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Back Pain? Research Shows Comfrey Ointment Helps

April 16, 2015

Anyone with back pain knows how difficult it can be to get lasting relief.  A long-standing Native American herbal remedy can help, according to research in the journal Phytotherapy Research. Native Americans made an ointment or oil from an herb we know as comfrey, or Symphytum officinale) to treat bruises, strains, pain, and injuries.  The medical journal found that topical applications of comfrey oil or ointment can alleviate back pain of either a muscular or joint nature. 

The research showed that comfrey alleviates both pain and inflammation, which could explain its long and successful track record.  The plant contains multiple chemical constituents that are likely responsible for its pain- and inflammation- alleviating activities.  Rosmarinic acid was found to significantly reduce inflammation while a glycopeptide found in the herb was found to inhibit four different prostaglandins that are linked with pain.  Allantoin is also responsible for its pain-alleviating properties.

Comfrey oils and ointments have also been used successfully by herbalists for many years in the treatment of back pain, muscle or joint aches, arthritis, bruising, and injuries.  Also known as “knitbone” you can probably understand why the herb has been traditionally used for bone fractures and breaks.

To obtain the anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions of comfrey, choose an ointment or oil with 10% of the active ingredients from comfrey leaf (or the package might state “aerial portions of the plant” or something like that).   Alternatively, some products contain 5 to 20% of the dried herb.  Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended external usage.

I don’t recommend using this plant internally since it can be toxic to the liver in large or long-term doses, or to those with pre-existing liver damage.  There is no evidence of any safety issue when topically using oil or ointment preparations made with comfrey, and lots of evidence to support it therapeutic value.  Simply apply the product over the injured or sore area a few times daily until you experience improvement in your symptoms or until the wound has resolved.

Even other plants love comfrey.  I grow a large comfrey plant just at the edge of my fruit and vegetable gardens because it makes an amazing organic fertilizer for them.  For this purpose, I simply cut a few leaves (each leaf is rather large) and steep them in a large bucket of water for a couple of weeks.  Pour the comfrey “tea” over garden beds to nourish the soil with important minerals.

If you grow your own comfrey to nourish your gardens and soil, I recommend wearing gloves (preferably long ones) whenever you harvest the leaves.  The reason I recommend gloves is that I’ve noticed that bees absolutely love this plant.  My comfrey plant is always buzzing with bees, including many hidden ones that bury themselves in each of the plant’s beautiful bell-shaped pink to purple flowers.  If you grow your own comfrey, allow enough space as it can grow to about three feet tall and about four feet in diameter.  It is a perennial plant that thrives with almost no care.

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the international best-selling author of the books The Probiotic Promise, 60 Seconds to Slim, and Weekend Wonder Detox, a registered nutritionist, and a board-certified doctor of natural medicine.  Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.  Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.  Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.  Take the FREE WEEKEND WONDER DETOX QUIZ to determine which detox is best for you.

How to Grow Your Own Sprouts

April 1, 2015

There are many health and environmental reasons to grow your own sprouts (check out my article for 10 reasons). While you can purchase them at your local grocery store or health food store, it is so easy to grow them at home.  Growing your own is a great way to have a supply of gourmet varieties, ensure access to high quality fresh foods year round if you live in a colder climate, or simply to become more aware of the food you are eating.

I prefer the jar method which involves using a wide-mouth mason jar and either sprout lids from a health food store or cheesecloth and a rubber band. 

You’ll need only a few basic supplies to get started sprouting.  They include:  organic sprouting seeds, nuts, legumes, or grains (such as mung beans, alfalfa seeds, clover seeds, broccoli seeds, and garbanzo beans.)  Avoid sprouting kidney beans as they are poisonous if eaten raw or sprouted.  Make sure the seeds you choose are from a reputable supplier that can guarantee they haven’t been heated during processing, which prevents them from sprouting.

You’ll need:

-Large wide mouth mason jars or the Sprout Jar

-Sprouting lids for jars (Sprouting lids are typically available in most health food stores but you can use cheesecloth and rubber bands over the top of the jars if you prefer)

-Sprouting seeds of your choice. 

Now you’re ready to get sprouting.

Grow Your Own Sprouts

For hygiene’s sake, wash your hands before handling seeds.  Use seeds, grains, nuts, or legumes.  For simplicity, I’ll be referring to any of these items as seeds throughout the instructions.

Remove any broken or discolored seeds, stones, twigs, or hulls that may have found their way into your sprouting seeds.

Place one type of seed in the jar.  Use about a teaspoon of seeds or one-third cup of beans.  Remember they will grow in size during the soaking and sprouting process.   

Cover the seeds with pure water.  If you are using a few tablespoons of seeds, cover with at least one cup of water.  If you are using beans, nuts, or grains, use at least three times the water of the amount of seed.  In other words, one cup of water for one-third cup of mung beans, for example.

