Thursday, March 21, 2019

Coping with Loss

      Spring is in the air. Birds are singing, animals are frolicking, and even in this time of growth and renewal, there is always loss. Our lives are made up of a number of transitions. We are born and transition to life outside of the womb where we learn to communicate with others, to walk, to run, and eventually to grow. We all experience the transitions from childhood to adolescence, to adulthood, and eventually even to death. During those stages in our lives, a number of things change. Some we can control, others we can't. And with every door that closes, there is another that is opened. However, sometimes the closing of that initial door is harder than others. At times we may never notice it closing, at other times it slams shut so forcibly that we are startled, and sometimes we have a hard time recovering from the shock we are given when the door is closed unexpectedly. I'm going to step out of the realm of metaphors for a moment and talk to you about loss and grief.

     Grief is a process we go through whenever loss is experienced. Grief is most well known when death is involved, but it's not just a process that deals with death. You can grieve the loss of just about anything in your life, and grief is often experienced in times of transition. The loss of a job, the ending of a relationship, even moving from one place to another can trigger feelings of loss and the process of grief. There are even happy moments in our lives that may cause sadness and grief. It's a wonderful and magical time when a child is born, but the mother may feel a major loss in the process, after all she was just carrying that child inside her own womb and caring for it in a way that no one else on earth will ever experience. So even though the child is now out and able to grow and interact with the world at large, the mother may need to grieve for the loss of that intimacy with her child that she will never again have. It's perfectly normal to deal with feelings of grief and loss multiple times throughout your life. But what are those feelings and how do we deal with them?

     Grief is experienced differently by each individual person and can have a wide range of emotions and effects. Often people feel empty or numb immediately after their loss. Some people experience physical symptoms such as nausea, trouble breathing, dry mouth, insomnia, or problems eating. Some people get angry and have emotional outbursts. Many people feel guilt or feel the need to assign guilt to someone else. Often, a single person can go through all of these or just a few. As such, recovering from grief can be a very personal journey too. Some people find that their friends and/or family help to ease those feelings. Others just want to be alone to work through their grief. Some people dive into their tasks in an effort to forget their grief and just move on. A number of psychologists have developed models dealing with the stages of grief. The most well known is likely the 5 Stages of Grief developed in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She developed this model initially to deal with bereavement, which is a specific process of grieving the loss of a loved one. However, she later altered it to deal with all forms of loss. In her model there are 5 stages, and according to her studies everyone goes through at least 2 of these stages. Her 5 stages are:

1- Denial
     This is the stage where you may say things such as “this isn't happening” or “this can't be happening.” This is a normal defense mechanism that allows us to move through the initial wave of pain. For most people, this is the immediate response and can be likened to a kind of shock.

2- Anger
     Usually, people move through the stage of denial and into anger. This anger may be directed at ourselves in the form of guilt. Or it may be directed at others, or even inanimate objects or complete strangers. In our anger, we assign blame, or feel resentment. We may even resent the person who we lost for leaving, even if it was not their fault.

3- Bargaining
     In this stage, we often use “if only” statements, and we think of all the things we could have done differently to affect a different outcome. We often secretly make a deal with God, attempting to hold off the inevitable or to negate it all together. This is another stage accompanied by guilt. This guilt is often directed towards ourselves and our lack of ability to save our loved one or change the situation.

4- Depression
     Typically, there are two types of depression that come with grief. The first one is a more practical reaction, worrying about the cost of a funeral or divorce or even worrying that you're neglecting other loved ones while you're dealing with your current loss. This type of depression is usually alleviated with a little reassurance and some clarification. However, the second type of depression is typically more subtle and more personal. It's our own preparation to say goodbye, readying ourselves to start our new lives.

5- Acceptance
     Not everyone reaches this stage. Most of us have a hard time getting over our anger, or moving past denial. This stage is a stage of sadness and withdrawal, but often allows us to make peace with our situation. This is where  you accept that you will feel sad, but will be able to move on and continue to live your life without guilt.

     These stages do not necessarily occur in order, and  a number of people will revisit a few of these stages years down the road, or off and on throughout their life. However, it's important to understand that we all experience at least a few of these stages of grief when we feel a loss, or experience a transition. It's important to allow yourself to experience these stages. To move through them and to feel them. Some time ago I posted a guide to accepting the negative emotions in your life, this may help you to understand that these feeling are perfectly normal and healthy.

     If you are having problems feeling your grief and dealing with your loss, seek help. There are a number of amazing counselors out there that are trained to help you move through these emotions. There are also herbs that can help you to feel comfort, though just the act of making a simple tea can be a comfort in and of itself. Grief and loss is often referred to as heartache or heartbreak. Herbs that are gentile and beneficial to the cardiovascular system can often have a beneficial effect on our hearts in times of grief as well. Some herbs are also known to soothe our nerves, which can also help comfort us through grief. Herbs that are most well known to help during times of loss include Rose, Violet, Motherwort, and Linden. If you are dealing with anger, you may want to look into Lavender or Chamomile to help calm you down, both of these herbs work well in a tea or you can use their essential oils and diffuse their scent throughout your home. Citrus is known to lift the spirit and can be beneficial during times of depression when dealing with loss. Orange, Lime, Lemon, or Grapefruit make beautifully cheerful teas and the smell of them can often be enough to lift you out of a depressed state. There are also flower essences that can help you move through the process of grief. Reach out if you feel you need help.

     I hope I have provided a little help and support for your time of loss.  If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.


5 Stages of loss and Grief: Psych Central:

A DIY Herbal Grief Tea for Loss: The Herbal Academy:

Coping with Grief and Loss: Help Guide:

Easing Grief with Bach Flower Remedies: Aldaron Essences:!

Flower Essences for Depression and Grief: Body Mind Spirit Online:

Grief: Bach Flower Remedies:

Grief- a Combination Remedy: Blessed Flower Essences:

Grief, Loss and Bereavement: Good Therapy:

Herbal Support for Grief and Loss: Herban Wellness:

Herbs for Grief: Steady Health:

Herbs for Grief, Heartbreak, and Loss: Siobhan Cosgrave:

Herbs for Grief, Sadness, and Broken Heart: Wellness Insider Network:

Herbs for Heartbreak: Mountain Rose Herbs:

Homeopathy for Grief and Emotional Trauma: Natural Medicine:

How Do I Grieve? Grief Work and TEARS: Dr. Christina Hibbert:

How to Deal With Grief: Dr Bradford & Associates:

Tips to Help Yourself in Times of Grief: Very Well Health:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Stuffed Grape Leaves

     Grapes are grown as a staple food source throughout the world. Most people are familiar with the fresh fruit, and even the dried raisins. These are a great snack for people of all ages, and they're considered to be the best fruit to use for wine making. However, the leaves are also edible, and no one knows how to cook them like the Mediterranean cultures. Dolmades, dolmas, Warak Enab, these amazing little stuffed grape leaves go by a number of different names and have quite a few variations. All of which are absolutely delicious! Almost all Mediterranean countries have a version (or 10) of stuffed grape leaves, some with meat, some without. I'm going to share a few of my favorites with you today!

     Before I introduce you to the recipes, I want to talk about the most tedious, and sometimes difficult, part of this dish. Rolling the grape leaves. If you're working with fresh grape leaves, you may want to parboil them for 3-5 min. This leaves them nice and supple, and MUCH much easier to roll. Most of the canned leaves you may encounter at the store are already nice and pliable, but you may still want to dip them in some boiling water for a minute or two just to make sure the brine is all washed off. You want to make sure that the leaf is laid out flat with the veins facing upwards (some people prefer to roll the other way, do what makes you happy!). Make sure you trim off the stem, you don't want that bad boy poking through and ripping a hole in your leaf. Depending on the size of your leaves, you only want to put 1-2 tablespoons of stuffing in each. The rice will continue to expand in the cooking process and you want to make sure to leave enough room for that to happen. Place the stuffing close to where the stem was, in the center of the bottom section. I like to start with the right side, but you can start with the left if you prefer. Bring up the lower, right section of the leaf, over the stuffing towards the center. Repeat with the left side. It's ok if you see a little of the stuffing, it'll all be covered soon. Fold in the left section of the leaf over the lower left section you just folded. Then bring in the right side. Now, pretend you have a tiny burrito and start your roll. Start rolling from the bottom, keep it snug, but not too snug, you're still saving room for that rice. Plus, you don't want to rip it. When you've got it completely rolled up, give it a good, but gentle, squeeze in the palm of your hand. Just make sure that you place your rolls with the seam down while you cook them. This will keep them from unraveling in your pan. Lynn Livanos Athan has a good little tutorial on this at The Spruce Eats. There's also a trick you can use that may make the rolling a bit faster. You can find the video here.

