Herb of the Week #7 :: Nettles

Hi Everyone! Happy February! Can you believe January’s already over? How’d all those New Year’s Resolutions/goals go this first month of 2017? I hope they all went amazingly and you are off to the best year ever! But, just in case you aren’t, cause it happens to a lot of us, just a reminder I put up blog post and a free PDF worksheet last week on getting out of those patterns that aren’t serving us anymore and accomplishing out goals.

This past month something I have been working on is a better, healthier daily routine. Being a nutritionist can be a lonely job, even though I have a private office surrounded by wonderful women, and work a few days a week in an Apothecary, I do a lot of working from home.and it can be lonely, to say the least. I found myself working in front of the television watching reruns of Seinfeld.  Plus I was waking up and immediately checking email and social media while I drank my coffee. I am still working on the right daily routine and giving myself time to experiment with different things along the way. One thing I actually always do is brew a quart of tea for the day and drink that after my one (ok maybe sometimes 2 cups of coffee). And This weeks’ herb is a must-have in my and really anyone’s daily routine: Nettles

 nettles

Botanical Latin Name: Urtica dioica

Botanical Family: Urticaceae (Nettle) family

Parts used: leaves and stems

Method: Tea, Tincture, food

Actions: Alterative, antiseptic, astringent, alkalizing, diuretic, expectorant, antihistamine, nutritive, hypotensive, galactagogue, hemostatic, urinary tract tonic

Energetics: Drying, stimulating, damp stagnation

Taste: Green, nutritious tasting, resembling spinach, salty, sweet, bitter, earthy

Dosage: For tea, infuse 1 tbsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea for 10-15 minutes, up to 3-4 cups a day and/or in tincture form, 30-60 drops 1-4 times daily

Contraindications: Caution when pregnant with larger doses of nettles. However, decocted tea is good for pregnancy in small quantities for the mineral content, especially iron. In general, avoid handling the raw plant as it can be irritating. In larger quantities it can be too drying and in some rare cases cause headaches or constipation. If this is the case, nettles can still be used, simply combine it with a moistening herb like violet, licorice or marshmallow.

While I was researching this herb I found that a lot of world-renown herbalists rave about nettles year-round as a superior tonic, it’s even a famous Chinese “long-life” herb. If used daily it can pretty much replace your multivitamin/mineral since it’s rich in iron, calcium, potassium, silicon, manganese, magnesium, zinc, chromium, vitamin A, B, C, and more. It is also high in protein (mostly when consumed as food) and helpful in nearly every protein pathways, including digestion, immune response, liver metabolism, skin reactions and kidney elimination. Nettles is high in the antioxidant chlorophyll and is therefore great for detoxification, oxygenating the blood and eliminating heavy metals from the body. The high nutrient content plus serotonin content is known to soothe frayed nerves and surround tissue.

In the book The Herbal Apothecary, Dr. JJ Pursell says “it seems to take from waste all that is valuable and turn it into healing gold.” Nettles is regarded as safe for all ages and helpful in almost every situation (unless it’s picked fresh without gloves, then you will quickly learn why it’s other name is “stinging” nettles). It is a great long-term treatment for any illness.

Nettles is great for the blood, kidneys, liver, lungs and fluids in the body. It builds and nourishes the blood, and is therefore great for those who are anemic, even children. Because of its high vitamins and minerals content it nourishes the body and can help regulate their menstrual cycle as well as improve just about any function or condition in the body, as well as breastfeeding mothers. Additionally, they are great for supporting the thyroid, especially in subclinical hypothyroidism.

With all that Nettles does it is no surprise that it’s also anti-inflammatory and can help with allergies. The quercetin in the nettles helps stop the mast cells from releasing histamine, while the sterols and lectins stimulate the T-cells and increase the immune response. The anti-inflammatory properties are also great for those with pain and arthritis. And even the stinging of the fresh nettles, though irritating at first, it increases blood flow to the area and actually helps to reduce inflammation and speed healing.

Well-known herbalist, David Hoffman says, “when in doubt give Nettles”.

Uses for Nettles:

  • Daily multi-vitamin and multi-mineral
  • Promotes vitality and energy
  • Activates metabolism
  • Strengthens and tones the entire body
  • Allergies, hay fever, asthma, edema
  • Inflammation and pain
  • Sharp shooting pain and sciatica
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Prostate hyperplasia
  • Stimulate hair growth
  • Regulate menstruation
  • Symptoms from PMS or menopause
  • Strengthens weak kidneys
  • Liver function
  • Drying to mucus
  • Reduces sensations of itching and heat
  • Eliminates uric acid (good for gout)
  • Helpful for symptoms that worsen in cold or moist air, water and touch
  • Electrolytes and leg cramps
  • Hypothyroidism, and subclinical hypothyroidism
  • Spring tonic and rejuvenator
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Fatigue, yawning
  • Mouth sores
  • Bronchitis
  • Diarrhea or mucus in stools
  • Nervous eczema
  • Improves urine flow and reduces frequency
  • Bone health
  • Reduce water retention in pregnancy (in small does)

How to use nettles:

  • Tea can be used daily, 1-3 cups. Infuse 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of herb to 8 oz of water, steep for 8-12 minutes.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-3 times daily for best results.
  • Food – nettle leaves make a great substitute for spinach in nearly any recipe, like soups, scrambles, stir-frys or on toast with feta and olive oil. Note, they must be well steamed first, they will sting if undercooked. Nettle roots can also be cooked and eaten.

