Food Shortage? Not If You Eat Wild!

eating edible wild foodsJoin Julie today as she talks with herbalist and naturalist, Karen Stephenson of Edible Wild Food about how to combat food shortage and gain better nutrition through edible wild foods. As we know, God gave us far more than just 25 plant species to eat. The planet is bursting with edible wild foods that are available for free. Listen to this interview to learn more about how you can take advantage of God’s abundance and secure your family against food shortages and nutrient depletion.  Karen is also one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Family Wellness Conference.

So, Karen, tell us a bit about how you became interested in wild edibles.

It goes back to my teenage years.  I grew up in a neighborhood in which there were maybe just a handful of Italian families. And it was common to see the Italian women collecting dandelions. When I asked my parents about that, they said, “Well, that’s just what the Italians do.” And my mom, she was like a typical British cook, you could say. And so, our meals growing up were not very exciting when it came to exploring new flavors and spices. So, when I moved out, that’s what I started to do. I started to get a little bit more adventurous in the kitchen.

Then, maybe after about a year or two, I was thinking about those Italian women and I started incorporating the dandelions. Then I thought, This is incredible! There has to be more. And I started examining all these different plants. And then it was just one plant led to another. But, I went into a holding pattern when I became a mother with three little kids, all close in age. But then one day, I was looking at the goldenrod one autumn. It was late, late August and I was looking at this sea of yellow thinking, OK, that’s the next one. You’ve got to be good for something. There wouldn’t be as many if there were no purpose. There has to be a purpose. Well, that opened the floodgates and I went from one plant to another again. That’s how it all started.

And how did you just segue that into teaching others about the wild edibles?

In 2009, I started coming across certain articles on the Internet. These articles talked about a food shortage in the future and that grocery store food prices would be through the roof. They talked a bit about food sustainability and it got me thinking about Scripture, too. I really struggled with it because no matter what you have or don’t have, with a little knowledge, you can have the most nutrient-dense meal to serve your family every day—for free. So, my husband helped me set up a website and then I spent an entire year doing photography research. Then, I realized that I needed some credentials since, you know, that’s the first question people often ask. And that’s what led me to become an herbalist and a naturalist.

So, tell us a bit about how edible wild food can protect you from food shortage and why people should eat wild foods.

Bottom line, there is no secret the soils are nutrient depleted. And this is not a new revelation. People have been warning us about this for some time and this is coming from the USDA’s website.

So bottom line is, if our vegetables are grown in nutrient depleted soils and we’re eating these nutrient depleted vegetables, we are now nutrient depleted.

Hear more about this by listening to the podcast! Karen also talks about simple ways to get started with wild foods, even if you live in an urban area.

Karen talks in greater detail about this topic at the Family Wellness Conference. Find her at her website, Edible Wild Food, and enjoy her extensive collection of recipes and articles.

Honoring Your Body Through Fitness

Honoring Your Body Through FitnessJoin Julie today as she talks with personal trainer, De Bolton of Faith Fueled Mom about honoring your body through fitness. As we know, our bodies are the temple of God and are an important part of how we honor our Lord. Listen to this interview to learn more about the role of fitness and diet in meeting our potential as servants of the Most High.  De is also one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Family Wellness Conference.

So. Dee, tell us a little bit about your background and what prompted you to go from direct sales to personal trainer? What could have prompted you to do that because I understand you were really good with the direct sales?

You are absolutely right. It was a literal life change when I went from direct sales to personal training, I was in direct sales and I was one of the top in my company. And honestly, I just got tired of partying.

I was in one of those companies that you hosted a bunch of parties, and it sounds crazy to get tired of partying, but I did. I also was a mom of three little girls at the time and it was a lot of work. At the time, though, I was physically unhealthy. I tell people I was underweight spiritually and I was overweight physically. So, I decided to go on my own weight loss journey. And through the journey I got a conviction to honor my temple, so I just literally transformed my life from the inside out.

Then, I went back to school and got a fitness and exercise science degree and certified as a personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist, fitness nutrition specialist, weight loss specialist and senior fitness specialist. Now, I get to serve women and help them reclaim their temple.

