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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Protective Effects of Diverse Microbial Exposure

At first glance, one might assume that farm children have a higher risk of allergies, asthma, and other atopic diseases. They are out in the country with all those exposures to allergens, right?

Actually, a 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests otherwise. Children growing up on a farm in central Europe were found to have a decreased incidence of asthma and atopy compared to their urban counterparts! The study examined the dust inside the homes of these children and found that farm children have a significantly greater exposure to microbial diversity. This study suggests that the greater diversity of bacteria and fungi that we are exposed to, the lower the rate of asthma and atopy.
(Reference: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1007302)

This begs the question--do we have a higher incidence of allergic conditions because we limit our bacterial and fungal diversity?  In what ways do we limit this diversity on a daily basis?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hawthorn Revisited

A few weeks ago I presented a blog entry about hawthorn. As spring has emerged, leaves now cover the hawthorn tree in my backyard. Hawthorn has received a lot of attention for its action on the circulatory system, and research has studied its effects here. But, what are the other actions of Hawthorn? For these answers, I turn to the work of one my favorite herbalists Matthew Wood.
I love Matthew Wood's work because he writes extensively about several different bodies of knowledge in herbalism, particularly Eclectic medicine.  The Eclectic botanical tradition was at its pinnacle of glory around the turn of the 19th-20th century. It is based on physicians' careful observations and recordings of patients.  With the rise of pharmaceutical medicine, it fell out of vogue, and the new standard eventually became the randomized, placebo control trial. Authors and teachers such as Matthew Wood are now supporting the reemergence of this knowledge.  I am truly grateful to live in a time with access to so many systems of knowledge, and I believe each has immense value. But, I digress…

In addition to the circulatory benefits to the body, Matthew Wood suggests that hawthorn ameliorates many conditions of excitation/irritation/inflammation.  These would may include autoimmune conditions, upper respiratory congestion, indigestion (particularly of fat), and a nervous inability to focus. He even learned that an inflamed boil can be pricked by a thorn of the hawthorn tree, and it will empty and heal out.  Specific indications that hawthorn is needed include the following (1) red fingers and/or palms that blanch with pressure, and (2) dry, red irritated skin on the back of the hands. So, when you think hawthorn, think hot, red, irritated, and even agitated.


Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkley: North Atlantic Books, 2008.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What's in my tea jar?

As the days become warmer and spring emerges, I yearn for more herbal infusions. The term "infusion" generally implies that you are steeping part of a plant in a liquid.

On spring days like these, it is not uncommon to see me rummaging through my dried herb cabinet and picking leaves in the garden for my infusions. I place these plant parts in a coffee press I have designated only for herbs, and cover with hot water. I allow this to sit for 45 minutes (but more often a few hours). Then, I strain off the liquid into a quart mason jar and sip throughout the day.

One of my favorite herbs to pick from the garden is lemon balm. The scientific name for this is Melissa officinalis. It is also called Melissa balm by some sources. It is a member of the mint family, but it tastes like lemon. It has many medicinal effects, but one of my favorite is its mild anxiolytic effect. It is commonly combined with lavender, which then makes a nice tea for tension headaches.

A 2006 double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, balanced crossover human study, examined the effects of Melissa officinalis in people subjected to laboratory-induced stress. The study demonstrated that this herb increased calmness and alertness, while decreasing negative mood during the simulated stressful event (reference http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15272110).

As the season warms and our days become more busy, consider adding some fresh lemon balm to your herbal tea infusion.

Discovering Mizuna

This year, we ordered some seeds from Baker's Creek, a wonderful heirloom seed company in the Missouri Ozarks. As part of our order, a free packet of Mizuna seeds were included. Being adventurous, we decided to grow some, and we have been rewarded with large and happy Mizuna plants!

Mizuna is considered a Japanese mustard green, however it seems to have originated in China. It has a mild peppery taste to it. Traditionally, the Japanese pickle the stems of this green to enjoy along with their beer. However, it can also be used in salads, soups and stir fries, as well. I have added some leaves to my chickweed salads this spring, and find it mixes well with other salad greens without being too overpowering. It provides a great source of daily vitamin A (about 120% of the daily recommended value in a cup per some sources).

One of the joys of gardening, shopping at a farmers market, or belonging to a CSA (community supported agriculture) is that you can try several new varieties of vegetables that are not commonly found in the typical grocery store, such as mizuna. Additionally, you can enjoy them when they are the most fresh and often taste the best.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Similar State of Mind--Calcarea Carbonica

Attribution: David.Monniaux

With homeopathy, you could feasibly have 15 different patients with a middle ear infection, and each patient may need a different homeopathic remedy for their infection. In other words, not all middle ear infections are the same. Today, I am going to outline a homeopathic remedy called "calcarea carbonica" in the context of ear infections.

