Love Marshmallows…?



When most people hear marshmallow, they think of the white fluffy food treat commonly roasted at campfires. That’s right. But those spongy, oooo-ey, goo-ey, sweet treats that are an essential ingredient to s’mores and hot chocolate had their roots in the herbal world! Commercial marshmallows are different. Marshmallow, however, is a type of herb. While it’s probably not a good idea to attempt s’mores with marshmallow root, this herb has been used historically to treat sore throats and more. Marshmallow, known scientifically as Althaea officinalis, is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia with short roundish leaves and small pale flowers. It was originally used medicinally by the Egyptians. Its usage was later adopted by the French. Today, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses.



Marshmallow is most commonly used to treat sore throats and dry coughs. The Marshmallow plant, especially the leaves and roots, contains polysaccharides that have antitussive, mucilaginous, and antibacterial properties. Because of this, marshmallow has a soothing effect on inflamed membranes in the mouth and throat when ingested orally, specifically a sore throat. The antitussive properties help reduce dry coughing and prevent further irritation.

More recently, marshmallow has been used to treat certain digestive disorders, including heartburn, indigestion, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers and Chron’s disease. The mechanism by which it soothes sore throats applies to gastrointestinal mucosa as well. Regular consumption of marshmallow can help with the pain of ulcerative colitis and Chron’s, and prevent stomach ulcers from perforation. Marshmallow extract is sometimes added to creams to treat inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, and contact dermatitis. Additional uses are currently being investigated. Marshmallow may be a helpful aid to radiologic esophageal examination. There is evidence that marshmallow may also help with respiratory disorders such as asthma. Researchers may soon test marshmallow as a natural alternative to blood sugar management in diabetes.

Marshmallow root extract or powder can be used in conditioner as a hair detangler, and creams to soften skin. Marshmallow extract can also be used in bath water. The flowers and young leaves can also be eaten.

marshmallow flower

Mechanism of Action

Marshmallow works as mucilage, producing a thick sticky substance that coats membranes. Marshmallow extract contains flavonoids, which contain anti-inflammatory properties. The flavonoids are able to reduce inflammation while the mucilage holds them in place and prevents further damage. The extracts also induce phagocytosis, which is the process in which certain cells engulf bacteria, dead cell tissues or other solid particles. This helps speed up the healing process. The mucilage remains unaltered until it reaches the colon, which is why marshmallow works well on most inflammatory digestive disorders.


Availability and Dosage

The roots and leaves of the marshmallow are the parts most commonly used medicinally. Marshmallow can be commonly found in the form of tinctures, capsules and tea. The preferred form and dosage depends on the specific ailment being treated. Tincture is the preferred form for treatment of sore throats and dry coughs. One to two teaspoons should be taken two to three times a day. For stomach ulcers and indigestion, tea works well. Pre-made teas can be purchased or tea can be made by using two to five teaspoons of either powdered root or dried leaves and boiling them in five ounces of water. Tea containing both powdered root and dry leaves appears to be most effective. Capsules can be used for Chron’s and ulcerative colitis at a dosage of six grams a day. Marshmallow can also come commercially in ointments, creams and cough syrups, though these forms are notoriously hard to find. The more common forms can be found in most herbal supply stores and in some natural or organic grocery stores, and health food stores.



Marshmallow root has been used for more than 2,000 years as both a food and a medicine. The Romans, Chinese, Egyptians, and Syrians used marshmallow as a source of food, while the Arabs made poultices from its leaves and applied them to the skin to reduce inflammation. Both the root and leaves contain a gummy substance called mucilage. When mixed with water, it forms a slick gel that is used to coat the throat and stomach to reduce irritation. It is also applied topically to soothe chapped skin.

Few scientific studies have looked at the effects of marshmallow in humans. Most of its suggested uses come from a long history of use in traditional healing systems. However, one recent study confirmed that marshmallow preparations help soothe irritated mucous membranes. Marshmallow has been known for treating the follow conditions:




Common cold/sore throat


Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis


Stomach ulcers

Skin inflammation



Side Effects

Marshmallow is considered a very safe herb and virtually no side effects have been reported with its use. Marshmallow may, however, cause low blood sugar in some people, so those with low blood sugar should check with a physician or herbalist before using marshmallow. The tinctures are made with alcohol and sugar so diabetics, alcoholics and those with liver diseases should take marshmallow in a different form. Marshmallow is not recommended for use in pregnant or lactating women, mainly because there are no studies on short term or long term safety and effects on the fetus or baby. Due to the way marshmallow coat the stomach, it may affect absorption of other drugs. Anyone taking medications should take marshmallow either six hours before or six hours after taking other medication. 😉




NC Dog Days of Summer?