     Once you've rolled all your grape leaves, then you need to put them in your pot to cook. Make sure you put something on the bottom first, either tomato slices, onions, slices of potatoes, or just some left over grape leaves. But if you don't do this, your beautifully rolled grape leaves will stick to the bottom of your pot.

As always, the following recipes are gluten free and vegan friendly.

1. Back to the basics!

Traditionally, grape leaves are stuffed with a combination of rice, herbs, and the option of ground beef and lamb. So here's a good traditional recipe, leaving out the meat. If you want to add that in, feel free to do so. Also, if you're trying to avoid Olive Oil, try using Avocado oil or Sunflower oil instead.

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

60 Grape Leaves, drained and rinsed twice
2 cups Rice
2 cups Olive Oil
2 large Onions, finely chopped
4 cups Water
juice of 3 Lemons
3 tbsp fresh Dill, chopped
1 ½ cup fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tomato, sliced thick
1 Onion, sliced thick
3-4 Grape Leaves
Water to cover

Prepare your grape leaves. If you are lucky enough to find fresh ones, follow my instructions above. If you are using canned leaves, make sure you rinse them 1-2 times, the brine tends to be super salty. Lay them flat, on a plate, with a wet towel over them so they don't dry out.

For the stuffing, in a pan, over medium-high heat, saute the onions with 1 cup olive oil. Saute until they are just translucent. Rinse the rice and add rice to the onions. Saute for an additional 1 minute, then add in 4 cups of water and the juice of 1 lemon. Simmer this mixture for about 7 minutes. Add in all the herbs, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir. Remove it from heat and allow it to cool.

Line a large pot with 3-4 grape leaves, the sliced tomatoes, and sliced onions. Roll your grape leaves using my instructions from above. Place the rolled grape leaves, seam down, inside the pot, make sure to pack them in tight for each layer, to help prevent them from coming unrolled. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over your rolls, and add in a bit more salt and pepper if you want. Place an inverted plate on top of the grape leaves to keep them from floating up in the cooking process. Pour in the remaining lemon juice and enough water to just barely cover your rolls. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for an additional 30 minutes.

Traditionally, these vegetarian grape leaves are served cool or room temperature, with a squeeze of fresh lemon and some yogurt. However they're also delicious hot. Enjoy!

2. Lentils and Chickpeas.

I love using lentils and/or chickpeas in my grape leaves. They add a boost of protein and texture that just takes these delicious rolls to the next level. In the following recipe, I used lentils, but you can use chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, or really any cooked bean in place of the lentils.

Lentil Stuffed Grape Leaves

60 Grape Leaves, drained and rinsed twice
1 lb cooked Lentils
2 cups Rice
2 cups Olive Oil
2 large Onions, finely chopped
4 cups Water
juice of 2 Lemons
2 tbsp Zaatar
¼ tsp Allspice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Potato, sliced thick
1 Carrot, sliced thick
3-4 Grape Leaves
Water to cover

Prepare your grape leaves. If you are lucky enough to find fresh ones, follow my instructions above. If you are using canned leaves, make sure you rinse them 1-2 times, the brine tends to be super salty. Lay them flat, on a plate, with a wet towel over them so they don't dry out.

For the stuffing, in a pan, over medium-high heat, saute the onions with 1 cup olive oil. Saute until they are just translucent. Rinse the rice and add rice to the onions. Saute for an additional 1 minute, then add in 4 cups of water and the juice of 1 lemon. Simmer this mixture for about 7 minutes. Add in all the lentils, herbs, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir. Remove it from heat and allow it to cool.

Line a large pot with 3-4 grape leaves, the sliced potatoes, and sliced carrots. Roll your grape leaves using my instructions from above. Place the rolled grape leaves, seam down, inside the pot, make sure to pack them in tight for each layer, to help prevent them from coming unrolled. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over your rolls, and add in a bit more salt and pepper if you want. Place an inverted plate on top of the grape leaves to keep them from floating up in the cooking process. Pour in the remaining lemon juice and enough water to just barely cover your rolls. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for an additional 30 minutes.

Traditionally, these grape leaves are served hot. They are also delicious at room temperature. I personally love eating these with fresh tomato slices and a bit of lemon juice. Enjoy!

3. Add in the good stuff!

This is my absolute favorite stuffed grape leaves recipe. There are so many good things added into the stuffing that it cannot be called “basic.” If you don't like one of these ingredients, simply substitute something you do like. For instance, if you don't like tomatoes in your grape leaves, try using green peas or corn instead. You could even chop up some boiled eggs, or tofu, and add that into the stuffing. The most important thing about any of my recipes, is that you have fun making it and you enjoy eating it!

Vegetable Stuffed Grape Leaves

60 Grape Leaves, drained and rinsed twice
1 Large Tomato, finely chopped
1 Zucchini, finely chopped
1 Medium Carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 ribs of Celery, finely chopped
¼ Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
3-4 Green Onions, finely chopped
2 cups Rice
2 cups Olive Oil
1 Large Red Onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp Minced Garlic
4 cups Water
juice of 2 Lemons
1 cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp Crushed Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tomato, sliced thick
1 Onion, sliced thick
3-4 Grape Leaves
Water to cover

Prepare your grape leaves. If you are lucky enough to find fresh ones, follow my instructions above. If you are using canned leaves, make sure you rinse them 1-2 times, the brine tends to be super salty. Lay them flat, on a plate, with a wet towel over them so they don't dry out.

For the stuffing, in a pan, over medium-high heat, saute the red onion, garlic, celery, and carrots with 1 cup olive oil. Saute until the onions are just translucent. Rinse the rice and add rice to the onions. Saute for an additional 1 minute, then add in 4 cups of water and the juice of 1 lemon. Simmer this mixture for about 7 minutes. Add in all the remaining vegetables, herbs, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir. Remove it from heat and allow it to cool.

Line a large pot with 3-4 grape leaves, the sliced potatoes, and sliced carrots. Roll your grape leaves using my instructions from above. Place the rolled grape leaves, seam down, inside the pot, make sure to pack them in tight for each layer, to help prevent them from coming unrolled. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over your rolls, and add in a bit more salt and pepper if you want. Place an inverted plate on top of the grape leaves to keep them from floating up in the cooking process. Pour in the remaining lemon juice and enough water to just barely cover your rolls. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve these either hot or cold. With or without lemon juice and yogurt. Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy these Stuffed Grape Leaves! Let me know what you think down below!

Saturday, March 9, 2019


     Ephedrine. It's an alkaloid that has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Typically it's either extracted from Ephedra, a shrub that contains high amounts of ephedrine and grants it's name to the chemical, or it's synthetically produced in a lab. This alkaloid is great for a number of health problems, including bronchitis, asthma, and nasal congestion. However, with it's possible side effects and due to it's being one of the chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine, ephedrine has been strictly regulated and is mostly illegal to posses and use unless you have a prescription.

     So you may have noticed that the name of this post is Sida, and you may be wondering why my opening remarks are about Ephedrine. Well, Sida contains small amounts of this alkaloid. Which makes Sida illegal to posses and use in most states, unless you are a licensed acupuncturist. While I understand the reasoning behind the regulation of ephedrine, having the regulation be so strict might be going a bit overboard. A plant like Sida, which contains a very very small amount of ephedrine, and is readily found in my front yard, cannot be harvested and used by most people because of this regulation. However, it's a common weed in my area, and is a traditional wild food. Most people who would want to harvest and use this plant are not going to harvest enough of it to be able to extract a large enough amount of ephedrine to synthesize methamphetamine. Not to mention, regulating a traditional food source can be a bit upsetting to those who still use it for food. Imagine if the government were to regulate spinach in the same fashion.

