Everything You Need to Know About Eggs

Eggs

One of my biggest pet peeves when I look around at all the “healthy” Instagrammers, bloggers and other health-nuts out there is that a lot of them are still eating egg whites only.

What?!?!

I thought by now everyone had gotten the memo that yolks don’t really contribute to bad cholesterol and heart disease, but are also where all the good nutrients and fats are. Yet I keep seeing Instagrams of “healthy” omelets made with only egg whites, as well as clients that are shocked when I tell them to eat the whole egg.

So, rather than keep telling people how good they are, I thought would show how good they are backed up with research studies, cause that’s how I roll.

Let’s just start off with the biggest myth out there around eggs and in particular the yolks: THEY ARE BAD CHOLESTEROL AND CAUSE HEART DISEASE.

NOPE.

This thinking was initiated around 1950-60’s, from studies stating saturated fat was bad. Health experts at the time interpreted that to mean anything that had saturated fat in it must be bad for you. Therefore, egg yolks must “spike your heart disease” and cause “high blood cholesterol raising your risk of diabetes.”

We now know that not all saturated fat is bad for you (if you’re still not convinced of this, please read this), but also, recently Wake Forest University researchers found that there is actually no link between eggs and heart disease.

In fact, some people think eggs might be the perfect food. They are nutrient dense, have lean protein (the whites) and wonderful fat. The yolks (where the fat is) contain vitamin A, iron, zinc, choline, B6, folate and B12. Without the yolk you get little to zero of these nutrients. These nutrients help with good mood, flight fatigue, a healthy brain and contribute to better eye sight.

You need the egg in all it’s whole food glory. The white are high in protein, about 6-7 grams per egg. The yolks are a good source of fats, 30% of the yolk is saturated fat and the rest of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are proved to contribute to a heathy heart. Additionally, without fat we can’t properly absorb those fat-soluble vitamins form the eggs, like vitamin A, D, E and K as well as omega-3s.

Dr. Mercola, a highly-regarded functional medicine doctor, says “for people with type 2 diabetes, the DIABEGG study, determined that you can consume two eggs a day, six days a week, and only be healthier for it.”

Quick tip: when talking about eggs let’s talk about what the best kind to buy is, because I know you, like me, have stood in front of the egg case wondering why all the different labels, prices and such mean.

  • “Cage-free” – this means up to 11 birds can roam free in no less than a 16×20 inch cage. They don’t have to be allow to go outdoors.
  • “Free range” – this means the hens have access to the outdoor. However, they may still be inside a warehouse mostly, just not in tiny cages, they may in fact not be outside or see any daylight, but should have access to an outdoor area, note that a lot of larger producers say they do this but don’t in fact. Smaller farms usually do follow these guidelines.
  • “Pasture-raised” – this is the best kind to buy, they get to be outside and roam around and forage for food, but do note that this is not UDSA regulated yet.
  • “Organic” – they are not fed anything with pesticides or GMO products in them, given antibiotics, they also must be cage-free or free-range.
  • “Grade A” – means the egg shells are unstained and yolks and whites are free from defects.
  • “Pasteurized” – means they are heated to a temperature just hot enough to kill salmonella.
  • “Hormone-free” – means the birds that lay the eggs are not given any hormones
  • “Vegetarian-fed” – the hens laying the eggs are fed vegetarian feed, but note that these animals are not naturally vegetarians.
  • “Omega-3 enriched” – these birds are fed a special high omega-3 diet
  • “Certified-Humane” or ”Animal Welfare Approved” – means they don’t starve them or cut their beaks or use other cruel methods with the hens and they are able to nest naturally.
  • “Natural” – this term means nothing; these hens can be given antibiotics or GMO food.

The eggs I most often buy are the Vital Farms Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs (about $0.67 per egg). However, I recently when to my local farmers’ market and bought a dozen eggs there for about $1 a piece (a bit pricey) but not only were they gorgeous colors, like teal, pink, brown and white (pictured above), but they were also the best tasting and the yolks a brilliant orange color. I will definitely buy from them when I can.

From Dr. Mercola: “For help in locating a small organic and sustainable egg producer in your area, try visiting both the following websites:

  • eatwild.com with a directory listing more than 1,400 pasture-based farms
  • localharvest.org featuring a list of farms, food co-ops and farmers’ markets in your area”

The only warning I’d like to give on eating eggs is that it’s on the list of foods that our bodies can be highly allergic to. So, if you know or think you are allergic to eggs please avoid them, as eating food we are sensitive or allergic to put a lot of strain on our digestive and immune system, causing a whole host of minor and major health problems. If you aren’t sure if you are sensitive or allergic to them you can do a blood test with your functional medicine or naturopathic doctor or you can do an elimination diet with your nutritionist.

Resources & Studies:
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/11/07/health-benefits-eggs.aspx?utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=ms1&utm_campaign=20161120Z1&et_cid=DM126450&et_rid=1762827693
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officially-defined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label-240530041.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25833969
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=eggs+and+high+blood+pressure+1152+participants
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/02/10/ajcn.115.122317

Coffee: to drink or not to drink?

