The Garden Pharmacist Ep. 4: Libido Boost

I don't even think I need to explain this one.

The latest episode of The Garden Pharmacist web series gets a little bit cheeky as I show you how to turn a bottle of vodka in to a herbal infusion that'll really give you a bit of oomph. Whether it's for you, or maybe you want to mix a cocktail for your partner, these three herbs will combine beautifully to give you a totally troublesome tonic:

- Maca: The Peruvians knew what this stamina-boosting root herb was all about.

- Cacao: You may have heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac? Well pull out the sugar, cream, and other time wasters and be left with only the good stuff!

- Damiana: My absolute favourite of the sexy herbs (if such a thing exists) – this is a libido boosting tonic for men and for women.

Check out the video below, and you're welcome:

This is it for this series, with the second round of remedies to be filmed at the end of this month! Comment below to let me know what you'd like to see!

- Reece.

"Is it Good for Me? Bad for Me? What Does That Even Mean?": Simplifying Nutrition

Fats are bad for me; fats are good for me. Eat more fresh fruit; don't eat fruit, it's full of sugar. Tomatoes may reduce the risk of prostate cancer; nightshade vegetables like tomatoes are poisonous. I need calcium; I can't have dairy.

Paleo, Raw, Sugar-Free, Low-Carb – it's enough to make your head spin!

The fact that we have so much health information at our fingertips is a blessing and a curse. On one hand it brings invaluable nutrition education to millions, but there is no filter to weed out the bad advice and misinformed opinions. You don't need any knowledge of nutrition to publish an article on health anymore, you just need an internet connection.

And what does 'good for you' even mean? Does it mean it'll help you lose fat? Gain muscle? Avoid disease? Or even eat ethically?

So let's take this moment to explore my philosophy on nutrition and food as medicine. We'll also look at popular diets, their pros, their cons, and why I felt the need to develop the Four-Week Wellness Nutrition Plan.

 

 


My ‘Eating Well’ Philosophy

 

            Let’s face it: dieting is hard. It’s restrictive, it puts unrealistic expectations on us, and a small slip-up can easily become a binge when guilt takes over and sends us spiraling in to bad habits. We approach food with an ‘all or nothing’ attitude, and end up see-sawing between kale and Krispy Kremes. So it’s time to wave goodbye to ‘the diet’ and welcome ‘conscious eating’ … okay so I made that term up, but if people can ‘consciously uncouple’, then they can certainly consciously eat.

            So let’s forget die-hard diets and focus on educating ourselves about food instead. The main question to ask yourself is this:

 

Does it nourish my body?

Food is to be enjoyed, but it’s also the delivery mechanism for the building blocks our body needs to be healthy. All the major eating philosophies circulating around at the moment – raw food diets, paleo, low-sugar, 5:2 – have one thing in common: they promote whole foods. The transition from processed, refined products to natural produce is the smartest thing you can do for your body. That’s the kind of food your body evolved with, and it’s the kind of nutrition that it knows how to process.

            Overly refined foods are depleted of their vitamins and minerals through their processing and storage. Some vitamins are so fragile that up to 70% are lost by the time they get to your table.

So in a nutshell, nourishing foods deliver your body everything it needs to achieve your health goals. The easiest way to achieve this? Most (if not all) of your grocery shopping should come from the periphery of the supermarket, and not from the aisles. That’s where the fruits, veggies, and meats are. So stick to the outside, and don’t wander in to dangerous territory of packaged goods too often.

            Every body is different, and required different nutrition. That’s why I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all diet. But for most people, the following rules should be their guide:

 

Moderate carbohydrate intake, all comprised of whole-food carbohydrate sources and limited sugars.

Ditch flours, breads, and sugars (yep! I’m including honey and maple syrup in there) in favour of a rainbow of vegetables. Sugars spike insulin, training the body to store fat. That insulin then does the reverse and lowers blood sugar, tricking your body in to thinking it’s hungry when it’s not. We then overeat carbohydrates again and perpetuate the cycle. The end result is unhealthy weight gain and diabetes risk.

