Grow Your Own Herbs

So many herbs, so many uses

  
Herbs are no doubt among the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Many of them are fairly drought tolerant and have a blooming period albeit short. In addition, herbs lend a delicious fragrance to the garden.

While most herbs are easily grown in containers which is a major plus, if you have space, consider planting an entire herb garden. It needn’t take that much space. A plot of land measuring approximate 200-400 square feet should do you quite nicely. Find out the diameter of a mature plant; obtain some graph paper and sketch out your garden before you dig a single hole. Remember to allow at least 1 foot of space between mature plants for ease of weeding and pruning.

One of the most fragrant herbs to add to your garden is lavender. The scent of lavender in bloom is heavenly and is wonderful for making scented sachets to hang in your closet or place in your dresser drawers. This is the only herb I would suggest you plant as many as you have space for as those sachets make wonderful gifts.

As the song goes, 4 great savory herbs to add to your garden are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Fresh chopped parsley is a wonder addition to potato and pasta salads, not to mention a lovely garnish for many other dishes. Try drying sage leaves to add to many dishes including stuffing for turkey and chicken. And, both rosemary and thyme are excellent accents when roasting poultry and lamb among other savory dishes.

Tarragon is a wonderful addition to soups and vegetables. This herb is also good in tuna, egg, pasta and green salads. Add when making sauces for fish or chicken, it’s a must for béarnaise sauce.

If you intend upon canning pickled vegetables from your garden or making pretty vinegars for gifts think about planting some dill. While its true you can purchase dried dill weed very cheaply, there is no way you can get a full stalk of dill unless you grow it or pay rather dearly for it when needed in quantity.

In my opinion, no herb garden is complete without chives. In fact, if I could plant only one herb, it would be chives because they are so very useful. While I love green onions, by the time I get around to using them, alas they all but lifeless. No problem with chives growing right outside my door. They not only add that touch of needed green, they also have that subtle onion flavor which is perfect for salads and potato toppings.

Unfortunately, another one of my favorite herbs is not worth planting. Cilantro tends to bolt so quickly you would be lucky to retrieve a leaf or two. Obviously those that grow cilantro commercially know something we don’t know and they aren’t telling. If you figure it out please let me in on the secret. I will let you in on my secret for preserving store bought cilantro, however. Place the bunch of cilantro in a glass of water and cover with the plastic bag it came in. This way, the cilantro will stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.

On a final note, let’s talk about mint. A favorite of mine is pineapple mint. It has a wonderful fragrance and taste and makes a lovely tea and garnish. However, there is a real problem with mint. It’s tangled roots go deep and it tends to try to take over every other plant in the garden. Spray it with Round-up and it comes right back again. Once planted, you simply can’t get rid of it! So, if you want to add mint to your garden, plant it in a container and move the container often enough to insure it doesn’t take root in the ground through the drainage hole in the container.

Plan Ahead for a Great Garden

How to Start a Family Vegetable Garden this Spring | Inhabitots

Every year spring comes and I get so excited to get outside and plant my garden.  I can just taste those fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and all the other wonderful produce that I will grow this summer.

I stop at all the seed displays and see if there is anything new that I want to try and grow this year and take pleasure in my anticipation to dig in the dirt.

I watch the weather and am careful not to plant to soon, I don’t want my plants caught in a late spring freeze of course.  Then the time comes when I just can’t stand it any longer I head to the nursery to buy my plants.  I of course get way too many of everything and then I patiently haul them outside every morning to get some sun and then bring them in each night until the big day arrives.

I get my garden area all rototilled and ready and invest in some plant food to help my little darlings along after I get them planted.  I’ve got my stakes and string ready to make neat little rows of carrots and radishes.  I’ve got my wire cages ready to place over my tomatoes plants and am just itching to get started.

Finally the day has arrived and I can plant my garden.  I start out the morning with enthusiasm and get everything planted just so.  It is a little more crowded than I would like because I seem to always try to fit too many plants and seeds into the area, but I tell myself it will all be worth it.

