Consider how amazing the blueberry is. It is a miracle fruit in the category of ‘super-foods.’  The blueberry is ranked as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Women love them because they are low in calories, high in fiber and also vitamins C and K. Blueberries help to enhance digestion, are a great ‘first-food’ for babies, aid with varicose veins and prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s).


I suggest that my clients wait to offer any solid food to babies before 9 months or do so when the baby has between 4-8 teeth. When it is time to offer solid food to your baby blueberries are high on my list!

The fruit is portable, delicious, healthy, and it doesn’t have the allergenic concerns associated with other berries. They are obviously best eaten when they are picked fresh in the summer, but since they are frozen immediately after they are picked, blueberries will retain their vitamins and nutrients after they are frozen. They make a great treat in the winter as well.

Moms love blueberries because it is easy to puree them, fresh or frozen, in a blender jar.  Just add water until the desired consistency is reached. You can also add them to smoothies.  Blueberries are also terrific all on their own.  They make a great finger food for older babies.  Be mindful that they can pose a choking hazard so it is probably a good idea to cut any large berries in half before feeding.


Herbalist Mimi Hernandez, MS, RH (AHG) raves about using blueberries with her clients who suffer with varicose veins.  I have found this also to be true for my clients. They feel less pain, less swelling and less inflammation after 6 months of ingesting 1 cup of the berries each day.  I also love the Herbalist David Winston’s new product called Blueberry Solid Extract.  It can be spread on toast, added to oatmeal or simply eaten by the spoonful all year round.

Why blueberries for veins? Varicosities (big bad blue veins) can only form if there’s weakness in blood-vessel walls, or if there’s significant pressure within the vein to overwhelm healthy vessels. By strengthening the vessel walls, which are made of a complex network of collagen, proteins,  and smooth muscle, one decreases the likelihood they will dilate or distend. The goal is to build up the structural matrix and to shrink existing varicose veins.  Why are blueberries so helpful with veins? Because, blueberries boost blood flow and are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances anti-inflammatory bioflavonoids, which ultimately improve vein elasticity and increase blood flow in the legs. Blueberries also have anthocyanins which are antioxidants used to help strengthen the vessel integrity and thus reducing varicose veins.

Click here for information on how to cure Urinary Tract Infections using Blueberries >>

Learn how Wild Blueberries combat diseases and promote healthy aging >>

Products I recommend so you can enjoy blueberries all year long:

David Winston’s Blueberry Solid Extract (BBS)

Vitacost 100% Pure Blueberry Juice Concentrate — 16 fl oz

Melissa’s Produce Organic Dried Blueberries

I have had great success helping my clients with Chronic Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) using blueberry in the form of a concentrate.

The dosage for the prevention of UTI’s is ¼ cup of the pure blueberry concentrate stirred into one liter of water and sipped throughout the day.

As an herbalist I also encourage my clients to have an herbal mix to treat and prevent Urinary Tract infections. I like the blend from Herbalists and Alchemist UT Compound by David Winston which includes herbs in a wonderful combination that helps to clear the infection and help sooth the bladder. Typical dose is: 20-40 drops (1-2 ml) taken 3 times per day over a period of a few months (although you need to speak with an herbalist the dosage may need to change depending on weight and age and condition of person).

Please understand this: it is NOT that blueberries are antibacterial and kill the bacteria responsible for UTI’s; rather, it’s that the blueberries have a component that inhibits bacteria from proliferating and living on the bladder wall.

Here is what the research says, “The compounds responsible for inhibition of bacterial adherence are called proanthocyanidins. The proanthocyanidins found in blueberries prevent harmful bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. Blueberries contain certain molecular compounds that help prevent urinary tract infections; however, blueberries do not have direct killing effects on the bacteria. Instead, blueberries prevent urinary tract infections by altering the bladder tissue in such a way that the bacteria are not able to adhere for long enough to establish an infection. Therefore, when the bladder is emptied during urination, the bacteria are flushed out along with the urine, and an infection is avoided.

Mother Nature’s foods and herbs bloom with the colors of vitality. Her rainbow spectrum of purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red bears not only the richness of beauty but nutrition and antioxidant power as well. The same colors that reward our senses can give us clues about important phytonutrients (‘phyto’ means ‘plant’) in common foods and healing herbs.

It all begins with the sun. Although sunlight seems to have a golden glow, it’s really made up of all the colors of the rainbow. Plants appear to be green because they reflect the green rays, while absorbing the reds and blues. The color green tells us that chlorophyll (literally, ‘green leaf’) is present, and the darker green a plant looks, the more chlorophyll it has. This is one reason why we’re advised to eat our dark leafy greens: abundant, nourishing chlorophyll. Curiously, an important part of the chlorophyll molecule is almost identical to the part of hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood. This is one bit of science supporting the traditional wisdom that dark greens (including wild greens like Dandelion and Nettles) are good for ‘building the blood.’