Here is my recipe for a high- calcium tea that is anti-inflammatory, soothing and nourishing to the nerves and the whole body.

2 parts nettles

2 parts horsetail

2 parts milky oats or oatstraw

1 part peppermint or spearmint

Combine all herbs. Infuse 1 tablespoon dried herb mixture per 8 oz cup of hot water for 15-60 minutes. Drink 3-4 cups daily. For optimal outcome use for approximately 3-4 months or longer.

I also have a great recipe for pickled nettles. Have you ever had them? I’ll eat just about anything that’s pickled…Yum!

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Defining Goals & Getting Unstuck

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I started a tradition about 7-8 years ago where at the end of every year I go through my goals from the previous year that have been sitting in a jar in my kitchen. I don’t use the term “resolutions” because it feels too rigid of a term and often when we don’t accomplish them we tend to term them “failures”. Instead, I like to use the term “goals”. These we can have and they can shift and take new shape as we grow.  As I review my goals from that year, I divide them into one of three categories: completed/accomplished, incomplete/unfulfilled but still important to me, and finally, not achieved but no longer important to me. Then for the new year, I’ll revise any of the goals I still want to keep from last year, throw out the ones that no longer serve me, and write new ones. These go back in to the jar for the new year. Every now and then I’ll look back at them to check in, see where I am and remind myself of ones I may have forgotten (I also just started keeping this list on my phone as well, in case I want to look at them when I am not home). For me this is such a positive and fun activity around the new year, as well as, a great guide and reminder of what’s important throughout the year.

This year one of my regular clients came in for a follow-up session and when the session ended I realized we barely even talked about nutrition. Because she is a regular client of mine we’ve gone through her diet journals, I’ve given her meal plans with numerous recipes, as well as educational handouts on all the things she’s got questions on and things I think are important for her to know, such as blood sugar regulation, macronutrients, how stress affects our eating, sustainable nutrition and organic foods, how to eat for successful workouts, and more. But this time, with stress from the holidays, travel and New Year’s resolution, she found herself in a bit of a “funk”.

She felt stuck.

Unsure what the next step should be.

She was unhappy with her work, her personal life felt chaotic and like there was no time for herself. And with all this stress and pressure, she was neglecting her healthy eating and lifestyle habits. We talked about prioritizing self-care and how eating is nourishing and loving your body. We talked about how something as simple as eating regular and consistent meals can helps us make better choices in our daily life, not simply related to eating but in all areas of life.

And because she is a regular client of mine, I didn’t want to sounds like a broken record, a lot of this we had already talked about in one session or another.

So, I listened to her talk. Not about what she ate for lunch. Not about nutrition. But about life.

Sometimes to move forward in one area like nutrition, we must look at the large picture. And even though I am a nutritionist, sometimes that means not talking about food.

I gave her a few ideas and suggestions, and she left my office feeling a little better than when she walked in 30 minutes earlier. Still something in me felt like I wanted to give her more. But, what else could I do?  How else could I support her and help to get her out of this funk?

I came home and in a moment of inspiration I wrote down all things swirling in my head and sent it to her. What came out was a “how to guide” on defining our goals and getting “unstuck”.

I thought it was a perfect time to share it with everyone here. It’s almost the end of January, and for a lot of people that means realizing that their New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the waist-side, weren’t what they really wanted or needed, feeling trapped in the same loop and habits that are no longer serving them. If you feel discouraged or looking for something powerful to move you into a new space or direction, this is for you. I have included a link to the PDF download here. My hope is that it helps shift something in you.

I love all my clients. They all being something so unique and different to the table. A new perspective, a new issue to discuss. And this week I was reminded that being a holistic nutritionist is more than education with food but how the lives we live and the food we eat are all part of a larger picture about balance and happiness within our whole self.

How do you love yourself? How do you get unstuck? I’d love to hear it! Share in the comments below and if you have any questions about nutritional consultations please visit my website or email me: Yvonne@nutrition-designed.com

Herb of the Week #6 :: Burdock Root

Happy much belated New Year’s everyone! I hope your 2017 is off to a fantastic start. For me, as I am sure for a lot of you as well, the holidays are fun and filled with great tasting food and drinks. So I figured it would be great to start the herb of the week series back up with a cleansing and rejuvenating plant. This week we are looking at an herb that is great for healthy digestion and detoxification: Burdock Root

 burdock_illustration

Botanical Latin Name: Arctium lappa

Botanical Family: Asteraceae (Aster) family

Parts used: root

Method: Tea, Tincture, food (for fresh root)

Actions: diuretic and mild laxative, nutritive, alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, digestive stimulant, blood and lymph mover, liver tonic

Energetics: cool and alkalizing, distributes moisture around the body but ultimately drying

Taste: initially bitter, then sweet and pleasant

Dosage: Decoct (boil on stove then simmer for 10-15 minutes) 1 tsp to 1 tbsp dried root to 8 oz water for tea, up to 3 cups a day and/or 10-60 drops 1-3 times daily of tincture

