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All posts by Bonnie ~ Clinical Herbalist

Elder Flowers

Boosting Your Immunity

We’ve entered the time of year where our immune system is called to action more frequently than not. The kiddies are back in school, cooler weather is upon us, which likes to bounce from warm days to cold days, to damp days. Even though, I must say, this year in Minnesota has been different, November 1st and 70 degrees!! Not common in our neck of the woods!!

We are Northerners, you would think our bodies have adapted to abrupt temperature changes. This seems to bring viruses to life. How does your Immune System work? How can you stay healthy and virus free? This is the body’s house keeper, its vacuum cleaner. A system that isn’t like other systems in the body, its free flowing and on guard!

Your Immune System is made up of billions of cells and multitudes of molecules. It doesn’t stand alone, the lymphatic system works with it. Not only that, the heart and circulatory system works with your immunity. The skin, the lungs, the kidneys, digestion, nervous system, and the endocrine system all work with your immunity. Its all a very wonderful community inside of your body, your being.

This amazing immune system is divided into two categories- the non-specific or simply immunity; which works in a generalized defense fashion. The other is the specific or acquired immunity; which is more specialized form of defense. The non-specific are general mechanisms that work to clean up invaders before they reach the internal systems or organs. Your largest mechanical barrier is your skin of course and the mucous membranes. You have chemical barriers as in your hydrochloric acid in your stomach, phagocytosis via the white blood cells, (phagocytosis in a sense are the white bloods cells, ‘the pac men’, they devour pathogens before they can create any havoc in the body), and another generalized mechanism, a fever.

If you’re healthy, these may be all you need for your defense. Your energy serves as your ‘molt’ around your castle, (your body), this picks up on pathogens that may be close by. A person with a cold, the flu going around, or whatever virus is in the community. Did you know, your skin, your ear wax, yes, your ear wax, your nose, and your stomach can defend most anything off just fine.

Have you ever noticed, when maybe sweeping out a very dirty garage, you get done and blow your nose, and yuck, you have black mucous. Be thankful, your nose is your air filter, it just stopped any pathogens or bacteria that’s been lying in your garage for months from entering your lungs.

We spoke a bit on your hydrochloric acid in your stomach earlier. You may have just eaten some bad ‘food’, it wasn’t entirely clean. Let’s say it had some unwanted bacteria or germs, its now entered your stomach and your hydrochloric acid has the job of gobbling up all those unwanted pathogens from the bad food / beverage or substance. Its dispels it into the mucous so it can be expelled from your body. It didn’t stand a chance against an acid so strong it could burn a hole on your skin if dropped on it! Your healthy body at work again.

Are you stuck on that ear war thing? Your ear wax along with the tears in your eyes contain a strong disinfectant called lysozyme, your body’s personal antibacterial agent. Amazing, defenses all there and standing by. I stand in awe all the time, when I think of the human body. God, our Creator, in his infinite wisdom created a most magnificent body, with everything in its place all working together, in which should be in perfect harmony, to keep a body healthy.

Yes, equipped with everything you need, but, you also need to take care of your body. Stay virus free. You can’t put lemonade in your car and expect it to work. Same with the body, it needs Good Fuel. The main ingredient to keeping all of these working the way they are suppose to, is a clean diet. Whole foods, healthy foods, eat your fruits and vegetables! Yes, you can eat your meat too. Clean, lean healthy grass fed meats. Cold water fish, clean lake fish. And drink your Water!

Rest is optimal of course. If you don’t rest your body becomes tired, run down. This gives the opportunity for a cold or flu to enter your body. The door can’t shut, its tired. Now let’s turn to exercise. You have to move, walk, jump, yoga, dance, just move. How many of you sit at desks, computers, how often do you move. Your lymphatics depend on it as well as many other parts of the body. Your lymphatics are connected to your immunity. Don’t let your lymphatics get stagnate, you’ll be more prone to viruses if you do.

Herbs along with healthy food is beneficial to boost your immune system when it needs a little help. They have the ability to wake up your immune system and bring it to attention. Remember to do this only when its needed, over stimulating an immune system on a daily basis tires it out. Only if you have a chronic illness that has depleted your immune system is when you may want to use immune boosting herbs for a longer period of time.