 

coffee

Like so many things we consume in this world there is no clear line to answer this question. It is more about you and your body – how it processes caffeine, are you allergic to it, the quality of coffee beans, how you drink it and of course the even bigger reason, why do you drink it. So, here’s what you need to know:

1 // There is a gene and enzyme, both called CYP1A2, and because coffee is metabolized through the liver if you have the two copies of this gene (one from each parent) you are considered a fast metabolizer of caffeine, meaning it will affect you less than someone who has only one or none of this gene. You can do the 23&Me test to see if you have this gene variant and others. And for those that are fast metabolizers, it’s been show that 1-3 cups of coffee daily can reduce your risk of heart attack, thought to come from the good antioxidants and polyphenols. Those without this gene show that coffee (caffeine) may contribute to heart attack.1

2 // Yes, you can be allergic to coffee. Sad I know. I also know because I used to be allergic to it. How do you know? You can do a food sensitivities test or an elimination challenge. Eating food we are allergic to causes an immune reaction in our body that causes it to think that they need to protect our bodies from that substance and can lead to leaky gut and a host of other symptoms in our body as a reaction and if not controlled can lead to autoimmune diseases and cancers. Additionally, if you are allergic to it, it’s not the end of the world, simply an extended break from it (I have lots of great substitutes for you if you’d like) and healing your gut and then you should be set to enjoy your coffee again.

3 // Coffee and/or caffeine does improve athletic performance in most people, and best in those that are fast metabolizers of caffeine. 1

4 // Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it is very dehydrating. It is also acidic and can mess with our digestive system. Both of these cause our bowels to move faster than normal and don’t allow the body to absorb all the proper amounts of nutrients in the food we consume.

5 // It is a stimulant, often why most of us consume it, to wake up in the morning or alert from that afternoon slump. However, if there are any adrenal health issues or imbalanced hormones this can further elevate our stress hormone cortisol and cause a host of issues, including imbalanced blood sugar, which often leads to afternoon sweet or salt cravings and over eating in the evening.

6 // Coffee is an appetite suppressant. This messes with balanced blood sugar and ultimately our hormones.

7 // How do you drink your coffee? Often it’s not black. It can be loaded with sugars and milks, and if not carefully chosen we can be consuming a lot more toxins than just the caffeine. So, when I have my cup of coffee daily here are my rules:

  • Eat something first, this will have the least effect on blood sugar and our stress hormones, this will help prevent that coffee crash or the jitters that we sometimes feel.
  • Drink a high-quality coffee, organic (this means no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals, good for our bodies and the earth) and fair or direct trade (this cuts out the middle men and gives money to the small farmers producing more quality beans) also coffee attracts mold fast, this ensures its as fresh as it gets.
  • If you need creamer, try an organic milk, with no sugar, or make your own nut milk sweetened with dates.
  • Add in some good fats like coconut oil, ghee, or Brain Octane Oil, this slows down the absorption of caffeine into your blood stream, think less jitters
  • Add in cinnamon to balance your blood sugar better and make it naturally sweeter without the sugars and empty calories.
  • Add in some herbs like reishi for immune, rhodiola for energy or pine pollen for allergy help.

8 // So despite all this should you drink coffee? Maybe? Maybe not. Just because you always have doesn’t mean you are always meant to. Our bodies change. If you ever start to feel jittery, anxious, indigestion, have trouble sleeping, or just feel off when consuming coffee it might be a sign to take a break for a bit. Don’t worry. You can always come back to it down the road. Be aware of what you put in your body and how it makes you feel. Only you know the answer to that. Often if we are thinking about it being an issue, it usually is. Trust your gut, literally and figuratively.

9 // This begs the question: why do you drink coffee? Do you love the taste? Do you love the ritual? Are you simply trying to function? Be honest with yourself here. If the answer is that you enjoy it, then please enjoy it. But if you feel like you can’t function without it then a deeper conversation needs to happen. What else is going in your physical body and how we that be healed naturally without stimulants? Also, know that afternoon slump is very natural, even if your blood sugar is balanced most peoples’ energy dips between 2-4pm. So rather than pushing through it with coffee, which increase your stress hormones (the opposite of what you need, more stress), try a quick 10-minute walk outside or 3-minute meditation or some mildly stimulating herbal tea (like ginkgo or gotu kola) or a green juice.

10 // But decaf is fine right? Not necessarily. Have you ever thought about how they get that caffeine out of that little bean? It’s a big process involving a lot of chemicals and you don’t now exactly how much caffeine is still left. However, if you do consume decaf, always opt for the swiss-water process. This is the most natural process – they take the green bean and soak it in water until the caffeine dissolves. It’s 99.9% caffeine free.

11 // If you are anything like me, you love the ritual of making and drinking your cuppa joe in the morning while reading the paper or iPad. The hardest part of all of this is changing your routine. A few things you can try, start your morning with a cup of water with lemon, since the body is already dehydrated from a night of sleep this is particularly great to start the day. Or try a cup of herbal coffee like Herbal Revolution Roasted Root or Dandy Blend first thing in the morning then have your 6-8 ounce cup of coffee with breakfast.

Now, after all that information, if you are wondering where I personally stand with my coffee habits, I will tell you I LOVE my cup of coffee every morning, but it hasn’t always been this way. And I am often going days, weeks without it to test myself and see how I feel about it. I also don’t use it for energy to get out of bed and I usually have a cup of herbal tea first thing in the morning before I enjoy my coffee and breakfast. But I am one of those peopel that love the ritual of it and the taste. I love freshly grinding the beans every morning by hand or with my electric burr grinder depending on the day, then I use a steal pour over (different than the picture above) with a Hario Kettle. And I am definitely particular about what type I drink and how I drink it. I usually follow the rules above in #7. Now, all that aside, I generally have 1 cup a day, which is why it has to be a damn good cup. On the weekends, I will allow myself 2 cups if I am feeling it. And nothing ever after morning so it doesn’t have any chance of disrupting my sleep, but 2pm is the absolute cut off time.

