• Have You Had Your Fermented Foods Today?

    (Originally posted February 6, 2013 at

    Whether it’s sauerkraut from Eastern Europe, miso from Japan, or yogurt from Bulgaria, cultures worldwide have appreciated the unique benefits of fermented foods for thousands of years. Traditionally, people have used fermentation to preserve foods or to make them more digestible; in the process, they found that these foods also kept them healthy.

    Naturally fermented, unpasteurized foods are rich in a variety of helpful bacteria called probiotics, and research shows that these beneficial microbes provide essential support for gastrointestinal, immunological, and overall health. There are many good reasons for including naturally fermented foods in your daily diet:

    • The regular consumption of fermented foods helps to restore the proper balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Many common health issues (including irritable bowel syndrome, yeast infections, allergies, asthma, and eczema) appear to be rooted in a lack of healthful intestinal flora.
    • A healthy population of beneficial bacteria forms a living barrier that prevents harmful microbes from entering the blood and lymph through the intestinal walls. Although we may not think of our digestive tract as having much to do with immune function, almost 80 percent of our immune system is located in the intestinal tract, providing first-line defense against ingested toxins and pathogenic bacteria.
    • Fermentation improves the digestibility of foods. For example, many people who are lactose-intolerant and can’t drink milk can eat yogurt, sour cream, kefir, or other fermented dairy products. This is because beneficial bacteria digest lactose during the fermentation process.
    • The probiotics contained in fermented foods assist the body in its natural detoxification processes, including helping to extract and neutralize heavy metals and environmental toxins.
    • Fermented foods help us to better absorb the nutrients that we consume. By improving digestion, you improve absorption.
    • Eating fermented foods regularly is associated with a significant reduction in cancer. Miso, in particular, offers profound protection from radiation toxicity.

    In recent history, fermented foods have all but disappeared from the modern American diet, much to the detriment of our digestive health and overall wellbeing. Many foods that were formerly excellent sources of probiotics (such as sauerkraut, pickles, olives, yogurt, sour cream, and cheese) are now subjected to pasteurization, which eradicates beneficial bacteria.

    One of my favorite fermented foods is miso. It’s versatile and tasty and can be added to soups, stews, salad dressings, sauces, or made into a spread. We always have at least a couple of different varieties of miso—both dark and light—in the refrigerator.

    Dark (red) miso is saltier and considered more suitable for winter. A bowl of red miso soup garnished with scallions is the perfect remedy for helping to ward off fall and winter colds. Light (white) miso is sweeter and less salty, which makes it more appropriate for spring and summer.

    Try these simple recipes that we enjoy at home:

    Miso-Carrot-Ginger Salad Dressing

    • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil (untoasted)
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • 2 oz. rice vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons white miso
    • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
    • 1-inch gingerroot, peeled and cut into small pieces, or 1-2 tsp. ginger juice
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1-2 teaspoons raw honey
    • 1 tsp. tamari
    • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
    • salt and pepper (white or black), to taste


    1. Put all ingredients except salt and pepper into a blender or food processor; pulse briefly several times to begin combining ingredients.
    2. Let machine run for a minute or so until mixture is chunky-smooth.
    3. Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over mixed greens.

    Sesame-Miso Spread

    This simple and tasty spread goes well on bread or toast, rice cakes, crackers or chapatis. Makes 1/2 cup.


    • 4 tablespoons tahini
    • 4 tablespoons water
    • 1 level tablespoon brown rice or barley miso
    • 1 rounded tablespoon minced onion, scallion, or chives
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil (optional)


    1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a small saucepan or skillet and bring slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
    2. Gently simmer for 1 to 2 minutes while stirring constantly, remove from heat. If too thick, stir in more water, one teaspoon at a time.

    Gingery Miso Spread

    This delicious spread is quick and very easy to make. For a mild flavor, use mellow white, yellow, or chickpea miso. For a bolder, saltier flavor, use red miso.


