Monday, September 9, 2019

Eating Cacti




     I love cooking and eating unique foods, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I have tried and fallen completely in love with several preparations of Nopales, or Prickly Pears. Not only can you eat the cactus pads, but you can also eat the fruit, and the whole plant makes some delicious dishes. So I figured I'd share with you a variety of Cactus recipes, these recipes are still Gluten Free and Vegetarian, but some of them do include eggs and dairy.

     Before we get into the recipes, here's a quick video on how to clean the cactus pads so you don't eat one of the spines. Nobody wants to do that.





This lovely woman has a YouTube channel devoted to Meatless Mexican Recipes, I encourage everyone to check her out!

But now that you know how to clean your cactus, on to the recipes!

1.  Cactus goes well with eggs? Who knew? But this is such a great dish! And it's super simple, great for breakfast or brunch. My husband and I love to stuff tortillas with this and make a Mexican Breakfast Burrito as well.

Huevos con Nopales


Ingredients
1 tbsp Olive Oil
4 Green Onions, diced (white and green parts are welcome)
3 Garlic Cloves, smashed and minced
1 cup Nopales, diced (blanch them if you want the goo gone, but this step is optional)
1 small Hot Pepper (Serrano is my go-to, but you can use Jalapeno or Habanero as well), diced
4 Eggs, beaten well
1 small Roma Tomato, diced (optional, but I really like this touch)
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions:
     In a skillet, over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 1 minute. Add in the Nopales and Serrano Pepper (or whatever pepper you choose). The Nopales will start to ooze a bit, keep cooking until that liquid is mostly gone (about 3-4 minutes). Add in the eggs and tomatoes, reduce the heat to low and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. Stir in the cilantro, salt, and pepper and serve warm!



2.  Here is proof that I was born and raised in the South. I swear, if we can eat it, we will find a way to fry it. But this recipe is soooooo good I couldn't leave it out! I use all gluten-free flour (my favorite is Namaste Foods Gluten Free Organic Perfect Flour Blend), but it's also super good with a mixture of corn meal and flour. I also like to use coconut oil to deep fry with, it doesn't break down as much at the higher temperature making it a little bit healthier. This is kind of like frying a grilled cheese, it's great comfort food and pairs well with tomato soup!


Stuffed Nopales


Ingredients
6 Nopal Pads, cleaned and blanched
Oaxacan Cheese (or Mozzarella)
3 Eggs
2 cups Milk
1¼ lb Flour, sifted
Salt and Pepper to taste
Coconut Oil (or whatever oil you want to use for frying)


Instructions:
     For the batter, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the milk while wisking. Whisk until mixture is smooth, then add in your eggs one at a time. Once the batter is mixed well and smooth, cover and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
     After cleaning your Nopales, pair them together with close to the same size pads per pair. If needed, trim them to equal sizes and shapes. Use them to make “sandwiches” with the cheese slices by layering one Nopal, then some cheese, then a second Nopal. Secure them with toothpicks.
     In a deep skillet, sauce pan, or deep fryer, place enough oil to cover your Nopal sandwiches (one at a time). Bring the oil to a boil. Dip each sandwich into the batter, making sure to cover them well (optionally, if you're having problems getting the batter to stick you can dredge them in flour first), and place them in the boiling oil. Fry them until they are golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place them on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Try to remove the toothpicks before eating.
     Enjoy them, while hot, with Salsa and/or Guacamole!



3.  Speaking of guacamole. I just LOVE avocados, and any excuse to use them is a good one! So of course I had to make some guacamole with Nopales. This version is a little more work because I grill the Nopal, but if you want to skip that step, you can just blanch them to get rid of some of the goo. I also happen to collect cast iron, so I am lucky enough to have a stove top grill (like this one) that I can use which makes this recipe much easier.

Grilled Cactus Guacamole


Ingredients
1 Nopal Pad, cleaned
2-3 ripe Avocados
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
½ a medium Red Onion, diced
1-2 fresh Jalapenos, seeded and diced (or Serrano for a little more heat)
a little less than ¼ cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder to taste



Instructions:
     After cleaning the Nopal, brush it with a little olive oil. Heat up your grill and place the Nopal on the grill to cook. It should take about 20 minutes per side, but if you want a little extra of that grilled taste, you can cook it a little longer. Also, you can toss your peppers on the grill too, before dicing them.
     Cut your avocados in half and scoop them out. Mash them up with the lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. After grilling your Nopal, and allowing it to cool, dice it up and combine it with all the other ingredients. Mix well. Chill for 15 minutes and serve cold.



4.  What's better on a hot day than indulging in a fruit sorbet? Well, Prickly Pears make a great sorbet. Be sure to use a real ice cream maker (like this one) for this recipe though, if you freeze it and then blend it later, the chunks won't get as smooth and you'll miss out on the awesomeness that is the smooth texture of this sorbet.


Prickly Pear Sorbet


Ingredients
7-8 ripe Prickly Pears
1 cup Water
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
½ cup (or a little more) Sugar


Instructions:
     In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. While you're waiting for this, cut the Prickly Pears in half and scoop out the insides, being very careful to avoid the irritating hairs and spines on the outside. Pulse the pulp in a blender for a moment to separate out the seeds. Strain this through a sieve to fully remove those seeds. Once the sugar mixture is cool, add in all the remaining ingredients, including your strained puree. Place this mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
     Once the mixture is chilled, set up your ice cream maker and pour in the mixture, following your factory settings. Serve immediately or put in the freezer for later. If you put it in the freezer, take it out of the freezer before serving to let it soften enough to be able to stir it with spatula and bring back the smooth, velvety consistency.



5.  I have been working in the hospitality industry most of my adult life, and a good majority of that work has been behind a bar. I love mixing new drinks and creating amazing cocktails. So when I heard that Nopals could be juiced, I decided that I was going to make it my next cocktail goal to create a Cactus Margarita. Well, I ended up creating 2! The first one is from the cactus pads, the second is using the fruit. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!


Nopal Margarita


Ingredients
For the Nopal Lime Mix:
2 Nopal Pads, cleaned and diced
2 cups Water
½ cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 3 Limes (6 tsp Lime Juice)
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
2 oz Nopal Lime Mix


Instructions:
     To make the Nopal Lime Mix, combine the Nopal pads, water, and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir while boiling until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 1 hour. When the hour is up, strain out about half of the cactus and put the syrup into a food processor. Add in lime juice and zest, blend until smooth.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, and 2 oz of the Nopal Lime Mix. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, and 8 oz of the Mix. I also like to use the Nopal Cactus Pieces (from making the Mix) as a garnish.