I love that you said, “underweight spiritually and overweight physically.” You told us about honoring your body. How did you address the underweight spiritually?

For sure. So like I said, when I started my journey, I was overweight and I went through a fast through another direct selling company. I literally prayed my way through the 30 day fast. I didn’t lose a lot of weight, but I did have a really intimate relationship with God.

Hear more from De about honoring your body and your temple on the podcast!

How did you address the weight loss after you were through with the fasting portion?

So I went to a trainer, an online trainer, actually, and I joined a community of Christian women. It was nice to be in a community of women and also be educated by somebody who knew how to lose weight. So that was one thing I did. I tell people, ask for help.

I also learned to focus on small wins and lifestyle changes rather than a number on the scale. I feel like celebrating those small things made the journey much more pleasurable. And I always say grace over guilt. So you’re celebrating all the good things that you’re doing and then when you do mess up, and you do have that donut, you don’t feel as bad.

Learn more about the balance of honoring your body versus putting too much emphasis on fitness and diet on the podcast. They also discuss a transformational program called Bible and Bootcamp.

Tell us about how moms can fit exercise and fitness into their busy day as moms?

I’m a mom of three, so I can definitely relate to that. My three are not so little anymore. But as far as fitness, your faith and life, I say move more and nourish your body. Keep it very simple. You don’t have to go to the gym. Dance parties are amazing. Kids love to dance for 15 minutes. Everybody’s sweating in the room. And you moved your body more than you did the day before. Get more tips on the podcast!.

De has a special promotion for all podcast listeners.

$10 off on her app, FaithfueledLife, with code CRUNCHY. Check it out! You get daily devotionals, fitness and meal plans, ability to set goals and track progress, and more!

Click here to learn more: FaithfueledLife,

 

Embracing an Herbal Lifestyle: Some Insights

embracing and herbal lifestyleWant to know about embracing an herbal lifestyle? Join Julie on today’s episode as she interviews Jamie Fivecoate Larrison of The Herbal Spoon. She is a trained herbalist and in addition to her own site, she is also the DIY and Natural Remedies Editor with Wellness Mama. She has trained with some notable herbalists such as James McDonald and Dr. Aviva Romm, among many others. And Julie is thrilled to have her on the show. Julie talks with her today about her background with plants, embracing an herbal lifestyle, and more. Jamie is one of the speakers at the upcoming Family Wellness Conference. Take a peek at the interview.

Embracing an Herbal Lifestyle: An Interview with Jamie Fivecoate Larrison

So, Jamie, you were telling me that you have always had an interest in plants since you were a young girl. How did that interest develop initially?

So, I grew up with my grandparents and my grandpa had been a farmer. I thought it was totally normal for everybody to have seven gardens and a small fruit orchard at their house. I can’t really pinpoint a moment in my life where I thought, now this is the moment I love plants. It just developed over time.

So, growing up, gardening with my mom, gardening with my grandpa, we did a lot of canning and preserving with my grandma. Plants were very much a part of our life. We were embracing an herbal lifestyle. And my grandma had a patch of mint growing in the yard that we would always get leaves from. I think all of that played a huge influence and I developed a love for nature at a young age.

Tell me a little bit more about those seven gardens. Did they have a garden for each type of vegetable?

Well, we had a fairly large property and my grandpa thought if it could be done, it should be done.

My grandpa decided if there’s space for a garden, we’ll put another garden here. So, yeah, he had his own system, but there was there was quite a bit to it.

Hear more about Jamie’s experiences growing up embracing an herbal lifestyle on the podcast. She shares additional stories and how to encourage kids to love nature.

Would you mind sharing with our listeners today some of your favorite recipes, or maybe your favorite story of some something that happened with one of your kids or with yourself where you were using your herbal knowledge?

I will start off by saying that one of my first memories of using herbs for medicine is when I was about 13 years old. And at the time my mom had been in a car accident and was not mentally able to really care for our family at that time. So, I really had to grow up fast. I was about 13, I was sick with the flu, and I thought, OK, I’ve got this. I’ve read about how to cure the flu and I’m going to go find some herbs in my yard and get this over with.