So why less complex carbohydrates then? We also live in the age of dysbiosis, where our good bacteria are upset by alcohol, stress, and medications. The end result is a degree of imbalance that allows “bad bacteria” to ferment the carbohydrates in our gut, creating gas and inflammation. They eat them as a food source and in return cause illness. That doesn’t mean I think carbohydrates are bad, but rather that modern humans have such a chronic gut flora imbalance that unfortunately, the bacteria can digest the carbohydrates before we do and cause serious discomfort.

In saying that, I don’t think that grains are the culprit here, and I don’t think that people should be removing these things from their diets if they have no problem with them. Oats, for example, are amazing at lowering blood cholesterol, and feed good gut bacteria. They’re also used in herbal medicine as a relaxing ‘nervine tonic’. So if you didn’t need to, why would you cut them out?

Make 50-60% of every plate out of multi-coloured vegetables, and if you want to, up to a third of that can be root veggies like sweet potato, or whole grains that your body can handle without symptoms. Banish sugar (and artificial sweeteners) but a few pieces of fruit won’t hurt you unless you suffer fructose malabsorption (again, not everyone does!)

 

  Moderate fat intake, focusing on unsaturated fats.

Fats are not the bad guy anymore, not even saturated fats. In saying that, it’s not a free-for-all either, and there is a limit to how much your body needs for physiological processes. A teaspoon or two of uncooked olive or coconut oil is fine, half an avocado is fine, oily fish and small amounts of fat on meats are fine, but deep-fried foods, cheap fatty cuts of meat, and half a cup of salad dressing simply provides too much energy for the average body to handle – unless you are trekking across the north pole or climbing Everest.

 

 Protein at every meal

Protein seems to be the realm of body builders and gym junkies, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s more than muscle: it’s skin, it’s hormones (and therefore energy) and it’s strong tissues throughout the body. It also lowers the glycaemic response of carbohydrates, meaning that the insulin response will be lowered.


Current Diet Trends

 

5:2

Five days eating normally, two days calorie restriction. In my view, this is just the new calorie-cutting diet, and works because overall people’s food intake is being lowered by around 3000-4000 kcal. per week, which would be enough to see a decrease in about half a kilogram of body weight over the seven days. It’s a bit of a fad, but not harmful.

There is a little more evidence to support this kind of diet if you take an ‘intermittent fasting’ approach, where the ‘fasting’ periods are of 16-24 hours at a time. I have seen people do that with some success, because there is a growth hormone surge during fasting, which signals for fat loss.

Regardless of how you do this, the risk is that you feel you can binge on the “off” days. As long as you maintain a healthy diet on those days, this is not a bad approach, but I’d reserve it for short periods of time only, and not make it your ongoing eating philosophy.

 

Paleo

Paleo is a good option because it promotes most of the philosophies I talk about, and ultimately leads to a whole foods diet. I don’t like the argument that ‘cave-people ate this’ when in reality diets differ across the planet. An indigenous population in Australia had a very different diet to one in far Northern America. There is no one ‘human diet’ and I think that grains have been unfairly demonised, when the real problems arise with dysbiosis, excess starch consumption, and the rise of refined grains. Some people do have allergies and intolerances, but not everybody.

Again, it’s not a dangerous diet, and I myself eat in a 'paleo-ish' manner, but we should be careful not to get too caught up in its mythology.

 

Quitting Sugar

This is probably the current trend that makes most sense to me as a nutritionist. As I described earlier, sugar has profound hormonal effects and are more problematic than just the caloric value. Again, a healthy approach (ie – not beating yourself up if you have a peach) is essential.


The confusion around healthy eating and conflicting information is what prompted me to create The Four-Week Wellness Nutrition Plan, a sensible and researched approach to eating. It shares a lot of the best qualities of the diets outlines above, but has been honed and perfected over years of clinical experience.

I initially developed the eating plan for myself, and with four key goals in mind: lose fat, maintain muscle, avoid common dietary irritants, and ensure adequate levels of commonly deficient micronutrients, like B-vitamins and magnesium, are met. It promotes whole foods and doesn't require you remortgage your home to afford the ingredients. It's a simple, targeted approach to improving body composition and overall wellness. Is it the only way to eat? Nope. Is it a good way to eat? You bet.

- Reece.

Sifting through the Supplements: Pills, or Whole-leaf?

