Kitchen Herbalism: Red Raspberry Leaf Vinegar

Red raspberry leaf in spring

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Wildcrafting note:

Raspberry is abundant in wild and semi-wild spaces throughout temperate North America and Europe, and perhaps can be found in your own yard or a local abandoned lot. Ideally harvest the leaves for use before the fruits appear. In the Toronto area, this means later June or early July.

NB: Always be sure to confirm the identity of a plant before harvesting or consuming.

What you’ll need: 

  • Red Raspberry Leaves (fresh or dried)
  • Organic Vinegar (apple cider, wine, or rice)
  • Mason Jar

What to do:

  1. If using fresh leaves, let them wilt and dry out a little before starting and make sure there is no additional moisture (water drops etc) on your leaves.
  2. Fill your clean, DRY jar with raspberry leaves.
  3. Warm vinegar in a non-reactive pot. Pour warmed vinegar of your choice over the leaves, submerging them completely and filling the jar with liquid.
  4. Seal the jar and place in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.
  5. Strain the vinegar through a cheese cloth or a clean, white cotton cloth.
  6. Rebottle your vinegar (keep bottle out of direct sunlight).
  7. Enjoy! As part of dressing for green, bean, or grain salads or as an aperitif to aid digestion (1 TBSP in a cup of water before meals)

 
WHY red raspberry vinegar:
 
Vinegar is especially valuable for extracting alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals from plants. Vinegar is a good choice for tonic remedies that are intended for regular use over a long period of time to strengthen and build the system. Vinegar extractions can be used by children and are a good choice for adults who avoid alcohol. One tablespoon of this vinegar extract provides about 150-200mg of calcium. And…it’s delicious!

Read here for more about using Red Raspberry Leaf as medicine.

 

Pregnancy Tonic Tea: nettle & raspberry edition

 

Red Raspberry & Nettle Pregnancy Tonic Tea

Red Raspberry & Nettle Pregnancy Tonic Tea

Starting at 20 weeks or so:

  • Place ¼ cup (8 g) dried red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and 1 cup (8-9 g) dried nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) in a large French press (eg Bodum) or sturdy jar. Add (~1 – 1.5 L) boiling water.
  • Let steep 4 hours or up to overnight.
  • Strain and enjoy at room temp or chilled.
  • Drink within 24-36 hours. So, 3-4 cups daily.

For extra calming and nerve nourishment: consider adding 1-2 tbsp of oatstraw (Avena sativa).

For extra digestive support (especially for gas and bloating), consider adding 1 tsp fennel seeds.
 
Benefits: see Red Raspberry Monograph for the specifics of this wonderful herbal ally in pregnancy. Nettle is another highly nutritive herb supporting a healthy gestation. Additionally, it is a natural anti-histamine, and can help with allergies. 

Fancy Kale Salad for Special Occasions

Fancy Kale Salad for Mother’s Day and other spring special occasions

 

My mother in law just arrived to help us paint a couple rooms, and settle into our new place – hurray! Coincidentally, her flight got in early on Mother’s Day. Naturally, we celebrated her arrival by cooking several feasts. This salad was part of dinner, paired with grilled marinated pork loin chops (her idea) & sauteed fiddleheads (my idea). I think the salad would be good with anything grilled, and would also be an impressive pot-luck contribution, since it is a little different and very flavourful.

 

Kale Salad with Beets, Strawberries & Avocado

 

Strange combination? I thought it sounded weird, but it was by sweetheart’s request, and based on what was in the fridge at the end of a weekend of cooking & eating, and the flavours actually worked very well together. Since raw kale benefits from sitting in the dressing (it becomes more digestible), you can serve this at a spring garden party or potluck gathering without worrying about the salad getting wilted.

 

Ingredients
Salad

1 bag or small box of baby kale (or 1 bunch finely chopped kale, stems removed)Fancy Kale Salad for Special Occasions

1 large beet, boiled, peeled & chopped in quarter rounds or cubes (I used leftovers from a previous meal, so the beet was marinated in umeboshi vinegar, olive oil & dill)chopped beets with dill

5 large strawberries, washed, topped, and sliced into quarters

1 ripe avocado, cubedCubedAvocado

 

Dressing

** I didn’t measure anything so please let your taste buds guide you – it should be strong tasting and oily enough to break down the kale leaves **

Juice of one lemon

1-2 tbsp umeboshi vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 clove of garlic, minced (optional)

 

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, shake to emulsify. Taste, adjust as needed. Pour dressing over kale and toss well. Let the kale marinate while you prep the rest of your dinner. Add the other ingredients just before serving and toss.

(Sorry, no pictures of what we ate yet! We were too busy enjoying our dinner to pause to snap photos. Next time. If you make this salad, please take photos and share them with me!)