All through June and July I lovingly cultivate my plants, weeding and watering with a vengeance.  August comes and we are thoroughly enjoying all our fresh vegetables.  But by then it is getting a little hot out and weeding isn’t quite as fun anymore.  Toward the middle of August I have vegetables coming out my ears and it is time to can and freeze all this freshness for winter.

I start out with salsa and then move on to tomatoes and pickles.  Then of course I need to get those strawberrys in the freezer. And I don’t want the corn to get too mature before I get it into the freezer.  After a week or two my kitchen is a wreck and I am tired of spending the last of my summer days inside.  If I never see another tomato or ear of corn I will be extremely happy. Between getting ready for the new school year and freezing and canning all my great produce I am thoroughly exhausted.  Plus it seems like with this heat watering my garden, let alone the lawn is a never ending chore.

But of course we don’t want anything to go to waste so I head down to get more canning supplies and keep at it.  When it is all said and done I have way too much for my family to use so of course I give it away.  You don’t want those vegetables to go to waste you know.

By this time I look out and my peaches and apples seem just right for picking and the process starts over with them.  While I am working on my fruit of course the garden is still producing and even though I quit canning and freezing from there I can’t let it go to waste so I make sure every morning and night I pick what is ripe and give it away to those that will surely appreciate it.  Because by this time the thought of eating anything out of the garden is not very appealing, neither is cooking in my kitchen that has become a canning disaster area.

Then the next big day that I can’t seem to wait for, the big freeze.  Finally my gardening job has ended.  All I have to do now is get everything in the compost pile, re-rototill, and fertilize.

As I look at my kitchen and see all the fruits, vegetables, pickles, and jellies ready for winter I am proud, but really really tired.  I vow next year I will not take on so much.  Last year I went ahead and planned my garden in October and made specific counts of just how much I was going to plant.  I made counts of just how much I had frozen and canned to see just how much we would use in the coming year.  I made little footnotes of my thoughts on the subject as well.

Well spring is approaching, well kind of there is still snow on the ground, and I got out my garden plan and looked at all the produce my family still hasn’t eaten and thought about how much of it I had given away this winter already and thought maybe I should follow this new garden plan as I started to unfold all my notes.  I vaguely remember thinking Pace salsa is almost as good as my own, and who really can tell if the canned tomatoes came from the garden or not after they have been cooked.

I don’t know if I will be able to stick to this streamlined plan when my green thumb starts itching to grow things but I keep telling myself if we run out of salsa, jelly, corn, or tomatoes it won’t be the end of the world.  They are readily available at the grocery store and in the long run may cost less than me putting them up myself. I was totally convinced in October, kind of convinced now, but I am wondering come May if I will be able to stick to it.

I have a feeling when the grass starts turning green, and the tulips show their colors all my best laid plans for a more relaxing late summer are going to go by the wayside.  Oh well, I guess their could be worse addictions.  I wonder is there such a thing as a 12 step program for those addicted to gardening in excess?

Kids Love Gardening

imageApparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It’s as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science
In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plants life cycle and how humans intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life
Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation
Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4.  Quality Time with the Family
You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jump start that environmental education may be through gardening.  It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Zucchini Overload?

USDA summer squash

USDA summer squash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Dating back to 7000 B. C., zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is native to Central and South America. Sometimes called by the nickname “Italian Squash,” zucchini was brought to North America by its southern neighbours. Early European explorers introduced zucchini to Italy and other countries in Europe. Italians initially grew zucchini for their sweet, edible blossoms, later the hearty fruits were experimented with producing the delectable dishes that resulted in zucchini being dubbed Italian squash. Up until the 20th Century, most Americans considered zucchini a treat reserved for eating on special occasions and were store-bought instead of grown in gardens.

Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. Many of the nutrients have been shown to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. All summer squash are perfect diet foods – low in calories, sodium, fat-free, and provide a source of fiber. All parts of the zucchini are edible.

How To Grow

Zucchini is probably the best known of the summer squashes. It is a type of narrow squash that resembles a cucumber in size and shape. It has smooth, thin skin that is either yellow or green in colour and can be striped or speckled. Its tender flesh is creamy white in colour and features numerous seeds. Its edible flowers are often used in French and Italian cooking.

