Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to make Vanilla

Moving to a new place is usually a bit disorienting, especially when it's the other side of the world.

Being accustomed to a variety of health food stores, and even great finds at regular grocery stores, moving to a place with very little resources of this type took some adjusting.

One of these adjustments was trying to find something as simple as vanilla. Everywhere I looked there was fake vanilla flavoured junk. Yes - junk, really. Coumarin (a known toxic substance banned in the US since the 1950s, a derivative of this substance is warfarin - rat poison) was originally used for an artificial vanilla flavour (1880s) but for obvious reasons it is now banned. However artificial vanilla bought from Mexico or the Caribbean can still contain this substance. Since then, vanilla has been made from guaiacol (a petrochemical) or from lignin (waste by product of the sulfite pulping process to make wood pulp into paper - yum!). Most vanilla now is made from former of the two. (You may remember from my xenoestrogen post that petrochemicals are estrogen mimickers.) Needless to say, I'm not too keen about consuming any of that stuff.

Next I try to find natural, real vanilla, made with real vanilla beans. In Canada, our favourite vanilla was alcohol free, I didn't have such hopes in finding anything like that here. However, I was hoping to find some real vanilla. I had no idea how hard that could be. Even the health food store (the one and only) in the town closest to us had no vanilla (at all) and in another town where I found some, to my dismay, sugar was on the list of ingredients - in a health food store. Now I know that a lot of things found in health food stores are not actually healthy, but come on - sugar?

Ok. So here is where I decided to take matters into my own hands. Sure, vanilla is not a necessity but it is sure nice, especially when you don't use sugar or an excess of other sweeteners.

 Vanilla is said to the be second most expensive spice, the first being saffron. (Vanilla, however, is used way more than saffron.) When it comes down to it though, you can make your own vanilla for much cheaper than buying if from the stores.

The first thing to do is find vanilla beans. There are different grades of vanilla beans.
-Grade A or Gourmet - whole beans, with no dents or tears, most plump with a higher moisture content, the best choice when using the bean itself in baking
-Grade B -  whole or split beans, can be smaller than Grade A, not as plump, may be split (this means that they were allowed to ripen longer and have more flavour) better for making extract
-Grade C - beans that may have been unripe at picking, tears or damaged, used for non-food related items (soaps, candles, etc.)

Depending on where you buy your beans, sometimes the only difference between Grade A and Grade B is the length, it depends on the source of your beans. Grade B will be cheaper and is generally the preferred Grade for extract.

Vanilla beans are also labeled by which region they come from; Madagascar, Tahitian, Bourbon, Indonesian, etc. They are slightly different varieties with slight differences in taste, etc. The type of bean, in this instance, in really one of preference.

Now for your alcohol. The vanilla bean will be extracted into the alcohol itself, and some people like to mix their medium a bit. Typically vodka is used (and it's the cheapest). You can also add a mix with rum or brandy for a "richer" taste. I have only done vodka myself. You will pay twice as much for the "rich" effect. I found the alcohol is the most expensive part of this process.

It really doesn't matter how much you want to make. Just keep in mind this proportion: 6 vanilla beans for every cup of alcohol. I've found a lot of recipes that have less, we want vanilla extract not vanilla scented alcohol.

Cut your beans in half, and then slit lengthwise. Scrape out the inside.

You can then cut each half again, to make quarters. This is what I do, but it's not necessary. It would be advisable if you have a smaller bottle, you don't want half of the vanilla sticking out of the alcohol.

Stuff all the beans, insides, outsides and all into a coloured glass bottle. You don't want too much light to get to your vanilla.

Fill with alcohol, according to how many beans you put in. (Hint: it helps to count out how many vanilla beans you will cut up before you start everything, instead of counting as you go.) You will want to use 1 cup alcohol (whatever variety) for every 6 beans. You can always include more beans, but if you want a good vanilla, don't use less.

For the at least the first week you will want to shake the bottle quite well every day.

On weeks 2 - 4 be sure to shake it a few times each week.

By week 5 you are technically able to start using your vanilla. Top the bottle up with more alcohol if the beans get exposed. If you can wait and not use the vanilla at this point it would be best. The vanilla will get more mature as time goes on.