     But enough about my rant, and on to the more pleasant details about this awesome little herb.

Medicinal Uses:

Scientific Name- Sida acuta, S. carpinifolia, S. rhombifiolia, S. cordifolia, S. spinosa, and S. tiagii. There are over 120 species world wide that have been used in a traditional sense. These are the ones that have been studied the most and who's traditional use has been verified, largely, by modern science.

Common Names- Most of the plants in the Sida genus are typically called something to do with “fanpetals.” S. spinosa is known as Prickly Fanpetals. S. cordata is called Heartleaf Fanpetals. However, most of the more medicinally useful species tend to be the exceptions. S. acuta is commonly called Wireweed, Teaweed, Ironweed, and Broomweed (it's typically used to make brooms). S. cordifolia is commonly known as Country Mallow. S. rhombifolia is Cuban Jute. If you haven't noticed yet, a lot of the names have something to do with cordage of some sort. These plants are usually used for a traditional kind of cordage just about everywhere they grow.

Parts Used- Every part of this plant is used. Most commonly, people tend to stick to the arial parts. Though that could be due to the ease of the harvest. Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of Herbal Antibiotics, states that “harvesting the root of a mature plant in this genus is as difficult as conveying to a politician the meaning of the word integrity.”

Parts Eaten- One of my favorite foragers, Green Deane, says that Sida is “barely edible.” However, I also know of several people who drink a tea made from the leaves, and cook the young leaves and flowers as a pot herb. Personally, I don't mind it as a pot herb, mixed in with other greens, and the tea is pleasant.

Summary of Actions- Antibiotic, abortifacient, anthelmintic, antidote, antiemetic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antipyretic, antirheumatic, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, bitter, cardio tonic, contraceptive, cytotoxic, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, emollient, nervine,  febrifuge, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, hypoglycaemic, stomachic, tonic, and vulnerary

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Huang Hua Mu, as Sida rhombifolia is known in China, is used to clear heat, benefit dampness, and stop pain. Typically it is used to lift depression, to treat bronchitis, clear up cough, and to help treat urinary tract infections.

Ayurveda- Known as Bala in the Ayurvedic tradition, this herb balances all three doshas, but works particularly well on vata. It's beneficial to treat diarrhea, and can be described as nutritive and invigorating. It's often used to rejuvenate the nervous, circulatory, and urinary systems. It's also cooling and astringent and also used to speed the healing of wounds, reduce inflammation, and to treat bleeding disorders.

Antibiotic- Sida is a systemic antibiotic, meaning that it gets absorbed into the blood stream and circulates throughout the whole body. Sida works well to treat systemic Staph infections, infected wounds, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and quite a few other bacterial infections.

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria- MRSA has become a pretty big problem in recent years. Sida works extremely well to help treat MRSA and other resistant infections by blocking their ability to reproduce. MRSA and other resistant bacteria developed their resistance to antibiotics because of the single compound nature of the antibiotics. Herbs can sometimes prove super effective against them because they contain hundreds of compounds that the bacteria just cant seem to fight as efficiently.

Fever- The whole plant is useful to help reduce fever. It's also a great antimicrobial, so it helps fight the cause of the fever as well. 

Wound Care- The juice of the roots is used to help speed the healing of wounds, but the leaf can also be used in a poultice for the same. 

Digestion- Being a member of the Mallow family (Malvaceae), Sida is full of mucilage. This makes it ideal for most issues with the digestive system, helping to soothe the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It's great to help relieve stomach aches, indigestion, and diarrhea.

Upper Respiratory- The ephedrine content of Sida makes is a great ally for most upper respiratory conditions, including asthma and bronchitis. 

Male and Female Reproductive Uses- Soothes inflammation of the testicles. The juice of the whole plant is also used to help treat gonorrhea. It is also used to help increase the quantity and quality of sperm while helping to control the pre-ejaculation of sperm. It's also used to help stimulate the start of menses in women who are having problems with late menses. This is why it's so dangerous in the early stages of pregnancy. It has been historically used as a birth control method for this reason.

Contraindications and Warnings- This plant does contain a small amount of ephedrine, a controlled substance here in the U.S. Ephedrine has been known to increase heart rate, especially in conjunction with caffeine. This can cause some serious health problems. It can also interact with a number of medications, including steroids, beta-blockers, and MAO inhibitors. Check with your doctor before taking this herb in any quantity. Also not recommended for the early stages of pregnancy, though it can be beneficial in the final trimester. Check with your doctor or midwife before taking this herb if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Sida also lowers blood glucose levels, so use caution if your are diabetic. Sida is also harmful to goats. 

     I only included a basic introduction to this amazing herb.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


Book- Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Bala: Med India:

Bala-Country Mallow-Sida Cordifolia-Uses, Side Effects: Easy Ayurveda:

Bala (Sida Cordifolia): Bimbima:

Country Mallow: Himalaya Wellness:

Herbal Antibiotics: Herbal Prepper:

Sida Acuta: Aravindh Herbal Labs:

Sida Acuta: Henriette's Herbal Homepage:

Sida Acuta: Herbpathy:

Sida Acuta: Useful Tropical Plants:

Sida Cordifolia: WebMD:

Sida Rhombifolia: Earth Medicine Institute:

Sida, Wireweed: Eat The Weeds:

Systemic Herbal Antibiotics-Sida: Health Tips:

Top 10 Health Benefits and Medicinal Uses of Bala (Sida Cordifolia): Gyanunlimited:

Ualisualisan: Philippine Medicinal Plants:

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

10 Rose Recipes

     Rose is such a great flower, and has quite a few medicinal properties. However, we also forget that it's a traditional ingredient in quite a few foods, especially of the Middle Eastern variety. Using rose petals, rose water, and rose hips is a great way to add a bit of flair to any dish though. Check out some of my favorite recipes using the flowers (or water) and hips of this great plant.

Rose Petals/Water 

     Rose petals, and rose water, have a great floral taste that enhances quite a few dishes. It's more commonly used in sweet, dessert style food. But rose goes so well with so many spices that you can really add it into most any spice mixture. Rose is a great addition to Berbere, Garam Masala, and Adveih, and well as many more. Check out these 5 recipes using rose petals (or rose water made from those petals).

1. Starting with a treat! Rose petal jelly is delicious on any occasion, but adding a little clove and cardamom steps it up to a treat that will be hard to put down.

Spiced Rose Petal Jelly
(4 Servings)

3 ½ cups Water
2 Whole Cloves
1 Cardamom Pod, crushed
1/3 cup dried Rose Petals
1 ¾ oz Pectin
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 cup, lightly packed, fresh Rose Petals
4 cups Sugar

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in dried Rose petals, cloves, and cardamom pod. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. Return to the saucepan and stir in the fresh petals, lemon juice, and pectin. Stir until the pectin is dissolved. Over high heat, bring the new mixture to a boil and add the sugar. Set a timer and boil for 2 full minutes, stirring constantly. After 2 minutes, transfer mixture to sterilized jars, seal, and allow to come to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator overnight to set. After it has set, it will hold in the pantry for up to 6 months, or in the fridge for up to 1 year.

2. Roses in a savory dish? No way! Well, guess what. Roses go great with savory things too! This recipe features roses used in a Moroccan style sauce called a Chermoula, which is usually used as a marinade for fish. This recipe, however, uses the sauce for roasting a mixture of chickpeas, carrots, and zucchini. You can use any of the left over sauce for other dishes such as eggplant “steaks,” shrimp kabobs, chicken, or even tofu. It's so versatile.