I had this book from Penelope Ody at the time, and it was one of those Dorling Kindersley books where it doesn’t really get into details and it’s probably not the best. I made a really, really strong mulberry leaf infusion and drank a whole quart of it and I thought I’d killed myself because I started sweating like crazy.

I thought, Oh, no, I’ve done myself in. Nobody even knew what I did. Then, I took a really long nap and I woke up feeling perfectly fine.

But that was one of my one of my first stories. Over the years, I’ve come up with different recipes that maybe aren’t such strong infusions and I have gained a little more knowledge.

Hear more stories from Jamie and about some other remedies and her adventures with her skin care products.

What do you think is the most important aspect of health to address first for somebody who’s just learning about embracing an herbal lifestyle?

Well, as an herbalist, of course, I love working with herbs, but I do feel like one of the most important things is nutrition. So many people I’ve seen are perfectly happy to take a whole pile of herbal supplements, but they don’t want to change their diet.

And if we don’t?

If we don’t give our body the building materials that it needs to be healthy, we’re going to continue to manifest these symptoms. And so I think the important thing is to try to get that mind set shift first, because if we get our mind set in the right place, then everything else can start to follow

Do you have any last comments, last tips that you want to share with people before we say goodbye?

Something Jim McDonald had shared with me regarding what we had been talking about with nutrition, with helping people make healthy choices, and have that mindset shift is this. Instead of thinking about What am I going to take away from my lifestyle and my diet? so much, think about positive things. For example, What am I going to add? Because if you focus on the positive, focus on what good things you’re adding, it’s going to automatically push out the bad habits.

Hear more from Jamie on the podcast and attend her workshops at the Family Wellness Conference held on March 4-5, 2021.

How to Control Blood Sugar Naturally

How to Control Blood Sugar NaturallyWant to know how to control blood sugar naturally? Julie gives some tips in this week’s Crunchy Christian Podcast episode. First, she discusses the differences between simple and complex carbs. This is because controlling your intake of simple carbs is the heart of how to control blood sugar.

How to Control Blood Sugar Naturally

Understand the difference between simple and complex carbs.

You don’t just get hungry when your stomach is empty, you also get cravings when your body is running low on important nutrients. Carbohydrates are a nutrient and your body needs them, but there are two kinds of carbohydrates.

Complex Carbohydrates

Some carbohydrates, called “complex carbohydrates”, digest slowly. These are the carbs that come from sources like grains. This means that after you eat them, they gradually release sugar into your body, which your body can use as needed for several hours. Incidentally, because complex carbs take so long to digest, they also leave your stomach feeling fuller longer. This can also help to keep hunger at bay. These carbs generally come from seed-based foods—grains, nuts, and beans. Most of them also tend to have a lower glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) tells us how quickly a carb is digested and how much it raises blood sugar levels. A lower GI means it digests more slowly and has less of an effect on blood sugar. A high GI means it digests quickly and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

Simple Carbohydrates

Other carbohydrates, namely sugars, are called “simple carbohydrates”. These are much easier for your body to break down. That means that instead of supplying your body with long-burning energy for a few hours like complex carbs do, it extracts and either burns or stores the sugars in a very short amount of time. These carbs flood your bloodstream, have a higher GI, and often provide few nutrients. The steep sugar spikes can cause your blood to carry too much sugar. The extra sugar can damage sensitive nerve tissue and blood vessels. Another problem is that these excess calories don’t provide nutrition, leaving your body asking for more food in order to address the deficit.

Fruit can be a healthy source of simple carbs, but you still don’t want to have too many simple carbs. So, put some fruit on the side of your plate and make sure that most of your plate is made up of low-carb vegetables, slow-burning carbs like whole grains, and plenty of protein. Protein is another nutrient that your body can use for energy but that takes a while to break down. It also doesn’t change your blood sugar at all because the energy in protein doesn’t come from sugars.

