Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Immunity Boosting Herbs

There are numerous herbs which are known, both through traditional knowledge and modern scientific research, to benefit the immune system. Typically, such herbs work by directly attacking and destroying disease-causing pathogens, increasing the numbers and/or activity of immune cells in the body, or both. Here are some powerful immune-boosting herbs, in no particular order.

Astragalus was described by Mark Stengler, ND, as "one of the best herbs in the world for enhancing the protective effects of the immune system." This herb boosts immunity by increasing the numbers and/or enhancing the function of various immune cells in the body, including macrophages, natural killer cells, white blood cells and antibodies. It also stimulates the production of interferon, a potent antiviral compound. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, where astragalus is known as Huang Qi, it is used to help prevent common colds and upper respiratory tract infections.  In the US we call it milkvetch and it grows wild in fields, long roads and other places where the soil has been disturbed.  I posted some more details about this plant back in 2012 among the Wild Herbs I found in Wisconsin.

Although the taking of powdered echinacea in tablet form was debunked a number of years ago, further study has revealed it does give the immune system a boost by stimulating the immune cells that patrol the body and fight off disease-causing pathogens when extracted into tinctures. This herb raises both the number and activity of white blood cells, a core component of the body's immune system, and activates interferons, which are required for protective immune defense against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumor cells. Echinacea also contains other chemicals which prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, and has even been shown to have anticarcinogenic properties.

One particular study in Germany found that 30 drops of Echinacea tincture taken three times daily helped to enhance the activity of phagocytes, a type of immune cell, in the body by 120% after 5 days of consumption. The direct antiviral properties of Echinacea make it valuable considering the limits of conventional medicine in dealing with viral infections.

I covered some of its other attributes and details of how to grow it and make a tincture from the leaves, flowers and roots in an herb of the week post in 2011

3.Licorice Root
There are two compounds in licorice, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid, which research has shown to elevate the levels of interferon in the body. This helps to keep the replication of viruses and other pathogens in check. Licorice root is actually found in many Chinese, Ayurvedic, Japanese and even Western formulas for treating infections and infectious diseases. Licorice lozenges and teas are commonly recommended by my herb friends. I shared a tea recipe back in a blog in 2012 

In Europe, physicians have a high regard for licorice root as one of the best herbal treatments for fighting viral hepatitis. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are treated intravenously using licorice in Europe.

Goldenseal has been found in research to have antiviral and antibacterial properties, as well as the ability to both increase immune cell production and enhance immune cell activity. 

Be aware however this plant is protected, so wild harvesting is generally not allowed in most places.  Instead try to grow a patch of your own (And no, this is not goldenrod or ragweed the plants that grow everywhere!)

Goldenrod (not Goldenseal)

5. Elderberries 

Elderberries are held in high esteem in areas all over the world. Known for their outstanding ability to ward off and cure the common cold and flu virus, elderberries make some of the most effective remedies and should be a part of everyone’s home healing pantry. In fact in a 1996 report researchers who studied elderberries found that they are 99% effective in fighting the Avian Flu (H5N1) virus. (Nutri-ingredients USA) Make a tincture or enjoy a syrup made with this on your pancakes or ice cream.

Garlic also contains compounds which fight and destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and even cancer cells. For the best health effect, fresh garlic should be chopped or crushed, left for 10-15 minutes, and then eaten raw.  Do not kiss your partner after trying this, however.

American Ginseng
Research in Germany found that Siberian ginseng boosts immunity. In particular, the activity of lymphocytes are enhanced, which are immune cells in the body that fight infection. In addition, Chinese ginseng has also been found to give immune function a boost. American ginseng is also known for its healing properties and as a result it has been over harvested.  There are a number of regulations about harvesting this plant so know yours before you gather it yourself.

Sources for this article include:

Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don't Know. New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press, 2010. Print.

Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.

Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.

Haas, Elson M., MD, and Levin, Buck, PhD, RD. Staying Healthy With Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mock Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Vegan) - Meatless Monday

All month I have been sharing Chicken soup recipes, they are chocked full of vegetables, so if you could eliminate the meat, Chicken Soup would be great for a vegetarian eater.  However, then wouldn’t it just be vegetable soup?  To make it hearty, “meaty,” and more like the flavors of Chicken soup I looked for an appropriate alternative to give my vegan readers something to try as well.  I adapted this recipe from one I found on Stacy Homemaker.  She shares great vegan and vegetarian recipes and her solution for Mock chicken using jackfruit was inspired! This is a creamy soup without any dairy also if you want to avoid lactose.