Lastly, if you do have a cup or two of coffee, make it the best possible cup and here’s the key: ENJOY IT. Often the judgement of what we “should” be doing beings more stress to our physical and mental bodies that THAT is what does more harm than letting that “should” go and just enjoying. Listen to how you feel and don’t fear change. Without change there is no growth. If nothing changed what a boring world we would live in.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” – Leo Tolstoy

What’s your favorite way to drink coffee? And if you have any questions about this or your consumption, let’s chat!

Resources:

1 https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/for-coffee-drinkers-the-buzz-may-be-in-your-genes/?_r=0

https://www.geneplanet.com/genetic-analysis/list-of-analyses/caffeine-metabolism.html

Moon Cycle Tea Recipe

moon_tea

Hey gang, it’s been a minute. But I am here. I’ve been doing a lot of amazing things the last few months and getting ready to start a few new things as well. I will get into all that good stuff in another post, soon, I promise. But for now, I wanted to share a great tea recipe that I made yesterday inspired by a few things in my life: 1) I started my cycle today and am trying the meLuna cup today for the first time, so far I am loving it! 2) I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the work I had committed to do, and after talking to my amazing business coach (who also happens to be an ayurvedic nutritionist) Claire of Vidya Living, who reminded me that during this time of my cycle, not only is it ok to back off and turn inward, but it’s beneficial to me and those around me as well. So, yestreday and today I backed off a little bit, took a bath, spent some time outdoors in my garden, did yoga instead of spin class and took a little more gentle and loving time with myself.

And you know what?!?!

My cramps and general emotional health around my cycle even feels more gentle this time.

And the last thing that inspired my post today was that I ran out of my normal Yogi Women’s Moon Cycle tea. I love this stuff! I recommend it to a lot of my clients that struggle with their periods, emotionally and physically and a lot of them have told me how much it has helped them. So instead of running out to the store for more, I decided that since I am an herbalist and I work at an Apothecary with all the wonderful organic herbs I would make my own. So here’s what I put in my warming and conforting Moon Ease tea:

2 part Raspberry leaf – great for uterus health, helps regulate menstruation, nourishes the blood with vitamins and minerals

2 part Spearmint leaf – cooling, refreashing and uplifting

2 part Cramp bark – relaxes the uterus muscles, and helps with menstrual cramps

2 part Skullcap – eases menstrual stress

2 part Passionflower – calming and relaxing, and a gentle pain reliever

1 part Chamomile – anti-inflammatory, helps with menstrual cramps as well as calming the nervous system and anxiety

1 part Dong quai – nourishes the blood and cleanses the liver, it also strengthens and nourishes the uterus (some say you should avoid this herb one week before and during menstruation since it can stimulate more blood flow, however, if you need to regulate your cycle it was be wonderful for a short period of time)

1 part Vitex (chaste tree) berries – regulates and normalizes hormone production, supports the luteal phase (part after ovulation before bleeding), PMS, endometriosis, hormonal acne, and restores and balances energy, enhances sexual vitality

1 part Marshmallow root – anti-inflammatory to tissue in the body and moistening

1 part Ginger root – improves circulation in the pelvis, great remedy for easing cramps and helps with healthy digestion

½ part Fennel – eases intestinal pain, bloating and gas

½ part Cinnamon – tones the uterine muscles, stops excessive bleeding, improves circulation and helps with menstrual regulation

¼ part Anise – great for digestive issues and bloating

Simply mix all the herbs together and store in a mason jar. I use a heavy 1 tablespoon per 8 oz cup of water and drink 2-4 cups daily a few days before my cycle and clear to the end of my bleeding. But it’s pretty delicious, so drinking it daily all month long is great too!

And if you want more information on your cycle and nutrition I wrote a post a while back on seed cycling for hormone balance here.

Snacks on the Go

snacks

As a holistic nutritionist I get a lot of the same questions from my clients. One of the top question/concerns I am asked is how to eat healthy when they are so busy. To which I usually ask them how their typical days go. Where is all there “extra” time (the time not at work, taking care of their kids or in an office) being spent?

And you know what I find…? There is usually time in there. Holes where we get sucked into watching a few too many Insta-stories or reading too many articles on the same thing or even working form home in front of the TV and not being as efficient as we could be. Believe me, I understand. I have these times too!

The first part of that answer is awareness around that time. Literally, get the stopwatch out and time yourself on some of those activities. I use this Miracle Cube Timer and it definitely helps keep me on track. What can you cut out, where can you make things more efficient?

One of the most important pieces of advice I ever got was “if it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

As soon as you evaluate where your time is REALLY going and make peace with your priorities you will magically find the time.

Something I help most of my clients do is find that time and make a plan to meal prep on the weekends. Sometimes we even go to the grocery store together, which helps point out what snacks and on-the-go items are great for a busy week. And I always do a free consult over the phone to make sure it’s a good fit for us both. Don’t hesitate to reach out or simply book an initial consultation.

The second part to this question is to reframe what it means to us to make the time to eat healthy. It shouldn’t be a chore. Literally, when we eat healthy we are nourishing our bodies on a physical level. But that food should be tasty and nourish our soul and spirit as well. Food is definitely medicine, but it should also be enjoyable, and come from a place of love and self-care for ourselves and those around us.

So, today I wanted to add a few ideas for healthy snacks-on-the-go. These are all things you can pick up at your local grocery store and have for when you you need that afternoon snack.