How to Control Blood Sugar Naturally by Eliminating Added Sugars

When you are avoiding sugar to improve your health, you should understand the different names that manufacturers use for this sweet substance. Here is a list of the names used for the added sugar in foods and beverages:

• Fructose sweetener
• Evaporated cane juice
• Crystal dextrose
• Corn syrup (and the high fructose variety)
• Cane sugar
• Corn sweetener
• Brown sugar
• Fruit juice
• Maple syrup
• Honey
• Dextrose
• Maltose
• Agave nectar

This is a partial list of the names for sugar because manufacturers create new types of sweeteners occasionally. To determine if a product at the grocery store has any type of sugar, you must read the small print on the package’s label. Remember that the beverages and foods that are labeled as natural, organic, healthy or low-calorie can still have added sugar. In addition, some foods contain natural sugars, but these types of foods frequently have high levels of minerals, fiber and vitamins. You might notice that some natural sugars are on this list. These have nutritional value but can still be added sugars. This is because added sugar means any sugar that doesn’t occur naturally.

Listen to the podcast for additional information about healthy sugars and other ways for how to control blood sugar naturally.

Ready to tackle the sugar monster? Need some support and guidance for ditching the sugar habit? Join the free Ditch the Sugar Challenge starting February 1.

 

How Sugar Affects the Body

Find out more about how sugar affects the body in this podcast.Ever wonder if that donut is as harmless as it looks? An occasional treat won’t hurt you, but a daily habit might do more harm than just add a few pounds. Find out more about how sugar affects the body in this podcast.

How Sugar Affects the Body

You May Gain Weight

One way of how sugar affects the body is by adding extra pounds. There are two ways that this happens. First, it triggers the reward center in your brain. Sweet things make us feel good, which then turns on our desire to want more so we continue to feel good. This cycle continues even when we’re full and not hungry anymore, causing us to eat more than we need. The second way that it causes us to gain weight is through the liver. When the liver processes excess sugar, the extra glucose is converted into fat molecules for storage. So, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In fact, it is the extra unused sugar and carbohydrates that taste so good that make you fat.

It Can Increase Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

While sugar is not the only culprit for type 2 diabetes, it is certainly another way of how sugar affects the body.  High amounts of sugar that break down quickly flood the bloodstream with glucose. Your cells need insulin in order to use the glucose. But, if the cells are constantly stimulated by insulin, they develop a tolerance for it and become unaffected by it. Then, your body needs to release more and more insulin to move the glucose into the cells. This continues until you become so insulin resistant that you develop type 2 diabetes. In addition to insulin resistance throughout the body, there is another way of how sugar affects the body. The high sugar intake leads to insulin resistance in the brain as well, leading to cognitive decline. In fact, people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop dementia, which is why Alzheimer’s is now considered type 3 diabetes.

It Can Overload Your Liver (Fatty Liver)

As mentioned above, your liver processes all that excess glucose and converts it into fat. But, your liver can only metabolize so much of it at one time. The liver turns the excess glucose and fructose into fat that can accumulate not just in your midsection and thighs but in the liver, causing liver damage. Sometimes it can even lead to scarring and eventual cutting off of the liver’s blood supply, which means you need a transplant. It is important to note that the amount of fructose needed to overload your liver is only possible with an excessive amount of added sugar, so fructose found in fruit is likely not nearly enough to cause this.

How Sugar Affects the Body in Mind and Mood

If you are someone who suffers from mood swings or mental health issues, you might notice that they become worse when you consume a lot of sugar. Sugar causes a short-term boost of energy that leads to a much longer sugar crash. This in turn can make it harder when dealing with mental health issues like depression. This is because another way of how sugar affects the body is that it messes with your ability to produce serotonin by using up its vitamin pre-cursors and altering gut flora. In addition, too much sugar can also cause severe mood swings and irritability. Sugar also alters our ability to resist temptation, making it hard to control impulsive behavior and delay gratification. Research shows that a high sugar diet can impair memory function and cause inflammation in the brain.

Learn about more ways of how sugar can affect the body by listening to the podcast!

Tackle your sugar cravings and ditch the habit by signing up for the FREE Ditch the Sugar Challenge starting February 1. Sign up by clicking HERE.