Dark green also announces the presence of an important companion of chlorophyll, folic acid (folate). The word ‘folic’ comes from the word for leaves, or ‘foliage’. Folic acid is critical for the proper development of the nervous system and all pregnant women are advised to get plenty of this nutrient for their growing baby’s health. Folic acid also ‘builds the blood’ through encouraging the development of oxygen-bearing red blood cells, and so helps prevent anemia and fatigue.

In one of the greatest miracles of Nature, chlorophyll and its companions transform pure solar energy into food and medicine. When sunlight enters chlorophyll, it sparks a series of energetic reactions which ultimately lead to the production of the simple sugar, glucose.  This vital molecule, which is the parent off all other phytonutrients, just happens to be the same molecule we call ‘blood sugar.’ Plants and people have a lot more in common than we might have realized! Both plants and people use glucose to build other molecules, as well as for a source of ready energy.

But chlorophyll can’t work alone. It needs protection from the harsh UV rays in the sun’s energetic spectrum. Too much ultraviolet, and photosynthesis begins to release an excess of damaging free radicals. (You may have heard of free radicals in relationship to antioxidant vitamins and supplements. For humans, free radicals contribute to premature aging, the development of degenerative diseases like arthritis and cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Antioxidants in greens, veggies, and colorful fruits help neutralize the free radicals and prevent tissue damage.)

These free radicals generated by over-stimulated chlorophyll could destroy sensitive plant tissue, but they don’t, because the plant has its own built-in antioxidants! Inside a busily sunbathed leaf, hidden by the dark green of the chlorophyll, these yellow and orange antioxidants are at work quenching free radicals and protecting the energy-generating source of life on Earth. Warmly colored antioxidants, they are known as ‘carotenoids,’ named after the familiar orange garden carrot. (When leaves display their brilliant fall colors, we’re seeing carotenoids).

As it just so happens, these same carotenoids protect our cell membranes, keeping the linings of our blood vessels smooth, and making sure our cholesterol and triglycerides aren’t damaged by oxidation. These molecules include the familiar nutrients beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Many naturally yellow, orange, or red vegetables will be rich in antioxidant carotenoids, including sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkin, citrus fruits, sweet and hot peppers, and tomatoes. Even leafy vegetables have carotenoids, we just can’t see them underneath all that green.

Another nutrient that finds its way into our diets is the molecule that gives curry its bright orange color: the curcumin found in turmeric. This potent phytonutrient is a supreme antioxidant, an effective anti-inflammatory, and a reliable tonic for the liver. Curcumin has been used since ancient days in the practice of Ayurveda, and is one of the most highly regarded remedies in modern phytotherapy. Along with its companion molecules (a phytonutrient never works alone), it’s used in formulas to treat and prevent many inflammatory diseases including allergies, arthritis, and cancer.

In the reddest part of the phytonutrient rainbow, we find two different tribes of molecules: the orangish-red xanthophylls and the purplish-red anthocyanins. ‘Xanthophyll’ means ‘yellow leaf,’ referring to autumn colors, and ‘anthocyanin’ means ‘cyan-colored flower’ which comes from the fact that flower colors are often the work of these molecules.

Two very red xanthophylls are found in sweet red peppers, all kinds of spicy red chile peppers, and paprika. They’re called capsanthin and capsorubin. The ‘caps-’ part comes from the Latin name for the peppers, ‘Capsicum,’ and ‘-rubin’ means ‘red.’ Particularly powerful and long-lasting antioxidants, they are oil-soluble and especially good at protecting the integrity of cell membranes. In fact, all of the carotenoids and xanthophylls are oil-soluble, and studies have shown that ingesting them with adequate dietary fat is necessary for proper absorption.

The other kind of red is at the beginning of a phytonutrient spectrum that moves on through purple and blue. There are many kinds of anthocyanins, and they can change color according to certain characteristics of the plant matrix in which they are found. In this way we find an abundance of anthocyanins in dark, rich blueberries; in the nearly-black elderberries, in the red raspberries and strawberries, and in the purple eggplant and cabbage. Anthocyanins are generally antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, tonics for the cardiovascular system, and cancer-preventative molecules.

But what about black and white? In plants (such as Chinese eggplant or black turtle beans) black is really a very dark purple color, so it indicates a richness of anthocyanins. White generally means two things: either an abundance of saturated fats (think coconut) or the absence of many colorful nutrients (as in the inside of an apple or cucumber – most of their nutrients are in the skins). Only refined sugar and salt are nearly pure white. White is also the color of many pharmaceuticals, including the familiar aspirin. So while white things are not always bad for us, the color can sometimes be a flag of caution – like the white tail of a deer!

Finally, some phytonutrients are colorless, but still very active. One special group of molecules with potent antioxidant properties are the OPCs found in grape seed extracts, grape skins, and hawthorn berries. Numerous studies have demonstrated that OPCs help to protect the heart and blood vessels, prevent inflammation in muscles and joints, and discourage the growth of abnormal cells. They also have astringent healing properties to protect the skin and mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive systems.