Contraindications: pregnancy, loose stools, and not for long-term or excessive use can cause urinary or kidney issues

Burdock root is great for the kidney, liver, gallbladder because it supports the natural flow of lymphatic fluid and excretion of toxic byproducts from our cells. Since it’s gentle detoxifying properties and hormone balancing abilities, it’s wonderful for most skin issues, including excess oil production, chronic cystic acne, eczema and psoriasis. Since burdock supports the clearing and function of the liver it also in turn helps with bile production which in turn helps with better digestion and appetite. It can help purify the blood, clear excess uric acid and clear excess heat and congestion in the body. It has also been show in studies to have anticancer properties. It can help you rebuild and restore your energy levels. Burdock contains potassium, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, as well as antioxidants phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin.

David Hoffman in his book Medicinal Herbalism, says, “burdock will move your body into a state of integration and health, improving indicators of systemic imbalance, such as skin problems and dandruff.”

Externally, it can be used as a compress or poultice to speed healing of wounds and ulcers. With fresh (or dried) burdock root, it can be sautéed or used in soups, and the inulin fibers in it helps improve digestion and offer a more stable blood sugar in the body.

Uses for burdock:

  • Skin issues like acne and eczema
  • Arthritis, sciatica, gout
  • Normalize menstrual cycle, especially for those in menopause and mastitis
  • Better digestion
  • Help to increase appetite
  • Good for acute irritability and inflammatory conditions
  • Tonsillitis
  • Staph infections
  • Chronic kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Cysts with fluid
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Helps relieve coughs and sore throats
  • Protects bones
  • Cradle cap

How to use burdock root:

  • Tea can be used daily, 1-3 cups. Decoct 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of dried root to 8 oz of water on the stove top, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-3 times daily for best results.

Here is great recipe from Rosemary Gladstar for a nourishing and restorative soup. This is great for someone suffering from a cold or flu or to simply improve immunity.

7-Herb Long-Life Soup

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, sliced or chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 quarts of water or broth (chicken, veggie, etc.)

8 large shitake mushrooms, chopped

4 ounces fresh burdock root (or 2 ounces dried), thinly sliced

4 ounces fresh dandelion root (or 2 ounces dried), thinly sliced

2 ounces lyceum berries

1 ounce astragalus, thinly sliced

1 ounce fo-ti (Ho Shou Wu)

1 tbsp fresh grated ginger root

1 ounce ginseng root

miso paste (any type)

  1. In a large pot, heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender and golden.
  2. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the mushroom and herbs and simmer over low heat for several hours.
  4. When the roots are tender, turn off the heat and strain out the herbs, but you can leave the herbs in, especially if they are fresh. Add in miso paste to taste (just note, never boil miso paste is destroys the valuable enzymes). Add any other seasonings and chopped veggies as desired.
  5. Enjoy!

If you make this soup or have other ideas and recipes for burdock, I’d love to see pictures and read comments! Yum!

I also wanted to share with you the books that I have been pulling from for these herbal posts. My current favorites are: Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, The Herbal Apothecary, Medicinal Herbalism, 300 Herbs, and Herbal Medicine.

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Herb/Plant of the Week #5 :: Passionflower

It’s HEEEERE…Christmas week. Whether you celebrate it or not, I think we can all agree it’s a crazy week. Lots of traffic on the road. People last minute shopping. Packed parking lots. Just to name a few. So this herb, comes on a perfect week.

This week we are looking at a calming and relaxing herb: Passionflower

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Botanical Latin Name: Passiflora incarnata

Botanical Family: Passifloraceae (Passionflower/violet) family

Parts used: flowers and leaves

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Antispasmodic, hypotensive, sedative, anti-inflammatory, nervine, estrogenic

Energetics: cooling and relaxing

Taste: Bland and slightly aromatic scent

Dosage: 1 tbsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea infusion and/or 10-60 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture, tea or tincture 1-4 times daily

Contraindications: pregnancy, hypotension, anyone on barbiturates

Passionflower is a very nutritive herb and great to add to a daily tea as a multi-vitamin/mineral. It is native to South America and was used there originally to treat epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks. It is a gentle but effective herb and can be great for hyperactive children. It is a nervine, it relaxes the nervous system and helps to reduce pain, relive cramps and tension, and promote healthy sleep. It soothes and nourishes the nerves and muscles, while also strengthening and toning the entire nervous system.

Uses for passionflower:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Toothaches
  • Headaches (especially nervous headaches)
  • Menstrual pain and cramps
  • Muscle tension and nerve pain
  • Sciatica
  • Hypertension, high blood pressure and tachycardia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleep disturbances due to nervous or mental worry
  • Hyperactive kids
  • Spasmodic asthma
  • Restless agitation due to exhaustion

How to use passionflower:

  • Tea can be used daily, 1-4 cups. Steep 1 tbsp of dried herb to 8 oz of water in hot water, longer for cold, the longer you steep it the more the benefits you’ll get from it. This can be used throughout the day to help alleviate anxiety and depression, or anything else listed above.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results. Or 3-9 drops every 30 minutes for hyperactive kids until calm (maximum 3 doses). Or 2-9 drops every 2 hours or 10-309 drops every 10 minutes for spasmodic episodes (for example, muscle spasms, panic attacks or even jitters from too much caffeine). Also, this is a great nighttime tincture, to help with insomnia and encourage a restful sleep.

