Here’s A Radical Idea: Stop Buying Supplements From The Market


Okay, I don’t want to lose you, this will be quick.  The internet is full of blog posts and articles selling you everything to make you perfectly happy and healthy (here is a quick comment to that, whatever they are selling won’t do it.)  Since supplements are not regulated by the FDA, anything can be in there. And unless an issue arises, or someone complains, or gets sick, or sues, you will be downing alfalfa capsules thinking it is St. John’s Wort.  This is not a joke, a recent study showed that over half of 10 tested St. John’s Wort supplements had little to none in it.  In fact, what they DID have could be even worse. One was filled with a known herbal diuretic. Yikes. (Another reason not to drop your prescription medication for herbal supplements without doctor and herbalist cooperation.)

So, quickly, what can you do?

Get your needs from food.  You know, “let food be thy medicine” and all of that. “Every food is a super-food”. I can probably come up with five or more slogans that say the same thing. Food was made to nourish us, eat it. Grow it. Share it. Enjoy it.

Find an educated herbal professional to walk you through what herbs you should grow, purchase, and use.  There is a reason these professionals take anatomy and physiology just like healthcare professionals. Many also study biochemistry or nutrition. Use their knowledge and let them help you!  If the goal is to balance yourself out to live a normal life, seek out a professional herbalist, alternative medicine practitioner, nutritionist, whatever you think would help you at this stage of your life.  You may seek out all of them. Bring these professionals your current supplement stash and you can wade through them together. I’ve never met an herbalist who practices for the money.  It is all about sharing knowledge.

Make your own nutritional supplements.  No, you are not “Doctor Mom”, you are a whole person aware of your bodily needs.  Giving yourself supplements to live life is not practicing medicine on yourself, and should not be used instead of seeing an educated professional.  If you have no issue making yourself a balanced dinner, you should have no issue making a mug of lemon balm tisane or sprinkling mustard powder on your cooked broccoli.  But when you start trying to fix a specific issue, that is when it would be best to search out the help of a practitioner, one who studies herbal energetics and nutritional synergy. With their help you can even make your own personalized supplement capsules. I assure you, a professional will also let you know when your issues are beyond their practice and recommend you into the hands  of those who may help better.

If you are into quick educational videos I recommend this one here about supplement safety. Black Raspberry Supplements Put To The Test 


You Are What You Drink…

Well, not really.  I mean, we are mostly made of water (60%),  but if we drink a bunch of diet coke and sweet tea we don’t turn into those.  Our system is much more efficient, much more complicated than that.  But we do know that our bodies were made to drink lots and lots… and lots of water.

I was browsing around online a few days ago and skimmed over an article ad about drinking only water for (so many.. 30? 60? 100?) days.  I don’t know what it was selling or how spammy the site was, I didn’t click on it.  But I did see it long enough to catch the title, and it reminded me of something.

Last year I took a Holistic Health class and for one week we were required to write down everything we had to eat and drink.  It wasn’t to shame us or guilt us into a specific diet.  It ended up not even graded.  It was an exercise in one important thing: awareness.  You see, we get distracted a lot.  We are almost to the point of constant distraction, just bouncing from task to person to entertainment and back again.  Our lives reflect that in every way.  But what happens when we take a moment to slow down and collect a bit of data?  Not for a specific diet, not for a feeling of control, but just for our own awareness.  We may just change an unhealthy habit or appreciate a good one with a look that lasts longer than a second.

So yesterday I decided to pause and take a picture of everything I drank.  This is actually a step harder for me as I had to lug out my big camera, since my old flip phone does not give me a way to get pictures off of it.  Why it has a camera in the first place I do not know.  Mysteries, I tell you.


First thing in the morning, almost every morning, is coffee. Coffee with some type of non-dairy sweetened creamer.  It is delicious. I look forward to it. One cup. (And yes, the handle on this mug is upside down.)


Some water to wash that down.  Around 12 oz / 300 ml


And right before lunch, what I like to consider my tea prep for the crazy afternoon. A mug of hot Lemon Zinger (a general hibiscus blend) and around 24 oz / 600 ml of Raspberry Zinger to drink cooled.


Then more water around dinner-ish time, the most chaotic time of day, about 24 oz / 600 ml.


And a surprise from my husband when he got off work that night.  Yeah, that chocolate milkshake went fast.  He handed it to me on the couch, nursing baby in my lap, and I finished it before that baby could throw up all over me.  It was a great surprise.  I later had to pull the cup out of the trash because I forgot about my picture taking by that time. Unknown ounce size…I think it was a medium.



So now looking at this with fresh eyes I am happy with my morning hydration.  I get a lot in.  But I would like to drink more in the afternoons.  Maybe mix it up with some flavored seltzer water. Or hot cocoa since it is getting chilly.  And as I am writing this that picture of the empty milkshake cup is taunting me.  So good.  So good.