SNACK ON THE GO IDEAS

  • Kale Chips
  • Bone broth (find this in the freezer section) you can even add in wakame (dried seaweed)
  • Jerky (like Primal Classic Beef Jerky or other brands like Epic or vital choice Salmon Jerky)
  • Nuts, raw or sprouted are the best, but buy what you will eat.
  • Trail mix
  • Canned tuna with 5 celery sticks
  • Full-fat String Cheese
  • Coconut water or kombucha
  • Full-fat Cottage cheese or individual full-fat cheese products
  • Individual 4% (full-fat) yogurts, Sigi’s are great
  • Pre-popped popcorn or veggie chips
  • Pre-made bars, good ones: Bobo’s, RX bar, Primal Kitchen, That’s It, Two Mom’s, Marcobars and Perfect Bar (some of these are in the refrigerated sections)
  • Salsa and chips
  • Rice cakes (with avocado or nut butter on top)
  • Nut butters + apple, pear or other fresh fruit
  • Veggies and hummus, salsa, or guacamole
  • Deli-sliced meat (with cheese or veggies)
  • Fresh juice (from whole foods, or other health food store), just make sure it’s low in fruit or no fruit and that the veggies

Also, don’t worry, none of the above is sponsored, just things I like and recommend. And if you need more help with meal planning and preparation for the week to make eating healthy more efficient for you, please reach out. It’s LITERALLY what I do! 🙂

What other healthy snacks do you eat and enjoy?

The Mexican Matcha Recipe

Sorry friends for being MIA the last month. A few things have shifted in my life this past month and I was feeling the need to re-evaluate my blog and what I was doing with my nutrition practice. The summarized conclusion is that though I LOVE herbs and all they do, right now I need to focus more on nutrition from a whole foods basis. And while herbs are part of that Whole, they are just that, part of it. I want to focus more on the larger whole and writing more about that, example, good fats and proteins, why calorie counting is no good, what exercise does for our bodies and when it can be in our best interest to NOT do that HIIT workout. Those kinds of things.  So in the following weeks my intentions are to post more of that content with some herbal stuff sprinkled in here and there. What do you think? Are you feelin’ that? I know I am!

Now on to today’s post… a few of you know that I decided to do an elimination diet lately and I am just finishing up the reintroduction phase, and feeling good and excited to be done. In that process I had to give up my one and only coffee. Ugh! One of the harder things I have had to do, and it never gets easier. So this time I decided to lean on matcha lattes for my morning hot drink ritual. I know there are a lot of matcha lovers out there and a lot of recipes for how to make yours. So I thought I would jump in on that conversation and share mine, since I know a lot of people have asked me lately about it. I call mine the Mexican Matcha Latte because I add a little cinnamon to mine, kinda like a Mexican hot chocolate or horchata, plus, I am Mexican! Hehe! It’s pretty good!

matcha

 

The Mexican Matcha Latte

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I use Califia) or coconut milk*

1/2 tsp ceremonial matcha powder ( I use Panatea or CAP beauty)**

1 tsp to 1 tbsp of coconut oil

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp honey or maple (optional)

1 tsp coconut butter (optional)***

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add milk to small sauce pan and heat on medium on the stovetop.
  2. With a small sieve (I use this) put your matcha and sift it into the milk. This just makes sure you don’t have clumps of matcha stuck at the bottom of your drink. You don’t want that, it’s such a sad waste of deliciousness. I promise this makes a world of difference!
  3. add in the rest of your ingredients and whisk up with a matcha whisk (like this) or I use an electric whisk that I love.
  4. Let it come to temperature (170 degrees is best) but I honestly just eyeball mine and get it right before it boils. Don’t let it boil though.
  5. Enjoy!

* If you don’t use or have the vanilla milk, no problem, simply use 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract to your mix. I just try to make it as simple for myself as I can and the unsweetened vanilla just eliminated one more step for me in the morning.

** Yes, it’s worth spending the money to get your ceremonial matcha. When I first started out I just bought the cheap for food-grade matcha and let me tell you, you have to use SO much more of it to get it to taste like matcha. So you really aren’t saving any money. SO buy the good stuff! It’s worth it.

*** The coconut butter adds a nice creaminess to the drink. I don’t always add it, but sometimes I do, I would definitely try it and see what you think. If I do this, I don’t add the coconut oil, but you can do both, there’s nothing wrong with this.

********************

Updated: I meant to add in the health benefits of this Mexican Matcha that I love!

Matcha – this powdered form of green tea leaves is full of antioxidants (one cup can provide up to as much as 5 times that of any other food, which supports a healthy immune system. It is loaded with Catechin (specifically EGCg) which has been shown to improve skin health and proven to fight cancer. It contains the amino acid L-Theanine which “promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain which induces relaxation without the inherent drowsiness caused by other “downers” as well as the precursor to dopamine and serotonin, which will enhance your mood, improve memory, and concentration, and promotes clean energy without the jitters form coffee. Matcha has also been shown to increase metabolism (without increasing heart rate or blood pressure) which can contribute to weight loss. The green color comes from chlorophyll, which helps the body detoxify heavy metals and other toxins from the body. Ummm… so, the real question is WHY WOULDN’T you drink it? 🙂

Coconut Oil – yup, this is a saturated fat, but wait, don’t worry! Saturated fats are not as evil as we were once told. New studies out there are showing that there is NO LINK TO HEART DISEASE. And in fact coconut oil is not made up of the traditional long-chain fatty acids that most saturated fats are. It’s made up of medium-chain fatty acids, therefore it metabolizes differently in our bodies. “They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source of energy or turned into so-called ketones, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s” says Kris Gunnars a medical researcher. Coconut oil also contains Lauric Acid, which helpst o kill harmful microoganisms (bacteria, viruses and fungi). ANd because it’s a fat it helps out body absorb those fat-soluable vitamins we need from our food like Vitamin A, D, E, and K, provides a feeling of satiety in the body that can helps up feel fuller longer and eat less in the long run, contributing to weight loss for some. Finally, it’s wonderful for supporting balanced hormones and a healthy immune system.

