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Posts Tagged ‘Herbs’

5 Day Autumn Detox

I’m quite fond of my springtime detox, and was feeling a bit weighed down and sluggish as the season transitioned into Autumn. So I decided to do a little research into Autumn detoxes. None of them really appealed to me, so I decided to simply create one using warming veggies that are known to possess detoxification qualities. I wanted something easy on the digestion so I created some pureed and brothy soups from the list of detoxing veg — one of the reasons for embarking was to give my digestion a break, a reboot, a clear slate with which to renew itself. Plan it according to fasting day falling on a day where you can lounge, sleep, rest, read..whatever you do to relax. You don’t want to exert too much energy — mentally or physically — on fasting day. As with the springtime detox, I find fasting to be more successful when I tapper off the amount of food over a few days before fasting, then slowly ramping up portions over a few days when breaking the fast. You can choose to simply fast for 1.5 days up to 3 days.

As I went through this detox, I slept quite a bit (even before fasting day)..reduced the intensity of yoga I practiced, but still taught some tough classes which didn’t help the fatigue/weakness factor — and because of my teaching requirements, I broke the fast Day 5. The mind tried to talk me out of fasting midday on Day 4 (as it usually does when I fast), but my body was happy..so I persevered with the help of hot lemon water and chamomile tea. I did a walking meditation on Day 4 when I walked Mocha – a slow and abbreviated walk (maybe only 1/4 mile over the course of ~15 min). It was most enjoyable. 🙂  If you want to extend the number of fasting days beyond 1-1.5 days, I’d recommend also incorporating an herbal vegetable broth once a day (after a full single day of complete fasting) to keep nutrients coming in, without reigniting the digestive system.

Disclaimer: This is only meant as a way to give yourself a renewed sense of digestive health..NOT as a way to lose weight. As with any protocol that calls for fasting, please listen to your body (but be wary, the mind can play tricks..the body doesn’t lie). If you need to break the fast sooner than expected, break the fast gently. If you are pregnant, refrain from fasting. If you have any medical conditions, please consult a physician before embarking on this detox. Typically with detoxing, salt is recommended as to be avoided — however, if you have serious low blood pressure please include a minimal amount of salt during the detox/fast to avoid black-outs and such.

Day 1: [Eat normal portions for each meal.]

Breakfast: Cup of tea (options: Green, Herbal) + apple (or other autumn fruit) + oatmeal or handful of seeds (options: sunflower, pepitas)
Lunch & Dinner: Roasted Veg (choices: Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale, Garlic, Onion, Artichokes, Beets) served with brown rice or quinoa and baby spinach salad (with baby tomatoes, carrots, seeds, drizzled with a small bit of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice).
Afternoon Teatime: Red Rooibos or Chamomile tea (or a detox tea blend)
Evening Teatime: Chamomile, Red Rooibos, or Coconut Milk Chai using Rooibos tea

Day 2: [Normal portions at lunch, reducing the dinner portion to half of normal.]

Breakfast: Cup of tea (Green, Herbal, or Hot water+lemon wedge) + autumn fruit + handful of seeds
Lunch & Dinner: Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup [roast b. squash, onion, and puree with cauliflower. spices include: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom. veg broth to desired consistency.] OR Potato-Broccoli-Kale Soup [broccoleek soup+kale] + green smoothie at one of the meals (to make things easier, buying a Naked or Odwalla Green Monster or SuperFood smoothie will suffice..unless you want to make your own green smoothies).
Afternoon Teatime: Herbal tea, Detox tea blend, or Dandelion Tea
Evening Teatime: Chamomile, Red Rooibos, or Coconut Milk Chai using Rooibos tea

Day 3: [Option to begin fasting after lunch.]

