Archive for March, 2012

March 24, 2012

Burdock root

Burdock root is an edible root that is high in nutrition, antioxidants and therapeutic properties.

Burdock roots

The first year burdock root is traditionally used in stir-fry recipes in Asia and as fritters in Italy.  Dandelion and burdock root is a popular beverage in the U.K.  Use it like you would use hops to brew beer and other alcoholic beverages. The root tastes like palm hearts or bamboo shoots to me.

The seed is also used in TCM to treat urinary and skin conditions. The seed is more diaphoretic than the root.

Burdock root is a skin tissue detoxicant so pair it with draining diuretics for good toxin elimination.  Increase dose gradually for toxicity related conditions to avoid any major detoxification side-effects.

The fresh root is superior in taste, (the dried root has a more bitter flavour,) and the fresh root has more active antibacterial and antifungal actions. 

 The fresh first year root is wild-crafted in the fall when the root is less bitter. It can also be picked in spring when young leaves are starting to show. The first year plant is identifiable through its leaves only because it does not have the stalk or burrs formed yet. It is also found cultivated fresh year round at some health food stores and Chinese grocers.

It is a mild remedy with dynamic detoxifying functions and it is good culinary medicine.

Burdock Leaf

The young leaves and flower stalks are also eaten.

Common Name  Burdock root
Latin Name  Arctium spp.~Arctium lappa- Great burdock

Arctium minus-  Common burdock

Arctium x nothum- Common burdock

Family Asteraceae
Parts Used Biennial- First year root picked in the Fall with no burrs/ stalk
Target Organs Digestion, skin, lymphatic, immune, liver, gallbladder, kidney, bladder
Common Uses Nutritive antioxidant that detoxifies.Skin conditions: eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, dermatitis

Lymphatic conditions: swollen glands, tonsillitis,

Immune: boost, fever, toxicity, arthritis, gout, allergies,

Digestion: constipation,

Liver: conditions, congestion,

Properties Antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, antifungal,  anti-inflammatory (local, systemic), antilithic, antimutagenic, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antirheumatic, antithrombotic, antitoxic, aperient, appetite stimulant, astringent, bitter, cholagogue, choleretic, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant-relaxing, secretolytic, febrifuge, immune stimulant, lymphatic, pancreatic, relaxant, sialagogue, stomachic, tranquilizer, peripheral vasodilator, vulnerary
Constituents Flavonoids- (arctiin, arctigenin)  bitter glycosides (arctiopicrin), polysaccharides, lignans, tannic acids, tannins, antibiotic substances,  alkaloid, inulin up to 45%, resin, fixed oil, mucilage 5-12%, condensed tannins, polyacetylenes, Vitamins- A,  C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin

Minerals- calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, iodine, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc, silicon, cobalt, chromium, magnesium,

Cautions Mild remedy: Burdock is a skin tissue detoxicant so pair it with draining diuretics for good toxin elimination.  Increase dose gradually for toxicity conditions to avoid any major detoxification side-effects
Dosage Tincture: 2-4ml                Tea: 2 tsp. Decoction  simmer 15-30 minutes

Culinary: Root peeled and julienned in stir-fry’s and fritters

March 21, 2012

Turmeric rhizome

A good culinary spice that is amazing at detoxifying, protecting and nourishing the liver is Turmeric rhizome.

Fresh Turmeric rhizome

While most herbs that treat the liver are sour and bitter, turmeric is mild tasting and has a beautiful golden colour that is appealing to the eye. I use it in curry dishes and to colour and flavour rice just like saffron does. In Ayurvedic medicine in India turmeric is used as culinary medicine and as fabric dye, the same way it has been for centuries. It comes from the same family as ginger and looks like a ginger rhizome, but it is more golden orange in colour. 

Fresh Turmeric used to dye fabric


Common Name  Turmeric rhizomes
Latin Name  Curcuma longa
Family Zingiberaceae
Parts Used Perennial – rhizome
Target Organs Digestion, liver, gallbladder, cardiovascular, immune, circulatory
Common Uses Nutritive antioxidant

Digestive:  IBD, diarrhea, worms, colic, indigestion

Liver: detoxify, cleanses, protects the liver. Good for all liver conditions.