Prickly Pear Margarita


Ingredients
For the Prickly Pear Syrup:
1 lb Prickly Pears
Water
1 cup Sugar
Juice and Zest of 1 Lime
For the Margarita:
1.5 oz Tequila of your choice (I prefer to use Silver Tequilas for this recipe, my favorite is Milagro)
.5 oz Triple Sec (or other Orange Liqueur like Cointreau)
.5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup
1.5 oz Lime Juice


Instructions:
     To make the syrup, cut each prickly pear in half and scoop out the insides (be careful of the irritating hairs and spines on the outside of the fruit). Combine the fruit and sugar in a pot. Put just enough water in the pot to cover everything and bring the contents to a boil over medium-high heat, stiring and mashing the fruit as it boils. When the sugar is dissolved, cover and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes, or until it's cool. Add in the zest and lime juice, give it a good stir, then strain out the pulp and seeds.
     For each margarita, combine 1.5 oz Tequila, .5 oz Triple Sec, .5 oz Prickly Pear Syrup, and 1.5 oz of Lime Juice. Shake with ice and pour into a glass (optional-rim the glass with salt or sugar for a great flavor). If you want to make a batch of frozen margaritas, combine ingredients in a blender with ice and blend away. I make the frozen ones in batches of 4, so that's 6 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, 2 oz Syrup, and 6 oz of Lime Juice.




     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Prickly Pear







     Many of you may not be aware of this, but I love succulents and cacti. I think they are astonishingly beautiful and exceedingly unique. Their ability to store water in their stems/leaves is awesome and super helpful in dry areas and drought. Also, while most of us think of these plants in relation to deserts, not a lot of people are aware that the swampy state of Florida has quite a few native cacti as well. So today I figured that I'd introduce you to our most common native Cactus, the Prickly Pear.

     Opuntia stricta (Prickly Pear) is commonly found all throughout Florida, though mainly found in the coastal grasslands, coastal strands, shell mounds, beach dunes, and coastal hammocks. It is, of course, in the Cactaceae, or Cactus, family. This cactus can get quite tall, but often tops out at around 6.5ft, with erect stems that are branched and covered with spines. Most Prickly Pears tend to sprawl and stay close to the ground, but in Florida they have more of a tendency to grow taller. They often grow in clusters or colonies, but can also be found as individual plants. The pads of this cactus are stems that have evolved to hold water and act like leaves by photosynthesizing. The pads also contain an antifreeze compound that allows this cactus to survive in extremely low to freezing temperatures. They can be 2-7 inches (5-17 centimeters) long and 1.5-5 inches (4-12 centimeters) wide. The spines emerge from the center of small dot-like structures called areoles. Each areole contains glochids (small hair like structures that irritate the skin) and some even contain spines. The flowers emerge from the ends of the pads in early summer. These flowers are yellow and quite large. The fruit of this particular species is reddish purple. Other commonly used species have flowers that have orange, and sometimes even some red, in the center and their fruit can range in colors from a light pinkish red to a deep reddish purple. The flowers are pollinated by insects but they also have a unique feature, their stamens move in response to touch. This is to both encourage cross pollination, aid in self pollination, and to discourage pollen and nectar “robbers” (insects that consume the flower's resources without providing assistance in the pollination process). If you want to read more about this fascinating phenomenon, check out Awkward Botany's post here.

     This plant is a staple food of the indigenous peoples of North America. The pads can be found in some supermarkets and are sold as Nopales or Nopalitos. The pads, fruit, and flowers are all edible and can be eaten raw or cooked, though the areoles and spines should be removed before preparing or consuming. The fruit and pads are also commonly juiced. The juice makes a darn good margarita, but is also commonly given to diabetic patients to help control their blood glucose levels. The fruit is sweet, but not as sweet as other species, particularly the Opuntia ficus-indica. Some Mexican restaurants will serve Prickly Pear or Nopales as appetizers, or scrambled with eggs as a breakfast or brunch item.

Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Prickly Pear, Nopales, Nopal Cactus, Indian Fig, Cactus Pear, Barbary Fig, and Tuna Fig

Scientific Name- Opuntia spp. Commonly used species include Opuntia stricta (our Florida native), O. ficus-indica, O. megacantha, and O. amychlea

Edibility- The pads (Nopales or Nopalitos) are a staple food in indigenous cultures of North America. They are often grilled, sauteed, or even scrambled with eggs, though they are perfectly safe to consume raw as well. The flowers are also edible, as well as the fruits which are often called Cactus Pears. The fruit and pads both have areoles that contain irritating fibers and/or spines, so you should remove these before preparing or consuming. The pads and fruit are also commonly juiced.

Summary of Actions- Appetite depressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiulcer, antiviral, cardiotonic, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, and neuro-protective.

Parts Used- Pads, Flowers, and Fruit.

Traditional Native American Uses- Prickly Pear Cactus has been used in Native American cultures for centuries. The heated cactus pads have served as poultices for rheumatism, and the fruit of the plant is consumed as treatment for diarrhea, asthma and gonorrhea. Indigenous people also consume prickly pear to address high blood pressure, gastric acidity, ulcers, fatigue, shortness of breath, prostate enlargement, glaucoma, and liver disorders.

Diabetes- Not only is this cactus high in fiber, which helps to control blood glucose levels. It also contains compounds that take a more active role in balancing out blood sugar. This plant is highly recommended to both prevent diabetes, and help control blood sugar in those who are currently diabetic.

High Cholesterol- The fiber content of this plant helps to control cholesterol levels, prevents buildup in the arteries, and helps keep the circulatory system healthy in general.

Digestion- The high fiber content of Prickly Pear Cactus helps to move food more efficiently in the digestive tract. It also helps to prevent ulcers, and improve digestion by reducing internal inflammation.

Wound and Burn Care- One traditional use of this cactus that is continued today is for wound and burn care. Much like Aloe, Prickly Pear is a great herb to use in the case of burns. It helps take the “sting” out of them while providing a barrier that helps prevent infection. It's also a great herb to help speed the healing of both wounds and burns.

HIV- Prickly Pear extracts are currently being studied for their antiviral properties in relation to certain viruses. One of particular note is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. Research has been limited thus far, but this plant shows promise to help control this virus and others.

Immune Boosting- Prickly pear is full of vitamin C, just one serving contains 1/3 the recommended daily amount. It's also a very effective anti-inflammatory, which helps to improve immunity as well as general health.

Hangovers- Prickly Pear is a folk remedy for hangovers. I usually don't put much stock in hangover remedies, instead I tend to emphasize the importance of hydration when you set out to drink heavily (and I don't recommend doing this, ever). However, in a Tulane University study published in the June 28, 2004 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers found that volunteers who took a prickly pear extract five hours before consuming five to 7 alcoholic drinks had significantly less nausea, dry mouth and loss of appetite the following day compared to those who took a placebo. (The extract did not prevent hangover-related headaches and dizziness, however.) The researchers suggested that the benefits were related to prickly pear’s strong anti-inflammatory effects.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- Generally considered safe, practitioners recommend that people gradually add prickly pear cactus to their diets. Both the edible plant and the dietary supplements can cause negative side effects in some people. Nausea, increased stool volume and frequency, mild diarrhea and abdominal fullness are the most common side effects. While they are not the norm, easing prickly pear into the diet can minimize these effects.






