Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don’t be a Victim to a Toothache this Holiday Season

One of the most awful feelings is that of a toothache. To make matters worse is a toothache during the holiday season. Not only does it inhibit your consumption of the delicious food that is the holidays but it can be difficult to get an appointment with a dentist. So today I'd like to provide some all natural ways to help you deal with a toothache.

Why do I have a toothache?
The likely source of a toothache is due to an infection or abscess. This happens when decay penetrate the hard exterior of the tooth and extends into the soft tissue, known as the pulp, in the center of the tooth. Bacteria then infiltrated the tooth causing inflammation and ultimately an infection. The pain that results can be deep, sharp and throbbing. Other common symptoms associated with a toothache include:
  • Pain with chewing.
  • Hot and cold Sensitivity that may persist after the stimuli is removed.
  • Slight bleeding around the tooth or gums.
  • Swelling around the tooth or jaw.
Other Reasons for a Toothache
Infection is the most common explanation as to why you have a toothache; however, there are other reasons for the pain. Other dental related issues including:
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth fractures
  • Tooth extraction
For any of these issues a dentist appointment should clear things up. There are also more serious issues that can cause a toothache. If you experience any of the following issues, seek professional medical attention immediately:
  • Issues of the ears, sinuses or throat.
  • Temporomandibular Joint or TMJ: jaw pain that radiates giving the perception of a toothache.
  • High fever or chills: may be an indication that the infection has spread.
  • Recent head Injury: the tooth pain may be an indication of more serious issues.
  • Facial rash.
  • Jaw pain coupled with chest pain: the jaw pain may be referred pain from other areas and can be an indication of a heart attack.
  • Trouble swallowing, extreme pain and bleeding from the gums: in individuals with compromised immune systems, diabetes or have taken a regimen of steroids recently these symptoms may indicate the need for a more aggressive treatment.
Natural Remedies for a Toothache
The first thing to do when you have a toothache is to go to the dentist. Infection can spread quickly and it is important to get it under control. When you can't make it to the dentist because it is a night, weekend or holiday here are some suggestions.
  • Address the infection: A Fever is an important sign that an infection is present. The western approach is to take antibiotics. If you choose this approach, be sure to take Probiotics to counteract the effects that the antibiotics have on your gut flora. If you choose an herbal approach to fighting the infection, antimicrobial herbs are invaluable. Blasting your system with a tincture of Echinacea and goldenseal can help get the infection under control, but this means taking several milliliters every couple of hours.
  • Garlic: Garlic is another great antimicrobial herb that can be valuable for a toothache. You can take it internally (remember that the antimicrobial properties are destroyed by cooking) as food or place a slice of garlic on the tooth for 20 minutes to increase circulation and fight infection.
  • Clove Essential Oil: Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) essential oil is one of my go-to remedies for toothaches. Eugenol, one of the constituents in cloves, helps to anesthetize the pain and fight infection. I find the best way to apply clove essential oil is to put several drops on a cotton ball and apply it directly to the affected tooth. It doesn’t taste good and the salivary glands really kick into high gear when you use it but it helps with the pain tremendously! If you are using this for a child only use one drop of clove and soak the rest of the cotton ball with olive oil. If you are unable to obtain the oil you can crush or chew a whole clove and apply it to the site of the pain. Overuse of clove essential oil can cause gum damage so be sure to only use this in acute emergency situations.
  • Salt Water Rinse: In a glass of warm water add 2-3 teaspoons of salt. Swish the salt water in your mouth several times before spiting it out. Do this with the entire glass. It will help to clean and disinfect the infected tooth and help to draw out fluid that may be causing swelling. For added antiseptic power, add 1-2 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil.
  • Fresh Ginger: Cut a slice of fresh ginger and remove the skin. Place the chunk of ginger directly over the sore tooth and bite into it. It should take away the pain almost instantly. Replace with a fresh piece of ginger periodically.
  • Turmeric: This bright yellow spice has amazing antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and help to increase circulation to the infected tooth. Add a few drops of water to a teaspoon of turmeric to make a paste and dab it on the sore tooth. To amplify this remedy, add a drop of clove and tea tree essential oil.  
  • Green tea and Chamomile tea: Green tea contains constituents that can treat infection and reduce inflammation. It is also very easy to obtain from any grocery store, convenience store or restaurant. Drink 2 cups a day to help with a toothache. Chamomile tea will help to relax you and your nerves by gently sedating the nervous system. It can also help to fight the infection, and is safe for children to take. For an adult take up to 3 cups of tea daily (1/2 to 1 tsp of dried flower in 1 cup of hot water steeped for 10 minutes). For children follow the guidelines for using Herbal Remedies for Kids.
  • Spilanthes: The leaves and flower heads of Spilanthes acmella, known as the toothache plant, are an amazing asset when you have a toothache. It’ analgesic property can numb the gums and relieve toothaches when the leaves or flowers are chewed. It is also a relative to echinacea, which is evident in its ability to stimulate wound healing, reduce swelling and treat bacterial, viral and fugal infections.  
Followup to the toothache
When using these herbal remedies, is not uncommon for the toothache to go away; however, it is still important to go to the dentist. If the infection persists, it can penetrate the root and then you run the risk of losing the tooth. Also, chronic dental infections are correlated to an increased risk in stroke. Plaque and bacteria can enter the blood stream through the mouth causing blood clots. So take care of your teeth.
Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.
Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.
Mars, B., & Fiedler, C. (2011). The country almanac of home remedies: time-tested & almost-forgotten wisdom for treating hundreds of common ailments, aches & pains quickly and naturally. Beverly, Mass.: Fair Winds Press.
White, L & Foster, S. (2000). The herbal Drugstore: the best natural alternatives to over-the-counter and prescription medications. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.
Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fermentation - for the future you

