Natural Health

Whole Foods Spotlight – Strawberries

 

While many folks today would list strawberries as their favorite fruit, this now beloved berry has gone through periods of history where it was practically shunned. Technically, it’s not truly a fruit since the seeds are on the outside surface. Botanically speaking it’s related to the rose.  We know that early peoples enjoyed strawberries as the seeds have been found at Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age sites. However, the fruit was not cultivated until the 14th century.

The strawberry is mentioned in early Roman writings, including Virgil who warned children to keep an eye out for snakes when picking the wild, low growing fruit. This caution toward the berry stuck and strawberries became associated with danger, with 12th century Saint Hildegard of Germany declaring them unfit for eating because snakes and toads and other slithery creatures could crawl on and among the fruit. Finally in the 14th century, the French put an end to its undeserved bad reputation and began cultivating the plant.  The first 1200 strawberry plants were put in the gardens of the Louvre on the command of King Charles V.

As European settlers arrived in Americas they discovered that native people had also cultivated a wild strawberry with much more success in size and flavor. In the 18th century, the American and Chilean varieties were crossed, resulting in the first of all cultivated strawberries known today Fragaria x ananassa. The word “strawberry” more than likely derives from the practice of growing the cultivated fruit upon straw and some Native Americans called them “wuttahimneash” which translates to “heart-seed berry”.

High in fiber, the strawberry helps to improve digestion, especially if you are suffering from constipation or irregular stools. They help to improve cardiovascular health as the ellagic acid and flavonoids provide antioxidant effects. Strawberries also help to lower LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol which leads to plaque build-up in the arteries and the potassium found in the berry helps to counteract the negative effects of sodium, regulating pressure and preventing high blood pressure. They are also wonderful for skin care as the salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells, brightening and softening the skin and tightening pores.

 

Strawberry Oatmeal Face Mask

 

Strawberry Salsa
Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Chicken

#TBT – Ylang Ylang – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on the benefits of ylang ylang essential oil!

Ylang ylang (e-lang e-lang), often called “the poor man’s jasmine”, comes from the sweet smelling, star-shaped flowers of the ylang-ylang tree. Native to Malaysia, Indonesia and other east Asian lowland countries the tree does not produce flowers until five years of growth but then produces up to 45 pounds of flowers for up to fifty years. High quality oil made from the flowers has a sweet and musky aroma and is prized for it’s amazing scent. However, indigenous peoples of the areas where it grows quickly discovered it was effective as a natural treatment for skin irritations such as cuts, burns and insect bites as it inhibits microbial growth and disinfects wounds.

Indonesians scatter the petals over the beds of newlywed couples on their wedding night. A hair pomade, Macassar oil, developed in the Molucca Islands became so popular in Victorian England that it led to the creation of the antimacassar, a decorative chair covering used to keep the oil from staining upholstery. In the 20th century, French chemists discovered that the oil was useful in treating intestinal infections and that the oil had a calming effect on the body, specifically the heart. Eventually, ylang ylang essential oil was used as the top floral note in the now famous Chanel No. 5 perfume.

Ylang ylang oil has also proven beneficial in treating eczema. Caused by malfunctioning sebaceous glands which don’t provide an adequate production of sebum, eczema is a painful skin disorder. Ylang ylang soothes inflammation and assists the skin in regulating sebum production.  It’s also loaded with organic compounds that are beneficial to the hair and scalp. Since it’s known for uplifting mood and promoting relaxation, it’s a terrific addition to massage oil.

If taken in excessive amounts, it can result in nausea and headache so it is important to use ylang ylang oil in recommended doses.

Spotting Nutritional Deficiencies – Part Two

 

Last week we focused on how our nails and skin can give us clues for spotting nutritional deficiencies in our bodies. Lack of vitamins and minerals can cause serious health problems in the body. However we have intelligent systems that give small clues that can make spotting nutritional deficiencies easier. Today we focus on how the rest of our body offers signals that something is off in our system.

Eyes

Poor night vision: Can be an indicator of too little vitamin A.

Ruptured blood vessels in the eyes: If not due to trauma, lack of vitamin C may be the culprit.

Pale lower eyelid: If the skin inside your lower lid is pale rather than pink, it could be a symptom of anemia, a lack of iron.

Twitching eyelids: This can be due to too little magnesium in your diet.

White ring in the iris: A white ring around the iris or colored part of the eye may be a signal of high cholesterol which causes fatty deposits. Small waxy white lumps on the eyelid can also be a signal of too much cholesterol in the blood.

 

Mouth

Pale and smooth tongue: This can indicate anemia, too little iron in the system.

