Category Archives: Herbal Medicine

Adaptogens: Amazing Natural Stress Busters

Amazing Adaptogens: Powerful Stress Busters from Nature

by Helen Wells

Expensive new treatments promising to turn back the hands of time are constantly on the market, yet often, the most efficient weapons against stress, ageing and disease, can be found in nature. This is the case of ‘adaptogens’, which comprise a number of plants and roots and which have in common one amazing quality – the ability to boost our ‘non-specific resistance’ to ageing, illness and tiredness. They are called ‘adaptogens’ because of their ability to adapt to our body’s specific needs, helping our system counter anxiety and stress gently, without any jolts or sudden changes.

Adaptogens: A Not-So-New Phenomenon

Adaptogens may sound new to us, but they have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, to boost energy and increase resistance in the face of stressful situations. Today, they are used in many settings, including top drug rehabilitation centers, where an integrated approach to healing is employed. Thus, to battle the anxiety and stress that arises when one attempts to detox or withdraw from harmful addictions, natural remedies are as vital as humanistic remedies. A wide range of therapies are being used, including holistic therapies such as yoga, compassion-based therapies and of course, adaptogens. The fascinating book, Adaptogens. Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, notes, “Adaptogens are important supportive therapies for patients experiencing drug withdrawal regardless of whether they are quitting legal habits such as cigarettes, alcohol or coffee, or illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or amphetamines…”

Schisandra rubriflora, by Scott Zona at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, UK. This Adaptogen is one of the best natural stress busters out there.

Schisandra rubriflora, by Scott Zona at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, UK. This Adaptogen is one of the best natural stress busters out there.

The Unique Synergy of Adaptogens: Natural Stress Busters

Soviet scientist, I.I. Brekham, explained why adaptogens are so powerful: it’s not just the combination of chemicals, vitamins, acids etc. which are present in adaptogenic plants and roots that are important – so, too, is the unique way all these components are combined. Brekham’s research revealed that some of the many benefits of adaptogens include protection from radiation damage, a boost in antibody levels, increased vitality, natural detoxification of the body, enhanced repair of proteins in cells, and greater endurance. Thus, adaptogens are an excellent ally when it comes to battling ageing, both on the external level and internally. Brekham and other Soviet scientists noted that when we are young, our body is able to adapt naturally to stressors such as harsh weather, pollution etc. but as we grow older, we lose this ability – this is where adaptogens can help – by enabling us to resist the stressors that cause illness.




Essential Requirements for Adaptogens

To be considered an adaptogen, a plant or herb must demonstrate the following characteristics:

  1. It must be non-toxic when taken at a standard dosage.
  2. It must increase our ability to fight non-specific stressors. (i.e. be a natural stress busters)
  3. It must have normalizing abilities (i.e. it should be able to reduce blood pressure in someone with high blood pressure, and increase blood pressure in those whose levels are too low).

Powerful Adaptogens

Some of the most widely researched and lauded adaptogens include:

  • Panax Ginseng: Health expert and best-selling author, Leslie Kenton, notes that this type of ginseng, which boosts the immunity, should be taken in root form – the most powerful are grown in Korea or China and they are best taken when they are at least six years old. If you are unable to find Panax Ginseng in root form, opt for the supplement form, but bear in mind that supplements often have additives and preservatives.
  • Siberian Ginseng: This adaptogen, also known as Eleuthrococcus senticosus,a relatively new discovery compared to Panax Ginseng, is known as the ‘devil’s shrub’. Its roots are also used to resist illness and fatigue, though its effects take a few weeks to build up. Some of its benefits include increased endurance, enhanced sleep and memory, and improved sports performance.
  • Ashwaganda: Known as Indian Ginseng, this adaptogen regulates the immune system and is also used to quell the symptoms of anxiety. It has been used for over 2,500 years in Indian medicine and is often used to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. Its efficiency has been proven in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. For further information, see the study carried out by Chandrasekhar et. al., published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine (2012).
  • Rhodiola Rosea: This wonderful extract has the ability to raise or lower cortisol levels in the body, as required by each individual.
  • Schisandra chinensis: This “five flavor fruit” in Traditional Chinese Medicine is so named because it balances all of the healing principles attributed to each flavor.  It has been shown to balance liver function, increase endurance and stamina, and act as a powerful antioxidant.
  • Withania somnifera: This potent adaptogen is especially helpful to moderate the effects of stress on sleep.  Generally it helps protect your body from the non-specific effects of stress, meaning it helps your body to deal with stressors and not get ill.

Adaptogens are a great ally for people of all ages; not only do they have no or minimal side-effects, these natural stress busters can help stave off the numerous effects of stress, both on a physical and mental level. Since they regulate the immune system, lower stress levels and soothe pain, they truly are Nature’s powerful healers.