Natural Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

Good news: you can manage your seasonal allergies naturally!

Naturopathic News: there isn’t one natural medicine that works for everyone.

 

What’s good for allergies? Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when the level of inflammation in our car-exhaust590_284x213bodies reaches a certain threshold. For some, this is purely due to extreme sensitivity to pollens, along with dust, animal dander, etc. For others, it relates also to the level of smog they are breathing in, the amount of stress they are currently swimming in, and any foods they might be eating that aren’t a good fit for their systems.

Personally, my “seasonal allergy” symptoms go away when I go camping, as this is a happy, no-stress place for me, and there is way less smog in the back woods. (Luckily, pine pollen is not a trigger for me!). Others notice that when they are in other provinces, even in a city, their symptoms vanish. This can be related to the change in local pollens, the air quality, decreased stress of vacation, or any combination of these things.

 

allergies_flowers&tissueOn a physiological level, seasonal allergy symptoms relate to increased histamine release in the upper respiratory system. Thus, many people find relief by using natural antihistamines such as quercetin and nettles. For others, though, the inflammation needs to be stopped at a different point in the inflammatory pathway. A common intervention point for seasonal allergies is the liver. Using herbs such as milk thistle and antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine for liver support can vanish allergy symptoms completely for a subset of people.

Other people’s symptoms respond immediately to a targeted homeopathic remedy, or to gemmotherapy, while still other people find acupuncture gives them the best relief.

While there are some common prescriptions for allergy relief, the right fit for you will be as unique as your life situation, your history, and your current physiology.

My advice? Don’t guess, and don’t suffer needlessly. Book a consult to get your body ready for allergy season, sneeze & sniffle-free.

If your period is kicking your ass, kick back

No More Painful Periods

So, it turns out that menstruating doesn’t have to hurt. Is this hard to imagine?

In this instalment of the Natural Medicine for Painful Periods series, I share some stats and underlying causes, and present evidence for another way to minimize period pain, naturally. In other words, If your period kicks your ass every month, kick back!
 
Dysmenorrhea – difficult/painful menstruation – affects more than half of all menstruating women (estimates range from 45-95%). 7-15% of women experience debilitating to incapacitating dysmenorrhea monthly. Symptoms commonly include painful uterine cramps, pelvic heaviness, aching, and/or uterine spasms, and may be accompanied by low back pain or pain down the backs of the thighs. The pain may begin with the start of menstrual flow, or a couple days before. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches and migraines can also occur as part of dysmenorrhea. What a party, every month!
 
Treat the cause
Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, adenomyosis, IUD use, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), and interstitial cystitis (IC) can all cause dysmenorrhea. If your symptoms are related to an underlying condition such as these, it is called Secondary Dysmenorrhea. In order to truly resolve your painful periods, a naturopathic physician will not only address your immediate discomfort but will also work with you to uncover and address the cause(s).
 
On the other hand, primary dysmenorrhea refers to painful periods without any of the above conditions. Note that primary dysmenorrhea may still be aggravated by food allergies or sensitivities, which will also be addressed in treatment. 
 

Tip #2 in Natural Medicine for Painful Periods:


living room dance party cat on couchMove your body. Regularly. Have you noticed that this advice shows up for the prevention or treatment of virtually every chronic condition? Regular aerobic exercise (the sort that gets your heart rate up) decreases stagnation of liver qi in the pelvis. And stagnant qi is a major cause of dysmenorrhea according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine paradigm. Of course, there are studies to back this up in western science terms.  Regular yoga practice, and specific yoga poses have both been studied and found to reduce pain during menstruation. Yoga-on-the-Mountain-You know, given that yoga and other forms of movement also improve mood, and oh, decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer, the top two causes of death, I really can’t see why you wouldn’t try it. Move your body, please. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a gym or studio, and you can’t imagine doing yoga as instructed in a youtube video, start with a daily 3 song dance party in your living room and build from there. Or take up hula hooping. Or volunteer to walk a dog. Move. Kick back.

If PMS has you down, see my 10 Tips for a Happy Menstrual Cycle.

For more, personalized, strategies to ease your monthly cycle (including energy medicine, herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture and therapeutic nutrition),contact Mahalia for an appointment. 

