Welcome to Our Healing Roots, a blog exploring natural medicine that returns us to the roots of health and wellbeing. Our Healing Roots, LLC, is a private natural healthcare practice and experiential learning center that advocates the safe use of integrated, natural medicine. Many healing ways have gone by the wayside with the advent of conventional medicine. While it is important to receive professional medical advice for serious conditions, there are many things we can do at home to prevent disease and maintain our health. The Latin word for doctor is docere, which means to be a teacher. Our Healing Roots wholehearted embraces the importance of teaching in healthcare, so that people feel empowered about their health and wellbeing. More information about this business can be found at www.ourhealingroots.net.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Chickweed

 
frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
I love spring because of the weeds. While the Sunday ads advertise weed killer/lawn herbicides, I am carefully scanning the ground for unsprayed weeds, hoping to make my next batch of herbal medicine. I've already counted four patches of dandelion in the front yard. Some Shepherds Purse was spotted by an electric pole, but I'll avoid that one, particularly since it's close to a busy street. While preparing my front herb bed Wednesday morning, I made my first spotting of chickweed for the season (as seen above). I was so proud of it that it took a coveted place in our spring planter.
 
Chickweed's scientific name is Stellaria media. I understand that its genus name comes from the fact that the flower is shaped like a star (stella). Chickweed has cooling and mucilaginous qualities. This can be particularly helpful in hot, dry and itchy conditions (think rashes, itchy eyes and arthritis). It can be made into a salve or prepared as a poultice. Chickweed can also be a nice spring tonic for digestion. It's excellent to add to salads, sandwiches, and green smoothies in the spring. It has a mildly sweet and salty flavor, and it is rich in many minerals and B vitamins.
 
So, I wait patiently...sort of. Within the next month, I'll be making some "weed" preparations and sharing my outcomes, so stay tuned.
 
 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Upcoming Herbal Giftmaking Class


On the evening of Thursday, April 11th, an herbal gift making class will be offered. This is a perfect opportunity to learn and take home your "homemade" gifts for your friends and family. These gifts are perfect for birthdays, holidays, and "just because." We will be crafting homemade soap, salve and bath salts. No artificial fragrances will be used; these products will all employ botanical herbs and essential oils. To sign up or get more information on this evening of fun, please e-mail me at office@ourhealingroots.net, or visit my website at www.ourhealingroots.net under Upcoming Events.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Upcoming Yogurt and Soft Cheese Class

 
frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
 
I greeted this morning's chilly dawn with a drive out to a farm for fresh milk. This morning, I have been practicing making yogurt, long-form mozzarella, and an a salty African-style soft cheese called domiati. I write this entry now as I wait for the curd to form.
 
 
What exactly is curd and whey? In the process of cheese making, the milk solids form the curds, which eventually are pressed into what we know as cheese. Then, there is a yellowish clear liquid that forms called whey. This is typically drained off and can be used for many other functions, such as whey protein powder, to increase protein content in foods, to make ricotta cheese, or to appease the farm animals.
 
 
On April 14th, Our Healing Roots, LLC, will be offering a class in making yogurt and soft cheese. You can find out more information about this class by visiting my website at www.ourhealingroots.net, or e-mail me at office@ourhealingroots.net.
 
 
We'll the timer is going off, and it's time to go check the curd...

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Similar State of Mind: Poision Ivy

Perhaps, it is too early in the year to be discussing poison ivy. Yet, on this cold, wet spring morning it seems to be an appropriate medicine to explore and discuss. Amazingly, poison ivy does provide some therapeutic benefit in this world, that is, in a homeopathic preparation.

Enter the world of homeopathy and expect every rule you know to be different. In this world, less medicine is more effective than more medicine. In this world, we don't give the opposite to fix a problem (i.e. an antidiarrheal for diarrhea), but we give something similar (i.e. something that would cause diarrhea to help treat diarrhea). Can you suspend your disbelief? 

Homeopathic preparations are made of substances from the natural world, such as plants and minerals. In homeopathy, the substance is highly diluted, even sometimes to the point that a molecule of the original substances likely doesn't exist within the medicine. Then, this homeopathic preparation is used to treat conditions that are similar to the conditions they would cause at high doses.

