being. Being vitamin D deficient actually causes me to feel sad and depressed. It is much worse in the winter (think Seasonal Affective Disorder) but anytime my vitamin D levels are low I tend to feel down.
It is essential for strong bones and teeth. Calcium keeps bones strong, it is true, but vitamin D is vital because it enables the body to utilize the calcium it receives through food and supplements. One needs the other to work. As you get older, lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis and other skeletal problems. It isn’t just a matter of calcium but also vitamin D. In fact if your bones ache and you have chronic fatigue you should be looking into a vitamin D deficiency before you look at fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Symptoms of Deficiency
How do you know if you are Vitamin D deficient? Here are some of the signs that your levels are lower than need be.
* Fatigue – You are always tired even when your work day isn’t so strenuous. If you no energy for life then you need to look closer into why.
* Body aches – Bone pain is a common sign of vitamin D deficiency. Muscle aches can also fall into this category.
* Weight issues – It may be harder to get your weight under control when you lack sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your bloodstream. This may be in no small way due to your lack of energy and motivation.
What Puts You at Risk
* Obesity – Yikes, deficiency can contribute to weight gain and the excess weight can contribute to deficiency. Talk about a double edged sword. Fat cells fremove fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin D from the bloodstream. Too much fat can result in lower levels of the vitamin in the body.
* Ethnicity – Darker skinned individuals have melanin pigment in their skin, making it harder to absorb the vitamin D. Longer exposure to the sun can fix that.
* Limited sunlight – Living in an area where the sun rarely shines greatly inhibits the intake of vitamin D. Winter times increases the risk.
* Limited diet – Lack of the foods that contain vitamin D in your diet can lower your overall daily intake.
* Digestive issues – Conditions like Crohn’s disease reduces the ability of the intestines to absorb vitamin D.
If you are not sure about your levels or if they are low enough to cause problems, see your doctor and have your blood drawn for testing. Ideally you should test when vitamin D levels should be high (like August) and also when they would normally be a bit lower (like January). Once you know, you can create a plan of attack and feel much better soon.
The above photos shows what I have been up to of late…reading up on gut health and also doing a ten day probiotic challenge.
The book is fantastic. It really makes what seems like a boring topic, absolutely fascinating. I never thought a book about intestines would be a real page turner but honestly I sat down with it one lazy Sunday morning and didn’t want to put it down. Not only is it with fascinating little factoids and details about the gut it is also references studies that have come to show links between poor gut health and more serious ailments and problems.
At the same time that I was reading this gem I was also doing a ten day probiotic challenge to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Ultimate Flora probiotic from Renew Life. Their product has 50 billion live cultures per capsule and 12 probiotic strains. The capsules help relieve digestive discomfort if you have any and they promote digestive and immune health. The latter benefit was really the one I had been going for. I really believe in taking probiotics, I have just gotten lax about it lately. This ten day challenge was a reboot of sorts for me to get me back on the horse. I feel amazing when my gut is healthy and thriving. I feel lighter, I feel healthier, and I feel “sharper”. That was just in ten days too so it gave me the kick in the pants I needed to stay the course.
And right now we can win a one-year supply of Ultimate Flora Probiotics. The contest began August 17th and will run through November 2015. One lucky winner will be chosen every month, with each entry period lasting approximately two weeks. The current entry period ends in nine days, so be sure to share the link and register here before then! You’ll have a chance to earn up to 15 contest entry points to help you get closer to winning the ultimate giveaway.
The season of sickness is upon us. When school comes back in session our families are usually exposed to illnesses much more frequently. The cooler weather, the school grind, and a general lack of physical activity also factors in. Let’s not forget that we are gearing up for the holidays too, when candy and treats are abundant in all their immune suppressing glory. Sad to say many of us moms will have to nurse sick kids and we may even get sick ourselves, the horror!!
This is when a great conundrum faces the natural mom. We know that the body is perfectly capable of fighting off illness and that in general most over the counter cold and flu medications just mask symptoms and create a greater crisis in the body than the original illness. They are often naught but chemical cocktails with many nasty ingredients. BUT we also know that sleep is vital during times of sickness. Our bodies heal when we are sleeping so never is it more important to sleep and sleep well than when we are sick. Cold symptoms such as cough are the enemy of good sleep. So that is the conundrum…drug our children or ourselves with the nasty over the counter cold medications so that sleep (and relief) can be achieved or suffer the symptoms and the lack of sleep so we can avoid the the unsavory ingredients.
Well, it doesn’t have to be either or. There are products on the market that can soothe cough symptoms and help us sleep without the chemical nasties. There is no need to reach for that conventional cough syrup anymore.