This weather is phenomenal isn’t it? If you are a North Carolinian, you know how “our” summers can be! This weather makes it easy to forget the never ending days of rain we had recently. For the most part, the ground is still saturated. With the peak of hurricane season approaching…the last thing we need is a hurricane to hit anyone in the state. But hey, I was outside (not recommended) during Hurricane Fran nearly the entire time, saw the eye and everything. Oh what fun! What can I say, I’m somewhat of a weather geek. But with hurricanes bring damage; which we do not want.

Why were my sister and I outside during hurricane Fran? Our parents threw us out…They had ENOUGH! Just kidding. No, we were dumb enough to leave to be with our friends. That’s the gist of it….there was a plan in place of our best friends “possibly” picking us up at our parents’ house before the phone lines went dead while speaking, so we needed to find a “pay phone.” (A different era…) So, what was it like? Well, the rain was coming down hard in huge drops that drenched us. We were not wearing any rain gear, not even a windbreaker. The water came up so high on streets that aren’t flood prone. It was very difficult to walk in water up to my calves…with sustained wind…all while the water pelted our faces. You could barely see in front of you; let alone, breathe. The wind seemed to have been taking our breaths “away!” We really could not even talk to each other. It sounded as if the atmosphere was screaming. Oh those howling winds! Please understand that “sustained winds” are just that. (And I knew what sustained meant.) I wanted it to back off though…just for a second, so I could breathe better! We didn’t weight much, so at one point, we were thinking that the wind would literally pick us up, and carry us away. The winds just kept getting stronger! Occasionally we would see “green” lightning and transformers going out. So we decided to go back home. Then our friends drove by. (We should have stayed home right?) While in the car, one of our friends tried to navigate through the streets around down trees and power lines. Can you believe that?! It was a situation that at any moment we all could have died. Much of the state lost power. During the power outage, my father cooked lots of food on the grill. We shared and gathered with our neighbors. During the aftermath of the storm, we all gathered with our neighbors to talk, eat, and clean up. Due to lack of light pollution we were able to see many stars twinkling, which were beautiful.

Fran surprised us, especially my sister and me. We were thinking that hurricanes generally just do not usually reach that far inland. And if they did –it would not be as bad. It’s just a little wind and rain, right? After learning of the casualties, we realize we should take storms more seriously.

~Still love those cumulonimbus clouds though. 😉



Create a Fat-Burning Diet



It may sound surprising, but training is the easy part of the fitness equation. Not that all that effort and sweat isn’t challenging. But at most, that takes an hour of your day, maybe a little more. Once that’s done, you have 22 to 23 hours left in your day to manage, including –if you’re doing it correctly –five to seven meals.



The results you see can be affected in the way you prepare those meals. You need to accomplish three key goals. The first one is to provide your body with the nutrition it needs to run optimally. Second is to give your muscles the building blocks they need to recover. And third is to refuel yourself enough to have the energy to train hard and thrive throughout your day, but not so much as to stock your body’s fat stores.

It’s a tall order, to be sure, but a relatively easy one if you have solid information in hand. Here are a few “rules” to follow as you create your own fat-burning diet:


  1. Get Your Protein
  2. Cycle Your Carb Intake
  3. Watch the Fat
  4. Crack Down on Cravings


Get Your Protein

You want to aim for a least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. At meals, you’ll look to wholefood sources like meat, milk, eggs and soy. If you are vegan you’ll look to beans, soy, nuts, and quinoa. For snacks and around workouts, you can lean on wholesome protein powders, bars, and yogurt smoothies.



Cycle Your Carb Intake

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables certainly have their place in a well-rounded diet, but that place is the key: You’ll want to cycle your carb intake by stacking carbs earlier in the day so that they’re burned off before bedtime. For breakfast and lunch, you want to go higher carb. For later meals, you want to go low carb and higher protein. That’s because in the morning, you’re restocking you energy stores and giving your body what it needs to make it through the day. Carbs later in the day, however, may end up getting stored as fat when you sleep –i.e., stay inactive –for six to nine hours. Plan your meals so that you choose whole grains over non-whole options (except after workouts), eat fruit only in the a.m., eat fibrous vegetables freely, and limit, but don’t omit your starch-oriented veggies like white potatoes and corn.