So, consider poison ivy. For many people, exposure to the plant oil will cause a toxic reaction--blistering of this skin, redness, extreme itching, restlessness, and stiffness, which all feel better with hot applications. The homeopathic (dilute) preparation of poison ivy, however, could potentially alleviate all of these symptoms and bring relief. This is known as the homeopathic Law of Similars--"Like Treats Like."

Selection of a homeopathic remedy is highly individualized. Studying each remedy is like getting to know an individual pattern in people. Let's look at the pattern of the person needing homeopathic poison ivy. 

The botanical name for poison ivy is Rhus toxicodendron. Homeopathic poison ivy is often called "Rhus tox." Clinically, a person needing this homeopathic remedy tends to be restless, especially at night. They might present with a red, blistering rash that is intensely itchy. They blisters would be filled with pus or clear liquid. This might be a rash from poison ivy, chicken pox, or contact dermatitis. Or, their joints might be stiff when they first get out of bed, but they are better as they limber up and move. Movement tends to feel better for these patients. Additionally, they like warmth and heat. A nice hot shower or bath feels good to them. However, they also can be quite sensitive to dampness. This cold, wet spring morning would aggravate their symptoms.

Pub med does have an abstract on an in vivo study for homeopathic Rhus tox. A rat study showed that homeopathic Rhus tox interferes with inflammatory mediators such as histamine and prostaglandins. (PMID: 17437936 or http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17437936) Therefore, this homeopathic remedy might be helpful in inflammatory conditions such as rashes and inflammatory arthritic conditions.

It seems that there is some truth to the old adage--"It is the dose that makes the poison."


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garden Project Update: Chickens in the Hoop House

 
frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
 
Two of our chickens went to town in my winter hoop house garden. I imagine they started off with the beer I left out as a slug trap. Then, they dined on my seedlings. I imagine they didn't care much for the bok choy because that is where they made their dust bath. My heart is heavy as I learn that my attempts to barricade the gardens were not enough.
 
 
I carefully replanted buried and torn plants. I found space to put in new bean plants. And, of course, I strengthened the barricades.
 
 
Just like life, the garden has its joys, its heartbreaks, and its opportunities to learn.  When life feels uprooted, you recover what you can, replant, allow for new growth, and learn. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do You Eat Flowers?

 
frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
 
Do you eat flowers? The blooms on the rosemary plant are bursting forth with our warmer weather, a promise that spring is just around the corner. My chamomile plants are already blooming. Meanwhile, my borage seedlings are taking off. I love this time of year, especially because I am a flower eater.
 
 
Each spring, I have the pleasure of decorating my salads with flowers--rosemary blossoms, pansies, redbuds, pineapple sage blooms, and borage flowers. Not all blooms are edible, but I certainly enjoy the ones that are. Rosemary blossoms have a distinct rosemary taste. Redbuds are both sweet with a touch of tart. Borage flowers taste like cucumbers. 
 
 
I invite you to try it. Decorate a salad with flowers. The floral tastes go well with dried fruit, pears, apples, nuts, a bit of homemade cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, fruit vinegars from the summer before, and other fresh herbs. (It's also a sneaky way to let children to enjoy salad, particularly if you let them pick the flowers and herbs themselves.)
 
 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Introducing My Garden Project

frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
 
This is a picture of a lovely baby bok choy plant, taken in my back yard two weeks ago. I feel like a mommy, proud of this baby plant and completely taken by how adorable it is.
 
This year, I am aiming to plant our best garden yet! I call it my garden project. All winter I have been nurturing little seedlings under grow lights, in a greenhouse, under row cover, and in small homemade hoop houses. I'm tracking how much is spent versus how much is produced in our garden this year to see if it is cost effective.
 
You might be wondering about the cost of my labor. After all, it does take a lot of work and time to maintain a garden. Here is how I figure it...
* It's saving me the cost of a gym membership and the time of going there. No gas needed to reach my back yard, usually just a cup of tea.
* It gives me immeasurable joy to see life grow around me. That first contact of a pea plant with its frame brings a big, goofy smile to my face. The pushing up of a plant through the soil takes my breath away.
* I get to enjoy food at its freshest and packed with more nutrition compared to food imported halfway around the globe, then irradiated or sprayed with gas. Furthermore, I get to control how it is grown.
* Finally, there is an excellent article in the Naturopathic News and Review of March 2013 that points to several other health benefits I am gleaning.  The article is called "Nature: The Forgotten Root of Health." In it, Dr. Vicki Simkovic describes a Japanese study examining the benefits of Shinrin-yoku, which is a process of fully immersing one's whole self in nature for "forest bathing."  Individuals spending 40 minutes in a forest compared to those walking indoors in a lab had decreased cortisol levels, better blood pressure readings, improved natural killer cell activity and an increase in the production of anticancer proteins. I suspect I am getting similar effects as I work in my garden compared to working out in a gym with no nature around me. Subtract the cost of supplements to decrease stress and improve my immune system.