Lowers bad cholesterol

A good supportive detoxifying nutritive for inhibiting tumours and skin conditions,

A natural fabric dye

Properties Antiallergenic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic, antioxidant, antiprotozoal, antithrombotic, carminative, cholagogue, choleretic, circulatory stimulant, digestive stimulant, emmenagogue, hepatic, hypolipidemic, hypotensive, immune stimulant
Constituents Curcumin, fiber, manganese, iron, potassium Vitamin B6,
Cautions mild remedy
Dosage Tincture: 1-4ml

Tea: 1-2 tsp infuse 10-15 minutes

Fresh or powdered spice used in cuisine


March 21, 2012

Herbs for the Liver and Gallbladder

Spring is here like a breath of much-needed fresh air!


Because Spring falls under the wood element in the Chinese Five Elements and rules the liver and gallbladder it is a good time to do a liver cleanse (especially after St. Patrick’s Day for those that imbibe.) There are many herbs that cleanse, detoxify, protect, nourish and regenerate the liver. 

The liver is a metabolism center that neutralizes toxins, synthesizes proteins, and stores glycogen (starch) and changes it back into glucose (sugar) and releases it when needed. The gallbladder stores bile for the liver to excrete.

The liver gets stimulated by sour taste that is why lemon, lime or citrus in water helps to detoxify. Bitter sour herbs stimulate the liver, gallbladder, glands and digestion.

Sour action decongests, tightens, stimulates and is astringent.

Fresh Turmeric rhizome

Fresh Turmeric rhizome

Herbal Therapeutic Properties that treat the Liver and Gallbladder are Hepatics, Cholagogues and Depuratives.

Hepatics are liver tonics that improve liver function and regenerate liver cells. Hepato-protective herbs also called anti-hepatotoxics have specific antioxidant properties that protect the liver.

Cholagogues stimulate bile production and choleretics enhances bile quantity and quality. Stored in the gallbladder, bile helps to digest fats. Improving fat digestion reduces the burden on these organs, therefore preventing gallstones from forming.

Depuratives are also known as Detoxicants because they support detoxification. They are also called Alteratives and are known as blood purifiers.


Turmeric spice dried powder

Herbal Liver Tonics~ Herbs for the Liver and Gallbladder

Hepatic restoratives and nutritives nourish and restore. The high nutrient content is good for fatigue: These herbs make a good nutritious beverage tea drink-

chicory root, nettle herb, alfalfa herb, artichoke leaf,

Hepato-protective /anti-hepatotoxics are herbs that protect and detoxify the liver:

Turmeric rhizome, milk thistle seed, barberry, licorice root, garlic bulb, black/green tea, Astragalus root, ginkgo leaf, hawthorn leaf/flower/fruit, polypore fruiting body/ fungi, North American ginseng root, sage herb, rosemary herb,

Hepato-protective /anti-hepatotoxics 2nd properties:

Burdock roots

Burdock roots

burdock root, wormwood, gentian root, elecampane root, marjoram herb, heal-all herb, centaury

Bitter, cool liver decongestants and cholagogues:

milk thistle seed, wormwood herb, celandine herb, gentian root, centaury root, blessed thistle herb, Oregon grape, yellow dock root, figwort herb, dandelion root, burdock root

General herbs that protect, restore, nourish and detoxify the liver.

Turmeric rhizome, milk thistle seed, wormwood herb,  gentian root, centaury root, blessed thistle herb, barberry, ginger rhizome, garlic bulb, caraway, dill seeds 

Herbs that are good for the liver are usually very bitter and unpleasant tasting like wormwood herb and barberry, but it is important to taste herbs to ensure good therapeutic action.

I like to put bitter herbs in red wine to mellow the flavour.

Macerate your choice of a single herb in red wine for a couple of weeks. Take a teaspoon a day for a couple of weeks or take these herbs in a tincture for a cycle of 2-3 weeks and then take a break for a week before starting any other herbal remedy.  Your liver will thank-you!