     I only included a basic introduction to Prickly Pear. I hope you have gained a new appreciation for this amazing little cactus. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! Follow me on Instagram (BatLadyHerbailst). I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!




Resources:


Florida Wildflowers A Comprehensive Guide by Walter Kingsley Taylor

The Amazing Cacti- 7 Benefits of Prickly Pear: Wide Open Eats: https://www.wideopeneats.com/the-amazing-cactus-7-prickly-pear-health-benefits/

Cactus, A Medicinal Food: US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550841/

Eastern Prickly Pear: US Forest Service: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/opuntia_humifusa.shtml

Food As Medicine- Prickly Pear Cactus: American Botanical Council: http://cms.herbalgram.org/heg/volume12/09September/FaMPricklyPear.html?utm_source=hootsuite&ts=1567462532&signature=db4abb75b394ddd68876cf33a41ff96a

Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere- Prickly Pear Cactus: American Indian Health and Diet Project: http://www.aihd.ku.edu/foods/prickly_pear_cactus.html

Medicinal Importance of Prickly Pear Cactus: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: https://www.longdom.org/proceedings/medicinal-importance-of-prickly-pear-cactus-43375.html

Prickly Pear: Annie's Rmemdy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/opuntia-ficus-indica-prickly-pear.php

Prickly Pear, A Cactus Cure?: Dr. Weil: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/wellness-therapies/prickly-pear-a-cactus-cure/

Prickly Pear Cactus Plant Benefits: Herb Wisdom: https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-prickly-pear-cactus.html

What Are the Benefits of Nopal?: Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320293.php






Friday, August 30, 2019

Hormones and Your Mood





   
     I don't know if it's due to the influence of social media, or just a general change in awareness, but it seems that certain disorders are starting to have a lot more light shinning on them these days. Mostly I'm talking about mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc. However, even with all this new attention, we're still not seeing much about how other conditions in the body can affect our moods, and trust me, they can. The most well known example is PMS, but why does PMS have such an effect on our moods? One simple word, Hormones.

     Hormones can have a HUGE impact on our mental and emotional health. In the most basic sense, hormones are chemical messengers that travel throughout our bodies, influencing every system and coordinating complex processes (such as birth, metabolism, fertility, and growth). Without hormones, our bodies would not change during puberty, process food, or respond efficiently during times of crisis. Hormones, and our entire endocrine system, play a major part in health for both men and women during all stages of life. Unfortunately, this important system is often overlooked by medical practitioners who are focused on a specific problem. Quite too often, the hormones are neglected and looked at only as a last resort.

     Some of the most well known hormones are estrogen, testosterone, adrenaline, and serotonin. While all of these have an impact on our moods, there are some, less well known, hormones that can have an even bigger impact. For women, one of these is progesterone. Progesterone is a major fertility hormone, but it's also a major restorative and anti-anxiety hormone. Low progesterone levels can be linked to severe PMS-related problems, such as mood swings, irritability, and depression. Men have similar issues when their testosterone is low. Low testosterone can cause severe mood swings and depression in men, along with all the other problems we are more familiar with.

     Now I know that I harp on stress quite often, but it does have that much of an impact. Both low testosterone in men, and low progesterone in women, can be linked to excessive stress. One major reason for this is simply a lack of supplies. Cortisol is a major stress hormone that our body releases when it perceives stress. Even something as routine as a deadline, financial concerns, or traffic can cause the body to create and release cortisol. However, the raw materials our bodies use to do this are the same raw materials that our bodies use to make other hormones such as testosterone and progesterone. If we are constantly in stressful situations, our body won't have enough of the raw materials left over to make those, all important, hormones because it will be too busy making cortisol.

     If you are struggling with mood disorders and you think your hormones may be, at least in part, to blame. Talk to your doctor about having your endocrine levels checked and to see what you may be able to do to help balance them out. You can also try to keep your stress levels lower, eat a balanced diet, exercise, go out in nature, and supplement with vitamins and herbs to help balance out your hormones.


Resources:


5 Signs Hormones are Sabotaging Your Body: Oprah: http://www.oprah.com/health_wellness/how-hormones-affect-mood-weight-sex-drive-and-more

Chemical Messengers- How Hormones Affect Our Mood: The Conversation: http://theconversation.com/chemical-messengers-how-hormones-affect-our-mood-42422

The Connection Between Hormones and Mood: BePure: https://www.bepure.co.nz/blogs/news/connection-between-hormones-mood

Hormones and Mood- From Menarche to Menopause and Beyond: Pub Med: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12646300

Menopause Mood Swings: Hormon Health: https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/menopause/menopause-mood-swings

Ovulation Hormones- Here's How The Menstrual Cycle Phases Affect Your Mood: https://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/womens-health/a1605/a-month-in-the-life-of-your-hormones-107587/

Why Do Hormones Affect Your Mood: Thrive Global: https://medium.com/thrive-global/why-do-your-hormones-affect-your-mood-ca076d3478a

Monday, August 19, 2019

Easy Slow Cooker Recipes








     School is back in session, and whether or not you have children or are a teacher, you might be having to change you schedule. Those schedule changes can be tough at times, leaving you tired and sometimes scrambling for easy food ideas. So I figured that I'd share with you some of my favorite, prepare-ahead crock pot recipes. As always, these are vegetarian/vegan friendly and all gluten free. Feel free to throw in some chicken, beef, or pork though if you would like.



1. Lasagna is always a hit in any household. This one is especially awesome because it uses zucchini and eggplant in place of noodles, so you can prepare it the night before and put it on high as soon as you come home, you'll have a healthy, home cooked meal in just a few hours. Using the veggies means that the noodles won't be overcooked and mushy, no matter how long they soak before being cooked. Bonus, the veggies add a bit more nutrition for those picky eaters that don't like to eat their veggies. There is a bit of an issue with the veggies making this lasagna a bit soggy if you don't bake or grill them before hand, however the lasagna is still tasty if you just discard the excess liquid before eating.


Veggie Lasagna


Ingredients
2 medium Zucchini
1 medium Eggplant
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 medium Green Bell Pepper, diced
16 oz Ricotta Cheese or Silken Tofu
`2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese or Substitute (my favorite is Rice cheese)
For the sauce:
¼ medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into chunks
½ stalk of celery, cut into large chunks
½ medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
1 16 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
3 tbsp fresh Parsley leaves, chopped
3 tbsp fresh Basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions:
     For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency, you should have it a bit thick because it'll thin out a little in the cooking process.
     Slice the zucchini and eggplant lengthwise, about ¼ inch thick or thinner, to resemble lasagna noodles. *optional Grill or Bake these veggies to reduce the liquid. Grill- preheat a grill or grill pan and grill the “noodles” for about 2-3 minutes, flip and repeat. Bake- preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place the “noodles” on a cookie sheet (don't use wax or parchment paper as it will burn) and bake for about 5-8 minutes. Work in small batches, do not stack your “noodles.”
     If you are using the tofu option, make sure you drain the tofu well and mix it up before you start layering.
     Start with a spoonful of sauce, or a few, to just cover the bottom of your crock pot. The lay out the first layer of zucchini, covering as much of the bottom as possible. Spoon out some ricotta/tofu and sprinkle your onions and bell peppers over it. Next layer the eggplant over that. Spoon out some ricotta/tofu over that. Sprinkle on your onions and bell peppers, then spoon a little more sauce and sprinkle some mozzarella. Then do a layer of zucchini, and repeat alternating zucchini and eggplant until you reach the last layer. For this, simply spoon out more sauce and use the remaining bit of mozzarella.
     Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours. Uncover and reduce to “keep warm” (or your lowest setting) for 30 minutes to 1 hour to help reduce the liquid left in the bottom of the pot. Serve hot and enjoy!


