I participated in a blog challenge discussing divine missions and where I am on my path. Please join in the discussion because I’d love to hear about your divine mission: https://botanicalalchemyandapothecary.com/mission-challenge
New Blog Address
Hello everyone! I’ve been quiet here lately b/c I’ve been working on a new blog site which I can’t wait to share with you. I started Spice of Life Blog right after finishing grad school when I just wanted a place to write again in a way that wasn’t in the grad school genre and reclaim my personal voice. Now I’m ready to start putting more time into a blog and although I thought about just reworking this space a bit, it quickly became clear I needed a new look, new categories, new everything, and so instead of a remodel, I guess I’m moving houses. I so hope you’ll join me!
Much like this one, my new blog will be about herbs, food intolerances (both managing and healing them), essential oils, natural foods/products, and green beauty. In the future I hope to have links to other herbalists and wellness practitioners around the world as a kind of virtual healing center resource. I also intend to offer herbal classes and tutorials there as well, and perhaps even some products. This is just the beginning and I hope to see you there at my new site, Botanical Alchemy & Apothecary. Please subscribe and let me know what you think about the new look. I’m still in the setting up phase and welcome suggestions.
PS~ If you know anyone else who is interested in herbs, essential oils, food intolerances, natural foods and products, and green beauty, please share the address: www.botanicalalchemyandapothecary.com with them. I can’t wait to have a community of like-minded people sharing ideas and growing and learning together.
Happy October everyone!
Natural Products that Help You Manage Stress and Boost Weight Loss
Recently I got some samples in the #NewHopeBloggerbox that included all kinds of foods, drink mixes, and supplements, and I noticed that quite a few things were helpful in keeping appetites at bay and improving satiety, as well as managing stress. Normally weight loss is not something I write about because it is such a complex and personal journey, but for those looking for just some natural ways that might help push those numbers to a more favorable weight for you, meaning your optimal weight, not anyone else’s idea of an optimal weight, then you might enjoy trying some of these products.
This one from Spice Pharm is delicious:The Turmeric Chai Elixir has coconut in it so that when you add the hot water to the powder, that’s all you need to do. No milk required. It already has all the creaminess right there in it, plus adapotgenic herbs too, and it tastes incredible. The weight-loss part comes from using this drink in-between meals to increase your feelings of satiety (and it really does, without many calories either) or using it as a dessert. The chocolate one was best for the dessert style option but the chai elixir is so darn tasty that it suits that sweet tooth craving too. Adaptogens in general help support optimal weight by being over-all balancing to all body systems. Herbs act to balance, because when our bodies are out of balance then they are not optimal~ not in performance, not in detoxing, not in craving control, and not in energy levels nor stress levels nor sleep abilities. Adaptogens are the class of herbs that target all of that, and more.
Speaking of detox:
This is a detoxifying drink for between meals that can also curb cravings, increase circulation and energy, and also make your body more alkaline. We really can’t get too many greens in our body, and Kyo-Green’s powder mix focused on energy is a great afternoon pick-me-up. Add to water the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 t. or less of cayenne powder, and 1 – 2 t. of the greens, and mix it all up. I use a big water bottle so I can continue to shake it up while I drink it since settling occurs. Of course you can also use these greens in just water, juice, or a smoothie.
Another way to get extra greens into your body which not only have so many nutrients and antioxidants, but also act to make your body more alkaline, is to add Kale to your smoothies, juice, or just plain water. I usually add fresh kale to my morning protein smoothie, but this vegetable powder from The Synergy Company is an excellent alternative when I am out of the fresh stuff or it just isn’t in season. The taste in one heaping teaspoon is just as potent as a couple of handful of leaves so it’s obviously very concentrated and packed with all the good stuff.
Another way to manage overzealous appetites is to manage stress and anxiety. It’s no secret that people often eat to soothe themselves instead of eating when truly hungry, plus there is a link between the stress hormone cortisol and holding on to extra weight. If your anxiety is causing you issues, there is help:
There are actually quite a few herbal tinctures and supplements to help with anxiety, but this one from Herb Pharm is unique for its use of lavender essential oil which you really taste when you drop it into your mouth. If you are used to taking tinctures that taste like roots, bark, and alcohol, you are in for a surprise with this anxiety remedy, which also boasts great calming herbs like passionflower, kava and others, without being too calming. Sometimes herbal anxiety remedies can actually make me tired, but this one does the anti-anxiety work without the yawns.