Springtime Liver Cleanse:

Top 5 Things to do for a Liver Cleanse

Pick any two to three weeks in springtime to do a liver cleanse. Do any or all of the following:

  1. Put a slice of lemon or lime in your water
  2. Eat more spring greens, green leafy vegetables and natural foods
  3. Add liver tonic herbs to your diet like turmeric dried spice or fresh rhizome
  4. Drink roasted dandelion and chicory root beverage it tastes like coffee
  5. Make a tea, juice, smoothie, tincture or wine with your choice of herbs and plants that benefit the liver and gallbladder
March 21, 2012

Spring Wood Element

Spring is here!

In the Chinese Five Elements the Liver / Gallbladder rules the wood element and the season is spring. The cycle of spring rules the wood element because of the tree’s ability to shoot its seedlings through the earth in springtime. The climate is wind like the breath of fresh air we need at this time. The colour is green and green foods nourish and cleanse the liver.


SEASON: Spring
ORGANS: Liver, gallbladder
GLAND: Pineal
FLUID: Tears, Bile
SENSE: Sight
EMOTION: Assertiveness into anger
SOUND: Shouting


Wood Spring Theme: Expansion 

Meridian/Organ systems: Liver, gallbladder

Yang organ is the gallbladder.

Yin organ is the liver.


Gallbladder meridian imbalances:

temple migraines, ear weakness,

neck tension, asthma, pain in shoulder,

hip, knee, fourth toe


Liver meridian imbalances:

psychological, big toe, gout, corns,

shinbone pain, inner knee pain


People in this spring/wood rhythm may have imbalances in the liver and gallbladder.

The liver gets stimulated by sour taste that is why lemon, lime or citrus in water helps to detoxify. Bitter sour herbs stimulate the liver, gallbladder, glands and digestion.  

Sour action tightens, stimulates, decongests and is astringent. 

The gland in this rhythm is the pineal gland which responds to liver detoxification.


Emotion: Assertiveness turns into anger, irritability, impatience, annoyance, resentment, bitterness, frustration, rage, fury. 

The positive emotion in this cycle is assertiveness. This helps to forge our way, grow and survive. When we become assertive about our intentions for too long the frustration can lead to infuriating anger. The sound that alleviates anger is shouting. 

Spring/ Wood Element: Stay calm and assertive instead of becoming angry, and stand up for yourself, without the rage. Be kind and do not judge yourself and others harshly. Allow growth and expansion.


“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha


March 20, 2012

The Chinese Five Elements

The Chinese Five Elements created by Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) practitioner’s around 3000 B.C. show a more physical nature consisting of:

Water, Earth, Fire, and replacing Air and Ether are the more tangible material elements Wood and Metal. 

The Chinese Five Elements are known as WU XING in Chinese and roughly translates into English as the five movements, the five phases or the five steps/walks/stages of change.

This model serves as a diagnostic tool basis for acupuncture, reflexology and other medical, philosophical and energetic foundations. It is the basis of all energy work. Acupuncture uses needles, and Acupressure uses hands to follow the meridians, which are energy system pathways with ancient roots in natural healing. 

The Five Elements show nature and the changing seasons, and matches it to different phases of life that everything travels through.

These principles have intricate complex associations and form dynamic relationships with one another. 

Each element associates with a variety of principles including:

body organs/ meridians, emotions, seasons, climate, sense organs, glands, taste flavours, colours, sound, senses. 

Each element carries with it a positive and a negative emotion. Everyone experiences these different emotions, which have their function and their purpose.  

All of us have a main element, rhythm or season that we resonate with and are born into, but we travel through all the cycles of seasons at various times in our lives. 

We are different elements at different times or a combination displaying productive or destructive qualities.

These seasonal, energetic, emotional states vibrate and relate to health, personality, and physical attributes even manifesting in the way we walk and talk. Use this tool to decipher what element or rhythm you are now in.