After 6 months, (yes, that's a long time) you can filter out the beans. Lots of people like to then add the used beans to sugar to make vanilla sugar, but we don't eat sugar. You can also reuse them in your next batch, but continue with the recipe as if you didn't. I just reused mine, as I hate wasting food, especially something as good as vanilla. I may attempt to make vanilla coconut sugar at some time, but we'll see, I have a few months to go on my current batch of vanilla. (Hint: label the bottle with the date. I labeled it on my calendar, then the year changed and we threw the calendar out.)

We didn't really have much vanilla left after 6 month (we used all but a couple inches of it), but my next batch I made twice as much. Apparently the vanilla will continue to mature indefinitely. It will not get old either. So you can make a lot all at once and keep it around, knowing that it will only get better, like wine, with time.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Recipe Review: Banana Fritters

Other than "Nourishing Traditions", blogs are the only place I can actually find recipes that are good for me. I've found lots of scrumptious looking recipes and occasionally I even get around to making some of them.

This recipe is from The Healthy Home Economist, one of the many blogs that I follow. I followed the recipe pretty closely, only substituting agave for the honey. I often change things, but the first time through I try to stick to it, and this one definitely does not need tweaking. The only thing that wasn't clear in the instructions was that I cut the bananas in half after I thinly sliced them, they tend to be too big and will break if you don't. It looks like from the picture on her blog that that is what she did too.

I used two bananas for this with just a bit of batter left over. I considered mixing the leftovers with my scrambled eggs in the morning, but my husband suggested we just cook it up and eat it now. The pancake that resulted wasn't so much to get excited over, however the fritters were amazing. The banana really makes it, they are so naturally sweet. A non-health (sugar eater) conscience person was over at the time of making these tasty treats and I gave him one to try. He really liked them, so I find it's always a very good sign when someone who may not normally like what I like, actually thinks something healthy tastes good. 

I will definitely be making these again.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Xenoestrogens. The good, The bad and The ugly Part 4 - What to do

So by now, if you have read Parts 1, 2 and 3, you are keenly aware that xenoestrogens are BAD for you. Great, so now what?

As mentioned in Part 2, there is no escaping from the effects of xenoestrogens. But there are things you can do to make it much less. Remember, changing everything all at once can be pretty overwhelming, but as you make changes at your own pace, these things will become a habit and you'll wonder why you thought it'd be so hard in the first place.

The first place I personally would recommend is get rid of plastics! Food should never be kept in plastic, especially hot food. Many sources will stop at "don't heat food in plastic" (do we need to tell you not to microwave food?), or "don't use plastics for hot foods", however some plastics still leach when cool. Hot is definitely worse, but don't think you're totally off the hook if you stop with that. Ever had water in a water bottle for an extended length of time and it had that plastic aftertaste? The ester bonds that forms BPA into a polymer is not stable and decays with time, leaching BPA. This does not require heat to leach it out!

There are some BPA-free products out there, but personally I think that's just a lot of hype. There are still other chemicals in plastic, BPA (usually in hard plastic) is just the one that's receiving media attention right now. Actually it is the soft  plastics (phthalates) that leaches more xenoestrogens. Both are bad for you.

So that's right, cut out the plastic. This alone may seem overwhelming to some, but the job is becoming easier as people are demanding non-plastic solutions.

Get rid of your Tupperware (I know they're so handy, but the cost isn't just in dollars anymore). There are now glass and stainless steel options in various sizes. Glass baby bottles are becoming popular again (be sure to check the nipple) as well as stainless steel sippy cups. You can even get stainless steel or wood bowls and plates for picnics and baby. One of my favorites is storing food in mason jars, it's super cheap and easy, or in bowls and instead of using plastic wrap (yes, that's bad too) use a plate as a cover. You can even get (or make) cloth baggies for snacks and sandwiches. Make sure your baby doesn't put plastic toys in his/her mouth, the only way to do that is probably not to have any plastic toys. Get creative and make some toys, or buy some stuffed toys or wood blocks from Etsy.

You can request PVC free supplies for hospital treatment. This is best done ahead of time (for a scheduled appointment such as surgery) as the hospital may not have such items always on hand.