2. Who doesn't love tacos? This recipe is a great one to stick in the crock pot for a few hours and forget about it. It does have a lot of prep involved, cutting up veggies and whatnot. Just get everything ready the night before and you're good to go!

Quinoa and Cauliflower Tacos


Ingredients
1 cup Quinoa, uncooked and rinsed very well and drained
1 cup Vegetable Broth
1 15oz can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup Chunky Salsa
1 lb Cauliflower, riced
1 medium Red Onion, diced
¼ cup fresh Cilantro, roughly chopped
4 teaspoons Chili Powder
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1-3 teaspoons Cayenne or Chipotle Seasoning (put as much as you'd like, it can get spicy)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Your Choice of Toppings
my family likes Green Onion, Tomatoes, Avocado, Lettuce, Shredded Cheese, and Sour Cream


Instructions:
     Rinse your quinoa very well. You can also toast it to enhance the flavor, but this step is optional.
     In a crock pot, combine all ingredients, stir them up well, cover and cook on high 2 ½-3 hours.      Quinoa tends to get mushy when cooked for long periods of time, so I don't recommend cooking on low with this recipe. If you crock pot runs low, you can cook it for an additional hour without the quinoa being too mushy, but keep an eye on it.
     When the quinoa is cooked through, it's time to pile on your toppings and enjoy!



3. This next recipe is one that I grew up eating and is always a hit. Stuffed peppers are one of my favorite meals, and they're pretty darn easy to throw into a crock pot and forget for a few hours.

Crock Pot Stuffed Peppers


Ingredients
6 medium Bell Peppers (green is standard, but this recipe works just as well with yellow or red)
1 ½ cups Rice, cooked ahead (works best if cooked the day before, or longer)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Mushrooms, diced
1 Celery Stalk, diced
¼ cup shredded Carrots
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 can (14oz-16oz) Diced Tomatoes, with the liquid
2 cups cooked Lentils
3 teaspoons Parsley
1 teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups shredded Cheese or Substitute of your choice (I like Colby Jack for this)


Instructions:
     Cut off the tops of the peppers, clean them out and place them in the crock pot.
     In a bowl, mix together remaining ingredients (minus the cheese) and stuff each pepper with about 1 cup of the mixture. Cover and cook on low for about 6-8 hours, or on high for about 3-4 hours.
     Remove lid and sprinkle on the cheese. Cover and cook for an additional 15 min, or until the cheese melts. Serve hot and enjoy!



4. Jambalaya and Gumbo are some of my favorite foods. So of course, I have a version that uses my crock pot! This one is a great one to cook on the cooler days of the year, though it's great year round I tend to crave it in the Fall. The other great thing about Jambalaya is that there are barely any rules. Some people say that it's not Jambalaya without sausage and/or shrimp, but you can make it with anything you want. As long as there's rice, Cajun seasonings, and the “Holy Trinity” (onion, celery, and bell pepper) you can really change it up in endless ways.If you'd rather make Gumbo, simply add a cup of sliced Okra and serve the cooked rice separately.

Vegan Jambalaya


Ingredients
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 medium Yellow Onion, diced
3 Bell Peppers, diced (green is standard, but red and yellow work well, or try 1 of each)
1 Jalapeno, diced (if you like extra heat, leave the seeds in, if not seed that pepper)
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 lb Vegan Gluten Free Sausage, sliced
1 can White Navy Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14oz-16oz) Diced Tomatoes, and the liquid
4 cups Veggie Broth
1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
½ cup fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Oregano
½ teaspoon Thyme
½-1 teaspoon Cayenne (or more if you like it super spicy)
1-2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups uncooked Rice

Instructions:
     Combine all ingredients, except the rice, in your crock pot. Stir well and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.
     Remove lid, add rice, give it another good stir. Replace the lid and cook on high for an additional 20 minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice. Continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. Enjoy!


5. Stroganoff was a staple in my house when I was growing up. I still love it, even now, and it's a great dish to cook in the crock pot.


Mushroom Stroganoff


Ingredients
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 lbs Mushrooms of your choice (I usually use a blend of portobellos and white buttons), leave any very small ones whole, and half or quartered larger ones 
1 medium Onion(yellow or white), roughly chopped
3-4 cloves Garlic, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons Paprika
3-4 teaspoons Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
½ cup Sour Cream or Vegan Sour Cream
Cooked Gluten Free Noodles

Instructions:
     Combine all ingredients, except the sour cream and noodles, in your crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. 
     After 4 hours, stir in remaining ingredients and serve. Enjoy!





     If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Feverfew







     Some of you might have figured out by now that I am a gigantic nerd. One thing that I love to do is study history, specifically Medieval history. One of my favorite historical people to read about is Hildegard, a German Benedictine abatess who is well known for her musical compositions as well as her work as a natural scientist (two of my favorite topics, both modernly and historically). She wrote several books that describe the human body and how it interacts with the natural world, with specifics on what she believed to be the cause of disease. Her works are important for a number of reasons, but largely because the people who practiced Medieval medicine tended to be women who did not write their findings down, however Hildegard did.

     I mention Hildegard because she wrote quite a bit about an herb she called Bertram. Today we know of this herb as Feverfew, or Tanacetum parthenium. Feverfew is originally native to Southeastern Europe, North Africa, India, and the Mediterranean. But it has also become naturalized in Australia and North America. It is a member of the Asteraceae family, and closely resembles Chamomile. In most areas, it blooms from July through October. Feverfew's leaves smell lightly of citrus, and the whole plant only grows to about 46 cm in height.

     Feverfew was one of Hildegard's favorite herb. She notes, in her Physica, that “...the healthy eat Bertram, because it reduces bad juices, and multiplies the good in human blood, and makes a clear mind. For a patient who is physically run down, Bertram brings back his strength. It leaves nothing in humans undigested, and it prepares the body for good digestion when eaten diligently. It reduces the mucilage in the head, and leads to purifying juices, which purify the eyes. Whether you eat it dry, or in cooked foods, Bertram is as useful to a sick person as to a healthy man. Bertram shoos illness from its host and prevents falling ill. It brings moisture and saliva back to the mouth, and returns us good health.” But these are just a few of the things that Feverfew can be used for.


