In the Cabinet of an ND Student….. Ginger, Ginger, Ginger

While I like to use ginger year-round, I make extra effort to keep it around in the fall-winter when immune systems seem to drop as drastically as temperatures and colds + flus abound. I usually keep both powdered ginger and fresh ginger root – both are inexpensive and in my opinion, a staple! And while I prefer freshly made ginger tea (with fresh root) I also have ginger tea bags in my kitchen in case I want something quick or travel friendly.

Ginger (Latin binomial: Zingiber officinale) is probably best known for its digestive properties. It contains oleoresins and volatile oils that contribute to its digestive stimulant properties. Ginger tea is wonderful for upset stomach, colicky gas pains, cramping and indigestion.

But to be honest, my love of ginger is tied more to its properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM the smooth flow and the ability of the body to produce Qi are directly tied to health. Qi is largely responsible for the state of our immunity; in TCM the Wei Qi is the defensive energy that protects the body from pathogenic invasion (basically it protects the body from colds/flus and other organisms that come from the environment). In times of deficiency ( this can be due to poor diet, stress, emotions etc) our Qi production is hit first! So what does this have to do with Ginger?

Ginger is a warming and tonifying herb in the TCM pharmacopeia, it helps to boost the ability of the body to fight pathogens that are cold in nature – the ones we tend to see in the fall/winter months. By supporting the body with a warming herb we encourage it to mobilize Wei Qi and dispel cold. TCM is a very unique healing framework, one that may seem strange to us here in North America at first. The way TCM views the body and how diseases interact with it is very different from a western medical approach. However, the more I study and understand it, the more I see it make connections that western medicine often overlooks……….

An interesting tidbit though, even in the western tradition, ginger has been shown to be an effective diaphoretic (makes you sweat) and circulatory stimulant! So the idea that it gets things flowing and moving is common to both traditions.

How I use my ginger:

1. The Ginger Bath: when I feel the very first sign of a cold or flu (especially if I get the chills or feel super fatigued) I break out the ginger powder. I run a hot bath, as warm as I can tolerate and add in my ginger powder – enough to lightly colour the water. Sit in the bath as long as tolerable, you will SWEAT! When you get out, dry off and make sure to keep your feet warm (wool socks people). Get in bed, allow your body to continue to sweat. SLEEP!

2. Ginger Tea: I prepare my tea this way,  but there are many variations! Cut fresh ginger into chunks and boil, covered for 5-8 min. The more ginger the stronger it will taste. Strain into a cup and allow to cool slightly. I usually add some all natural, local honey – for an antimicrobial punch. I also include ginger tea into my weekly routine, just to help keep that warm Yang energy flowing – but I use pre made teas for this.

3. Immune Boosting Soup: If you’re feeling sick, or if someone in your house is sick try this soup. It is honestly so delicious (but be warned – its spicy due to the horseradish + ginger) and has become a sick-day staple in my house. The combination of ginger, horseradish, onion and garlic is incredible for immune boosting.

Ingredients:

4-6 cups of veggie or chicken broth (low sodium – if you can make your own broth from the chicken bones even better)

1 tsp olive oil

1 large spanish onion, minced

5 cloves of garlic (3 minced, 2 whole but peeled)

1 tbsp grated horseradish root (use fresh root not from the jar)

2 tbsp grated ginger (use fresh root)

4-6 carrots

baby potatoes (small bag)

1 head cauliflower

Pre-cooked chicken (I usually just use a whole cooked chicken – but you can also use baked chicken breast etc).

Sea salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Add olive oil to a large pot, cook onion and minced garlic over low-medium heat for 3-4 mins.

2. Add broth, ginger, horseradish, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes – and any other veggies you want to add. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 mins or until veggies are cooked.

3. Peel the other 2 cloves of garlic and just give them a crush – no need to mince.

4. Add the pre-cooked chicken and your remaining garlic and simmer another 10 minutes.

5. Enjoy!

The sky is really the limit with this soup guys – the more veggies you can add the more your body will thank you. Also, play around with taste – you may be able to tolerate more or less of the ginger + horseradish. A word of caution – grated horseradish will burn your eyes – I found it worse then onion!

Aside from these more symptomatic uses, I love to add ginger to my green smoothies, soups and veggies (it really adds some nice flavour). Hope you enjoyed today’s post!

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. 

References:

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

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In the Cabinet of an ND Student…… Wonderful Witch Hazel

In my opinion, one of the most beautiful things about naturopathic medicine is that patient education and home care play a large role in treatment. Throughout my time at CCNM I have been seeing a 4th year intern at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic as well as implementing many of the things I have learned in my classes into my own life! I am continually amazed at how having a few key things in my bathroom and/or kitchen cabinet have become so useful. For me, it has been truly empowering to be able to implement easy, affordable and effective health habits simply by using some very basic products. So far, both of my interns at the clinic have had a very large focus on teaching their patients (me included) how they can make small lifestyle changes that are in-line with their long-term health goals.