The colors of vitality are Nature’s gifts and clues to the inner mysteries of herbal medicines and healing foods. As we bring these phytonutrients into our daily diets, let’s remember the wisdom behind Grandmother’s old saying: The more pretty colors you eat, the lovelier you will be. Healthy is as healthy eats, so here’s the rainbow for thee!


Lisa Ganora, a scientifically trained traditional herbalist, is the Director of the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Boulder, CO. Her book, Herbal Constituents, is used in Herbal Programs, Naturopathic Schools, and Universities around the world.



Blurbs on Herbs

Nothing says “gourmet” like a sprinkling of colorful flower petals in a salad, a handful of pansy petals on a birthday cake or a sautéed daylily bud in a stir fry. Edible flowers are a fun and an easy way to add color and flavor to all sorts of dishes.

Most edible flowers are best eaten raw—simply pick and rinse with water. Flowers will taste and look their best right after they have opened, rather than after they have been open for a few days.

There are two important things to remember about edible flowers: first is that not every flower is edible, and the second caution is to avoid flowers that may have been sprayed with an insecticide, fungicide or herbicide.

Some flowers can be poisonous.

So get the flowers from a reputable source or stick with flowers listed below.


This fuzzy-leaved herb has sky-blue flowers with a light cucumber taste. Add to fruit salads, green salads or freeze in ice cubes for cold drinks.


Use the tiny flowers of signet marigolds, such as Lemon Gem and Tangerine Gem. Their blossoms have a citrus taste.


An easy and prolific edible flower that’s easy to grow from seed right in the garden. Separate the petals from the center of the flower and sprinkle the petals into salads. Colors range from pure yellow to orange and red. Remove spent flowers and the plants will bloom continuously from early summer into late fall.


Blossoms have a peppery flavor like watercress. All colors and varieties are tasty in salads or as garnishes. Leaves can be eaten, too.


English chamomile has small, daisy-like flowers with an apple-like flavor. If you’re allergic to ragweed, you might want to avoid chamomile.


These flowers have a wintergreen flavor and are pretty on cakes and other desserts.

Recipe for Violet Syrup


  1. Use only the freshest and most unblemished violets. Put violet petals in a deep bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Make sure violets are submerged so weigh down with a heavy dish.  Leave on counter at room temperature for 24 hours.
  2. Line a colander with layers of rinsed cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Pour violets and liquid into colander, squeezing out juice from the violets you can discard the violets.
  3. Place sugar, lemon juice and water in a saucepan and boil it will turn into a very thick syrup.
  4. When the liquid becomes near the candy stage add violet water and bring to a rolling boil. Boil 10 minutes or until thickened. Pour into sterile bottles. Allow to cool, then seal and refrigerate. Serve with ice water, seltzer, or pour over pancakes or French toast.
VARIATION: Substitute 4 cups fragrant rose petals and add 1 cinnamon stick per bottle of syrup. Yield: 2 quarts.

Share this entry


Spring and summer are wonderful times of the year, so be happy.  You waited months for the change of season, and the nicer weather that it would bring. But that joy can be ruined very quickly if you or your child is smitten with painful and swollen bug bites!  Ouch! Bug bites can ruin a fun day at the park, or make us grumpy if we are up all night scratching and itching!  Although we are bitten mostly when we are outdoors, those pesky critters somehow make their way into our bedrooms as well.  And yet hope in enjoying the finer months of the year is not lost. There are natural bug repellents you can employ, and a wonderful green powder you can use if, unfortunately, you have already been bitten.


Essential oils are great bug repellents when used properly, and my favorite defense against that terrible itch from a bug bite is simple French green clay. The oils are safe for use with children.

There are many essential oils that can be used within the space of children’s bedrooms or sprayed directly on your child’s bedding or clothing, and which can also be used outside where the kids are playing.  My favorite bug repellent essential oils are: cedar wood, citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, catnip and lavender.  You can combine all of these oils into one jar to make a lovely blend; or you can begin with choosing only two to three oils to begin your blend.  You will also need to purchase a diffusor and a spray bottle.  The diffusor can be used in your child’s bedroom or outside by where your kids are playing; the spray bottles are used for spraying directly on your child or their clothing.  When using a diffusor, make sure it is placed on a high shelf or in an area that your child cannot reach.  Place a candle under the diffuser, fill the top with hot water and put between 10-15 drops of the oil into the hot water.  The room or area will be filled with bug-repellent smells—pleasant to us humans but repulsive to those nasty insects.  To use the spray bottle: fill the bottle with 4oz. (half of a cup) of water and add to it 15-20 drops of the essential oil mixture, shake well and spray on child’s pillowcase, sheets or clothing, or into the child’s hair (avoiding the eyes).  In fact, it is a good idea to get into the habit of spraying your children’s clothing during the heavy mosquito outbreaks.