Make sure to look for these things when you buy jackfruit for cooking:
  •          Fresh, ripe jackfruit is used for desserts. The unripe, young, canned jackfruit is what you want to buy to use as a meat replacement.
  •          Look for canned jackfruit that is in brine, not syrup. Make sure to rinse the brine off before you cook with it, to reduce the sodium.

Vegan Slow Cooker Chicken Wild Rice Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 cans of jackfruit in brine (rinsed and drained well)
2 to 3 tsp Italian seasoning (or a combo of basil, oregano and thyme)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 cups wild rice 
1 quart vegetable broth (about 4 cups)
2-3 cups of water (enough to just cover everything in the crock pot)
1 8 to 10-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (discard the water)
2 tsp corn starch 
Parsley for garnish

Put onions, celery, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, jackfruit, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, bay leaf, vegetable broth, and wild rice into a crock pot. Add enough water to cover all ingredients.  Cover and turn on high, cook for 3 1/2 hours.

After 3 1/2 hours, remove 1/2 cup of the broth and put into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl, whisk to combine. Pour it back into the crockpot to thicken the sauce.

Pour the coconut milk into the slow cooker, discard the water in the can. Stir to combine.
Replace the lid and cook for 30 additional minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and black pepper. Enjoy!

If you don't like jackfruit or cannot find it at the store, try potatoes, artichoke hearts, cauliflower, or another meat substitute instead but adjust the cooking time accordingly, as these will cook faster.

Do not add the cornstarch into the slow cooker! If you do, it will clump and you won't be able to whisk the clumps out. You have mix the thickener in a separate small bowl and then add it to the soup.

When you warm up leftovers, add a little bit more plant milk to help loosen the broth.

You can use a blend of wild and regular rice if plain wild rice is not available.  (I buy mine bulk from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa in Wisconsin, but you can get some from the Native Mobile Farmers Market)

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Slow Cooker Herbs de Provence Chicken Rice Soup - Weekend Recipe

I originally shared this recipe in Advent 2014, but most of those posts have been lost, so I thought since it fit with the theme, I would post this one again.  This is another perfect weekend recipe, because you can put it in the crock pot, enjoy your weekend plans and then enjoy this soup at the end of your busy day.

Slow Cooker Herbs de Provence Chicken Rice Soup 

2 cooked chicken breasts and any other leftover chicken meat you might have from a roast chicken (abut 2 cups total), diced into ½-inch squares
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 to 3 carrots, sliced in coins
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed

Place the chicken, chicken stock, water, carrots and Herbs de Provence into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4 hours. Then, add the uncooked rice and a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook on low heat for another two hours.

Be sure to stir the soup occasionally to make sure all of the flavors are incorporated. Once it has finished cooking switch the setting to “keep warm” until you are ready to eat.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili

   December - Herbal Cocktails

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mini Herb of the Week - Parsley

I did a full post on Parsley as Herb of the Week back in 2015, so this will just be a mini parsley conversation.

Parsley among the herbs in a bouquet garni
This biennial herb that flowers only in the second year is brightly green leafed.  The leaves are divided pinnately into feather-like sections that lay flat like celery leaves or curl into small frilly leaflets depending on the variety.  Parsley has been naturalized throughout the temperate region needing full sun to part shade. Curly parsley grows 12 to 16 inches tall and can be grown easily as far north as zone 5.  The flat leaf parsley is taller growing 18 to 24 inches and is best for cooking.

So many think is it only a decorative green, but it is actually Parsley has more vitamin C per volume than oranges.  It also contains Vitamin A, several B vitamins, calcium, and iron.  Beyond this contribution of vitamins and minerals, however, it is not considered significantly medicinally. Some have made tea with it to use as a diuretic, but those with kidney issues and those who are pregnant should avoid this treatment.

flat-leaf Parsley
The best use of parsley is in cooking and seasoning.  Parsley has the ability to enhance the flavor of other herbs when it is not that flavor filled itself.  As a result, it is often used in seasoning blends.  I must source out parsley because I cannot produce enough for all the uses I have for it.  Be wary of store-bought parsley, however, if it seems just “too green.”  Parsley has a tendency to brown as it dries, in fact if you do not bag it after it is crisp-dry it can turn brown over time.  To avoid jars of brown herbs, many retailers dye parsley green.  You can usually tell if the color seems way too vibrant for a dried herb.  They should be a green on the dusty side of color.  When cooking with parsley add near the end of cooking to keep it from losing all its taste.

Parsley does not grow well from seed, so overplant seeds in a hill if you want to try to grow your own.  I generally buy nursery plants for my parsley and although it is a biennial, I treat it as an annual for I find the tasty leaves are short-lived in the second year as the plant strives to flower.  At the end of each season I just remove the plant with the other annuals before or after the first frost.  There are some who say that they have a parsley for years and harvest from it all season, but what I think they have is some sort of self-seeding going on because parsley is not attractive to flavorful in the second year and as with all true biennials it will die after producing seed.