Rose Roasted Chickpeas
(2 Main-Dish Servings, or 4 Sides)

Chermoula Sauce:
¼ cup Parsley Leaves
¼ cup Cilantro Leaves
3 cloves fresh Garlic, smashed
4 tbsp Olive Oil
4 tbsp Vegetable Broth
Juice of 1 Lemon, reserve the zest
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp dried Rose Petals
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
*optional: up to ½ tsp Cayenne powder (however spicy you want it)

4 Carrots, peeled and diced
2 small Zucchinis, diced
1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp Sauce
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Rose Buds
Zest of 1 Lemon (reserved from making the sauce)
*optional: Yogurt or Dairy Free alternative as a topping

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all your sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a thick paste forms. Adjust any seasoning if necessary. Toss the carrots in some olive oil and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and bake them for 10 minutes, or until tender. Combine all remaining other ingredients and toss well, coating the vegetables well with the sauce. After the 10 minutes are up, remove the carrots from the oven and add to the vegetable mixture. Toss once more to coat the carrots and place the mixture back onto the cookie sheet. Roast for 25-30 more minutes, or until carrots are fork tender and slightly charred. Remove from the oven, drizzle a little more sauce on top (if you need to thin it out, add a bit of water) and a dollop of yogurt.

3. Back to more familiar rose territory. This sweet bread makes a great treat either drizzled with honey or used to make a killer french toast breakfast.

Honey Rose-Berry Bread
(10 Servings)

1 tbsp ground Flax Seed
2 ½ tbsp Water
¼ cup dried Rose Petals
2 cups Gluten Free Flour (my favorite is by Namaste)
½ cup ground Chia Seeds and/or Flax Seeds
1 ½ tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
Zest of 1 Lemon
¼ cup fresh Strawberries, diced
¼ cup fresh or dried Blueberries
1 cup Honey or ½ cup Agave nectar
2/3 cup Rose Water
1/3 cup of Lemon Juice (juice of 3 small lemons)

1 cup Honey (or ½ cup Agave Nectar and ½ cup Water)
2 tbsp Rose Water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9X5in loaf pan. Combine 1 tbsp ground flax seed with 2 ½ tbsp water, mix well and set in the fridge to chill, at least 10 minutes. Lightly crush rose petals in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, add in flour, ground chia/flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well to combine. Fold in rose petals, berries, and lemon zest. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix honey (or agave), chilled flax seed mixture, rose water, and lemon juice. Stir well. Pour mixture over flour mixture and stir well until combined. Pour batter into your greased loaf pan and bake about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan to flip out the bread and continue to cool on a cooling rack while you prepare the glaze. For the glaze, in a small saucepan on medium-high heat, combine honey (or agave and water) with rose water. Bring mixture to a gentile boil and remove from the heat. Whisk well and pour over the cooled bread.  (if you really want that glaze to impact the flavor of the bread, use a toothpick to punch tiny holes over the top of your bread before adding on the glaze)

4. Rose makes a refreshing drink as well. Not only do the petals and hips make a lovely tea, but you can add them to lemonade, sangria, mojitos, etc. Here's one of my favorites, Hibiscus Rose Lemonade recipe for the summers.

Hibiscus Rose Lemonade
(1 Quart)

1 ½ -2 cups Sugar or Honey (however sweet you like it)
1 ½ cups Water
½ cup dried Rose Petals
½ cup dried Hibiscus Flowers
2 cups freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (about 10-12 Lemons)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the sugar/honey and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir until sugar/honey is dissolved. Add in the rose petals and hibiscus flowers, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to cool for 45 minutes. Pour mixture over ice and stir well before adding in the lemon juice and stirring one last time. Taste your lemonade and adjust the sweetness if desired. If you want some more rose flavor, simply add a ½ tsp of rose water at a time until it reaches the flavor you want.

5. I love chia pudding. It makes for a great breakfast, starting you day off with all the benefits of chia. It's also a great snack for when I'm just craving sweets. This variation adds in the soft, floral flavor of rose and the rich flavor of chocolate.

Chocolate Rose Chia Seed Pudding
(4 Servings)

2 cups Coconut Milk
½ cup Chia Seeds
½ tsp Rose Water
¼ cup Honey or 2 tbsp Agave Nectar
¼ tsp Cacao Powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Optionally, you can put them in a food processor and process to make a smooth chia pudding. Cover and refrigerate over night (or at least 4 hours). Mixing it a few times within the first hour helps it to gel evenly. This one is great topped with strawberries.

Rose Hips

     Rose hips (the fruit of the rose plant) are super high in vitamin C, making them taste a bit on the citrus-y side, though some people compare their taste to a tart cherry. You can use them in place of cranberries, citrus, or cherries in just about any recipe. However, when they're dried they are usually pretty hard. So if the recipe calls for dried fruit, make sure you add a bit of water or juice to them and allow them to reconstitute for a bit before using them in your recipes. 

1. This dip is a great slightly sweet, tart dip for just about any occasion. I like to serve this with gluten free graham crackers, but it also works well with apples and other fruit.

Pecan Rose Hip Dip
(makes about 1 ½ cups)

8 oz Cream Cheese or a Dairy-Free alternative
½ cup dried Rose Hips 
¼ cup Pineapple Juice
¼ cup chopped Pecans
1 tsp Orange Zest
¼ cup Honey or 2 tsp Agave Nectar
½ tsp freshly grated Ginger
2 teaspoons Orange juice

In a small bowl, combine the rose hips and pineapple juice. Chill overnight to reconstitute. Once reconstituted, combine all ingredients (including the reconstituted rose hips, don't drain them) in a medium sized mixing bowl and mix well. Chill for 10 minutes prior to serving.

2. This twist on everyone's favorite party snack is full of surprises. It's not only a great dip, but I also like to use it on some of my savory main dishes. It's great over turkey (or any poultry really), pork, and it also adds a southwestern flare to eggplant “steaks” and veggie burgers.

Rose Hip Salsa
(10 servings)

12 oz dried Rose Hips
¼ cup Lime Juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup Honey or 2 tsp Agave Nectar
¼ cup diced sweet Onions
2 fresh Jalapenos, seeded and minced
¼ cup fresh Cilantro Leaves, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine rose hips, lime juice, water, and honey/agave. Mix well, cover and chill overnight to reconstitute. When reconstituted, add in remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until they reach your desired consistency.

3. Rose hips in rice? Heck Yeah! Rose hips add a great bit of sweet and tart flavor to a number of dishes, but I'm really a huge fan of how they can make rice and quinoa dishes really pop. This recipe makes for a great side dish, use quinoa instead of brown rice, and add some more of your favorite vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts or green beans) to make it a super healthy and filling one dish meal.

Brown Rice with Rose Hips and Almonds
(6 Side Dish Servings)

1 tbsp Olive Oil
¼ medium sized Sweet Onion, finely diced
¼ cup Celery, finely diced
1 1/3 cups uncooked long grain Brown Rice
1 2/3 cups Water
1 cup Vegetable Broth
2/3 cup dried Rose Hips
Salt and Pepper to taste
2/3 cup Almonds, sliced or slivered and toasted
1 tbsp fresh Parsley, minced

In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, saute the olive oil, onions, and celery together until just translucent. Add in the rice, water, vegetable broth, and rose hips. Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 40 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients, cover again, and allow to cook another 5 minutes, or until all the remaining liquid is absorbed.

4. Bread is such a staple in most of the cultures of the world, and there are so many different kinds of bread to make. Quick breads are my personal favorite for a number of reasons, although the most important one is that they're the easiest to make gluten free. This quick bread recipe also makes for great muffins for breakfast, or just a snack.