As this garden is for my own consumption and is not a commercial venture, I figure the labor comes out a wash for me.  This year, I look forward to updating you on this project and sharing what I have grown.
 
 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Raising my teacup to the Tulsa Herb Society

Frame courtesy of cottagearts.net

Yesterday, the Tulsa Herb Society hosted its annual March Tea and celebrated its 25 year anniversary! I stepped out of my car and was transported to beautiful tea rooms decorated with flowers and herbs. The time and care put into planning this event was extraordinary! Women pulled out their fashionable hats for the affair, which was a site to behold.  I loved learning about the history of afternoon tea and the wonderful memories this group has shared over the years. The Tulsa Herb Society meets Tuesdays to learn, craft and cook with herbs, as well as to share enriching friendships. The group is part of the Tulsa Garden Center. More information about this group can be found at www.tulsaherb.com.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Delicious Sourdough Day


Saturday's sourdough class was simply divine! After scrubbing our hands and nails clean, we dived in to kneading dough, baking without hard and fast recipes, whipping up pancakes, and baking a sourdough pizza. After practicing the basics of feeding and maintaining a starter, everyone got to take their own starter home. The tastes and smells of it all were deeply rewarding, too.

We reworked Friday's pancake recipe with much success. I think I made Friday's pancakes too thick for my preference. So, these pancakes were thinner. We tried a carrot cake version of the pancake--shredded carrot and broccoli stem, raisins, cinnamon, clove, allspice with a touch of sweet. These pancakes were excellent! Eureka!  (I highly recommend this idea for parents trying to slip vegetables into breakfast.)

As Saturday's class closed, an overwhelming sense of joy emerged. Back in 2001, I volunteered and worked full time as an experiential educator. I helped teach classes in team building, global hunger issues, as well as teaching cheese, soap, bread, herbal medicines, candles, and paper making. I loved that time of my life; however, my heart was also called to study naturopathic medicine. So, I finished my undergraduate degree, went off to naturopathic medical school, completed a residency, and then entered full time employment. It was all very well and good, but I found myself missing the fun, experiential classes. Now, I am pleased to see patients, as well as teach experiential classes again. I feel two life callings of my are finally merging together, and what a joy it is!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Experimenting in the Kitchen

 
In preparation for our sourdough class tomorrow, I have been experimenting with recipes this week. I found two recipes in a wonderful book by Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation. In his book, he provides two unusual sourdough recipes--one for chocolate cake and the other for savory pancakes. The opportunity was too good to pass up!

Frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
I made the chocolate cake recipe on Sunday. It was originally a vegan recipe, so I took some liberties to modify it a bit using our hen's eggs and some organic butter. It was a smashing success--moist, full of dark chocolate flavor, light in crumb, and deeply filling.

For lunch today, I figured I would whip up those savory sourdough pancakes. I sautéed slivers of onion and red bell pepper. Then, I scooped out a cup of sourdough starter, added my pancake ingredients, shredded cheese, and finished it off with broccoli slaw and  shredded potatoes. The pancakes were beautiful! I spread our homemade picante sauce and sour cream on top.

Frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
And then the taste test...hmmm...not as exciting as I had hoped. Personally, I think I would have loved all the vegetables, cheese and sour cream without the bread aspect. That being said, the shredded broccoli stems and carrots were quite mild, and I could see myself slipping some veggies in my pancakes in the future. What if I tried carrot, broccoli, apple/raisin, cinnamon, and allspice with a sweeter version of the pancake? Stay tuned for future experiments!




Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's in my teacup?

 
While the March weather is still warming, I continue to enjoy my hot tea in the mornings. On this particular morning, I have settled down to a hot cup of oolong tea (otherwise known as wulong tea). It is made from the same plant as green and black tea--Camellia sinensis; however, the processing varies between the three teas. Oolong tea is a partially fermented tea. Its flavor varies depending on the type of oolong tea.