What is herbal medicine?

mortar&pestle_wood Herbal medicine is the art and science of using plants to support human health. It is a system of healing in which medicinal plants and natural protocols are used in the prevention or treatment of acute and chronic diseases, and in the maintenance of optimum health and well-being. Rather than simply substituting herbs for prescription drugs, herbal medicine works from a different paradigm entirely. Herbal medical care aims to rebalance the body as a whole and treat the cause as well as addressing the symptoms quickly and gently. Herbs are complex living medicines with multiple actions, crossing body systems in their impact. A current high-profile example is St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): effective for mild-to-moderate depression, it is not simply a plant version of an antidepressant (although it does have SSRI-like and MAOI-like actions). St John’s wort is also an effective wound healer, and a potently antiviral herb.   Herbal medicine practice may be based on “scientific” evidence of constituent actions (eg Tumeric, with thousands of studies on Curcumin pointing to its anti-inflammatory and anticancer action). It may also be based on history of use and clinical effectiveness (eg traditional indigenous use of herbs around the world, as well as herbal medicine in older medical frameworks including Ayurveda (6000 years) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (5000 years).   Herbal medicine has a history of over 100 000 years of recorded continuous use, with distinct herbal traditions and philosophies in particular countries and regions. Consistently, herbal medical philosophy centres on treating the whole person, taking into account the full context of a person’s life in assessing their health. The holistic approach includes seeking and treating the cause, and always operating from the principle that our bodies have an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. Practitioners choose treatments that work to restore and support the powerful and innate capacity of your body, mind, and spirit to heal and to prevent further disease from occurring.   Herbal medicine is a distinct modality. While excellent and extensive training exists for herbalists in Canada (see http://www.herbalists.on.ca/education.html for a partial list), external regulation and licensing is not available for Herbalists in Canada. Herbal medicine is practiced in different forms by Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), Doctors of Chinese Medicine (D TCM), Chinese herbalists, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners, Western Herbalists, Medical Herbalists, Clinical Herbalists, and traditional medicine practitioners from every corner of the world.   For more information please see http://www.herbalists.on.ca/index.html and http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/   Mahalia Freed is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Reiki Master and BodyTalk Practitioner in Toronto. Herbal medicine is an important part of her practice at www.drmahaliafreed.com.

Holy Basil

holy_basil

Tulsi, or holy basil, is a great ally for winter, for cold and flu season, for when you are feeling stressed and sad.
Holy Basil is a restorative and tonic herb. It is uplifting, calming, and supports a balanced stress response. It is also antiviral. This is a herb I look to often for clients who are stressed, wired, and having trouble sleeping. As well, I like to include holy basil in mood formulas. I blend it into tinctures, teas. I will share a secret: I think it is an important part of what makes the potions I offer people “magic potions”.
Think of holy basil for stress management, for anxiety & depression, for insomnia, and for fending off winter’s supply of viral infections.
This month, try it as a tea. You can drink it straight, or blend it with other ingredients like lavender, rose petals, hibiscus or chai spices.
Cautions: avoid during pregnancy/if trying to conceive. Monitor your blood sugar if you are on insulin – you may need to lower your dose while using tulsi tea.
For more about this amazing herb, check out this monograph by Rosalee de la Foret.

Hot tips for painful periods

hot water bottle clutched to belly

Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, affects more than half of all menstruating women (estimates range from 45%-95%), with some 15% of women incapacitated by their periods each month. I have been putting together a larger piece on resolving painful periods naturally (look out for it – it is coming soon!) and couldn’t wait to share this gem with you.  This study found that “continuous low-level heat therapy was as effective as ibuprofen for the treatment of dysmenorrhea”. The researchers used heat packs or dummy packs that did not heat up, and ibuprofen or placebo pills. It is worth noting that the heat packs were left in place for 12 hours. If staying in the bathtub for hours or booking a day in some healing spa waters is impractical, you could rig up a scarf hot water bottle carrier. Or consider finding disposable heat packs at the drug store or my favourite, the single use moxa heat packs, available from your acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor.
Your period doesn’t have to be a pain. Look out for more on eliminating menstrual cramps & associated period symptoms coming soon. And contact me to book a consult and find out how to resolve your dysmenorrhea for good.

PMS Prevention Plan: 10 Tips For a Happy Menstrual Cycle

by Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND


Umm, happy? Isn’t that taking things a bit far? No, no it is entirely possible and reasonable. Read on. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is not inevitable or unavoidable. PMS is common, but it is not “normal”.
 
Did you know that PMS can include over 100-300 different symptoms? While mood changes like anxiety, depression, irritability and lability (moodiness) are the most recognized, other common symptoms include breast pain or swelling, bloating, bowel changes (e.g. constipation, diarrhea), insomnia, headaches, migraines, food cravings, acne, back pain, fluid retention in the legs, and fatigue. For some people, PMS takes the form of increased clumsiness and brain fog. For others, it means less vocal range (an issue if you are a professional vocalist!), or even seizures. Finally, many women notice that their immunity is decreased at this time of the month. It is a time when cold sores or genital herpes might erupt, when asthma symptoms may flare, or when a yeast infection could make itself known. It is considered PMS if the symptoms occur in a cyclical pattern, related to the menstrual cycle, over several months. Symptoms may begin at ovulation (around day 14), or 1-2 days before the period begins.
 