The Low Down on Artificial Sweeteners

Find out more about what they are and what they do to your body in this episode about the low down on artificial sweeteners with Julie Polanco.Do you use artificial sweeteners in your morning coffee? How about diet soda or in baking? Find out more about what they are and what they do to your body in this episode about the low down on artificial sweeteners with Julie Polanco.

This episode sponsored by the Ditch the Sugar challenge, a free challenge starting February 1 to help you conquer sugar cravings once and for all.

Sign up for the Challenge!

What are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are sweeteners that are manmade and not found in nature. They usually go by names such as aspartame, sucralose, maltodextrin, xylitol, and saccharin. Others that occur in nature but are super processed or, when added to foods, are manmade include erythritol, dextrose, maltose, fructose, glucose syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. We’re going to focus on the purely artificial ones, though. People often use artificial sweeteners because they are trying to curb their use of sugar. This may be because of diabetes, a desire to lose weight, or other reasons. Besides using it as an alternative to sugar in drinks and baked goods, people also choose prepared foods containing artificial sweeteners.

Occasional use of artificial sweeteners often poses no issues. However, research shows conflicted results for long-term use. In addition, people who use artificial sweeteners exclusively and frequently over longer time periods often experience negative side effects. Let’s dig in!

The Low Down on Artificial Sweeteners

First of all, artificial sweeteners can affect your body in a number of ways. Here are some possible negative side effects of using them.

Your Sense of Taste May Be Dulled

Have you noticed that your taste buds have changed, or the intensity of flavors have dulled over time? This might be the result of an over consumption of artificial sweeteners. This is because many of these sweeteners are many times sweeter than naturally occurring sweeteners.

You become accustomed to the sweeter taste of artificial, processed sweeteners, and over time, start losing the desire for naturally occurring sugars. But the good news is that if you start reducing how much artificial sweetener is in your diet, and begin consuming natural sources of sweeteners, your normal tastes can return.

It Can Boost Craving Intensity

One of the most dangerous effects caused by sweeteners is that they stimulate pleasure centers in your brain. Under normal circumstances, these pleasure centers eventually reach a point where they become satiated and you stop eating or drinking.  But in the case of artificial sweeteners, you may never feel satisfied. Instead, you feel intense cravings that cause you to overindulge in foods and drinks, and that is contrary to what you’ve been trying to achieve the entire time.

Gut Problems May Be in the Future

Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can also have negative effects on your gut health. For example, even though sweeteners are considered safe, you might develop a glucose intolerance form the sweeteners. They can also add to digestive distress like stomach cramps, nausea, and other issues with your digestive system. If you notice that you have a stomachache when you drink a Diet Coke, it might be from the sweeteners used, as opposed to the other ingredients.

To find out additional effects from artificial sweeteners, including neurological ones, listen to the podcast!

Warnings

Never give sugar-free, artificially sweetened beverages or foods to children! Even though these sweeteners are considered safe by the FDA, the reported side effects and conflicting research should give us pause. And, keep these foods away from pets.

Sign up HERE for the free Ditch the Sugar Challenge, starting February 1.

 

 

 

Cinnamon Benefits and Uses

Cinnamon Benefits and UsesWe love our pumpkin spice, apple pies, snickerdoodle cookies, and other cinnamon flavored goodies during the holidays. But did you know that cinnamon benefits your health in many ways, too? Learn more in this podcast with Julie Polanco.

Cinnamon Through History

Cinnamomum zeylanicum, or Cinnamon has a long history of use, going back to the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. The Ceylon variety grown in Sri Lanka (which was once called Ceylon) appears in Chinese writings as far back as 2800 BC. The Egyptians used it in their embalming spices. In the first century AD, the Roman Pliny the Elder wrote that 350 grams of cinnamon was worth more than five kilograms of silver. This means that cinnamon was an expensive and highly valued spice that only the nobles could afford, much like frankincense and myrrh. Indeed, it is said that the Roman Emperor Nero ordered that a year’s supply of cinnamon be burnt as an atonement after he murdered his second wife.

