Eat Your Colors

 We've all heard the phrase "Eat your colors!"  but do most of us know what it means?
A lot of people think that Mother Nature is into pretty things and that is why she makes such a variety of colors and flavors. I've come to learn that everything we see in Nature has it's purpose. It's like a huge educational jigsaw puzzle and I don't claim to have all the pieces but here is what I have gathered during my years of exploring.
 When it comes to healthy food, a lot of us focus on things like Protein, Fat , Fiber, Omega-3 Fatty acid, Carbohydrates, but we never talk about Purple, Orange, Green, or Yellow. We sometimes even talk about Vitamins and Minerals, and how adding them to our daily regimen will make us healthier, but again we never talk about White or Red ( well, maybe sometimes, and it's always about wine with those two).
 It turns out that there is a lot to learn about colors, and colors are not colors at all, they are tiny miracle workers, called phytonutrients, created by Nature to heal and protect.
 There are thousands of phytonutrients identified by scientists. They are only found in plants ("phyto" = plant in Greek) and work together with the vitamin, mineral and fiber content of those plants to protect them from damage or heal any damage that is already done. They have the same effect on the human body and that is why a rainbow on your plate every day will definitely keep the doctor away.

All green plants contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is one of the great detoxifiers of the body. It helps the liver produce enzymes which help the body get rid of potentially carcinogenic substances. Chlorophyll also delivers oxygen in your blood and it will help a great deal if you are anemic. It builds the blood,as we herbalists like to say. Midwives often recommend some form of chlorophyll to women who lose a lot of blood during labor in order to heal their system and build back their strength. The darker the green color of a plant, the more chlorophyll it contains.
Green plants are also full of Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, and Omega-3 fatty acid. So if you are worried about blood clots, high blood preasure, or if you want a healthy baby , eat your greens.

When it comes to reds,there are three main things to remember : resveratrol, lycopene, and capsacin. You want all those as your friends. Resveratrol is found in red grapes and red wine ( yes, I said wine, you can open that bottle for dinner). It helps inhibit inflamation in the body. Capsacin is found in hot red peppers, like cayenne or chillis. If you ask Dr. John Christopher, founder of the School of Natural Healing, cayenne is a heal-all. It will bring blood to parts of the body that need it most in order to start the healing of those parts. It will help with poor blood circulation and can save you from a heart attack,. It will also heal your sore muscles and stop a bleeding ulcer.
Lycopene is a phytonutrient that has become more known in the later years. It is a carotenoid that has proven cancer preventing and heart strengthening benefits. Your best source of lycopene is cooked tomatoes. Cooking makes this phytonutrient more accessible for the body.

We've all heard that purple foods contain a lot of antioxidants and that is why we should eat blueberries in our oatmeal/yoghurt every morning. The color purple ( and some hues of red and blue) in fruits, veggies and flowers, comes from a compound called anthocyanin. It gives the plant a potent cancer fighting power, it can lower blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol, and since in Nature it is all about balance, it also increases "good" cholesterol. Purple plants and foods have been a part of almost every culture and healing system around the world. Think of Elderberry, and it's potent anti-viral and anti-microbial properties; or enjoy a bowl of Forbidden rice with it's beautiful purple/almost black color, it contains more anthocyanins per serving than blueberries. Purple foods also have the ability to heal and improve the function of the liver.

Yellow fruits and vegetables are full of carotenoids and flavonoids, as well as Vitamin C. As children we were told that eating our carrots will help keep our eyes healthy and our vision good. Guess what? Mom wasn't joking.  Beta-carotene is one of the most active compounds in yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables. It gives them their distinctive sunshine color and helps keep our eyes happy and healthy.
Vitamin C rich foods help boost our immune system, help our body rebuild collagen supplies, keep your artheries clean and your blood preesure where it needs to be. Think about that : there is even a disease , called scurvy, which is caused by defficiency of Vitamin C in the body. It is that important!

 So, next time you are in the supermarket, or the farmers market, or even better, your own garden, try a new color. You don't even have to explore the exotic foods stand. If you like carrots, try them in purple or yellow! Purple potato salad , anyone? Or maybe, try some yellow and purple beans, instead of their green cousins, this spring! And most important, have fun with your food! Anyone can be an artist!

What is the best herbal remedy for you?