There are themes, symbols, cycles, shapes and other categories relating to each element. People and martial art styles also fit into these categories.   Cultivate what you are feeling and relate it to the elements. If you are feeling fearful it is the winter cycle and the positive emotion love and courage will help stop the fear. There are also acupressure points that when held will help filter any destructive emotions. All emotions are valid and need to be worked through. The body doesn’t see any emotion as bad only as an outlet to relieve stress. All emotions are necessary, it is healthy to grieve. Anger is a positive motivator sometimes but it is when we get stuck in a negative cycle it becomes destructive and unhealthy to ourselves and others. It is ok to be reflective, it  is how we learn, but when we reflect for too long in the past it turns to grief. Live in the present and reflect to gain wisdom. Being assertive is important to establish boundaries, but being assertive for too long without flexibility and open perception leads to anger and judgment. Kindness, flexible assertiveness and openness will help quell constant anger. 

The primary destructive emotions that follow the five seasons and elements are:






The positive constructive emotions are:

Water/courage, love





from ebook Essential oils and the Five Elements



March 20, 2012

The Classical Elements

Classical elements are ancient groupings of elements created thousands of years ago by many cultures. The classical element grouping usually consists of five elements, and mirrors the natural rhythms and cycles of nature and relates them with different phases of life.  

The 5 Classical Elements serve their purpose by being used as a tool to decipher emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, philosophical, and medical states of being. The philosophy has also been incorporated into cooking, Feng Shui, interior design, martial arts, astrology, music, military manoeuvres and all aspects of life and creation. 

The elements connect in a cyclical interaction of generation and destruction, which balances life. 

The ancient Greece Classical Elements are:

Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Ether/Spirit. 

This combination of elements form special relationships that are also reflected in Hindu philosophy known as the five great elements, with the only exception being the name for Ether/sky is Akasha, water is Ap, Earth is Prithu, air is Vayu, and fire is Agni. 

Labelled with different names the Buddhist, Tibetan and Japanese Classical Elements have the same meanings. The only exception being that the name for Ether is Sky/Void /Space/Heaven, which gives further insight into the meaning of the illusive element Ether.  

The energy of life is known by different names in various cultures. The Japanese refer to it as ki, pronounced “key,” Hindus refer to it as prana, and the Chinese refer to it as qi, pronounced “chi.”

Excerpt from ebook Essential Oils and the Five Elelments. 


Elemental Painting by Colleen Chafe




March 19, 2012

Polypore Medicinal Mushrooms

Polypore mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms that have been used for centuries as a nutritious tonic to strengthen all systems. They have a high level of antioxidants that nourish and balance the body, because they are adaptogens they help the body adapt to any kind of stress.

This group of mushrooms grow on rotting logs and stumps and are called bracket fungi, because they look like shelves or brackets. They are usually found on rotting birch trees, but are also found on other trees.

There are culinary, medicinal and poisonous varieties of mushrooms, and correct identification is important. Caution when picking mushrooms because misidentification can lead to fatalities, poisoning and death.

Get fungi from a reputable source. If you want to wild craft mushrooms take a knowledgeable guide with you in to nature, along with many different sources of field guide books, but caution is always advised!

Artist’s conk is the only fungi identifiable by the ability to etch designs and words on it. It grows on hardwood trees like maples.


Remove Mushrooms with a hatchet, axe or knife. Chop them up with a hammer or axe in a cardboard box. You can dry them out for a couple of days in a warm dry place. Use polypore mushrooms medicinally in a tea or tincture, and they are typically not used in culinary edible cooking preparations.

There is new research into how mushrooms clean up the planet by eating up oil spills and breaking down plastics.

This is a good documentary about knowing your mushrooms.

This is a good website about mushrooms in eastern Canada and United States.



 Common Name  Varnish Polypore Fruiting Body/ aka Bracket Fungi 
Latin Name  Ganoderma spp. L. Includes:

Lacquered Polypore- G. lucidum aka Reishi

Hemlock varnish shelf- G. tsugae

Artist’s Conk- Ganoderma  applanatum

Family Polypore family Ganodermataceae L. 
Parts Used Fruiting body/Mushroom/Fungi
Target Organs Immune, Nervous, Endocrine, Pancreas, Spleen, Digestive, Urinary, Heart
Common Uses Strengthens and cleanses all systems.