Cinnamon – this spice has been known to reduce inflammation, is anti-microbial, helps with blood sugar control by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties itself after meals. The smell of cinnamon was studied and found to show that it boosts brain function. Lastly, this warming spice has been known to boost circulation of the blood and protect against heart disease and promote a better immune system.

So drink up buttercup!

Herb of the Week # 14 :: Ashwaganda

This week’s been a busy one and I have had a bit of a hard time focusing, feeling like I was spinning my wheels and doing it all but still doing nothing. Do you ever feel like that? So I found myself drawn back to this wonderful plant, Ashwagandha. I could have written an entire research paper on it. THere’s so many studies out there on it and it’s so fascinating at the range it can do to the body. I hope you enjoy reading about as much as you do using it! It’s almost one of those herbs that’s wonderful for everyone at some point in their lives.

 473286b956584da3bc8274b687c2f940

Botanical Latin Name: Withania somnifera

Botanical Family: Solanaeace (nightshade) family

Parts used: Root

Method: Tea, tincture, food

Actions: sedative, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulation, adaptogenic, tonic, antispasmodic, nervine, aphrodisiac

Energetics: Drying, cooling and warming

Taste: complex, bitter, flowery, earthy

Dosage: Tea – Decoct 1 tbsp of the dried root per cup (8 oz) of water. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 3-4 times daily; or supplement with 500 mg 1-2 times daily up to 3-6 grams of the dried herb; additionally it’s been show that eating healthy fats, protein and carbs in addition to removing grains and sugars from the diet help to improve results. And as a note, I generally tell people they should feel a difference in about 3-4 weeks, but need to take it for a minimum of 3 months and up to a year for full benefits, depending on how much help the body needs.

Contraindications: Don’t use if you’re pregnant. This is also a nightshade, so if you know you have an allergy to that family or get a headache while taking please avoid this one. (There’s lots of other great adaptogens out there for everyone.) avoid with pharmaceutical sedatives and pain medications.

Chances are if you are reading this you already know what ashwagandha and adaptogens are. But in case you are crawling out from under a rock let me fill you in on what those trendy things mean. Adaptogens refer to herbs that help our bodies cope and adapt to the stress in our bodies and bring it back to balance. See the “Dosage” up above for how to take this herb to get the full benefits. The only other caveat I have on using adaptogens in general, not just ashwagandha, is that if you are in adrenal fatigue or to the point of burnout exhaustion, you most likely need to take a nutritive nervine herb (like milky oats, lemon balm or skullcap)  for at least 2 weeks before you start using adaptogens. The reason I say this is because if there is nothing in your body, nervines will help to bring some emotional balance back, nourishing the body, reducing anxiety and anything else that might be going on. Then the adaptogens will work much better.

If ever there was a gateway adaptogenic herb, to me it would without a doubt be Ashwagandha. It’s referred to as “Indian ginseng” and has been used in many similar ways as Asian ginseng to reduce stress and enhance stamina. And in India it’s known as the “strength of a stallion” because it was traditionally used to strengthen the immune system after illnesses. It’s also known to restore energy, help you look younger and reverse disease! Herbalist and functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm calls ashwagandha the “soothing” adaptogen. It is one of those rare herbs that is both calming and energizing.

Dr. Josh Axe wrote a great article on Ashwagandha and it’s benefits. He says “there have been over 200 studies on it’s ability” to heal the body. You can read more of the studies out there and how exactly it does this in his blog post here. It is generally regarded as a male tonic herb, but is also wonderful for women, especially those that may have adrenal overdrive or that “wired and tired” feeling.

Helpful uses for ashwagandha:

  • Improve thyroid function
  • Treat adrenal fatigue
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase stamina and endurance
  • Prevent and treat cancer
  • Improved neurological health, including concentration and memory
  • Stabilize blood sugar and reduce cortisol levels
  • Lower cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Boost immunity
  • Balancing hormones
  • Hypo and Hyper thyroid
  • Improves mood, anxiety and depression (recent study its results were comparable to common pharmaceutical drugs lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects)
  • Prevents and treats cancer
  • Boost testosterone and increase fertility in men
  • Increase muscle mass and strength
  • Reduce inflammation and chronic joint pain
  • Normalize adrenal function
  • Fatigue relieving
  • Improve sleep
  • Anemia

De-Stress Balls

1 cup nut butter (sugar free, you can always make your own)

1/3 cup dried apricots

1/3 cup cacao nibs

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup

2 tbsp ashwagandha powder (sun potions makes a great one)

1 tsp cinnamon

coconut flakes for rolling ball in

Mix all ingredients except the coconut flakes in your food processor until mixed well. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls. Then roll in coconut flakes. Wrap them in plastic or wax paper and store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Enjoy as a snack, pre or post workout or in addition to your breakfast.

* If you ever have any questions on if you should use this herb in your diet or not, contact a medical professional or holistic practitioner first.

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Herb of the Week #13 :: Dandelion

I just got back from an amazing ski trip with a few old friends and I am definitely feeling the effects of a not-so-clean eating life 😉 But it was worth it and I didn’t do all that bad. I think it’s also good to not have restrictions and rules ALL the time. So, between the glasses of wine and skiing (not in that order, I promise) I had fun and am ready to get back into it, these seasonal allergies are kicking my butt the last few days. So starting in a few days I am going on my Nutrition. Designed. elimination diet. This weeks’ plant is great for kick-starting that process, getting off coffee and help with a healthy functioning liver and kidney’s.