Today I would like to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Steven Zoncki. He is a wonderful individual and a passionate herbalist. He continues to inspire me to push myself and dream big. I hope you enjoy his words of wisdom as much as I do.  

Fermentation - for the future you
By Steven Zoncki
Founder and Herbalist, One Tribe Herbals  
The harvest moon has come and gone and the community supported agriculture program has now come to a full stop for the season, leaving us with enormous piles of harvest-season vegetables, cabbage, carrots, parsnips, onions, and kale coming out our ears.

Its, I know, a dilemma, that I am incredibly grateful for as this is also the time for many less fortunate who's personal gardens were their only food source throughout the summer.  However, to honor my commitment to those less fortunate and the memory of our frugal ancestors who used this time to put up surplus and planned their families winter meals, today I am challenging myself and the readers of The Verbal Herbal to ferment some or all of the surplus vegetables in your fridge, pantry or root cellars and contribute some of the grocery money saved to a local food bank or charity where it will help other families get through the winter months to another season of bounty.

Yes, I challenge you to seize the opportunity to take back some self sufficiency, support the wellness of your family and friends and learn why the time honored process of food fermentation is so dang good for us as opposed to the modern canning and preservation that we get in today's grocers.

"Fermentation". To some it might bring up images of those rotten tomatoes in the bottom of your fridge and others might think of that incredible homemade beer or wine made earlier this year. 

Fermentation is far more important to us than trash or treasurer.  It is a process that can help make vegetables more palatable for kids (and those anti-veggie eaters) and help us more easily assimilate the nutrients locked up in cellulose rich vegetables. 

We hear nearly every day on radio, television, web ads and billboards about how our human body benefits from supplementing the good bacteria in our digestive system.  Well here is a time honored method to make vegetables taste better for kids and supplement your Gastrointestinal tract (GI).  The health of our children and communities could be vastly improved if we each rediscovered lacto-fermentation like our grandparents or great grandparents used each autumn and early winter.

The process...  Simple.

Chop up, grate or food process your fall crop vegetables into bite size to small pieces, add starter and let sit out for a week or three.

Crunch it with your clean hands to help some of the vegetable juice come out.

Add the starter (see below)

And BAM!  You've got sauerkraut or preserved vegetables, or delicious homemade pickles.

So, here's the scoop,  You can use almost any vegetable as long as you include cabbage and/or cucumber in the recipe.  These two vegetables contain higher natural levels of the lactobacillus organism and will be your insurance that your ferment is promoting bacteria that are good and safe for humans to consume.

The ingredients for a spicy sauerkraut
5 lbs cabbage
2-3 carrots
1/2 daikon radish
1 clove garlic

Putting it all together
Different people put it together in different ways. But first you must shred the cabbage, or at least cut into small pieces that you and your family will enjoy eating. Slice, dice or shred the carrots and radish and slice or chop the garlic. Some people sprinkle a little salt on each layer of veggie as you chop.  I have used this method most often, it is less accurate on the brining and often turns out ferments that are pretty salty - beware to those with high blood pressure.

I know what you're thinking. That's not enough garlic and onion, but trust me the ferment process enhances and strengthens the flavor of most spices and herbs. By the time the 2-4 weeks has passed, you'll be glad for just one clove of garlic. This advice is even more critical when you decide to make those spicy duly beans. A little fresh jalapeƱo goes a long way.

Once you've chopped or shredded your veggies. In a bowl, hand mix them together, scrunching them just a bit to get the liquid flowing out of them to start the brining. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt... scrunch it together well and set it to the side for about an hour. The salt and your scrunch will start the juices flowing so you end up with brine at the bottom of your bowl. Be sure you have sterile glass jars with lids.