Tonic to: Immune, Nervous, Endocrine, Heart, Pancreas, Spleen, Digestive, Urinary Systems

Lowers cholesterol, normalizes blood pressure, supportive for Cancer, diabetes, infections, allergies,

Properties Underlined properties are primary:

Adaptogen, adrenal tonic, analgesic, antiallergenic, antiatherogenic, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, anticardiotoxic, anticatarrhal, antidepressant, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagencic, antineoplastic, antinephrotoxic, antineurotoxic, antioxidant, antiradiotoxic, antithrombotic, antiulcerogenic, antiviral, anxiolytic, aperient, appetite stimulant, astringent, bitter, blood pressure normalizer, cardiac, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, decongestant, emmenagogue tonic, expectorant secretolytic, hypocholesterolemic, hypolipidemic, immune stimulant, immune tonic,  nervine, pancreatic, relaxant, spleenic, tranquilizer, vasodilator, vulnerary

Constituents Polysaccharides, polyphenols, phytosterols.

Betulinic acid, betulin are in mushrooms only found on birch trees and are fat soluble and only available in tincture form.

Cautions Polypore bracket fungi are edible but correct identification is important to avoid poisoning, illness and possible death.
March 13, 2012

Unhealthy Oils and Fats

Unhealthy Edible Oils and Fats

Hydrogenated oils: Hydrogenation is an industrial manmade process that turns liquid oil into a semi-solid.  

Margarine: made from hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils which make it spreadable for convenience sake, margarine remains semi-solid at room temperature and is spreadable even when refrigerated. Margarine is a new food and they dyed it yellow at first to distinguish it from butter.

Hydrogenated oils and trans-fats destroy healthy cells to the point where exercise and diet change cannot repair it. Always avoid because these fats raise bad cholesterol, cause serious cardiovascular disease, obesity, and are carcinogenic. The body does not know how to process these processed oils because the chemical structure has changed and it turns toxic and permanently destroys cells.

There have been tests done where people have put out butter and margarine and ants, bugs and animals do not touch the margarine and eat the butter instead. You decide.

Saturated Fats

Animal Saturated Fats: beef, pork, lamb, poultry,

Eating a lot of animal saturated fats like lard, chicken and beef fat is implicated in serious cardiovascular disease, obesity, bad cholesterol, and cancer.

Dairy saturated Fats: yogurt, butter, cheese, milk

There are lots of dairy low-fat varieties available today, but these foods should still be moderated. Dairy is a serious allergen that affects over half of the world’s population. Many people remain unaware of their dairy allergy and put up with digestive symptoms.

Yogurt: Don’t be fooled by yogurt that contains sugar, gelatin, additives and thickeners. For a healthier choice strain plain yogurt and add your own fruit.

Butter: Butter blended with 50% olive oil is a healthier choice than hydrogenated margarines.

Milk: There are many varieties of milk; the milk with the highest saturated fat content is whole cow’s milk and cream. Seed and nut milks like almond milk are a better choice. Coconut water is very healthy.

March 13, 2012

Edible Oils

Edible Oils

Edible oils are used in salad dressings, sauces, baking, cooking and frying food. Buy oils that are cold-pressed and chemical free.

Heat can change the chemical structure of oil and turn it rancid and it becomes an unhealthy trans-fat. Saturated fats are more stable for cooking but are not a healthy choice, except for coconut oil which is a vegetable saturated fat. High heat is not recommended for most oils because it changes the chemical structure which makes it difficult for our body to process and may turn carcinogenic.

Eating deep-fried food regularly is not healthy but if you are going to fry food once in a while use oil that can stand the high heat and maintain stability without turning into rancid trans-fats. Choose high heat oils like grape seed oil, rice bran oil or coconut oil.

Coconut oilHealthy Edible Oils

Plant polyunsaturated:  grape seed oil, soybean, corn, safflower, sesame, sunflower, cottonseed, peanut oil, rice bran.

These vegetable oils reduce blood cholesterol levels and improve ratios of LDL (low density lipids) and HDL (high density lipids) cholesterol which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These oils are rich in essential fatty acids.

Essential fatty acids also known as Vitamin F are Linoleic, Linolenic and Arachidonic acids. They are important for the maintenance and lubrication of our cells, tissues and entire body. Fats also transport fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and keep our skin soft, supple and youthful looking.