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Botanical Latin Name: Taraxacum officinale

Botanical Family: Asteraeace (aster) family

Parts used: Whole plant, leaf and root

Method: Tea, tincture, food

Actions: anti-inflammatory, lymphoguge, diuretic, alterative,

Energetics: cooling and drying

Taste: slightly bitter and sweet

Dosage: Tea – infuse 1 tsp of the root or 1 tbsp of the dried leaf to 8 oz of water, steep for 15-20 minutes, drink 1-4 cups daily. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-4 times daily

Contraindications: Don’t use if you have bile duct obstruction, gallbladder or GI inflammation, or intestinal blockage, or if you are on a prescription diuretic

According to Rosemary Gladstar, there are a handful of herbs that should be staples in a regular diet and they fall into 3 categories: nutritive, tonic and longevity. The Nutritive herbs for daily use are horsetail, passionflower, cleavers, chickweed, red clover and lemon balm, these are like taking a natural multivitamin and multi-mineral. Rosemary Gladstar also says these tonic herbs “feed, tone, rehabilitate and strengthen particular body systems.” While longevity herbs don’t necessarily extend your life, but rather make the quality of life better as you grow older. This week’s herb falls into two of those 3 categories! Dandelion is a tonic and longevity herb.

It is restorative and rejuvenating, and particularly helps with blood, kidney and liver functions. It is also a bitter that helps with digestion and bile flow. It supports healthy water elimination without compromising potassium reserves.

Dandelion is also high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

Helpful uses for lemon balm:

  • Lower high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • Liver function and jaundice
  • Hepatitis
  • Stimulate digestive enzymes to breakdown foods better
  • Sluggish bile production
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Chronic skin problems: acne (esp. with whiteheads), psoriasis, eczema
  • Arthritis and gout
  • Edema (with PMS, bloating)
  • Normalize blood sugar levels
  • Female issues
  • Heavy, acidic urine
  • Anemic
  • Varicose veins
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Mastitis or mammary cancer
  • Non-specific colitis
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness

Not only is dandelion a great tea and medicine, it is great as food too. It can be used in stir-frys, salads and pesto. And the roasted root is often turned to as a coffee substitute.

How have you used it? I’d love to hear! Please share in the comments!

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Herb of the Week No. 12 :: Lemon Balm

When I moved from Los Angeles to Denver in early 2015, I went from apartment living my entire adult life to what I like to call a “grown-up” house. It’s not anything huge, just perfect for two people and two dogs, including a yard for gardening and of course lots of room for dog-play.

Of course when we moved in it was during a freak blizzard that left more than 2 feet of snow on the ground. So, it wasn’t until a few months later that I realized what had already been planted in our yard. Coming from the desert and beaches of southern California coupled with apartment living, my knowledge of plants was limited to succulents, herbs for the kitchen and a few potted indoor house plants.

When I saw the ground defrosting and all these little buds coming up everywhere it was magical. I would constantly ask my neighbors what this was and what that was, exploring new nurseries, joining the Denver Botanic Gardens and quickly upping my plant game.

It wasn’t until about a year into living in the new house and wondering what that lemon-y-pledge smell around us was, that I realized I had lemon balm growing in masses on the side of our house. Before the next freeze hit I gathered up those beauties and dried them for tea and tinctures.

When I started my work at Apothecary Tinctura I realized what an amazing herbal medicine lemon balm was. And I found it not coincidence that nearly everything it did I needed in my life. I heard the term “plant ally” thrown around a lot and was never truly sure what it meant until now. Lemon balm was my first plant ally.

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Botanical Latin Name: Melissa Officinalis

Botanical Family: Lamiaeace (mint) family

Parts used: ariel parts

Method: Tea, tincture

Actions: Nervine, sedative, antidepressant, antianxiety, antispasmodic, vasodilating, hypotensive, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, carminative, febrifuge, hepatic

Energetics: neutral to slightly warming

Taste: slight lemon taste and smell, sweet, aromatic, sour

Dosage: Tea – infuse 1 tbsp dried herb to 8 oz of water, steep for 10-15 minutes, drink 1-4 cups daily. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (10-60 drops) 1-4 times daily, or 2-3 grams of dried herb daily

Contraindications: Pregnancy; Hypothyroidism

Lemon balm is one of the best nervines out there, helping to calm the nerves and heart, aiding in relief with anxiety, mild depression, restlessness, irritability and stress. Ummm… Yes please!

It’s also known as balm, bee balm, and sweet balm. It’s a very nutritive herb, high in magnesium, calcium, B vitamins and protein and great to drink as part of your daily tea. It is part of the mint family, even looks a little like mint, but mostly has a mild lemon taste. It’s easy to drink alone, but I usually end up blending mine with a few other herbs like nettles or oats and chamomile, great for day or night time.

Due to it’s relaxing and antispasmodic effects, it’s great for stomach issues or any digestive distress. Also great for general exhaustion, overactive or stimulated mind and body, and those always on the go. Naturopath doctor, JJ Pursell in her book The Herbal Apothecary says, “Anytime our body is in overdrive, including the physical manifestations of heart palpitations, high blood pressure, manic thinking, and shortness of breath, lemon balm is advised.”

Lemon balm is also antiseptic and antiviral, which also makes it fantastic and an excellent choice for herpes outbreaks. You can use a cream based formula, tincture, essential oil or hydrosols.