Medicinal Uses:


Common Names- Feverfew, Featherfew, Bertram, Akaraka, Spanish Chamomile, Bride’s Button, Bachelor’s Button, Febrifuge Plant, Wild Chamomile, Flirtwort, Compositae, Mutterkraut

Scientific NameTanacetum parthenium previously known as Crysanthemum parthenium

Edibility- Feverfew is edible, but not considered a choice edible, or an important food source. The dried flowers are used to flavor certain pastries and wines. The plant is also used in cooking to impart an aromatic bitter taste to certain foods.

Summary of Actions- Analgesic, Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antipyretic, Antispasmodic, Aperient, Bitter Tonic, Cardio-tonic, Carminative, Circulation, COX-2 Inhibitor, Demulcent, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue, Febrifuge, Insect Repellant, Purgative, Relaxant, Stimulant,Vermifuge

Parts Used- Ariel parts

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Known as Xiao Bai Ju in TCM, Feverfew is active on the Lung, Liver, and Stomach Meridians. It's bitter and cool. It tonifies yin, clears heat, clears wind heat, clears liver heat, and calms shen. This makes it useful for migraines, headaches, nausea, vomiting, menstrual disorders, fevers, dizziness, arthritis, anxiety, to increase appetite, and to soothe red, itchy skin disorders.

Essential Oil and Aromatherapy- The essential oil of Feverfew helps to promote calm concentration and focus. It can also help calm vertigo, or a spinning head. Rub a little bit on your temples to help in the case of headache or migraine. It's scent is very similar to camphor, so do not use this essential oil if you are prone to seizures. It blends well with Lavender, Peppermint, Spruce, Frankincense, Rose Otto, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and Tansy.

Migraines- The active ingredients in Feverfew act on blood platelets and limit the release of serotonin, which contributes to migraine headaches through its effect on blood flow in the brain. Uncontrolled serotonin distributions are one trigger for the discomfort associated with migraines.

Pain and Inflammation- Recent studies have shown that Feverfew has the ability to reduce inflammation, particularly the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other joint conditions. It helps to prevent damage to joints that comes from the degeneration associated with aging, helping to prevent further damage to the joints.

Skin Conditions and Irritation- The demulcent actions of Feverfew help to sooth inflammation in the skin, helping to treat inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

Cancer- In a 2005 study, scientists discovered that parthenolide extracted from Feverfew inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer cells in the lab. Showing that it has promise in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Fever- The herbs name, Feverfew, derives from the Latin word, febrifugia, meaning, “fever reducer.” One of it's most traditional used is just for this. It helps reduce fevers by promoting perspiration.

Women's Health and Labor- Feverfew helps to relieve cramps, relax nerves, and sooth the nervous system. All of these properties have given it a great reputation as an herb that helps relieve PMS symptoms and to help regulate labor pains to ease labor. It can also be used to induce or ease menstrual flow, which makes it dangerous to take in the early terms of pregnancy.

Digestion- Feverfew is a bitter tonic, helping to improve digestion by stimulating bile flow. It's also a carminative, helping to reduce gas and indigestion.

Cautions, Contraindications, and Warnings- This herb should not be given to children under two years of age and should not be used if you are breastfeeding. Avoid this herb during pregnancy as Feverfew might cause uterine contractions and abortion. May cause oral ulcers and tongue soreness if the leaves are chewed, fresh or dried. Because Feverfew does have an effect on the circulatory system, use caution when taking certain medications, especially blood thinners. People who have allergies to members of the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family, which includes ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, Feverfew and many other herbs, should not take this herb internally. Do not use the essential oil if you are prone to seizures!




     I only included a basic introduction to Feverfew. I hope you have gained a new appreciation for this amazing little herb. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram or updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and want to see more, Become a Patron!






Resources:


11 Impressive Benefits of Feverfew: Organic Facts: https://www.organicfacts.net/feverfew.html

Feverfew: AARM: https://restorativemedicine.org/library/monographs/feverfew/

Feverfew: Gaia Herbs: https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/feverfew

Feverfew: Oils and Plants: https://www.oilsandplants.com/feverfew.htm

Feverfew: RX List: https://www.rxlist.com/feverfew/supplements.htm

Feverfew: White Rabbit Institute of Healing: https://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/feverfew/

Feverfew Benefits: Indigo Herbs: https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/feverfew

Feverfew Essential Oil: Living Libations: https://www.livinglibations.com/us/feverfew-essential-oil

Feverfew: Indian Mirror: https://www.indianmirror.com/ayurveda/feverfew.html

Feverfew: Peace Health: https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/hn-2091005

Feverfew and Crysanthemum: Planet Herbs: https://planetherbs.com/blogs/lesleys-blog/feverfew-and-chrysanthemum/

Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium: Annie's Remedy: https://www.anniesremedy.com/tanacetum-parthenium-feverfew.php

Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium: Ayur Times: https://www.ayurtimes.com/feverfew-tanacetum-parthenium/

Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium: Ayurvedia Medicare: https://ayurvedamedicare.com/herbs/feverfew-tanacetum-parthenium/

Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium- A Systematic Review: US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210009/

Feverfew Tanacetum partheniumUses, Health Benefits, Dosage, Medicinal Properties: Krishna Herbals: http://www.krishnaherbals.com/feverfew-herb.html

Feverfew- The Natural Headache Reliever that May Cure Cancer: Dr. Axe: https://www.oilsandplants.com/feverfew.htm

The Health Benefits of Feverfew: Very Well Health: https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-health-benefits-of-feverfew-89562

Hildegard's Feverfew Uses: Healthy Hildegard: https://healthyhildegard.com/feverfew-uses/

Tanacetum parthenium: Always Ayurveda: https://www.alwaysayurveda.com/tanacetum-parthenium/

Tanacetum parthenium, Chrysanthemum parthenium: MedicineNet: https://www.medicinenet.com/feverfew_tanacetum_parthenium-oral/article.htm

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Truth About Sunscreen






     Summer is time for fun in the sun! Being a native Floridian, this means beaches, surfing, snorkeling, springs, kayaking, and more. Also, being a naturally pale girl who likes to live on the spooky side of fashion, I tend to burn in less than 10 minutes of direct sunlight. Eek! In the past, I have been known to wear copious amounts of SPF 50+. However, in recent years, I've tried to dial back my dependence on chemicals based products. Making my own skin care products, shampoos, household cleaners, etc. This has translated to my SPF usage as well. And bonus! It's better for our environment. 

