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Buying Herbal Supplements – Things To Note

You know all the benefits a herbal supplement can bring you, and if you simply look left, right or center, you will see a myriad of health supplements, and you might not really know what to make of it.

Other recent research presented at the conference CleanUp 2015 found that herbal and Ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. That’s a problem, since long-term exposure to these to these toxins has been shown to cause problems like organ damage and even cancer. Here in Singapore, health supplements are not subjected to pre-market approval by the Health Sciences Authority, and can be imported and sold without a license.

Before you pull out your wallet and buy that bottle claiming to “lower your cholesterol” and “increase your Vitamin D”, take note of these things!

  1. Vitamin and Mineral overdosing
    Large doses of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K can create issues, and even normal doses may interfere with certain prescription medications. Adverse effects can also occur with too much calcium or iron. As we all know, too much of a good thing is bad.

    Here is a good example of how one can overdose on calcium without knowing it:

    An older woman concerned about osteoporosis might eat Whole Grain Total cereal for breakfast (approximately 1,000 milligrams of calcium per serving), with a half-cup of skim milk (150 milligrams of calcium), and take a calcium supplement (500 milligrams) in addition to a One-A-Day Menopause Formula multivitamin (300 milligrams). The upper limit of calcium for this woman is 2,000 milligrams, so she’d only be 50 milligrams short of the daily maximum with more meals yet to be consumed that day.

    Important Things To Take Note When Buying Herbal Supplements

  2. Claims That Might Not Be True
    Be extra cautious around herbal supplements that claim to boost energy levels or help you lose weight. These tend to contain ingredients, like caffeine or bitter orange, that have been shown to create heart palpitations and other issues.
  3. Dubious Ingredients That Should Be Skipped
    In addition to number 2, these four have been linked to serious side effects, and aren’t worth the risk. If you see these ingredients in your herbal supplements, pay extra caution.1. Kava. It has been reported to cause liver damage.
    2. Bitter orange. It contains the chemical syndephrine, which has been linked to heart attacks and strokes in healthy people when taken alone or combined with caffeine.
    3. Contaminated L-tryptophan. It’s associated with neurotoxic reactions.
    4. Chromium. When overused, it’s been linked to anemia—even kidney failure.

It’s not that herbal supplements are all that bad, but with everything else, they should be taken in moderation and with caution and only professional research and recommendation from a healthcare professional.

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Congee Recipes For Cold And Flu

Never paid attention to congee recipes before, have you? You have reason to do so now.

The middle burner in Chinese medicine is the heart of the digestive system.

A vivid image of the middle burner is a wood-burning stove that heats a house. Digestion is the stove, and food is the fuel. The quality of the fuel determines the efficiency of the stove and therefore the warmth of the house, i.e., the health and energy of the body.

A large, heavy breakfast would be like throwing a big oak log on a struggling, flickering flame; it might be snuffed. Cold cereal, milk or raw fruit would be like throwing wet, soggy leaves on a tender little fire. Fried eggs and hash browns would be like green wood; it burns poorly and produces thick, noxious smoke. Not eating breakfast would certainly put the fire out for the day. Ice-cold drinks and foods like ice cream and salads also destroy the digestive fire.

Wood Burning Stove And Congee Recipes

Congee Recipes
Congee is to Asians what chicken noodle soup is to the Americans. The comfort food of all comfort foods, congee holds some healing properties. Firstly, rice is neutral to warming, and very few people are allergic to rice. It tonifies the Qi and Blood and harmonizes the Middle Burner (your digestive system), the stomach and the spleen. Water balances our PH, detoxes and nourishes Yin.

A plain congee is easily digested and can act as a tonic when special ingredients are added.

For example, mulberry congee nourishes the whole body and promotes the production of blood and chestnut and longan congee replenishes the heart blood and kidney essence.

Since the rice itself strengthens the spleen-pancreas digestive center, other foods added to a rice congee become more completely assimilated, and their properties are therefore enhanced.

Watch a video tutorial of how to make chicken congee here.

Mulberry congee
Prepare fresh mulberries (30g, remove the stem) and glutinous rice (50g), bring 1000ml of water to the boil, add the ingredients, and simmer over a low heat for 50 minutes. Add rock sugar to taste, and serve in the morning. This congee is suitable for people with insomnia, dizziness, blurred vision and ear ringing.

Chestnut and longan congee
Prepare chestnut (10 pieces, peeled and chopped), longan aril (15g) and rice (50g), bring to a boil with 2000ml of water, and simmer for 50 minutes. The congee replenishes kidney essence and heart blood, which improves the quality of sleep.