Watch the Fat

Limit your fat intake to 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight per day. Get the majority of your fats from fish like salmon and tuna, as well as avocadoes, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and other excellent sources of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


Crack Down on Cravings

You’re well on your way to your dream body, exercising regularly, watching what you eat, and then it hits you: the craving!

Something sugary or carb-y or crunchy –whatever it is, you can’t get it out of your mind. You know giving in will momentarily halt your progress, but the urge to eat it is so strong, you almost don’t care. You try to justify it to yourself. You struggle. You complain. You cave.

Although it’s quite common for women to attribute cravings to various stages of menstrual cycles, experts disagree over the role estrogen and other hormones play. However, one thing is clear: Food cravings can have emotional and physiological triggers.

Insulin is the most profound hormone that has an impact on cravings. And its release can be triggered via stress. Stress produces cortisol, and in an effort to counteract it, the body will produce insulin, which drops blood sugar. What’s the result? Your body demands that you stabilize your blood sugar immediately via eating a high-carbohydrate food.

The best defense against food cravings, experts agree that is, a good offense: Keep your blood sugar stable via eating small meals of whole, natural foods high in protein, healthy fats and fiber every few hours. Also, supplement with a good multivitamin and essential fatty acids, such as the omega-3s found in fish-oil capsules, because the body can’t produce those on its own.


The Premise

What you eat and how often you eat may help you to see results faster. Eating regularly throughout the day, revs up the metabolism which encourages you to burn more fat calories. You may even burn several calories when resting.

If you do not eat regularly, your body may feel that it is in a starvation mode, and start storing the food you eat as fat. So in a sense your body will be in preservation mode, making it that much harder to burn calories.

Do not skip your breakfast, even if you don’t like to eat it. Some of the people I have talked to who are overweight say that they hate breakfast, and do not eat in those hours. One woman told me recently she only drinks soda for breakfast.  A well-balanced breakfast is an important meal of the day as it helps to kick-off your metabolism. Combine that with eating throughout the day along with exercise and the weight should just fall off. There may be days you don’t exercise, and you may still burn calories due to how often you eat small well-balanced meals throughout the day.

Only eating breakfast and a large dinner with nothing –to –very little in between; is not great either. This is just the other end of the spectrum of someone who doesn’t eat breakfast. Your body will still behave in the same, if not worse manner as it would if you had skipped the breakfast. Your body will at some point feel deprived, and start storing food as fat.

If you seem overwhelmed as to how to start, try cutting back a little of your potion sizes of what you already eat throughout the day; in that way you won’t feel deprived. Believe it or not…that actually works. You won’t see magnificent results, but you may notice little changes. Try to inculcate more of the wholesome well-balanced meals. For example, if you don’t like to eat during the breakfast hours, try something like yogurt instead of eggs at first; until your body gets used to the idea. Eventually you should start eating more of the healthier foods and less of the other; and it will jump-start the fat-burning process.

You Can Do It! 🙂

Health Benefits of Cloves

Cloves are the dried, unopened flower buds, which grow on a middle-sized evergreen clove tree. A clove tree grows up to the height of 10 to 12 meters. The clove flower bud (Eugenia aromatica) is pink in color, and when dried, turns brown. Clove is native to the Moluccas or Spice Islands (Indonesia), the Southern Philippines. Presently, Zanzibar is the largest producer of cloves. Also it is cultivated commercially in Sumatra, Jamaica, Brazil, India, West Indies, Pemba, Madagascar and other tropical areas.

In India and China, cloves have been used to get rid of bad breath, since over 2000 years. It is said that in China, anyone who had consultation with the Emperor was required to chew on cloves so that their breath turned sweet. Also in China and Persia, the cloves are considered to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Clove is used as a spice in different cuisines all over the globe. Due to its strong aroma, clove is used for cooking and also for flavoring various food recipes. This popular spice has been used in preparation of many regular dishes in Asian and Chinese cuisine since ancient times. Along with other spices like pepper, turmeric, ginger, etc. is being used in marinating chicken, fish, and other meat. Some of Indian vegetarian, chicken and rice dishes contain cloves. In the Middle East, it is used in meat and rice dishes. The spice also features in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and as one of the ingredients in curry powders.

In addition, cloves are known to have rich nutritional and medicinal values.