Breakfast: Cup of tea (Herbal or Hot water+lemon wedge) + glass of juice (if feeling you need some blood sugar love)
Lunch: leftover Day 2 Soup or Herbal Broth (veggie broth heated with herbs like turmeric, garlic, oregano, thyme, coriander)
Afternoon Teatime: Herbal tea, Detox tea blend, or Dandelion Tea
Dinner: optional to begin fasting and skip dinner, or perhaps just have a green smoothie or Herbal Broth for dinner if you had soup for lunch
Evening Teatime: Cup of Chamomile or other light herbal tea

Day 4: [Fasting Day]

Anytime you feel the need for tea or a snack, have some hot water with lemon, Chamomile, a fasting/detox blend (pending it doesn’t have caffeine). As mentioned before, listen to your body — rest, relax, restore. Your mind will try to tell you to break the fast.. “why am I doing this? just eat!” yada yada.. but your body will tell you the truth. If you’re experiencing migraines (not just a slight headache, that is common), severe nausea (not just mild upset stomach), or black-outs, BREAK THE FAST with some light herbal broth or a smoothie.

Day 5: [Option to continue fast or reintroducing food.]

If continuing to fast, have a small bowl of herbal broth midday, then continue as Day 4 and use Day 5 as a guide for when you break the fast. I wouldn’t recommend fasting for more than 3-5 days — and always listen to your body and break when your body needs it. Don’t reintroduce too much food at once..go slow!
Morning Teatime: Hot water with lemon or any light herbal tea + glass of juice (if breaking the fast)
Lunch (about 1.5 C serving): Herbal Soup (see Day 3) + green smoothie
Afternoon Teatime: Herbal tea, Detox tea blend, Dandelion Tea, or Nettle Tea + apple
Dinner: Small portion of any leftover Day 2 soup, or Herbal Soup with the addition of peas or any leftover veg+rice/quinoa from day 1
Evening Teatime: Chamomile or Coconut Milk Chai using Rooibos tea

As with the Springtime detox, focus on calm breathing, positive thoughts, rest, and getting in touch with the change of the seasons. Autumn is a great time to reflect on seeds which we plant for a bountiful harvest in the spring, to let go of the high-heat energy of summer and linger in a slower-paced, mellow energy, to reflect on that which we should let go/release the way the trees release the leaves that no longer serve the health of the tree.

Happy Fasting!

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I love a good saucy bowl of pasta, but sometimes you want something lighter. I love tossing lightly cooked veg with some olive oil and noodles. I love the dimensions of the fresh basil (or herb of choice), naked in the olive oil, bringing out the flavors of Farmers Market-fresh tomatoes. Now Nikki, before you gasp at the little amount of garlic in this dish, feel free to add in as much as you like. However, I designed this dish for the basil to be the star and you don’t want to step in a star’s spotlight – it never goes over well. The backup dancers are there to make the star shine, not drown her out and step on her cues. This is a great dish to make for a weeknight dinner, since the noodles cook while you’re doing the veg..and by the time the noodles are done, so are the veg ready to top it… This recipe makes about 4 servings, served alongside soup or salad.

Ingredients:

1/2 shallot, minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped but with big stems removed
2-3 large tomatoes
fresh basil, chopped – as much as you can stand: perhaps 1/4C – 1C, plus a few sprigs for garnish
a few TBSP olive oil, plus more for drizzling
oregano, fresh (2 TBSP) or dried (2 tsp)
salt and pepper to taste
1 pack linguini

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of unsalted water to boil. Once boiling, add in about 1 tsp or so of salt and  a package of linguini, and cook according to package directions.
2. In a medium-sized skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Mince the shallot and garlic, and saute about 3 minutes, when they begin to soften. Add in kale and oregano (if using dried) with salt and pepper, and continue to saute about 5-10 minutes – depending on how you like your kale. I like mine cooked longer rather than shorter to help it soften and become less chewy.
3. Meanwhile, chop fresh basil, oregano (if using fresh) and tomatoes. Add to kale mixture, and cook about 2-3 minutes, just to warm through the tomatoes.
4. Drain the noodles and plate out 4 equal servings. Top with veg, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and, if you’re a basil fanatic like me, sprinkle with more fresh chopped basil.