In my clinical practice I use different herbs for children and adults. Kids are gentle little beings, you don’t have to use strong immune tonics. Their body responds to herbs quicker than adults. They haven’t been ‘socialized” yet.

As a suggestion, here are some herbs to keep in your kitchen cupboard. I hope they are there already.
~~ Rosemary – antiseptic, antioxidant, rejuvenative, simulating, rubefacient
~~ Thyme – antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, stimulating
~~ Sage – antibacterial, astringent, antiseptic, antirheumatic
~~ Cayenne – stimulating, antimicrobial, anticatarrhal, carminative, antirheumatic
~~ Cinnamon – antifungal, antiseptic, aromatic, stimulant, astringent
~~ Allspice – aromatic stimulant, carminative
~~ Fennel – anti-inflammatory, carminative
~~ Ginger – antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, aromatic, circulatory stimulant,
antirheumatic, rubefacient
~~ Parsley – antioxidant, antiseptic, nutritive, diuretic, antirheumatic
~~ Basil – (holy)more specifically, adaptogen, antiseptic, circulatory stimulant
~~ Cardamon – sweet, pungent, warming, digestive aid
~~ Nutmeg – anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, astringent, circulatory stimulant
~~ Celery Seed – anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, diuretic, cooling
~~ Horseradish – antirheumatic, circulatory stimulant
~~ Mustard – antirheumatic, circulatory stimulant

And what are some great antioxidants you ask;
Garlic — Onions — Blueberries — Cranberries — Elderberries — Raspberries — Blackberries — Peaches — Pumpkin — Grapes — Carrots

I see some are wondering what some of the above mentioned unfamiliar actions for some of the herbs. Let me help to clarify;
Adaptogens, help to increase resistance to stress and helps balance body functions
Rubefacient, draws blood to the skin
Carminative, helps to release gas from the gastrointestinal tract
Aromatics, can stimulate digestive juices

Just another thought before I go. The winter months keep your body warm. Eat with the seasons, hot soups, hot drinks/teas, hot meals so to speak. No ice in your liquids, these slow down the digestive function. Make your soups with the bones, bone broth is nourishing and aids the immune system. If you have a cold, no dairy, no cheese, no yogurt, and No Ice Cream. These are all mucous forming, a cold or chest congestion moves out of a body faster if you eliminate dairy. Breads are also mucous forming. Flour is mucous forming.

Here is one of my favorite recipes;
French Onion Soup
1/3 cup butter
1 large sweet onion
3-4 cups beef broth, homemade or organic
1/2 tsp sea salt
So these last two ingredients, optional if mucous in not an issue with you
French bread
Mozzarella cheese or guda or goat

In a large sauce pan melt the butter. Slice the onion in rings and add to the butter. Saute the onions until almost transparent. I will add a litte more butter if I think it necessary. When the onions are ready add your beef broth and salt. Cover and let flavors simmer for 15 minutes. Dish up into soup bowls, oven safe, and set a slice of French bread on top and sprinkle with the cheese, shredded. Set the bowls on a cookie sheet and put into the oven on low broil. Broil only until the cheese is to your liking. Stringy or soft brown. I add variations to this recipe, mushrooms, parsley, or garlic. Yum, yum!

So there you have it, my little blurb on your immune system. Hopefully it shed some light on how you can stay healthier this winter season.

Bee Well

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It’s your body trying to communicate with you. You’re confused… a headache is a symptom of a specific system imbalance in your body. The location of your headache tells you what system needs attention.

A headache in the back of your neck, the top of your head, behind the eyes, and sides of the head are headaches associated with your liver. This is not an all over headache, its a headache in one of these areas.

If you are experiencing sinus congestion a headache in the eyes may be a sinus headache, also if the headache is right above the eyes. But when talking and asking questions concerning a headache behind the eyes, I may change my mind and see a liver headache instead.

If there isn’t any sinus congestion going on, a headache above the eyes is stomach and or small intestines. Look to the diet and your digestion. Sluggish digestion going on? Bloating?

A headache higher up on the forehead is a colon or large intestine headache also if the headache is at the base of the skull on the top of the neck. Is elimination slow, very slow, not daily? Are you seeing excess mucus in your stools? Drinking water?

Headaches that start at the right temple and come forward are gallbladder headaches, also if the headache is along the hairline. Headaches in both temples are gallbladder headaches as well. A left temple headache is more specific to deficient heat while a right side one is more excess heat.