If I had to choose, the second most important thing would be the personal care products. Actually for many this should be the first thing you should do, I've been using pure stuff for so long now it hard to remember how much of that junk people use everyday. These things are loaded with xenoestrogens from parabens (major xenoestrogen) to fragrances (also xenoestrogen) and all sorts of junk that you just don't need. Remember what you put on your skin doesn't by-pass the liver, giving you 10 times the does you would get orally. This includes your shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions and whatever else you use. Simplify, there are a lot of alternatives out there. (I think this alone will become a post in itself at a future time.)

Also in that line of thought, if you wear cosmetics, learn to know what is safe. I don't use any cosmetics, so I'm not an expert on that. You can always just not use them, from what I do know, it seems like it's a pretty iffy world in trying to find something truly safe. Whatever you do though, don't wear nail polish, there is no known "safe" nail polish right now.

Also extremely important, buy organic food if at all possible. The most important here is the animal products, as estrogen is especially hard to get rid of in fatty tissue (this would be butter, milk and meat). If you're budget is limited on this the animal products are the most important. However, as you make eating like this a habit you may find that it isn't any more expensive at all. There are certain foods that contain higher pesticide amounts than others. See EWG shoppers guide to pesticides. For the foods with the lowest amount of pesticides, buy these simply at a farmers market (to avoid irradiated produce).

Don't use pesticides, etc. on your lawn or if you are fortunate enough to have a garden.

Clean up your cleaning products. Especially potent is the laundry. Fabric softeners coat your clothes and that stays in contact with your skin over long periods of time. It's not just the fragrance in fabric softeners that is so deadly. Fabric softener is the most toxic common household product. Detergent is another doosey. We make our own old-fashioned stuff here, but I've heard good things about Soapnuts. There are also other "safe" cleaners out there, which I'm always a bit suspicious of. Whatever you switch to, do your research on the ingredients first.

For cleaning your house, use simple baking soda and vinegar. That's all you really need. Micro-fiber cleaning clothes are also great. Don't get the cheap stuff though, Norwex is high quality stuff with a good warranty. Believe me that's why I sell it, there actually is a difference in effectiveness. My favorite thing for cleaning is baking soda. It takes care of scum like nothing, and great for scouring pots, it has even taken off stains from my counter tops. Vinegar is excellent as fabric softener (much for effective too). Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap residue and a truly clean smell (it doesn't smell like vinegar unless you use too much).

Scents and perfumes are another big concern. Phthalates are just one of the many ingredients that you want to avoid. (Phthalates are used as a stabilizer for fragrances). There can be as many as 600 chemicals to make up a single scent. The ingredients that make up the scent in products are not required to be on the label. 95% of the ingredients used in the fragrance itself are derived from petroleum (xenoestrogens) and many are the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke. (You wonder why scents affect some people so much?) These products not only cause estrogen dominance, but also damage the central nervous system, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose. They bring about asthma-like symptoms, migraines and skin problems. The compounds that are found in synthetic fragrances cause birth defects and end up in human milk.

It is very hard to avoid synthetic fragrances if you depend on common household products and personal care. There are a few good options out there, but the best that I've seen are small, often one family operations who make these products because they want to avoid the toxic exposure themselves. Learn to be an avid label reader, and ask many questions when you buy a product. All products you buy in a store will have some way of getting a hold of some sort of customer service, or especially if it's a small, private business they should be happy to answer your questions.

When you renovate, be aware that glues, paints, new carpet, vinyl flooring, etc all will release a vast variety of chemicals. It is not always possible to live in a separate location during this time. When you are pregnant, this is especially not a good time to remodel or paint. Mattresses, walls and flooring will "off-gas" for quite a while so it is best to air out the house as much as you can on a regular basis. A good-quality carbon filter will help with some of the pollutants, and - my favorite - house plants are natural air filters, some are much more effective than others.

Some sources;

Pyrex has glass storage containers (still with a plastic lid, apparently BPA free, but at least the food isn't touching it). You can buy these at stores such as Canadian Tire or any "home" type department store, whoever would sell Pyrex. (I got mine at Canadian Tire so I stopped looking after that.)

Life Without Plastic has great stainless steel and wood containers, water bottles, even water coolers. They also carry non-plastic toys miscellaneous household items (some you never would've thought of)  and are always adding new things.

GlassDharma carries glass straws.

Etsy has anything handmade. Believe me there's a lot there and it's always changing. A great place for wooden spoons, bowls, toys or other items.