My favorite cure for bug bites is pure French green clay.  Often sold as a facial mask, you can purchase green clay at your local health food store or order it on-line.  The best way to use pure green clay for bug bites is in the form of a paste; which reduces the inflammation of bug bites and also helps pull the toxic venom out of the skin. To make the paste, put some of the clay into a cup and add a drop or two of water, but don’t add too much water because you want to make a paste that will stick to, and cover over, the bitten area.  When you have made the paste into the correct consistency, spread it over the bug bite.  When the paste has dried, if the child is still complaining, you can add another layer of the paste over the dried layer.  You can continue painting the green clay over the bites, layer upon layer, until your child is no longer bothered by the bite.  The green clay will begin to crumble off but don’t worry; it doesn’t stain clothing or bed sheets. Your child may, temporarily, look a little green but this is the best cure I have found for those itchy, painful bug-bites!

Relax and enjoy the summer.  Just keep a little bottle of the ‘natural-bug-spray’ with you at all times, when the mosquitos are out, and feel confident that the little buggies won’t bit your precious ones!

Summer is a great time for discovery and adventure.  The time spent outdoors is what kids look forward to all winter long.  And there is nothing worse than getting a bug bite, a cut or scrape, or a bump or bruise to ruin the fun.  But have no fear, we moms can be prepared!  We all know the importance of keeping extra tissues and a small bag of wipes in our purses, but here are three wonderful products that are very exceptional at curing the ouchies: Green Clay-French green clay is a wonderful multi-faceted product that is easy to use and extremely helpful.  You can purchase green clay at your local health food store—usually sold as a facial mask. Green clay can be transferred from the usual tub, into a small container you keep in your purse.  Best uses are for bug bites and kitchen burns.  Put a small amount of clay into a clean cup.  Add a drop or two of water and mix into a paste.  Make a layer over the bug bite with the green clay.  The green clay soothes inflamed skin and helps draw out the toxins deposited there by pesky bugs, like mosquitos.  If the bite is still itching after the clay has dried, apply another layer.  Green clay formed into a paste is also wonderful for minor kitchen burns or burns at a barbeque.  Applied shortly after the burn, green clay will help heal the skin and often prevents scarring. Yunnan Baiyao Powder– This miraculous Chinese powder is best used for scrapes, cuts and open wounds.  The powder is applied directly into the cut and will coagulate the blood very quickly.  It is also a natural antibiotic preventing infection.  This herbal mix comes in a cute little bottle that is easy to carry around in your purse and great to have on a hiking adventure.  If the cut is very deep, this powder will burn a little when applied, but the results are well worth it.   Although most health food stores do not carry this product, it can be ordered on-line. Homeopathic remedy Arnica Montana 30c– Arnica is used to help assist the body to heal itself when you get bumped, bruised, or fall.  Given after a fall or bruise, the remedy will help reduce inflammation and help heal the tissue.  Homeopathy comes in a very convenient vial that is small, compact and easy to administer.  The dosage is the same for children as it is for adults.  The typical dose is three pellets that are best dissolved under the tongue; however, if children take them on top of the tongue it is also good, but only if they are allowed to dissolve naturally in the mouth, as opposed to being chewed. I’m sorry if we cannot prevent the usual from occurring, but we can be prepared with natures little healers, and have fun this summer—being as adventurous as we choose to be.

I am a classical homeopath having worked with hundreds of children with both typical sore throats and chronic strep throats.  There are many natural methods that can bring relief and cure for this problem.

  • Take a small spray bottle, fill with filtered water (2oz), add herbs in tincture form (the herb steeped in grain alcohol like: elder berry, cleavers, usnea or echineaca.  You can use these herbs in single form, or mix them all together. You can add 25-30 drops of the herb to the water.  The child can spray the mixture into their throats 1-4x a day.  The child will feel the soothing spray on their sore throat and the herbs will help kill the bacteria or virus that is present.
  • Sage honey is another wonderful idea.  The plant sage is specific for sore throats.  If you want the honey to be more medicinal you can add sage tincture to the honey.  Heat honey on stove chill and store in the fridge.  Kid’s over age 1 love the taste of honey and kids are more likely to comply if they help you make the honey.  Dosage is one tablespoon 2-3x a day.

The homeopathic remedy phytolocca 30c is specific for sore throats.  Homeopathy is easy to administer to children.  The medicine is given in small pellets that can be dissolved either under the tongue or on-top of the tongue.

Smudging is a wonderful way to help keep bugs away from a barbeque or outside ‘evening activity.’ Smudging is a technique used my people all over the world. Smudging is burning dried herbs and letting the smoke build in the area you want to be in. A smudge stick is a combination of dried herbs that are wrapped together with string. You light the end of it and walk around and let the smoke permeate the area. Bugs and mosquitoes don’t like the smell and stay clear of the area. You can also smudge in your home if mosquitoes have gotten in your house.

Another wonderful tool is to diffuse essential oils in a diffuser in your house or outside. You can also buy a spray bottle and put a half cup of water in the spray bottle and add 30-40 drops of essential oil. You can spray this water mixture on the chairs you are sitting on or directly onto you or your child’s hair or clothing (avoid the eyes). Bugs and mosquitoes are also repelled by the smells of these oils.