Allow the seeds to soak for about 6 to 12 hours. I find it easiest to start them before going to bed.  They absorb the water while I’m sleeping and are ready to start sprouting in the morning. 

Cover the jar with the sprouting lids or cheesecloth.  If you’re using cheesecloth, secure over the top of the jar with a rubber band.  Drain off the water.

Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and drain off the water again.  Set upside down in a clean, cool spot in your kitchen area, preferably on a slight angle to allow excess water to drain off.  Alternatively, use a stainless steel dish drying rack which gives the sprout jars the perfect angle for draining.

Rinse the sprouts a few times a day.  Be sure to drain them well each time.

Once the sprouts are ready to be harvested (this amount of time differs for each variety; alfalfa or mung bean sprouts are ready in about a week), place them in a large bowl of cool water and stir them around to loosen hulls and skins from the seeds (this is an optional step).  They’ll usually come to the top so you can remove them.  Don’t worry about removing every hull.  Doing so helps prevent spoilage so the sprouts will last longer.  Drain sprouts well and store in the refrigerator covered for a week to ten days, depending on the sprout type.

TIP:  To increase the mineral content of your sprouts, add a piece of kelp or other type of seaweed to the water while the seeds are soaking.

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the international best-selling & 17-time author of the books The Probiotic Promise, 60 Seconds to Slim, and Weekend Wonder Detox, a registered nutritionist, and a board-certified doctor of natural medicine.  Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.  Follow my blogs on HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.

Herb as Effective as High Blood Pressure Drug

March 23, 2015

Olive leaf extract is effective at normalizing blood pressure

Most people already know the health benefits of eating olive oil on a regular basis, but an increasing amount of research is showing that olive oil isn’t the only therapeutic part of these trees.  The leaf of the trees have long been used for their anti-viral properties as well.  And, according to research in the medical journal Phytomedicine, the leaf extract showed comparable ability to the drug Captopril to reduce high blood pressure.

Participants in the double-blind study took either Olive leaf extract (Olea europaea L.) or the drug Captopril for eight weeks.  Their blood pressure was evaluated every week for the study duration.  At the four-week mark, researchers also conducted blood tests to determine their levels of triglycerides.  After eight weeks of treatment both groups experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure. 

Where the herb and drug differed considerably, however, is that the herb group also experienced reduced triglyceride levels in their blood while the drug group did not.  High triglyceride levels can be a marker for heart disease so a reduction in high levels of the fat is an added bonus for the group taking the Olive leaf extract.

The study used a product known as EFLA® 943 to obtain the results however there are many excellent brands of olive leaf extract that should have a similar effect.  Participants in the study took 500 mg of the herbal medicine twice daily throughout the eight week study.

Researchers concluded that at that dose, olive leaf extract “was similarly effective in lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressures in subjects with stage-1 hypertension as Captopril.”

The olive tree produces a compound known as oleuropein that is abundant in both the leaves as well as the olives.  It is believed that this compound is responsible for the many health benefits of olive oil and olive leaf extract. 

In another study, published in Phytotherapy Research, of identical twins with borderline hypertension researchers found that the twins who took the placebo had no change in blood pressure while those who took the olive leaf extract had a significant reduction.  The people taking the olive leaf extract also showed significant reductions in cholesterol as well.  The study dose was 1000 mg. of olive leaf extract daily.

The drug Captopril has been linked with side-effects, including:  dizziness, fever, coughing, rapid heartbeat, and bruising.  Be sure to consult your physician before discontinuing any medication or starting an herbal medicine.

Check out my new books 60 Seconds to Slim, The Probiotic Promise and Weekend Wonder Detox. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.  Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.  Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD. 

The Mushroom that Shows Great Promise against Cancer

March 16, 2015

 

When we think of cancer in our Western world, we tend to think of harsh chemicals or toxic radiation as the treatments.  But promising new research published in the journal Phytomedicine suggests that we might want to give serious consideration to the humble mushroom cordyceps that quietly rears its head deep within our forest floors. 

Photo credit:  Terry Willard

Cordyceps (cordyceps militaris) is also known as caterpillar fungus and has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine as a lung and kidney tonic and for loss of stamina, fatigue, shallow breathing, wheezing, and as an aphrodisiac.

According to the Phytomedicine study on human leukemia cells, a compound found in cordyceps known as cordycepin seems to have a toxic effect on cancer cells while also working causing cancer cells to commit suicide—a process known as apoptosis, without having a toxic effect on healthy cells.

The study examined the anti-cancer properties of a tea made from the mushrooms versus the mushrooms themselves and found that both had anti-cancer activity but the actual cordyceps mushrooms had stronger activity.  There are many different types of products on the market including:  powdered, tea, alcohol extract (tincture), dehydrated whole cordyceps, glycerine extract (glycerite), and capsules.