Rose Hip Bread (or Muffins)
(10 Servings)

1 tbsp ground Flax Seed
2 ½ tbsp Water
1 cup dried Rose Hips
½ cup Apple Juice
2 cups Gluten Free Flour (my favorite is by Namaste)
½ cup ground Chia Seeds and/or Flax Seeds
1 ½ tsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 cup Honey or ½ cup Agave nectar
2/3 cup Orange Juice
1/3 cup of Lemon Juice (juice of 3 small lemons)

Combine 1 tbsp ground flax seed with 2 ½ tbsp water, mix well. In a separate bowl, combine rose hips and apple juice. Set both mixtures in the fridge to chill overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9X5in loaf pan (or line a muffin pan with papers). In a medium mixing bowl, add in flour, ground chia/flax seed, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well to combine. Fold in rose hips and lemon zest. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix honey (or agave), chilled flax seed mixture, orange juice, and lemon juice. Stir well. Pour mixture over flour mixture and stir well until combined. Pour batter into your prepared pan and bake about 1 hour (muffins may not take as long, so check them after about 30 min and every 10 min after that). Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan to flip out the bread and continue to cool on a cooling rack.

5. Here we come to the easiest recipe in this post. And one of my personal favorites.

Easy Rose Hip “Jam”
(about 1 ½ cups)

1 cup Rose Hips, dried
1 ½ cups unfiltered Apple Juice
1 tsp Orange Zest

Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and allow to sit overnight. Pour mixture into a food processor and process until it reaches your desired consistency. Store in the fridge.

If you want to skip letting it sit overnight, you can pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Reduce it to a simmer and allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes. Allow it to cool and puree it in the food processor.

     I hope you enjoy making (and eating) these great Rose recipes!  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

Thursday, February 7, 2019


     Happy February! The month of love, romance, and chocolate hearts is upon us. What better time to share all the wonderful benefits of everyone's favorite romantic flower, the lovely Rose.

     Known the world over for love and romance, the Rose is an amazing herb for all matters of the heart. Even Shakespeare wrote of it's power in love, but the Rose's fame goes back much further than the Bard's time. In ancient Egypt, the rose was sacred to the goddess Isis. In ancient Greece and Rome, it was sacred to Aphrodite and Venus. Romans also scattered rose petals along the routes of funerals, both for protection and to symbolize rebirth.  In both Islam and Sufism, the rose symbolizes divine love and was often depicted in art, architecture, and used in landscapes.  In the Medieval era, Christians attributed the rose to both Christ and the blood of martyrs. Catholics later used the rose for the Virgin Mary and used rose petals to make the beads for what would later be called the rosary. In China, red roses had a special place because red was an auspicious color, so red roses symbolized luck, love, and fortune.  Even Native Americans were well acquainted with this plant and it's uses.

     There are over 100 species of Rose with thousands of cultivars. Generally speaking, a rose is a woody plant in the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae.  Roses can be shrubs, or they can be climbing or trailing like vines, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles that we typically refer to as thorns. Flowers vary in size, color, and shape. The fruit is a berry-like structure called a rose hip. The Rosa gallica (Provence Rose), R. eglanteria (Eglantine Rose) and R. damascene (Damask Rose) are the three oldest roses in cultivation. Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwestern Africa. Persia is considered the likely origin of the flower.

     In addition to the famous flower, roses have a great fruit that is not only delicious, but also full of medicinal properties all on it's own. Rose hips are full of vitamin C, and taste a bit citrus-y because of it. These berry-like fruit make a great jam, are delicious when added to salads, and super versatile in the kitchen. Try re-hydrating the dry hips and adding them into your favorite muffin recipe, or using them to flavor your favorite poultry dish. Check out the Montana Homesteader's tips on foraging for rose hips and recipes, there's bound to be several you'll fall in love with.

Medicinal Uses:

Scientific Names- Rosaceae (the whole family) Commonly these species are used medicinally: Rosa gallica officinalis, R. damascene, R. canina, R. chinensis, Flos Rosae Rugosae, and R. centifolia

Common Names- Rose

Parts Used- Rose Hips (fruit), Petals, Flower Buds, Leaves, and Bark

Summary of Actions-  Anticancer, Antidepressant, Antiscorbutic, Antispasmodic, Aphrodisiac, Aromatic, Astringent, Coagulant/Hemostatic, Cordial, Depurative, Emmenagogue, Hepatic, Laxative, Nervine, Refrigerant, Sedative, Skin tonic, Stomachic, and Uterine Tonic.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-  Mei Gui Hua (Rose) is used for the heart, liver, spleen, and stomach meridians. Used as a decongestant and astringent, rose is considered to have a draining action that clears heat and cools. It moves Qi, dispersing stagnation, particularly that of liver Qi. It aids in the case of constipation, headache, nausea, belching, and poor appetite. It clears heat and calms the heart, helping clear up fertility issues and depression. It also harmonizes the blood, easing many menses-related problems and helping promote urination.

Ayurveda-  Known in Sanskrit as Satapatri and in Hindi as Gulab ka phool, which translates roughly as 100 petals. In Ayurveda, rose has three main healing attributes; it is soothing, cooling, and moisturizing. But it is most valued because of it's balancing effect on the heart, both physically and emotionally. 

Native American Traditions- Each of the Native American tribes had a use for roses. The Omahas and Chippewa used the roots and hips to treat eye infections and inflammation in the eyes. The Chippewa also used rose hips as a staple food. The Arapahos used the seeds to treat muscle pain. Cheyenne and Flathead both used the petal, stem, and roots to treat snow blindness, but the Cheyenne also made a tea from the bark to treat upset stomach and diarrhea. The Crows boiled the roots and used the vapor to stop mouth and nose bleeds. They also used the roots in a hot compress to treat inflammation.

Essential Oil-  Rose Essential Oil is one of the most expensive on the market, and deservedly so since it takes over 1,000 rose flowers to produce ¼ oz of the oil. However, if you can afford it, diffusing the rose essential oil is a great way to relieve insomnia, reduce nervous tension, and help to lower your blood pressure.

Stress and Anxiety-  Rose is packed full of comforting qualities and helps to soothe nerves and anxieties. It may not completely alleviate the impact of stress and anxiety for those with severe problems, but it may help reduce them and can be very beneficial in the long term.

Comfort for the Grieving-  Rose balances the emotions of the heart, helping to comfort those who are grieving.

Cool Off-  Rose helps to regulate the body temperature during the warmer months.

Allergies, Seasonal Stress, and Illness-  Rose tea (petals and/or hips) helps soothe sore throats, and it's packed full of vitamin C to help boost the immune system and knock out that cold.

Hair, Acne, and Skincare-  Rose water is one of my favorite face washes/make up removers. Not only does it work to clean your skin, while still being gentle enough to use around your eyes, but it's also super anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent so it's great to help prevent and treat acne. Rose also helps to lock in the moisture in the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It's also been shown to help reduce the appearance of spider veins. Rose has also been studied recently for it's effect on Scalp Seborrheic Dermatitis. The findings, thus far, have been very positive.

Wounds- A powder from the petals and dried leaves has been traditionally used to help speed the healing of wounds. In some cultures, the petals were even used to pack surgical wounds to help prevent infection.

Digestion-  Rose petals and hips help to stimulate the body's bile production, which greatly aids digestion, particularly the digestion of fats. It also helps to balance the gut's microbiome, helping to keep the bad bacteria and yeasts in check, while boosting the effectiveness of the good bacteria and yeast cultures. It's also a mild laxative and makes a great, gentile, tea for constipation.

Healthy Heart-  Rose helps to lower blood pressure and is packed full of helpful antioxidants that help keep the circulatory system healthy.

Great for All Feminine Needs-  Traditionally, rose tea has been consumed to help ease menstrual cramps and regulate periods, but it's also great for so many other feminine concerns. Rose tea has been shown to help ease the symptoms of PMS in certain women and it's also traditionally taken during labor to help aid in childbirth.

Contraindications and Warnings- Rose is generally considered to be safe and no adverse side effects have been reported. Despite its safety, some experts warn that you should limit the amount you drink to a maximum of 5 cups per day because consuming too much vitamin C can have certain adverse effects, such as diarrhea. Drinking too much rose tea could potentially cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or headaches.