Thanks again to Helen Wells for contributing this piece – Adaptogens are part of my frequent routine because they feel so nourishing on every level. Any time I need a little extra energy, a little more oomph, a better night of sleep or to take the edge off stress. – Amy.



Castor Oil – The Best Thing You Never Knew You Needed

I was reminded the other day how many people don’t know about all of the cheap and easy old-timey remedies that people used to rely on, like castor oil.  Many of these remedies have been used for centuries, simply because they work.  Castor oil is one such helpful substance that really does fix just about everything as well today as it did in it’s first recorded use 3000 years ago.  Really, if it’s been working for 3000 years, chances are it’s going to keep working.

Castor oil - picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA

Castor oil – picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA. This bottle is from the light-keepers house at Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.

There are internal uses for castor oil, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest them simply because this isn’t a gentle plant – it’s a kick in the pants (literally).  Castor oil taken internally is a laxative strong enough not only to induce bowel cramping and diarrhea, but even to induce labor contractions in pregnant women.  I actually used it to induce labor for myself recently and I can honestly say the castor-oil cramps were almost as bad as the labor pains. Eek!   Not a lot of fun, but if you’re impatiently waiting for a baby it does work. The reaction is so strong that castor oil is even reputed to have been used by fascist mobs in Italy in the 1920s as a form of intimidation (I would be intimidated).  Essentially these mobs would force feed their victims castor oil and turn them lose to have an agonizing and embarrassing bout of violent diarrhea. This, I suppose, made the victims then comply with whatever it was the fascist mob wanted in the first place. Ummm… Yeah. So don’t use it like that please.




While I’m obviously not a big fan of internal use in all but the most dire circumstances, topical use of castor oil is a miracle strong enough to make it a necessary part of every medicine cabinet.   The uses for topical castor oil are threefold:

  1. Digestive – Castor oil over the liver and abdomen helps to treat constipation, inflammatory bowel, liver congestion, gall bladder disease, bowel adhesions, lymphatic congestion, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and  even infections in pelvic organs such as bladder and vaginal tract. For anyone looking to cleanse the liver or eliminate gallbladder sludge, this is a necessary.
  2. Skin – Topically castor oil can help with bacterial or fungal skin infections, rashes, acne, boils, abscesses, age spots, sebaceous cysts, warts, preventing stretch marks, ringworm, skin keratosis, swollen lymph nodes and eczema. It takes redness out of rashes through a strong anti-inflammatory action and softens even the most resistant skin, so it’s also a great natural beauty tool.
  3. Pain – Topical castor oil can also be used to mitigate or relieve internal pain and inflammation from many causes.  This includes uterine cramping and abdominal pain related to the menses, joint pain and inflammation from arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis, muscle and ligament sprains, pain due to fluid retention in extremities, painful lymph nodes, even pain from appendicitis (although you still need to get to the ER post haste)

So – let me say this a different way. TOPICAL castor oil can help with:

  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Abdominal pain and inflammation
  • Adhesions after surgery
  • Lymphatic congestion
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver detox
  • Gallbladder sludge
  • Gallstones
  • Pelvic infections
  • Menstrual cramps or pain
  • Fungal infections
  • Acne
  • Boils
  • Abcesses
  • Age spots
  • Eczema
  • Stretch mark prevention
  • Keratosis
  • Rashes
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Muscle and ligament sprains and strains
  • Painful lymph nodes

The reason for it’s dramatic success in so many areas is simply the size of the primary molecule, ricinoleic acid, which comprises about 90% of the oil’s volume.  Ricinoleic acid is strongly anti-inflammatory and is a small enough molecule to penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin as well as into the lymphatic channels.  This penetration and effect is even better if you use heat on the area being treated. I recently had to have a C-section to deliver my little girl (the same one that was induced with castor oil – as it turns out her head was bigger than my body could handle).  Castor oil topically over the C-section scar has helped it to soften and heal and really helped with the initial post-labor pain.

The best news is that 8oz of organic castor oil will run between $5 and $10 depending on how fancy a store you like to shop in.  That 8oz will last most of your natural life because there’s really only so much you can use at once. Stay tuned for instructions on how to do an at home castor oil pack – both the conventional instructions, and my own much lazier method. 🙂

The castor bean plant, also called Palma Christi, or Palm of Christ.  Possibly because of its hand-shaped leaves, possibly because castor oil is as close to a miracle as I’ve ever seen.



Response to the Attorney General – How To Find Good Quality Supplements

I am writing in response to the scandalous NY Attorney General’s investigation of herbal supplements sold at major retailers including GNC, Target, Walmart and Walgreens because clearly these are not good quality supplements.  The gist of the investigation is that when the house brands (meaning Target brand or Walmart brand) of different herbal products were tested, the majority of them didn’t contain any of the herb listed on the label. Instead they contained food or filler ingredients designed to mimic that herb like mustard, powdered rice, wheat or radish or powdered house plants. Obviously some of these fillers could be dangerous to those with allergies or sensitivities and they did not appear anywhere on the label. The New York Attorney General’s office issued a cease and desist order to these retailers, demanding that they fix the problem. The quote below was taken from the cease and desist letters reprinted in the NY Times.

“Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products constitute deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present considerable health risks for consumers,”

There is some question as to the methods the Attorney General’s office used to test the supplements, as it is not a well-established way of testing herbal products.  The American Botanical Council issued a response to this test stating:

“The action by the New York Attorney General is highly problematic,” added Blumenthal. “We here at ABC are sympathetic with the AG’s obvious concern about the reported problems associated with adulteration of herbal ingredients in dietary supplements. After all, ABC is the international leader in educating the industry, researchers, and health professionals about the problems associated with adulterated botanical ingredients through our leadership of the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program. However, everything we are doing in our Program is based on scientific research, including evaluation of appropriate testing methods, and full peer review. We respectfully must question whether an appropriate level of scientific rigor has been applied in this case.”

As this particular case unfolds we will learn the truth – which I believe is a mix of both sides of the story.  It could be that there is some of the active ingredient in the products that the DNA testing failed to detect, but if DNA testing detected ingredients that aren’t on the label, then that’s an equally big problem.  The supplement industry is full of sad cases like this in which customers are buying products in good faith to help themselves based on their own research and investigation, but not getting what they pay for, and in some cases getting dangerous substitutes.

Finding Good Quality Supplements:

It is important to buy supplements from trusted sources, most frequently from health care practitioners themselves, or from a retailer who can carry professional grade products like Peoples Rx . The problems within the industry are readily apparent. Complex regulations that are hugely expensive to follow, with nobody to actually enforce those regulations leads to a lot of companies bending the rules. Especially herbal and supplement companies that are trying to be the cheapest product out there – which is mostly what large retailers carry.




Don’t look for the cheapest supplements. Higher price doesn’t always mean better quality, but lower price always means that the company has cut some corners somewhere to deliver a cheaper product.  There are several things to look for when choosing good quality supplements – and some of it comes down to brand knowledge. Research the products you buy before you buy them, or better yet take them under the advisement of a well trained professional. If you’re looking for products on your own look for:

  • GMP certified – All supplement companies should meet the Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines set out by the FDA and should be inspected regularly to make sure they are still in compliance. Products should state that they are GMP certified on the label.

    GMP certified should always be displayed on a good quality supplements (although the image may not look exactly like this)

    GMP certified should always be displayed on a good quality supplements (although the seal may not look exactly like this)

  • Professional-only – Most supplement companies sell to anyone, anywhere. But those typically don’t go through the level of testing and verification that professional-only lines do.  These are companies that only sell through health professionals because their products are strong and effective enough that it is important for customer safety that they be used correctly. Some retail outfits, like Peoples Rx are able to stock products like this because their wellness staff is composed of trained health professionals. For the most part these products will be found in your practitioner’s office.
  • Independently tested – Professional lines are all independently tested to verify that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the bottle, and that there isn’t anything extra in there that shouldn’t be. This is a big deal because the products tested by the Attorney General’s office largely didn’t have any of the herb they claimed to have – meaning those capsules were filled with something else. Don’t risk your health on “something else.”
  • 800 Number – Companies who stand by their product quality will make it easy for you to contact them to ask them about the products, the verification that they go through, and the quality standards that are in place.  Look for an 800 number on the product label and feel free to call them to ask all of your questions.

Companies Who Manufacture Good Quality Supplements:

The supplement industry is both under-regulated and easy to mis-use. In spite of that there are still companies that are out there doing it right. They are spending their own money to make sure that their products are batch-tested and that everything that’s on the label is in the bottle.  The companies that I trust and have personally looked into include:

  • Pure Encapsulations
  • Thorne Research
  • Integrative Therapeutics Inc (ITI)
  • Standard Process
  • NuMedica
  • Xymogen

This is not a complete list, but these are companies that I use most frequently and have researched extensively. I would urge you to always look for good quality supplements and skip the bargain bin – there are some things you don’t want to compromise.  Also, by buying high quality supplements and skipping the bargain bin, you are reinforcing the message to the makers of these supplements that we want the real thing. As consumers we don’t want to be deceived, we are willing to do the research to find the best products.



‘Tis The Season! Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu

After having just spent several days in bed sniffling and sneezing and coughing and generally feeling icky, it seems like a good time to talk about natural remedies for cold and flu. Fall into winter is certainly the peak of cold and flu season and there are plenty of viruses that spend their time roaming through the population each year.  No matter how healthy you are, it’s a totally normal part of being human to have symptoms if you’re exposed to a new virus that your body hasn’t seen before – it’s what our immune systems are programmed to do and how they learn about viruses and keep us strong and healthy.  It’s also part of the reason why young kids tend to get sick more frequently than adults do – their immune systems haven’t seen as many viruses so each new one gets them.