Women at all stages of their lives get moody. Moodiness can be seen in young girls as they enter puberty, women in their 20’s, 30’s, and still in older woman as they reach perimenopause and menopause into their 40’s and 50’s and 60’s. Indeed, it appears that women at all stages of life struggle with their moods. Some women handle their moodiness better than others, but as any man who has ever lived with a woman will confirm, the woman he loves is often moody. Men can be moody also, but it just doesn’t seem to engulf them and take over their lives like it does for women. Although women often attribute their moodiness to their menstrual cycles, they can also blame their moods on pregnancy, their postpartum stage of life and all their life changes, and they should. The simple truth is that each of these changes brings with it a fluctuation in hormones, which does indeed affect their brains, and consequently the way they feel.

But why is it that woman tend to be moodier then men? Current research has shown that women on an average make less serotonin (the happy chemical in the brain) than men. Scientists at the University of Montreal found that men’s brains, on average, make 52 per cent more than women. The reason might be tied to the differences in male and female sex hormones. The way it works is like this: as a woman goes through her monthly cycles her estrogen levels raise and fall and low estrogen affects a woman’s moods because the brain needs estrogen to produce serotonin. Most people don’t know that estrogen exists in the brain, but hormones, estrogen and serotonin, work in tandem because serotonin needs estrogen for its metabolism. Therefore, as estrogen levels drop, so does serotonin. So women’s fluctuating hormones definitely affect the stability of their moods. Depending on how women react to the different hormonal patterns that exist, some women can be moody before their cycle, some after their cycle; while others feel imbalanced between their cycles. It sometimes seems that just living as a female can be enough of an excuse for moodiness. In the distant past, doctors used to describe women in their moody states as having ‘hysteria’, which is defined as,” unmanageable emotional excessesa.” Wikipedia discusses that the history of the notion of hysteria, “can be traced to ancient times; in ancient Greece it was described in the gynecological treatises of the Hippocratic corpus, which date from the 5th and 4th centuries BC. Plato’s dialogue Timaeus compares a woman’s uterus to a living creature that wanders throughout a woman’s body, “blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease. The concept of a pathological, wandering womb was later viewed as the source of the term hysteria, which stems from the Greek cognate of uterus, ὑστέρα (hystera).” The doctors of old were not aware of hormonal effects on the brain, so they blamed the uterus for women’s emotional upheavals.

So now that we know that monthly cycles and fluctuating hormones can directly affect our brains, what is a woman to do? Are there things a woman can do to help her better control her moods? Fortunately, the answer is yes. First, she can begin by charting her moods to help her anticipate and understand her unique mood-patterns. The next step is to tune into her intuitive-self, to avoid those ‘triggers’ that can off-set her moods. And, of course, she should know that exercising will always help her stabilize her temperament, and that there are also herbal allies she can include in her life.

One of my favorite ways for women to understand their personal cycle of moodiness is by charting it. To do this, keep a little calendar in your purse and two times a day chart what your mood is like. Most women, once they tune into how they are really feeling and when they get moody, will begin to see a pattern to their moods. Anticipating when moods could possibly be challenging, will give a woman the upper-hand in keeping her moods balanced; helping her to prevent inappropriate outbursts. Many a woman will complain that her day starts out great and the next thing she knows is that her mood has changed, and it has changed the tone of the rest of the day along with it. What a woman needs to begin to do is to notice the physical triggers that affect her already sensitive, hormonal balance. Is it that nasty co-worker’s comments that are triggering your bad mood, or is that daily call from your mother-in-law? Although we can’t avoid all the triggers, there are many we can avoid if we begin to notice them, chart them, and realize the affect that they are having on us. For instance, if you shop at a certain grocery store where the clerk always annoys you, shop somewhere else, or if the sandwich stand you frequent has a nasty worker, get your lunch somewhere else. Don’t let someone else’s offensive personality become a trigger that puts you in a bad mood.

Another tool we have within us is our intuitive-self. Your intuitive-self is that little voice that comes into your head and sends up the red-flags, warning you that a situation or person can have a negative effect on you. Most women are so busy trying to do the socially correct or nice thing that they often wipe out that intuitive feeling and just push through any disturbance. But when we just push-through things, it often leaves us feeling angry or frustrated, and that can disrupt the delicate balance of our hormones.