Lemon balm is also a mild heart medicine, known for its mild vasodilatation of the peripheral blood vessels and thus lowering blood pressure. This action also helps to promote sweating (diaphoretic) which can help reduce a fever in adults and is gentle enough to use with fevers in children as well. And will help relax the body as well. For some it can also be a mild sedative and help with insomnia.

Lemon balm has been known to be a great treatment for hyperthyroidism because it helps TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) levels, Specifically, it interferes with the binding of TSH to the thyroid cell membranes and prevents the incorporation of Iodine into T4 synthesis and conversion of T4 to T3. This is also why it generally suggested to avoid lemon balm if you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s. Though some experts say is helps to normalize all high and low thyroid levels, I always suggest asking your practitioner if you have questions.

Helpful uses for lemon balm:

  • Anxiety and mild depression
  • Irritability, restlessness, stress
  • Stomach and digestive issues
  • Relieves muscle tension
  • General exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Topical relief with herpes
  • Overstimulated mind and body
  • Hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenalism
  • Heart palpitations
  • Helps to lower blood pressure
  • Manic thinking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduce fevers
  • Migraines
  • Teething in children
  • ADHD
  • Colic
  • Spasms
  • Gout

I love lemon balm in about every form, but tea is always dear to my heart since it’s just so soothing to the soul. Here’s a few tea recipes from my previous posts that have lemon balm in them:

Sip, breath and enjoy!

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Herb of the Week #11 :: Eleuthero

I’m not sure about you, but I have started looking ahead at this year, making travel and work plans, and boy, it’s filling up FAST! It’s not even March yet! Whew! Additionally, I am studying to take a board exam in nutrition, that is totally optional, but being the type A personality that I am, if it’s out there and I can… I must and I will. So… I am definitely feeling the pressure lately.

On top of that I recently started upping my workout game a little. Before I get into that, I feel I have to share a brief history of why I took a break from working out, cause I am one of those weirdos that LOVES to workout and sweat. Back in the day, I used to be a high preforming, award-winning athlete through college, from high school volleyball where I made all-conference and represent Southern California in Amsterdam for an international conference to varsity crew at Georgetown and winning the big-east as a freshman. Additionally in college also fell in love with running and in my 20s started doing marathons and olympic triathlons. In addition to constantly training for races, compounding injuries and stress from a corporate job in design that I no longer wanted, I hit the wall as an athlete and as a regular human being.

I was diagnosed years later with Adrenal fatigue and exhaustion. And with the help of my naturopath and my nutrition education, I learned I needed to back off the intense exercise to heal my body and mind. Part of that healing included using adaptogenic herbs. So today I thought I would share one of my favorites from that group: Eleuthro, aka Siberian ginseng. This herb is not only great for helping us with stress mentally but also physically and is known to be great for athletes! Check it out!

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Botanical Latin Name: Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)

Botanical Family: Araliaeace (ivy) family

Parts used: root

Method: Tea, tincture

Actions: Adaptogen, nervine, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory

Energetics: neutral to warming

Taste: neutral to mildly bitter

Dosage: Tea – infuse 1-2 tsp dried herb to 8 oz of water, steep for 10-15 minutes, drink 1-3 cups daily. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (20-90 drops) 1-4 times daily, or 2-3 grams of dried herb daily

Contraindications: Eleuthero may interfere with some prescription drugs, such as cardiac medications and antibiotics, and caution with hypertension

Eleuthero (also referred to as Siberian ginseng) is one of the best known and widely used adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens help our endocrine system, specifically the adrenal glands, adapt to the stress (internal or external) in our lives by regulating our adrenal stress response (for more on that and adrenal fatigue, I wrote an article). They strengthen our nervous system and build energy while also promoting calm in the body. It’s great for those in recovery from surgery or chronic disease.

Eleuthero helps the body to thwart environmental stressors and improves physical and mental performance. It does this in many ways, one is that it increases oxygen in the tissues and organs of the body, strengthens digestion and the immune system. For these reasons, It helps those with a general feeling of fatigue, weakness, depressed mood and lack of concentration, as well as supports athletes and those looking to increase endurance and stamina. Well-known herbalist and functional medicine doc Aviva Romm says “It is anabolic, which means it helps build muscle and prevents the breakdown of muscle as we age.” Yes please!

Eleuthero is known to boost and stimulate the male sex drive and reproductive health. Additionally, it can help with fading memory or memory loss.

It can safely be taken on a long-term basis and help to reduce infections and improve vitality and well-being. However, a general rule with all adaptogens is to take them for 6 weeks followed by a 2 week break to see Therefore, it’s a great general tonic for nearly everyone.

Note: All my nutrition and herbal knowledge is based in science, that was a large part of why I chose the school that I went to. If you ever want references please comment below or email me and I will send links to anything you need! And if you want those references cited in future posts, let me know too. I can definitely start doing that if it’s desired.

Helpful uses for eleuthero:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • hypotension
  • Cancer and radiation recovery
  • Neurosis
  • Adrenal exhaustion or fatigue
  • Kidney infection or disease
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Ease tension and anxiety
  • Immune help
  • General exhaustion or weakness
  • Boosts endurance levels
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Various types of neuroses
  • Reduce the severity and duration of herpes simplex 2 infections
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Mild depression
  • Balance hormones
  • Male virility and reproductive health and impotence
  • Improving memory
  • Dream disturbed sleep
  • Hyperglycemia and blood sugar regulation
  • Improves heat in body for those often cold
  • Improve detoxification

I am often making protein-packed energy balls for myself and husband for when we need to grab something before a workout, early morning or simply a tasty snack. This ball recipe was inspired by renown herbalist Rosemary Gladstar and her recipe for Zoom Balls in her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. And the great thing about make energy balls, is that you can use whatever nut butters, fruits or powders you have around.