A headache that is all over the head or behind the ears is a kidney headache. What has your water intake been lately. Urination weaker or slower? Cloudy, murky, odor, blood?

Always check your diet when headaches appear. Yes, stress too. Our nervous system out of check will produce varies issues in our physical body. But, diet is crucial. There are four things that our liver has a hard time with, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and sugar. Eliminating these from your diet or some of these for a period of time may change the headache. Definitely decrease fatty fried foods. Eat FRESH vegetables, fruits, and drink lots of water. Even eliminating dairy and especially processed foods are beneficial. Look for those MSG’s, excessive sodium and other preservatives that are used in our food industry. Never, never, I mean never use ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. Poisons to the body. Our bodies did not come from a laboratory, so our food shouldn’t either.

I hope this may have answered a few questions as to why you are experiencing headaches. Remember women, liver headaches may be coming from your monthly cycle as well. Hormones headaches are common headaches in teens and menstruating women, these are liver headaches.

When I work with clients concerning headaches its usually a specific formula and or protocol I write up for them. That’s why you are not finding any remedies for headaches. Shoot me an email or give me a call. herbstoya@msn.com or 507-474-9970

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blog 1

Cholesterol Blog ~ Part I

Let’s start with, what exactly is cholesterol; it’s a yellowish, wax-like substance looking much like fat.About 25% of our cholesterol comes from our diet (animal products) while the rest is manufactured by our liver.The body, more specifically the liver produces about 1000mg a day while your diet supplies about another 500 to 900mg.This is two to three times more than what is needed.This substance called cholesterol travels from the liver through the bloodstream to the cells.The cells take what they need and the rest remains in the bloodstream. Our diet should be limited to contributing about 300mg a day.Now don’t frown and say that you aren’t going to watch every thing you eat.It can be done with very little thought. Becoming aware of foods is the first step, exercise is the next, and the third is reducing that all to common Stress.

Does it do anything? Yes, remember, it’s found in all of your cells, primarily as a structural component of cell membranes, and yes, it has many vital functions. Cholesterol is used to help in the formation of Bile Salts, Vitamin D and is stored in your adrenal glands, testes, and ovaries; it serves as a precursor molecule for hormones; such as sex hormones, androgens, and estrogens. Adrenal corticoids (including cortisol, corticosterone, and aldosterone).

Cholesterol in the liver functions as the precursor of bile acids, which, when secreted into the intestine, aid in the digestion of your food, especially fats. It is abundant in the brain and nervous system as well. It is the major sterol in the human body and is found throughout the animal kingdom and with very little found in plants, but what is found there is called phytosterols.

Bile (a fat emulsifier) is made by the liver, stored in the gallbladder and released into the digestive tract to break down fats consumed. This bile transports the cholesterol from the body through your bowel movement (which must be every day if not twice, at least once)

Which brings us to the ultimate question; what level is adequate in the body and when is it too high? Before we answer that lets complicate it a little more by saying cholesterol is not just cholesterol but we have good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Cholesterol is insoluble in water and so it must attach to a protein to be carried through the bloodstream. This combination of cholesterol linked to a protein is called a lipoprotein.

A lipoprotein with a large amount of protein is your “good” cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) which is a dense, compact microparticle that transports excess cholesterol to the liver, where it is altered and expelled in the bile. In a more general sense your HDL’s help remove cholesterol from the blood, preventing it from piling up in the arteries. You can look at this in another way, this one is higher in protein and lower in cholesterol.

The lipoprotein carrying a large amount of cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol; your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) which is a larger, less dense particle that tends to remain in the body, thus promoting the coagulation in the bloodstream and the high cholesterol effect. This one is higher in cholesterol and lower in protein.

But we should also mention the VLDLs (very low-density lipoproteins) which are molecules that transport “triglycerides”, chemical compounds that store fatty acids, an essential source of energy for the body. But…..these triglycerides are a type of blood fat, they travel with the cholesterol and if they are to high in quantity resulting in high levels of triglycerides they will cause the blood cells to stick together, thus reducing circulation, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke!

