Monday, November 30, 2009

An Ancient Tradition is also a Modern Day Remedy

The holiday season is a perfect time to talk about an ancient sap that we have all heard of but really know little about. Frankincense is best known by its mention in the Bible.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

The Three Wise Men: The traditional telling of the Christmas story includes a key moment where Wise men from the East arrive and present the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This brief mention of frankincense is usually the first and most common encounter that most people have with this special substance. Few people know much about it, or its wider significance in the establishment of trade routes between Europe and Asia.
Frankincense is an aromatic, congealed, resinous sap from a specific variety of trees in the genus Boswelia. Most of the trees in the Boswelia genus are aromatic, and many of them produce a scented resinous sap, but only one tree, Boswelia sacra, produces the highest grade of frankincense, also known as “true” or “commercial” incense.

The aromatic qualities of frankincense have been used in a variety of ways over the centuries.
To release its scent the frankincense is either burned or smoldered over hot coals. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Israelites and numerous other cultures used frankincense as part of their religious ceremonies. Frankincense was extensively used in burial rituals as an embalming material, an offering to the departed, and a means to cover the odor of the dead body.
The Roman emperor Nero once burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress. The smoke from burning frankincense is effective for driving away mosquitoes and other pests, thereby reducing incidences of malaria. Finally, frankincense can be used as a medicine to treat ailments such as nausea, indigestion, chest coughs, hypertension, and post-childbirth recovery.

I hope this brief history of frankincense has given you an idea of how potent and special this substance is. In modern times, it continues to maintain its relevance. I use frankincense essential oil on my children and on myself every single day. For my boys, when put on their 3rd eye (between their eyebrows) it can stimulate the pineal gland which releases growth hormone to help them grow. My boys are not going to be basketball players to begin with but I think a little extra help won't harm them. I also put a drop on their brain stem (base of head) to relieve any sensory issues and give them the focus they need. Frankincense also helps with respiratory issues and works when applied to the chest. It relieves congestion/cough and helps with breathing. When diluted in a warm bath, it can help lessen menstrual discomfort as well. I use it in combination with other essential oils that I own.

If I were just starting out with essential oils and wanted to sample only a few, frankincense would be #1 on my list. Its truly perfect for the season in keeping with ancient traditions. I will diffuse it in my house so we can all breathe it in and together with the fresh pine from the Christmas tree a magnificent blend of aromas will waft through my house.

If you are interested in learning more or trying this oil, please contact me through the blog, through facebook or visit

May Peace and Health follow you through the season!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Change Up Your Holiday Table with Some Greens that Prevent Cancer

Aren't you sick of the same old veggies year after year at your Thanksgiving table? Green beans, steamed broccoli, creamed corn, buttered carrots and on and on. Why not change it up a bit this year and surprise some veggie hating guests with this delicious dish. I tried it last year and it was a hit! The great thing about it is that the vegetable in question (Kale) has amazing cancer defense properties. Read below to find out just how healthy this leafy green vegetable really is. It may just become your new favorite!

"Kale is absolutely rich and abundant in calcium, lutein, iron, and Vitamins A, C, and K. Kale has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein. Kale is rich in Vitamin C not to mention the much needed fiber so lacking in the daily diet of processed food eating Americans. The "Icing on the Kale" are the natural occurring all important phytochemicals sulforaphane and indoles which research suggests may protect against cancer. Let's not forget the all important antioxidant Vitamin E. Rest assured kale spares nothing in providing one with much needed nutrients and associated health benefits.

The naturally rich sulfur content of kale deserves a bit more discussion. Science has discovered that sulforaphane, helps boost the body's detoxification enzymes, possibly by altering gene expression. This is turn is purported to help clear carcinogenic substances in a timely manner. Sulforaphane is formed when cruciferous vegetables like kale are chopped or chewed. This somehow triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer causing chemicals, of which we all are exposed on daily basis. A recently new study in the Journal of Nutrition (2004) demonstrates that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer cell proliferation."

The recipe is for Roasted Kale and Red Onions. The sweet red onions cooked with balsamic vinegar offset the naturally bitter taste of the kale and make for a delightful pairing on your palate. Here is how to make it:

3 large red onions (cut in wedges)
6 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp butter
2 bunches (about 1 1/4lb) Kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 375. Line large roasting pan with foil, set aside. In bowl toss onion with 1 tsp of the oil, 1/4 tsp of the salt, 1/4 tsp of the pepper, set aside.