NyQuil Cold and Flu is one of the more popular conventional options and when you take a closer look at their ingredients you see things like alcohol, citric acid, D&C Yellow No. 10, FD&C Green No. 3, high fructose corn syrup, saccharin sodium and various others. Mind you, those are inactive ingredients. Not only do they not need to be there (ie sugar and food dyes) they are immune suppressing rather than immune boosting. What sense does it make to take a medication that hides your symptoms whilst it suppresses your immune symptom and your body’s ability to heal. Huh???
Sambrosa Dreams on the other hand is the same type of product with some big differences. It is a European product that is now being introduced in the US. It is a nighttime cough syrup with a base of honey, herbs and doxylamine designed to help soothe your cough and help you get some all important sleep. The ingredients list is radically different. The ingredients are HEALING as well as designed to help soothe and comfort us during a time of stress and discomfort. It’s also GMO free!!
You need a 30 ml per dose of Nyquil, only 5 ml of Sambrosa. Nyquil uses High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sambrosa uses GMO free honey. NyQuil has food dyes, Sambrosa has five organic herbs. I know which one I would rather ingest when the goal is to get and stay healthy!
Honey – Relieves cough and is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants.
Aniseed Oil – antiseptic, digestive and sedative. It has tranquilizing effects while also being an expectorant; it loosens mucus or phlegm deposited in the lungs and respiratory tracts. So it soothes and also helps you heal.
California Poppy – Calming effect on the body
Eucalyptus – may also have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The vapor acts as a decongestant when it is inhaled and is used to treat bronchitis.
Hops – Hops is used for its aromaticum but is also believed to benefit conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.
Passionflower – sedative and pain reliever.
Thyme – Calms coughing and acts as a sedative.
Tragacanth – a plant. The sap-like material (resin) of the plant is a binding agent in medicine.
Doxylamine Succinate – an antihistamine used by itself as a sedative, and in combination with other drugs as a nighttime cold and allergy relief drug. Doxylamine helps to relieve common cold symptoms to get a good night’s rest. The dosage normally seen in medicines is usually around 25 mg. Sambrosa contains 9.75mg per dosage.
This product, just like the aforementioned conventional product is a nighttime remedy. It is meant to be used at night to help you get a good night’s sleep. Since it will make you drowsy it is not intended as a daytime remedy.
This product is widely popular in Europe where the standards for safety are radically different than those here in the US. That alone gives it a leg up in my opinion but the ingredients list speaks for itself. Sambrosa likes it natural so we minimize synthetic intake while maximizing a good night’s rest. Find it on Amazon!
This post was written in partnership with Sambrosa Dreams and I was compensated for sharing their great product. All opinions are 100% mine and I stand behind this product as a supporter or I wouldn’t blog about it!
What to drink before, after, and during workouts is not as easy to figure out as it would seem. We all know water is best for us but water typically does not offer the energy boost and electrolytes we may want/need before and during workouts. It also may not be best for helping us to recover quickly from strenuous workouts. We may find ourselves reaching for something with a little more kick, but which drinks are best? What are our hydration options?
Water – Even though you might bring more than just plain water to the gym with you, it is good to have some basic H2O on hand. Drink some about an hour before you workout and take a few small sips all throughout the workout as well. You are likely losing water in great amounts as you work up a decent sweat and plain old water is in fact necessary. Drink up liberally after your workout as well and throughout the day. I also recommend using a water ionizer to make sure the pH of your water is alkaline. Our cells love to bathe in healthy alkaline conditions.
Energy Drinks – There are numerous drinks out there in a can and in small bottles that supposedly boost energy and performance. I think most of them taste nasty so I do not partake but I am not opposed to energy candy so I cannot come out hard against these drinks. Just make sure to read the ingredient labels carefully to make sure you aren’t drinking some unsavory things that negate what you are trying to do by working out. And be careful while working out while hopped up on caffeine (which these drinks usually have in abundance). I ended up with a case of rhabdomyolysis doing this.
Protein Shakes – It is very common to see shaker bottles at the gym with some kind of protein concoction. They can help boost performance and help with building muscle but as before read ingredient labels closely and go for the highest quality you can afford. If it is a whey based product go for grassfed. Avoid soy based protein, which mimics estrogen and can cause and exacerbate thyroid issues.
Sports Drinks -Sadly most of these are filled with sugar, salt, and artificial dyes. Lately we have seen headlines that these sports drinks actually have flame retardants in them. IMO it is best to stay far away and really who needs them when we have more natural options like the one below…
Coconut Water – This is my favorite beverage for working out. It is healthy, natural, and it has plenty of electrolytes. Also if you want to up the calorie content and give yourself an energy boost you can get a variety that has chunks of coconut pulp in it (those are my favorite). I also like chocolate flavored coconut water…delish!
What is your beverage of choice for workouts?