This is a wonderful blend for headache relief and would also be lovely at the end of the night to enhance sleep. Rosemary Gladstar says “the mere act of drinking a warm cup of tea often eases a headache.”

3 parts chamomile

3 part lemon balm

1 part passionflower

1 part skullcap

1 part feverfew

Combine all herbs and infuse (steep in hot water for at least 30 minutes) using 1 tablespoon of dried mix to 1 8 ounce cup of hot water. Drink ½ cup (4 oz) every half hour until the headache subsides.

*Additionally remember to drink half your body weight in filtered water.

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Herb of the Week #4 :: Hops

The holidays are here, the snow is falling today and it’s getting very close to the 25th! I can only assume this means a little more activity in your day and maybe a little more stress in your life? I know I am running around a little more than normal, also why I am posting this on a Friday and not mid-week, like usual. So this week I thought a great calming herb was in order.

This week we are looking at a very relaxing herb: Hops

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Botanical Latin Name: Humulus lupulus

Botanical Family: Cannabaceae (hemp) family

Parts used: Strobiles

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Antispasmodic, sedative, astringent, anti-inflammatory, nervine, estrogenic

Energetics: Cooling and relaxing

Taste: Drying and bitter

Dosage: 1 tbsp dried herb (or 1-2 strobiles) to 8 oz water for tea infusion and/or 10-60 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture, tea or tincture 1-3 times daily

Contraindications: Pregnancy, depression, active ulcer, estrogen dominance, low libido and those taking phenobarbital

Hops, mostly known as the key ingredient in beer, is known as a very bitter herb. Therefore, it’s great for stimulating the digestive tract, normalizing the gastric juices in the stomach and easing indigestion from anxiety or nervousness.

Hops is also a wonderfully relaxing plant; it can calm the nerves and organs. Therefore, it’s great for insomnia and traumatic dreams (nightmares). It’s also wonderful for easing tension, anxiety and overthinking. It can help with those that have hypertension. It can also be helpful in decreasing excessive sexual desire. This herb is known to be especially great for men. Just note that because it’s such a strong sedative it’s not recommended in large doses for those suffering from depression.

Additionally, due to its calming effects, it is great at relieving lung constriction issues, like asthma, and spasmodic coughing. Hops can also be used for easing physical pain and inflammation, especially in the mouth and teeth.

Additional uses for hops:

  • Calming after an exciting event
  • Colic in babies
  • Nervous exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive sex drive or premature ejaculation
  • Nervous irritability
  • Ear or toothaches
  • Migraines
  • Indigestion from nerves or poor starch absorption
  • Non-obstructive jaundice

How to use hops:

  • Tea can be used daily, 1-3 cups. Steep 1 tbsp (or 1-2 strobiles) of dried herb to 8 oz of water in water (hot or cold) for 3-30 minutes in hot water (longer for cold). The longer you steep it the more the benefits you’ll get from it. I steeped mine for 30 minutes in cold water and it was slightly bitter, but I added a small amount of honey and it was lovely, also great as a part of a blend of tea.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results.

Here’s a great and relaxing way to use hops from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health:

Herbal Footbath

2 parts lavender

1 part hops

1 part sage

½ part rosemary

optional: a few drops of lavender essential oil

optional: Epsom salts (1/2 cup per soak)

  1. Place herbs in a large pot and fill with water. Cover tightly and bring to a low simmer for 5-10 minutes. Pour into a large basin for soaking your feet and adjust the temperature with cool or warm water. You still want the foot soak to be hot but of course you don’t want to burn your feet!
  2. Once you are soaking your feet, cover the tub with a towel to keep the herbs and heat inside. You can refill the basin with more hot tea or water as you wish. Play some soothing music or simply enjoy the quiet, and relax…ahhhh….

* This foot bath is also great post-workout and/or right before bed as it will help relieve pain and inflammation, and ease any cramps (the Epsom salts will replace any electrolyte and magnesium you’ve lost).

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Herb of the week #3 :: Red Clover

I’m on a roll everyone… it’s week 3 of the Herb/Plant of the Week here! And I have some fun news!  I decided to enroll in Rosemary Gladstar’s online herbalism class! I got my notebook in the mail this week and I am so excited to start learning from the master! I will definitely share what I learn along the way and I will still keep doing these weekly posts and share what I am learning through my own experience with the herb that week as well.

This week we are doing a detoxification herb: Red Clover

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Botanical Latin Name: Trifolium pratense

Botanical Family: Fabaceae (Legume) family

Parts used: flowers and leaves

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Nutritive, alterative, expectorant, antispasmodic, sedative

Energetics: Cooling, stimulating and relaxing

Taste: Mildly sweet

Dosage: 1 tbsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea infusion 1-3 times daily and/or 10-60 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture

Contraindications: pregnancy, those on blood thinner medications and possibly those with hypothyroid

Red clover is known to be a great detoxification herb.  It helps to purify the blood to aid in the removal of toxins. It also helps clear out the lymph system which aids with our immunity. In the process of clearing out waste in the liver and lymph, it replaces waste with nutrients like calcium, nitrogen and iron. Because it’s detoxifying, it in turn helps with most skin conditions as well as tumors, fibroids and cysts.