Zucchini can be planted by direct seeding or by transplanting young plants that have been started indoors. Seed directly into the ground as soon as the soil reaches temperatures of 60°F/16°C. for vines. Fill the holes with compost and mound slightly. Plant seeds 1in/2.5cm deep.

Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons, gourds, and squash, all particularly sensitive to frost. Select a sheltered spot, and prepare holes about 12in/30cm in diameter and 12in/30cm deep. Measuring from the centre, space the holes 36in/90cm apart for bush types, 6ft/1.8m apart for vines. To conserve space, squash can be trained over a sturdy trellis, in which case 2ft/60cm between plants is enough.

Zucchini grows best when exposed to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Regular watering is essential for summer squash. Feed the plants with a high-potassium organic liquid feed to produce a higher yield. Thick mulch added after planting will preserve moisture and keep the fruits from touching the ground where they will become soiled and be exposed to insects and diseases.

Harvesting

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. Zucchini are prolific producers and regular harvesting will promote continued yield throughout the growing season. Harvest by cutting the stems from the plants gently with a paring knife. As they are composed mainly of water, summer squashes dehydrate rapidly. Harvest just before cooking and keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag until cooking. Don’t forget that squash blossoms are delicious to eat.

Small summer squashes are used skin and all. Larger squash need their skin and seeds removed: slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.

In the kitchen, zucchini can be steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, fried, grilled, and stuffed. Some ideas include: serve raw as an appetiser with a vegetable dip or salad dressing, grate and sauté with thinly sliced garlic, add to breads, muffins, cakes, stews, casseroles, soups, sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on salads or sandwiches. It can be preserved by canning, freezing, and drying.

In the garden, some gardeners let the squashes ramble through the corn patch, where their sandpapery leaves deter raccoons. Good companion plants for zucchini are: corn, marjoram, and nasturtium. Don’t grow zucchini and Irish potatoes together as they are incompatible.

Money-Saving Gardening Tips

IMGP0854 - vege garden

IMGP0854 – vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

It’s easy to spend a fortune every year creating a beautiful yard. These five tips can help save you money in both this, and future gardening seasons.

1. Plan your vegetable garden according to what your neighbors are planting so you can share your vegetables when they’re ready for eating. Often I’ve had too many of one kind of vegetable I couldn’t give away because my friend’s were ripe at the same time.

2. Select perennials rather than annuals for your flowerbeds. As they multiply each year, cut them back and exchange with your friends so you both have lovely gardens and save money at the same time.

3. Compost your kitchen scraps, as well as your coffee grounds.  The end result is much better than any potting soil you can ever get buy from a nursery or hardware store. The price is right, and this is definitely recycling!

4. Instead of using mulch, try pebbles or small rocks in your garden as ground cover.  This will save you lots of cash since you won’t need to buy mulch in the spring and fall of every year.

5. Spend more money now by purchasing better quality gardening tools and you will save in the long run.  They will last for years, saving you dollars because you don’t need to replace them every planting season.  Same goes for gardening gloves- make sure you buy the best you can afford so they last all season.

Happy Gardening!

Worm Wee For Luscious Gardens

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste...

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste mixed with finished aerobic compost Category:Vermicomposting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

One of the best ways to improve your garden is to stop throwing out your garbage. That’s right, your used coffee grinds and banana peels can help your tomato and cucumber plants grow larger and stronger. When that same garbage is eaten and digested by a worm it becomes a powerful plant supplement known as worm castings. Starting a worm compost bin is a great way to create a steady supply of worm castings for your flower and vegetable gardens.

First thing you’ll need is a bin. You can buy a commercially made worm bin but where’s the fun in that. Those plastic or rubber storage bins make great worm bins. Drill a few holes in the bin so your worms get plenty of air. Just be sure to cover those holes with small pieces of window screen or something else that will keep the fruit flies out. And if you have any plumbing experience, why not add a hose spigot near the bottom of the bin to take advantage of worm tea. Worm tea is even better than compost tea for your plants. All you have to do is add a cup or two to a large watering can and fill the rest with water. Then water as normal.