     I only included a basic introduction to this beautiful plant.  I hope you have learned a new appreciation roses, beyond that of their unparalleled beauty.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


10 Science Backed Benefits of Rose Tea: Healthy Focus:

34 Ways to Use Rose: Herbal Academy:

Benefits, Ayurvedic Remedies of Rose Plant and Essential Oil: Easy Ayurveda:

Natural Home Remedy- Rosa Centifolia: Natural Home Remedies:

Rose: Dig Herbs:

Rose: White Rabbit Institute of Healing:

Rose- Herb of the Year: Vitality Magazine:

Rose Herb Uses, Benefits, Cures, Side Effects, Nutrients: Herbpathy:

Rose In Ayurveda: Warrior Goddess Ayurveda:

Rose- Rosa Centifolia: Planet Ayurveda:

Roses: A Modern Herbal:

The Medicinal Uses of Rose: Healing With Plants:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Lymphatic System

     It seems like everyone is talking about detoxing. Whether it's detoxing their lives by getting rid of negativity, or detoxing their diets, “detox” is definitely one of the big words in health today. With all this focus on detoxing, I figured that I'd talk to you guys about one of our body's natural detoxifying systems, the Lymphatic System.

What is the Lymphatic System?

     The Lymphatic System is part of the immune system, and has quite a few similarities to the circulatory system. It consists of vessels and nodes that run throughout your whole body, carrying fluids from tissues around the body to the blood and from the blood to the different tissues. It cleanses almost every tissue in the body by removing toxins, metabolic waste, and more. This system also moves white blood cells to tissues that need them, as well as generating and storing them, and balances the fluid levels of the whole body.

Lymphatic Vessels carry lymphatic fluid (lymph) through the body using a series of valves that control and direct the flow of the lymph. This system works, very much, in the same way as the circulatory system, except it does not have a pump (the heart) so we need to manually move the lymph through movement, diet, and massage.

Lymph Nodes are the lymphatic filtration system. They are found throughout the body (armpits, throat, chest, abdomen, groin, etc) and are generally found in groups, or chains, in fatty tissues close to veins and arteries. These Nodes are where the body fights infection causing substances, such as viruses or bacteria, as well as cancer cells. The Nodes house white blood cells, so when infection is forced into a Node, the blood cells are there to destroy it before it can cause further damage. Lymph Nodes tend to swell when you are ill, because more white blood cells are generated and sent to specific Nodes to fight off your infection.

The Tonsils, Adenoids, Appendix, and Peyer's Patches are all lymphatic tissue charged with protecting the body from infection. Tonsils filter out bacteria before it hits your gut, helping to reduce the occurrence of food born illness. Adenoids do the same for your lungs. The Appendix and Peyer's Patches help filter out bacteria in the gut.

The Spleen, Thymus, and Bone Marrow are where our bodies create and direct white blood cells. The Spleen and Thymus also filter dead blood cells and detect infections.

What Are Some Signs that it's Not Healthy?

     Just like any bodily system, the Lymphatic system can become stressed, congested, and in some cases even blocked. When this happens we can see signs like fatigue, pain, and even reoccurring illness. Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Swelling
  • Inflammation, especially in places with concentrations of Lymph Nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Infection, or Frequent Infections
  • Joint Pains
  • Muscle Aches and Pains
  • Constipation
  • Congestion
  • Sore Throat
  • Brain Fog
  • Weight Gain
  • Obesity
  • Skin Issues
  • Cancer

What Can You Do to Keep it Healthy?

     When you ignore the health of your Lymphatic System, your immunity suffers. So what can you do to keep it at optimal health?

Actively Reduce Stress- Stress puts your whole body into a funk and releases hormones into your system that need to be filtered out. Reducing the output of those hormones will help your Lymphatic System be better able to filter all of those toxins out of your system. Check out some stress reducing tips to add to your daily routine.

Deep Breathing- It's amazing how often we can forget to do the basic things in life. Deep breathing is one of those things that seems so simple, yet helps in so many ways. Not only does breathing deeply help us to reduce stress, it also acts as a pump for our lymph. Check out these three deep breathing exercises and try to incorporate them into your daily routine. You should see some great results in no time!

Exercise and/or Mindful Movement- The most obvious way to move your lymphatic fluid is, simply, to move. Exercise plays a very important role in our health, and especially in the health of our Lymphatic System.  Some great forms of exercise to help improve your Lymphatic System include rebounding and high-intensity interval training (HIT). Now you don't have to keep up the most vigorous of exercises in order to help move your lymph, something as simple as mindful movement can be enough. Yoga and Tai Chi both incorporate mindful movement into their exercises, but you do not have to practice either one in order to practice mindful movement. Mindful movement is moving with more intention and awareness. Check out these tips for adding mindful  movement into your life.

Perspiration- Sweating is one of the major ways our bodies rid themselves of waste. So it easily follows that perspiring more/more often can help with all of the detoxification systems, including the Lymphatic System. Not all exercise causes us to sweat and there are a number of people who cannot participate in those exercises that do cause perspiration, but that's ok because there are other ways to trigger sweating. Saunas and infrared saunas help to increase our perspiration as well as provide a non-invasive way to circulate toxins out of our organs and muscles, so that they can be released from our system through our pores.

Be Mindful of What You Put On Your Skin- The Lymphatic System often releases toxins from the skin when it becomes sluggish. This release is often blocked when we wear synthetic fibers (nylon, polyester, etc) or when we apply chemical-laden creams or soaps. Most of the toxins that were supposed to be released, are then re-absorbed along with additional toxins from whatever we have applied to our skin. This is why it's so important to wear natural fibers and only apply natural, organic creams and soaps. The basic rule of thumb, in regards to skin care products, is that if you can't eat it, don't apply it. There are a few examples (essential oils and some herbal products) but this is a great rule to follow when looking for your next product, and don't forget about laundry products and deodorant.

A special note for the ladies out there: Tight fitting bras and underwires impede normal lymph flow as well. Make sure your bras fit properly, avoid underwires, and go braless whenever you can. Don't forget that our breast tissue is made up of both mammary glands and lymphatic tissue. Take care of your ta-tas and they will take care of you.

Diet- Diet is a key factor in a number of health related issues. I'm sure that what I list here is going to come as no major surprise, but keep an open mind about just how much you see these same tips and think about how much your life may be impacted by poor dietary choices.

  • Choose healthy proteins- organic and grassfed meats contain fewer toxins than regular meat
  • Buy organic produce whenever possible- organic and local produce are going to have fewer toxins, but if you throw in eating seasonally available produce you get a whole new boost of benefits as well
  • Eat the rainbow- each color you consume is associated with a specific nutrient, eating as many colors as possible helps you to get as many nutrients as possible
  • Cranberries- cranberries help to break down fat so that the Lymphatic System can get rid of it, they also help the kidneys
  • Leafy greens- greens (kale, spinach, dandelion, wheat grass, etc) are super cleansing to the whole body, but also have special benefits for both the cardiovascular system and the Lymphatic System
  • Garlic- garlic boosts the immune system and helps get rid of harmful microbes, so that you Lymphatic System doesn't have to
  • Ginger and Turmeric- these kissing cousins are both super anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and help to improve cardiovascular and Lymphatic health 

Stay Hydrated- Water water everywhere. Hydration is super important for any and every bodily function. Drinking water throughout the day is one of the best ways to stay healthy, especially when you're talking about the health of the Lymphatic System. Lymph is composed of a large amount of water and helps to keep the balance of the water in the body's tissues. Keeping hydrated is key to helping keep that balance. If you're not sure where to start, try this technique for a simply lymphatic cleanse using water.

Herbs and Essential Oils- There are quite a number of herbs that help keep the Lymphatic System healthy. Taking them as daily supplements, teas, or diffusing their essential oils can be great ways to boost your lymphatic health.