It also helps with cardiovascular and respiratory health and can ease chronic chest problems like coughs and colds. The combination of detoxification and cardiovascular benefits have shown to improve cognitive function. This is due to the purified blood reaching to the smaller capillaries in the body to improve overall function.

Additional uses for red clover:

  • Children with spasmodic coughs
  • Chronic skin eruptions
  • Swollen hard lymph nodes
  • Stiff neck
  • Muscle cramps (types that are relieved by heat and massage)
  • Childhood eczema
  • Whooping cough or dry irritated cough
  • Throat and salivary glands
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Menopausal hot flashes
  • Herpes virus
  • Cancer, especially lymphatic or breast

How to use red clover:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tbsp per cup and drink 1-3 cups daily). Steep in hot water for 15-20 minutes – the longer you steep it the more benefits you’ll get from it. I steeped mine for 30 minutes and it was slightly sweet and delicious – easy to drink on its own.
  • Tincture use up to 2 droppers full (60 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results.
  • NOTE: Never use wilted red clover only use fully fresh or fully dried herb. The wilted flower has a compound called Coumadin used in rat poison and blood thinners that can be harmful or deadly.

Here’s a tea recipe for a mild and pleasant tasting liver cleansing and nutritive daily tonic that included red clover from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health:

Liver Tonic Formula #2

3 parts nettle leaf

2 parts dandelion leaf

2 parts lemon balm

2 parts red clover

1 part alfalfa

Prepare as an infusion, using 4 tablespoons of herb mixture to a quart of water and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy 3-4 cups daily.

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Herb/Plant of the Week #2 :: Motherwort

It’s already time for the second Herb/Plant of the Week here on the Aesthetic Athlete, blog of Nutrition Designed! Yay!

This week we are doing another heart herb: MOTHERWORT

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 Botanical Latin Name: Leonurus Cardiaca

Botanical Family: Lamiaceae (mint) family

Parts used: aerial parts (all parts exposed completely to air)

Method: Tea and Tincture

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, Nervie, Uterine tonic, hypotensive, bitter, Cardiotonic, Emmenagogues

Energetics: Neutral to cool and drying

Taste: Very Bitter

Dosage: 1 tsp dried herb to 8 oz water for tea infusion and/or 20-40 drops 1-4 times daily of tincture

Contraindications: pregnancy or during breastfeeding, those on blood thinner medications and possibly those with hypothyroid

Motherwort is great for the heart, kidneys and uterus. The latin name Leonurus literally means “lionhearted” and is thus great to nourish and strengthen the heart and blood vessels. If taken daily it can help new blood vessels grow to the heart. It can also calm the heart and the nerves around it, thus helping with palpitations or hypertension.

It’s great for women’s health as well, in particular the uterus and helping with menstruation (inducing it for those that are delayed and helping to normalize the flow), abdominal pain – in particular after birth  – and for those going through menopause.

It can also help with liver health, digestion and the nervous system. Nutritionally she offers flavonoids, tannins and vitamin A. Motherwort can help to calm the nervous system by moving our body from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic. Because of this she can assist with racing thoughts and help us think through our actions more slowly and clearly. As well as anxiety and stress that is held in the stomach area.

Additionally, motherwort is known to be a very emotional healing herb. Specifically, when it comes to feeling your emotions and balancing those feelings. Herbalist and wise woman Kristin Schuch of Apothecary Tinctura in Denver, Colorado says motherwort “brings abundant peace and ease to all matters of the heart.”

Additional uses for Motherwort:

  • Reducing fever
  • Suppressing (retained) placenta
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Menstrual headaches
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Insomnia due to menopause
  • Herpes or shingles (and nerve pain from these)
  • Sciatica
  • Graves’ disease or hyperthyroid
  • Melancholy
  • Restlessness
  • Disturbed sleep (emotional or physical) or wakefulness
  • Premenstrual cramps due to delayed menstruation
  • Bloating from menstruation
  • Hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings from menopause
  • Reduced appetite
  • Improves slow or sluggish digestion
  • Calms overactive thyroid
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Postpartum depression and anxiety

How to use Motherwort:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tsp of the plant per cup and drink 1-3 cups daily) steep in hot water for 8-10 minutes, the longer you steep it the more the constituents, but also the more bitter. I had to add a healthy dose of honey to my cup that I steeped for 15 minutes, and it was still almost undrinkable. I prefer tincture or adding just a small amount to a blend of tea.
  • Tincture is the best form to use this herb,in my opinion. Use 1 dropper full (30 drops) 1-4 times daily for best results.

Here’s a recipe for tea to help with hot flashes for those going through menopause from Rosemary Gladstar’s book Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health:

“Heat Relief”

2 parts black cohosh

2 parts motherwort

2 parts sage

1 part blue vervain

1 part chaste tree berry

mint to taste

After making this blend, use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz cup of water, steep for 30 minutes and strain. Then drink ¼ cup as a “dose” throughout the day up to 3 cups daily, depending on what you need for support.