Next you’ll need some worm bedding. Most commonly used worm bedding for home bins is shredded newspapers. The bedding must stay moist but not water logged. Use a spray bottle to keep the bedding just right for your worms. When your order worms in the mail they will usually ship in a container filled with peat moss. Some people have stopped using peat moss as a political statement. You see peat is not a replenishable resource. Peat takes centuries to develop in swampy regions and it’s just being used up too quickly. Other’s argue that Peat is now created in a safe quick way and what’s all the fuss about anyway. The two sides contradict each other so it’s up to you to decide if you want to use it. Newspapers are readily available and you probably have a stack of them in your house already. So why not avoid the whole controversy and go with what’s on hand.

And don’t forget to put some dirt in the bin too. Worms don’t have teeth, so they need some grit to help grind up their food. You can also use rock dust or powdered limestone instead of dirt if you like, but regular dirt from your yard will work fine.

And of course, let’s not forget the worms. Digging up some worms from your yard will not work in a worm bin. Worms that come from the soil, like to live in the soil. For worm bins, you’ll need red wigglers. They’ll love the environment that you’ve created in your worm bin. How many should you buy, that depends on the size of your bin. Let’s assume that you’ve created your worm bin for the worm castings and not to have tons of worms for your weekends fishing. That means that you’re going to leave the worms in the bin until they’ve turned most of the bedding and food waste into vermicompost. The worm to garbage ratio is usually 2:1. That means that if you’re going to put a half pound of garbage into the bin on a daily basis, then you should start with a pound of worms.

Check your bin everyday to ensure that you get off to a good start. Keep the bedding moist and the bin should stay in a spot that’s about 60 to 70 degrees. Leaving the bin outside in the summer sun is a good way to cook all of your worms. And remember if the worm bin starts to smell, then you probably need more bedding.

Starting a worm bin is a fun project for everyone in the family. Get your kids involved, they’ll love watching those little worms wiggle around your bin. And if you’re lucky, you may see one of the kids chase your mother in law around the house with a handful of worms. Like I said, worm bins are good times for the whole family and great for your garden too.

Using Herbs Simply & Safely

Are herbs “dilute forms of drugs” – and therefore dangerous? Or are they “natural” – and therefore safe? Those that sell herbs, probably hear these questions often. What is the “right” answer? It depends on the herb! These thoughts on herbs will help you understand how safe – or dangerous – any herb might be.

To prevent problems when selling or using herbs:

1. Be certain you have the correct plant.
2. Use simples (single herbs)
3. Understand that different preparations of the same herb can work differently.
4. Use nourishing, tonifying, stimulating, and potentially poisonous herbs wisely.

BE CERTAIN YOU HAVE THE CORRECT PLANT

One of the easiest ways to get into trouble with an herb is to use the “wrong” one. How could that happen? Common names for herbs overlap, causing confusion as to the proper identity. Herbs that are labeled correctly may contain extraneous material from another, more dangerous, herb. Herbs may be picked at the wrong stage of growth or handled incorrectly after harvesting, causing them to develop detrimental qualities.

Protect yourself and your customers with these simple steps:

  • Buy herbs only from reputable suppliers.

  • Only buy herbs that are labeled with their botanical name. Botanical names are specific, but the same common names can refer to several different plants. “Marigold” can be Calendula officinalis, a medicinal herb, or Tagetes, an annual used as a bedding plant.

  • If you grow the herbs you sell, be meticulous about keeping different plants separate when you harvest and dry them, and obsessive about labeling.

USE SIMPLES

A simple is one herb. For optimum safety, Use herbal simples, that is: preparations containing only one herb. (Occasionally add some mint to flavor a remedy.)

The more herbs there are in a formula, the more likelihood there is of unwanted side-effects. Understandably, the public seeks combinations, hoping to get more for less. And many mistakenly believe that herbs must be used together to be effective (probably because potentially poisonous herbs are often combined with protective herbs to mitigate the damage they cause). But combining herbs with the same properties, such as goldenseal and echinacea, is counter-productive and more likely to cause trouble than a simple. A simple tincture of echinacea is more effective than any combination and much safer.