     So I started to watch my personal chemical consumption before I ever read a thing about the impact of SPF chemicals on coral and other, fragile, ecosystems. But the more I read, the more resolved I am to stick to all natural methods. Not only are there quite a few common chemicals found in sunscreen that are easily absorbed into the human body, that can potentially cause problems. But there are also a number of these chemicals that cause some serious damage to coral, fish, and other marine life. Quite often, they are the same chemicals. A number of these harmful chemicals have had minimal testing done because the FDA grandfathered them in without testing in the 1970's, because they had already been in use. Of these, Oxybenzone is one of the most concerning as it has been shown to cause problems in the endocrine system,not only in humans, but also in coral, sea urchins, fish, and several marine mammals.

     So how do you know if a sunscreen is safe? Even mineral sunscreens can contain harmful substances, and the term “reef friendly” is not regulated, so the best thing to do is to read the label. Avoid products that include the following ingredients:



  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • octisalate
  • homosalate
  • ethylhexyl salicylate
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if the label doesn't say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”


     It's also a good idea to stick to lotions, especially avoid sprays as some of the natural ingredients can still be harmful if inhaled. Of course, one of the better options is to make your own sunscreen so you know exactly what goes in it. Wellness Mama has a great recipe here, check it out!

     There are other measures you can take to help keep your skin from getting burnt. Wearing protective clothing and hats can do a world of good for helping to keep you safe from the harsh sun. Stay in the shade during the brightest/hottest part of the day, or avoiding being outside at that time is another strategy. But my favorite strategy is to optimize your diet. Avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as processed vegetable oils, processed grains, and excessive amounts of sugar. Focus on consuming foods that support healthy skin, such as:


  • Foods High in Vitamin D3 (mushrooms, fish, egg yolks)
  • Foods High in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, chili peppers)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Omega-3's (healthy seeds and nuts, brussels sprouts, fish)



     I hope I have raised your awareness about sunscreen, and given you a few strategies to help you during this summer. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. If you have anything you'd like to see me write about, please let me know! Also, find my YouTube channel and check out my videos. And Become a Patron!



Resources:


Reef Safe Sunscreen, Our Guide to Ocean-Friendly Sun Protection: Oceanic Society: https://www.oceanicsociety.org/blog/2140/reef-safe-sunscreen-our-guide-to-ocean-friendly-sun-protection?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYBCAAEgLKnPD_BwE

Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs: National Ocean Service: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html

Sunscreen Safety: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/55366/sunscreen-is-harmful/

Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreen & Safer Alternatives: Made Safe: https://www.madesafe.org/toxic-chemicals-in-sunscreen-safer-alternatives/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAiAAEgJ6h_D_BwE

Why Mineral Sunscreen is Safer for Us and the Planet: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/402998/mineral-sunscreen/

Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreen: Surfrider Foundation: https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/your-guide-to-reef-friendly-sunscreens?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAyAAEgKF9PD_BwE 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Summertime Marinated Salads







     Summertime is here, there is no denying that! With record-breaking temperatures, it's become a struggle to stay cool. So I figured I'd share a few of my favorite summertime lunch/snack ideas with you. Marinated salads! They're delicious, easy, and served cold to help you keep cool.


Calling All Cukes! 

This marinated salad has been a favorite of mine for my whole life. Mom would always keep some in the fridge as I was growing up. And as an adult I can't help but love it still. There are a number of variations you can make on this, try adding some bell peppers, cauliflower, or radishes. If you don't want to make your own dressing, try using your favorite store bought Italian or Vinaigrette. Or try switching up the herbs in the home made dressing, instead of parsley and basil try dill. Have fun!


Marinated Cucumber Salad

2 medium Cucumbers, sliced
1 pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, halved
1 Avocado, chopped
½ medium Red Onion, diced or sliced

For the Dressing:
¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 tbsp Lemon Juice (about 1 lemon)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh Basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste



Instructions:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Add in remaining ingredients and toss. Store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more for best results. (I usually do this in a mason jar that I keep in the refrigerator)


Fava Forever!

     I love fava beans. They're just wonderful, even if they are a pain to process when they're fresh. For that reason, this recipe calls for canned fava beans. But it works just as well with Chickpeas or Kidney beans if you prefer them.

Marinated Fava Bean Salad

1 15-oz can Fava Beans, drained and rinsed
½ Green Bell Pepper, diced
½ Red Bell Pepper, diced
½ medium sized Cucumber, diced
¼ medium sized Red Onion, diced
2 Green onions, diced
½ tbsp Capers
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
5-6 Mint Leaves, chopped
5-6 Basil Leaves, chopped

For the Dressing:
1 clove Garlic, minced
¼ tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
½ tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:
Combine dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in other ingredients and toss. Allow to chill for at least 1 hour for best results.


Just Beet It

     Beets are an under-appreciated vegetable. They're also more than just red. My favorite beets are the golden beets. Largely because they don't bleed all over everything and stain my hands, but also because they have such a mildly sweet taste. Try this recipe with any kind of beet you want. Chiogga beets make for a great visual presentation. Classic red beets are great for a classic beet salad. You can even use a combination of beets to make things a little extra special! This salad is also great with a little Feta, Goat Cheese, or Bleu Cheese on top!

Marinated Beet Salad

5 medium Beets, trimmed and halved (save the greens for another dish!)
2 small Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
½ a medium Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted Walnuts
2 tsp fresh Dill, chopped
1 tsp fresh Parsley, chopped

For the Dressing:
The juice of 2 Oranges
1 ½ tsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 ½ tsp Olive Oil, or Walnut Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions:
Steam the beets for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Grab them with a paper towel and peel off the skins while they are still warm (or wait until they cool and use a peeler). Thinly slice them. While they are steaming, combine the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Allow to chill for 1 hour or more for best results.


It's Greek To Me

Greek salads are a staple in most American restaurants today. But my favorite version of this salad leaves out the lettuce and brings on the marinade!

Marinated Greek Salad

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 medium Cucumbers, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 small Red Onion, diced
½ cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and halved
2 Pepperoncini Peppers, sliced into rings

Marinated Feta or Tofu:
5-6 oz Feta or Tofu, cubed
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
½ cup Olive Oil
1 sprig each of fresh Rosemary, Thyme, and Oregano
1 clove Garlic, smashed
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Dressing:
¼ cup Olive Oil (drained from the Marinated Feta/Tofu)
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste


Instructions:
Marinate the Feta/Tofu 24 hours or more (up to 14 days) in advance. Combine all the ingredients in a sealed container and hold in the refrigerator until ready to use. In a mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk well. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl, including the marinated Feta/Tofu. Toss well to combine and chill for 1 hour or more before serving.


Expect the Unexpected

     You can truly use any vegetable in a marinated salad. This next recipe proves it! Who would ever think that asparagus would make for such a good salad ingredient? This salad is also super awesome when you add fresh mozzarella cheese to it. Almost like an asparagus twist on a traditional Caprese salad.

Marinated Asparagus and Tomato Salad

2 lbs Asparagus Spears, tough ends trimmed off then chopped into 2 inch segments
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
5-7 fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
*optional 8-16 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese

For the Dressing:
6 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Honey
1 clove Garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste



Instructions:
Steam the asparagus until tender, then rinse off under cold water to cool. In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill for 1 hour or more before serving.