The Common Sense Farm has a lot of personal care options including soaps, toothpaste, shampoo, lotions, and deodorant. I personally use their toothpaste and pure jojoba oil. Be sure to check each items ingredients, I have not checked everything (they have a lot of great stuff) and cannot say for sure that everything is safe.

There are many other places as well, learn what you need to avoid and surf the internet a bit, you'll be sure to find something.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Xenoestrogens. The good, The bad and The ugly - Part 3

A talk about xenoestrogens would not be complete without looking at phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are weaker than the body's natural estrogen, and is found naturally in plant sources. Unlike the synthetic xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens do get flushed out of the body in a relatively shorter period. In some people phytoestrogens may actually help with estrogen dominant diseases by blocking the estrogen receptor sites. (The phytoestrogen would take the place instead of the stronger estradiol, thus in a way lowering the effect of strong estrogen.) This is evident in that the use of ground flax seeds do help in some cases (some breast cancers, endometriosis).

However, don't rush out and consume a lot of foods known to contain phytoestrogens. There is some controversy over how and if phytoestrogens should be used in the cases of estrogen dominance. Some foods have stronger phytoestrogens and they will make the condition worse. These will increase the estrogen load in your body. The following should be avoided (for their strong estrogenic properties) if you have an estrogen dominant disease;

Clover, including red and white
Alfalfa Sprouts
Hops (Beer – men with beer bellies – beer bellies are a major indicator of too much estrogen)
Safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and canola oils (you should avoid these anyway)
Sunflower seeds
Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot)
Tea Tree oil  (yes, this is a hard one)
Lavender Oil

As always, anything should be used in moderation anyway. Of course, you should always consult your naturopath for guidance if you have a disease. There are conflicting sides to the use or non-use of phytoestrogens as treatment for certain ailments. This is merely a reflection of what I have read and come to understand and should not be taken as a replacement for professional advice. If this is an area that affects you, do some more of your own research and seek the help of a naturopath.

A MAJOR one to always avoid is SOY. Soy has strong phytoestrogens. You should stay far away from soy, if you have an estrogen dominant disease or not. You will soon get one if you don't. Soy is often not eaten in it's traditional form and has very negative effects on peoples health.

As for those food with weaker phytoestrogens, these should be consumed in moderate amounts and in rotation. So what foods have weaker phytoestrogens? Well basically all foods contain some. So this is kind of a trick question. The bottom line is any one food should be consumed in moderation. Remember that these week phytoestrogens do help to prevent the stronger estrogens from taking over. Make sure to get these from your food. While some phytoestrogens are helpful, taking them in isolated (concentrated) form is extremely dangerous. (Soy is often found in isolated form.)

On the other hand there are also things that hinder progesterone absorption. Progesterone naturally balances out estrogen in the body. Progesterone is what naturally sustains pregnancy. Miscarriages can occur if there is too much estrogen and/or not enough progesterone. Estrogen is what regulates the monthly cycle. However, estrogen still plays a vital part in the development of the baby. Remember the three types of estrogen listed in Part 1? Well, this is where estriol comes in. Estriol (a weaker estrogen) is what changes the colour on the stick in a pregnancy test (and is detectable in blood tests). This is what everyone is so excited to test for, and it is monitored throughout pregnancy to see if things are developing as they should. Estriol is produced by the baby's liver and the placenta. In a non-pregnant women, estriol is produced in very small amounts (not enough to change the colour on a test) as a product of estrone metabolism. By the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, this level rises to 300-400 mg per day. While estradiol is still produced during pregnancy it is produced in little amounts (as opposed to natural production of 100 – 200 mcg per day – more if you have more weight) – too much (or from xenoestrogens) would bring about miscarriage.

Certain herbs can block progesterone receptors, and unfortunately have been used to induce abortions in the past. Since pregnancy (the uterine lining) is sustained by progesterone, this method has been used to "naturally" cause a miscarriage by inhibiting availability of progesterone. For that reason I will not be providing a list of these herbs. Remember, natural doesn't always mean that it is good. On the other hand if you are pregnant don't stop eating all herbs, the amounts used to cause a miscarriage are far greater than anyone would flavour their food with. If you are pregnant your midwife can provide you with information on the herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy, and of course fasting and single food diets are not good during this time. 