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New Series! Herb/Plant of the Week :: Week 1 :: Hawthorne

Hello everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are enjoying your short week! I know I am. But before I call it quits for the work week, I wanted to throw up an update, since a lot has happened since I last posted.

The biggest news is that I’ve started my own nutrition practice: Nutrition Designed. It’s been super rewarding and I’ve already seen huge changes in a lot of my clients. Additionally, I am working at a local Denver apothecary called Apothecary Tinctura. I started there mainly to bring my nutrition knowledge into their space since most that work there are schooled herbalists. And though I learned a bit about herbs as medicine in my nutrition program, I would not call myself an herbalist. I find the use of herbs and medicine fascinating and a great tool to use in my nutrition and wellness practice. And every day I work there I learn more and more about this. It never fails to blow my mind how knowledgeable the herbalists there are.

A few weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend a weekend immersion course on the “Roots of Herbal Medicine” led by the wonder woman owner of the apothecary, Kristin Schuch. It was an amazing educational experience and of course it was led in a teepee (sidenote: it was kinda AH-mazing and I think I need a teepee now)! I came back to the shop with a new depth of knowledge and a new weekly assignment: to pick one herb per week, take 3 days to experience it as a tea and the next 3 days as a tincture (an alcohol extract form of an herb). I am on my second week now and my first week was so great I thought it would be fun to share with you what I experienced and learned each week with my “herb/plant of the week”. Plus, it’ll keep me more accountable for posting here… I’ve not been super consistent here. But you didn’t notice that… right?!?! 😉

So to our first herb/plant of the week: HAWTHORNE 

hawthornillustration

Botanical Latin Name: Crataegus Spp.

Botanical Family: Rosaceae (rose)

Parts used: berries, leaves and flowers

Method: Tea, Tincture, Foods (i.e. syrups, jams, and jellies)

Actions: Diuretic, Antiarrhythmic, Astringent, Antioxidant, Cardiotonic, Nutritive

Energetics: Cooling and drying

Taste: Sweet, astringent, sour

Dosage: safe to use with no upper limit

Contraindications: none that we are aware of. However, if on heart medications, meds may need to be decreased over time due to Hawthorne’s effectiveness

The Hawthorne plant is ideal for the cardiovascular system and known as then superior heart herb. And may herbalists even say it’s a daily must in our diet for heart health and a long and productive life. It is a nutritive herb, it contains great antioxidants and bioflavonoids to nourish the heart and body. It also strengthens and tones the heart muscle. It has a great ability to either gently stimulate or depress the activity of the heart. It can dilate arteries and veins, which increases blood flow and can helps with blockages. It can help with many areas of heart disease, such as reducing the risk of an angina attack, lowering blood pressure and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.

Well-known and revered herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, says in her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, “I always tell women, if you love your husband, start feeding him Hawthorne berries when he turns 40. They are not only rich in antioxidants but also protect the heart.”

Hawthorne is also known to help with emotional pain as well, things like heart break, grief, stress, depression or anxiety as it relates to the heart. It’s can also be great medicine for those who have trouble with their emotions, especially when it comes to suppressing or expressing them.

Additional uses for Hawthorne:

  • Varicose veins
  • Poor circulation
  • Poor memory
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • strengthens connective tissues
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Insomnia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Acne or other skin conditions
  • Stop diarrhea
  • Helps week or slow digestion, indigestion or appetite loss
  • Vertigo
  • Pain or injured ligaments or tendons

How to use Hawthorne:

  • Tea can be used daily (1 tbsp of the plant per cup and drink 3-4 cups daily), decocting (boiling the water and herbs on the stovetop and simmering for at least 20 minutes, strain to drink) the berries for tea is the best form to draw out all the constituents of the plant. I recommend trying this at least once, I noticed a better quality taste when I decocted the berries. But a normal hot infusion (pouring hot water over the herbs and letting steep for at least 10-15 minutes) was good too. The taste was quite pleasant. I could easily drink this alone daily.
  • Tincture can be used more for deliberate work with heart conditions or disease (like heart palpitations or hypertension) or emotional trauma (like the death of a loved one or heartbreak).
  • Food (jellies, jams, syrups and more) can and should be used daily for general health and nutrients. Plus they are delicious!

Here’s a recipe for a jam with hawthorn from Rosemary Gladstar’s book:

hawthorne_jam

Give it a try if you haven’t tried it yet and let me know what you think about Hawthorne!

Hawthorne Image

Hormone Balance with Seed Cycling

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I have some AMAZING news everyone! I am officially a holistic nutritionist! I had my final presentation yesterday and it went great! It was a fast and fun 18 month program. I enjoyed being back in a physical classroom again with some amazing individuals. It even looks like one of my colleagues and I will be starting a corporate wellness lecture program together. Now the students becomes the teachers! Eeekkkk!!!

Aside from all that wonderful news I am starting to work on developing my own private practice  and moving into some cool new office space with some amazing doctors and other wellness practitioners. Naturally, I thought the blog (if you can call my irregular, once a month posts a blog) would turn a little more into a holistic health space. Yeah? Cool!