The question I get most often when I prescribe a herbal tea is "is there a tablet version?"

Brewing tea, especially a therapeutic-grade one, is time consuming. Interestingly, that's exactly why I prescribe them for sleep, stress, and mood disorders. A lot of people simply don't have the time to brew a tea for ten minutes, then sit and sip it while it cools down. They certainly don't have time to do it two or three times a day!

So maybe it's a sneaky naturopathic trick, but delivering medicine in the form of a tea means that not only do they get the full benefits of the herbs, but I'm also forcing these go-go-go types to stop and take part in their healing. Brewing loose leaf herbs can be as therapeutic a process as the sipping of them.

These people need to stop. They need to let their bodies rest, and slip from 'fight or flight' mode to 'rest and digest'. Combing that physical slowing down with a full dose of herbs that promote relaxation, and you've got a winning combination. Deliver the same herbs in a pill, and it just becomes 'another thing to do in their daily rush'.

But before you race to bin all your capsules, liquids, and tablets, let me point out that it's not the same for all ailments. Sometimes, a tablet can deliver herbs in dosages that I just can't match in a tea (unless you feel like drinking a bucket of it) or the active compounds in the herbs just aren't water soluble and therefore don't even make it in to your cuppa – for example, one of my favourite liver herbs, Milk Thistle, keeps all it's power in a little molecule called silymarin. The downside is that silymarin doesn't get extracted in a tea, and so with this one you have to look at other methods.

For more on sleep, mood, and stress herbs delivered as infusions (that's herb-nerd talk for tea) check out my SUM T range at www.sumt.com.au or by hitting the 'SUM T Store' link at the top of the page.

- Reece.

Quick Lessons on How to be a Herb-Nerd: #Herbnerdhack

If you've not tuned in yet, my new web series 'The Garden Pharmacist' is all about showing you how to make medicines from everyday ingredients. But what I haven't told you, until now, is that I'm also releasing another series - Herb-Nerd Hacks - with little snippets of naturopathic knowledge. Head over to www.youtube.com/c/reececarterchannel/ and subscribe to learn about what herbs do what, and how to use them. First up we've got rosemary and mint. Two of my all time faves.


The Garden Pharmacist Ep. 3: Aloe Eye Gel

Dark circles? Puffy bags? Tired eyes have a new natural quick fix, and it only takes three ingredients. Check out my most recent YouTube video below and discover my (up until now) best kept secret.

Aloe vera: hydrates

Witch Hazel: decreases puffiness and tightens

Cucumber: soothes

The secret is out now, so share the tip (and the video) with friends and family. Episode four isn't too far off, and keep your eyes peeled for another #herbnerdhack very soon. The best way to do that? Hit subscribe so it comes straight to your email - boom!

- Reece.

The Garden Pharmacist Ep. 2: Sniffle-Stop Pop

In spring it's hayfever; in winter it's the cold. No matter when the sniffles hit, elderflower comes to the rescue to dry up the sinuses. It's particularly useful for managing symptoms in kids because it tastes absolutely delicious. Combine with bioflavonoids, vitamin C, and a good antimicrobial honey and you've got a popsicle (or icey pole, or ice lolly) that is refreshing in the warmer months, and cools you down during a fever. All while it fixes the sniffles!

You'll need:

- 2 tsp dried elderflower (or 2-3 umbels fresh)
- 1/4 lemon, juiced
- 1 tsp manuka honey
- Boiling water
- Chopped fruit, for fun!

You'll also need some cheesecloth and a popsicle mould.

Enjoy! And don't forget to subscribe for more recipes in The Garden Pharmacist web series, and home-grown tips in #herbnerd hacks!

- Reece

 

A New Partnership (and a healthy kick-start) with Green Press.

I'm excited to tell you all that I've recently discovered a new epic health spot in Melbourne CBD: Green Press. Their chef, who was trained at Michelin-star restaurants in New York, brings a whole lot of 'delicious' to the table, with cold-pressed juices, elixirs, salads, chia puddings, and all kinds of treats that you know are as yummy as they are good for you.