Next up...Part 4 Xenoestrogens - what to do about it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Xenoestrogens. The good, The bad and The ugly - Part 2

As stated in Part 1, xenoestrogens are estrogens that are foreign to the body, or rather they are estrogen mimickers. They don't belong and the body has a harder time getting rid of them than natural estrogen as they are much stronger.

These foreign chemicals “mimic” estrogen in that they bind onto the estrogen receptors. These receptors are mainly located in the reproductive organs and fat cells. This fat is vary difficult to lose and results in a cyclical pattern of fat loving estrogen and estrogen loving fat, resulting in an increase of both. More estrogen overload.

The estrogen receptors become desensitized. They overload and just plain get exhausted. But endometriosis has it's own estrogen receptors (as does fat cells and ) and they are more than happy to welcome more estrogen, which in turn makes the endometriosis grow and spread (or in the case of fat, become more fat).

So what are some sources of Xenoestrogens

The simple answer is: CHEMICALS. Chemicals, chemicals, chemicals. The key is man made chemicals. People don't have a very good history of creating things, that's best left to God. (There is a difference between discovering, being creative, and plain messing around with stuff you really shouldn't). (I realize that water is a chemical. I sold Norwex, and I realized that “cleaning without chemicals”, and “just use water” was, in a way, an oxymoron. But in our modern language, most people are referring to man made chemicals when they say “chemicals".) More specifically the main chemicals for concern are those which are derived from solvents and petrochemicals. Unless you've done your research, you will be surprised to find out how much this really is.

-Plastic (any plastic - containers, wrap, drinking bottles, children's toys – including ones for “teething”)

-Fragrance (lotions, air fresheners, perfumes, cleaning products)

-Pesticides (Herbicides, Insecticides – and more than just the famous DDT)

-Non-organic, farm meat, eggs and dairy (hormones are given to animals to fatten them up – it is effective as seen above [fat has more estrogen receptors, makes more fat] since estrogen is fat soluble, you will get a portion of the hormones in your steak or glass of milk - not the way you want to fatten your kids)


-Food preservatives (BHT, BHA)

-Some food dye (dental labs, printing inks, candy, baked goods, condiments, snack foods, medicines)

-Insect repellent

-Detergents (especially laundry – it stays on your clothes and then absorbs into your skin)

-Paints, varnishes and solvents


-Cleaning products

-Dry Cleaning chemicals

-Canned foods (that white liner – plastic – Bisphenol A)

-Personal care products (cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, deodorant)


-Formaldehyde (found in carpets, clothing, mattresses, plywood, etc)

-Benzene (petroleum by product, found in rubber, detergent, pesticides, plastics, nylon, car exhaust, dyes)

-Emulsifiers and waxes (soups, cosmetics)


-Phthalates (add flexability to plastics, medical equipment such as IV bags and tubes, childrens toys, used as a stabilizer for fragrances)

-Sunscreen (specific ingredient; benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBS), octyl-methoxycinnamate, and octyl-dimethyl-PABA) In one study 4-MBS, using olive oil as a carrier, was applied to rat's skins doubling the rate of uterine growth well before puberty. Developmental abnormalities occurred in half of the 6 rats tested. The amount used was well within the allowable concentration for use in sunscreen.

-Industrial Chemicals (cadmium, lead, mercury, PCBs, dioxins)

-Sewage treatment waste (not designed to filter out hormonal waste from medicines being flushed down the toilet or excreted in urine)

-Unfiltered Water – contaminated with agricultural runoff (pesticides, fertilizers and from animals feed hormones) and prescription drugs. Most water treatment centers are not designed to deal with hormone pollution.

-Birth Control Pills

-Prescription Drugs (if not the drug itself, they often contain binders and fillers that are petrochemical in nature)

-Organochlorines (dry cleaning, bleaching products, PVC, PCBs chloroform, degreasing agents, dry cleaning chemicals, tetrafluoroethene [used to make Teflon], pesticides [DDT among others], dioxins, waste from manufacturing and incineration of plastics, including medical waste).

Okay, so what's not on the list? If your into the typical Westernized way of living, not much. Everyone is exposed to some of these chemicals everyday. Even a newborn baby has already been exposed. There is a minimum of 200 manufactured chemicals detectable in a persons blood. There is no way we are going to be completely rid of them. They key is, though, to limit your exposure to them as much as possible. This is not as difficult as you think, (see Part 4). Take it slow at first. Overwhelming yourself will lead to frustration and giving up. Change as fast or as slow as you need to. Change one thing every week, every 2 weeks or every month. Gradually you will find you can eliminate a lot of these toxins. Don't worry yourself with what you can't change (the air you breath outside) but focus on the things you can.