In medieval times, they knew of cinnamon benefits. After all, the doctors of the day used it to treat coughs, sore throats, and hoarseness. The upper classes also used it to preserve meats. However, it was difficult to get. Only Arabs traded in cinnamon and they carefully guarded the secret of their source. Since they traveled over difficult land routes, they kept this monopoly for centuries. In addition, they loved to tell tall tales about cinnamon to deter others and to justify the high prices.

Hear some of the tall tales the Arabs would tell on the podcast!

Discovered by Explorers

As we all know, Columbus and other explorers set out to find water routes to the far East in the late 1400’s and into the early 1500’s. They were, of course, looking for safer and faster routes to get the spices that were in great demand but expensive to buy. So, in 1518, the Portuguese found the source of Cinnamon and enslaved the island until the Dutch overthrew them in 1638. Then, the Dutch held the cinnamon monopoly for another 150 years until the British took over the island in 1784 after the fourth Anglo-Dutch war. However, the price of cinnamon had dramatically decreased by then. Other countries had discovered that they could enjoy cinnamon benefits by growing it in other parts of the world such as Java, Sumatra, Guyana, the West Indies, and other places.

Today, much of the grocery store cinnamon is not true cinnamon, but a cousin called Cassia. It is cheaper and has a stronger flavor but is not as medicinal.

Modern Research on Cinnamon Benefits and Uses

One of the active constituents of cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde. This is what gives it its unique and delicious smell. It is also high in antioxidant polyphenols, which is why it can be used to preserve meat. Amazingly, it has more antioxidants than even garlic or oregano, according to research. Because of this, another one of the cinnamon benefits is that it is anti-inflammatory and can help lower cholesterol levels. It may also inhibit tumor cell growth and help prevent cancer.

In addition, cinnamon benefits those at risk for diabetes. According to studies, cinnamon oil can help prevent Type 2 diabetes by preventing insulin resistance. Another way that cinnamon benefits those at risk for diabetes is that it can interfere with digestive enzymes, slowing the breakdown of food into glucose.

Of course, it has also proven be effective against oral bacteria and respiratory fungal infections and maybe that’s why medieval doctors liked to use it for coughs and other respiratory issues. It has also traditionally been used for issues in the gastrointestinal tract, such as vomiting, flatulence, and diarrhea.

Warning

Cinnamon contains coumarins, which in large amounts can be problematic. The best type of cinnamon to use is the original Ceylon Cinnamon because it has less coumarins and tends to be higher in medicinal properties.

Ready to dig into cinnamon? Get your FREE cinnamon recipe coloring pages by clicking HERE.

Peppermint Benefits and Uses

Peppermint Benefits and UsesEver wonder how peppermint came to be associated with Christmas? Learn the story and more about peppermint benefits and uses with Julie Polanco in this podcast episode.

Peppermint Benefits and Historic Uses

Mentha piperita, a natural hybrid of Mentha aquatica and Mentha spicata (water mint and spearmint), has a long history of use. It was used as a flavoring in sauces and wines, going as far back as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Egyptians used it as a remedy for indigestion and the Greeks and Romans used it to ease stomach issues. It is said that the Egyptians valued it so much that they used it as currency. By 1240, it appeared in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeia as an herbal remedy and indeed, the monks used it as tooth polisher among its other common uses. Cheesemakers saw that one of the peppermint benefits was that it kept the rats away.

By the 1700’s, Europeans expanded peppermint benefits to include other stomach ailments such as nausea, vomiting, morning sickness as well as respiratory and menstrual disorders. In modern times it appears in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a remedy for intestinal colic, gas, colds, morning sickness, and menstruation pain.

The cultivation of peppermint started in Europe but expanded to North America as settlers came. The American natives knew of mint and were already using it, but they used a different species. Today, the United States produces 75% of the world’s supply, with most coming from Michigan.

Peppermint and Christmas

The traditional legend is that a German church choirmaster in the late 1600’s gave candies in the shape of shepherd’s staffs to the children to keep them quiet. At that time, they were white and may not have even been peppermint flavored. But, that is the tale of the cane-shaped candy, although the peppermint flavor wouldn’t be added for another 200 years or so. Most candy was made by hand, so this tradition wouldn’t have spread far. Therefore, it is hard to verify whether this story is true or not.