    • 2 Tbsp miso paste
    • 3 Tbsp toasted sesame tahini
    • 1 Tbsp water
    • Fresh lemon juice, to taste
    • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger root, plus juice
    • 1 clove garlic, pressed
    • 1 Tbsp slivered scallion greens or chives


    1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until smooth.
    2. Spread a thin layer on bread or crackers.

    Miso Vegetable Soup

    This soup makes a healthful lunch and is especially beneficial when recovering from a cold or flu. I also recommend miso soup for weight loss; enjoy a cup before 1-2 meals a day. Feel free to substitute whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand. You can use tempeh instead of tofu, which is another naturally fermented food. This recipe serves 4.


    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 3 carrots, sliced into matchsticks
    • 2 stalks celery, chopped
    • 1/3 pound tofu, cubed
    • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1 strip kombu or wakame
    • Fresh juice from 1 small piece ginger
    • Splash of tamari
    • 2-3 teaspoons miso
    • 1 scallion, sliced thinly


    1. Sauté onion, carrots, celery, and tofu in sesame oil.
    2. Add stock, kombu, ginger, and tamari. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    3. Dilute miso with a small amount of hot broth, add to soup, and stir well.
    4. Garnish with scallions and serve.
  • How to Support Your Immune System During the Changing Seasons, Part II

    (Originally posted January 16, 2013 at

    In my blog post last week I talked about why I’m opposed to flu shots, and outlined a holistic approach to supporting the immune system and increasing the body’s ability to resist pathogens. Because botanical medicine is central to my healing practice, I’d like to address in more detail the herbal protocol I use for protection during the changing seasons.

    In my approach, I combine Eastern and Western Traditional Medical concepts with information from modern Biomedical research. I find it most effective to look through both traditional observational and modern biomedical lenses, and to layer these lenses so that they act as a focusing system, allowing for more clarity and direction in healing. This facilitates the integration of traditional wisdom and modern research.

    In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the constellation of symptoms representing what the Biomedical model calls colds and flus is believed to be the result of pathogenic influences entering the body. TCM views the body as having six layers through which the pathogenic influences can penetrate, where each successive layer brings the pathogen closer to the core of the body. At the onset of a cold or flu, people often experience symptoms such as chills, fever, sweating, cough, sore throat, thirst, eye pain, headache, muscle aches, irritability, and insomnia, all of which represent “external” symptoms, meaning that the invading pathogenic factor has not yet moved to the “internal” layers of the body. Signs of deeper infection are high fever with no chills, profuse sweating, severe thirst, loss of appetite, and bowel or urine changes.

    The Vitalist and Eclectic traditions of herbal medicine have long used botanical medicines to address the symptoms associated with colds and flus. For example, the deliberate induction of sweating (called diaphoresis) is used by herbalists from many traditions around the world as a treatment for flu. At the turn of the century it was common to see boneset, a powerful diaphoretic, hanging from the rafters of a settler’s home, ready for making into strong decoctions if the household was affected by a virulent flu. From the TCM perspective, sweating opens the pores and pushes the pathogenic factor out of the body, preventing it from moving deeper and resolving the condition before it takes root.

    In Biomedical thinking, RNA viruses cause influenza, while the common cold is generally thought to be a family of rhinoviruses. Both influenza and the common cold are regarded as infectious diseases, transmitted through contact with other infected persons. Interestingly, doctors practicing medicine prior to the introduction of the Biomedical concept of infectious diseases had no knowledge of infectious organisms. Their approach was not aimed at killing an invading bug, but instead focused on the pathogenic influences and changing the internal terrain.

    TCM practitioners, and many herbalists from other traditions, believe that a cold is the result of too much “Cold” acting on, or in, the body. When the body’s Vital Force is overcome by “Cold,” the “Cold” can penetrate outer defenses and move inward, causing an internal ecological imbalance that leads to further disease. Modern research has sought to prove or disprove the existence of a connection between environment and disease, and several studies confirm that getting too cold can indeed increase the risk of “catching a cold.”