Xenoestrogens are ten times more potent when they are taken topically (through the skin) than orally. This is because they do not get processed by the liver first. Instead, they are absorbed straight into the bloodstream though the skin. What is in your personal care products?

You may also think that they are not affecting you, your relatively healthy, you don't have any diseases - at least not yet anyway. However, the effects don't necessarily show up right away. Many people don't do anything until the damage is visible, and often too late. What if you knew that sometimes the effects don't show up until the next generation – your children. Unborn baby's are at the highest risk, especially their developing reproductive system. Even if you have a system full of xenoestrogens (which are not easy to get rid off) before you get pregnant, they take their toll when you do manage to conceive. Also xenoestrogens can get passed on through mother's milk, weakening your baby's immune system and it's other damaging effects. Why do we drink pasture feed, non-hormonized dairy anyways?

This is not to scare to into doom and gloom, because there is only so much you can do. If you help your body do it's thing, it's created to deal with some of these things naturally. The issue is that our bodies have because so overloaded with the things that we eat and put on our skin daily that we succumb to a variety of ailments. There are many simple, practical things to do as we will see in Part 4.

Part 1                                                                                                              Part 3

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Xenoestrogens. The good, The bad and The ugly - Part 1

What started out to be a simple post on Xenoestrogens has now turned into a four-part series. This topic is quite close to my heart - literally, and my lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines, stomach and especially womb. Xenoestrogens are something that effects everyone these days, no one is immune to their destructive nature.. This area is especially of importance if you are a woman, man, adult or child.


Xeno meaning “strange/ foreign” - estrogen. The first thing we need to look at is what are estrogens.

Estrogen is a hormone naturally present in the body. It is made up of estrone, estradiol and estriol. Estrogen IS present naturally in both male and females, although it is usually higher in females (a man can have more estrogen than some menopausal woman) and it is recognized mainly as a female hormone. Estrogen is what helps develop the obvious physical differences between men and women, including the specific placement of extra body fat in the hips, and less facial hair for women. Estrogen (in women), is produced mainly by the ovaries. One of the main functions of estrogen (estradiol, the dominant estrogen) is cell division. (Estradiol is especially stimulating to the breast – too much equals cancer. And this is the form often found in drugs - both birth control and HRT.) It regulates the monthly cycle and thickens the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) in preparation for pregnancy. (Estrogen in men – produced in the testes and does actually help in some way in the male development, although to a much lesser extent than in females.) The main areas for estrogen (where the estrogen receptors are located) are the reproductive organs (creates cell growth, the preparations of the endometrium, releases the egg), but also the brain (PMS!), heart, liver (influences cholesterol, a healthy balance lowers the risk of heart disease), bones (healthy level protect against osteoporosis in both men and women) and and any fatty tissue.

Estrogen is metabolised in the liver. Specifically, estradiol is converted into less-active estrone and estriol and excreted in urine. Some estradiol is naturally recirculated through the body again, helping to maintain estrogen levels. A healthy liver is needed for healthy estrogen balance. Often people with estrogen dominance also suffer from an unhealthy, overloaded liver . A healthy liver will inactivate and flush away extra estrogen. However, when your liver is overloaded with toxins (a lot of which are estrogen mimicers – xenoestrogens), then this ability is impaired. Xenoestrogens also activate CYP-1B1 enzyme in the body. This converts estrogen into a toxic and carcinogenic form of estrogen (4 catechols) instead of converting to less-active estrone and estriol). Estrogen is now on the rampage. The main place it likes to accumulate is in the reproductive organs (contains many estrogen receptors) and fat cells. Stress has also been linked to too much estrogen. A very likely explanation for this could be that stress also hinders the liver. People with estrogen dominance often have many of the symptoms of an unhealthy liver. This makes sense when you realize that it's the liver that's the root of the problem.