Something Sweet

     You don't have to stick to cold vegetables in the summer, fruit works well too! If you want to get wild and crazy, you can add in some mint or basil leaves. Or for those adult BBQs, instead of the Orange Blossom Water, try using white rum or vodka!

Marinated Fruit Salad

2 cups Watermelon, cubed
2 cups Cantaloupe, cubed
2 cups Strawberries, halved
1 cup Grapes, halved
1 cup Blueberries

For the Dressing:
½ cup Honey
¼ cup Lemon Juice
¼ cup Pineapple Juice
1/8 tsp Salt


Instructions:
Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.




     In any of these recipes, feel free to change the ingredients around.  Play with different fruit, veggies, and herbs.  Switch up the vinegars and oils. Throw in some of those wild edibles you've been dying to try. Maybe even toss in some chicken or shrimp! Have fun, play around, and let me know what you think below!




Friday, July 5, 2019

Peppergrass





     There are a handful of plants that I grew up eating or using medicinally. Often these plants are plants I would not use for other purposes. So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I come across information on how to do so.

     Peppergrass, Lipidium virginicum, is one plant that I used to nibble on when I was playing in my yard as a child. It had a peppery flavor that I loved (though for some reason I hated black pepper and chili peppers) and it grew like crazy where I lived. So imagine my surprise when I, as an adult, am taking a class and the teacher mentions that it can be used medicinally. I had to find out more! So I decided to pass it on to all of you!

     There are many Lipidiums found all over the world. However, the species that's native to North America, and the one that I'm most familiar with, is the Lipidium virginicum. Most introduced species that you hear about tend to have traveled over with the settlers into America at some point. However, Lipidium virginicum did just the opposite. It's now found throughout Europe all thanks to the early traders tracking the seeds onto their boats from America. This particular Peppergrass has a history of use that goes all the way back to the ancient Inca and Maya tribes. Where it was widely used to reduce rheumatic pain, expel intestinal worms, and treat upper respiratory conditions. Today it's still used for some of these problems, but it's also used for a few more. However, I still like it as a trail side snack myself.

     Here in Central Florida, Peppergrass can be found all year. But in other climates it's mainly found in the winter. It can be tricky to identify here because of it's growing pattern. It looks like a completely different plant depending on the stage of growth it's in. It starts off as a basal rosette, and eventually grows tall and develops a racme full of little flowers and tiny seed pods. In Florida, these stages can occur in the same month and can often be found side by side. Luckily, however, there are no dangerous look a likes here, at least that I am aware of.





Medicinal Uses:


Scientific Name- Lipidium spp. Some of the more common species include L. apetalum, L. armoracia, L. campestre, L. iberis, L. ruderale, L. sativum, and L. virginicum.

Common Names- Peppergrass, Pepperwort, Peppercress, Canary Grass, Poor Man's Pepper, Garder Cress, Virginia Pepperweed, Pepperweed, Wild Pepper Grass, Menzies' Pepperweed, and Hairy Pepperweed.

Edible Parts- The entire plant is edible and medicinal. The root can be ground and used as a wasabi or horseradish substitute. The leaves are commonly eaten raw or cooked as a potherb. The seeds have a peppery taste that makes for a great spice. You can even put the whole plant into a food processor and make a great, peppery, sauce with it.

Summary of actions- Anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiasthmatic, antiscorbutic, antitussive, cardiotonic, detoxifying, and diuretic

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Peppergrass seeds are acrid, bitter, and extremely cold. It most strongly effects the meridians of lung and bladder. Peppergrass is often used to purge the lung’s pathogenic fire to relieve asthma and induce diuresis to alleviate edema. Symptoms that may indicate a positive reaction to the use of Peppergrass include retention of phlegm-dampness in the lungs, a feeling of fullness and discomfort in chest, inability to lay flat, difficult urination, and heart disease associated with pulmonary edema. 

Ayurveda- Peppergrass is heavy and sticky, pungent and bitter, and has a hot potency. It increases Pitta while balancing Vata and Kapha. Peppergrass is commonly used to improve lactation, as an aphrodesiac, a diuretic, and to rejuvenate. It also induces mobility in the digestive tract, making it useful to relieve constipation. It's primarily indicated for use in urinary tract disorders, diabetes, asthma, cough, colds, acute bronchitis, chronic respiratory conditions, and to fight off fatigue and/or weakness. It does increase Pitta dosha, so people with a Pitta body type should use caution.

High Amounts of Vitamin C- Peppergrass is a traditional treatment for scurvy and other conditions that result from low amounts of Vitamin C.

Asthma and Upper Respiratory Conditions- One of the main problems that people with upper respiratory conditions tend to have in common is an excess of mucus. Peppergrass helps to clear up and expel mucus.

Improves Immunity- We are all aware that Vitamin C can help improve immunity. Peppergrass is known for it's high amounts of Vitamin C. But it also has a moving effect on the body. Helping to energize the immune system and move your white blood cells to where they are needed most.

Urinary Tract Issues- Peppergrass is a great diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess water. It's also great at detoxifying. This makes it a wonderful herb to call on in cases of urinary tract infections (UTI).

Circulatory System- Peppergrass' diuretic effects can help reduce blood pressure as well. Helping to flush out excessive water and toxins from the body. It's also a great anti-inflammatory herb, helping to reduce the buildup of inflammation that can cause circulatory issues down the road. It's also a cardio tonic, tonifying the heart and entire circulatory system.

Contraindications, Cautions, and Warnings- There have been some allergies observed. Symptoms of these allergies range from general itchiness to anaphylactic shock. If you have any reaction, go to the hospital ASAP! Peppergrass is also a hyperaccumulator of minerals. If the soil is contaminated with toxic metals, Peppergrass will suck them up.





     I only included a basic introduction to Peppergrass. I hope you have learned a new appreciation for such a common weed.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

References:


Common Peppergrass: Illinois Wildflowers: http://illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_peppergrass.htm

Lepidium Virginicum: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lepidium+virginicum

Lepidium Virginicum Uses: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Lepidium-Virginicum-Cid3781

Medicinal Abilities of Peppergrass: Health Digezt: https://www.healthdigezt.com/medicinal-abilities-peppergrass/

Peppergrass: Edible Wild Food: http://www.ediblewildfood.com/peppergrass.aspx

Peppergrass: Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/plant/peppergrass

Peppergrass: Foraging Texas: https://www.foragingtexas.com/2012/01/peppergrass.html

Peppergrass: Medicinal Plants of India: http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/peppergrass.html

Peppergrass - Potent Pipsqueak: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/peppergrass-potent-pipsqueak/

Peppergrass Seeds (Ting Li Zi): Chinese Herbs Healing: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/peppergrass-seeds/

Peppergrass - Todari Uses, Dose, Side Effects, Research: Easy Ayurveda: https://easyayurveda.com/2015/03/28/peppergrass-todari-uses-dose-side-effects-research/

Pepperweed: My Mystic Mama: http://www.mymysticmama.com/pepperweed/

Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal Use of Lepidium sativum in Airways Disorders: Hindawi: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/596524/

Wild Peppergrass: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lepidium-virginicum=wild-pepper-grass.php


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cortisol Imbalance







     Living in a modern world, in a society that demands more and more out of us, we can often find ourselves becoming overly stressed, easily exhausted, having a hard time sleeping, and finding it almost impossible to loose weight. These are all symptoms of cortisol imbalance.