Of course when it is bedtime and we actually do want those yawns to kick in is often exactly when stress and anxiety like to wake us right back up. Some natural alternatives out there help you fall asleep, but if you have a problem staying asleep all night, then Tranquil Sleep by Natural Factors is for you:
This has a combination of ingredients to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed which is far different than unnatural sleeping pills which often leave people feeling groggy. No one wants waking up to be any harder than it has to be! Sleeping well is so essential to our health and well-being that taking good care of it is just as important as the healthy choices we make in our awake hours.
Best of luck in all your health endeavors, and always check with your personal health experts when trying something new. Adap
This weekend I was kind of half-listening to NPR while I was prepping gluten-free bread for the week when what someone said about soil caught my attention. He brought up the fact that our ancestors actually ate a lot more soil than we do now, and that soil was also far more loaded with healthy microbes than it is now. That makes complete sense when you think about how much more people used to grow their own food (and therefore ate it right out of the ground) and how much healthier that dirt used to be before commercial fertilizers and pesticides became commonplace, and before the earth was as polluted as it is now. Our grandparents and our great-greats must have thought of dirt quite differently too, seeing it as a fundamental part of the food chain instead of something to be scrubbed off and sanitized away. I looked for the interview I heard this weekend so I could listen to it with my full attention, but unfortunately could not find it, though I did find this article on The Splendid Table about the importance of good soil and getting our bodies in it and it in our bodies. Of course, that is assuming the soil is healthy soil, not soil that has been polluted with “junk food” fertilizers as a Delicious Living article put it.
To keep soil healthy for future use and to make the plants grown in it healthier and therefore those that eat those plants healthier, it’s important to use natural fertilizers that actually build up the soil and plants instead of conventional fertilizers that provide quick fixes. The slow food movement would certainly concur with that. Let’s build up the soil, the plants, and our bodies as nutritionally as possible with the understanding that it all starts with the dirt.
Happy Earth Day 2015
The boys were excited to plant vegetables and herbs in the garden for Earth Day. I hope they are just as excited to eat them this summer. My older one will be for sure. If you are wondering which one is older, look for the blue stripes and boss-man brow. More and more people are asking me if they are twins, much to their chagrin. One thing about my younger son, though he be picky he is still growing like a weed. Or it might be better to say, growing like a misunderstood wild herb. Little dandy lions.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (Gluten-free and Vegan)
Just when I thought I never wanted another corn tortilla again, I got a craving for a taco with some sort of orange veggie in it. Whenever we go out to dinner we often go to one of two places where I order a butternut squash quesadilla. I love them, but I hate dealing with squash and its hard shell that eats knives for breakfast so I have never attempted to make them myself. It got me thinking though that wouldn’t a sweet potato taste just as good in that kind of meal? And if I could eliminate the cheese it’d be even better for our family, so onto the web I went and sure enough there are plenty of recipes for sweet potatoes and black beans together in all sorts of fashions~ tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc. I went the taco route and used several different recipes to cobble together what is written below to work with what I had in my refrigerator. My husband and oldest son loved these by the way, as did I, and my youngest who only gathered enough courage to try one black bean and one piece of sweet potato admitted the black bean wasn’t bad. That says more to me than the fact that my husband is generally not a huge sweet potato fan, nor a big black bean fan, and really he prefers flour tortillas and definitely cheese and preferably meat. This recipe outshined all that. It is a keeper.
Vegan, Gluten-free Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
1.5 T vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil and olive oil)
1/2 t salt
1 yellow or red onion (I used red b/c that is what I had and the purple hue was so pretty)
1 pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper, but orange or green would work)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-large sweet potato
1 can black beans (or 1.5 c if using dried beans)
1 t cumin
freshly ground pepper to taste
guacamole (or avocados)
Preheat oven to 400. Using a large cast iron pan or some other oven-friendly pan* sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic until the onions are translucent in 1 T of vegetable oil. (I used sunflower oil). In a bowl coat the sweet potato which has been skinned and diced into bite size pieces with 1/2 T of oil (I used olive) and 1/2 t of sea salt. Add this into the sauté pan and cook for 1 minute before transferring into the oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm up the rinsed and drained beans on medium with 1 t cumin in a small sauce pan. Also warm up some corn tortillas** until they are soft. Take the pan out of the oven and if the sweet potatoes are cooked through add the beans and stir to get everything mixed together. Load the tortillas and top with guacamole or fresh avocados. It’s a symphony of flavors played just right. If it were up to me this is what I’d make for Thanksgiving, along with kale chips and pica de gallo salsa. It’s enough to make a pilgrim say, “Ole!” But alas, we are hosting this year and I’m going to have to stick to the more traditional items I’ve already planned.
* If you don’t have an oven proof pan, use one that you can top with a lid or plate and add 2 T of water to the mixture to steam it for approximately 5-10 min.