So I planned to start off slowly, you know talk about macronutrients, different foods and what they are good for, etc. You know more basics and foundations and then get more into the juicy stuff. HOWEVER… last week over snapchat (yeah I have one of those too… right now it’s ymontoya, but that’s my maiden name and I am switching it over soon to NutritionDsignd, so stay tuned) I posted a flyer about seed cycling and got a great response and lots of questions from it. So… I decided to write a larger more in depth post on seed cycling for everyone interested.

Just to back up for a quick second, a big part of what got me interested in holistic nutrition was my painful journey off birth control. Though I have come a long way, I still am struggling with it at age 33! Ugh! So, in finding more out about what it going on in this body of mine, I sought out a naturopathic doctor to help me run some tests. After doing the DUTCH test (I can talk about this more in depth too, just comment below if you’d like this) we talked about my hormone balance and among a few things, she suggested seed cycling.

I know hormone balance can seem like a very trendy term being thrown around out there right now. And it’s for good reason. Hormones are pretty delicate. They influence and impact every system in our bodies. These imbalances are related to various things including our food and lifestyle choices, exercise, chronic stress, environmental toxins and even age. And can cause a host of issues including adrenal fatigue, inflammation, dysbiosis, weight gain and PMS. All of these are symptoms are our body’s way of signaling to us that something is out of balance. Yup, even PMS. That thing that we are taught at such a young age is a normal part of our health as a woman. But just know that while it may be “normal” today it is NOT RIGHT and it is our body crying out for help. Great news is, we totally have the power to fix it ourselves! So let’s start!

So, what is seed cycling exactly, you ask? It’s a process of using specific seeds in our diet based on where our cycle is to aid in proper balance and elimination of hormones.

What can seed cycling help with?

  • Acne
  • PMS
  • Irregular cycles
  • Fertility
  • Flow of bleeding (light and heavy)
  • Menopause (peri and post)
  • Adrenal Issues (ex. Adrenal fatigue)
  • PCOS
  • Endometriosis
  • Weight gain (especially in the stomach)
  • Excess sweating
  • Low libido
  • Painful periods
  • Thyroid disorders
  • depression

Let’s take a quick second to talk about womanly cycles and the moon. The cycle of menstruation is one of the most natural actions we have. According to women’s health expert Dr. Christine Northrup, “the monthly ripening of an egg and subsequent pregnancy or release of menstrual blood mirror the process of creation as it occurs not only in nature, unconsciously, but in human endeavor.” As modern life and technologies have evolved we have gotten more and more removed from our natural rhythm’s. Birth control and artificial light are great examples of how we have sought to control this natural cycle. (I know many of you reading this might be on birth control and I would strongly urge you to think twice about it and what it is doing to your body. I do plan to write another blog post on this topic, but in the mean time do some research and feel free to reach out to me as well, I’d love to talk with anyone about it in more depth). It’s no coincidence that women’s cycles are 28 days, the same as the length of a full lunar cycle. We are designed to be at peak fertility (ovulation) at the full moon (this just past Thursday August 18th) when it’s the brightest out. On the opposite side, we are at our lowest fertility when we are menstruating, coinciding with the new moon and the darkest out. (If you are curious about what phase the moon is in I use a handy app called “Moon Free”.)

Now, holistic health can get a little too woo-woo for me sometimes. But rest assured that if I am recommending it or writing about it, it’s rooted in science (some references are below, but if you’d like more, email me).

HOW TO SEED CYCLE

seed_cycling_chart

Phase 1: Day 1-14 – Follicular Phase (aka Waxing Moon)

Day 1 refers to the first day we begin to bleed. During this phase our bodies are using estrogen to prepare for ovulation. Having too little will hinder ovulation and too much estrogen will cause those severe PMS symptoms. This phase is correlated with low hormones.

This is when you want to consume:

  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw, freshly ground* flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw, pumpkin seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • High quality Omega-3 supplement like fish oil (I recommend Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega) or vegan equivalent. However, I highly recommend the fish oil, it’s better for the conversion our bodies have to do to use it and its absorption, email me if you want to chat more about this) at 1500-2000 mg of EPA/DHA daily

The aim in this phase is to balance estrogen and discard the excess properly. Pumpkin and flax seeds combined help the body to eliminate the extra estrogen that occurs at this time of the month. The lignans (an antioxidant chemical compound found in plants, especially high in flax) bind to this extra estrogen and properly eliminate it by helping us carry it out of our body. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and phytoestrogens, stopping the estrogen from converting to a harmful form of testosterone and help with progesterone production that is needed in the Luteal phase. Omega-3s aids in cell communication and lowers inflammation, both of which will contribute to balanced hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone.

Phase 2: Day 15-28 – Luteal Phase (aka Full Moon)

Day 15 refers to the beginning of ovulation. This is correlated with lower estrogen and higher levels of progesterone which build up the walls of the uterine to prepare for pregnancy. When pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone decreases and the lining is shed (menstruation, beginning phase 1). Progesterone is needed for a healthy pregnancy and when not balanced it can cause painful menstrual cramps.