What Are the Cold and Flu Anyway?

The things we call the common cold and the flu (or “flu-like symptoms” as the media has taken to calling it) are simply just different strains of virus that produce a spectrum of symptoms in the human body.  Viruses are strange little beasts.  There is an ongoing debate about whether they are alive because they can’t reproduce without a host – they have to actually infect some unsuspecting human or other animal and use that person’s body to reproduce themselves.  They then spread in different ways, sometimes through body fluids, sometimes airborne in respiratory droplets like from sneezes. For most people colds and flus are inconvenient but not truly threatening, but in immune-compromised or weaker people the flu can be a killer. Also some years there are particularly vicious strains that tend to be more serious. There is still no cure for the common cold or the flu, but there are many natural remedies for cold and flu that can help you to get through it more quickly and more easily.




There are great natural remedies for cold and flu. Häggström, Mikael. "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine

There are great natural remedies for cold and flu. Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine

Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu

Of course it’s best if you don’t happen to catch anything, but for the times that you do catch a nasty bug, there are plenty of options to help. There are many natural antivirals that have been shown to help cold and flu by shortening duration or by reducing symptoms. Let’s look at a few favorites:

Black Elderberry Syrup (Sambucus niger)

So – not only is this a potent antiviral, it also tastes great on pancakes, and if that isn’t awesome I don’t know what is. Elderberry has been used for centuries in folk medicine to build the immune system and as a general health tonic, but also in high dose when folks were coming down with something. For an adult doses up to a tablespoon every hour will kick the immune system into high gear and has been shown in research studies to interrupt viral replication as well as boost anti-influenza antibodies. Plus, the syrup tastes great so kiddos will take it and because it’s essentially a food, there isn’t really an issue with toxicity.  Too high a dose might loosen stool a little bit, but that’s the worst of it so this is safe and family friendly.

Elderberry syrup is a great natural remedy for cold and flu. Picture by Edal Anton Lefterov from wikipedia.

Elderberry syrup is a great natural remedy for cold and flu. Picture by Edal Anton Lefterov from wikipedia.

Oscillococcinum

Not so easy to say, but this one also is easy to use for the whole family. This is a homeopathic remedy, meaning it’s a tiny dose of something that would cause the same symptoms of cold or flu if you took it in a toxic dose. By taking the tiny dose you’re giving your body a little road-map on how to deal with this, similar to the idea behind allergy shots.   These teeny little pills just dissolve under your tongue and taste, conveniently, like sugar so again this is something that it’s easy to get kiddos to take. These can be helpful for prevention as well as symptom reduction so really it’s a win-win.

 Vitamin C

Vitamin C is of course not very exciting because almost everyone already has it in their medicine cabinet and it’s just sort of common. Really bumping up the dose when you start to get ill though can shorten the duration of viruses and protect you from the worst of the viral symptoms. A few thousand mg per day will really help and your body uses more of this nutrient when you’re sick so keeping a higher dose for a few days after you’re better can be helpful too.

Chicken Soup

This easy-to-absorb, highly nutritious, time-tested home remedy also has some research behind it.  Let’s face it – chicken soup is like concentrated, highly available nutrition.  If you can, make your own at home because it’s always going to have a higher nutritional content than something that’s been hanging around in a can for ages. I always have a freezer bag in the freezer where I put the parts of veggies that aren’t good enough to use, onion skins, chicken bones after the chicken is done and the bits of veggies you don’t use like mushroom stalks and the woody parts of broccoli legs.  When the bag gets full I toss it all in a pot and let it boil in water for a few hours. Strain out the veggies and bones and throw them out and the liquid you’re left with is chicken broth. If you feel like cutting up some good veggies, chicken pieces, rice or whatever you like in soup and voila! Your own home-made cold and flu remedy (that happens to be totally yummy).

Don’t Forget The Basics

In terms of viruses, once you’ve got them you’ve got them so save yourself the trouble of going to work and infecting everyone else. Stay home, put on a good movie or grab a good book and rest. Drink lots of liquids – water or orange juice, stay bundled up and give wet socks a try at night. If you have no idea what I’m talking about with “wet socks” it’s the best free immune boost ever – give it a shot and read more here. There are so many great natural remedies for cold and flu, but honestly the basics are always the best.  Just take care of you and get plenty of sleep and take a hot bath. If you give your body what it needs you’ll pull though more quickly than average anyway.



Natural Remedies for Liver Health and Support

In preparing for the new year I’d like to talk about natural remedies for liver health and support because let’s face it – livers don’t get a lot of love. It’s really easy to take your liver for granted, never really realizing how much it does for you on a day to day basis. But just in case you aren’t liver-savvy, this organ has got a lot going for it.