Okay, you’re saying what about the cholesterol level, what should your cholesterol level be? Did you know that cholesterol levels start to rise by the age of 20, with rising more sharply by the age of 40 and continuing to increase until around the age of 60. A desirable total cholesterol level for adults without heart disease is lower than 200 mg/dl (or 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood). A level of 240 mg/dl or higher is considered high blood cholesterol.

Say you have cholesterol levels in the borderline high category (200 to 239 mg/dl), which can still increase the risk of heart disease, but if your HDL’s are high this will decrease your risk. Are you confused again?

Let’s put it this way. When your cholesterol is tested, they should also test the levels of your HDL’s and your LDL’s. Remember your HDL’s carry the unwanted LDL’s from the body, these are the “good guys” and you want this number to be higher. A HDL level lower than 35 is a major risk factor for heart disease. A HDL level of 60 or higher is considered protective. Also remember a high triglyceride number also increases the risk of heart disease because these are causing your cells to stick together. They usually test this level as well. Our blood cells are supposed to flow individually through our bloodstream. Which, if you think about it increases oxygen flow through the body and influences circulation resulting in increased memory, increased warmth, and healthier lungs.

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Cholesterol Blog ~ Part II ~ Foods and Herbs

Now that the function and importance of cholesterol has been covered let’s move on to Part II. What foods and herbs can help with this all important function? Are you thinking….do I have to cut out fats in my diet, because so many say a diet high in fats is not good? The answer to that is what kinds of fats are you eating.

Let’s start there. Fats: stored fats are a highly concentrated form of energy, excess is stored in the liver, the arteries, around the heart, and other tissues. It lubricates the intestines, combines with phosphorus to form a substance that helps to build tissues and body cells. Fat can stay in the digestive tract for longer periods of time, giving us that full feeling. About ½ of our total body fat is found under our skin, called subcutaneous fat, providing our body with insulation and helps it to maintain its proper temperature. Fats generate body heat, soothe the nerves and coat them with a protective shield. It is in all body cells and helps to break down our “fat-soluble” vitamins A, D, E, and K. Lastly fat is necessary for many of the body’s metabolic functions. We all know what happens when there is too much fat in the body, it does have its purpose but too much is unhealthy.

What does all that mean, you say? Most of us northerners are carnivores, we love our meat. Because our LDL’s come mainly, let’s say all of them from animal products, it would be beneficial for high cholesterol levels to reduce meat intake while increasing your fruit, vegetable, and grain intake. I’m not saying go vegetarian, simply instead of a 16oz steak how about an 8 oz one, or 6? Instead of a ½ of a chicken how about a wing and leg or a single breast piece. Have a well rounded meat intake, fish is wonderful and of course very high in omega oils.

Let’s take a closer look at the cholesterol content in common foods:

Cholesterol(in mg) Amount Food
5 1 cup Milk, skim, pwd milk
7 ½ cup Cottage cheese, uncreamed
20 1 oz Cream, light
24 ½ cup Cottage cheese, creamed
26 ¼ cup Half and half
27 ½ cup Ice cream, regular, about 10% fat
28 1 oz Cheddar Cheese
34 1 cup Whole milk
35 1 tbsp Butter
40 3 oz cooked Oysters, salmon
55 3 oz cooked Clams, halibut, tuna
67 3 oz cooked Chicken, Turkey (light meat)
75 3 oz cooked Beef, Pork, Lobster, Chicken or Turkey, (dark meat)
85 3 oz cooked Lamb, Veal, Crab (we shouldn’t be eating these babies anyway) except

the Crab

130 3 oz cooked Shrimp
230 3 oz cooked Heart – beef
250 1 yolk or 1 egg Egg
370 3 oz cooked Liver – beef, calf, pork, or lamb. Not more babies!!
680 3 oz cooked Kidney
Over 1700 3 oz raw Brains

A triglyceride consists of three fatty acids connected to one molecule of glycerol. Saturated fatty acids, Monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. All natural foods contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated Fatty Acids: solid at room temperature, found mainly in meat, other sources include whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, chocolate, coconut and palm oil. These raise cholesterol.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: are found in peanuts, peanut butter and oil, avocados, olives and olive oil, most nuts including cashews, pecans, and Brazil nuts. These have an effect on reducing total cholesterol, especially olive oil. They tend to have a profound effect on reducing the LDL’s (low-density lipoproteins) while leaving the HDL’s (high-density lipoproteins) untouched. These do not turn rancid as fast as polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: usually liquid at room temperature, abundant in plant oils like corn, safflower, cotton seed, and sunflower oil, and in salad dressings made from these oils. Hydrogenation is a processing method that is done to these oils to make them into margarines or shortenings. This process decreases the amount of linoleic acid present in the fat, which is an acid that must be present in the body and the body does not produce it like the other fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids do have a tendency to reduce the total cholesterol.