Kale and Tomato Linguini

**Serve alongside a Pasta e Fagioli (without pasta in the soup, unless you just can’t get enough pasta) or Chickpea Dinner salad, followed by a light dessert like French Martini Frozen Yogurt.

Note: If you’re like Jo and not a fan of basil, try another distinct-flavor herb like cilantro and give a squeeze of fresh lime juice in step 4, just before serving.

Happy Cooking!

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Teatime: Thyme Tea

Ah, another wonderful tea brought to you by the Innocent Primates! Thyme is typically used in cooking right? Well, it also serves as a lovely tea for after dinner. Thyme is known to be a digestive aid, and it settles an upset tummy. Historically, thyme has been used as an antiseptic for coughs, colds and sore throats, along with being overall a good relaxer of the respiratory system in cases of spasms and such. Ladies, thyme tea is great for soothing cramps during menstruation. Another antiseptic aspect – it’s good as a compress on the eyes for styes, conjunctivitis, and helping aid pink eye. Use fresh garden thyme on fresh cuts and scrapes as an immediate antiseptic remedy. Gargling thyme water will soothe swollen tonsils. Thyme also has wonderful anti-fungal properties, so it’s great for athlete’s foot and yeast infections. Thyme essential oil (external use only) is used to lift spirits and mood in aromatherapy.

Thyme tea for teatime (hehe, couldn’t help it)

2-4 sprigs (2-inch long sprigs)

1 C boiling water

Place thyme sprigs in your tea mug of choice and bring water to a boil. Pour boiling water over thyme and steep, covered (a small plate will do – this keeps in the volatile oils which give you all the goods), for approximately 15-20 minutes. Since it’s a fresh herbal tea, you can leave the thyme in there while you drink it, or take it out. It won’t become bitter like black or green teas. Lightly sweeten with nectar if needed, but Sara and I usually don’t. Of course, we’re used to it…so taste it and see what you think.

thyme tea

Happy Teatime!

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Summer is in full swing, as exemplified by the rising temperatures and the rising hemlines. July, August, these are months that make you wish you lived under the sea where the water is always cool and little crabs orchestrated a calypso band (Little Mermaid reference for those not with me). So what is a young, health-conscious lady (or gent) to do to maintain their inner-cool?

As temperatures rise, we are all warned of the risk on the elderly and athletes about heat stroke and heat stress, but obviously this can affect anyone of any age. Heat stress occurs if physical activity during heat and humidity upsets the body’s fluid balance. The body must maintain it’s ability to dissipate heat through perspiration, and as air temperature and humidity increase, the body’s ability to do this is lowered. No to mention that higher temperatures result in a higher core temperature as the body absorbs heat from the sun.

The mildest form of heat-related illness is swelling. Blood pooling in the hands and feet occur when the blood vessels dilate in response to the heat. Another symptom is heat cramps, painful spasms of the skeletal muscles in the arms, legs, and abdomen. Heat syncope, or fainting, occurs with prolonged standing or upon sudden rising from a seated position. If too much sodium is removed from the body via sweat/perspiration, cramps occur. All of these are warning signs of heat exhaustion (so take heed of these symptoms and listen to your body). Heat exhaustion occurs is a person experiences excessive sweating in a hot, humid environment, and fluids become depleted. Profuse sweating can occur even after the person is moved to a cooler location, and there may be several hours to several days of appetite loss, chills, dizziness, hypotension, racing pulse, muscular weakness, nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances.