2. Heat 1Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet, add onion mixture. Cook over med-high heat 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown. Reduce to heat medium-low. Add broth and vinegar. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until onions are tender. Add butter and increase heat to high. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, shaking pan occasionally or until onions are glazed. (you will look professional doing this :)

3. Meanwhile, add kale to roasting pan. Toss with remaining oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered 15 mins, tossing 3 times.

4. Gently toss kale and onions together and serve.

Here is to a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vitamin D And An Easy Way To Get It!

We are all hearing more and more about Vitamin D and how it may be able to help protect us from the flu. Medical doctors will shrug this off but the facts are proving them wrong. Vitamin D is a very important component to our immune health and our diets are not providing enough of it. Sunlight is a wonderful source of Vitamin D (and you can not overdose on it) but right now the Northern Hemisphere will not be receiving optimal amounts of it. Definitely get outside when you can and bask in the rays but also keep in mind some foods and supplements that will increase your overall Vitamin D level.

Salmon, sardines and mackerel are good sources of Vitamin D as is pure cod liver oil. We use Nordic Naturals in our home and that delivers about 400IUs of Vitamin D per day (1tsp). However about 1000IUs are needed daily to protect ourselves from the flu (this is based on new scientific data - old data only recommended about 400IUs per day). Also, Vitamin D needs to come in the form of D3 otherwise the body will not absorb it. This is something to consider when you are purchasing a supplement. That is why I just bought Dr. Mercola's Vitamin D spray. Its in the form of D3 and its so easy to use. Three sprays on the tongue 3 times a day and BAM! 1000IUs delivered like nothing. I take it and I will also be giving it to my kids to supplement the Vitamin D they get from their cod liver oil. I will not give them the full 1000IUs because they already are getting 400IUs so I will only spray them 2x a day.

So far they have gotten a common cold virus from preschool. It lasted 7 days which was not fun but their symptoms were pretty mild. Low grade fever for a day or 2, runny noses and a cough. No ear infections or respiratory infections. They are back on their game right now and we are working on building back their immune systems in case more sickness should arise at their preschool.

The great thing about Dr. Mercola's spray is that its so easy to use and it tastes like spearmint gum. I am sure the boys will handle it well (as long as its not given during meal time). Please visit to purchase the spray or read more about it.

Here is an excerpt of an article that discusses the additional health benefits of Vitamin D. Its not just to protect agaisnt the flu, it can actually help prolong life.

"A recent review article published by researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing concluded that adequate intake of vitamin D may prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and reduce complications for those who have already been diagnosed. These findings appeared in the latest issue of Diabetes Educator.

"Vitamin D has widespread benefits for our health and certain chronic diseases in particular," said Sue Penckofer, Ph.D., R.N., study co-author and professor, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. "This article further substantiates the role of this nutrient in the prevention and management of glucose intolerance and diabetes."

Many of the 23 million Americans with diabetes have low vitamin D levels. Evidence suggests that vitamin D plays an integral role in insulin sensitivity and secretion. Vitamin D deficiency results in part from poor nutrition, which is one of the most challenging issues for people with diabetes. Another culprit is reduced exposure to sunlight, which is common during cold weather months when days are shorter and more time is spent indoors.

One study examined for this review article evaluated 3,000 people with type 1 diabetes and found a decreased risk in disease for people who took vitamin D supplements. Observational studies of people with type 2 diabetes also revealed that supplementation may be important in the prevention of this disease.

"Management of vitamin D deficiency may be a simple and cost-effective method to improve blood sugar control and prevent the serious complications associated with diabetes," said Joanne Kouba, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., study co-author and clinical assistant professor of dietetics, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

Diet alone may not be sufficient to manage vitamin D levels. A combination of adequate dietary intake of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight, and treatment with vitamin D2 or D3 supplements can decrease the risk of diabetes and related health concerns. The preferred range in the body is 30 - 60 ng/mL of 25(OH) vitamin D.

"People at risk for diabetes should be screened for low vitamin D levels," said Mary Ann Emanuele, M.D., F.A.C.P., study co-author and professor of medicine, division of endocrinology and metabolism, Loyola University Health System. "This will allow health care professionals to identify a nutrient deficiency early on and intervene to improve the long term health of these individuals."

Vitamin D deficiency also may be associated with hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, hypertension and heart disease. In fact, Penckofer recently published another study in Circulation that reported on the role of chronic vitamin D deficiency in heart disease."

More health tips to come, stay tuned....