My take on these fats is to only partake of the healthier ones, ones easily digested by the liver and utilized in the body for more beneficial over all health. Olive Oil, Butter in moderation.

Okay time to move on to the foods and herbs that will help to lower cholesterol. Eating healthy is the simple thing to do. Here are some foods to cook with plus they add some very yummy flavors to your foods. Cayenne Pepper, Fenugreek, Ginger, Caraway, Garlic, and Onions are foods that create healthy ways to bring down cholesterol levels while also improving heart function.

Fiber foods can lower cholesterol, eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables rich in fiber along with whole grains are very beneficial. Here are some fiber food suggestions.

Fruit Serving Size Grams of Fiber
Apple 1 medium 3.5
Grapefruit 1 medium 3.2
Pear (with skin) ½ large 3.1
Raisins ¼ cup 3.1
Raspberries ½ cup 3.1
Strawberries 1 cup 3.0
Prunes 3 3.0
Orange 1 medium 2.6
Banana 1 medium 2.4


Vegetable Serving Size Grams of Fiber
Parsnip 1 cup 3.5
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 3.2
Carrots 1 cup 3.1
Broccoli 1 cup 3.1
Spinach 1 cup 3.1
Zucchini 1 cup 3.0
Sweet Potato 1 medium 3.0
Green Beans 1 cup 2.6
Corn ½ cup 2.4


Legumes Serving Size Grams of Fiber
Baked Beans ½ cup 8.8
Kidney Beans ½ cup 7.3
Navy Beans ½ cup 6.0
Lentils ½ cup 6.0
Dried Peas (cooked) ½ cup 4.7
Lima Beans ½ cup 3.7


Cereals Serving Size Grams of Fiber
All-Bran 1/3 cup 8.5
Corn Bran 2/3 cup 5.4
Bran Chex 2/3 cup 4.6
Raisin Bran 2.3 cup 4.0

Oats and Barley are other great sources of fiber, with barley containing up to three times more beta-glucans than oats, and as the table above shows beans. Beta-glucans being the component of oat bran that lowers cholesterol.

When eating the citrus, eat that inside white stuff which contains fiber pectin. Did you know that eating just 2 carrots a day can lower levels of cholesterol by 10 to 20%.

Avocados, nuts and more herbs like Guggul, (a member of the Myrrh family), Alfalfa, Turmeric, and Korean Ginseng are known to help bring your cholesterol down.

Here is a general guideline for lowering Cholesterol and your LDL’s

  • Decrease total fats in the diet
  • Decrease saturated fats in the diet
  • Increase essential fatty acids (polyunsaturated)
  • Use more monounsaturated oil, Olive
  • Increase fiber
  • Increase complex carbohydrates
  • Decrease caffeine and nicotine
  • Add a few supplements such as “food based” vitamin B6, B3, C, chromium, essential fatty acids
  • Include garlic in the diet preferably with fresh or a take a supplement

Tips to increase the HDL’s (which chase the LDL’s out of the body)

  • Regular exercise
  • Do not smoke
  • Loose weight
  • Adding supplements like essential fatty acids, niacin, fiber, garlic, L-carnitine

There is my take on Cholesterol; it can be detrimental if not taken care of meaning a heart attack. But on the bright side it’s only telling you to take care of yourself, eat healthy, cook from scratch, not out of a box. Eat your vegetables and fruits, lower your red meats if cholesterol is high drink plenty of water and talk a 30 minute walk every day.

If you are on a medication and want to go off of it, its your choice, your body, so take care of it so you can.If your cholesterol is down to a good number, you can wean yourself off the medication.Then start eating healthy by using this information and you will keep your cholesterol down and have a healthy happy heart and life.

~~ Say Your Prayers ~~ Eat Well ~~ Live Healthy ~~ Be Happy ~~ Laugh A Lot ~~

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