Additional earlier research in the Japanese journal Fitoterapia has also shown that cordyceps works against cancer in many different ways, including:

-Blocking the ability of tumors to grow (anti-tumor);

-Blocking the ability of cancer cells to multiply (anti-proliferative);

-Stopping cancer from spreading to different parts of the body (anti-metastatic);

-Improving the immune system’s ability to fight cancer (immunomodulatory); and

-Attacking free radicals before they can damage cells and tissues, which would otherwise make them vulnerable to cancer (antioxidant).

Research in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology showed that cordyceps was also effective against prostate cancer.  A study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology found cordyceps to cause lung cancer cells to die.  Other research found that cordyceps reduced cell growth of a type of skin cancer known as melanoma.

Earlier research in the journal Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found similar anti-cancer activity in an herbal tea made from dried cordyceps mushroom.  The researchers found that, like the Phytomedicine study, cordyceps caused cancer cells to commit suicide, suggesting a sixth method by which the mushroom works against cancer (apoptotic).

According to mycologist, herbalist, and author of The Fungal Pharmacy Robert Rogers, “(the mushroom) has a spicy, cinnamon fragrance that lends itself to soups and broths.”  If using cordyceps in capsule or supplement form, 600 mg/day is a common therapeutic dose.  Be sure to choose a supplement that is a 5:1 extract to ensure a high potency product.  Select one that is confirmed organic cordyceps sourced from a clean location. I like Herb’s Best Nutrition since the company uses only organic cordyceps sourced from Tibet (considered the cleanest place on earth) in a 5:1 extract. The company is offering my fans 15% OFF all their products with the COUPON CODE:  MC2399

Discover other natural remedies that are showing tremendous promise against cancer in my new book The Probiotic Promise.

Check out my new books Weekend Wonder Detox, 60 Seconds to Slim, and The Probiotic Promise. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.  Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.  Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.  Take the FREE WEEKEND WONDER DETOX QUIZ to determine which detox is best for you.

A Super Health-Boosting Pumpkin Spice Latte

October 2, 2014

If you’ve read my recent blog “The Ugly Truth about Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte” and are ready for a delicious beverage that’s packed full of healthy and wholesome ingredients, then my recipe for “A Better Pumpkin Spice Latte” is for you. 

This recipe can be made with your favorite coffee but I urge you to at least try it with roasted dandelion.  When dandelion root is roasted it takes on a coffee-like flavor.  You may be scoffing at the thought of a dandelion latte but roasted dandelion root is perhaps the most overlooked natural superfood available.  It grows almost everywhere so is a renewable resource, to say the least.  It is packed with health benefits:

It boosts energy and immunity against disease according to a study in the journal Molecules.

It purifies the blood and helps alleviate anemia by significantly increasing both red and white blood cells, according to a study published in Advances in Hematology.

Recently researchers have added superbug killer to the dandelion’s impressive health-boosting resume, having found high antibacterial activity against E. coli, Bacillus subtilis, and MRSA.

I regularly use dandelion root with my clients to help boost kidney and liver function--common concerns in many health conditions.  Learn more about kidney and liver detoxification in my book Weekend Wonder Detox (DaCapo, 2014).

If the thought of pulling up dandelions from your yard doesn’t sound appealing you can purchase dandelion root in most health food stores.  It is available roasted or raw.  If you’re using raw dandelion, cut into small chunks, place in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 to 2 hours depending on light or dark roast preference.  Longer roasting times produce a darker roast taste.  Grind in a high-powered blender or coffee grinder.  Store in an air-tight glass jar.  Some health food stores sell pre-roasted and ground dandelion root already prepared.  It is often labelled “coffee substitute.”

If you're harvesting dandelion root be sure to choose an area free of pesticides and lawn sprays.  I've found it easiest to harvest after a rainfall when the ground is soft.

Super Health-Boosting Pumpkin Spice Latte

This delicious pumpkin spice latte is much lower in sugar and devoid of artificial ingredients that plague commercial varieties of the beverage.  I tend to lIf you prefer a sweeter drink, simply increase the amount of coconut sugar used.  You can serve it hot or iced, depending on your preference.

Serves 2

1-1/2 cups almond or coconut milk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon roasted and ground dandelion root

1-1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon cinnamon+ more for sprinkling on top

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/3 teaspoon nutmeg+ more for sprinkling on top

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and creamy.  In a small saucepan over medium to high heat, heat until desired temperature has been reached.  Serve immediately.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Check out my new books Weekend Wonder Detox and 60 Seconds to Slim.  Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more.  Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.  Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.  Take the FREE WEEKEND WONDER DETOX QUIZ to determine which detox is best for you.

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