This is when you want to consume:

  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw sunflower seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • 1 tablespoon organic, raw sesame seeds (recommended freshly ground*)
  • Evening primrose oil at 500 mg of GLA daily (Barlean’s Evening Primrose Oil Softgels)

Sunflower and sesame seeds are rich in antioxidant nutrients like vitamin E, zinc and selenium that can improve damaged cells, keep cells healthy, help the liver detox, proper thyroid hormone conversion, balance blood sugar and help with progesterone production. They are also a great source of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid (LA), which can convert to gamma linolenic acid (GLA) to help balance progesterone and estrogen. Evening primrose oil is also great source of omega-6s essential fatty acids: LA and GLA, that support overall hormone function.

A Few More Notes on Seed Cycling

  1. If your cycle is missing (and recommended that you are not on birth control) start phase 1 seed cycling on the new moon. Continue on a 28 day cycle even if your are not syncing up and your body will eventually balance out.
  2. Seed cycling isn’t the end-all-be-all answer for hormone balance. And just like the amount of time it took to get an imbalance of hormones, this didn’t just happen overnight, seed cycling is not a quick-fix. It is known to take 3-4 months before you see results. However, some have seen results in the first month, or at least some improvements like less moodiness and cravings.
  3. More is not better here. Stick to the 1 tablespoon of each seed recommend daily, more will only confuse your body and it will not be able to find it’s natural rhythm. It’s a try keeping a detailed journal of your daily moods and symptoms. This will really help you stay in tune with your body and help to see the changes that occur.
  4. Other important aspects that play a key part to hormone balance are a whole food, plant-based (this doesn’t mean vegetarian or vegan necessarily, but rather means mostly plant foods on your plate, adding in 3-5 ounces of high quality organic and pasture-raised animal proteins are a great addition here), great digestion, stress reduction, and proper, revitalizing exercise. The great news is that we have the power to control it naturally and without medications. If you need any guidance or advice feel free to get in touch with me. I’d love to help Yvonne[at]nutrition-designed.com
  5. This post is aimed at women’s health, but be sure to know men’s hormones can be helps with seed cycling as well. In fact, men’s hormones suffer from the same metabolic imbalances that women do, but because have fewer hormones fluctuations and because they are men they often don’t seek help for it. Therefore, it’s not talked about a lot. However, their hormones closely mirror those of women, being most fertile at the full moon.
  6. If you are a man that wants to try seed cycling simply do the opposite of what is suggested above:
    1. From the new moon to the full moon: 1 tbsp of ground sesame and sunflower seeds
    2. From the full moon to the new moon: 1 tbsp of ground flax and pumpkin seeds

*Why do the seeds need to be freshly ground? This is most important in the flax seeds, since these have a harder shell to protect its nutrients inside, they must be ground in order to be assimilated in the body, otherwise they will simply act as insoluble fiber and be passed right through your body. In general, its best to grind them all in a mortar and pestle, blender or coffee grinder the day of (though they will last for up to 2 days if you want to grind them every other day, otherwise they will go rancid). This will break down the shells of the seeds and make the nutrients more easily absorbable for our digestive system. And please keep all raw seeds (and nuts) in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

If you have any kind of digestive issues you can go an additional step and soak your raw seeds overnight and throw them in a smoothie or otherwise. Or after soaking you can then sprout them or dehydrate them in a dehydrator or the lowest temp in the oven in order to preserve the most nutrients in them by not heating them too high. This soaking and sprouting processes allow them to be more easily digestible and provide the most easily absorbed nutrients in our bodies. Do whatever you can or have time to, either way don’t let any of these processes get in the way of trying seed cycling. You can simply throw the raw seeds on a salad, in soups or anything really, just make sure you chew well to break the seeds down. Simply know that if you don’t grind your seeds it may take a little longer to see the same results.

**If you are pregnant or planning to be, here’s a great article by naturopathic Dr. Amy Neuzil on Seed Cycling for Pregnancy.

Sorry for such a long post. I normally don;t like to write this much, but it’s hard when it comes to health and our bodies, I would rather be thorough than brief.

Have you ever tried seed cycling? What are your thoughts about it? Hit me up if you have any questions about nutrition, health or wellness. I am always here and love to share what I can!

References:
Chestnut school of herbal medicine. (n.d.) The ecology of estrogen in the female body. Referred from http://chestnutherbs.com/the-ecology-of-estrogen-in-the-female-human-body/
Hall, A. (2014, April 20). Seed cycling for hormonal balance. Referred from https://theherbalacademy.com/seed-cycling-for-hormonal-balance/
Hartman, E., 1966. Dreaming sleep (the D State) and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 143:406–16; Swanson, E.M., Foulkes, D. 1968. Dream content and the menstrual cycle, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, vol. 145(5):358–63.
Northrup, C. (n.d.) Wisom of the menstrual cycle. Referred from http://www.drnorthrup.com/wisdom-of-menstrual-cycle/

Olympic Inspiration

Hi there again! Happy Hump Day!

I wanted to pop on here for a quick post today. I just watched the 2016 Olympic anthem, “Rise” by Katy Perry. And it’s breathtaking and so moving, I had tears in my eyes. I was so inspired I had to share it with everyone in case you haven’t seen it yet.

I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. Enjoy!