This month we have focused on Chicken Soup as our recipe theme and I found a great recipe using parsley to keep up with that theme.

Chicken Vegetable Ramen Soup
1 (6-pound) roasting chicken
8 cups water
2 ½ cups chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 ½ cup ½ inch cubed parsnip (about 8 ounces)
1 ½ cups ½ inch cubed carrots (about 8 ounces)
1 ½ cups ½ inch cubed turnip (about 8 ounces)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 to 4 packages of Ramen Noodles

Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken.  Remove and discard skin from chicken.  Trim excess fat.  Split chicken in half lengthwise.  Place in Dutch oven.  Cover with 8 cups water and bring to a boil.  Cook 10 minutes.  Skim fat from surface of broth, discard fat. Add celery, leeks, parsnip, carrot and turnip, stirring well. Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove chicken.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Remove chicken from the bones, shred with 2 forks to yield 6 cups meat.  Discard bones.  Simmer vegetable mixture for 10 minutes or until tender.  Return shredded chicken to pan add salt, pepper, parsley and dill.  Cook ramen noodles according to package directions, omitting the seasoning packet.  Place ½ cup noodles in each of 8 bowls, top each with 1 ½ cups chicken mixture.

Parsley Chicken Seasoning
Great in soups, but also wonderful in chicken salad, egg salad and Chicken casseroles.

2 Tbls Parsley
2 tsp basil
2 tsp red pepper
2 tsp minced garlic

Mix together and store in a tightly lidded jar.  Use about 1 tsp per ½ pound of chicken in recipe.

To find any Chicken Soup recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

Friday, January 5, 2018

Chicken Pot Pie Soup - Weekend Recipe

This month is all about comfort food.  And chicken soup is the ultimate comfort food.  Go out sledding in all this snow we have and you need a warm-up from within.  This quick and easy soup can be made with left over chicken and canned soups and no one will ever know you did not slave all day.

We have been sharing recipes all month featuring Chicken soup.  See the bottom of the post for more details on our monthly recipe theme.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast meat
1 16-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of potato soup
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups skim milk (or 2% if you want it creamier)
1/4 tsp sage, dried
1/2 tsp savory or tarragon, dried
1 large potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (optional)

In a medium sauce pan combine chicken, mixed vegetables, cream of potato soup, cream of chicken soup, milk and herbs. Heat through over medium high heat and serve with crumbled crackers on top. Serves 4. Multiplies well.  You can also place cold ingredients in your crock pot and place on low heat for an hour to warm up.

Optional: Add cubed potato and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potato cubes are fork tender. Or cut in a cooked baked potato and simmer to warm.

Notes: In place of crackers, place a hot biscuit on top of each bowl of soup.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Multi Herb Foot Soak - Bath Blend of the Month

This rejuvenating and therapeutic recipe is good for summer when you want to soak those tired “dogs” with  herbs fresh from your garden, or in winter when the chill makes warm feet a rare occurrence.  In winter used dried herbs and in summer use fresh.

Multi-Herb Foot Soak
1/2 cup Epsom Salt
1 tsp Olive Oil

Sprigs of fresh Chamomile flowers, Eucalyptus leaves, Lavender flowers, Peppermint leaves, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, and Italian Oregano (in any combination). If fresh herbs are unavailable, substitute 1 tsp each of dried herbs.

Boil enough water to fill a foot pan or dish pan.  Place herbs in bottom of pan and pour boiling water over herbs.  Stir in Epsom salt and olive oil. Once the water has cooled to a comfortable temperature, soak feet for as long as desired. For an even more luxurious experience, place a few smooth stones into the bottom and gently roll your feet over the stones to naturally massage and relax them.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Crock Pot Chicken Stock

Yesterday I shared a pressure cooker recipe for making your own chicken stock. This method is just as simple and rewards you with a chicken stock you can use to make from scratch chicken dishes. Come back the rest of the month to find chicken soup recipes where you can put this stock to work for you!

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
2 large chicken breasts, bone in
4 to 6 cups water
1 small onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 bay leaves
1 cup of mini carrots, or two carrots coarse cut
3 stalks celery, broken in half
1 teaspoon pepper
3 Tbls parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried savory

Place ingredients into a crock pot and cook on high 2-3 hours until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken, cool slightly and pull meat from the bone, set aside to use in another recipe.

Remove the carrots from the crock pot and compost or enjoy as a side dish.

Strain the chicken broth through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids.

You now have a chicken stock you can use to make other fine chicken soup recipes.  Keep in the refrigerator for 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails
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