Different people have different reactions to substances, whether drugs, foods, or herbs. When herbs are mixed together in a formula and someone taking it has distressing side effects, there is no way to determine which herb is the cause. With simples, it’s easy to tell which herb is doing what. If there’s an adverse reaction, other herbs with similar properties can be tried. Limiting the number of herbs used in any one day (to no more than four) offers added protection.

Side effects from herbs are less common than side effects from drugs and usually less severe. If an herb disturbs the digestion, it may be that the body is learning to process it. Give it a few more tries before giving up. Stop taking any herb that causes nausea, dizziness, sharp stomach pains, diarrhea, headache, or blurred vision. (These effects will generally occur quite quickly.) Slippery elm is an excellent antidote to any type of poison.

If you are allergic to any foods or medicines, it is especially important to consult resources that list the side effects of herbs before you use them.

UNDERSTAND THAT DIFFERENT PREPARATIONS OF THE SAME HERB CAN WORK DIFFERENTLY

The safety of any herbal remedy is dependent on the way it is prepared and used.

  • Tinctures and extracts contain the alkaloids, or poisonous, parts of plants and need to be used with care and wisdom. Tinctures are as safe as the herb involved (see cautions below for tonifying, stimulating, sedating, or potentially poisonous herbs). Best used/sold as simples, not combinations, especially when strong herbs are being used.
  • Dried herbs made into teas or infusions contain the nourishing aspects of the plants and are usually quite safe, especially when nourishing or tonifying herbs are used.
  • Dried herbs in capsules are generally the least effective way to use herbs. They are poorly digested, poorly utilized, often stale or ineffective, and quite expensive.
  • Infused herbal oils are available as is, or thickened into ointments. They are much safer than essential oils, which are highly concentrated and can be lethal if taken internally.
  • Herbal vinegars are not only decorative but mineral-rich as well. A good medium for nourishing and tonifying herbs; not as strong as tinctures for stimulants/sedatives.
  • Herbal glycerins are available for those who prefer to avoid alcohol but are usually weaker in action than tinctures.

USE NOURISHING, TONIFYING, STIMULATING, & POTENTIALLY POISONOUS HERBS WISELY

Herbs comprise a group of several thousand plants with widely varying actions. Some are nourishers, some tonifiers, some stimulants and sedatives, and some are potential poisons. To use them wisely and well, we need to understand each category, its uses, best manner of preparation, and usual dosage range.

Nourishing herbs are the safest of all herbs; side effects are rare. Nourishing herbs are taken in any quantity for any length of time. They are used as foods, just like spinach and kale. Nourishing herbs provide high levels of proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carotenes, and essential fatty acids.

Examples of nourishing herbs are: alfalfa, amaranth, astragalus, calendula flowers, chickweed, comfrey leaves, dandelion, fenugreek, flax seeds, honeysuckle flowers, lamb’s quarter, marshmallow, nettles, oatstraw, plantain (leaves/seeds), purslane, red clover blossoms, seaweed, Siberian ginseng, slippery elm, violet leaves, and wild mushrooms.

Tonifying herbs act slowly in the body and have a cumulative, rather than immediate, effect. They build the functional ability of an organ (like the liver) or a system (like the immune system). Tonifying herbs are most beneficial when they are used in small quantities for extended periods of time. The more bitter the tonic tastes, the less you need to take. Bland tonics may be used in quantity, like nourishing herbs.

Side effects occasionally occur with tonics, but are usually quite short-term. Many older herbalists mistakenly equated stimulating herbs with tonifying herbs, leading to widespread misuse of many herbs, and severe side effects.

Examples of tonifying herbs are: barberry bark, burdock root/seeds, chaste tree, crone(mug)wort, dandelion root, echinacea, elecampane, fennel, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, ground ivy, hawthorn berries, horsetail, lady’s mantle, lemon balm, milk thistle seeds, motherwort, mullein, pau d’arco, raspberry leaves, schisandra berries, St. Joan’s wort, turmeric root, usnea, wild yam, and yellow dock.