It is very important throughout the day to take a moment to take a few deep breaths and really ‘check-in’ on yourself, to see how you are feeling. Are you feeling frustrated or mad, are you feeling hurt or overwhelmed? Once you clarify what you are feeling, you have the ability to choose whether or not those feelings will overtake you, affecting your body. Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist who teaches her patients about their power to control the energy they take in from other people and helps them to understand the energy they give off to other people, teaches us that, “The main source of happiness and well-being comes from the heart, that energy center or “chakra” located in the mid-chest that is the source of loving-kindness and compassion. When we begin to open this area, the sweetness of this energy flows forth in our bodies to lessen fatigue and buoy our mood. A technique I suggest for opening the heart is simple. Get in a quiet place. Take a few steady, deep breaths. If thoughts intrude keep focusing on your breath. Then picture an image that is loving and positive. It may be a child’s face, a beautiful flower, a waterfall. Hold that image for a few minutes and feel the positive energy of the heart open and flow through you.” This may seem like a silly idea if you are beginning to feel ‘hormonal’ or ‘moody’, but the idea of breathing and taking the moment to try and shift your energy, works wonders for many women. This exercise can actually stop the chemical reaction that begins to occur when your stress hormones begin to kick in. This is a wonderful tool that can help bring you back to your center, or personal place of control. Taking that moment to acknowledge your feelings can help prevent things from building up and not allow your mood to explode.

Is it really fair to let your moods affect other people? If you are tracking your moods and you begin to feel as if ‘that mood’ is soon approaching, try your best to temporarily separate yourself so that your personal energy doesn’t offend anyone. It is perfectly okay for you to feel moody, but it really isn’t fair to expose others to it.

There is another method of mood control you may want to explore and that is the world of botanicals. There are many herbs that can help us balance our hormones and brain chemistry, and generally help to relieve the stress that our bodies accumulate as a result of our moodiness.

  • Motherwort is my all-time favorite herb to help stabilize moodiness. This is an herb that can be felt within twenty minutes after taking it. It is an herb that can be used by women of all ages and stages of their lives. Motherwort is wonderful for taking that ‘edge off’ of your feelings and is helpful if you suddenly feel as if that ‘black-cloud’ is descending. It can be used prophylactically if you know you will be encountering a difficult time, or if you look at your calendar and know that your menstruation is approaching.
  • Chaste berry is a fabulous herb if your menstrual cycle is not regular, but changes from month to month. Often extreme moodiness happens when a woman is anticipating her menstruation and it is delayed. Often during that ‘waiting time’ a woman feels edgy and agitated. Chaste berry is not a fast acting herb and it usually takes about three months to help regulate a cycle, but chaste berry is worth the wait. Once a woman’s cycle is regulated she usually feels more control over her emotions.
  • Skullcap is for nervous tension with anxiety. Skullcap, like motherwort is an herb you will begin to feel working within twenty minutes of ingestion. It is best used before an intimidating experience, like a business meeting you have been anticipating for weeks, or right before it is time to put your children to bed. Skullcap can be taken over a long period of time or as needed in the moment.
  • Fresh milky oats is a wonderful herb if you have been through long-term stress. Oats can help with frazzled nerves. This herb is best taken three times a day over a long period of time. You will not feel the effect of oats right away, but be assured that the herb will be doing its job. Think of fresh milky oats as a Band-Aid for your central nervous system.
  • Mimosa bark is purported to bring ‘joy to a person’s heart’. It was an Italian custom to bring the one you loved a bouquet of mimosa flowers. So, in a similar vein, why not treat yourself the special present of mimosa bark if you are just feeling sad, moody and unloved. Mimosa bark can be used occasionally as needed.
  • Eleuthero is an herb called an adaptogen. Simply stated, adaptogens are a family of herbs that heal the whole body. Eleuthero is especially useful for type-A personalities who work too hard and become ‘burned-out.’ This herb will help balance your adrenal glands and will help bring physical tone back into damaged areas that stress has caused. Eleuthero is best taken three times a day for a long period of time to feel its effects.

A woman who suffers from moodiness should not forget the necessity of exercise and its powerful effect on our hormones and our brain chemistry. In a study led by Dr. Jeremy Sibold, Assistant Professor of Rehabilitation and Movement Science at the University of Vermont, Burlington states, “Moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves mood immediately and those improvements can last up to twelve hours.” This study looked at a twenty-four-hour window to see how long that ‘feel-good’ effect could last. They studied forty-eight healthy men (don’t forget men can get moody also) and women from approximately eighteen to twenty-five years of age and had them initially complete a mood survey. The participants were divided into two groups, an exercise group that rode a stationary bicycle for twenty minutes at moderate intensity, and a second group who were sedentary. The members from both groups repeated the mood survey one, two, four, eight, twelve and twenty-four hours later. The study found that the mood of the exercisers was better than that of the sedentary participants, both immediately after the workout and for up to twelve hours later! The results are obvious—exercise is an inexpensive tool that can help balance our moods.

We may have been created with a propensity toward moodiness, which might be difficult for many women to control, but at least we have tools that can help us find a balance and govern our moods, rather than just be a victim to our hormonal swings.

Look around us and we would all agree that in the winter people tend to suffer more from colds and the flu. But, does cold weather really make us more vulnerable to these illnesses? It is interesting to learn that if anything, during long stretches of cold temperature we are less likely to catch a cold. It is also interesting to note that the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which killed at least 20 million people worldwide, reached its peak in the late spring and summer and died down in the United States in October!