  • Essential oils such as grapefruit, lemon, orange, bay laurel, clove, rosemary, peppermint, ginger root, and oregano are great to diffuse as well as to add to a bit of massage oil for self massage.
  • Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a great herb to help enhance the function of the Lymphatic System. It improves the body's ability to flush out toxins, decreases lymphatic congestion, and reduces inflammation.
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a multi-system detoxifier. It supports the liver, kidneys, digestion, and lymphatic systems as well as purifying the blood and lymph.
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea augustifolia) has gained quite the well deserved reputation for being a great immune herb. However when you combine it with Astragalus, it also has the added benefit of reducing swelling and congestion in the lymphatic system.
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) on it's own is a great, over-all, health booster. However, when combined with Echinacea, it's a great way to reduce swelling and congestion in the lymphatic system.
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is one of the most gentile and effective detoxifying herbs known. It's said to remove over 1,000 known toxins from the body. 

Massage, Chiropractic, and Acupuncture- Alternative therapies can help to increase the health of all your bodily systems. The Lymphatic System is no exception. Lymphatic massage is especially helpful because it's designed, specifically, to get your lymph flowing. But chiropractic and acupuncture can help get things moving as well. Ask your practitioner today!

Dry Brushing- This is one of my favorite ways to move lymphatic fluid in the morning. Seriously. I dry brush every day when I get up in the morning. Generally right before my shower (dry brushing also exfoliates the skin so washing off all the dead skin left over is a major plus). If you've never heard of the technique before, here's a great introduction to what dry brushing is, and how to do it!

     I hope this has encouraged you to be more mindful of your Lymphatic System.  Please seek out other tips and feel free to share.  Do you have any questions or comments?  Post them below!


10 Ways to Improve Your Lymphatic System Function: The Truth About Cancer:

How to Detoxify and Heal the Lymphatic System: Organic Lifestyle:

The Lymph System: How Stuff Works:

Lymphatic System: Better Health:

The Lymphatic System, How to Make it Strong & Effective: Dr. Axe:

The Lymphatic System and Your Health: Women's Health Network:

Natural Ways to Activate the Lymphatic System to Boost Immunity: Wellness Mama:

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Wildcrafted Soups

     Guess what, it's Winter in Florida! Those few days a year where it's actually chilly. This means that the soup is on!

     I love soup and this time of year is great for harvesting a number of our local edibles. So I figured I'd share some of my favorite wild edible soups with you guys today. As usual, these recipes are vegetarian and vegan friendly as well as gluten free. If you want to add in some meat or dairy, be my guest and let me know what you think in the comments!

     Just be very careful when harvesting your wild edibles.  A few good rules to remember is to harvest only 100 feet (or more) from roadways to avoid contamination from road run-off.  Make sure to harvest only in areas that are not treated with herbicides and/or pesticides.  Also be careful to not harvest from waste areas (many of these plants have a tendency to take in the harmful chemicals and minerals from these areas).  Make sure that you thoroughly wash these plants before using them to avoid bacterial contamination, this is also important if you are harvesting plants that grow shorter than a dog's leg.  I also follow the Native American harvesting tradition of only harvesting ¼ of the plants you encounter.  You leave ¼ for the animals to eat, ¼ for the next wildcrafter/forager who comes along, and ¼ to grow and continue the population.  And the most important rule of all, be 100% sure of what you are harvesting.  If you are 99.99% sure, do not harvest.  There are a great number of look-alikes that can be toxic, so please please be sure of your plant before consuming it.

The Soups On!:

Wild Herbs and Rice Soup
(6 Servings)

4 tablespoons Olive Oil
½ medium Onion, chopped
1 large rib of Celery, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed and chopped
3 cups Vegetable Broth (or bone broth)
2 cups Water
2/3 cup uncooked Wild Rice (or a blend), rinsed and drained
1 cup Almond Milk (or milk/substitute of your choice)
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
½ teaspoon dried Thyme
¼ teaspoon Salt
2 cups Wild Herbs, chopped

In a large pot, on medium-high heat, add in the olive oil. Give it a minute to warm up then add the onion, celery, and garlic. Cook until everything is just softened (about 10 minutes). Stir in the vegetable broth, water, and rice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and allow the rice to cook as long as the package recommends (wild rice usually takes about 45 min or more), but don't drain it when done. Stir in the remaining ingredients, cover and allow to simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Check your seasoning, add more if needed. Serve warm!

“Cream” of Wild Greens Soup
(6 Servings)

4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, diced
1 clove Garlic, smashed and diced
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon Gluten Free Flour
4 cups Vegetable Stock
2 pounds Wild Greens
½ cup Silken Tofu (about 8 oz)
Salt and White Pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, combine olive oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until the onion is transparent (about 5 minutes). Add in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 more minute (the flour should not take on any color). Slowly drizzle in stock, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Once all the stock is incorporated, bring mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large pot on high heat, bring a good amount of water to a boil. Sprinkle in a few tablespoons of salt. Prepare an ice water bath in a large mixing bowl (this will help keep the greens looking bright and vibrant). Blanch your wild greens by submerging them in the salted, boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove from the boiling water and submerge them in the ice bath until ready to blend.

Squeeze all the liquid out of your greens as you put them in the blender, a little bit at a time, with the sauce you've had simmering. I usually do this in about 2 batches. Blend the mixtures together. Once these are blended, add in a bit of the tofu, with a little salt and white pepper, and continue to blend until smooth. Once blended, pour through a sieve into a clean pot. Warm it up to just under boiling (if you boil it the color will get all muddy) and serve warm!

Potato, Betony, and Leek Soup
(6 Servings)

3 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 large Leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
3 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 pound Potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 pound Florida Betony tubers, cleaned and chopped
7 cups Vegetable Broth
1 cup Wild Greens, chopped well
1 teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

In a large saucepan, on medium-high heat, combine first 5 ingredients. Sautee until they are nice and tender. Add in the vegetable broth and simmer for about 20 minutes. Puree the mixture using an immersion blender, or puree in batches with a food processor. Put back on the heat and add in the remaining ingredients. Cook for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm!

Cauliflower and Kudzu Soup
(6 Servings)

1 head Cauliflower
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small Onion, diced
1 clove Garlic, smashed
1 pound Kudzu Root, washed and diced
4 cups Vegetable Stock
2 cups Water
1 cup Almond Milk (or milk/substitute of choice)
2 cups Wild Herbs or Spinach, shredded
1 ½ cups Kudzu Leaves, shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare the head of cauliflower, cutting it into florets and dicing up the stalk. In a large pot, on medium-high heat, sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil until just transparent. Add in cauliflower and kudzu root. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add in stock and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes. Puree mixture with an immersion blender, or blend in batches in a food processor. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm!

Quinoa, Lentil, and Mushroom Soup
(6 Servings)

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Celery Ribs, chopped (feel free to throw in the greens too)
3 Garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
8 oz Mushrooms (crimini are a good choice, but you can use any mushroom really), chopped
4 cups Vegetable Stock
2 cups Water
¾ cup dried Lentils
2 cups Wild Herbs, chopped
½ cup Quinoa, toasted
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, on medium-high heat, combine olive oil, onion, celery, and carrot. Cook until onion is just translucent. Add in the garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 5 more minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth, water, and lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 1 hour. Add in remaining ingredients, cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is fully cooked. Serve warm!

Wild Plants to experiment with:  

Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica- This herb is notorious for it's sting.  If you encounter it in it's raw form you'll know exactly why.  However, once cooked or dried, nettles loose their sting and can be quite tasty, not to mention nutritious.  Nutritionally, it's a great source of vitamins A, C, and D as well as iron, calcium, and magnesium.  Medicinally, nettles are used to treat hay fever and similar allergies throughout the world.  Because of the sting, this is one green you definitely want to blanch or dry before using in recipes.

Spanish Needle Bidens Alba- Spanish Needle is one of the most under-appreciated plants in North America.  It's also one of the most prolific.  Everywhere you look, especially here in Central Florida, you can find it.  The young leaves and flowers are edible, but the whole plant is used medicinally.  For most recipes, you really want to blanch the leaves first, but this step is not necessary when using them in a soup.  Nutritionally, bidens leaves are very similar to spinach and packed with lots of vitamins and minerals.  Medicinally, they are very useful for upper respiratory conditions. 