What Makes Your Liver so Special:

Your liver is the primary organ of detoxification and it deals with the burden of chemical and toxin exposure from normal everyday living. Let’s learn a little bit about it:

  • Your liver lives on the right side of your body at the bottom of your ribcage, right below your diaphragm.
  • It’s the only organ in the human body that can regenerate.
  • It regulates and stores glycogen (which is your storage form of sugar to protect you when your blood sugar levels fall).
  • It produces bile to help you emulsify and digest fatty foods – this bile then goes to the gallbladder to be stored and concentrated for use.
  • Your liver manufactures cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoproteins.
  • Your liver makes coagulation factors so that your blood can clot when needed.
  • Your liver stores basic nutrients for your body to use in emergencies. These include a 1-2 year supply of vitamin A, a 1-4 month supply of vitamin D, a 1-3 year supply of vitamin B12, and also vitamin K, iron and copper.
  • It helps break down old worn-out or damaged red blood cells.
  • Guesses as to the number of functions your liver is responsible for vary slightly, but most sources say around 500 (!!)

Needless to say your liver is absolutely essential to health, vitality and life itself so it’s important to learn to take care of it adequately.

Signs Your Liver Needs a Little Love

Livers are big organs, and vital so they have a lot of flexibility before there will be real problems and often liver enzymes, which is the quick measure for liver function on your blood work, will be normal even when the liver is mildly compromised. Some signs, symptoms and indications that your liver needs some support include:

  • Nausea or low-grade stomach ickiness for no reason.
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade headaches (like a very minor hangover)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching for no reason – just general skin itching
  • Jaundice – this is yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes and if you see anything so serious as this please go see your doctor right away
  • Clotting or extremely dark blood in a woman’s menstrual flow
  • History of moderate to heavy alcohol use (>14-21 drinks per week for a woman or >21 drinks per week for a man)
  • History of smoking
  • History of drug use
  • More than 3 prescription drugs
  • Liver enzymes out of balance or evidence of a fatty liver (always work with your doctor if this is the case).

Natural Remedies for Liver – Foods and Nutrition

Your liver is one of the first places that break-down products from foods go once they’re absorbed into your blood stream so it is very vulnerable to foods and can easily be helped or hurt by foods. Here’s a healthy liver eating guide:

Artichokes are one of the great natural remedies for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website - who knew there was such a thing? If you're curious you can find them at artichokes.org

Artichokes are a great natural remedy for liver health. This picture was found on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website – who knew there was such a thing? If you’re curious you can find them at artichokes.org

  • Eat organic – pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics in your foods have to be processed by your liver. There are some foods that actually accumulate pestices – for those check the dirty dozen and clean fifteen.
  • Filter your tap water – if you don’t filter it, or get purified water, then your liver will have to. Tap water is fine for survival but not optimal for health because it countains small amounts of many pharmaceutical drugs, tiny amounts of metals and small amounts of industrial and agricultural chemicals.
  • Drink lots of water – like any other filtration system, your liver works best if there is lots of water flushing through the system helping to keep things clean, so to speak.
  • Add lemon juice or apple cider vinegar – adding lemon or lime juice or a little bit of apple cider vinegar to your water can encourage gentle detoxification and the acidity helps to clear bile and sludge from the ducts and gallbladder. It’s gentle but helpful.
  • Eat beets – your liver loves beets and they encourage and support liver function.
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables – again, your liver loves these. Especially when there is a hint of bitterness to them like dandelion greens.
  • Eat artichokes – you know the weird feeling artichokes give your salivary glands? They do that to your liver too. It’s called a “secretagogue” and it increases saliva and bile production which also helps to flush toxins through the liver and ducts.
  • Avoid GMO foods – we don’t really know what the body has to do to detoxify these foods, so they may be just fine but the point is that we don’t really know – in situations like that, it’s best to just avoid as much as possible.
  • Avoid processed foods – the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that are in your food, the more chemicals you can’t pronounce that your liver has to figure out how to deal with.
  • Don’t eat artificial sweeteners – no matter what anyone says these are chemicals and all chemicals have to be processed by your liver. It increases the burden on your liver (not to mention the neurological reasons not to eat them!)
  • Drink coffee – nobody believes me because it sounds too good to be true, but 1-2 cups (6 oz cups – coffee cups are supposed to be small) of coffee per day can protect your liver from damage and even help to protect it from cancer. Here’s a link for more information.
  • DeTox Tea – many companies make detox teas that are gentle herbal formulas to support liver function. My favorites are Dandelion tea from Traditional Medicinals and DeTox Tea from Yogi Teas.
  • Cook at home – I know it’s not easy – I also live in the modern world where nobody has time and cooking is kind of a pain, but this is the best way to make sure you and your family are eating real food made of real ingredients.
  • Moderate your sugar and starch intake – too much sugar is obviously a risk for diabetes, but it also adds to the work your liver has to do – especially when blood sugar levels start getting out of control. This means your liver has to store more glycogen and adapt to ever-rising blood sugar levels.
  • Get at least one fruit or veggie with each meal
  • Eat enough fiber – the US RDA is 25 grams but the average intake is about 12.5 grams.  Make sure you’re getting at least 25 grams of fiber every day to help your bowels move effectively and carry toxins out of your system.  If your bowels are slow or there isn’t enough fiber in your digestive tract then toxins can be reabsorbed, which doubles the work your liver has to do.