Listen to the podcast to hear the remarkable story of how a Georgian candy maker started the candy cane tradition.

There are many legends about why they are striped, including that they represent Jesus’ blood. However, it’s more likely that they are striped just to be festive. After all, who wants a plain white cane?

Today, Bryan, Ohio is the candy cane capital of the world and 90% of candy canes are consumed by Americans.

Peppermint Benefits Come from Its Constituents

The whole plant is used for medicinal purposes and people prepare it as a tea and essential oil. The tea and essential oil contain the principal active ingredients of the plant: menthol, menthone, and menthyl acetate. Menthyl acetate is responsible for peppermint’s minty aroma and flavor. Menthol, peppermint’s main active ingredient, is found in the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. It provides the cool sensation of the herb. Peppermint also contains vitamins A and C, magnesium, potassium, inositol, niacin, copper, iodine, silicon, iron, and sulfur.

In addition to peppermint benefits to the digestive system, it also relieves headaches. A 1996 German study showed that a 10% solution of peppermint essential oil was just as effective as 1000mg of acetaminophen in relieving headaches. Another one of peppermint benefits that the German Commission E approves is temporary relief of nasal and sinus congestion.

Peppermint benefits the body in many other ways, too. One might begin to believe that peppermint is good for almost anything. It is generally safe for children and during pregnancy in moderation. It is also an easy herb to grow in any yard. However, the quality of the soil and the climate does affect the menthol levels.

Pine Tree Symbolism and Uses

How about some historical fun with pine tree symbolism and uses?Are you ready for Christmas yet? How about some historical fun with pine tree symbolism and uses? Check out the podcast with Julie and dig into lore from around the world.

Pine Tree Symbolism from History and Around the World

Europe

Did you know that the oldest living tree in the world is a Bristlecone Pine Tree living in the White Mountains of California? They call it Methuselah and carefully guard its location. Estimates put it at 5,000 years old!

The Pinus family of evergreen trees grows all over the world and thus, pine tree symbolism crosses cultures and continents. What binds them all together is the pine’s association with longevity and peace.

In ancient Greece, the pine was particularly sacred to Dionysus and his worshippers. In the ancient city of Corinth, the Corinthians were ordered by the Delphic Oracle to worship the pine along with Dionysus as a god. In the ancient Greek culture, the evergreen tree was the symbol of immortality.  And, its resin was used to purify, sterilize, and embalm things that one wanted to preserve over time, such as the dead.

The Romans also had a mythology around pine trees. The story goes that the goddess Cybele fell in love with a handsome young man, Attis. She took him to her temple to be a priest there, vowing chastity. But, another goddess, jealous of Cybele, seduced him and he broke his vow. Attis ran away and died under the branches of a pine tree. It is said that the Jupiter took pity on him and turned him into an immortal pine, with Saturn as his protector. At the spring equinox (March 22), the followers of Cybele would cut a pine tree down and bring it into her sanctuary in honor of Attis. In addition, during the Roman holiday of Saturnalia (Dec. 17-25th), the ancient Romans would decorate pine trees with ornaments such as oscilla, which were made in the image of Bacchus, and little clay dolls known as sigillaria.

And in the northern European countries, pine trees (or firs) were decorated to celebrate the birth of Frey, the Norse god of the sun and fertility, at the end of the year. The tops of the trees were lit because in winter as the days were getting shorter.  Northern people thought that doing so the light will attract the sun.

Asia

Pine tree symbolism in Asia shares some similarities to Europe. In Japan, Pine trees are associated with the New Year. Many Japanese hang a bundle of pine twigs and bamboo trunks known as a Kado matsu (“Gate pine” in English) on their doors to receive a blessing from the gods. Perhaps this is why, in the Japanese Middle Ages, pines were a common decoration for samurai. Pines are also used to mark the boundaries of the sacred ground of temples and shrines and are a popular tree of choice for the art of bonsai. Many of these bonsai trees live to be hundreds of years old!