Canker sores: These painful sores are terrible to deal with but can help in spotting nutritional deficiencies such as lack of B3, B12, folic acid, and/or calcium.

Cracks in the corner of the mouth: This is a symptom of too little B2.

Loss of smell or taste: If not caused by trauma, your body could be sending you a signal that you are zinc deficient.

Bleeding, painful gums: Often due to gingivitis and a lack of vitamin C.

 

Muscles & Joints

Cramping/Spasms: Can be caused by too little potassium, magnesium or B vitamins 1,2 and 6. Too little calcium could also be the culprit.

Tingling/numbness in hands and feet: B vitamins such as folate, B6 and B12 play a large role in nerve function. Too little can cause tingling and numbness in the extremities.

Joint pain: Vitamin A is essential for the health of connective joints and a lack of it and too much of it can damage bones and connective tissues which results in joint pain. Vitamin D and C levels should also be checked.

#TBT – Rosemary – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week it’s the refreshing memory enhancer, Rosemary!

Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, rosemary or rosmarinus officinalis derives from the latin words for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus) meaning “dew of the sea.”  Throughout time, this woody fragrant herb with evergreen like “needles” for leaves has been valued for its invigorating scent, for culinary enhancement and medicinal qualities. During the Middle Ages it was thought to be a love charm. Often, brides would wear a headpiece made of the herb. It has long been associated with improving memory and used as a symbol for remembrance for the dearly departed. Interestingly enough, modern studies are showing that the herb does positively enhance memory, speed and accuracy and helps keep one alert.

Rosemary has traditionally been used to improve circulation and is often used in massage to help decrease muscle cramps and soreness. Suffer from cold hands and feet? Mix a bit of rosemary oil into a carrier oil and use it to massage these areas regularly. It aids in circulation, so using it for massage is a wonderful. Even just inhaling the scent is ideal for helping to relieve migraines and headaches. If battling a cold, you might want to make yourself a rosemary tea. The eucalyptol within rosemary aids in loosening chest congestion and since it’s rich in anti-inflammatory tannins it also helps to soothe a sore throat.

If dandruff is an issue for you, try mixing a few drops of rosemary oil into your shampoo. However don’t apply the oil directly to your scalp as that could cause additional flaking. For centuries it’s been used, especially in the Mediterranean region, to stimulate hair growth.

In the garden, rosemary is a solid butterfly attractor and it helps ward off mosquitos! It likes very well drained soil and enough room to grow and can reach 4 feet high and spread out over 4 feet. Pruning it will help to keep it from getting lanky and it’s often used in topiary gardens as it holds beautiful shapes. It can also be grown in smaller containers both indoors and outdoors.

Last but not least, rosemary is a beautiful herb to cook with, perfectly pairing with meat, potatoes and other root vegetables, as well as enhancing many desserts. Along with the smell of pine trees, cinnamon and peppermint, rosemary is one of those scents closely associated with the holidays and all the comfort foods of the winter season.

Orange Upside Down Cake with Rosemary

DIY Mini Rosemary Wreath Garland

Lavender Rosemary Wax Melts

Eye Health and Nutrition

 

In regards to eye health, you have probably heard “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” from mom several times throughout childhood. There are several foods that contain vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health. Protect your peepers by consuming more of the following. . .

Brightly colored Fruits and Vegetables – Yes, carrots are on the list of top foods for eye health. So are bell peppers, strawberries, pumpkin, corn and canteloupe and other yellow, orange and red fruit and veggies. Carotenoids are the compounds responsible for this bright coloring and help decrease the risk of many eye diseases. The Vitamin C found in many of these fruits and vegetables also lowers your risk of developing cataracts. Mom was right! Carrots and other foods which contain Vitamin A or retinol help your body to synthesize a pigment in your eyes that operates in low light conditions called rhodopsin. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness.

FishCold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer protection against dry eyes, macular degeneration and cataracts. Tuna, Salmon, anchovies and trout have high levels of a type of omega 3 called DHA, a fatty acid esential for the health of the retinas but one that our bodies don’t make efficiently. We need to replenish DHA with food rich in this nutrient.  Low levels of DHA are linked to dry eye syndrome.

Nuts – Pistachios, walnuts, almonds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and also offer healthy doses of vitamin E for eye health. Vitamin E helps protect membranes of cells throughout the body against free radicals, including parts of the eye. Cataracts may be formed due to oxidation in the lens of the eye and Vitamin E offers preventative help.