 I have been busy lately and missing from this virtual space. I've been focusing my creative energy on making herbal magic. Beautiful and delicious herbal remedies that will nourish body and soul. We all need to focus on our creativity from time to time and take care of our mind as well as our bodies.
 I wanted to share with you the projects I've been working on and to talk about ways to get most out of your herbal remedies.  I am convinced that a lot of the times when people claim herbs don't work for them , it is because they do not use the proper method of preparation. I always say, that if  I managed to convince my husband in choosing an herbal regimen over traditional blood pressure medication, then anyone can successfully find plants that will work for their specific problem. We are all unique and we can not be treated in the same way. This is one of the mistakes of modern medicine. Herbal remedies are as individual as the person who takes them. I know it sounds like a lot of work , and like we all should be herbalists in order to find our way around the massive amount of information out there. Believe me , it is actually a lot simpler than this. Everybody can benefit from the same herbal infusions, or tinctures, or herbal capsules, it's just a matter of choosing the right method of preparation.
 Here are a few tips on how to choose the most beneficial herbal preparation for (almost) any given situation:
  • Are you trying to treat an acute or a chronic condition? - This is very important since an acute condition requires immediate action , like when you have the flu, or are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea. I really like using tinctures for acute conditions since they bring the right concentrated amount of the herb's beneficial compound in a small dose.  For example, when I notice my 3 year old getting sick , I often give him Echinacea Glycerite. It is much easier to give him a dropperful of liquid than to make him drink enormous amounts of tea. It is quick and simple to administer , and I can be sure that he gets the right amount of medicine to prevent the upcoming cold. A chronic condition on the other hand often requires a long term protocol of herbal medicine complemented by diet, exercise and other alternative healing methods like acupuncture, massage , etc. This may require smaller doses of herbal medicine that builds up in the system in order to nourish and balance, rather than promote an immune reaction. For example, my husband manages his high blood pressure with a combination of herbs which he takes as an infusion daily , as well as some herbal capsules, proper diet and exercise. He drinks a little over a quart of a wonderful tea , called Brave Heart, which I created for him. It helps to gently detoxify his body by supporting gut function and has some herbs that strengthen the heart muscle and manage his body's ability to handle stress. He also takes a great herbal formula with cayenne to stimulate proper blood circulation in his body. His diet is made of real food, no "low fat" or "low carb", or other labels that might make it look healthier. Just home made. We eat pastured eggs and bacon, and wonderful sourdough bread, tons of fermented veggies, and antibiotic and hormone free meats, as well as tons of veggies and fruits. This is something he can follow for a long time and it helps to bring his body to balance. Do not forget that everything in nature is created with the ability to protect and heal itself. Our bodies just need a little reminder of how to do it.
  • Are you taking the right dose for you? - I think this is the second most important thing that we should focus on. Often, people purchase an herbal supplement and they look at the label in order to determine how much to take. It is a good general guideline but you have to know that it might not work for you. We all have different age and weight and different tolerance to the plants. Some people might need just a few drops of a tincture and some might need a whole dropperful to feel the effect. So, the general rule is to start small , maybe 5 drops of a tincture or one capsule of an herbal formula , and then build up to the amount that gives you the desired effect. Do not forget that your body might not tolerate the same herbs as my body does. But don't worry , Mother Nature has something for all of us. There are many plants which might seem similar in their function, but can be tolerated differently by different people. For example, if you need a nervine,something to calm you down, but not put you to sleep, you might want to try a cup of chamomile tea at night, or add some lemon balm, or tincture of skullcap. Just listen to your body!
  • Is this the latest marketing trick? - I think people often ignore backyard medicine over the latest "discovery" on the news. My general rule is: Do your research. Take the time to get to know what grows around you, especially if you still live in the climate where you grew up. If you are an outdoors person it is good to know the plants that are available to you in the wild , so you can have medicine when you need it. A dandelion can be more healing than a plant you can not pronounce. It is a lot cheaper as well. Backyard medicine is often free and it can actually connect you to a wonderful crowd of people that cherish the Earth and its treasures. community can be therapeutic as well. :)
  • Are you taking a whole herb preparation? - I am a strong believer in the amazing properties of plants as nature created them. I don't like to take single constituents derived from even the safest plant. Things can go very wrong. Think about the fact that many of the conventional medications come from plants and they still tag an enormous list of side effects. Isn't this what we want to avoid? On the other hand, nature has created plants with such a diverse number of constituents, that even modern science hasn't been able to catch up yet. Usually plants contain an active compound ( often more than one) and additional compounds which allow our bodies to properly utilize its main function and which protect us from harmful effects and overdosing. Taking only isolated active compounds in pill form is what gives some herbs, like comfrey and ephedra, their bad reputation. Choose herbal infusions, syrups, tinctures, or whole plant capsules for your herbal needs. I want to add that I do recommend essential oils in some cases and they can be a miracle worker when you are on the go, even though they are not whole plant product. But it will take another blog post to dive into such a vast subject like essential oils. 
I hope this short list of questions might help you choose the right herbal preparation for your needs. Trying new things is the best way to figure out what works best for you. If you purchase a tincture , or a syrup, or an infusion, and it doesn't work for you, do not throw it away. Just pass it along to a friend or a family member, or save it for another time when your body might need it.  

What herbal preparations are your favorite?