Once the veg-mix has begun you can begin to pack it into jars. Pack it nice and tight into the jar so when You press on the veg you can see the juice in the jar. Work out any remaining air pockets and bubbles to the surface.  Your veg should be packed tight enough to maintain the water above the level of the veg.  If you are a little short use the following brine recipe to fill jars to about 1 inch above the level of the vegetables.

Cover with a couple layers of muslin cloth and rubber band around the rim of the jar and let sit on the counter or other clean, dry, cool area of the kitchen for a couple days to a couple weeks depending on how you like your sauerkraut.

Taste a little each day to see if it is done to your taste and not "overdone" and when its ready skim off the top layer of foam, cover with the jar lid and keep in the refrigerator for the next several months.  Use it cold as a condiment, hot cooked with your favorite veggie sausage or on the homemade reuben sandwich.

Voila!  In a few weeks you made your very own delicious tangy sauerkraut.  Produced a great lactobacillus supplement for your family and saved all those end of summer vegetables, saving money in one afternoon of fun work (include your own high energy music to play throughout the afternoon here)

You can use the same method with cucumbers, dill, garlic to make amazing pickles,  all of which support the good flora in your gut and help you become more able to assimilate nutrients in your intestines.  Not to mention the great fiber that most Americans need to increase in our diets.

The Starter
You can purchase online a lactobacillus starter mix that you mix with water and add to your vegetables, but cabbage and cucumbers are a great natural source for this particular type of bacteria and include some cabbage or cucumber in your ferment recipes can act as a starter for you.  Bear in mind that starting from scratch will mean the ferment takes longer on your counter, whereas the prestart mix is usually live ready to go bacteria and also great for those of us who might go a little insane with the wait time.  Once you have started a ferment you can actually use a cup of the juice now rich with lactobacillus to start your next batch of vegetables, miso, yogurt... but that's another ferment lesson entirely.

Extra Brine Solution
2 Tbsp kosher or sea salt (preferably not the iodized processed salt that contains anticaking chemicals)
1 Quart Distilled or spring water (tap water nearly always contains chlorine that inhibits the good bacterial growth)  Be careful too if you are using well water to insure it is free of other bacteria.

Online Resources:
There are bazillions of resources online from other fermenters and nutrition sites who support fermentation.  The Verbal Herbal writers have included just a few of these below.  Or do a search with your favorite search engine and you'll see so many more from all around the world.  I recommend this approach, because fermenters are always willing to share their amazing and delicious recipes from Sauerkraut to fruit ferments, to beverages, kimchi, miso, hot sauce and Oh! so much more.  Have Fun and Herbal On Verbal Herbies!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Must Haves For the Cold and Flu Season

It has been quiet some time since I last posted. I would like to formally apologize to my readers for the lack of commitment that I have displayed these last few weeks. I couldn't find the drive or motivation to speak my truth due to some personal hardships. Sometimes, it’s hard to help others when inside you feel as though you can't help yourself. But I now realize that for me, helping others means helping myself.

Today I would like to help everyone survive the winter with 5 must haves for the cold and flu season.

1. Probiotics

Probiotics are the first must have for the winter season. With the majority of our immune system in our gut, by keeping our gut healthy we are also able to keep our whole system healthy and prevent illness before it happens. There are many ways to take probiotics. My favorite is through fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, yogurt, temphe and kefir to name a few. I feel that it is an evolutionary treatment to utilize food as medicine. If you are unable to incorporate these foods into your diet, then a supplement will do. There are so many different kinds of probiotics supplement that I am sure you can find one that fits your needs, as well as your wallet. I suggest switching between a few different kinds of probiotics supplements. This way you can get several different strands of probiotics into your system, making a sure your variety of gut flora is strong and healthy. Check out a previous blog post on Probiotics for more information on the topic.

2. Homemade Veggie Stock

This is my favorite thing to have on hand for the winter season. It is so easy to make and store and it’s jam packed with vitamins and nutrients to help heal the body. Click here for instructions on how to make it. Be sure to add lots of kitchen herbs like parsley, rosemary, basil and thyme to help increase the effectiveness of its healing properties. Once it is strained, you can use it to make chicken or vegetable soup or can drink it as a tea to nourish and re-hydrate.

3. Echinacea

Echinacea is amazing at helping the body fight off invaders. It helps in several ways. First it increase our body’s own defenses by increasing macrophage, neutrophil, monocyte, eosinophil and B-lymphocyte activity and initiating destruction of the pathogens. It also provides a physical enzymatic barrier by impairing the pathogen’s ability to penetrate and destroy healthy cells. It is effective against both bacteria and viral infections anywhere in the body and is safe for all ages.

Some people use echinacea preventatively for daily immune support; however, this is not an appropriate use of this herb. Continued use, decreases the effectiveness of this important herb. My suggestion would be to only use echinacea when you feel an illness coming on and to cycle use: 5 days on and two days off.