Homeopathic calcarea carbonica was originally harvested from the shell of an oyster. It is commonly called "calc carb." Calc carb is a polycrest (AKA polychrest) homeopathic remedy. That means it is one of the most common remedies. Indeed, it is used for all forms of disease and is not limited to simply one condition or another.

So, how might a person needing calc carb for an ear infection present? Their ear infections may present easily in both ears, but will favor the right side. Cold and wet conditions tend to be aggravating, and bathing does not feel good. Mornings are difficult, but they tend to feel better as the day progresses. Also, they tend to feel better laying on the painful side. People needing calc carb tend to be feverish and perspire easily on the head, neck, and feet, while perspiration tends to smell somewhat sour. It is not uncommon that they present with a history of recurrent ear infections, allergies, chronic nasal obstruction and/or frequent colds and flu. Their ear infections may also present with ringing in the ears and dizziness.

It may help to consider that various diagnoses such as otitis media (AKA middle ear infections) all present differently, like individuals. Carefully studying the different patterns of disease presentation will point you in the direction of more effective outcomes in homeopathy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Save the Date--Open House May 21st

Mark your calendars...Our Healing Roots, LLC, will be hosting an open house event at our new location on Tuesday, May 21st from 5:00-7:00 p.m. More information to come as the date approaches.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Our Healing Roots, LLC" is moving in May!

For the past few months, I have been searching for a new office for this budding practice. I am pleased to announce that I have just signed a new lease. Our Healing Roots, LLC, is moving to a new office building on May 1st.  The new office will be at the Chevy Chase building in Tulsa, located at 5550 S Lewis Avenue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's a lovely office building with a more natural setting and more space to see clients. I look forward to serving you from the new location soon. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Beauty

I took this picture while on a walk with Sasha Daucus, an herbalist from the Missouri Ozarks. There are many ways to know about botanical medicine. Our culture places a high value on research-based, evidence medicine. I believe there is value to be had from this system. There is also value to be had from other ways of knowing, too--clinical experience, empirical evidence, book learning, experiential learning, and other systems of knowledge such as Western folk traditions, Chinese medicine, Aryuvedic medicine, and homeopathy. I believe no one system holds all the answers, but synthesizing the knowledge from several different systems will point the way.

An herb walk with Sasha Daucus is simply a delight. While she shares her "book learning" of the plants, she also invites you into the experience of being with the plants...to notice the patterns, the sensations, the experience--because they have value, too. Simply experiencing a walk in the forest among plants can be restorative and healing. Sasha invites us to try this other way of knowing by walking in the natural environment without naming and labeling. What are plants without their names and labels?

I invite you to check out Sasha's Facebook page... http://www.facebook.com/thegoldenlightcenter and to observe some of the beautiful images she shared with us.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Colonial Shrub

In front of the Skillet Restaurant at the Ozark Folk Center is one of the largest bay trees I have ever seen in Midwest. This tree gets so large that it sometimes towers over the building and must get cut back. The rock wall of the building, the sidewalk in front, the protection from the North and West wind and the Southerly light all created a microclimate for this tree to thrive.

However, I'm not talking about plant shrubs today, but rather an unusual drink I learned about this weekend called a shrub. Shrubs, as they are popularly known today, are alcoholic beverages with sugar and fruit juice, somewhat akin to punch. Herbalist Susan Belsinger taught the colonial version of the shrub this weekend. In colonial times, people needed a way to preserve their abundant fruit harvests. Extra fruit (especially berries) were placed in vinegar for several days. The fruit was then strained out and a sugar, such as honey was added as a preservative. The shrub could then be added to water, carbonated water, liquor, or just enjoyed straight.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ozark Folk Center: Herbal Field Trip and Medicinal Herb Workshop

At the beginning of April each year, the Ozark Folk Center hosts the Herbal Field Trip and Medicinal Herb Workshop. It is two days packed with hiking, learning, tasting herbal treats and downright humor and fun. The Ozark Folk Center is tucked away beautiful Mountain View, Arkansas. This year's event took place last Friday and Saturday. This week on my blog, I will be sharing my experience of this year's event.

At this year's event, I had the rare opportunity to meet Rosemary Gladstar. When I was transitioning my career aspirations from astronaut to naturopathic physician, I read her books and tried several of her herbal recipes with my mom's encouragement. I remember venturing into the herb stores and the local community garden to build my first collection of dried herbs for medicine making. Her writings made herbal medicine approachable. Because of her, I was inspired to learn more and pursue my career. I have always wanted to meet Rosemary in person, and this event provided just the opportunity.