Leafy Greens – Spinach, kale, collard greens and seaweed are rich in luteins, nicknamed the “eye vitamin” as it is incredibly important for eye health. When we consume foods rich in lutein it is deposited in high quantities in the retina. It helps to fight free radical damage caused by exposure to sunlight, reduces eye fatigue and light sensitivity, protects against the development of cataracts. and halts the growth of cancerous cells. Lutein can also be found in those brightly colored fruits and veggies mentioned above!

Eggs – Another great source of both lutein and Vitamin A to protect against night blindness, dry eyes and general eye health and function.

Legumes – Kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils are good sources of zinc which assists the body in absorption of Vitamin A and reduce one’s risk of macular degeneration.

#TBT – Thyme – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week the focus is on the powerful protector and palate pleaser: thyme!

Thyme, the most common variety being Thymus vulgaris, is an evergreen herb with a fragrance Rudyard Kipling described as being, “like dawn in paradise.” There are a couple of possible origins for the name. It may be derived from the Greek thumos and/or the Latin fumus, which both mean “smoke” or the Greek word thumos can also signify courage. The Greeks burnt the herb as incense in their temples believing it a source of courage. Later, during the Middle Ages, ladies would give knights and warriors gifts embroidered with a bee hovering over a spray of thyme as a symbol of protection. Danish and German folklore listed wild thyme patches as a place favorable to find fairies.

Thyme does have some powerfully protective disinfecting and deodorizing properties. The disinfecting qualities of thymol, a primary component of the oil, has been useful in treating psoriasis, eczema and ringworm. It’s also useful in dental care, traditionally used to treat tooth decay, gingivitis, plaque and bad breath as it helps to kill germs. It can help keep those outdoor pests away too and treat the bites you may suffer from the little critters. For women, it’s been used to help improve progesterone production and relieve the symptoms of PMS and menopause. Thyme is also a powerful immune system booster, encouraging white blood cell formation and increasing resistance to germs and bacteria. This makes it a great herb to use in your defense during cold and flu season.

As for its culinary uses, it’s best known for flavoring meat dishes, soups and stews. In some parts of the Middle East it’s a vital ingredient for the condiment za’atar. Thyme is also a component of the bouquet garni and Herbes de Provence. It can be used fresh or dried and in its dried form it retains its flavour better than most other herbs.

DIY Lemon Thyme Upholstery and Carpet Deodorizer

Honey Roasted Beets with Balsamic and Thyme

Eczema Skin Salve DIY

#TBT – Rose – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. In honor of Valentine’s Day we are focusing on the rose!

Fossil evidence dates the rose as 35 million years old and there are around 150 species spread through the world. The Chinese were most likely the first culture to begin garden cultivation of roses, some 5,000 years ago. Throughout time the rose has come to symbolize romantic love and you are bound to love some of the surprising health benefits of this sweet smelling queen of flowers.

Dietary Benefits

Rose hips, the flowers which have swollen to seed are commonly used in tea and have been used throughout the ages to aid in relieving bladder infections, menstrual cramps and diarrhea. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, a natural antioxidant which can block some of the damage that can result from exposure to toxins and helps to support the immune system The flower petals are also edible and can be mixed into salads! The petals contain polyphenols which research shows help to prevent cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis.

Skin and Hair Health

Rosewater is a perfect choice for sensitive and irritated skin. Along with balancing out oily skin, softening, deep cleansing and toning the skin, rosewater also provides relief from irritation and itching. Those battling acne will want to reach for the rosewater as it contains antibacterial properties to dry up the acne, a natural antiseptic called phenyl ethanol and its a good moisturizer to boot! Rose essential oil is also useful in maintaining a healthy scalp and hair and many swear by it’s ability to prevent hair loss.

Aromatherapy

No wonder the rose has become such a symbol of romance and considered an aphrodisiac. The scent of rose essential oil is known to boost the libido and reduce symptoms of sexual dysfunction. The oil has also been used to treat depression, stress, anxiety and headaches.

Ready to reap the rewards of the rose? Here are some links you might want to check out. . .

Rose Petal Iced Tea

Rosehip Jam

Homemade Rosewater

Whole Foods Spotlight – Orange

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf

It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. 

After all, good health begins with good nutrition! Today it’s all about the juicy, sweet orange!

The first wild ancestor of the sweet orange we are familiar with today probably evolved in Australia and New Guinea. These early citron fruits made it to the Asian continent and spread west toward Africa. Citrons have been found in Egyptian tomb paintings from 1000 BC.  These fruits were not juicy and people mainly ate the rind of the fruit and used it for perfumes. Very early on it was used in India as a treatment for scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency). However, these citrons are not the ancestors of the modern orange. Either Chinese or Indian food scientists bred the pomelo and mandarin together sometime around 314 BC and developed both the bitter orange and the more familiar to Western culture, sweet orange. The word orange is derived from “naranga”, the word for orange trees in India. As oranges spread their way across the world throughout the centuries they have been prized for their sweet, juiciness and many health benefits.