At the first sign of illness take frequent small doses. Hoffmann suggests 1 to 4 ml of tincture (1:5 in 40% etoh) 3 times a day or a decoction of 1 to 2 tsp of root in one cup of water taken several times a day. I will also note that echinacea is a sacred plant of the Native Americans and because it has been exploited in the wild, many species of echinacea are now at risk. I suggest only using the cultivated Echinacea pupurea to preserve echinacea in the wild.  

4. Elder berries and flower
Elder is another herb that is a must have for the cold and flu season. The flower is an excellent diaphoretic, inducing sweating and helping to reduce fevers. The berry has amazing immune enhancing properties. It helps to increase cytokine production which strengthens the cell membrane to prevent viral penetration. In vitro it is effective against 10 strains of the influenza virus and helps to decrease the duration of flu symptoms by 3 to 4 days. It is a sacred plant to the Gypsies, claming it has abilities to help all ailments of man kind.

Both the flower and the berry can be made in to an infusion. 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp of herb, infused for 10 minutes and taken 3 times a day.

One great way to utilize the healing properties of both echinacea and elder berries is to make a syrup. It is great to make a large batch in the early fall and then have it throughout the winter season. I made a large batch in July and I just ran out. When I feel a cold coming on I take a tablespoon every couple of hours for several days. Usually I feel better after the first day but it is important to continue to take it for the extra day to ensure that I have kicked the bug. Click here for direction on how to make this winter must have.

5. Garlic

Garlic is an herb that most people have in their kitchens year round and don’t even realize its healing properties. Its sulfur and volatile oils are powerful antiseptics against bacteria, viruses and parasites. The volatile oils are excreted through the lungs, which is why you get garlic breath if you eat a lot, making it especially useful for infections in this area, including bronchitis, catarrh, colds and flus. It also supports the growth of gut flora while killing off the bad bacteria. During acute infection, I suggest 1 clove 3 times a day. It is best to ingest garlic as food, but the active ingredient in garlic is destroyed with cooking. My favorite way to get a lot of garlic into my system is to add chopped garlic to soup right before it is served or to add a lot of garlic to some salsa and chew it as quickly as possible. If you can stand it go ahead and chew on a clove.

Thank you to all my readers for your continued support. I hope you find this blog helpful in keeping you healthy for the winter season.


Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Monday, November 12, 2012

Probiotics: Promoting Life and Health

We have become a society obsessed with antibiotics. You have an ear infection? Antibiotics. A UTI? Antibiotics. A sinus infection? Antibiotics. A viral infection? You guessed it; some doctors will give you antibiotics. In our attempt to be germ free, our own immune systems have taken a hit because when we take antibiotics, it not only kills off the bad bacteria but it also kills off the good bacteria that we need for proper functioning. So today, I’d like to discuss probiotics.

What are Probiotics?

Our gut is known as our second brain. It contains and requires the functioning of over 100 million neurons and also uses chemicals and neurotransmitters that are also used in the brain. Within this “second brain” also lives over 400 different bacterial species. This bacteria, known as probiotics, literally translates as “promoting life”. The concept was made popular by Elie Metchnikoff, “the father of probiotics”, in the early 20th century. It is important to realize that not all bacteria are bad bacteria. Probiotics are necessary for gut health and overall wellness.
The totality of these beneficial microbes inhabiting our bodies is known as our microbiom and everyone contains different form and proportions of probiotics.  An average adult carries approximately 2-5 lbs of good bacteria, mainly found in the GI tract. Some are found in the stomach and small intestine but most are found in the colon.

Where do Probiotics come from?
Our own microbiom of good bacteria starts at birth. As a baby passes through its mother’s vagina, it picks up good bacteria along the way. Babies that arrive into the world via C-section do not come in contact with the good bacteria which may be one reason that these children experience more allergies, have more digestive issues and weaker immune systems. As we get older, we mainly flourish our flora through fermented food and drinks.

What do Probiotics Do?
  • Help us digest our food
  • Help synthesize vitamins and nutrients
  • Metabolize some medications
  • Fight bad bacteria
  • Support development in the gut
Currently, probiotics are not approved for any health claims; however, they are widely used for conditions of the GI tract like infections diarrhea, diarrhea from antibiotics, IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, constipation, tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontitis, food allergies and helps to boost the immune system to prevent colds and flus. 

