With flu and cold viruses circulating everywhere, it is helpful to know how to keep your family’s immune system strong. As an herbalist, I’m often asked what herbs and supplements I use for my family. I love using elderberry to boost the immune system. I always keep a stock of elderberry tincture at home to have on hand the moment anyone in my family starts to feel unwell.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is the bluish-black or red berry of the “elder” bush as shown in the picture. Historically, elderberry has been used for making jelly or wine. Elderberry tincture or syrup is a staple when flu season hits. It is the go-to herb as a remedy for viral infections like the flu and common cold. In my experience, when taken at the first sign of an infection, elderberry will prevent the illness from worsening and taken at any time will reduce the length of time you suffer from a cold or flu.
What The Experts Say
As Stephen Harrod Buhner states in his book, Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging and Resistant Viral Infections, “The plants are also very high in flavonoids that have been found to bind to H1N1 virions, inactivating them. Once the viruses are bound, they can’t infect host cells. Elder flavonoids have a very strong affinity for influenza viruses, somewhat like a magnet and iron filings.”
Easy Peasy Elderberry Tincture
Making an Elderberry tincture is so easy too. I always have a quart in process, just in case, and my husband and I take a spoonful every morning. I have always used fresh elderberries grown on my bushes near my home, but if you don’t have access to fresh berries, you can order dried elderberries online. Recently, city workers in my town chopped my bushes down because they had gotten big enough to hang over into the easement of the alley and I was quite devastated, but I’ve found that dried or fresh, this tincture works very well.
Simple Elderberry Tincture
- Into a clean Quart Jar add 1/4 pound dried elderberries (must be Sambucus nigra).
- Fill to top with vodka. (You can also use apple cider vinegar if you would prefer, but I use vodka).
- Put the lid on tight and store in a dark cupboard and shake once every few days. Label and date your jar.
- Let the jar sit for at least 30 days then strain out the berries and store your tincture in a dark place.
- If you want to let it sit longer than 30 days that will only make it stronger and better. I often let my jars sit for up to 3 months.
- Take as a preventative – Adult – 1 teaspoon in water once a day.
Once you get the hang of the recipe and you see the benefits of taking the Elderberry tincture regularly, or as needed, you will feel the empowerment that comes with caring for yourself and your family with natural herbs and remedies. It can be quite rewarding when you see and feel your own body heal from the materials that come from nature or your own back yard.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on our site have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment when indicated, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always talk to your naturopathic physician about the use of these or any other complimentary modalities. Reading this website denotes your understanding and agreement to our full disclaimer.
Making your own nut milk at home can be an empowering step toward health and well-being for you and your family.
Commercial nut milk and dairy-free alternatives can be overpriced and are often full of additives. For those of us that need to avoid common gut irritants, like guar gum and carrageenan, using store-bought nut milk is not an option.
Plus, it’s easy and fun! All you need is a blender and some cheesecloth or a nut milk bag to create healthy, dairy-free milk alternatives.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 quart
1 cup of raw almonds
8 cups filtered water, divided
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 small date, pitted
- Place almonds in a bowl with 4 cups of filtered water and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and soak for 10 hours or overnight.
- Drain the nuts and rinse well. transfer them to a blender and fill with 4 cups filtered water. Add the date and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and blend until smooth.
- Strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve, a nut milk bag, or doubled cheesecloth. Squeeze to remove all of the liquid. Store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
A few tips
- I use a Vitamix Pro 7500, but any blender will do.
- Cheesecloth can work great, but I use a nut milk bag. You can order the bag I use on Amazon.
- You can also make cashew, hazelnut or brazil nut milk. Soak cashews for 4 hours. Hazelnuts and brazil nuts don’t need to be soaked, because they don’t contain the enzyme inhibitors that prevent nuts from being digested properly- so you can make milk from those nuts at the drop of a hat.
- Many of us are concerned about the water shortage in California, and thus want to limit our purchase of Almonds. If so, cashews are a fabulous alternative. My husband prefers cashew milk and I tend to make it more often as the nuts are soaked for less time and less pulp is produced.
- There are many uses for the leftover almond pulp, so be sure to save it and look for recipes online!
We love these muffins and after making them for our family to “grab and go” for the holidays we wanted to share them with you. They are a great breakfast for busy mornings and they’re so delicious you will want to grab two or three for those break times throughout the day.