Immune Support and Digestive Health

High Vitamin C content means oranges are a fantastic choice to drive away nasty germs and bugs and preventing colds, flu and ear infections. Vitamin C is also aids in the prevention of ulcers and the high fiber content of oranges ensure a healthy colon. Fiber also helps to reduce constipation and diarrhea.

Vision Protection

Loaded with carotenoids, oranges are a great choice in preventing night blindness and macular degeneration.

Healthy Skin

Sweet Orange Oil has been touted for its ability to stimulate collagen production, easing inflammation and improving the flow of blood to the skin and clearing clogged pores.

Heart Health

Oranges contain hesperidin which has been shown to lower both high blood pressure and cholesterol in animal studies. Most of this phytonutrient can be found in the peel and inner white pulp of the orange so it’s benefits are lost when the fruit is processed into juice. Vitamin C also helps to prevent arteriosclerosis which is hardening of the arteries.

Hopefully reading this made you long for an orange as much as writing it did for me! I’m off to peel one now. Hope you enjoy the links below . . .

Sliced Fennel, Orange and Almond Salad

20 Orange Essential Oil Uses

Make Your Own Dried Orange Peel

DIY Bath Salts/Benefits of Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt has many therapeutic qualities! Today we’ve got some reasons why this mineral compound, comprised of magnesium and sulfate, does wonders for the body and why you should incorporate a good soak in them to your wellness routine. We’ll also share some links to homemade bath salt recipes so you can try making your own concoctions to give to friends and family and enjoy yourself.

Magnesium deficiency is all too common and soaking in epsom salt can naturally boost internal levels of magnesium as it’s easily absorbed through the skin. This benefits many bodily functions including muscle control, boosting energy levels and the ability to eliminate harmful toxins. Epsom Salt also works to alleviate muscle tension, joint pain from inflammation and speeds up healing from bruises and sprains. Researchers have found that magnesium deficiency also has a profound effect on stress so a nice long soak in Epsom salt relaxes the muscles and the mind.

Epsom Salt also works wonders as a natural exfoliant to keep skin soft and smooth. It’s not as harsh as typical sodium chloride (table) salt so it’s less drying and irritating. The coarse texture is ideal for removing dead skin and it’s anti-inflammatory properties prevent irritation. You can also use it on hair that is prone to being oily in order to get more volume.  To do this, mix equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt and warming it in a pan. Work the warm mixture through your hair, leave on for 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly.  

Finally, it just feels heavenly to take a nice long soak in the tub! Here are links to several simple bath salt recipes for you to try out.

Lavender Mint Bath Salts

DIY Bath Bombs with Epsom Salt

Pink Lemonade Herbal Bath Fizzy

Candy Cane Bath Salts

Sinus Congestion Bath Soak

Vanilla Chai Scrub

Whole Foods Spotlight – Chickpeas

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf

It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition. . .including fiber rich chickpeas!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans or ceci, were one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains of chickpeas dating 7,500 years ago have been found in the Middle East where they remain a staple of the region’s various cuisines and they are enjoyed around the rest of the world as well. In fact, it’s the world’s second most widely grown legume just behind the soybean. Today, they are only found in the wild in areas of Turkey and Syria and it was likely domesticated there around 11,000 years ago.

Considered both a vegetable and protein, chickpeas are a staple in most vegetarian diets and are a great source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. A 1 cup serving provides 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. Fiber is one of many reasons to add this nutty legume to your diet. The average person needs about 21 to 38 grams of fiber a day and that serving of chickpeas meets about a third of your daily need. Fiber not only helps to keep you regular but chickpeas also contain soluble fiber which helps to lower bad cholesterol and thereby reduces hypertension and protects against heart disease.

You can find chickpeas dried, precooked/canned or precooked/frozen but many say that making them from scratch (in their dried form) leads to the best flavor and texture. If you do use the canned variety, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess sodium. If cooking the dried variety, be sure to soak them as you would any dried bean overnight prior to cooking them. This makes them more digestible, decreases cooking time and aids in nutrient absorption.

Need some recipe ideas to get you going? We’ve included links to a few recipes featuring the magnificent chickpea below!

Easy Chana Masala

Chickpea Avocado Feta Salad

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Hummus