In more recent times, Japan attributed pine tree symbolism to a pine tree that survived both the earthquake and tsunami in the March 2011 devastation of the city of Rikuzentakata. The surrounding forest of 70,000 pine trees was completely destroyed except for one lone pine tree. This tree became a national symbol of resilience and determination to stand tall and rebuild in the face of the massive destruction in northeast Japan. Sadly enough, seawater seeped into the roots of the Rikuzentakata tree, causing it to rot and die. In September 2012, the tree was cut down.

Native Americans’ Pine Tree Symbolism

In North America, the pine tree holds a sacred place among the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora). For them, the pine tree – and in particular the Eastern White Pine – is the Tree of Peace. This is because it is underneath the roots of the Tree of Peace that weapons were buried. And, among other native tribes, it holds a sacred place as well, making it a universal symbol. Native people didn’t just hold the tree as sacred, though. They also used the pine needles, sap, bark, and nuts for medicinal purposes, traditional handicrafts, and in recipes. Pine-needle baskets are still a popular Native handicraft to this very day.

Julie talks about pine tree symbolism in Christmas traditions and how it came to be the Christmas tree of choice on the podcast! Be sure to tune in.

Pine Tree Uses

We all know about the role of pine in housing and furniture construction. But, pine tar and pitch has long been used to protect surfaces such as boat hulls and as an embalming fluid. The resin, when distilled, also yields oil of turpentine, which is an important industrial solvent. Turpentine and tar water have been used in veterinary practice to get rid of worms, kill parasites, treat mange, and as an antiseptic and stimulant for rheumatic swelling, sprains, and bruises. For people, the resin been used externally for skin infections and joint inflammation. Internally, traditional uses of the needles include coughs, colds, allergies and kidney and bladder infections. Pine needles also make a nice winter tea, giving you a vitamin C boost.

There are many species of Pine and some are toxic to children and pregnant women. So, be careful!

 

Holly Symbolism and Benefits

Learn more about holly symbolism, its roots in pagan traditions and beliefs, and its beneficial uses on this episode.Ever wondered why holly is associated with Christmas? What even is holly, really? Learn more about holly symbolism, its roots in pagan traditions and beliefs, and its beneficial uses on this episode.

Holly Symbolism and Historic Roots

Ilex aquifolium, or the Holly tree, is a small evergreen tree with deeply lobed, waxy, prickled leaves native to Europe. Its leaves somewhat resemble oak leaves. It has light colored bark and deep red, toxic berries. It has long been considered sacred in Celtic mythology and ancient druidic beliefs. They believe holly symbolizes peace, goodwill, and good luck. Therefore, they also believed that holly protected them from evil spirits and bad luck. Chieftains wore a wreath of holly as a sort of good luck charm.  And, because it resists lightning, they would plant it near their homes to protect themselves from lightning strikes.

The ancient Romans believed holly was the sacred plant of Saturn, the Roman god of the harvest. They gave sprigs of holly as gifts during the Saturnalia festival, which led up to the winter solstice of December 25, the birth of the “Sun.” As Christianity spread, December 25 became a celebration of the Son of God instead, but the holly tradition remained. In addition, Christians adopted holly symbolism into their beliefs. They claimed that the thorny leaves of holly symbolize the crown of thorns of Christ’s crucifixion, the berries representing his blood. In addition, the evergreen nature of holly symbolizes eternal life.

Hear a few other stories about holly on the podcast. On a more practical note, the wood of this tree makes beautiful, artistic designs and people sometimes use it to make chess sets and tool handles. Carriage drivers also used horse whips made from holly, as holly seemed to have an interesting controlling effect on the horses.

Holly Benefits

Holly is not really used in modern herbalism. Historically, people used the leaves as a diaphoretic, febrifuge, and expectorant for things like fever, rheumatism, and bronchitis. One famous herbalist, Nicolas Culpepper said that the bark and leaves are good for broken bones and other members that are out of joint. The fresh juice has been recommended for jaundice. The ancients also used it for fevers and such, but the berries cause violent vomiting and should not be used, especially with children. Julie talks about some of the active constituents of holly on the podcast, so be sure to listen!

Discover weird facts about Christmas herbs and check out her Secret Spice book.