Paleo & Grain- Free
Paleo is a huge nutrition buzzword recently. We don’t use the term a lot, because we don’t want to focus on diet labels, but it’s a really good representation of grain-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free foods that are super yummy and healthy.
Super Healthy Ingredients
These super yummy muffins have no flour, just almonds ground into almond meal, making them grain-free and inherently gluten-free. This means they are also incredibly high in protein. Even though they have no grains they do have a true muffin consistency that we love. They are sweetened with dates and raw honey and they offer an Omega-3 boost from the walnuts. Also with the carrots, bananas and coconut they are very nutrient-dense!
A Few Tips
The raw honey is optional if you have a sensitivity or like your muffins less sweet. We tried them both ways, and though they are less sweet without the honey, the dates still sweeten them up and they were still fabulous. We lined the muffin tins with paper liners instead of using the canola oil, but you could also use coconut oil or ghee if you have a preference.
Super Yummy Paleo Carrot-Banana Muffins
Check out the original recipe from Dr. Andrew Weil’s book, True Food.
Makes 12 large muffins
2 cups almond flour (also called almond meal)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter or ghee, softened
2 tablespoons raw honey, optional
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups pitted and chopped dates
2 medium carrots, shredded
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil a 12 cup muffin pan with expeller-pressed canola oil or line with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and coconut. In another bowl whisk the eggs, bananas, butter, honey, and vinegar. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the dates, carrots, and walnuts. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.
- Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown or a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. (Since there is no actual flour, the muffins will not rise significantly.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out the muffins onto the rack and let cool to warm or room temperature.
In our fast-paced culture and with our busy lives, it’s helpful to have healthy snacks on hand at all times in case you find yourself in a pinch. Though you can find various forms of snacks or treats at most gas stations and grocery stores, they are not all created equal, and eating many of them may leave you feeling worse than you did before.
As a Health Coach, I’m often asked for recommendations of healthy snacks for when we are on the go. Surprisingly, even health food stores have very few snack bar options that aren’t loaded with added sugar, gluten, soy, and other preservatives.
Here are a few of my recommendations:
#1 Make your own trail mix
Make your own trail mix at home and carry some in your bag, purse or car at all times. I order all of the below ingredients in bulk from Amazon Prime. Mix the below together in a bowl and divide the portions into baggies and then you are good to go!
Angela’s Homemade Trail Mix
1 cup Raw, Organic Cashews
1 cup Raw, Organic Almonds
¼ cup Raw, Organic Sunflower Seeds
¼ cup Raw, Organic Goji Berries
#2 Raw Crunch Bar- Blueberry + Lemon
This bar is handmade, gluten-free and only has 5g of sugar. My favorite flavor is the Blueberry + Lemon and I order them from Amazon Prime. This bar is pictured above.
#3 USANA Berry Nutty Nutrition Bar
The Berry Nutty Nutrition Bar from my product partner, USANA Health Sciences, Inc, are hands-down the best tasting nutrition bars I have ever tried. My husband is obsessed with them! The Berry Nutty Bar is a whole foods nutrition bar sourced from non-GMO raw almonds, cashews, oats and other whole foods. They are gluten-free and have only 9g of sugar. You can order them from USANA here. Click “Shop” and then choose “Diet and Energy.”
#4 Artisana Organics Raw Almond Butter
I’ve tried all of the raw almond butter on the market and this one wins in taste. I order it here from Amazon Prime. This almond butter is great on celery or with carrot sticks, but if you are on the go, buy the travel size packets (as pictured above) and eat them as is. One note of caution: if you do have a sluggish digestive system, too much nut butter does not help, so remember: all things in moderation.
Health Coach Pep Talk
Remember, these are considered treats and I do not eat them every day or in large quantities at a time. They are not meant to replace whole foods or home-cooked meals, but are very helpful options for you when there are limited healthy options around. If you grab one of these instead of a snickers bar when you are on the go then I’d call that a win! You got this!