I've jumped on board and am going to be working very closely with the team (OK, I can't lie, a big part of it is because I love their coconut 'bacon' – actually can't get enough) so keep an eye out for my herb-nerd notes and nutrition tips popping up on their website, or get down to the store on Little Collins Street to get your hands on some of your own (fellow herb-nerds out there should try the Herbal Haze!)

With me heading over to LA in a few days, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get my system squeaky clean with a juice cleanse. I jumped straight on the 'Expert' cleanse to give my digestive system a rest, break bad habits like too many coffees, and fill myself with as many power-packed juices as I can.

Day One:

It had been a little while since I'd done a cleanse, and was excited to feel that energy and vitality that comes after day three. Of course, that means getting through the cravings and slumps of the first few days. As expected, I felt the lack of food on day one: my tummy rumbled and I was ready for bed by about 3pm. Thankfully, I never felt those nasty blood sugar cravings. And why? Because the expert cleanse is almost entirely green juices, and the sweeter offerings contained enough protein and fat to prevent and insulin see-saw. My pick? The Sesame Treat – too freaking good!

Day Two:

I woke up after an incredible sleep, which I put down to all the greens again. I would have well and truly got my daily requirement for magnesium yesterday, making relaxation and sleep a breeze. I was very energetic in the morning and thought I'd go for a run, but didn't make it far before I had to turn home. There's no denying it: I was starting to feel the lack of food. But at the same time, I had a much clearer head than the day before, and my tummy was flat again after a week of stress-and-coffee-induced bloat. All that – plus the fact that the flavour combos were delicious – kept me going through day two.

Day Three:

Day three can be one of two things in a juice cleanse. If you've been on the blood-sugar roller-coaster with lots of fruit juices, and fewer greens and smoothies, you may be counting down the hours until breakfast the following morning so that you can inhale a greasy big breakfast and a stack of toast. On the other hand, if your insulin levels have remained fairly stable and your body has been fueled with all the magnesium and B vitamins that it needs for cellular energy production, then you may just be getting used to it by now. I know I am. My head feels clear and I feel far more vital than I did before starting it. I'm looking forward to a meal, but I could have happily done this for another day or two.

It's important at this point to remember why you did the cleanse. It doesn't make sense to swing back in to bad habits, but rather use this opportunity to develop a long-term to good nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Start by reintroducing plant-based foods, then maybe add eggs and fish in the day after that (if you eat them), but leave meat a few days until your body feels it as ready. Listen to your body and don't overwhelm it with fried foods, coffee, or alcohol 'just because you can'. With three days away from those crutches, you're in the best spot to start making sensible, clean-eating choices.

- Reece.

 

Your Vote: A Very Grape-y Cream for Psoriasis

So I sifted through my herbal handbooks and double checked the recent research. I desperately wanted to find something easy that is super-effective in a psoriasis cream, but the truth is psoriasis is a stubborn skin condition that needs top-notch herbs if you are to see relief. Enter oregon grape. It's a little more exotic than a lot of herbs I recommend on the blog, but www.iherb.com will ship the dried root to your door, and I highly recommend it; there's really nothing better. The studies show that a 10% cream is effective at reducing the cellular overgrowth, as well as decreasing annoying symptoms, so that's exactly what we're going to make!

The tincture is essential. Make a big batch and store it in a glass jar in the fridge. You can either just stir this through a good quality basic body cream like Sukin (10-20ml tincture for every 100g cream) or you can get fancy and make the cream as detailed below.

 

What you'll need:

For the tincture:

50g dried oregon grape root

100ml vodka

For the cream:

20ml tincture (above)

60ml sweet almond oil

90ml purified water

1 tb emulsifying wax (check in a good health food store!)

5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil (lavender or marigold/calendula are good)

 

How to make it:

Blitz the oregon grape in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until a fine powder. Place in a glass jar and add the vodka. Pop the lid on, shake well, and leave somewhere dark to infuse for two weeks. Remove and strain off the liquid. There, you have your tincture! Stir through your unfragranced base cream or follow the steps below to make from scratch.

Put together a water bath by placing a glass bowl over a saucepan with some water in it. Place the bath on the stove, then place the wax and the oil in the bowl and allow to melt, stirring occasionally. In a separate saucepan, add the water and tincture. Stir, then heat until they are roughly the same heat at the oil/wax mix (a cooking thermometer is handy here). Slowly pour the water/tincture mix in to the bowl, stirring continuously. Don't rush this step, as it could separate. Once all stirred through, pour in to your storage jar, add your essential oil, and leave to cool. Keep stirring occasionally as it cools to the maintain the emulsion.