Rocket Balls

These are high in nutrients and minerals like iron, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc. They are great for energy, stimulate metabolism, promote healthy cells, support the immune system and satisfy your stomach.

2 cups tahini

2 cups almond or other nut butter

2 cups honey (local and raw)

1 cup chopped almonds or other nuts (I like to soak and sprout mine then re-dehydrate)

½ cup cacao powder

¼ cup bee pollen

3 tbsp eleuthero powder*

2 tbsp ashwaghanda powder*

2 tbsp reishi powder*

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp cayenne powder

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (lightly toasted, optional)

Mix tahini, nut butter and honey together until smooth. Add in chopped almonds or other nuts, all powders and spices and mix well to incorporate. Feel free to add more honey or nut butter if desired. Roll into small balls and then roll in the shredded coconut to coat the outside. Store in sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to a month. Enjoy!

* I just grind my roots in a coffee or spice grinder, I find this is a little cheaper than buying powdered, unless I know I am going to use it more often.

If you make these I’d love to see your pictures and hear what you thought! Share here and on Instagram!

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Herb of the Week #10 :: Calendula

If you’re anything like me, you see the word “anti-inflammatory” everywhere. It’s become quite trendy. Everything is anti-inflammatory this and anti-inflammatory that. And I have found lately that trendy in nutrition isn’t quite the same as say trendy in something like fashion (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). Simply, meaning that in health and wellness trends happen for a reason that is bigger than just a trend. See, in nutrition school, I learned quickly that most health issues can be traced back to inflammation. Of course, this is a longer blog post in itself. But for now, this week herb is one of THE anti-inflammatory plants: Calendula 

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Botanical Latin Name: Calendula officinalis

Botanical Family: Asteraeace (pepper) family

Parts used: Flowers

Method: Tea, tincture, food

Actions: Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, lymphatic, astringent, vulnerary, emmenagogue

Energetics: drying

Taste: bitter, salty, slightly sweet

Dosage: Tea, infuse 1-2 tsp dried herb to 8 oz of water, steep for 10-15 minutes, drink 1-3 cups daily. Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (5-60 drops) 1-3 times daily.

Contraindications: Don’t use if you have an allergy to the aster family; if taking sedatives or anti-inflammatory drugs; or possibly harmful if pregnancy or lactating

Calendula, also known as Marigold, is not just beautiful and cheery in the garden, it’s also great for us as well. The Egyptians even believed they had rejuvenating properties. Calendula helps in repairing cells and is antiseptic, helping to keep infections away. It is most commonly used externally on the skin for burns, scrapes or for soothing skin irritations like acne or eczema, due to its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Calendula is also great internally for the immune system and for those with swollen glands or congested lymph nodes. It is wonderful for our digestion and can help soothe cramps, gas or diarrhea. Those that feel worse in damp, cold, heavy, cloudy weather, or tend to cold easily will benefit from this herb. It can be used as a tea and tincture form, as well as, in soups, bone broths or in salads (see recipe below).

Helpful uses for calendula:

  • Externally on wounds and burns
  • Soothing acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes
  • Fevers
  • GI issues like ulcers, stomach cramps, indigestion and diarrhea
  • Digestive inflammation
  • Relieve gallbladder issues
  • Helps with delayed menstruation (meaning it can aid in starting it)
  • Ease painful periods
  • Normalize menstruation
  • Herpes sores
  • Bruises and black eyes
  • Insect stings
  • Vaginitis
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Itching
  • Sore nipples
  • Hypertension
  • Lymph-node congestion
  • Chronic infections

I love to use calendula oil topically since it’s antibacterial and soothes acne and eczema or for calming and healing burns, cuts and scrapes. Making it yourself is super simple!

Cold-Infused Calendula Oil*

1 ounce dried calendula flowers

16 ounces olive oil (other options almond or avocado, or jojoba, but note jojoba should not be used as a salad dressing, the others are all fine to be ingested)

Fill a quart mason jar about ¾ full (should be about 1 ounce of calendula flowers give or take). Then fill to the top with olive oil (about 16 ounces maybe slightly less). Cover with the lid and put in a sunny place to infuse for 4-6 weeks. You can shake it every now and then when you remember, but you don’t have to. When you are ready, drain the petals from the oil and keep in a new container for up to a year.

For a quicker method, you can grind the calendula up in a blender to make a powder and infuse it with the oil for 2 weeks or more for a stronger oil. Then strain with a cheese cloth.

When it’s done, it should be a golden orange color. You can use this on your skin, in a salve for chapped skin or lips, as a hair rinse, or even on salads! Enjoy!

You can also buy calendula in an essential oil. However, while I was doing some research for this post I came across this Dr. Mercola’s blog post, “Calendula oil is extracted by steam distillation. There is almost no way to obtain 100 percent pure calendula essential oil, so this makes calendula essential oil an infusion and not a pure extract.” Now, I do have the essential oil too, but I find I use the infused oil I make more and it’s more economical.

Other uses for the oil:

  • Moisturize dry or itchy skin
  • Heal cracked hands and feet
  • Massage into areas to help with varicose veins
  • Heal wounds, cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites
  • Sooth sunburns
  • Calming diaper rash for babies
  • Oil pulling
  • Oil cleanser/moisturizer for trouble skin
  • Massage to abdomen then add heat pack for healing menstrual cramps

Calendula is also fantastic as a calming herbal facial steam. If anyone is interested in that drop me a line and I will send it over to ya!

*Organic is best, where possible

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