Rosemary Gladstar grew up by her grandmother's side in the garden learning the healing properties of herbs. As a young adult, she lived in the forest and foraged for her meals for several months. In 1972, she opened her first herb store in California. In these past 35 years, she has written several books and taught around the world about herbal medicine. She has been called the fairy godmother of herbal medicine. If you are new to botanical medicine, I highly recommend her latest book Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide.

When Rosemary was first learning about herbal medicine, she was taught that wildcrafting herbs was the best source to find herbal medicines. Wildcrafting is the collection of plants from their natural environments, such as the forest. However due to overharvesting (particularly to meet industry need), several medicinal plant species are now in danger, such as goldenseal, American Ginseng and many others. We can help prevent these species from being lost by purchasing from cultivated (i.e. organically farmed) sources rather than wildcrafted sources of these plants. Rosemary Gladstar founded an organization called United Plant Savers, which is dedicated to preserving our native species of plants in North America. You can find out more about this organization and how to join at http://www.unitedplantsavers.org/.

Who has inspired you in botanical/herbal medicine?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Crataegus laevigata (Hawthorne)

One of my most beloved trees grows in my backyard near the garden gate--the hawthorne. True to its name, its thorns grab me from time to time, reminding me it is there.

The hawthorne tree is a favorite among herbalists. Commonly, it is the berries, flowers and leaves used in botanical medicine. Hawthorne is well known for its many effects on the cardiovascular system, and it is also suggested that it helps the emotional heart, as well. In my own clinical practice, I have been most amazed by its effect on blood pressure. It lowers blood pressure that is high, and it raises blood pressure that is low. Hawthorne exerts a normalizing effect, working in both directions. I have successfully used preparations of the berry for both high and low blood pressure. I have also found that the quality and type of hawthorne product makes a profound difference in some individuals.

A 2008 Cochrane review looked at 14 trials on hawthorne for congestive heart failure, mostly in combination with conventional treatment. These trials suggested that using hawthorne decreased symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue, while increasing exercise tolerance. It was concluded, "These results suggest that there is a significant benefit in symptom control and physiological outcomes from hawthorne extract as an adjunctive treatment for chronic heart failure." (Reference http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18254076)

It is advised that you meet with qualified health professionals to ensure correct diagnosis, to review any potential medication interactions, to determine therapeutic and safe dosage, and to be aware of potential adverse effects before beginning therapeutic regimens with botanical medicines.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Garden Project Update: Bok Choy

Last Sunday, we enjoyed the first vegetable out of the garden this year--baby bok choy. Our plant weighed in a whole 5.3 ounces. It was the featured guest of a new recipe I tried from food network called Guy Fieri's Best Bok Choy Recipe. Delicious!

A 2002 review in the journal Nutrition and Cancer suggests that there are three epidemiological studies with statistically significant findings suggesting that a diet high in Brassica vegetables (this includes bok choy) may reduce risk of prostate cancer. But how? It is theorized that the glucosinolates in these vegetables metabolically break down in the body, and it is the break down products which support enzymatic protection from DNA damage. Damaged DNA can be a precursor to cancer.  (Reference http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12235639)

I might also add that your best protection comes from consuming these vegetables raw. However, don't go overboard with your raw bok choy consumption. A case report in the New England Journal of Medicine reports an 88-year old woman who consumed 2-3 pounds of bok choy for several months and then was rushed in the ER with a coma. This large ingestion of bok choy induced profound hypothyroidism, which then induced the coma. (reference http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc0911005) In speaking with one of my well trusted colleagues over Sunday brunch, she shared that consuming brassica vegetables in normal amounts have not been found to cause problems with thyroid levels, but you certainly don't want to take it to excess.

If you are interested in reading more, I refer you to two articles written by Dr. Jacob Schor, a well established naturopathic oncologist...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spani "Kale" copita

Last Tuesday, I spent the day making an array of cheeses and yogurt. One of the cheeses I made that day was domiati, which is a white, soft, and salty cheese eaten in Egypt, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries.

As I was reading Sandor Katz' book The Art of Fermentation, I was reminded that the consumption of fresh milk is a relatively new phenomenon with the advent of refrigeration. Historically, unless you had direct access to a dairy animal, most of your milk products were cultured or preserved in some way. This points to the historical popularity of cheese and yogurt. In the case of domiati, salt makes a wonderful preservative.

One of the traditional ways to enjoy domiati is in a savory pastry. So Friday afternoon, I used my domiati to make spani "Kale" copita. It was a delicious (yet still salty) savory pastry pie of spinach, kale, green onion, and domiati cheese layered in organic filo dough. The outcome is pictured above.