Once set, pop a lid on it and store it in the fridge. Apply three times daily.

 

Creams, Creams, Creams: Vote for the Recipe You Want!

This week is all about external preparations. You'll learn how to make a herbal cream from scratch – all you need to do is tell me which is more pressing for you: stretch marks, or psoriasis?

Vote below by Sunday, and the remedy will be coming your way next week.

- Reece.


Your Vote: Brainfog-Busting Facial Mist

This easy-to-make facial mist can be filled with essential oils that clear the dreaded brain fog! Rosemary has been shown to boost cognitive function, and is even being explored as a possible therapy to slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease! Peppermint is another excellent herb, and when I was studying I always had a bottle of the essential oil on hand for a quick pick-me-up. 

What you'll need:

Sterile spray bottle

1 cup distilled water, boiled

1-2 whole rose heads

1 tsp glycerine

5+ drops each of peppermint and rosemary essential oils (you can go as strong as you like though!)

How to make it:

Tear the petals from the roses and place in to a glass bowl. Pour over the boiling water and cover. Leave to steep for half an hour, then strain. It should be a nice pink colour. Add the glycerine and stir through. Allow to cool before pouring in to the spray bottle and adding as much of the two essential oils as you like. Shake well and store in the fridge.

You'll need to shake this well before each use, but the rose and glycerine will make this great for your skin, while the essential oils give you a natural boost. Take a bottle to work with you to beat the mid-afternoon slump.

This Weeks's HerbNerd Vote: To Soothe Sunburn, or to Clear Brainfog?

The New Year is here and in sunny Australia that means even more beach visits and - if you're anything like me - accidentally falling asleep in the sun. I decided to whip up a basic herbal remedy to soothe sunburn for you, but only if it wins the vote.

Brainfog? If you're nodding along (only semi-aware of what it is you're agreeing to) then this is the remedy for you!

Vote below for your fave and it'll be up next week! Votes close Sunday 6pm.

- Reece.


VIDEO BLOG: Lavender Bath Bomb

They're back! My video blogs have been revamped by the awesome crew at Endeavour College and their Wellspring Blog, with the first cab off the rank being a lavender bath bomb! Lavender contains linalool, which has been shown in studies to reduce stress and anxiety. What better way to enjoy its effects than by simply inhaling the essential oil as it fizzes up your warm bath?

Was it your new year's resolution to find work/life balance in 2015? One of these bath bombs after work each day might be just the ticket :)

- Reece


You Voted For It: Sniffle-Busting Elderflower Popsicles!

Getting your kids to have herbal medicine isn't always easy; let's face it they're not always delicious. But elderflower is an exception – I gave it to a friend once, and when I went to his place two months later he was brewing a pot. I asked if he was sick again and his response was "no, but I'm addicted!". It dries up the sinuses so is perfect for whenever you have a runny nose from hayfever, or the sniffles from a cold. Making it in to an icey treat just makes it more fun! This recipe gives you the amounts for a single serve, but make up as many as you want and keep them in the freezer for when you need them.

What you'll need:

1 or 2 fresh umbels per popsicle (the 'clusters' of fresh flowers. Try to pick them just as they've opened.) or 1 heaped teaspoon of dried elderflower tea.

- 1/4 lemon per popsicle

- Filtered water

- Manuka honey, to taste

- Optional: a few fresh or frozen blueberries (and/or strawberries) for fun.

How to make it:

This recipe is so easy-peasy to make! Simply brew an infusion (tea), multiplying the ingredients by whatever number of popsicle moulds you have. Allow to steep for 8-10 minutes, covered, then squeeze the fresh lemon juice in, and stir through the honey. Pour in to your moulds and add the fruit if you wish. Pop them in the freezer and use them as need! It's easy to get the kids to take their medicine this way.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas, and looking forward to continuing the herb-nerdiness in the new year.

- Reece.

 

Time to Get Your Vote On: This Week's HerbNerd Remedy (For Kids!)