The majority of women will experience PMS symptoms at some point in their lives.
 
So, shouldn’t we all know how to stay healthy, happy and stable in the face of Premenstrual Syndrome?  

Here are my Top 10 Tips for PMS Prevention:

 

  1. Nourish yourself with food. Eat lots of vegetables, eat home-made, eat clean protein. Eat organic whenever possible (in this case because xenoestrogens in pesticides impact your hormone balance). Remember that organic junk food is still junk food. Enjoy your treats.

Careful with caffeine. Most of us have figured out the therapeutic power of good chocolate, and I won’t be the one to take this away, but caffeine does make breast tenderness worse, and it can destabilize mood and worsen digestive symptoms. Consider cutting down on coffee.

  1. Cut the sugar. Refined sugar and processed foods aggravate pain and mood issues, even though they seem like a good idea in the moment. (Except a bit of good, dark chocolate).

 

  1. Move your body. Regular movement of any kind is effective, but yoga stands out in its efficacy in the clinical trials.

 

  1. Increase target micronutrients with supplementation:
  • B6: especially helpful for mood symptoms, B6 is essential for the metabolism of estrogen. Take it as part of a good-quality B complex.
  • Cal-Mag: Both calcium and magnesium are proven effective for managing premenstrual symptoms, from fatigue to depression to cramps. Consider supplementing with one or both.
  • Fish Oil (especially EPA): while more researched for other health concerns, fish oil is known to be effective for mood balance, and for shifting physiology to decrease inflammation. Thus, it is a good choice for certain types of PMS.

 
5. Work with an herbal ally or few

  • Herbs to consider for PMS include: St John’s Wort, Vitex agnus-castus, gingko, black cohosh, kava, motherwort, skullcap, passionflower. The specific herbs best for you will depend on your particular symptoms. Some people use combination formulas, while others see great results with only one or two herbs. Ask me for a personalized herbal prescription.

 

  1. Regulate your sleep schedule. Women with a regular sleep routine have more stable hormone levels than those whose sleep patterns are all over the place. Go to bed at the same time every night. For maximum benefit, go to sleep well before midnight, and sleep in total darkness (see melatonin, below).

 

  1. Increase your melatonin. You know how it feels like your hormones are crazy when you have PMS? Well, in fact the only hormonal difference scientists have found between women with severe PMS and controls is melatonin levels. That’s right, no estrogen excess or deficiency, no progesterone excess or deficiency. The other hormone issues are believed to stem from changes in hormone receptor sensitivity. But, this is still theory. In the meantime, you can increase your melatonin naturally:
  1. Sleep in complete darkness (blackout curtains, an eye mask if light is unavoidable)
  2. Start sleeping sooner. Melatonin production is higher before midnight.
  3. Ensure you give your body the building blocks. Pumpkin seed is a great source of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The reaction requires B6 (see above).
  4. Alternate nostril breathing can stimulate the pineal gland to increase melatonin production (and generally promotes calm when done before sleep).
  5. If you have been diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), consider supplementing with melatonin. Start with 3 mg per day before bed. And, contact me for more (nonprescription) options.

 

  1. Honor the wisdom within you. If you are exhausted and feel irritated by anyone talking to you, maybe this is the time of the month to carve out a couple hours to curl up with a novel, or journal, rather than pushing yourself to maintain your usual pace. For those who experience intense shifts in mood, think of PMS as the time when the tide is out, and all the feelings and nagging thoughts that you can push down (under the water) the rest of the month are exposed. Sometimes PMS emotionality is just PMS, but often there are important nuggets of truth buried in the sad or mad or irritable state. Look for these truths and give them space at other times in the month. If the nagging thought is “this (job/relationship/etc.) doesn’t feel right”, then make space to explore that. Make changes. As things in your life shift in response to you listening to your inner voice, watch your PMS symptoms abate.

 

  1. Cultivate a happy microbial community:
  • Eat fermented or cultured foods regularly (e.g. unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, kosher-style dill pickles).
  • Consider reseeding your flora with a quality probiotic supplement, especially if you have taken antibiotics.
  • (Good gut flora are associated with better mood, and good gut flora are also important for hormone balance)

 

  1. As always, I highly encourage you to seek out personalized naturopathic care to help map out the big picture, and tunnel down to the right supports for you. Constitutional homeopathy, acupuncture, flower essences, therapeutic nutrition and custom formulated herbal medicines can all offer incredible healing & resolution for PMS symptoms. With professional guidance and the advantage of an outside eye, meet your health goals faster, with less time lost to the contradictory information offered by Dr Google.

Contact me for information on becoming a client/patient.