Natural Remedies for Liver – Supplements

If you’re already eating a liver healthy diet but still having some difficulty then it’s time to support your liver a little bit more strongly. There are some great herbs and nutrients for liver support as well as some great combination products.

  • Milk Thistle – seems like everyone knows this one. It supports and nourishes liver detoxification and has been well researched. It’s an antioxidant and hepatoprotectant (meaning it protects liver cells). Milk thistle also boosts production of glutathione which is your body’s central antioxidant.
  • Choline – this amino acid acts as a methyl donor in detox reactions
  • Methionine – this amino acid also acts as a methyl donor
  • Vitamin B-6 – this vitamin is a co-factor in many detoxification reactions
  • Vitamin B-12 – this works with B-6. Make sure you’re getting the methylcobalamin or hydroxycobalamin form.
  • Folic acid – This vitamin is an important cofactor for detox as well and must be in a methylated form such as methyl-folate, 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate or metafolin.
  • NAC – helps your body to build more glutathione, the master antioxidant and protects liver cells from toxin damage.
  • Magnesium – helps to balance many detox reactions, including transmethylation.
  • Dandelion root – this also encourages bile production in the liver and helps detoxification pathways.
  • Cilantro – this detoxifier specifically helps to amplify detoxification of heavy metals.
  • Turmeric or curcumin extracts – this reduces inflammation and increases antioxidants and detoxification.
  • Chicory root – this aids in liver detoxification and will even help to elminate tiny stones and calcifications.

Just in Case you Want Supplement Names – Here Are My Favorite

  • Lipotrophic Factors by Integrative Therapeutics Inc. (ITI)
  • Livaplex by Standard Process
  • Liver Cleanse by Thorne Research
  • Liver Defend by NuMedica
  • Deep Liver Support by Gaia

With any liver support, start slowly and always make the dietary changes first to get your body ready for gentle detoxification.  Start with just one capsule or tablet daily and see how your body responds. If you’re not noticing anything then increase slowly and it’s always best to work with a practitioner.  Natural remedies for liver health are safe and highly effective, but if your liver symptoms get worse then please get checked out by a doctor because liver disease isn’t something to mess with.



Oil Cleansing – Your Skin Will Thank You For This!

Oil cleansing is one of those things I’d heard people talking about for years before I actually worked up the nerve to try it. Let’s face it, smearing oil on your skin to clean it just seems counter-intuitive.  Several years ago, in a fit of boredom, I decided to give it a whirl and I’ve never looked back.  After oil cleansing my skin literally felt softer than it has ever felt. Soft and smooth and it looked kind of dewy – you can’t buy that. It was an amazing transformation after oil cleansing just once so for all you skeptics out there who have used every product imaginable and are utterly jaded on the whole “miraculous difference” thing – just wait until you’re having a bored day, and slather up!

Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?

The basic idea behind oil cleansing is that oil is natural to your skin, where soap isn’t.  Oil naturally travels deep into your pores, because it’s pretty much what is meant to be in there, where water stays outside because oil and water don’t mix, and they’re already filled with oil.  So if your pores are filled with oil (which seems bad) but then you’re adding it on topically (supposed to be good) then what is the real story?  Essentially we’re  pulling out the gross, dirty oil from your pores and replacing it with oils that are beneficial to your skin and clean so that your skin can stay smooth and soft and lovely. This is great for acne-prone skin, dry skin or combination skin and it’s amazing for anti-aging because it keeps your skin hydrated and nourished.

What Oil Should I Use?

This is where it gets fun because you get to play kitchen chemist. First, let’s start with the base:

Oil Cleansing Base:50% Castor Oil
50% Jojoba

This base has the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the castor oil as well as the stability of jojoba oil.  It also penetrates deeply into pores because the castor oils ha very small molecules and the jojoba is the most molecularly similar to your skin’s natural sebum. This base by itself is a great mixture and if you’re just starting out and not sure you’ll like it, it’s a great place to start. You can always add things to the mix later on.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Great add-ins for Dry Skin

Kukui nut oil – high in essential fatty acids, readily absorbed into the skin to nourish the deeper layers.
Argan oil – rare, high in vitamin E which absorbs quickly and adds a level of luxury.
Baobab oil – light, rich in vitamins A, E and F which absorbs quickly and is specifically used for hydrating and protecting dry skin.
Sea Buckthorn OIl – exceptionally rich and healing for deeply dry, chapped skin. A small amount goes a long way.