Witch Hazel

I created this blog to share my experiences and growing body of knowledge with you! So, for the next 6 weeks I am going to post about the 6 most useful things I have in my cupboards at home. The first of these is Witch Hazel!

Witch Hazel

I always have this handy in my bathroom cabinet! Witch Hazel (Latin binomial: Hamamelis virginiana) is mainly used as an astringent because it contains tannins. Why do tannins = astringency? Well, tannins are molecules that interact with proteins and act to tighten superficial cells. This means that when applied to the skin Witch Hazel will help the tissue to contract and thicken, decreasing permeability. Witch Hazel is also a famed anti-inflammatory, making it an excellent topical application for a host of common complaints.

I bought a distilled Witch Hazel (this means it contains 15% alcohol) at the drugstore for maybe $5-8! Probably my personal favourite use for it is when I get a paper cut (maybe more often than those non-students out there!) or when I get razor burn/cut myself while shaving. Because of the tannins, applying some Witch Hazel right after a small cut works wonders! It helps to pull the skin together and stop bleeding. Come on, how many of you have tried the whole, stick a piece of toilet paper to the razor cut, only then to have to pick it off and have it bleed all over again? Ouch! Well, Witch Hazel has become my ‘go to’ for scrapes and cuts.

I’ve also used my Witch Hazel to soothe itchy bug bites, sore bruises and sunburn (it’s also useful when I burn my finger from the oven – this happens alot too! I’m a clumsy cook). And, that is not the end of the list! It can be extremely useful and soothing for canker sores when applied topically; I usually just use a soaked cotton swab and compress over the canker for a few minutes. In my botanical medicine course we also learned that Witch Hazel is a wonderful topical for both varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

While my distilled Witch Hazel is sufficient for most things, when it comes to my face, I use a Witch Hazel floral water instead. I worked for an amazing, Toronto based, all-natural spa during my undergraduate degree. There, I learned that while we often feel the need to dry out oily or blemished skin, using harsh products (like alcohol) is actually very counterproductive. Because Witch Hazel is an astringent and anti-inflammatory it can be both tonifying and soothing when applied as a toner. However, I avoid alcohol containing products and instead use Pure + Simple’s Witch Hazel Hydrosol! I have dry skin but am prone to blemishes, especially from stress, so I do like to have a more astringent toner on hand for those ‘high-stress’ times (hmmm, like exams maybe?). I find this is a particularly useful hydrosol for those prone to open comedomes (blackheads).

Anyways, as you can see Witch Hazel is one of my favourite products and has a list of great uses at my house! Have you used Witch Hazel water? I’d love to hear from you as always!

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. 

References

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Photo credit 1: Aureusbay / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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Herbal Wisdom: Black Cohosh

While studying for final exams I grew quite fond of this herb….why? Well, I’m not exactly sure but it was one of the 70 (yes 70!) we had to know for our exam that I found very easy to remember….

One of the professors of my Botanical Medicine course (also an ND), believes that while knowledge of biochemistry is of extreme importance, getting to know the vitality, or character of the plant should also play a role in herbal wisdom. While this might sound a little strange, I know exactly what she means.  I spend my summers working in garden maintenance and by spending time with plants you do really get a ‘feel’ for them. And funnily enough, while one person can be drawn to and intrigued by a particular plant another person may be completely adverse to it – and often for no apparent reason.

Cimicifuga racemosa

What did I Learn About Black Cohosh This Year?

Latin Binomial: Cimicifuga racemosa (Actea racemosa)

While Black Cohosh is famed for its ability to normalize the female reproductive system (PMS, menopause, painful menstruation, dysmenorrhea etc) its indication in conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and muscular pain (including sciatica!) should not be overshadowed. Its role in rheumatism comes from its actions as a relaxant, antirheumatic, anti-inflammatory and an alterative (a substance that acts to restore overall functioning of the body).

On an energetic level this herb has been found particularly useful for people who feel victimized by their situation. While these people may be very charismatic, there is often an internal feeling of being cut down or exploited which, allows a ‘victim consciousness’ to evolve. Loiuse Hay, author of Heal Your Body, argues that on an energetic level arthritis (especially of the fingers) is related to feeling unloved or victimized in life. Coincidence?

Fresh Black Cohosh may cause local irritation so your ND or health care practitioner will always use the dried roots/rhizome. It may also interfere with hormone replacement therapies and is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. This herb is powerful and is not to be used for more than 6 months uninterrupted.

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. You should never enter into any treatment protocol/supplementation without the advice of a licensed naturopathic doctor or other health care practitioner. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Photo credit: Shotaku / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

References

Godfrey, A. & Saunders, P.R. (2010). Principles & practices of naturopathic botanical medicine.Toronto, Canada: CCNM Press Inc.

Hay, L. (1988). Heal Your Body. United States: Hay House Inc.

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.