And the Science Shows…

The main types of probiotics that have been researched are lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. There are over 50 different kinds of lactobacillus species in fermented foods. The 30 species of bifidobacterium make up approximately 90% of the good bacteria in the colon and appears in the GI tract within days of birth, especially in breast fed babies. Many studies that show supplementation of probiotics can help in a number of health areas:
  • 3 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) of Lactobacillus GG given 2 times a day to children with IBS helps to decrease the frequency and severity of abdominal pain.
  • Lactobacillus species given to kids and adults taking antibiotics decreased the incidence of diarrhea.
  • Lactobacillus GG given to children that attended day care had fewer severe lung infections than children that didn’t take the probiotics.
  • Supplements of Lactobacillus GG decreased the incidence of travelers’ diarrhea by 47%.
  • Bifido infantis, given for 4 weeks to IBS sufferers, showed improvement in pain, bowel dysfunction, incomplete evacuation, straining and gas.
  • Bifido lactis Bb12 helped to decrease serum LDL cholesterol in individuals with Type 2 diabetes and improve glucose tolerance and increase HDL in pregnant women.
  • Probiotic supplementation has been shown to decrease the symptoms of acute gastrointestinal viral infections by a day.
  • Children who drank probiotic milk twice a day had fewer colds, missed fewer school days and needed antibiotics less than children who drank regular milk. In this study there were 3 groups.
    • A Control Group that drank regular milk and provided a baseline.
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus milk group showed 53% fewer fevers, 41% fewer coughs and 28% fewer runny noses than the control group.
    • Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis milk group showed 72% fewer fevers, 62% fewer coughs and 59% fewer runny noses than the control group.

How do we insure our microbiom is thriving?
Many things can upset the balance of good vs. bad bacteria, tipping the scales in favor of bad bacteria, including

  • Diet: a diet low in fiber, veggies and essential fatty acids and high in sugar, salt and processed foods can be detrimental to your gut flora.
  • Illness
  • Antibiotics and Medications: Antibiotics not only kill off the bad bacteria but also kill off the good stuff.
But there are many things we can do to help establish balance and ensure a healthy gut, including:

  • Food as Medicine: Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, yogurt, tempeh, kefir, kmchi, kombucha and sourdough bread all contain live cultures of probiotics.
  • Taking a probiotic supplement: 2-10 billion CFU a day are recommended for preventative purposes and 20 billion CFU are recommended for illness recover.
  • Making sure you are eating plenty of prebiotics: prebiotics are food for probiotics. This will be discussed in greater depth in the next blog post.
Probiotics are the key to a healthy gut and a healthy body. I recommend that everyone take some form of probiotics daily.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Buying organic vegetables can be expensive. I like to justify buying organic as making an investment in my health. The more I focus on making better choices now, the less I’ll have to pay into medical costs as I get older (I hope). Even as an investment, I still want to get the most out of my money and throwing away vegetable scraps just seems like such a waste of produce and money. So I make my own vegetable stock from the scraps.
How to make Homemade Veggie Stock
When I cook, I keep a small bowl next to my station to collect all the vegetable scraps. When I am done with the meal, I put all of the scraps in a plastic Ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. I save everything from onion and garlic peels to the stalks of any greens and the ends of pretty much every vegetable I use. If I have veggies in the frig that are nearing the end of their shelf life and I don’t think I will be able to use them before they spoil, I chop them up and add them to bags.
Once I have about 3 or 4 quart sized bags full in my freezer (which doesn’t take very long), I empty the contents into my crock pot and cover the vegetables with water. I like to add some sea salt and my choice of herbs. I usually add some astragals root, an Adaptogen,  to help boost my immune system and then some cooking herbs like Parsley, Thyme or Rosemary, which all have their own medicinal properties. I usually add several tablespoons of dried or a bundle of fresh herb. I also like to add several cloves of chopped garlic. It helps with the flavor and is such a wonderful addition. Fresh ginger can be used, although my husband isn't a fan so I have to refrain.

Once everything is added to the crock pot I put the lid on and let it cook on low heat for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. We are basically making a vegetable decoction, in which, the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables become dissolved in the water. Once I feel that it is done, I turn it off the heat and let it cool. You can strain it when it is hot, but I feel that it is easier to handle when it is cool. Once I strain all the liquid, I place it in jars and put some in the freezer and some in the refrigerator. The left over vegetable product can be thrown away or composted.
The stock then can be made into soups, added to recipes that call for veggie stock or drank as a nutrient rich veggie tea. I really like doing this because the color and flavor of my stock is always different depending on what vegetables and herbs have gone into the making. If there are some beet stocks in there, the color is a rich purple. Other times it may be a more translucent beige color or a thick cloudy dark brown. It is never the same and I love the variety and the surprise.
Why Make Your Own?
There are so many reasons to make your own stock and the best reason is ‘Why not?’ Give it a try. I highly doubt you will dislike it. Other reasons include:
  • Nourish the Body and the Mind: This DIY vegetable stock recipe is packed with vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body. It is wonderful to have on hand for the winter when the chill of illness starts to creep in.
  • Rejuvenating: When I use this stock in soup or just drink it as a tea I can feel the warmth and nutrition spread throughout my body. The feeling is invigorating. I’m addicted to this broth!
  • Better than Store Bought: Making your own stock is so easy and it isn’t loaded with sodium and preservatives like the store bought stocks. Also if you are making it with organic veggie scraps, you know that it isn’t tainted with pesticide or herbicide residue that can be toxic to you and your family.
  • Costs Nothing to Make: Because you have already purchased the vegetables and used them, making veggie stock is free byproduct. Most people would just throw away or compost these parts of the veggies anyway so make the most of your money and make veggie stock.
Overall it is so easy to make your own vegetable stock, and it is practically free to make. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help increase your nutritional intake and help ward off illness. I hope you become as addicted to this easy recipe as I have. During the winter, it is a must have.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Vitamin D