I've got loads of mums (and a few awesome dads) asking me about herbal how-to for bubs and toddlers. The truth is that kids have such strong vitality that they only need a fraction of the dosing that we grown-ups do. They also have sensitive tummies so there are a few herbs we need to steer clear of. So what would you like to see? Votes close Sunday.

Ba-Zing! Orange and Pomegranate Energy Elixir: The Recipe

It turned out that twice as many of you wanted a remedy for a pep-me-up than those who wanted a sleeping-aid. It's a pleasant surprise for me; I have spoken so much about sleepy herbs on the blog that it's a nice change of pace to talk about the other end of the spectrum: "How can I stay awake?!?"

What you'll need:

- Peel of one orange, finely diced

- 5g. dried ginger, powdered

- 20g. dried Korean ginseng ("Panax", available at good health food stores) 

- Vodka, to cover

- 100% pomegranate juice, to taste (dark grape will do in a pinch)

How to make it:

- Firstly, make a tincture by grinding the ginseng (a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder will do the trick) and pour it in to a jar with the orange peel and ginger. Cover with vodka, seal the jar, and place in a cool, dark place for two weeks.

- Strain the mix and measure out the tincture. Depending on how much vodka you used in step one, you should have somewhere between 50 and 100ml of tincture. 

- Pour the tincture in to a glass bottle and make the remedy up to 300ml with pomegranate juice (for example: if you have 60ml of the tincture, use 240ml juice, or if you have 90ml tincture, use 210ml juice). Your remedy will have the same effect regardless of what ratios you end up with, as the amount of herb is the same. However if you don't like the taste of alcohol and want it sweeter, then try to use less vodka in step one (you'll need to dice your orange peel in to very small pieces and grind the ginseng to a powder).

- Take a 30ml shot first thing in the morning in place of your coffee, or whenever you need a pick-me-up!

- This recipe makes ten serves and will last up to two weeks in the fridge.

Enjoy! And check back tomorrow for this week's vote. A little birdy tells me that it might be a remedy for kids :)

 

- Reece.

NB: This recipe contains alcohol so is not suitable for those under the age of eighteen, pregnant women, or those who cannot consume alcohol.

This Weeks Herb-Nerd Remedy: Time to Vote!

This week is all about energy! Do you struggle to find enough to get through your daily tasks? Or do you get to bed time and find that you have too much and are unable to wind down? Vote now for which remedy you'd like to see!


Puffy, Tired Eyes? Make Your Own Organic Undereye Gel!

This week's vote went to tired/puffy eyes and dark circles, so that's the remedy you got! An easy-to-whip up home remedy that includes hydrating aloe vera, soothing cucumber, anti-inflammatory chamomile, and skin-tightening witch hazel; this has got all your bases covered.

What you'll need:

- 50g fresh aloe vera gel (approx. 1-2 leaves, depending on their size)

- 1/2 whole cucumber

- 1 tb. dried chamomile

- 1 tb. dried witch hazel

How to make it:

Cut the aloe vera leaves length-wise, and scoop out the gel (careful not to get anything other than the gel – the other parts of the leaf can be irritating – and put aside. Chop the cucumber roughly and place in a juicer, blender, or food processor. If using a blender or food processor, you'll need to run it through muslin afterwards. Place the cucumber juice in a small saucepan and add one tablespoon each of dried chamomile and witch hazel (available at health food stores). On a low flame, bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Stir well and let the herbs infuse, covered, for 5-8 minutes. Strain off and keep the cucumber-herb infusion.

Whisk the infusion, one teaspoon at a time, in to the gel. You'll only get three or four teaspoons in before it gets runny. We don't want it too runny; it's meant to be a gel!

Pour in to a glass jar, seal, and store in the fridge for no more than one or two weeks. Apply under the eyes as necessary.

Enjoy! And be sure to check back tomorrow for this week's herb-nerd vote!

- Reece.

 

 

This Weeks Herb-Nerd Vote: Time to Vote!

Last week's herb-nerd vote got a huge response! So here we go again: what would YOU like a herbal remedy for? This one is all about beauty. Herbs can easily be incorporated to external preparations - gels, masks, creams, and washes. What would you like to see? Votes close Sunday night.