    Modern research aims to define the specific cellular and molecular changes that take place in the presence of an infection. Certain immune modulating compounds are associated with flu and cold symptoms. For example, the induction of interleukin 6 and the related family of immune modulating cytokines is one of the most important mediators of fever and of the acute phase response. It has been shown to be an essential part of the signaling cascade associated with host immunity and is required for resistance against specific bacterium such as streptococcus pneumonia. The induction of interferons (IFN’s) is also associated with host immunity and accounts for some of the host symptoms associated with infections, such as muscle aches and soreness. And recent research indicates that NF-kappaB, another immune modulating compound, stimulates replication of the influenza virus. Many herbal compounds are effective at reducing NF-kappaB.

    I find that botanicals work synergistically to achieve several goals: Up-regulation of immune-modulating compounds involved in host defense against invading viruses and bacteria; resolution of pathogenic influences described in TCM (such as Cold, Wind, and Heat); relief of symptoms associated with the disease; and shortening the course of the disease. The following herbs are some of my favorites for preventing and treating colds and flus:


    Propolis is a glue-like resin made by bees as a building material and antiseptic agent within the hives and is one of the best infection fighters and healing agents available to us. The pharmacologically active molecules are flavonoids and phenolic acids and their esters, which effectively combat bacteria, fungi and viruses. In addition, propolis and its components have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.

    Propolis has been found to be protective against Streptococcus mutans and other strep species that are closely related to the germ that causes strep throat, as well as

    Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes dangerous and often deadly surgical infections, blood poisoning, and a type of pneumonia. Internally, propolis is excellent for bacterial, viral and fungal infections, sore throats and mouth ulcers.

    Elderberry/Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra)

    Both elderberries and elderflowers have a long history of use in treating colds and flus. The flowers contain flavonoids, anthocyanins, carotenoids, essential oil, mucilage, and tannins. Elderflowers are primarily valued for their diaphoretic properties, and are used to promote sweating and reduce fever. Elderberries are rich in vitamin C and a wide range of important flavonoids, including quercetin and anthocyanins, which are believed to account for the therapeutic effects.

    Elderberries are used to treat cold and flu symptoms including nasal congestion, cough, sore throat, fever, and muscle pain. Researchers have found that compounds in the berry bind to the flu virus, inhibit replication, and prevent the virus from penetrating cell walls. Israeli scientists have extensively tested standardized elderberry extract, finding significant improvement in flu symptoms or a complete cure in approximately 90 percent of cases within two to three days, compared to six days for a control group. According to researchers, “No satisfactory medication to cure influenza type A and B is available. Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low costs, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B” (Zakay-Rones, et al., 1995).

    Another study revealed that, “The H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu; 0.32 microM) and Amantadine (27 microM)” (Roschek, et al., 1999).

    Lian Qiao (Fructus forsythia)

    Lian Qiao is a Chinese medicinal herb in the category of herbs that Clear Heat and Eliminate Toxins. In TCM terms, its primary function is to eliminate Wind-Heat or early stage febrile disorders. It is very effective for eliminating the Heat Toxins associated with sore throats.

    Jin Yin Hua (Flos lonicera)

    Jin Yin Hua is another TCM botanical that is used to treat Wind-Heat disorders, and is categorized as an herb that Clears Heat and Eliminates Toxins. Jin Yin Hua is used to Clear Heat in various stages of febrile disorders and vents Heat from deeper layers of the body outward. Lonicera is useful for the sore throat, fever, thirst, and perspiration associated with an external disease, and is also beneficial for cases where there is internal Heat and Toxins manifesting with high fever, strong thirst, and more severe sore throat.

    As an antibiotic, Jin Yin Hua has demonstrated broad-spectrum inhibition against bacteria such as Staph. aureus and beta hemolytic streptococcus and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antipyretic effects. Several studies have shown that lonicera can prevent or shorten the duration of colds and flus.

    Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

    Yarrow is a classic diaphoretic and is traditionally combined with boneset, elderflower, and mint for the treatment of colds and flus with mild fever. It diffuses and channels heat by inducing perspiration, which is essential for lowering fever.

    Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

    Boneset is native to North America, where it was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat, as its name suggests, “break-bone fever.” The plant induces profuse sweating which breaks fever, and in turn relieves the deep-seated achy pain associated with the flu. Boneset also thins mucus and helps alleviate congestion. The ethanol extract of boneset has cytotoxic and antibacterial effects.

    Boneset was one of the most important remedies used by the Eclectic physicians for the treatment of colds and flus. Harvey Wilkes Felter, author of the Eclectic Materia Medica wrote, “In every epidemic of influenza, (boneset) has been used with great advantage. During the severe pandemic of 1918-19 it was one of the safest and most successful remedies employed and contributed much to the successful management of the disease under Eclectic treatment. By many it came to be used as a prophylactic, persons taking it freely apparently escaping attack.”

    White Willow (Salix alba)

    Willow bark is rich in salicin and related salicylates that metabolize into salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin. Salicin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits the over expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and nuclear factor kappabeta (NF-kB), which are involved in both inflammation and abnormal gene expression. Willow bark extract is a safe treatment for pain and inflammation and has far fewer side effects than aspirin.

    Ginger alleviates a wide variety of symptoms, including chills, coughs, indigestion, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The active ingredients in ginger are thought to reside in its volatile oils, which comprise approximately 1-3% of its weight. For example, the gingerols have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial effects in vitro and in animals.

    Peppermint is rich in menthol, which helps to induce diaphoresis.

    Eucalyptus oil has been shown to have antibacterial effects in the respiratory tract and helps to control the secretion of mucus. Eucalyptus oil also stimulates immune system response through its influence on the phagocytic ability of monocyte-derived macrophages.

  • Do You Know What's in Your Supplements?

    (Originally posted January 8, 2013 at

    Vitamin and mineral supplements can be found almost everywhere these days—grocery and convenience stores, big box discount stores, and drugstores commonly carry a plethora of supplements, and online retailers offer thousands of choices of every supplement imaginable. The supplement industry is enormous—it’s estimated that one of every three American adults uses nutritional supplements on a regular basis.

    On the one hand, I’m pleased to see the exponential growth of the supplement industry—it’s an indicator that people are increasingly interested in natural approaches to health. On the other hand, I’m concerned about the quality of the supplements that are flooding the market. I’ve spent decades working with supplements—my education is in clinical nutrition and medical herbalism, and in the early 80’s I owned a health food store, where I gained a great deal of knowledge about the supplement industry. For the past 25 years, I’ve practiced as a clinician, creating healing protocols for people with serious illnesses. I believe in the use of supplements—they provide concentrated nutrition and dosages of healing nutrients that are unobtainable by diet alone. Nutritional supplements are an essential part of my practice, and I personally take a variety of supplements.

    However—and this is a big however—nutritional supplements are only as good as the raw ingredients from which they are made. Unfortunately, the majority of nutritional supplements are made in a laboratory from synthetic ingredients. These man-made chemicals are called isolated chemical nutrients, or USP (United States Pharmacopeia) vitamins and minerals. Many of these nutrients are made using toxic substances, such as petroleum esters, formaldehyde, and acetylene. An additional problem is that the body does not recognize USP isolates in the same way as nutrients from real food.

    USP isolates are analogous to refined foods; for example, while organic unrefined brown rice is a nutritious dietary choice, refined white rice has been stripped of nutrients and does not support health. Another example is the misguided notion of using only egg whites to make omelets or scrambled eggs; while whole organic eggs from free-range chickens are an excellent source of phospholipids, carotenoids, B-vitamins, iron, and sulfur, egg whites merely contain protein. For the most part, foods that have been refined are not the best choices for long-term health, and the same is true for dietary supplements.

    For this reason, in creating Natura’s formulas I have chosen as much as possible to use Re-Natured® vitamins and minerals (from Grow Company, Inc.), which offers nutrients in a form similar to those found in food. Grow-Nutrients® utilizes a single-celled yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that is grown in enriched molasses under carefully controlled conditions. The culture is then fed specific concentrations of vitamins and minerals. S. Cerevisiae takes up the micronutrients during growth and metabolization, and thus the vitamins and minerals become bioavailable through the yeast. Another Grow nutrient source is their Biogrow® vitamin and mineral technology, in which natural products derived from a pure culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus are grown in enriched media under carefully controlled conditions. These forms of nutrients are similar to how they would be found in plants grown in nutrient dense soils. Not only are these nutrients natural and non-toxic, they are also much more bioavailable, because the body readily recognizes them as nutrients.