A possible explanation for this is because the germs that cause these ailments die off in cold weather. It has been observed that people who “winter over” at Antarctic research stations seldom catch colds, and when they do, it is usually when they are visited by germ-laden visitors from warmer climes! Another explanation might just be that as the weather gets colder, people forget to drink the amount of water they require daily, and don’t think of creative ways to exercise in colder weather. Or, it may be that colds and flu are more common in the winter months because people tend to congregate inside, with the doors and windows shut tightly, allowing viruses to increase and spread in such close quarters. It could also be that our lives get more stressful during the long gray winter months; being either stuck inside our homes or venturing outside where we have to trudge through adverse weather conditions. And as a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported, that the more psychological stress people experienced, the more likely they were to get colds.

The reason why people appear to be bothered by colds and the flu during the winter time more than any other season can be for any or all of these reasons, but weather alone can’t make a person ill. However, that being said, the change of weather can challenge your body’s immune system. When your body is used to functioning in a certain temperature and then the season changes, your body is forced to re-adapt. If your immune system is not as strong as it needs to be, you will be more vulnerable to cold and flu.

The good news is that there are items right in your kitchen that can help super-charge your immune system, and in addition, help you to be prepared for the stresses and challenges that come with the winter months.

Medicinal Honey

Honey’s healing properties have been touted for generations. Modern science shows that honey contains antioxidants, acids, proteins and minerals that help heal and strengthen our bodies, and honey can also fight bacterial infections thanks to its antimicrobial properties. And notwithstanding the fact that most colds and flus are caused by viruses, people world-wide would claim that honey helps with colds, sore throats, and coughs. In partial support of this assertion “Studies have shown that honey is a potent treatment for nighttime cough. In one study of 130 children aged 2-17 with runny nose and cough were randomized to receive nightly doses of buckwheat honey, artificial honey-flavored cough medicine (dextromethorphan), or no treatment. On a parent-rated symptom scale, honey was found to be the most helpful in reducing nighttime cough and improving sleep in children with upper respiratory infections, and other studies have shown that honey helps diminish the intensity and duration of winter coughs”.

Now by adding herbs to ordinary honey, we can further boost the palliative properties that are already found in honey turning it into “medicinal honey” for the winter months. Honey naturally comes in a variety of flavors and each flavor has different medicinal properties due to the flowers the bees suckle from. Buckwheat honey seems to work best for coughs, sage honey for sore throats, and wild flower honey helps with a stuffy nose and allergies. Now to these natural healing properties of honey you can add herbs like onions or garlic, medicinal spices like sage or thyme, healing berries like elder berry, or healing plants like echincea, yerba santa, or usena. Any medicinal honey is easy to make and you can customize it to your personal physical challenges and taste.

For coughs try onion honey. Onion honey is suggested if you tend to be challenged with winter coughs. Place into a glass bowl a layer of sliced onions and pour honey onto them until they are covered with a layer of honey. Then cover the bowl with either a plate or plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter overnight. By morning the honey will begin to turn into syrup. You can leave this mixture right on the counter and take one tablespoon two times a day as a preventative or up to four times a day if you are already ill. If you will not use up your onion honey mixture within the week, it is best to strain out the onions and put the honey in a glass container to keep in the refrigerator.

For sinus infections try garlic honey. Garlic honey is recommended if you tend to get sinus infections. You can follow the same procedures as above, just using garlic instead of onions. If you suffer from both sinus and coughs you can mix both onions and garlic in the same bowl with honey.

For sore throats try sage honey. Adding the herb sage to your honey will help with sore throats. You can either sage in its dried form, fresh form or in a grain alcohol tincture (once the herb has been steeped, the alcohol loses its potency). The best way to use the dried or fresh herb is to lightly heat up the honey in a good quality sauce pan, made either of glass or stainless steel, and then pour in the sage. Since your goal is to dissolve the herb into the honey, and not to cook the honey, keep the cooking flame small. Continue to lightly heat the honey until either the dried or fresh herb has wilted, or in the case of the tincture, until it has dissolved into the honey. Let the honey mixture cool, and in the case of the herbs, strain them and put them into a glass jar to be stored in the refrigerator.

For kids colds try tasty honey medicinal mixes. Recommended only for children who are more than one year old, honey mixtures are a great way for children to take herbs. Making a medicinal honey is a fun activity for kids because they love assisting in its preparation and watching as the herbs melt into the honey. And more often than not, they will be happy taking their “herbal honey” because they helped make it.

For children’s honey, follow the same procedure that is written above but instead of the onions and garlic, choose gentle kid-friendly herbs like elderberry, lemon balm or linden flowers. I also like to add cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans for an extra pleasant flavor with medicinal benefits. Elderberry is a great source of vitamin C and is an antiviral, lemon balm is calming and antiviral, and linden flowers help with fevers and flu. Cinnamon tastes great and also helps with stomach flus and vanilla, well vanilla is just yummy.