Add-ins for Oily or Blemished Skin

Meadowfoam Seed OIl – healing and nourishing and high in natural salycilates, which reduce inflammation.Hazelnut Oil – highly suited for oily skin because it has astringent properties and helps to reduce excessive oil production.

Meadowfoam - of course this beauty would help your skin.

Meadowfoam – of course this beauty would help your skin.

Great additions for Anti-Aging

Pomegranate Seed Oil – it isn’t hard to imagine that this is highly prized for skin care and nourishes the skin while it provides antioxidant benefits. Promotes skin regeneration.
Rosehip Seed Oil – one of my favorites this is the predominant oil for wrinkled and aging skin.Black Seed Oil – highly nutritive and restoring to the skin. A little goes a long way.




Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite.

Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for all of these exotic goodies.

So How Do I Oil Cleanse?

This is the best part:

  1. Get a headband to pull your hair back because stray hair gets oily really quickly.
  2. Put a dime sized amount of your oil mix in your palm and use the fingertips of your other hand to gently massage it into your face – don’t forget your lips, under your jaw line and your decollete, those are highly visible areas that often have the same problems as your facial skin, and your lips will just love the moisture. Use gentle upward strokes or light taps to encourage collagen production because god knows we all want more collagen.
  3. Leave the oil on your skin for five to ten minutes if you have some time, or you can skip straight to washing it off if you’re in a hurry.
  4. Run a washcloth under super hot water and wring it out then put it over your whole face and use the heat to dissolve and liquify the oil.  Don’t scrub, just use the heat to almost steam the oil off your face and wipe up what is left with the still hot washcloth.
  5. Marvel at the beauty of your newly lovely skin. Seriously, it’s amazing.
  6. Use a tiny amount of an oil based moisturizer – I love MiraCell Skin Relief and Support (for a premade product) but you can also make a lighter skin oil and use a few drops as a moisturizer. We’ll talk about that in a separate post.

    Miracell - a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

    Miracell – a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

The only part about this that I don’t absolutely love is the washcloths – simply because it’s hard to get the oil out of them.  The best trick I’ve found is soaking them in a bowl with baking soda in the water to dissolve the oil before you put them in the washing machine. In general it shortens the lives of wash cloths, but so spectacularly worth it for such lovely skin.

This is a totally different approach to skin care that has entirely changed the way I view soaps, and not for the better.  I source all of my carrier oils from Mountain Rose Herbs and keep them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life.  I mix up small batches (usually just an ounce at a time) of the facial cleansing oil, and then also end up using it as an after-shower moisturizer because it feels amazing.  Typically I use about 80-90% carrier oil, almost always a larger portion of rosehip oil because I’m pretty sure it’s addictive, and then experiment here and there.  I love changing it up a little bit and am always trying new combinations.  I have added essential oils before, but I honestly like the simple oils better by themselves. I hope you love oil cleansing as much as I do – let me know what you think!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c



Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Natural Remedy for Gallbladder Sludge and Stones

A loyal reader Letty asked me if I had any solutions for gallbladder sludge and stones – which is a great question.  This is an issue that troubles so many people, especially women and many make the tough decision about having surgery, partly because they don’t know about other options. First let’s talk a little bit about gallbladders in general and then we’ll get to why they get sludgy and what you can do about it.

What Is A Gallbladder Anyway?

Your gallbladder sits tucked underneath your liver under the bottom of your rib cage on the right side of your body.  Your liver manufactures bile, which helps you to digest fats and also helps you to eliminate fat-soluble toxins. This bile passes through a duct, which is a narrow tube, into your gallbladder.  Your gallbladder helps to reabsorb water from the bile to make it stronger and more concentrated. Your gallbladder also holds this bile and stores it until you eat something fatty.  When fatty foods enter your stomach your stomach releases signaling molecules that tell you gallbladder to contract, and as it contracts it squeezes that concentrated bile through another duct into your small intestines to help with digestion. For this system to work properly three factors need to be in place.

  1. Your liver has to be in good working order
  2. Your gallbladder has to be free to contract (not filled with sludge and stones)
  3. The ducts between liver and gallbladder and gallbladder and intestines must be clear from obstructions, which are usually sludge or stones.
Gallbladder location and connection to liver- natural remedies for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Gallbladder location and connection to liver- natural remedies for gallbladder sludge and stones.

What Happens in a Gallbladder Attack?

When people have a gallbladder attack it is usually an event they won’t forget for a while.  What is happening is that your gallbladder gets the signal to contract to squeeze out bile, but something is in the way – usually either sludge or stones.  The sludge or stones can be in the gallbladder itself or they can be blocking one of the ducts.  Either way, when the gallbladder squeezes down on something like this, it hurts.  It hurts in a really vivid way. Usually people report severe pain after eating that can cause sweating, nausea or even vomiting.  A lot of time people will take themselves to the ER because it’s really easy to confuse this type of pain with heart attack pain. Your body keeps squeezing to try to dislodge the sludge or stones, which just keeps hurting, and a lot of times the only thing that really makes it feel better is morphine (or surgery).