    The Natura formulas that contain Re-Natured® nutrients are Cell GuardianUp-LiftIG Sensitizer.

    Re-Natured® vitamins and minerals are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates (beta-1, 3-glucans and mannan), dietary fiber, SOD (superoxide dismutase), and glutathione (an antioxidant found in yeast that plays a major role in cellular defense mechanisms). These products are not derived from dairy (such as whey yeast), nor do they contain added sugars, colorants, or preservatives.

    Studies have proven that Re-Natured® nutrients are better absorbed, retained and utilized than any USP or chelated nutrient. There have been over 50 studies performed on Re-Natured® nutrients, many of which have been peer reviewed and published in reputable journals. Following is a summary of the findings:

    USP nutrients vs. Re-Natured® nutrients
    Vitamin A 1.54 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-1, Thiamin 1.38 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-2, Riboflavin 1.92 times more retained in the liver
    Vitamin B-3, Niacinamide 3.94 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-6 2.54 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin B-9, Folate 2.13 times more retained in the liver
    Vitamin B-12 2.56 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin C 1.74 times more absorbed into red blood cells
    Up to 15.6 times the antioxidant effect
    Vitamin E 2.60 times more absorbed into blood
    Up to 7.02 times more retained by the body
    Calcium 8.79 times more absorbed into blood
    Chromium 3.56 times more effective reducing fasting
    glucose Up to 25 times more bioavailable
    Copper 1.85 times more retained in the liver
    Iron 1.77 times more absorbed into blood
    Magnesium 2.20 times more absorbed into the blood
    Manganese 1.63 times more retained in the liver
    Molybdenum 16.49 times more absorbed into blood
    Selenium 17.60 times greater antioxidant effect
    Zinc 6.46 times more absorbed into blood
    Vitamin ‘H’ Biotin Over 100 times the biotin activity

    Of course, I’m always interested in clinical studies, which provide further information as to the efficacy of nutrients in actual patient trials. In a study on the clinical effects of Re-Natured® nutrients and colon polyps, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland conducted a one month trial using Re-Natured® nutrients vitamin C and beta-carotene (Cahill, et al., 1992). The study was conducted on participants with abnormal cells in their colon polyps, and thus at high risk of colon cancer.

    The control group with a higher initial level of abnormal cells in their colon polyps who took no supplements saw no change, but for those taking Re-Natured® supplements, the effects were dramatic. (Participants took 9mg of Re-Natured® Beta-Carotene daily in one group, and another group took 750 mg daily of Re-Natured® Vitamin C.)

    While the control group taking no supplements showed no signs of improvement, the Re-Natured® Beta-Carotene group experienced a significant drop in abnormal cells in colon polyps, and the group that took Re-Natured®Vitamin C actually experienced a drop of abnormal cells in their colon polyps that was even lower than in the normal groups. The results were so astonishing that the study was continued for a full year.

    Finally, it’s important to me that Re-Natured® nutrients have been proven to be much safer than USP isolates. For example, a study on selenium (Vinson, 1981) found that selenium as sodium selenite (the USP form) has a 2.94 higher lethal dose than Re-Natured® selenium.  This is because sodium selenite, as with all other isolated nutrients, is not found in nature’s food complexes.They are simply isolated chemicals. If you analyze yeast, which has a natural affinity towards selenium, you will never find the isolated nutrient sodium selenite. When yeast is fed the important isolated nutrient during its growth stage, the yeast metabolizes the isolated nutrient, and is now organically bound in its natural food complex, without the remainders of toxic isolated chemical components. Grown By Nature’s Re-Natured® Selenium & Amino Acid Complex is not toxic because it is found in a food complex, not as an isolated chemical.

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