Sedating and stimulating herbs cause a variety of rapid reactions, some of which may be unwanted. Some parts of the person may be stressed in order to help other parts. Strong sedatives and stimulants, whether herbs or drugs, push us outside our normal ranges of activity and may cause strong side effects. If we rely on them and then try to function without them, we wind up more agitated (or depressed) than before we began. Habitual use of strong sedatives and stimulants – whether opium, rhubarb root, cayenne, or coffee – leads to loss of tone, impairment of functioning, and even physical dependency. The stronger the herb, the more moderate the dose needs to be, and the shorter the duration of its use.

Herbs that tonify and nourish while sedating/stimulating can be used freely, as they do not cause dependency. Sedating/stimulating herbs that also tonify or nourish: boneset, catnip, citrus peel, cleavers, ginger, hops, lavender, marjoram, motherwort, oatstraw, passion flower, peppermint, rosemary, sage, skullcap.

Strongly sedating/stimulating herbs include: angelica, black pepper, blessed thistle root, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coffee, licorice, opium poppy, osha root, shepherd’s purse, sweet woodruff, turkey rhubarb root, uva ursu leaves, valerian root, wild lettuce sap, willow bark, and wintergreen leaves.

Potentially poisonous herbs are intense, potent medicines that are taken in tiny amounts and only for as long as needed. Side effects are common.

Examples of potentially poisonous herbs are: belladonna, blood-root, celandine, chaparral, foxglove, goldenseal, henbane, iris root, Jimson weed, lobelia, May apple (American mandrake), mistletoe, poke root, poison hemlock, stillingia root, turkey corn root, wild cucumber root.

In addition, consider these thoughts on using herbs safely:

  • Respect the power of plants to change the body and spirit in dramatic ways.

  • Increase trust in the healing effectiveness of plants by trying remedies for minor or external problems before, or while, working with major and internal problems.

  • Develop ongoing relationships with knowledgeable healers – in person or in books – who are interested in herbal medicine.

  • Honor the uniqueness of every plant, every person, every situation.

  • Remember that each person becomes whole and healed in their own unique way, at their own speed. People, plants, and animals can help in this process. But it is the body/spirit that does the healing. Don’t expect plants to be cure alls.

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Why Is There A Fire In My Belly?

Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Heartburn And Acid Reflux (Photo credit: A.Currell)

Dear Dr. Mom, Any form of heartburn is an unpleasant experience, to say the least.
The splashing up of stomach acid into the esophagus and throat can be
quite painful and potentially dangerous.  In extreme cases, where the
esophagus is continually damaged by the reflux of stomach fluids, a
condition called Barrett’s Esophagus can develop.  This condition is a
precursor to esophageal cancer. Millions of people suffer from the symptoms of heartburn every day.  Those with acute cases of heartburn may have a condition called acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Barrett’s Esophagus occurs when chronic acid reflux or esophagitis is not controlled. Through constant inflammation and damage, the normal cells that line the esophagus called squamous cells turn into specialized columnar cells.  Columnar cells are not normally found in human beings and can become cancerous.

The physical cause of heartburn is the improper functioning of the LES (lower esophageal sphincter).  This ringed muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, relaxes in order to allow food to enter the stomach.  This muscle then retracts in order to keep the digestive fluids where they belong.  It is when this muscle is too relaxed or damaged, that the stomach fluids can escape up into the esophagus thereby causing acid reflux.

There are many possible causes of acid reflux.  The foods that we eat play an important role.  Food that is too acidic can aggravate this ailment.  Not chewing food properly, eating meals that are too large and lying down within three hours of eating can all contribute to acid reflux.

Certain foods and beverages can cause the LES to become lazy.  These culprits include smoking, drinking alcohol and prescription drugs.  Raw onions and garlic, fried foods, chocolate and foods that are too spicy can also cause the LES to relax.

There are two ways to treat this condition.  They are the allopathic medical and the holistic approaches to disease.