My Sugar-Free Journey
Twenty-six years ago (yes, 26, I can’t believe it has been that long) I was a stay at home Mom with four children, two of which were under 5. I had no energy, felt drained all the time and all I wanted to eat was sweets. I thought that this was normal- what Mom with two kids under 5 doesn’t feel tired and drained? Yet, when I started falling asleep holding my baby and not waking up for two hours, (luckily she was asleep too) I decided something was wrong. And there was! I was hypoglycemic. When I ate sugar my blood glucose went up for maybe a minute, but then it dropped like a rock and often I passed out or fell asleep. Thus started my journey with eating sugar-free.
Sugar-Free Before it was Hip
Twenty-six years ago most people weren’t as sugar conscious as they are today. It was difficult to find any sugar-free or no sugar added recipes. So I started experimenting and substituting sweet recipes for no sugar added recipes that tasted good. Some were a bust, like my no sugar added pecan pie. Bleck! Yet, I kept trying and now have many sugar-free recipes that taste so good most people can’t tell the difference. I can now say that I haven’t eaten refined sugar (other than the small amount in catsup and mayonnaise) in more than twenty years.
Eating sugar-free does not mean boring food. It wasn’t easy at first, but within a year I had learned how to satisfy my sweet tooth without sugar. Many times the sugar-free recipes had more flavor than those with added refined sugar. The best thing about following a sugar-free diet is that it makes you feel so incredibly great. It’s not until you take the plunge and do it that you realize how crappy you really felt while you were eating refined sugar. Once you rid your diet of refined sugar, you often have increased energy, better sleep, and better brain functioning. Many people lose weight and overall just feel so much better!
My Favorite Recipes
After seeing that I didn’t have to feel drained and lethargic all the time I no longer wanted to eat sugar, but I still wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth so I created lots of my favorite recipes. I have found and developed many sweet recipes that have no refined sugar added, using fruit juices, agave nectar, stevia, and coconut nectar.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Candy
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp. agave.
nuts or raisins (optional)
The recipe and step by step instructions can be found here, at sweetsmarts.com, one of my favorite sugar-free recipe sites.
Kim’s Sugar-Free Apple Pie
1 frozen pastry for a 9-inch double-crust deep-dish pie 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 9 apples – peeled, cored and sliced 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3 tablespoons real butter 1/2 can freeze apple juice concentrate thawed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
In a large bowl mix together flour, salt, and cinnamon. Sprinkle lemon juice over apples and lightly toss. Add apples and lemon juice mixture to the flour mixture and toss until apples are thoroughly coated. Pour apples into pastry-lined pie plate. Put thin slices of butter on top of the apples. Pour apple juice concentrate over apples and Cover with top pastry. Seal edges and cut steam vents in top pastry.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.
This is a favorite that my whole family loves. Often I find that everyone is eating my sugar-free pie at family gatherings instead of all the other pies because it’s just that good. Few people can tell it has no added refined sugar and I’m often told it tastes better than refined sugar apple pie. If it’s not sweet enough for you, drizzle 1/4 cup of agave nectar over the apples before adding the top crust.
Give these recipes a try and let us know what you think. Most of all, remember that avoiding refined sugar does not mean that you don’t get to have sweets. It just provides an opportunity to be creative and find healthier versions of your favorites. Good Luck! Enjoy!
Corporate life and frequent travel can make it really difficult for those of us who want to be healthy. It can be challenging for those of us with food allergies and sensitivities to take care of ourselves while on the road.
As a former road warrior and sales executive, I continually refined my skills for eating well while traveling. Healthy eating can be a commitment of its’ own, but, as in my case, avoiding dairy, gluten, and grains, processed sugars, and legumes while traveling is an art that requires planning, preparation, creativity, and flexibility. My health journey over the years has involved following a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and paleo diet. Currently, a strict grain-free, plant-based paleo diet helps me feel well and balanced. Following your own nutrition needs while on the road can be done. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Planning & Preparation
Set Your Intention
As we are all unique individuals, our bodies have different requirements. Learn about yourself and explore what works for your body. Maybe you need to follow a strict grain-free or paleo diet (avoiding legumes, dairy, processed sugars and all grains) diet while on the road or maybe you just need to avoid excess alcohol or sugar. Many people feel better avoiding gluten entirely, but do not need to avoid all grains. Others can allow some gluten, but only a few times a week. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. I recommend you set your intention and goal for your “diet style” before you travel so that you do not have to make a game-time decision that may be stressful.