Herbal Apple Cider ‘Fire’ Vinegar I

Another food that is commonly found in the kitchen that can be used not only for its own curative properties but also as a vehicle for medicinal herbal mixtures is apple cider vinegar. For centuries apple cider vinegar has been touted for its natural health benefits.

Apple cider vinegar is the result of dual fermentation of naturally occurring sugars in apples. At the beginning of the process apples are pressed or crushed and the first stage of fermentation begins when the juice is set aside to become apple cider. During the second stage, the sugars are further fermented from apple cider into apple cider vinegar. The vinegar contains many natural ingredients such as vitamins, minerals and acetic acid. Being both antibiotic and antiseptic it helps neutralize toxins in the body. The organically made versions of these natural vinegars provide more health benefits than others because the apples initially used contain more minerals and enzymes than the non-organic fruit.

Interesting research can now be found studying the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. The best researched, and the most promising, of apple cider vinegar’s possible health benefits is with diabetic patients. Several studies have found that apple cider vinegar may help lower glucose levels. For instance, one 2007 study of eleven people with type-2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by four to six percent. Notwithstanding recent studies, people world-wide have been praising the benefits of apple cider vinegars in what they call “fire-vinegars.”

To make your own ‘fire vinegar’, you will need a wide-mouthed glass jar; preferably with a plastic lid because vinegar can corrode a metal top. Pour into the jar one cup of apple cider vinegar and next add three tablespoons of each of the following: chopped onion and garlic, grated fresh ginger and grated horseradish. (You can buy either of these fresh roots in the produce section of your grocery store, but if not, you can find usually find them already grated in glass jars with vinegar). Next add one tablespoon of the following: mustard seeds with black peppercorns or black peppercorns by themselves, and one or more whole cayenne chilies, or one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper or one teaspoon of dried chili flakes if cayenne is not available. Cap the mixture and let it sit from two to four weeks, shaking the bottle daily to mix the herbs together with the liquid. (Yes, you can use the vinegar before the allotted time if you feel the need). After the allotted time, strain the mixture using cheesecloth in order to extract all of the liquid from the herbs. To all of the above, add one-third of cup of honey to help preserve and sweeten your vinegar mixture, pour it into a clean bottle and then label and date it before storing it away in your cupboard.

Herbal Apple Cider ‘Fire’ Vinegar II

Here is an alternative ‘fire-vinegar’ recipe:

Pour one cup of apple cider vinegar into your wide-mouthed glass jar and to this add: one-quarter of a cup of grated fresh horseradish, one chopped onion, one chopped ginger root, one head garlic peeled and chopped, a half of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and one-third of a cup of organic honey. The mixture process is the same as that written above for the first ‘fire-vinegar’ recipe.

These vinegars can keep for as long as two years. When you’re feeling sick and in an acute state, get your vinegar out and take from one-half to a full teaspoon every few hours. For the prevention of illnesses, either use your vinegar mixture over salads or take one teaspoon from one to two times daily.

Winter Molasses Power Drink

A third natural remedy that can be found in the kitchen, and is referred to as the ‘poor man’s tonic’, is blackstrap molasses. One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses a day can actually provide the body with up to 20% of the recommended daily value of many vitamins and minerals including: iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and cooper and manganese. Iron provides energy and boosts metabolism. Copper helps the human body utilizes iron, eliminate free radicals and produce melanin. Calcium is needed to promote: healthy teeth and bones, blood-clotting abilities, enzyme activity and toxin removal. Manganese helps to synthesize fatty acids used by the nervous system. So if blackstrap molasses was not found in your kitchen before, it should be now.

Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar distillation process in which sugar cane is refined into sugar. During the processing, cane juice is heated, sugar crystals are extracted, and black strap molasses is the result of the third distillation in the course of extracting sugar.

Among the many health benefits of blackstrap molasses is its ability to help with the following conditions: anxiety, anemia, pain from arthritis, constipation, heart palpitations, and it’s also been claimed to help restore gray hair back to its original color. Along with helping to alleviate these conditions, blackstrap molasses can also be used for improving ulcers, psoriasis, varicose veins, dermatitis, rheumatism, and even benign tumors.

Black strap molasses can be added to cookie batters, beans and soups; however, the easiest way to include molasses into your daily routine is to make it into drink. And here is how it is done:

In a coffee mug add one tablespoon of organic black strap molasses, one tablespoon of organic honey, next add boiled water and mix well. If you chose to, you can lighten the drink with either: rice, soy, almond, or hemp milk. Make this blackstrap molasses quaff your morning drink and enjoy the burst of energy you will feel as you begin your day. You will be happy to know that you are giving your body a burst of its needed vitamins and minerals.

So, this winter, be both prepared and be pro-active. Spread medicinal honey on your toast or add it to your oatmeal, add your ‘fire-vinegar’ to salads or soups, and start each day with your powerful molasses drink and be equipped to conquer the world this winter.