Nutritional Value

Cloves consist of a significant amount of proteins, iron, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and hydrochloric acid. The spice also contains a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and magnesium. Potassium is an important electrolyte of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Further, the spice buds contain very good amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene levels. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is also required by the body for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin in addition to essential for vision. Consumption of natural foods rich in flavonoids helps to protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers. Additionally, this spice is a good source of vitamin-K, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), vitamin-C and riboflavin. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. They are also rich in dietary fiber.


Analgesic Properties

The analgesic property of clove is due to an active ingredient, eugenol oil, which is used for treatment of various dental problems like tooth ache. A cotton ball soaked in the clove oil can work wonders on the aching tooth. The oil obtained from cloves is known to possess antibacterial properties and is used in various dental creams, toothpastes, mouthwash, and throat sprays to cleanse bacteria. It is also used to relieve pain from sore gums and improves overall dental health.

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Cloves are also used as an anti-inflammatory agent, due to their high content of flavonoids. Aromatherapists use pure clove oil to cure the symptoms of rheumatism, and arthritis. The aromatic clove oil when inhaled, can help soothe certain respiratory conditions like cold, cough, asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and also clears the nasal tract.


Antiseptic and Antispasmodic Effects

Due to its antiseptic characteristics, clove and clove oil work as an effective remedy for some common problems such as cuts, fungal infections, burns, wounds, athlete’s foot and bruises. The clove oil if directly applied on the skin can cause irritation. The clove oil is hence used in the diluted form. As an antispasmodic agent, clove oil helps to relieve muscle spasms when applied topically near the affected portion.

Digestive Health

Cloves can effectively cure many digestive problems. Cloves are known to have medicinal qualities to cure flatulence, loose motions, indigestion and nausea. Cloves are useful in relieving the symptoms of diarrhea, gastric irritability and vomiting.


Researchers have suggested that the cloves can effectively prevent lung cancer as well as skin cancer. However, this does not suggest that it is okay to smoke and burn in a tanning bed –cause you eat cloves. Eugenol, an essential component found in cloves, helps in minimizing the harmful effects of environmental wastes that can cause cancer of digestive system as well.

Immune System

Clove and clove oil boosts the immune system by purifying the blood and helps to fight against various diseases.

Other Health Benefits

Cloves are used for treating a number of health conditions such as malaria, cholera, scabies in the tropical Asian countries. It is known to have anti-parasitic properties.
Cloves benefit the diabetic patients by controlling the blood glucose levels. The essential constituent (Eugenol) found in cloves is also powerful for preventing blood clots.

Clove oil mixed with milk and salt can be used as a home remedy for headache. It is one of the effective remedies for stye and various eye infections. If a piece of clove is applied to stye, it gives a great relief. Clove is used as a relief for earaches, a mixture of clove oil and sesame oil is warmed and applied for earaches.

Apart from these health benefits of cloves, they are known to offer various other general benefits too. Clove oil is used for the preparation of various beauty creams and lotions. It is also extensively used as a massage oil to provide relief from stress.

Clove oil, in the form of purified liquid is widely used in synthetic vanilla and also used as flavors in the manufacture of perfumes, soaps and various toiletries.

The clove oil makes an excellent natural mosquito repellent as well as moth repellent and can protect against mosquitoes for 4-5 hours.

Clove, a versatile spice, is easily available in every home and with so many nutritional qualities, one can surely benefit in a variety of ways. But it’s always advisable to consult your doctor before using clove oil in treating infants and during pregnancy.


Probiotics: What’s All the Hype?


Probiotics are the latest craze in the food industry, turning up in everything from pizza to chocolate. They now tally $20 billion in global sales, expanding at 20 to 30% a year. If you’re not already consuming them in some form, chances are you will be soon.

So are probiotics the new vitamins? Probiotics are actually live microbes –specifically, beneficial bacteria that promote human health if consumed in large enough quantities. For germophobic Americans, it’s a revolutionary concept. But the 100 trillion microbes that live in your large intestine do dozens of good things for you. They process indigestible fibers and help keep bowel function regular. They produce a number of vitamins, including B6, B12, and K2, and aid in the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium. Equally important, they help fend off bad bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli, which can cause severe diarrhea and, in extreme cases, severe anemia, kidney failure, and death. Basically, the intestines are a war zone, where beneficial and harmful bacteria are fighting to establish predominance. The key is for the good guys to outnumber the bad. If you want to give them a competitive edge, a regular supply of probiotics can help.

Probiotics may also be beneficial to take if you are taking antibiotics. However, many doctors do not prescribe or even mention that, so you would have to take it on your own initiative. Doing so can limit side effects, but may not prevent allergic reactions to medications.

The payoff can extend well beyond your gut, and your immune system is a prime beneficiary. How about this: In a Swedish study of 262 workers, those who took probiotics for 80 days were 42% less likely to take a sick day for an upper respiratory infection or gastrointestinal disease. Regular doses can help reduce vaginal and urinary tract infections. If you’re prone to allergies or eczema, probiotics may even help tamp down overactive immune systems. Meaning may be the spring pollen won’t be so bad for you and so forth. For me, probiotics help cut down on sneezing around this time of the year. They accomplish this via producing their own form of antibiotics, blocking pathogens from adhering to the gut, and spurring production of chemical messengers called cytokines, which communicate with the immune system throughout the body. Probiotics may even enhance your mood, thanks to a similar cross talk with the central nervous system.


So the conclusion is simple, right? Take probiotics. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are more than 3,000 species of good bacteria in your gut, and each has its own talents. The cultures you’re consuming may not be the ones that reduce colds or fight diarrhea. And they have to be handled correctly, so they aren’t killed during processing or storage. Only about 10% of the prebiotics have been proven in human trials. So, what to do?


Probiotic Yogurt


Be Cultured

The microbes that turn milk into yogurt and kefir are among the most beneficial, and they seem to thrive in dairy. The reason is because milk contains complex carbohydrates that the bacteria feed on. Dairy products are also kept chilled, which is important for heat-sensitive organisms, and are only weakly acidic, another plus. (Bacteria can perish in the strongly acidic environment of the stomach, but dairy provides protection.) Just make sure the container says “live and active cultures.” Dead bacteria won’t help. The more reliable brands tell you which specific bacteria they contain.


Learn to Pickle

Microbes are responsible for fermentation, turning cabbage into sauerkraut, cucumbers into sour pickles, and soybeans into miso. For thousands of years, fermented foods have been staples of the human diet. But we eat far fewer of these foods today, and when we do, modern processing often kills off the good bacteria! Basically, stores can’t have jars exploding on shelves when bacteria produce gas, so manufacturers pasteurize sauerkraut and pickles. So unless you are pulling your pickles out of a crock in a deli or buying them from a small local producer who labels them ‘raw fermented,’ you’re not getting live microbes. So, just make your own, otherwise enjoy it for taste and other benefits.


Avoid Marketing Hype

Probiotics are now being added to lots of unfermented foods too; including cookies, pizza crust, coffee beans, and powdered smoothie mixes (can you believe it?) Recall that unless the label says, “live and active cultures,” don’t count on them –particularly in products that require heating, such as coffee and pizza. High temperatures are likely to destroy the bacteria.


Give Yourself a Boost

Throughout most of human history, getting enough good bacteria was no problem. But today we live in a sanitized world. If you need extra help –for example, if you have chronic constipation (63 million Americans do) or you’re taking antibiotics, which kill good and bad bacteria alike –probiotic supplements can provide steady, reliable relief. Last year, a study in the Journal of the AMA concluded that patients on antibiotics can reduce the associated risk of diarrhea by 41% if they take probiotics at the same time. But hey, don’t count on many doctors “suggesting” you to take it together. Many doctors prescribe antibiotics and that’s it! Nowadays it is up to you to know how to better yourself.


Eat Prebiotics

Yes, prebiotics. For colonies to thrive, you need to create favorable living conditions for them. One of the best ways to do that is to consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Processed foods contain preservatives via definition are antimicrobial. In contrast, many natural whole foods include prebiotics, or foods that the good microbes themselves feed on –namely, insoluble fibers that people cannot digest but bacterial can. These fibers are in a variety of foods, including onions, bananas, asparagus, leeks, garlic, artichokes, wheat, oats, and soybeans.


Pick Your Pills Wisely

Here are some things to look for on the label:


CFUs. This means “colony forming units.” And there should be at least a billion.

Strains. Seek out the specific bacteria that will help your problem. For general health, take a brand that contains both a Lactobacillus and a Bifidobacterium.

Guarantee of activity. This should include an expiration date, plus directions on how to handle the product at home. Some probiotics are room temperature stable, but all benefit from cooler temps.

Acid resistance. Certain strains can be stabilized to survive harsh stomach acids. Others cannot. The bottle should say “acid stabilized” or “microencapsulated.”

Prebiotics. Some brands include ready-made food sources for the bacteria.