Corn and soy oils have been genetically modified and now have an allergy alert rating. Peanut oil has an allergy alert. It is from the pea family and it is not a nut, nuts grow on trees.

There are raw and roasted varieties of Sesame oil but always buy hexane free. Use raw sesame for massage because there is no strong odour.

Vegetable monounsaturated fats: olive oil, canola oil, almond oil

Olive oil can stand a little heat for light sautéing but should never be used for high heat frying. Use olive oil uncooked and add it to cooked foods afterwards or in salads as salad dressing to get the most health benefits.

Canola (rapeseed) oil is popular, but being relatively new, it has been genetically modified and altered.

Vegetable Saturated Fats: coconut, palm

Coconut and palm oils are healthier choice of a saturated fat because they are plants. Coconuts are a perfect whole health food. You can eat the flesh, drink the water and use the oil. The oil remains stable at high heat and has antibacterial, antiviral and nutritive properties. Coconut oil promotes weight loss and lean muscle mass unlike its saturated meat counterparts. Coconut oil can have an SPF of up to 7. My dog loves it! I give her a half of a teaspoon once in a while in her food. I use coconut oil for massage and hair and skin treatments.

March 7, 2012

BEE POLLEN (Flower Pollen) Superfood

Bee Pollen

I just had a spoon and had to share how amazing this is!

Bee pollen doesn’t need to be tinctured or put in a tea or cooked, it is eaten raw. So many actions come from the complex variety of tastes. The taste is a natural rollercoaster ride of different flavours that range from the sweet of honey, to salty and earthy, like the taste of flowers and roots. I almost want to guess which flowers and plants I am tasting. This is the original version of a vitamin that nature intended. Food of the Gods!

Bee pollen is really concentrated flower pollen that bees collect from the many flowers, herbs and trees that it visits in the process of gathering nectar, which bees turn into honey. Bees cross-pollinate and accumulate flower pollen on their bodies, which they shape into grains to feed the bee larvae. Propolis, honey and royal jelly are products of the hive produced by bees, which is different from bee pollen; it is not an animal product, but a botanical one.

Bee pollen is good for malnourished people who have malabsorption conditions, such as gluten allergy and anemia. It is good for treating chronic allergies and infections, where immune deficiency is present. It is a nutritious food that helps to rejuvenate, support and detoxify all systems.

Bee pollen is used as medicinal food all over the world. A super nutritive, an elixir of longevity and detoxifying food, it has more chemical constituents than any other botanical remedy, more than even micro-algae and nettles. It has a powerhouse of nutrition including ten amino acids, enzymes, minerals and every vitamin, nucleic acids, antibiotic substances and steroid hormones, but nutrition content will vary due to the fluctuations in nature. 


18 proteins 35% (half in amino acid free form including 8 essentials)

16 minerals and trace minerals: (calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulphur, chlorine, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, silica, selenium, molybdenum, boron, titanium)

16 vitamins: (B 1&2, C,D,E, K, B6, B12, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, rutin, choline, inositol)

Enzymes and co-enzymes: (amylase, diastase, 24 oxidoreductases, 21 transferases, 33 hydrolases, 11 lyases, 5 isomerases, pepsin, trypsin)

Nucleic acids: (DNA & RNA)

Phytosterols: (estrogen and androgen)

Flavonoids, nucleosides, terpenes, glucose, xanthine, lecithin, lycopin, pentosane,

Saccharides 40%

Fats & oils 5%

Dosage: Dissolve the granules in your mouth. Take a few grains up to a teaspoon a day on an empty stomach.

Caution: Even though bee pollen use treats allergies, in some people it may cause allergic reaction. The inhaled version of pollen creates a different reaction than when ingested and being an immune tonic it will build up immunity to allergens. The doctor does the same thing when they inject allergy sufferers with small doses of allergens to build up a tolerance. Caution is advised!

Take a small dose at first: a couple of grains to ¼ teaspoon to start.


The Energetics of Western Herbs: Vol. 1

Snow Lotus Press, Peter Holmes

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