Purslane Portulaca oleracea- One of the most nutritionally jam packed green on earth, Purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids than any other plant known.  It's also full of vitamins A, B, C, and E, beta carotene, magnesium, calcium, folate, lithium, iron, and protein.  You can use the leaves and stems for any of the above recipes.  It's also a powerhouse of medicinal benefits. 

Red Clover Trifolium pratense- As a member of the legume (bean) family, Red Clover leaves have a slight bean flavor.  The flowers are even more tasty and are supposedly the most tasty of any of the clover flowers.  Nutritionally, red clover is full of nutrients including vitamins A, B, and C, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.  Medicinally, red clover is one of the best herbs for women as it helps to balance the female hormones.  It's also a great aid in helping to prevent cancers of all types. 

Peppergrass Lepidium virginicum- Peppergrass is very prolific here in Central Florida, and quite peppery in taste, almost like a very mild horseradish.  The seeds can be used to flavor foods like pepper, the root can be used similarly to horseradish, but the leaves are delicious raw.  Nutritionally, the leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C.  Medicinally, this plant is great for the kidneys and has been used, traditionally, to treat asthma.  This is one of the few plants that actually have no known dangerous look-alikes. 

Chickweed Stellaria media- Usually one of the earliest spring greens that show up in the eastern portion of the United States, Chickweed is a great choice for a pot herb.  Nutritionally, it's full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and quite a few other nutrients.  Medicinally, this is one of the most amazing little herbs for your lymphatic system.  You can use the leaves, flowers, and stems in these recipes. 

Drymary Drymaria cordata- This Chickweed look-alike does not taste like it's cousin. Chickweed has a mild corn flavor. Drymary's leaves and young shoots are edible and can be quite tasty if prepared as a pot herb. There is some question about toxicity in large quantities, so parboil it and discard the water before you use it in these recipes, just to be on the safe side.

Dollarweed Hydrocotyle bonariensis- Also known as Pennywort, Dollarweed tastes like carrot tops, or a bit like celery.  It's a common weed in Florida that drives most lawn-owners crazy.  Not only does it like lawns, but it also really loves to get it's feet wet, which means that you'll find it at the edges of rivers, streams, and lakes.  You can also find it marshy areas.  You can eat it raw, but you can also pickle/ferment it to  make a “kraut” similar to sauerkraut.  Dollarweed is often confused for Gotu Kola, which is a close cousin and has similar medicinal and nutritional benefits.  Nutritionally, dollarweed is a decent source of minerals as well as B vitamins.  Medicinally they are great for lowering blood pressure.  Use only the leaves for these recipes.

Gotu Kola Centella asiatica- Gotu Kola is quite a bit more bitter than it's cousin Dollarweed. But it's also packed full of more benefits as a result. A few Asian cultures believe that if you eat one of these leaves a day, you will live forever. While they may not contain the secret of immortality, they are amazingly beneficial for almost every age-related issue. You can consume the leaves raw or cooked, though I do recommend using them sparingly because of the bitterness.

Pine Pinus spp.- The needles and nuts from pine trees can be a great addition to quite a few recipes. While the needles have a distinct flavor and may not lend themselves to a lot of recipes, pine nuts are amazingly mild and can be quite pleasantly added to just about everything. Also, pine needles tend to be sharp and wiry, so if you're going to use them in these recipes, you might want to cook them and then discard the needles  before you serve the food. Pine needles are loaded down with vitamin C and many other helpful vitamins and minerals. I like to include them in soups during cold and flu season, or when I start feeling a bit under the weather.

Kudzu Pueraria lobata- Introduced in the 1800's to provide additional foraging for livestock as well as to for erosion control, Kudzu has taken over in many areas of the US. However it's a great plant to eat and it has a number of medicinal benefits. Kudzu leaves, flowers, blossoms, vine tips and roots are edible. This plant produces fragrant blossoms which you can make into jelly, syrup and candy. You can cook the root, which contains starch and can be used as a coating in deep fried foods, or for thickening soups and sauces. Flowers can be tossed on a salad, cooked or pickled. Stems and young leaves can be consumed raw or cooked. This pesky vine is a staple food in both Japan and China. It's packed full of antioxidants, helps calm down an upset stomach, and may even help treat alcoholism. Throw a couple blossoms or leaves in any soup recipe above, or add in some of the root like you would potatoes.

Wild Grape Vitis riparia- Wild Grape, Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca), and a number of other grapes found out in the wild, are both edible and medicinal. The leaves are what I commonly eat, and they taste grape-like, unlike the toxic look-a-likes that can be found in some areas. You can eat the grapes themselves, but many of our native vines don't produce them on a regular basis and they tend to be quite small. You can eat the fruit and leaves raw as well as cooked. One of my favorite preparations is the Middle Eastern or Greek Dolmas (or stuffed grape leaves), but I have also been known to scoop up some hummus in the raw leaves from time to time. Medicinally speaking, grape leaves are amazingly astringent and anti-inflammatory. They help prevent and treat diarrhea, heavy menstrual bleeding, uterine hemorrhage, hepatitis, stomach aches, rheumatism, and edema.

Nasturtium Tropaeolum spp.- This herb may not be native to Florida, and may not be found in the wild, but my mother got me addicted to growing these tasty treats as a young girl.  She used the excuse that for every flower I picked, two more would bloom, but I think it had more to do with the fact that we both loved to eat them in our salads.  The whole plant is edible, and nasturtium flowers are one of the most recognizable, edible flowers on the market in America.  The whole plant tastes peppery and you can use the flowers and leaves fairly interchangeably, but you can also pickle the seeds to add a little pop to your salads.  There is only one warning associated with eating this plant, and it's a common one.  Nasturtiums contain oxalic acid which can cause health issues when consumed in abundance.  For that to happen, you'd need to eat several pounds of the leaves in one sitting, but the warning is there none-the-less.  Nutritionally, nasturtium leaves and flowers are packed full of vitamin C and iron.  Medicinally, nasturtium leaves are antibiotic, and this property is strongest just before the plant blooms.  I use both the flowers and leaves for these recipes. 

Watercress Nasturtium officinale- Watercress is a green that has been eaten by humans for our entire history, and one of the oldest to be cultivated.  You can still find it in quite a few grocery stores today.  Nutritionally, it is loaded with vitamins A and C, and contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, and folic acid.  Medicinally it is loaded down with benefits as well.  The vikings considered it THE food to eat in the spring because it helped to flush the body of all the built up chemicals that come from existing solely on meat throughout the harsh winters.  Just avoid eating too much of this tasty green during pregnancy. 

Florida Betony Stachys floridana- Locally, this is often seen as a horrible weed, only to be eradicated in most lawns and gardens. However, I love them. This is one of the herbs that I harvest most for both medicinal uses and food. Now, most people think the leaves taste a bit much like medicine, but a few of them in the pot can add quite a few medicinal benefits. However, the tastiest part is the root, well really the tuber. They look like fat white worms or grubs. But they're crunchy and taste like a mild radish. I love to pickle them, cook them with a little olive oil, or even eat them raw. They make a great addition to any of the above recipes, just clean them, chop them, and add them in like you would a potato.

Wood Sorrel Oxalis spp.- This is a plant that can be found everywhere in the world, except at the North and South poles.  There are around 850 different species and they are all edible.  Oxalis leaves taste a little sour, reminiscent of a very, very mild rhubarb.  You can eat every part of this plant, but I do need to caution you about over-eating it.  Oxalis contains oxalic acid which can cause health issues when consumed in abundance.  For that to happen, you'd need to eat several pounds of the leaves in one sitting, but the warning is there none-the-less.  Nutritionally, oxalis is high in vitamin C, iron, and zinc.  Medicinally it's great for reducing fever, increasing appetite, and it happens to be a diuretic.  For these recipes, I use the leaves, but the tubers are eaten all throughout Eastern Europe and South America.
     I hope you enjoy making (and eating) these soups!  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!

For more information on weeds and herbs that you can eat, check out these awesome websites!

Eat The Weeds!:
Edible Wild Food:
Wild Edible:


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     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...