One herbal remedy to help milder cases of heat stress include bitter orange tea (Citrus aurantium), which helps maintain electrolyte balance. Avoid sport’s drinks which are loaded with sugar and actually place additional fluid stress on the body. Bitter orange tea (aka Bergamot orange, otherwise known as Earl Grey or Bergamot tea) can also help prevent heat stress in those individuals who suffer from hypertension. Drink the tea whenever heat stress is a possibility – if you can find the herb itself, though it’s more common to find it in capsule form at your local hippie-mart. And my personal favorite, cayenne powder. Now, the recommendation is to dissolve 1/2 tsp in 1 C boiling water, then take 1 TBSP of the mixture with 1 C hot water – drink slowly. Not everyone may find this enjoyable, so spicy food is acceptable too. This relieves headache and fever, and induces gustatory sweating. Of course, chili peppers only increase perspiration if it is hot outside, but have no effect on perspiration if it is cold out. Ergo, eating a spicy meal in Texas in July causes greater perspiration, but the same meal consumed in Alaska in January will have no effect on perspiration.

It’s important to sip cool, slightly salty liquids if you experience symptoms of heat stress. Do not try to force down large quantities of liquid. You also want to lie down in a shaded place, preferably with your feet elevated higher than your head.
You also want to drink plenty of fluids before work or exercise in heat, not to mention during and after. Before exercise, the amount of sodium can be obtained through consumption of salty foods – though this doesn’t mean greasy fries or potato chips, think lightly salted roasted veg and rice or add a some salt to a fruit smoothie. One teaspoon of salt added to one quart of water supplies enough sodium to avoid cramps.

Some medications can increase susceptibility to heat stress, such as alcohol, amphetamines, antidepressants, seizure meds, illicit drugs, allergy medication, and others. So check with your doctor if you are on any medication to find out if you are susceptible based on your medication.

*Of note: If the core temperature reaches 105°F (40.5°C) or more, this is considered heat stroke and is a medical emergency. At this point, internal production of heat exceeds the heat-relieving capacity of perspiration, and sweating ceases. Disorientation, irregular heartbeat, and seizures may occur, and there is an increased risk of heat attack and stroke. Heat stroke is more common in older individuals who stay indoors in buildings without air conditioning during heat waves, but is more severe if it is caused by athletic activity in extreme heat. If symptoms of heat stroke occur, seek immediate medical attention.

Happy Summer!
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Lemon Balm Lemonade

LemonBalmLemonadeI’ve been overrun with lemon balm, so much that I’m giving it away to friends and family in bulk! It seems like every weekend I trim an increasing number of sprigs of it to dry, leaving plenty left growing for fresh tea all week. So what can you do with all that excess dried lemon balm during these hot summer months? Cool off with a refreshing glass of lemon balm lemonade, naturally! This is so simple to make, easy enough to consider this a DF-category recipe 😉 . If you don’t have lemon balm, you could use another herb like lemon verbena or even a lemon thyme. This recipe makes about four 8-oz servings, so feel free to double the recipe if you’ll need (or want) more.

Ingredients:

1.25 C water
1/3 C nectar (or 1/2 C plus 2 tsp sugar)
1/4 C dried lemon balm (lemon verbena, lemon thyme, etc)
zest of 2 lemons (I got about a shy 1/4 C from 2 medium lemons), cut into 3-inch-long strips, plus 3/4 C fresh lemon juice (from about 3 medium lemons – the 2 you zested + 1 more)
1/2 C mint leaves *optional
2 C ice

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, combine the water with the nectar (or sugar) and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the nectar (or sugar). Add the dried lemon balm leaves and the strips of lemon zest and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and mint (if using) and let stand at room temperature until cool, about an hour. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 20 min. Strain into glasses filled with ice and enjoy immediately.*It is a bit on the tart side, so pouring over ice will let it come to perfection as the ice melts without watering it down. If you don’t want to serve over ice, add about 1/4 C cold water before serving – unless you’re fond of the super tart like me!