** I use Trader Joe’s corn tortillas b/c they are thick and sturdy, plus they are remarkably clean. Their ingredient list is all of: ground white corn masa flour, water, trace of lime. That’s it. Exactly how it should be. And they taste incredibly good, much better than any other corn tortilla on the market.
Did you know that flies actually live a lot longer than 24 hours? They can apparently live for about a month, which is closer to 720 hours. It must be true, I found this out on the internet. Sarcasm aside, it really must be a myth about the 24 hours because we’ve had the biggest, freakiest fly in our house for three days now, and it has made itself known all 72 hours it’s been visiting us. It’s so fat that my oldest can’t believe how fast it is, he thinks it should be like a Garfield Fly where it sleeps all the time and waits to be served lasagna. I told him maybe it is all muscle and some kind of super fly, a hero in the insect world. He said no, it just seems to want to be our pet. I have to agree, it follows us upstairs and downstairs, in and out of rooms, noisily adding a buzzing soundtrack to our home life and stealthily remaining just out of arms reach, or rolled up magazine reach to be more honest. We are trying to encourage it to go outside, I don’t want to kill it b/c it would make such a nasty mess I can’t even imagine, so we are leaving doors open and swatting it towards them, but that just never works and we end up feeling frustrated and foolish, Superfly laughing haughtily in the corner. Anyway, despite the new ever-present presence in the house, I did want to share a good news infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, by way of the Edible Schoolyard Project. It shows improvement in kids’ lunches but I think the real news is that when kids actually have healthy choices they are more likely to eat healthy foods. It’s another myth that kids will always choose the pizza over the salad bar. Just like adults, kids want to make healthy choices, maybe not all the time, but if there is no healthy choice, then it will be none of the time. And that’s no myth.
At this point in the year I’m pretty much souped out. Not eating it, just making it. So, I’m quite excited to have found this gluten-free ramen that takes all of 4 minutes to make and tastes seriously good. The one I like is by Lotus Foods and has a miso base and I’m pretty sure when my oldest tries it, he’s going to be hooked too because he loves miso, and noodles, and especially fast prep. Try it out yourself on a day when your missing dorm cooking, or more likely, just want some fast soup on a chilly Spring day:
Brain on Gluten
This is an interesting article about one neurologist’s belief that gluten and carbs are responsible for many brain ailments, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADD and such. He talks about inflammation being caused by carbs which in turn is the root of many brain diseases, with gluten being especially damaging because of blood brain barrier issues. The part I found most personally verifiable is where he says many gluten intolerant symptoms are not felt in the digestive track at all, but in other parts of the body, and I can readily attest to that. Other foods majorly affect my stomach and such, but when I eat gluten I feel it almost immediately in my head. I had a low-grade headache from childhood until my 20s when I began to figure out the wheat connection. It is like clockwork, eat something with gluten and I start to feel ‘off’, like maybe I’m coming down with something and need to sleep it off, but then I slowly realize it isn’t just fatigue, but the a headache that is different from a normal headache, which incidentally I rarely get now that I don’t eat gluten. My whole body feels fatigued, I feel slightly depressed, and my head hurts for 3 days, and then it all fades into feeling good again. Very predictable. As for Doctor Perlmutter’s assertion that gluten and carbs are innately bad for us, I tend to disagree. It seems he’s stumbled upon some truths, (carbs cause inflammation, inflammation is bad for our brains, gluten causes the worst problems, etc) but he made some suppositions that go to far. There has long been a link between brain and gut health~ this has been long-established and shows up in products such as MindLinx, a probiotic that emphasizes the link between a healthy intestinal tract and the mind, hence the name, and before gluten intolerance was recognized it was thought that all carbs were equally responsible for digestive troubles. People have singled out gluten, sugar, PH balance (remember that craze?), blood type, fat, and many other things as the be-all-end-all deciding factor in health, always just until the next thing comes up. Granted, they usually have at least a nugget of truth in them, but they are never the golden nugget that they are made out to be. If you look at the world’s healthiest populations with the least amounts of disease you find communities that focus on whole foods~ fruits and vegetables, grains and vegetable fats, with small amounts of meat/fish/poultry. A fantastic book (with recipes!) about these healthiest cultures and their diets is The Jungle Effect by Dr.Daphne Miller. Real food, despite valiant efforts, could not be improved, and in fact has only deteriorated in nutrition and taste since the industrial revolution. We live in an age of amazing medical technology and knowledge, and goodness knows I’m happy to not be living in the middle ages with leaches being the latest and greatest, but sometimes the old ways, the jungle ways, can teach us more than any doctor.