Why are the Sludge and Stones There In The First Place?

If you are actively losing weight, if your body has a lot of fat soluble toxins to deal with, if your diet is higher in fat than it should be or if you’re going through hormone fluctuations then sometimes there is just more fat than there is bile.  What can happen in this situation is that the fat and bile bind together to form a sludgy, gluey substance that gets thicker and stickier and eventually clogs up the gallbladder and ducts.  Within that sludgy mixture stones can begin to form and grow and the stones can also block ducts – sometimes requiring emergency surgery if they’re blocking a duct completely. Essentially the sludge is just thick, heavy fats that your body couldn’t deal with properly.

How Can I Get Rid of Gallbladder Sludge and Stones Naturally?

The key to getting rid of sludge and stones is doing four things at the same time.

  1. Increase bile production – Stimulate your liver production of bile or actually take bile salts to make sure that lots of bile is flowing through the gallbladder and intestines.
  2. Liquify and Move the Bile – Keeping the bile liquid and moving quickly so it can start to wash out the preexisting sludge and stones.
  3. Shrink the Stones – If there are stones there, then we have to make them smaller so that they wash out easily. If you suspect stones I would suggest making an appointment with your doctor to see how many there are and how big they are.
  4. Dump the Bile – Once bile gets dumped into your intestines it’s out of the gallbladder, but a lot of times we reabsorb that same bile from our intestines to use again, because we’re just hoarders by nature. In this scenario you have to make sure as much bile as possible is actually leaving your body.

Increasing Bile Production – Choleretic

Increasing the amount of bile produced to help your body flush out gallbladder sludge and stones. Substances that do this are called “choleretics” and fortunately there are some great options out there, and lots of them are foods.  My favorite foods that increase bile production are artichokes – you can actually feel your saliva production increase when you eat them, and that same response is happening with bile. Young beet greens and possibly the beets themselves help too. Herbal bile flow stimulants include chamomile, chicory, blessed thistle, and many of the bitter herbs.  In terms of finding products, I love digestive bitters before each meal (right now I’m addicted to some from Urban Moonshine – their citrus bitters are the bomb!) Another great way to go is Standard Process A-F Betafood, which makes everything nice and simple, or Panplex 2-Phase from ITI which is a strong digestive complex with ox bile in it.




Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Urban Moonshine Citrus Bitters. A great natural remedy for gallbladder sludge and stones.

Liquify and Move the Bile – Cholagogue

Choagogues promote discharge of bile from the system – keeping it moving downward out of your liver and gallbladder and into your small intestines. In terms of naturally eliminating gallbladder sludge and stones this is key! Again, all of your bitter foods will stimulate bile flow so adding raw bitter greens like arugula and some of the bitter lettuces or dandelion greens will help. In terms of supplements the digestive bitters are a great idea here too, or liver support products.  Some of my favorites include Milk Thistle from Gaia herbs, Lipotrophic complex from ITI or Livaplex from Standard Process.

Shrink The Gallstones

Shrinking gallstones can be tricky naturally, just because we can’t actually break things up, we have to just slowly dissolve them from the surface. This is a long prospect. Essentially we need things that are acidic enough to leech calcium out of stones – but be careful because they’re usually also acidic enough to leech calcium out of your teeth so rinse your mouth out with water after you take them so the acid doesn’t stay on your teeth. My favorites are Standard Process Phosfood liquid – it’s super sour but works great to start shrinking stones.  Apple cider vinegar before meals is a great strategy too.




Dump The Bile

We want to prevent the bile that your body is dumping into your small intestines from being reabsorbed. This means binding it to something like fiber so that you can’t reabsorb it at all.  Fiber a couple of times per day between meals (with lots of water to also help you flush things through). I really like Fiber Plus powder from Orthomolecular because it’s a good blend of soluble and insoluble fiber and tastes great (apple cinnamon) plus it’s a high dose in every scoop. There are also gallbladder cleanses but they aren’t safe for everyone.  You can read more about gallbladder cleanses here.

Now hopefully you have a better understanding of what you’re trying to do when you’re cleaning out liver and gallbladder sludge and stones, but if you have any questions or comments just leave them here and I’ll get back to you.  The natural methods do work, but if a stone gets lodged in a duct then that is actually a medical emergency and requires emergency surgery so go to the ER if you need to.. Don’t worry – if that happens you won’t miss it.  It’s excruciating pain and often jaundice.  Otherwise, naturally eliminating your gallbladder sludge and stones is a great way to go. In general incorporating more of the gallbladder and liver friendly foods into your diet would help almost everyone.