As today is the last day of October, it is also the last day of Breast Cancer Prevention Month here at The Verbal Herbal. There are so many topics that I wanted to talk about this month, but since this is my last post of the month, I wanted to make sure I talked about Vitamin D. Research on Vitamin D has been all the crazy these past few years and for just cause. So much of the population is vitamin D deficient and I feel that this is a contributing factor to breast cancer risk and incidence.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. There are several different forms of vitamin D. Cholecalciferol, Vitamin D3, is made when cholesterol in the skin is exposed to UV rays of the sun. Ergocalciferol, Vitamin D2, is made by exposing ergosterol, a fatty substance found in plants, to UV light. This form is then used to fortify foods. We produce thousands of units of vitamin D within minutes if the whole body is exposed to sunlight and if we get too much vitamin D through sunlight, the body can de-metabolize it, avoiding toxicity. This is not a protection that we get when taking supplements of vitamin D.
What does it do?
Before it was discovered in 1924, rickets was a common issue among children. This bone crippling disease was thought to be due to either dietary factors (lack of calcium) or due to a lack of sunshine (Vitamin D) and it turns out that both theories were correct. Rickets is due to a lack of calcium; however, vitamin D is needed to help absorption of calcium in the intestine. Until recently, it was thought that Vitamin D was only necessary for bone health; however, it is now shown that every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors, helping to control normal cell growth. It also has an action in the immune system.
Where do you find vitamin D?
  • Sunshine!!!!! It’s free so get yours today!
  • Seafood like salmon, herring, catfisk, mackerel, oysters, sardines and steelhead trout
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fortified milk
  • Supplements: 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D is enough to avoid deficiency
Vitamin D-ficient?
Overall, Vitamin D deficiency has become an epidemic. 40-60 ng/ml of vitamin D are needed to have sufficient levels and anywhere from 50 to 90% of all men and women are vitamin D deficient. The best way to tell if you are deficient is to get a blood test. But most people don’t know about it because it isn’t something that the doctors usually do, or even talk about. Doctors need a wakeup call! Vitamin D deficiency is a serious issue and by making your patients more aware of this issue, you can prevent a number of serious health issues and save lives (end of rant)!
You can also tell if you are deficient based on a symptom picture including muscle pain, weak bones or fractures, low energy and fatigue, lower immunity, depression, mood swings and sleep irregularities. These symptoms can also be representative of other health issues so I would stick with a blood test as the best diagnostic tool.
So the question becomes why is there such an overwhelming incidence of vitamin D deficiency? I feel there are several factors contributing to the problem:
  • A Lack of Sunshine: We have evolved with the sun to the point that is has become a necessary part of our health. Overall, people are now spending more time inside. Kids are playing on their computers and gaming systems instead of playing outside with their friends, and adults aren’t much better. We go from home to car to work and then back to car and home. The sunlight we are exposed to in the car, doesn’t help because window glass blocks vitamin D formation.
  • Sunscreen: When we are outside, we have been brain washed into thinking that sunscreen is necessary to prevent skin cancer. Well, sunscreen also blocks the formation of vitamin D in the skin and low vitamin D is also known to cause cancer. Get the low down on Sunscreen.
  • Lack of cholesterol: Our society is fixated on the fact that high cholesterol causes heart disease (studies have mixed findings on this claim). So as a result, so much of the population is on medication to reduce cholesterol in the body. What the doctors don’t tell you is that cholesterol is found in every cell in the body and it is needed for production of new cells and for the production of vitamin D.
  • Other Factors: Darker skin produces less vitamin D as does locations farther from the equator and places and times of the year that receive fewer hours of sunlight.
The Link between Vitamin D and Breast Cancer
Because vitamin D regulates proper cell growth, a deficiency of this vitamin causes cancer cells to grow and spread. Studies have shown that vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk have an inverse relationship. When Vitamin D levels are high (or at least at an appropriate level) then breast cancer risk is low and vice versa. 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily can decrease breast cancer risk 77%. Decreased risk of breast cancer is associated with higher vitamin D3 serum concentrations especially in younger women.
Out of 166 women with breast cancer, approximately 70% were vitamin D deficient and the most extreme levels of deficiency was found in patients with triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer and the least responsive to treatments.

