St. John`s Wort Eases Anxiety and Depression: A Natural Remedy That Combats Anxiety, Promotes Calm

Named after Saint John the Baptist, St. John’s wort is a perennial shrub that produces bright yellow flowers each year around June 24, the day that Saint John celebrated his birthday. In ancient times the Romans and Greeks believed that St. John’s wort could ward off evil spirits, but over the centuries the herb has gained popularity as an effective natural antidepressant.

What St. John’s Wort Does

Scientists are not completely sure just how St. John’s wort works but it is believed that the herb boosts serotonin levels in the brain, which is imperative to maintaining healthy mood and emotion.
Although few studies have been conducted to determine its effects on severe depression, St. John’s wort has been used for many years as an effective remedy for mild to moderate depression and the symptoms associated with it.
St. John’s wort promotes sound sleep and can be particularly valuable for those who suffer from depression marked by low levels of energy, fatigue and sleeplessness.
St. John’s wort may also be helpful in treating those who suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. Better known as “wintertime blues” SAD is a kind of depression that starts with the dullness of fall and winter and starts to dissipates in the bright sun filled days of spring and summer.

How to Take St. John’s Wort

Much like prescription antidepressants, St. John’s wort must be allowed to build up in the system in order to become effective, so be sure to allow 3 -4 weeks to determine if it is working. If traditional antidepressants have already been prescribed, always consult a doctor before adding or switching to St. John’s wort.
Take St. John’s as close as possible to meal time to avoid any potential stomach upset.
Whether the herb is to be taken in the form of a liquid, gelcap, capsule or tablet always follow package directions as to the proper dosage to be taken.
The usual recommended dose is 300 mg of an extract standardized to contain 0.3% hypericin per day.
It is also helpful to note that hypericin is also said to combat stomach ulsers.

Fewer Side Effects

With all of the possible side effects associated with conventional antidepressants, anyone who has ever suffered from any of the conditions that accompany mild depression knows how difficult finding an effective remedy can be. St. John’s wort is said to have fewer side effects than conventional antidepressants.
Although St. John’s wort may interfere with prescription antidepressants, it does not appear to interact with other medications, which makes it a good alternative for older people who take multiple medications. Possible side effects can include upset stomach, constipation, dizziness, dry mouth and fatigue.

Other Uses
St. John’s wort also has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties and, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, has been used topically to help heal wounds, burns and is often used for the pain, burning, itching and discomfort associated with hemorrhoids.
Many herbal practitioners claim that those who suffer from PMS (premenstrual syndrome), chronic pain and fibromyalgia can benefit from the pain relieving effects of St. John’s wort.
Reminder: If you have any psychiatric or medical condition, always consult a doctor before adding or switching to an herbal supplement to treat symptoms.

BBQ Margherita Pizza – An Easy, Tasty, Healthy Meal

When Southern California recently went completely dark due to a huge power outage that affected nearly 5 million residents, I found myself in a conundrum. What could I make for dinner that wouldn’t require electricity? The answer I came up with was a tasty one: homemade pizza on the barbecue. Here is a recipe for an old Neapolitan treat: Pizza Margherita. This is my friend Saralisa’s version.

Saralisa’s Pizza Margherita

  • 1 package of pizza dough
  • two tablespoons of cornmeal
  • three tablespoons of flour
  • two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • two large tomatoes
  • 1 package of buffalo mozzarella
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Directions

You can certainly make your own pizza dough, but I prefer to purchase it already made. It can be found at most pizza parlors, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for less than $3 dollars. Let the dough defrost in its package until it has expanded and fills the entire bag. This is the wonder of yeast at work.

  1. Preheat your barbecue to 500°. You can also place this in your oven (given your power is still on!) and bake it at the same temperature as an alternative.
  2. Place flour on your work surface, and with a rolling pin, slowly role the dough into the shape you prefer — either a traditional circle or a rectangle. It is worth investing in a pizza stone (if you make this on the barbecue, make sure that the stone you buy can withstand the heat). You can find them at any specialty cooking store. I bought mine at Sur la Table. They range in cost from $40 to $60, which isn’t cheap. But remember, they can be used to cook pastries, vegetables or chicken as well. In other words, it is a piece of crockery you will use for years.
  3. Spread the cornmeal evenly across the stone. This will keep your cooked pizza from sticking. Lay the dough evenly across the stone.
  4. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat the dough in the extra virgin olive oil. Cut the tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella in thin slices and place neatly on the dough. Add the fresh basil leaves.
  5. Add kosher salt, black pepper and the oregano to season.
  6. Cook your pizza until it is golden colored and the cheese has melted. This should be approximately 15 minutes. When the pizza is finished it will resemble the colors of the Italian flag, red, white and green!

Serve your Pizza Margherita with a bold red wine like a Chianti or Zinfandel.

Start Eating Beans Now: How to Buy, Eat and Enjoy Legumes

Beans have been supper staples since the dawn of time, and were an integral part of hunger-gatherer societies. Their easy-to-store dried form made them an ideal ancient choice, as well as their abundance of fiber and nutrition. Fava beans, chickpeas, broad beans and the Windsor beans were consumed tens of thousands of years ago.