*You can adjust the sweetness of the lemonade by adding more nectar, 1 TBSP at a time.
*For a slushy variation: Strain the lemon mixture into a blender along with the 2 C ice. Blend on high speed until smooth and frothy. Pour into tall glasses and serve right away.
LemonBalmLemonade2

Happy Juicing!
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FeverfewTanaceetum parthenium
Originally, feverfew was a native plant of southeastern Europe, but is now common throughout Australia, Europe, and North America. It is a moisture-loving perennial, and in the photo is my personal plant in year 2 (so it can certainly survive a Midwest winter). It can grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall, and white flowers with yellow centers that bloom all summer long – which makes it an attractive border plant. It is usually free from pests and diseases, and in fact is historically known as a plant that repels undesirable insects.

The aboveground parts (leaves, flowers, etc..not roots) that are used in herbal medicine. Since the first century, feverfew has been used in the treatment of headaches, as well as used for treating inflammation, arthritis, menstrual discomforts, fever, and other general aches and pains. It has been show that feverfew stops white blood cells from absorbing the amino acid thymidine, which reduce the rate of inflammatory chemical (leukotriene) production as well as fatty acid byproduct production which are essential to the production of those leukotrienes. This is a benefit to those suffering from lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

For those who suffer from migraines, feverfew is thought to reduce the production of seratonin. Seratonin is involved in the constriction of blood vessels and the release of pain-causing chemicals. A clinical trial in England found that taking feverfew for four months reduced the frequency and severity of migraine attacks, as well as reducing the accompanying vomiting and visual distortion. However, the duration of the migraine was not affected.

Human consumption: If you want to take feverfew as an herbal remedy, it should be consumed in a capsule form of the freeze-dried herb. People who are allergic to ragweed maybe be allergic to this herb as well. Pregnant women should avoid taking feverfew as it can cause uterine bleeding. Nursing mothers should also avoid taking feverfew because its active components can be transmitted through breast milk which may cause allergies in the child. If you are on any blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), you should not take feverfew. Though there are no reports of detrimental interaction with this class of drugs, it is theoretically possible. Fresh leaves may cause dermatitis and mouth ulcers if eaten, so be cautious.

On another note, the flowers are often used for crafts and in floral arrangements.

Happy Gardening!

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We’ve discussed growing several garden herbs (see Relaxing With Gnomes category), and the various health aspects associated with them..but what to do when you are overrun with fresh herbs? Here’s where we’ll talk about drying those delicious, fresh herbs you work so hard to grow. For the example photos here, I’ll use lemon balm..but the steps are the same for any herb you have. My lemon balm from last year is already ready for it’s first drying harvest! And we’re barely into May!! My returning oregano is almost ready for a drying harvest, but I’ll give it a few more weeks. I’ve already used oregano in cooking, and made some lemon balm tea – but here I’ll focus on harvests for drying instead of just a sprig or two for cooking..

1. Harvesting: Snip long primary stems just above a nodule (just above a leaf sprout). Continue snipping, but don’t take more than about 30% of the plant, unless you’re harvesting at the end of the season.

lemon balm herb
2. Rinse cut herbs thoroughly. You don’t want any remnants of dirt, unless you like that added flavor in your dishes drying herbs: lemon balmand tea. 😉
3. Tie the ends of all the stems together with twine or string of any kind. All I had was that thin ribbon used for presents, from which you can make those fun curly cues…

4. Hang anywhere that won’t bother you. I have hung them from cabinet knobs or nails in the wall – anywhere you can find. Depending on the herb, drying time varies. Larger leaf herbs, like basil, take longer. Oregano, for me, can dry fully within about 3-5 days. Basil, though I didn’t time it, I let dry for at least a week, maybe 8 days. Like I said, I didn’t check every day.
5. When herbs are thoroughly dry, remove herb leaves from the large/thick stems if you like (such as with basil or rosemary), then crumble or chop them into small bits and store in airtight containers. I use old spice/herb jars that I had previously bought said herb (before growing it). Example: When the dried basil I had bought a while back was empty, I filled it with my freshly dried garden basil.

drying herbs: lemon balmHappy Gardening!

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