Overall, the best way to know if you are vitamin D deficient is to go to the doctors and receive a blood test. If you find that you are deficient, 15 minutes of direct sunlight at least 3 times a week or a supplement of 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D3 can be adequate to increase your levels and decrease your risk of breast cancer. Thank you for joining the Verbal Herbal for October’s Breast Cancer Prevention Month. I hope you have found the information helpful and will share it with your loved ones so that we can help put an end to breast cancer.
Silverman, H. M., Romano, J. A., & Elmer, G. (1999). The vitamin book (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Hormone Replacement Therapy

When examining breast cancer prevention, I feel that it is extremely important to talk about the association between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer. Although there is a clear correlation between the use of hormone replacement therapy and increased risk of breast cancer, modern medicine feels that there is not enough evidence to demonstrate cause and effect.
Pause for Menopause
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when the body produces less female hormone, estrogen, and the ovaries stop releasing eggs. You can also go through menopause if the female reproductive parts are removed from the body, what's called a hysterectomy. As a result of this many women experience some symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats and osteoporosis.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is prescribed to women that have intolerable symptoms of menopause. There are two main types of HRT: estrogen progestin therapy (EPT) and estrogen therapy (ET). EPT contains estrogen and progestin and is given to women to increase estrogen in the body. The progestin is added and given to women that have not had a hysterectomy, to protect the uterus and uterine lining from the harmful effects of the estrogen. ET only contains estrogen and is given to women that have had a hysterectomy.
The link between HRT and Breast Cancer
In a society and culture that is already Estrogen Dominant, of course increasing estrogen is going to increase your chances of breast cancer and that is exactly what hormone replacement therapy is doing: increasing estrogen in the body. Hormone Replacement therapy is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and severely increases your chances of dying from breast cancer. EPT raises your risk by 75%, even if you are only using it for a short period of time and women that took EPT were 2 times more likely to die from breast cancer.  ET has been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer only if it is taken for more than 10 years. If taken for 10-14.9 years your risk of getting breast cancer increases 22% and if it is taken for more than 15 years your risk increases 43%.
Breast cancer survivors that took HRT for menopause had 3 times as many breast cancer reoccurrences than breast cancer survivors that didn’t do HRT. Some forms of chemotherapy cause women to enter into early menopause and because of this association between HRT and breast cancer reoccurrences, it has prevented many specialists from recommending HRT to breast cancer survivors.
A Testimonial from a Survivor
The information listed below isn’t scientific research and some people may not find it important in the evidence against hormone replacement therapy. But it is the account of a woman who is a cancer survivor, the opinion of a woman who tried HRT and was then diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel that it is important to talk to survivors and hear their story. In the end, I feel that we all just want our stories to be heard.
Julia, had a mammogram in September of 2008, which showed some specious signs but after having a core needle breast biopsy, doctors said there was no sign of cancer. In December of 2008 she began hormone replacement therapy and by the following April, 5 months later, she was diagnosed with a breast cancer, having a 1 inch tumor in her right breast. Not only did she receive no warnings from her doctor about the risks associated with HRT before she began treatments but once she was diagnosed with breast cancer they failed to inform her that she should stop the HRT immediately. Julia feels that cancer cells may have been present before doing the hormone replacement therapy but by taking HRT it caused the cancer to grow at an accelerated speed. Julia is now cancer free and strongly advises against HRT for anyone considering the treatment.
Menopause and Yin Deficiency
Not every woman in the world experiences symptoms of menopause and the incidence and severity of symptoms varies among different cultures. This leads me to believe that the “symptoms” of menopause are something that can be avoided. Cultures that eat diets high in Phytoestrogens appear to experience fewer symptoms of menopause.
The Chinese believe that the symptoms associated with menopause clearly show signs of a Yin deficiency. Yin is the energy that cools and moistens the body. When it is deficient the body starts to heat up. This isn’t real heat; it’s just a lack of the cooling mechanism causing false heat. A more accurate symptom picture is as follows:
  • Symptoms: night sweats, hot flashes, afternoon fever, 5 Hots (hot or sweaty hands, feet and sternum), dry mouth and throat, dark yellow urine and dry stool.
  • Tongue: red with little coating.
  • Pulse: thread and rapid.
Herbs are a great way to help tonify Yin and diminish the symptoms associated with Yin deficiency and menopause. Listed below are some herbs that may be helpful:
  • Ophiopogon Root (Mai Men Dong) Ophiopogon japonicas
  • Anemarrhena (Zhi Mu) Anemarrhena asploidis
  • Wolfberry aka Gogi berries (Gou Qi Zi) Lycium chinense
  • Artichoke (Chao Xian Ji) Cynara scolymus
  • Chickweed (Yin Chai Hu) Stellaria media
  • Nettle Urtica diotica
  • Irish Moss Chondrus crispis
  • Marshmallow Althaea officinalis

The good news is that once you stop HRT, your risk of getting breast cancer will decrease and eventually return to baseline. I feel that the risks of hormone replacement therapy outweigh benefits especially when more natural treatments can help diminish the symptoms associated with menopause.
Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.

Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Is your Deodorant causing Breast Cancer?

Continuing on with Breast Cancer Prevention Month, today I’d like to talk about the relationship between deodorant and breast cancer. Studies have yielded mixed results regarding a correlation between the use of deodorant and increased incidence of breast cancer, however; I feel that it’s a topic worth talking about.

What Makes Deodorant so Toxic
The main active ingredient in antiperspirants is aluminum, usually in the form of aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium. Aluminum is very soluble and easily absorbed into the body where it ionizes and becomes a free radicle. The ion then enters the cell and becomes a plug, stopping perspiration.  Sweating is a natural process that, not only helps to regulate body temperature, but also helps to release toxins from the body. If waste products are not able to be excreted through the action of sweating then there is a buildup of toxins in the tissue and in the lymph nodes. High concentrations of toxins cause the surrounding tissues and glands to become overly acidic which is linked to the cell mutations that can cause cancer.
Aside from causing toxins to build up in the tissue and having a known genotoxic effect (known to damage DNA), aluminum based compounds (the main ingredient in deodorants) and the fragrances in antiperspirants have an estrogenic effect making them a Xenoestrogen. By causing Estrogen Dominance, xenoestrogens are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Xenoestrogen that are absorbed through the skin are 10 times more dangerous than ones that are ingested and processed through the liver. Topical Xenoestrogens are absorbed directly into the tissue and by using deodorant we are placing xenoestrogens almost directly on breast tissue.
Using Deodorant can Increase your Risk of Breast Cancer
The National Cancer Institute, and many other cancer foundations, states there is no conclusive evidence to show that antiperspirants are linked to breast cancer. Although the findings are mixed, there are many studies being done regarding the topic. Most of the information linking deodorant use to breast cancer is based upon information about parabens, the most widely used preservative in cosmetic and personal care products and a known xenoestrogen. One study showed that 18 out of 20 breast tumors contained parabens but the study failed to show that the parabens are what was causing the breast tumors. But all this talk of parabens is a moot point considering that most deodorants do not contain parabens.
One study of women with breast cancer showed that the sooner in youth that a woman started using antiperspirants, the more she used it and the more frequently she shaver her armpit, the earlier in life she was diagnosed with breast cancer. What’s scary about this is that children are beginning to wear deodorant at younger ages and the buildup of toxins in the breasts can also be exacerbated by Wearing a Bra.
Alternatives to Common Deodorant
There are many products that you can try as alternatives to aluminum containing deodorants and antiperspirants but it is important to realize that sweating is a natural and necessary process. Most of the natural alternatives can help with the odor but don’t hinder your natural elimination processes.
  • Diet and BO: Body odor is a reflection of the toxins that have built up in the body. If you don’t put toxins in your body then the toxins won’t have to come out of your body. By eliminating processed and refined foods and increasing consumption of fruits, veggies, leafy greens and nuts and seeds, you can help to cleanse the body and keep body odor at bay. You also want to make sure your other elimination pathways are functioning properly (i.e. urination, defecation and exhalation). If one of these pathways is not functioning properly, especially if you’re Constipated, the body releases more toxins via other pathways, especially through the skin, causing body odor and acne.  
  • All Natural Deodorants: At most health food stores you can find a number of natural deodorants. Make sure that the product you choose doesn’t contain any form of aluminum. Even the crystal stones that are said to be a better alternative to typical deodorant contain a form of aluminum. The aluminum molecule that the stones contain isn’t supposed to be able to enter the cell because the molecule is too large; however, I prefer not to take the risk and use only product that contain no aluminum.  
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda makes a great and very inexpensive deodorant. Mix 1/8th tsp of baking soda with a little water (not too much water as to dissolve the baking soda) and rub the mixture under your armpits. You can also mix 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch and dust your pits with it to help prevent odor and wetness.
  • Lemon Juice: Rubbing your armpits with a lemon wedge helps to kill off the odor causing bacteria. Be careful if you have recently shaved as it can burn.
  • DIY Deodorant: There are plenty of DIY recipes for deodorant on the web. Try making your own deodorant. Let us know what works for you.
Overall, I don’t understand how the cancer industry can say that typical antiperspirants don’t increase an individual’s risk of breast cancer. Not only do they cause a buildup of toxins in the tissues that can cause cell mutations and breast cancer, but the aluminum and fragrances they contain are xenoestrogens. Antiperspirants may not be the cause of breast cancer but they certainly aren’t helping it. So why take the chance?
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.