Staying warm and happy is as easy as a bowl of congee. That’s not too difficult, is it? Enjoy your congee recipes!

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10 Herbs For Skin Care

We all want to have good skin, and if you’re reading this post, chances are you have tried drinking as much water as possible, drinking lemon-infused water, sleeping 8 hours a night, and possibly natural masks like yogurt and honey.

Here are 10 herbs you could add to your skin care routine.
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1)     Wild black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) and 2) Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)

Black Raspberry and Blackberry are both marvelous astringents and toners. Use the leaves of each for their high calcium and vitamin C content. When used as a vinegar-based skin toner, these healing components are imparted to the skin as well.

They make good herbs as they do fruits!

3)     Elder Flowers (Sambucus canadensis)

Elder flowers are calming, reparative, and contribute to healing the skin from damage associated with too much sun, trauma, and pollution. They are also a soothing wash for the eyes when made into a tea. Use in astringents, toners, skin creams and skin care oils.

Elder is a splendid small tree and grows rather easily. In a project that I co-founded, we planted a food forest on vacant city lots and included 5 elderberries in the design. They are growing wonderfully and we get a ton of flowers every year. After only 3 years the trees are about 10 feet tall.

4)    Spruce (Picea sp.)

Spruce is highly antimicrobial and bracing, as are other evergreens. The needles are high in vitamin C. Spruce needles can be made into toners and healing balms. This herb has properties beneficial for natural anti-acne formulas, for large pores and oily skin and in men’s skin care. I find evergreens, and tree medicine in general, to be very grounding, comforting and strengthening. I tend towards a seasonal use of spruce and other evergreens, working with them in the cold months as syrups, body oils and balms.

5)     Plantain (Plantago major)

Plantain is a favorite of mine for its drawing properties. Very useful for pulling out bee stings, splinters and even lumps and bumps when used fresh as a poultice. It also has emollient and moistening properties as a base in balms, herbal oils and natural skin care creams. Plantain make as good herbs in anti-aging and dry skin formulas.

While working in the garden, I’ve learned that cleavers, when dead, has very prickly hairs that splinter the skin and sting too. Since they are so small, it’s nearly impossible to remove them. A bandage of chewed up plantain leaves, wrapped with burdock leaf and tied together with a grapevine works very well to ease the pain and redness of the skin and pull out the little needle-like hairs.

6)     Dandelion flower (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion flower is a beautifier and a bright and sunny smile on a spring day. Often regarded as a nuisance, dandelion is a potent herbal medicine. I use this herb from flower to root, for all sorts of medicinal preparations, from a bold roasted root tea to an olive oil based body oil. Herbal skin care applications include infused oil, in balms and skin care creams. Dandelion flowers are suitable for a range of conditions from large pores, age spots, sunburn and chapped skin. An infusion or tea made from the flowers can be used as a wash for a beautifying treatment and the leftover flowers can be made into a poultice. The milky sap of the stem reminds me of glue and is used to curb growths such as warts.

7)     Burdock seed and root (Arctium lappa)

Burdock seed and root (Arctium lappa) is another of our weedy friends. Growing up, we always called it “elephant ears” because the leaves are huge and wrinkled like an elephant. The root is highly regarded for healing acne, as a detoxifier, drawing out impurities and dirt and it has slight anti-microbial properties.

Burdock seed is specific for healing eczema and dry, flaky, crusty scalp (like cradle cap). As an oil, it makes a lustrous hair and skin smoother. Both the seed and root can be used as a fresh wash, poultice and made into a vinegar-based toner.

8)  Witch hazel bark (Hamamelis virginiana) and 9) Oak bark (Quercus sp.)

Witch hazel and Oak barks both have anti-microbial and toning properties. Be sure to harvest these herbs carefully as trees need their barks mostly intact. Both of these barks are astringent yet soothing, useful for conditions such as acne, poison ivy, and anytime an antiseptic is needed. Using the barks as a decoction will ensure that the tannins are kept intact.


10)     Violet (Viola odorata)

Sweet with a touch of astringency, violet leaves and flowers are useful in healing balms, for dry skin care, and to assist in healing wounds, scars, lumps, and bumps. Violet is beneficial as an herbal oil or cream, or used fresh as a poultice. Violet is also a highly regarded anti-inflammatory, and is useful to help resolve fibrocystic breasts and mastitis.