Try it out.  For a day write down or take a picture of everything you drink.  Don’t change it up. Do exactly as you would normally, no judgement or hesitation.  Then look back the next day and see what you like and what you could change to get more fluids in your body.  You might recognize some interesting patterns.  If anything it will give you a moment to think about what you are drinking and if it is fueling you in the way you want.

Keep Your Eyes Open Concerning Herbal Marketing

Besides talking about specific herbs we are growing and blending through Herban, I find that most of the time I am writing about the marketing aspect of herbs and supplements.  In a culture where words can mean whatever the sales person wants them to mean, it is important to be informed and educated on what you purchase.  In some instances you  may just find yourself out of money or left with a faulty product, but with purchasing supplements you also add a risk to your bodily health (and your family’s if you choose so).  There also seems to be a ‘group mentality’ when it comes to health-related ventures now that turn into ignorant cliques that can drag bad information for miles before someone educated comes along and clears the air.  Unfortunately in these situations the group-think may be so strong that relationships and peace are destroyed with the revelation of truth.  It is a messy business to keep relationships when others rely on false facts and choose those over a friendship.   (Do I sound like I have personally felt this?… *ahem*)

So in the news recently Dr. Oz has been sued for encouraging faulty products with false advertising.  I really have no information on Dr. Oz so I don’t want this to be an opinion of his character or knowledge.  I know his daughter is on The Chew, a show I enjoy, but that is about it.    The big point I got from the article was this—-

“Dr. Oz, for his part, noted that he is not paid to recommend the products, he does not sell them, and he does not advocate their long-term use.

But consumers say that’s not good enough, because they claim at least some of the people who have been guests on his show have hidden their ties to the companies they promote. They’re not the only ones upset about the practice. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also been involved.”

(Full article here)

It’s been open knowledge that if you sell a product and claim any type of health-aid that does not happen or does hurt you are open to a lawsuit.  It actually happens a lot.  But to have a lawsuit filed against you for simply entertaining the ideas of these supplements and hosting the sales people/owners of these companies seems new to me.  (If it is not, let me know.)  So at some point being associated and a ‘known name’ can get you in trouble legally.  More reason than ever to stay away from the marketed trends and stick to what information is proven out there when discussing supplements as a professional.

This is the Washington Post article about the ‘green coffee extract’ and how it was sold as a weight loss product on the show.  Apparently the ‘naturopathic doctor’ (which is not a doctor in the medical sense, but in the naturopathic educational sense, similar to ‘doctor of literature’ or ‘doctor of psychology’.) is now involved in a 9 million dollar settlement for ‘manipulating the Oz show’ as simply a marketer for a faulty product.

In the end did most people just loose money and time?  Maybe they ended up stressing more about their health/weight/vitality (enter the epidemic of American disordered eating) with no real results.  Maybe they hocked the product themselves and passed on bad knowledge for months.  Or maybe they got sick.  Maybe it caused their medications not to work.  Maybe they ended up in the hospital.  (Please be careful with ‘extracts’ as many are highly concentrated!!)

And again, in the end, do your research, educate yourself– and talk to other educated professionals and get their opinions as well. An educated consumer keeps professionals (and sales people) in check. Have a great day!


Morphine in Your Syrup & Other Strange Things

I know it has been awhile.  I really am going to try to get better at posting regularly, but I already know I have a few things going against me.  1) School is back in session and so my “extra time” is taken up by homework and labs and practicing and such.  2) I have a serious dislike for sitting at the computer for too long.  I actually start to get a headache.  I am trying to get better at this one….really. 3) My Baker Creek Seeds catalog came in and I get to make one million variations of our herb garden on paper before I decide on the final layout. This is a labor of love, all right. (If you want to see the lovely {limited} catalog sign up for the free one on their website, or put down $10 for the ultimate seed catalog of 2016.)

In news, some herbal company selling an ‘herbal cough syrup’ came under fire from the FDA for having morphine in it.  It was not on the label, obviously.  I’m no friend of the FDA but they handle what they handle, and I am glad they caught this and are making a fuss.  When herbalism goes mainstream as medicinal, you have got to be up to pharmaceutical standards… because that is what you are claiming.  (Basically if you are creating an artificial reaction {drug induced} in the body to get a desired response, you are in the FDA’s radar.  Some older practices of herbalism do not endorse this type of use, but instead aim at nutritionally balancing out the body so it can handle the issues that come into play.   There are many master herbalists that explain this belief better than I do.. I should go into that more another day with resources.)  Anyway, be careful what you purchase.

Another strange trend, using herb balls to “detox your womb”.  Again, your body balances itself out.  Very rarely do you need to use artificial means to balance it out. Your body is smart.  Be smart and give you body what it needs to “detoxify” itself.. like rest, good fresh food, water, and exercise so you will sweat.  Sweating is good.

Growing Chinese Herbs in the US

Photo Credit:


I took a holiday job at a local bookstore this season which just recently came to an end.  One fun part of the job was conversing with the customers that came up to the register.  I was able to discuss many different topics and ideas as their books showed their personal interests.  One topic that came up quite often with customers and co-workers alike was where the medicinal herb market was heading in the US.