Oolong tea has recently gained fame as a weight loss supplement, but today I am going to focus on some lesser known studies about oolong tea. Oolong tea may inhibit the bacteria commonly associated with dental cavities, Streptococcus mutans.  In a cell study published early last year, black, oolong and green tea were all compared for their ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans.  Oolong tea demonstrated the greatest inhibitory effects on this bacteria.  A 1999 cell study suggested that a particular polyphenol of oolong tea (OTF6) may inhibit the bacteria's ability to adhere to the tooth surface. A rat study has also supported these findings. This is far from definitive proof and certainly lacking human studies at this time; however, I'm quite content to have my mouth coated with this delicious tea this morning, believing there might be some additional health benefit to be gleaned.

Oolong tea does contain caffeine, and several medications interact with caffeine. In many cases, a cup or two of tea every now and again will not cause harm. On average, it has about a 1/3 of the caffeine quantity as coffee, depending on how it is brewed. If you plan to ingest larger quantities and take prescribed medications, check with your pharmacist first and read the directions she or he provides.

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22842248
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10529529
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8319255

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Farewell Pumpkin Parker...

frame courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
Yesterday was simply heartbreaking. Our beloved Buff Orpington chicken Pumpkin Parker was killed. I discovered her remains as I went out to do my early morning chores. As I came upon her golden feathers scattered about the ground, my heart sank.
 
We have been raising chickens for the past three years. Pumpkin was one of our original flock. As roosters are not allowed in town, she became our pseudo-rooster. She would protect the flock and make sure everyone made it up at night safely.
 
Her remains were laid to rest in the chicken yard. To support the rest of our animals and ourselves, we used a flower essence therapy called "Rescue Remedy." I put a couple of drops in everyone's water yesterday. In my time as a chicken mama, I have seen Rescue Remedy help revive a chicken with heat stroke and soothe animals that were in shock.
 
 
Peer reviewed research on flower essences is scarce, and my use of them is largely based on empirical evidence. However, I did come across a most interesting Spanish abstract on PubMed about flower essences. This is a study of 119 human subjects given individualized flower essence therapy over an average of 3.4 visits. Of those treated, 84.7% of the subjects reported good or very good results. The only side effect reported in the abstract is a 2% incidence of gastric intolerance.  This study suggests that individualized flower essence may be a very safe and effective therapy with little side effect.  (Reference at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20014621
 
 
May Pumpkin rest in peace...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Oh the Places You'll Go, Sourdough!

 
frame for photo courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
I used to believe sourdough was a plain loaf of bread with a sour flavor. Since then, my eyes have been opened to its vast potential.  Sourdough can be used to make breads of all flavors, rye bread, pancakes, pita bread, rolls, pizza dough, and even cake! We have experimented at home, and my favorite varieties of sourdough bread have been seed bread (full of toasted seeds), orange/fennel seed/currant, and rosemary/olive oil bread. The potential of this wonderful culture is truly limited only by the imagination.
Next Saturday afternoon, March 9th, our sourdough class will be exploring many of the possibilities of this amazing food culture. You are invited to taste, bake and experience sourdough with us!  To get more information, visit our website at www.ourhealingroots.net under “Upcoming Events.”
 



Friday, March 1, 2013

Is it safe???

Feeding the Starter
frame for photo courtesy of cottagearts.net
 
With all the excitement about gluten free diets, it might seem at first glance that sourdough bread is an unhealthy choice to promote.  So, I want to explore how this bread has health benefits to offer, particularly if you are not ready to go gluten-free.
Sourdough bread naturally has less gluten in it compared to our more modern yeast breads. The live and active culture in the dough pre-digests the gluten for us, providing a naturally lower gluten bread.  (Please note: If you have a gluten allergy/Celiac disease, you should not consume products containing gluten, even if they are sourdough.)
Making your own sourdough products, you can also control the ingredients used.  Two main ingredients I try to avoid are bleach and potassium bromate in my flour.  Potassium bromate is a class IIB carcinogen (meaning it possibly causes cancer in humans, depending on the exposure). It is a common flour additive used to improve the rise in yeast breads.  Its use as an additive to flour is banned several countries including the countries of the European Union, China and Canada. Potassium bromate is not banned in the US, but the FDA does discourage bakers from using it. Based on experience, people with gluten sensitivities often find they can better tolerate authentic sourdough breads made from non-brominated flour, consumed in moderation.