Beans, Beans, They’re Good for Your Heart

Modern eaters should take a cue from our ancestors, as more and more research shows that beans are in fact, good for your heart, especially when eating in combination with a healthy diet. Beans are good source of protein and fiber, and contain thiamine, folic acid, and vitamin E.

In 2007 the National Institutes of Health conducted a study that involved the largest U.S. investigation into the Mediterranean diet, which involves eating healthy beans or legumes three times per week. The results showed that those continuing this diet were 20 percent less likely to die of heart disease or cancer.

Beans also have a great effect on weight reduction. Best Nutrition magazine’s article about eating healthy beans to maintain weight cites recent developments that prove bean eaters weight less. “People who eat ¾ cup of beans daily weigh 6.6 pounds less than those who don’t eat beans, even though the bean eaters consume 199 calories more a day,” the article states.

Healthy beans can be added to any diet as an easy swap for traditional protein like meat or poultry. The USDA recommends men under 50 eat 6 to 6 ½ ounces of protein per day; 5 to 5 ½ ounces for women. In the world of beans, 1 ounce equal ¼ cup of dried beans.

Beans, Beans, The More You Eat The More You…

Yes, beans cause gas, in what is scientifically known as food intolerance. Beans contain a complex sugar called oligosaccharides, and the stomach lacks the enzymes to digest them. Oligosaccharides move through the digestive track to the lower intestine, where bacteria ferment the sugars and produce the aforementioned flatulence.

Commercial enzymes are available that can be taken orally, in pill form, or added to food directly in liquid form to help aid bean digestion.

Bargain Beans: Dry or Canned

Beans aren’t just good for you: they’re cheap. Most canned beans are under a buck, and a one-pound bag of dry beans, which will result in 6 cups of cooked beans, is a dollar bargain.

 

Most cooks and food experts will attest, for nutritional bang and flavor superiority, dry beans are superior to canned beans. Quick-soak cooking methods can take the time element out of dry bean preparation, and leftovers can be easily portioned and frozen until ready for the next bean recipe.

Canned beans are popular for their convenience and no-cook time. When choosing canned beans, opt for low-sodium varieties, and be sure to drain and rinse beans thoroughly before using. Remember that in any recipe calling for canned beans, the equal portion of cooked dried beans can be substituted.

Yes, the world should “eat beans at every meal.” With extreme health benefits, cost efficiency and versatile recipe options, beans are one ingredient that may indeed, be a magical fruit.

Gotu Kola Energizes and Rejeuvenates: An Effective Herbal Remedy for Heart and Mental Health

Centella asiatica, commonly known as Gotu kola, has been referred to as “one of the miracle elixirs of life.” This creeping plant is known in Indian (Ayurvedic) tradition as a rasayana, or rejeuvenative tonic. Its range of medicinal uses is exceptional. According to folklore, one ancient Chinese herbalist lived to over 200 years of age as a result of using Gotu kola.

Medicinal Uses of Gotu Kola

Gotu kola is highly valued for its effectiveness in treating a variety of skin disorders, including leprosy. It provides healing action for wounds and psoriasis. Gotu kola is believed to have a refreshing effect on the mind, and is used to treat depression. European herbalists use the herb to treat the conditions that underlie connective tissue swelling in disorders such as scleroderma, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Modern research has confirmed many of the traditional uses of Gotu kola, and has suggested interesting new uses as well. Gotu kola offers potential for treating high blood pressure and pooling of blood in the veins, known as venous insufficiency. Gotu kola is traditionally used as an herbal therapy for syphillis, ulcers, epilepsy, bronchitis, asthma, and hepatitis.

Gotu Kola Fights Tuberculosis

Gotu kola has a revitalizing effect on the brain and nervous system, and is believed to increase attention span and concentration, counteracting the effects of aging.The plant is valued as a mild adaptogen. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-ulcerogenic stimulant and diuretic properties. Gotu kola also is effective in treating venous insufficiency,and is used in some areas for opium detoxification.

Another interesting use of Gotu kola is seen in its effectiveness against tuberculosis. This effect was studied on guinea pigs which had been infected with tubercle bacillus 15 days previously. The animals were injected with a 4% solution of hydroxyasiaticoside extracted from Gotu kola. The extract was shown to reduct the quantity of tubercular lesions in the lungs, liver, nerve cells and spleen of the infected animals. The extract also decreased the spleen volume of the treated animals. These results show that Gotu kola demonstrates anti-tubercular activity.

Gotu Kola Improves Cardiac Health

Clinical trials have affirmed Gotu kola’s effectiveness in treating venous insufficiency and varicose veins. These conditions are characterized by pooling of blood in the legs and leakage of fluid from the veins due to loss of elasticity. Ninety-four participants in a clinical study reported improvement in their venous insufficiency symptoms after being treated with Gotu kola. In a second study, ultrasound examination of patients with varicose veins showed improvement in vascular tone after treatment with Gotu kola.

Other studies have suggested that Gotu kola has a cardiotonic effect, reducing blood pressure. In a clinical study, patients with heart disease and high blood pressure who took Gotu kola experienced a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure.