Category — Detoxification
After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself. Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality. I personally drank it through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time. At $5 a bottle that really adds up! To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!) but I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing (okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am). But back to the point – making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch (pictured above) turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing. Here’s what you do:
- Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader. If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option. I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and gave me a free SCOBY. Here’s what they look like: While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
- Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over. White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses. The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
- Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lipton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea from Vitacost). Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea. (You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.)
- Cool to room temp. If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
- Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use storebought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if storebought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation) and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathe-able cloth (I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also) and secure with a rubber band. Place this in an area where the temp is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone. Here’s how my first brew looked:
- Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month. My first brew I fermented for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now. You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is. Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container. Mine looked like this:
- Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it! Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch. You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring. It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries (but I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product).
Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha. I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.
TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT: For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha at the beginning of this blog is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recently recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were giving people Hepatitis A!!! Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha. I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A – but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news. Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease. I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity). In the future I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.
June 5, 2013 9 Comments
Last weekend I had the privilege of flying to Iowa to speak at the Iowa City Yoga Festival, which was quite a fabulous occasion. It was my very first overnight trip away from Mr. Milk (boo-hoo) so I made it as short as possible by arriving Friday afternoon and leaving at 6 AM on Monday. Quite a fast trip to get used to a 5 hour time change! In addition to this, I happened to be finishing my first trimester of incubation for baby #2 (that is a whole separate story, but I blame my husband’s Hawaiian ancestry which is biochemically driven to procreate despite all barrier methods of birth control used). Thankfully I have not had any pregnancy symptoms – which is partially why I felt like one of those ladies from the “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” show when the ultrasound showed a fully formed little creature doing the Team America “It’s Me” dance (warning – bad word at the 11th second!) and we had just figured out I was pregnant a couple weeks earlier. But I digress.
The point of this blog is to share with you the fact that despite traveling over 5 time zones and lecturing 4 hours a day within the first day of landing AND being pregnant I did not experience any jet lag! Many people take melatonin to help them adjust their sleep-wake cycles while traveling but that was not an option for me since due to the pregnancy (melatonin works with pituitary gland hormones). It actually surprised me how quickly I adjusted to the time difference, so I wanted to share with you what I did.
- I made myself stay awake until a normal bed time on my arrival day. Truthfully this wasn’t hard to do, since 10:00 in Iowa is 5:00 in Hawaii but I had flown all night on the red eye so was a little tired. The way I got around this was to stay busy. I ran a few errands, had a late lunch with my two little nieces who are really hilarious and were giving (loud) social commentary regarding other people at the restaurant (they are 4 and 8 years old), went to a meeting with the other speakers, swam in the hotel pool with my nieces for a long enough time that the chlorine burned my eyeballs (not necessarily recommended), and then ordered in Thai food. Basically, do anything you can to stay happily awake, which means avoiding hanging out in your hotel bed watching TV at all costs!
- I drank a ridiculous amount of water. One of my errands mentioned above was to buy 2 gallons of water at the local store, enough for me to drink a full gallon for each day of lecturing. I didn’t quite make that amount, and drank closer to 3/4 of a gallon each day, but I do think that this made the most significant impact for me in adjusting to the time difference.
- I took 1 or 2 warm baths each day. Maybe this had nothing to do with it, but I feel like it really made a difference because I’ve traveled a lot and tried to drink water and done well but never have I felt this good. And no, it wasn’t a pregnancy hormone high – I was 14 weeks pregnant with the Little Mister (he’s in the late stages of weaning so I have to stop calling him Mr. Milk – maybe Mr. Muscles can be his new name since he’s a meaty little boy) when I left Iowa to move to Hawaii and I was 14 weeks pregnant when flying back to Iowa (the state requires that of me I guess) and this trip was definitely different as far as fatigue. So, you can throw this point out if you want but I really think that there’s something to soaking in a tub of warm water that helps you adjust to the magnetic field of the time zone that you’re in. Either that, or the hydrotherapy of the bath helped me detox and feel great, or the bath was just relaxing and refreshing enough to get rid of any fatigue that would have set in.
So there you have it. Not exactly rocket science but I find that the simple things seem to make the most difference! And in this case it sure made a crazy weekend into an enjoyable experience. Oh, and how did Mr. Muscles do with my absence, you ask? As you can see from the photo below – taken on Friday while I was still traveling – he really had a miserably hard time with it.
October 14, 2011 1 Comment
I realized today that I’ve been writing so much lately about pregnancy, babies, and women’s health that I better balance it out and write about something manly lest this become a girls only blog! Here are a few foods that balance testosterone levels and help to keep a manly man the way nature intended – you guessed it – manly.
- Butter: Yes, I am famous for going on and on about the health benefits of butter and allowing my toddler to eat slices of butter like they’re candy but there’s a reason for that. Butter from healthy cows that have been fed grass instead of grain is rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), the only trans fat found in nature and one of the most manly fatty acids out there. In fact, if you take a break from reading this blog and do a search on CLA I bet you will come upon a host of bodybuilding websites, and what is more manly than a bunch of overly tan men, greased up with Crisco, dancing around on a stage and posing in tiny underpants? But back to butter. It contains CLA, which helps to balance levels of insulin, estrogen, and testosterone. And this is why it’s a popular supplement for bodybuilders. Butter also contains activated vitamin A, which is necessary for production of testosterone.
- Grassfed beef: This is another great source of CLA and also a wonderful way to get plenty of protein and zinc – two precursors needed for testosterone production. Please note that I am making a distinction here between grassfed meat and butter and regular commercial meat and butter. Sadly, commercial cows are raised in feedlots, fed grain that lowers their levels of CLA (cows get CLA from the fermentation of grass in their gut done by bacteria that are killed off when feedlot cows are fed grain and antibiotics), and in some cases are even given doses of synthetic estrogen to make them grow faster and produce more milk. These factors end up having the opposite effect on testosterone and they are the reason that foods containing saturated fat have such a bad reputation these days.
- White button mushrooms: Aromatase is an enzyme that turns androgens (man hormones) into estrogens (lady hormones). This is most important in the development of hormone dependent cancers, which is why foods that have anti-aromatase activity are heavily studied so that drug companies can figure out how to make drugs with the same activity. White button mushrooms are one of the foods that you will find in these studies, though I suspect that most mushrooms have the same benefits (white buttons are just the cheapest, so probably they are the easiest to study in large amounts – that is purely my speculation though). If you’re going to go off the deep end on eating mushrooms, make sure that you cook them first (in grassfed butter!). Eating raw mushrooms in large amounts can expose you to a toxin inherent in mushrooms which is broken down when they are exposed to heat.
- Cruciferous vegetables: This includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, radish, turnip, and watercress. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur-based compounds including one called I3C (indole-3-carbinol) that help to balance hormone levels and detoxify excess estrogen. These compounds are widely studied for their anti-cancer effects, and when I worked in a clinic we used to give men a supplement containing these sulfur-based compounds to help them with urinary frequency problems. Some of them came back reporting an increase in function in the “love area”, which I’m guessing would be due to a balancing of their testosterone levels!
- Pumpkin seeds: Rich in zinc (another important nutrient for balancing hormone levels), pumpkin seeds also contain phytochemicals that are especially nourishing to the prostate. The two studies I read found that pumpkin seed oil effectively reduced prostate size in cases of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia – also known as an enlarged prostate) that were caused by hormone imbalance. And for all you coconut lovers out there – I found a study from Cuba that showed coconut oil to have the same benefits on BPH!
Ladies – I know the focus of this blog was more on men, but keep in mind that testosterone levels are important for women too! In fact, testosterone is the single most important hormone related to sex drive for women. So you may want to re-read this blog with that in mind :).
July 6, 2011 2 Comments
It seems like I have a freakish amount of friends and relatives who are pregnant or are looking to get pregnant soon. Either the government is adding something to the water or the people I know are just happy and want to bring another life into the world to share their happiness! In honor of all of you, I wanted to post some fun facts about raspberry leaf tea that I’ve learned either from research or from personal experience. And no, you don’t have to drop lemons into your glass of tea from a height of 10 feet as seen in the above photo to enjoy the benefits.
- Has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy to increase fertility. If druids drank it, then so can you.
- Strengthens the uterine wall while relaxing smooth muscle in the uterus, which improves chances of implantation and prevents miscarriage (basically the bizarro opposite effect of gin).
- Full of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that help the body to detoxify extra hormones that may impede conception.
- Hugely miraculous and amazing remedy for morning sickness (according to reports from friends – I did not try raspberry leaf tea myself for this as I did not realize I was pregnant for the 4 days during early pregnancy that I was vomiting and thought I had stomach flu but actually had a parasite known as Mr. Milk).
- Provides vitamins and minerals including A, B complex, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium in an easily absorbable form to help baby grow while keeping mom nourished.
- Many women also report that it reduces leg cramps and swelling associated with late pregnancy.
- Has been shown to concentrate the effects of contractions to make them more effective. From personal experience, I drank 1-2 quarts daily of raspberry leaf tea during my last 2 months of pregnancy and had a great labor (8 hours labor at home, 30 minutes in hospital, 10 minutes of pushing). I can’t say it was just the tea – I think laboring at home helped a lot because I could run around like a crazy person with each contraction rather than being confined to a small hospital room and Mr. Milk was only 5 1/2 pounds at birth (yay for being a small Filipino mom!) – but I do think it helped.
- May be especially helpful for women who are planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) because of its ability to tone uterine muscles (since the uterus was cut open during the C-section).
- Many reports I have read from midwives say that the tea especially helps to shorten the second stage of labor (the pushing stage – from complete dilation of the cervix until the baby is born). I have also heard from midwives that women who drink the tea later in pregnancy tend to have extremely strong membranes protecting the baby. I would attest to this, since my water never broke on its own – the midwife actually had to break it when I got to the hospital since it didn’t break even as the baby was emerging – and I think the fact that this membrane remained intact was the only reason that Mr. Milk was not born in the bathroom at home or in the car on the way to the hospital.
- Has been reported to “bring in rich milk”, most likely due to its mineral content.
- Helps to balance postpartum hormones to prevent the drastic change in hormones that causes many women to experience postpartum depression.
Even if you don’t want to get pregnant benefits
- Has been shown to reduce menstrual cramps and may help to regulate the flow of menstruation due to its effects on the uterus.
- Helps to detoxify excess hormones which is very helpful during times of hormonal shift such as menopause or in the second half of the menstrual cycle (the two weeks before starting your period, which is when most women experience PMS).
Benefits for menfolk (also known as dudes but since this is a blog about herbs I thought to use midieval terms like “menfolk” and if possible I will throw the most despised of all renaissance terms – “m’lady” – in here somewhere)
- In herbal terms, it’s a “nourishing reproductive tonic” for men, which is just a fancy way of saying it helps your junk work better.
- Its ability to detoxify extra hormones is helpful for men also since they are bombarded with artificial estrogens on a daily basis from commercial meat and milk, plastics, food additives, and chemical fumes (especially if they are in the construction business). These extra estrogens, along with too much unresolved stress over a lifetime, are major culprits in the phenomenon known as “andropause” or male menopause, which is characterized by a drastic drop in testosterone levels.
- May also help with diarrhea, which if you’ve ever been kind enough to clean the bathroom at a location shared by several college age men who drink beer, you will see that diarrhea is apparently something that needs to be helped.
The nice thing about raspberry leaf tea is that it is a balanced food so it’s safe for virtually everyone at every stage of life (I even saw one article about giving it to children with stomach aches) and you can’t really overdose on it. Herbal experts and midwives recommend between 1 cup daily all the way up to a gallon daily during pregnancy with no side effects. I did a little bit of research on PubMed and only came up with 2 research articles on raspberry leaf tea, but neither of them found any negative side effects and the articles I saw on other research sites only found unwanted side effects when specific active ingredients were taken out of the tea and used in ridiculously huge doses. Drinking the tea in its whole state is supposed to be “self-regulating”, meaning the active ingredients balance each other out.
To make the tea, I suggest 1 Tablespoon of bulk tea per cup of hot water. Or you can just buy tea bags and follow the brewing instructions. I also like to use the bulk tea to make sun tea (since I am too lazy to boil water, which is why I specialize in nutrition and not delivering babies). I just take a handful (mind you a small, half-Filipino handful so if you have big hands ask a half-Filipino neighbor to do your measuring for you) of bulk tea leaves and throw it into a half gallon Mason jar, fill it with water, put on a lid to keep out bugs, and set it outside in the sun to brew to desired darkness (also known as, set it out and forget about it for several hours until my husband comes home and asks me why I left jars filled with dirt and leaves and is that urine? on the back porch) like so:
Then I just keep it in the fridge and have iced tea to sip on whenever the mood hits. So drink up, m’lady!
NOTE: This blog is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner. All information contained in this blog is the opinion of Jessica Forbes and is not to be interpreted as medical advice.
October 8, 2010 79 Comments
I am asked often about gin and whether it is worse for you than other types of alcohol or not. Sometimes this question comes my way at parties, other times it comes my way after a friend has purchased a Costco sized jug of Bombay Sapphire and is calling me to defend their purchase to their roommates. The question came my way again this week through my “Ask Jessica” service (which has been a great success, thank you all!). I thought I’d post the response here for all of you to enjoy also – then maybe my friends will start calling YOU instead of me after a Costco liquor spree!
Q: Is it true that gin is bad for your lady parts?
A: I really had to break out the chemistry research to answer this question! There are many, many varying opinions out there on gin – some say it is just an alcohol that is no more harmful than vodka while others say it is the worst type of alcohol to ingest.
In looking at the science behind the question, I found that while gin is (obviously) a type of hard liquor that contains ethanol and is therefore not good in general for “lady parts”, the fact that it is distilled from juniper berries (among other plant compounds) may be the reason it has gained the reputation for being bad for fertility. Juniper berries have been used for centuries as a traditional remedy most commonly indicated for kidney ailments. Intake of juniper berry extracts, however, is strongly contraindicated during pregnancy or for those who are looking to get pregnant. The fact that gin is distilled from juniper and is rich in “terpenes” (an active ingredient in juniper berries as well as other compounds in gin and also what gives gin its unique flavor) is probably why it has been linked to female reproductive problems.
In combing through the research surrounding juniper berry and terpenes, I found the following information):
- Juniper berry extracts, particularly terpenes, increase uterine tone (meaning they make the muscles of the uterus contract), which may lead to loss of pregnancy or in someone who is not already pregnant, may make it more difficult for an embryo to implant. This quality alone is what probably gives gin martinis the right to bear the catchy nickname of “infertilitinis”.
- One study I found reported that when juniper berry extract was fed to rats (I did not read the entire study to see exactly how much was fed, though it was probably a very large amount), it was 60-70% effective at keeping those rats from becoming pregnant by not allowing embryos to implant. Another rat study also found that large amounts of gin caused pregnant rats to miscarry. The reason scientists study rats so much is that their biochemistry is very similar to humans, so these rat studies do apply.
- Another study also showed that juniper extract has the ability to affect production of certain types of estrogen (the study I read highlighted estradiol, a potent estrogen that encourages cells to divide), which was found to be helpful in some ways for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells but may not be helpful for “lady parts” in general. Estrogen levels are also not a good thing to tamper with during pregnancy or the pre-conception period.
The bottom line is that gin is alcohol, which should be avoided anyway during pregnancy or when a woman is trying to get pregnant. The presence of juniper berry and terpenes would make it even more important to avoid gin during this period. But, in moderation (1-2 drinks containing gin per week), I did not find any research that indicated that non-pregnant lady parts would be affected in the long run. However, using scientific reasoning and the fact that gin may cause contraction of the uterus, a woman who suffers from strong uterine cramps around the time of her menstrual period and who also drinks gin may want to stop doing so and see if the cramps subside.
Here are some references for studies, should you be the scientific type who would like to look more into the subject:
- Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, eds. Herbal Medicines: a Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
- Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG . 2002;109:227-235.
- Agrawal OP, et al. Planta Medica 1980;SUPPL:98-101.
- Prakash AO, et al. ACTA Europaea Fertilitatis. 1985;16(6):441-448.
- Prakash AO. International Journal of Crude Drug Research 1986;24(Mar):16-24.
- David T. Zava, PhD et al. Estrogen and Progestin Bioactivity of Foods, Herbs, and Spices; Aeron Biotechnology, San Leandro, California 94577; and Cancer Research Division, California Public Health Foundation, Berkeley, California.
And should you be the SUPER scientific nerdy type (which I know you are), Nature.com offers a bunch of structural drawings of terpenes for your enjoyment.
October 7, 2010 4 Comments
My husband and I bought a new Serta mattress earlier this week, a replacement under warranty for our former Serta mattress that behaved more like a papasan chair. While researching which mattress would be the best replacement, I came across all kinds of info on new mattresses and off-gassing of harmful chemicals from the foam (especially memory foam, apparently) and fire retardants. There are all kinds of opinions and scary stories out there ranging from everything from multiple chemical sensitivities to SIDS.
I try to not be an alarmist, but I must admit that reading this info made me wary of our new and exciting purchase – especially with the recent law mandating that all new mattresses be doused in fire retardants during manufacturing, unless you can get your doctor to write a prescription for a fire retardant-free mattress. I started wondering if I should just forget about the Serta and opt for an all-natural, foam-free mattress. However, I could feel my Filipino ancestors shaming me from beyond the grave for even thinking of questioning the benefit of a FREE brand new mattress. (Mind you, I am not making ethnic generalizations – my Filipino grandma once haggled so intensely over a 25 cent item at a flea market that the vendor ended up just giving it to her for free. Getting free stuff runs in my genes and I am sure she is not the first one to inherit it.)
I decided to proceed with the Serta replacement and took the following precautions to make our slumber as non-toxic as possible:
- First and foremost, I took the plastic wrapping off the mattress as soon as we got home and opened the window in our bedroom. I’m in Iowa and it is still relatively freezing so I closed the door to the bedroom while the window was open. We also live on a farm so I wasn’t about to leave the mattress outside as temptation for neighborhood mice and raccoons. We brought the mattress home in the early afternoon and I left the window open until about an hour before bedtime. Some websites said to do this for 24 hours, since the first 24 hours is the time of the most off-gassing, but we were too impatient.
- I invited a friend over and we both put on clean socks and walked all over the mattress (with the window still open). I read about this online – apparently walking on the bed squeezes the air out of the foam and draws new air in, which accelerates the rate of off-gassing and gets the chemicals out of the mattress and into the air.
- I put all the plants in the house in the bedroom for 24 hours. NASA has done studies on using house plants to purify the air in space shuttles so I figure they’re good enough for me and my mattress. Fast growing plants such as spider plants are especially good at purifying VOC’s (Volatile Organic Chemicals) out of the air. My husband thought our bedroom looked like Jurassic Park but that’s what he gets for marrying a crazy nutritionist.
I must admit that I have no chemical sensitivities or serious health concerns, so if you are someone who does, the above three precautions may not be enough for you and you may need to look into chemical free bedding. However, my husband and I love our new mattress and I feel good knowing that the surge in off-gassing that occurs with brand new mattresses happened in a controlled manner instead of into us while we’re dreaming!
March 18, 2009 16 Comments