Whether you are male or female too much estrogen is a really bad thing. Some signs of too much estrogen include:

Early onset of periods
PMS, cramping
Premenstrual migraines
Facial hair growth
Cold extremities
Ovarian Cysts
Water retention

Less hair growth
Raise in voice
Loss in hard muscle, usually replaced with fat
Growth of male breasts (not muscle – and they can even develop breast cancer!)
Endometriosis has also been documented (although rare – but hey, I'm a rare case too – men don't even have an endometrium!)

Both male and female:
Brain fog
Digestive problems
Cardiovascular disease
Autoimmune disorders
Insulin resistance
Cancer – especially in the breast (female) and prostate (male)
Infertility (sometimes “unexplained”)
Memory loss
Increase risk of Stroke
Moodiness and apathy (when men start getting PMS)
Zinc and Magnesium deficiency

Estradiol is the main and dominant form of estrogen. It is the main factor for activating the changes in puberty. These days "experts" are saying that it's normal for 7 - 8 year olds to show signs of puberty, menarche happening at 9 - 12. In the past (1840) menarche occurred at ages 15-17. Early onset of puberty is often an indicator of too much estrogen (usually from outside sources – enter xenoestrogens).

In Part 2 we will look more closely at these xenoestrogens themselves.

Skip to Part 3

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's in my Kitchen? - Pau'd arco

Pau'd arco, also known as Taheebo or Lapacho, is derived from the inner bark of the Taheebo tree found in South America. The tree can live up to 700 years, and is only "ripe" for extraction after 40 years. The harvesting of Pau'd arco is done in a way that does not harm the tree.

Most often this herb is taken as a tea. It is best to buy the tea in loose form - it looks like bits of bark - as many companies, unfortunately, do not use a pure form, or use other fillers in capsules and tea bags.

Pau'd arco is known for it's potent antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. This makes it perfect for strengthening the immune system and detoxifying the system in general. It improves digestion, reduces fevers and cleanses the blood. It is also a rich source of iron and helps the body to replenish certain vital elements. Do your own research (like always) into these and other uses for Pau'd arco for more detailed information. My primary goals are for pain releif, liver cleansing and treatment of Candida (which is supposed to be very effective in treating Endometriosis).

One of the most popular uses for Pau'arco is in the treatment of Candida Albicans (the yeast that is responsible for woman's discomfort, among a host of other symptoms). Also used for the treatment of cancer (not only stopping the growth but reducing it as well, and/or simply for pain management), diabetes, immune deficiency disorders, cardiovascular problems, parasites, liver diseases and is excellent for pain management. It calms inflammation and pain related to the bowl, ulcers, arthritis and even the common cold. Research is being done on it's anti-malarial action. Because of it's great ability to detox, I would not recommend this for the pregnant or nursing - your baby will end up getting a lot of what you are cleaning out.

Pau d' arco is said to have no contraindications (does not interfere with other medications/ herbs - good news for cancer patients) and is non-toxic. Even so, it may increase the effectiveness of certain drugs (this may be good or bad), especially blood-thinning drugs. It's good to get advice from a Dr. and/or naturopath when taking meds. Apparently combining Pau'd arco with Yarbamate is supposed to increase it's effectiveness (I have not tried this - yet).

At times, as with any cleanse, symptoms may become worse, or new ones appear (headaches are a common one) before they get better. This is referred to as a "healing crisis" or "die off" reaction. This is the herb actually working and causing the yeast, toxins, etc. to be expelled - first into your system, and then eliminated through natural means (including the skin). Thus is it important to have a functioning bowel (at least 2-3 movements a day - 1 is not regular enough), so the toxins don't recirculate. If the "die off" is too much, than reduce the dosage to a tolerable amount and then gradually work back up again. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water. This is a common mistake that often cause a lot of headaches and unnecessary difficulties with cleansing. Water assists the body in flushing out all that junk.

Pau'd arco can also be used topically for inflammatory skin problems such as hemorrhoids, eczema and as an antiseptic for wounds.

The recipe that I use for the tea is 3 tablespoons Pau'd arco to 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil with the lid on, then simmer on low for 25 min. For those of you against boiled tea - you need the heat to draw out all that good stuff into the water.
The next time I make tea I reuse the above 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra of fresh Pau'd arco. Continue as the first batch.

Strain and I like to drink it cool (room temp). Start out with 2 cups per day, then you can increase to 4 cups a day. Take for 6 weeks, then give your body a 4 week break.