The allopathic medical way

  • is to prescribe certain drugs such as H2 receptor antagonists, which include Tagamet and Zantac, or PPI drugs (proton pump inhibitors) like Nexium and Prilosec.  These medicines slow down the production of stomach acid and are the two main types of pharmaceutical acid suppressors.
  • This pharmaceutical approach is dangerous in that it impedes the proper digestion and assimilation of food.
  • There are also numerous harmful side effects associated with these drugs.  Drugs only treat the symptoms of a disease or condition.  They are not intended to cure.  If the drug companies created drugs that cured they would soon go out of business.

The alternative way to treat acid reflux is holistically.

  • Holistic by definition means considering a whole thing or being to be more than a collection of parts;
  • Treating the whole person rather than just the Symptoms of a disease.
  • Using alternative remedies, which are natural and have no side effects, is certainly the safest and most effective approach.
  • These treatments are also far less expensive than drugs.
  • Holistic treatment, unlike drugs, can actually cure the condition or disease.

In order to develop acid reflux, we must first have an acidic system.  By treating the whole body and alkalizing the system, acid reflux will disappear.  What we eat and drink determines the PH of the body.

Vegetable juices, like raw potato, celery and cabbage are very alkaline in nature and are helpful in correcting an acidic stomach.  Papaya juice contains the digestive enzyme papain, which has a soothing effect on the stomach and aids in the breaking down of protein.

Slippery Elm, Bladderwrack and Marshmallow, belong to a category of herbs called demulcents. These herbs aid digestion by decreasing inflammation and by soothing the affected areas. They form a protective barrier against stomach acid and other digestive irritants.

There are many holistic ways to treat acid reflux.

  • Meditation can be of great help.  Start by doing deep breathing exercises for ten minutes.  Keeping the eyes closed, visualize you stomach, LES, esophagus and throat as young, pink, tender and perfect.  Continue to breath and picture yourself in perfect glowing health.  See yourself eating slowly in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying your food.  Picture the food being digested and assimilated in a perfect manner.  Feel all the parts of your body working in perfect harmony together.
  • Yoga can also be very beneficial to the body as a whole.  Loosing weight and regular exercise are important as well.  Drinking copious amount of pure water not only flushes the system of toxins, but dilutes stomach acid during periods between meals.

The holistic approach to healing is the medicine of the future.  We can all be a part of that future now.

Keep Food Fresh Naturally

How many times have we brought food and then forgotten about it only to remember it because it begins to stink? Against this, you cannot do anything, but you can ensure that your food lasts longer and keeps fresh.

How?
There are many things you can do, such as regularly clean your refrigerator and regularly check the food in there and also that you keep in the cupboards or anywhere else. But its not just about checking them. This cannot prevent anything. All you will be doing is throwing away food items before they stink up the entire kitchen. So, what can you do to keep the food fresh?

Practical List of Tips for Ensuring Food is Cleaner and Fresher:

1) Spread some cloves on and around the marble surface of your kitchen, and also spread some cloves under the sink.
Why?
The Cloves keeps ants away.

2) Place some bay leaves inside your bags of dough, rice and the rest of the packs that insects prefer.
Why?
Bay leaves keep insects and other such lice away from food products. By placing bay leaves inside the packets, we ensure that insects do not reside there. But please remember to change the bay leaves once every three months.

3) Place half a potato in the refrigerator.
Why?
If there is any kind of bad smell from food or cooked items, the half potato will absorb it. To make sure that this works, remember to exchange the potato every three days.

4) Store eggs with the pointed side down.
Why?
Storing eggs with the pointed side down keeps them fresh for a longer period.

5) Place a few cubes of sugar in the jar where you store American cheese.
Why?
When you place two or three cubes of sugar with the American cheese in an air tight jar, the sugar absorbs the moisture and prevents the cheese from getting bad.

6) Do not store tomatoes and cucumbers in the same draw.
Why?
Tomatoes give out gases that cause cucumbers to rot faster so make sure that you keep these two apart.

7) Do not store apples along with the rest of the fruits and vegetables.
Why?
Apples give out certain gases that cause fruits and vegetables to rot.

8) Place slices of apples or raw potatoes in the bread compartment or jar.
Why?
By adding a few slices of raw potatoes or apples with the bread, you ensure that the bread remains fresh for longer than usual.