     Cortisol is a stress hormone. In fact, it's often considered the primary stress hormone. It's one of the main hormones released when our bodies are kicked into “fight or flight” mode. The “fight or flight” response (also called the acute stress response) is a response that helped our ancestors evolve. When we feel terrified, mentally or physically, our bodies release certain hormones that help us deal with the situation by either running or fighting. These hormones trigger a rapid response from our bodies that results in an increase in our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This pumps oxygen to our muscles much faster, allowing us to be stronger and faster for a short time. Afterward, it takes 20-60 minutes for our bodies to go back to normal. 

     Cortisol is a necessary hormone for life, helping us to stay motivated or keep us awake and responsive to our environment. However, being constantly exposed to tense situations, such as traffic or fast-paced work environments, can cause a buildup of Cortisol. Over time your adrenal glands will not be able to keep up the levels of production required by your constant state of stress. This will cause adrenal fatigue, and combined with high levels of Cortisol, this can cause some seriously adverse effects.



Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance


1. Chronic pain and headaches

     Excessive amounts of stress can put a major strain on your adrenal glands, which can increase your sensitivity to pain. You may start noticing an increase in backaches, headaches, and/or other body aches. If you tend to hold back your tears you should consider having a “good cry” because a number of hormones that cause this sensitivity can be released with those tears.
   

2. Weight gain, especially around the belly

     Excessive Cortisol levels tend to cause weight gain. It stimulates appetite and most of the weight gained will end up gravitating to your mid-section. You may also develop a round face, or fat neck. This can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
         

3. Weakened immunity

     When your Cortisol levels are high, your immune system is not able to function as well. This leads to you catching every little germ that you are exposed to. Or so it may seem.
       

4. In ability to sleep and fatigue

     Cortisol directly helps to regulate your waking and sleeping cycles. Imbalanced Cortisol levels can cause problems sleeping and symptoms of chronic fatigue. The occasional bout insomnia is usually nothing to worry about, but if you find yourself experiencing chronic sleep problems and/or excessive fatigue, you may be experiencing a Cortisol imbalance.


5. Mood changes, panic attacks, and/or depression
         
     When your Cortisol levels are high, your feel-good hormones (such as serotonin) are low. This can leave you feeling quite depressed, anxious, and irritable. Making you prone to some crazy mood swings, and panic attacks.


6. Infertility and/or no sex drive

     Fighting or running for you life doesn’t really put most people “in the mood.” So it's no surprise that high levels of Cortisol may reduce you sex drive, and in some cases remove it all together. On top of that, it can lead to problems such as impotence and irregular menstrual cycles which can cause fertility problems.





Tips to help balance your cortisol levels


1. Whole foods diet

     Our bodies actually use Cortisol to balance out our blood sugar when it gets too low. With this in mind, we can use healthy carbohydrates as an excellent tool to help us balance our Cortisol in turn. Also, by switching to a predominantly whole foods diet, we reduce our exposure to foods that increase inflammation, and thus increase our Cortisol. Combining these two strategies in a way to fits your life may be one of the best ways to reduce and balance your Cortisol levels.


2. Stress management

     Cortisol is released in times of stress. So reducing your stress helps to reduce the amount of Cortisol your body releases, and helps provide more time to help your body fully recover from the stress. Using strategies that include meditation, deep breathing, spending time outdoors, healthy exercise, and acupuncture may be a great way to help balance out your Cortisol levels.


3. A matter of lighting

     This may sound ridiculous, but lighting can seriously effect your Cortisol levels. Cortisol issues aren't just from high amounts of Cortisol, it can also be an issue when Cortisol is released at the wrong time. When we are exposed to blue light (such as from a TV or computer screen) at night, our bodies release Cortisol and reduce melatonin. Reducing our ability to get a good night's sleep. Also, when we spend a lot of time indoors and don't get much natural sunlight during the day, our bodies can get confused as to the time and release these hormones at inappropriate times. Try going outside for 30 minutes within an hour of waking up, and using blue light filters on your devices at night. This can seriously help balance out the timing of your body's release of Cortisol and help balance out your Cortisol levels.

4. Essential Oils

     It's no secret that smells evoke feelings in us. You smell a certain scent and you remember a pleasant moment, maybe it's the smell of fresh baked apple pie. You smell that and remember your grandmother making one for you when you were little. Or maybe you smell coffee and feel instantly alert, just from the smell. Whatever the reason, smells can be strongly effective. Certain essential oils can actually reduce your Cortisol levels by scent alone. Try diffusing essential oils that help aid relaxation. Lavender, myrrh, frankincense, bergamont, clary sage, sandalwood, and thyme are just a few. You can also dilute essential oils into a carrier oil and make your own massage oil to use when you are feeling especially stressed.


5. Adaptogen Herbs

     Adaptogens are a classification of herbs that help you body recover from and adapt better to stress. They naturally balance hormones (including Cortisol), reduce inflammation, lower fatigue, reduce inflammation, and help control blood sugar and blood pressure levels. A number of them have been tested and proven to actually reduce Cortisol levels. Here are just a few to look into adding into your daily routine.
         Ashwagandha
         Tulsi (or Holy Basil)
         Astragalus
         Licorice Root
         Medicinal Mushrooms such as Reishi or Shiitake



     I hope this helps you be more mindful of your stress levels and gives you a good idea of what to do when the stress gets to be to much. If you have any questions of comments, please leave them below.


Resources:


6 Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels: Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/cortisol-levels/

8 Signs You're Suffering From A Cortisol Imbalance: Atlas Drug & Nutrition: http://atlasdrugandnutrition.com/cortisol-imbalance/

Cortisol/Adrenal Fatigue (Men): Genemetics Health Institute: https://www.genemedics.com/hormone-therapy/mens-hormones/cortisoladrenal-fatigue/

Cortisol/Adrenal Fatigue (Women): Genemetics Health Institute: https://www.genemedics.com/hormone-therapy/womens-hormones/cortisoladrenal-fatigue/

Cortisol Imbalance Symptoms: Livestrong: https://www.livestrong.com/article/94310-cortisol-imbalance-symptoms/

How I Reduced My Cortisol Levels Naturally With Food & Light: Wellness Mama: https://wellnessmama.com/1570/reduce-cortisol/

Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance in Women: Tranquility Labs: https://www.tranquilitylabs.com/symptoms-of-cortisol-imbalance-in-women/

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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...