Do Your Research
Research the restaurants and grocery stores in the area that provide meals that fit your needs. I always research restaurants in the area that provide gluten-free or grain-free options prior to my trip. I find Yelp to be of great help to do so. Take a look at the menu. If you are like me, everyone you travel with knows that you have diet restrictions and often turns to you when deciding where to dine out. It will help immensely to have a few ideas in your back pocket in case you get asked this question. If restaurant options are looking slim, look for a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near your hotel and map out the location. Call your hotel and discuss your options: Can they provide a microwave and/or refrigerator in your room so you can keep snacks or other foods you buy at the store? Do they offer room service and does it provide grain-free or gluten-free options? Ask for the menu prior to your arrival.
Plan Your Agenda
Once you have identified your resources and options you can outline what will work for you on each specific trip. For example, if possible, I would choose a hotel that provided a refrigerator and be close to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s in case I was not able to eat at the restaurant my client or colleagues chose. I would plan my calendar and flight itinerary in a way to make time to go to the store before the conference or meetings began. At times, this required flying into a city the day before an event. If I was traveling to an area without a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s I was usually able to talk to the hotel and determine some in-room dining options that I could work with.
Creativity & Flexibility
Traveling requires a lot of creativity and flexibility, especially when you are in a sales role and busy with clients. Often you are not able to control where you eat when you eat and you do not have time to go to a grocery store, even if there is one. For this reason, I recommend packing various snacks that will help you out while on the road and at the airport. I usually packed a variety of the following depending on the length of the trip:
Sweet potato chips
Raw unsweetened almond butter (travel size packets)
Protein bars (gluten or grain-free)
Organic baby food (travel pouch)
**I will be outlining the specific brands of Paleo and grain-free snacks that I like to buy in a future post.
At the Airport
I found the airport to be the most challenging situation while on the road. I know there are a few airports that are starting to have “healthier” options, but these often are still quite limiting for those of us following a grain-free diet. Most of the time I would stick to the snacks I packed with me while at the airport and try my best to manage my schedule so I was not starving once I got there. Otherwise, look for a deli and see if they can wrap their turkey wrap in lettuce or look for a more upscale restaurant and request a bun-less burger with no cheese (add avocado and tomato) and a side of steamed veggies.
Just In Case
Regardless of the amount of planning and preparation you may still come into contact with gluten or grains, especially if you are dining at restaurants often. Pack digestive enzymes that specifically break down gluten proteins (and casein if you are sensitive or intolerant) and take the recommended amount with each meal. You can find a few good brands on Amazon. I would also pack probiotics and various other herbs and supplements that would help keep my immune system in balance while on the road and eating differently than I would at home.
There is a lot of hype right now about the Paleo diet and eating Grain-Free. In my experience, most people fall into 1 of 2 categories when deciding to make this lifestyle and diet choice: They are either required to do so either short-term or long-term based on a food allergy, sensitivity, intolerance or chronic illness; OR they are doing so for general wellness or as a short term health challenge.
I fall into the former category and it has been quite a process to get where I am today. Despite living a healthy lifestyle for years, including avoiding dairy and processed sugars, and following vegan and vegetarian diets, I experienced chronic gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, urinary tract infections, Candida imbalance, and sinus infections. I also experienced unexplained bouts of depression, anxiety, and intense fatigue that were rarely representative of my situation. Medications made things worse or cause side effects and supplements helped, but did not provide substantial relief. My symptoms often stumped my doctors and I realized I needed to look to my lifestyle and diet to heal myself regardless of a diagnosis.
Luckily, in 2012, I was advised by a holistic D.O. to get tested for gluten intolerance and discovered I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This changed my world and I quickly turned my lifestyle upside down to suit my new diet. I have always been willing to change my lifestyle drastically if my health or wellness is on the line, so I was all in. In addition, I was highly motivated to make any changes necessary to prevent future illness or disease as earlier that same year I witnessed my Aunt pass away, at an early age, from an advanced Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST).
I quickly researched what I needed at home to cook properly and the healthiest, and trendy, local restaurants that suited my new diet. I found eating gluten-free to be only mildly inconvenient as I was already a self-proclaimed “health nut” and, as I was already avoiding sugar, dairy, and most alcohol, I was used to living with food allergies and sensitivities. With the help of online resources, within 3 weeks of my gluten sensitivity diagnosis, I managed to pull off a Thanksgiving meal for my husband’s family entirely gluten-free.