Being a student of Western herbalism I often start sharing how easy it is to grow herbs that are native to Northern Indiana soil.  There are plenty of helpful herbs that often get mowed over or destroyed simply because they become invasive and do not look as tidy as grass.  Equipped with the knowledge of recognizing these helping plants and being able to properly asses their quality, most people would find that they are already growing something in their yard they could use.

But many times when I talk on herbalism I find that Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is what initially comes to people’s minds.  They think of wild ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L) which actually grows in North America but is used in TCM, or other herbs that are grown in China and brought over to the US.  There is a bit of romanticism about it, getting foreign herbs to aid healing when “modern medicine” won’t do the trick.  It also helps when beneficial techniques such as the practice of Thai Chi are used along with herbal supplements.  The package deal is unique and interesting.

With rising quality issues concerning supplements from other countries, it is no wonder that there are more American herb farmers interested in growing specific herbs for TCM. These herbs have been well documented for years and carry quite the reputation.  And focusing on a sustainable, local source for these gems is phenomenal.

I’m intrigued with how this will go as people become more interested in herbal supplement use for health in general.  If we use our lands for herbs that do not naturally grow here, I wonder what the outcome will be.  The quality may be better, similar, or worse.  It could also lead to interest in native herbs, many that have the same helpful properties as those purchased from other countries.  An educated customer keeps herb quality in check.

*Edited to add a recent study showing that American ginseng tisane protects cellular DNA within 2 hours from consumption. (Sept 2015)

Anyway, another article popped up on a social network today that got me thinking about a balance of trends.  As we find ourselves interested in securing our own sources for herbs used in TCM, China has just opened a fancy new McDonald’s that rivals anything I have seen here.  In fact, if I had one of these new “McDonald’s Next” close by, I am sure I would visit.  What trends and what sells at each moment is quite interesting, huh?

Some recognizable herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine by Common Name*

Mulberry Leaf
Honeysuckle Flower
Reishi Mushroom
Angelica Root
Astragalus Root
Liquorice Root
American Ginseng
Cassia Seed

*These herbs could be recommended in common name, scientific/Latin name, or Chinese name. It is best to double check with the scientific/Latin name to make sure you are getting exactly what was recommended.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners in Indiana

Essence of China Acupuncture & Herb Clinic, Carmel IN
Dr. Angelica Kokkalis, O.M.D L.Ac., Lafayette IN
Munster Medical Acupuncture & Wellness, Munster IN


Marketing, The FDA, and Egg-less Mayo

As I sit here procrastinating on studying for my Medical Terminology final I have in exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes, I found this story at the top of my Facebook news-feed.

The FDA has decided that vegan Just Mayo is actually mayo after all

Without getting involved in the vegan-vegetarian-omnivore conversation vortex, as it is easy to do as someone studying holistic health (I mentioned that I only have an hour to procrastinate here), the marketing is really what this is about. And a bit about the FDA, of course.

I’ve had tons of articles pop up for me recently about small companies getting “warning letters” from the FDA about how they do business or how they market.  But I do not have the same feelings about each company and the “big bad FDA” (as proponents of green-washing want to tout) after each read.  Sometimes I am in agreement with the FDA. AHH! Aren’t you a student of holistic health? What is wrong with you!!  No, seriously. Sometimes what the FDA is requiring is within their jurisdiction. Other times it is not. It’s not personal, it’s set regulation.

So the Just-Mayo people were told they were not marketing correctly and that they needed to change their label since their mayo is vegan.  This is interesting, as if I recall Pringles can’t be labeled potato chips (I think they go by ‘crisps’) because they do not have enough potato content. And I know Nutella has had many issues, from not having enough cocoa to be called chocolate spread in Italy, to being sued for claiming itself a “health food”.   And what about the classic, sweet Miracle Whip?  So, who has the rights to the legal definition and labeling of mayo? Apparently the use of the word ‘just’ has to be defined.

From the article, “The new label clearly states that Just Mayo does not contain eggs. And CEO Josh Tetrick tells Quartz it will emphasize the word “just”—not as in “only” but as in “guided by reason, justice, and fairness.”

So this leads us to marketing. And what words mean.  And what companies mean when they use those words. And that really is the most important thing. Our culture wants to tell us what we need. And then it wants to sell it to us.  And we really shouldn’t believe a word of it at face value.  I guess we can say that it is sad to be held accountable, but for all the information out there we should be held accountable.  We can be aware of an awful lot. We can gain a good amount of knowledge on many topics.  So although ignorant purchasing is bound to happen while living a balanced life, if we really are trying to make an informed choice on something, we have the ability to do it.

So ask yourself some questions before buying into a brand:
What is this brand trying to sell me? (Lifestyle/Culture/Clique/Health)
Does it use an Us vs. Them method?
Are they open about their practices and research?
Do they have trusted, educated endorsers?
How old is the research?
Will it disrupt my balance or peace?
Can I separate myself from the brand?