9) Store radish in a vessel along with some water.
Why?
You should store radish in a vessel along with water because water will keep the radish fresh and crisp for a long time. For the same reason, if the radishes have shriveled, place them in a jar of cold water. Water will restore the radish to its previous splendor.

Conclusion:
Here, I have presented only a few of the more practical actions you should follow to ensure that the food you and your family consume remains fresh and tasty.

Lavender Calm

Lavender Farm in Oregon

Lavender Farm in Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an essential oil in today’s society, lavender is used, both internally and topically, for treating a number of medical conditions, as well as for cleaning and cooking.

Are you in love with lavender? If so, you’re not alone, as lavender has become the most popular aromatic herb. In fact, in 1999, the “queen of herbs” was named as the “year of lavender!”

As one of the most loved aromatic herbs, lavender has been cultivated and used throughout the centuries. In ancient times, the Egyptians used lavender in incense and perfume and it was even used in the mummification process. The Arabs, Greeks and Romans used lavender as an offering to their gods.

Because of its tendency to render a better quality essential oil, true lavender — which is found in the French and Mediterranean Alps, growing in altitudes of 6,000 feet — is considered to be the most effective of these aromatic herbs.

Common Uses Of Lavender

As an essential oil in today’s society, lavender is used, both internally and topically, for a number of conditions:

– Aromatic (a most popular fragrance)
– carminative (to relieve flatulence)
– antibacterial
– antiseptic
– nervine (to calm the nerves)
– expectorant
– stimulant
– cosmetic
– antispasmodic.

It has also been used to prevent some childhood infections and to soothe temper tantrums in children. The most common uses of lavender are to: treat burns (from minor to scalding), eczema, grazes, cuts, inflammation, dermatitis, headaches, migraines, fainting, nausea, insomnia, bacterial infections, boils, acne, arthritis and rheumatism. As a germicidal agent, lavender oil is non-toxic.

It contains linalool and linalool acetate which play important roles in the healing process.

Calming Effect Of Lavender

Both humans and animals, when inhaling lavender, experience a sedative effect that closely favors the calming effect of the geranium and peppermint plants. This is probably the reason why these aromatic herbs are favored for a variety of uses from treating depression and sleep disorders to treating premenstrual syndrome.

Lavender beauty and bath products, to be used for external purposes only, are often available in gift baskets. A wonderful gift for any occasion, lavender is sure to be appreciated by all who receive it. In addition to its use in aromatherapy products and treatments, lavender may be used to specifically treat depression.

The Gift Of Lavender

Lavender is a popular gift item that can be purchased separately or in a gift basket. Most of the aromatherapy gifts are made with essential oil and dried lavender buds. Examples of these are bar soap, bath bomb fizzers, bath crystals, bath oil beads, closet or drawer sachets, hand and body lotions, sleep pillows and soothing herbal sea salts. Beauty products that contain lavender range from body sprays and hair care products to a variety of skin care products. All of the above products mentioned are used for the sole purpose of creating a sense of peace and to promote relaxation.

Lavender Trivia

Did you know that lavender is also used in home cleaning products?

Throughout history, lavender has found its way into the homes of many historical figures. Queen Victoria insisted that her furniture and floors be cleaned with lavender to freshen up the rooms in her castle. Queen Elizabeth I of England enjoyed drinking lavender tea as a way to relieve her migraines and other maladies. During World War I, nurses treated injured soldiers by washing their wounds with an antiseptic wash that contained lavender.

Cooking With Lavender

Lavender is an amazingly versatile herb that is also used for cooking — not only at home, but also in many upscale restaurants. A member of the mint family, lavender flowers are wonderful flavor enhancers that can also add to the appearance of the food. Lavender flowers and leaves can be used freshly cut; their buds and stems can be dried before use.

It is best to use lavender with other herbs, such as fennel, oregano and savory, and it can also be used with its other mint cousins (rosemary, sage and thyme). Lavender has an extremely powerful aroma, so it must be used sparingly or the recipe will have a bitter taste, and you’ll feel like you are eating perfume. The next time you’re cooking up a storm, add a sprig of lavender to the pot and enjoy!