Getting Off Grains
I maintained my strict gluten-free diet, and even monitored any possible cross-contamination at restaurants, for 2 years. I experienced significant improvement in all of my symptoms, yet I still was not completely well. At the recommendation of a helpful Traditional Chinese Doctor and Acupuncturist, I had additional tests performed to look for cross-reactivity of gluten, a potential culprit for someone with a gluten sensitivity who is avoiding gluten 100% and still experiencing imbalance.
These tests revealed that my body was still “thinking” it was getting gluten and treating non-gluten proteins found in foods, such as teff, tapioca, amaranth, and sesame as if they contained gluten. My body was creating an auto-immune response any time I was ingesting these foods. As you may know, a gluten-free diet still may consist of a substantial amount of bread, pasta, and cereals that use these types of foods. Based on this new information, for the next 6 months, I focused on eliminating all grains and reactive foods from my diet. In addition, I decided to eliminate corn and rice from my diet as many people experience cross-reactivity from these, though they did not show up as reactive on my tests. I was not surprised to find that when I ate rice and corn, even in small amounts, I felt bloated and, at times, experienced headaches. Going off of grains was a lot more difficult of a lifestyle choice than being gluten-free, but I felt better right away. The inconvenience I experienced soon paled in comparison to how much better I felt.
Full On Paleo
After 6 months of eating grain-free, I started to get more in touch with my body and what it “should” feel like. I sensed that, though I was on the right track, I still occasionally experienced GI symptoms that did not make sense and were not normally based on my extremely healthy diet. After further research and experimenting with different foods and how I felt, I narrowed down the issue to legumes. Specifically, I eliminated peas, peanuts, and all beans from my diet. Legumes are often gut irritants, especially for someone who has a history of gut imbalance. Eliminating legumes from my diet further improved my gut health, and though I am not allergic to them, I want to feel balanced in my gut more than I want to eat them. It was around this time that I realized I had slowly transitioned myself to the Paleo diet and that I may be one of the few people who did not intentionally one day say “I’m going to try this Paleo thing.” My diet just ended up fitting the Paleo definition! For the past 5 months, I have been living a strict Paleo lifestyle and, though it is a daily journey, I feel better than I have in years.
It’s Not All About Diet
What I have learned is that, though diet and nutrition are very important, it is not the only game in town. I have spent a significant amount of time researching and experimenting with various supplements and nutrients that match my unique body and my dietary lifestyle. I try to keep supplementation to a minimum and rely mostly on real food for my nutrition, but, as someone with anemia and a B-12 deficiency, there are some things that your diet cannot fix on its’ own. This is especially important if your gut imbalance is inhibiting the absorption of the food you eat.
In addition, I have learned that regardless of my diet, if I am extremely stressed and not getting regular exercise, my body does not feel well. I have tried all types of exercise and stress and relaxation techniques and I mix up my routine regularly. I find that exercise makes everything work a bit better and stress and anxiety can cause my gut imbalance almost as much as eating grains does. Yoga, brisk walking, meditation, and deep belly breathing can do wonders for your gut.
You are Unique—Learn About Your Body
If you are experiencing symptoms and want to make dietary or lifestyle changes, I recommend that you get as much information about yourself and your current state as you can. Be that through lab tests or by keeping a “food and feeling” journal for 2 weeks to see how foods affect you. Remember that you are unique and every diet should be tailored to you, regardless of what the “rules” are about a specific diet. Even with Paleo, there are some “gray areas,” as some people can tolerate dairy, such as Ghee, and others cannot. Some people can eat grain-free 3 days a week and see enough of a benefit, while others are like me and cannot have one cheat day or they pay for it for weeks. Find out if you are dealing with food intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy, or if you simply need to limit certain foods and vary your routine. The best way to do most of this is through trial and error.
You do not need to go straight to the Paleo diet within a week, or at all potentially. Look realistically at your lifestyle and your present situation. I spent years avoiding dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and I still transitioned to Paleo over a 2 ½ year period of time. Similar to how I view exercise, you want to focus on consistency more than intensity. Decide what changes you can make that will be sustainable for you long-term and then make a goal to keep checking in with yourself to see how you are doing. What works for me may not work for you and what works for me now, may not work for me in a year, as our bodies and environments are continually changing.